Finding the right map

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To navigate Canberra, you need to find the right map. The maps need to be current and suitable for the type of biking that you are doing. Putting aside mountain biking in Canberra, we need maps for all those other types of bikes that prefer paved surfaces: city bikes. To find the best route to the destination, the maps need to show rideable paths, including bike paths.

Maps must be up to date. OpenStreetMap is the best for Canberra for cycling. You will find here background information to online bike maps. Printed maps are generally years out of date. OpenStreetMap for digital devices gets updated daily.

Where do open-source maps come from?

Paper maps are published intermittently. When maps went digital, the first attempts were digital copies of those paper maps. Digital maps are databases with images created from this data, fit for purpose.

OpenStreetMap is built on an open-source database, exported daily, so that the data can be selective turned into maps. Making useful pictures from the large volume of data is called rendering. It starts with deciding on the map’s purpose and filtering out that information for a specific geographic area. Maps are provided online and used on websites and smartphones with data connection and stored on devices. Style changes affect the map’s appearance but not content.

Transferring the data to portable devices likely to be used for sport and on bikes. GPS cycling computers are robust, waterproof, ergonomic, and work even when there is no coverage and therefore no data. The devices are more reliable in practice than easily damaged smartphones Some have routing functions such as those Garmin and Wahoo. Garmin has many models to chose from. There are GPS devices for cycling but also for bushwalking and outdoor recreation that come in other formats, including watches and handhelds. Bike computers are specialised GPS devices and the mostly ergonomic differences make them much more useful on a bike, and therefore worth the investment. 

Maps are needed for different purposes: road maps for cars, bike maps for paved surfaces, mountain bike maps, topographic bushwalking maps, recreational maps, and others.

OpenStreetMap rendering types

OpenStreetMap’s data is provided to third party map software developers to render maps for a variety of uses. On the OpenStreetMap’s website four types of maps are available: standard, bike, public transport and humanitarian.

Figure 1: standard rendering (style) for OpenStreetMap
Figure 2: bike map (style) for OpenStreetMap
Figure 3: public transport rendering (style) for OpenStreetMap
Figure 4: humanitarian rendering (style) for OpenStreetMap

Komoot smartphone app

Komoot is a very good smartphone app and discussed here. It is a very feature rich app that includes route planning and is free. As everybody has a smartphone it is the easiest way to take OpenStreetMap maps with you for biking and route planning on the run. The komoot website is also very good for PC use and preplanning.

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