Paper Road Maps
& Digital Maps




March 12th 2013




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Paper and digital road maps


Paper road maps for touring the European Alps

Maps show the landscape usually on a piece of paper at a certain scale. Recently, maps with a wipeable coating are offered which have a certain water resistance and mechanical strength. Is a map used more often, this is certainly worth to consider. But since maps have regular renewals, its usually not worth to buy the more expensive version, but simply replace the older version with a newer one at certain intervals.
The validity of the "map leaf", that’s how the physical paper map is called, can usually be found printed in a corner of the map. Since the new data of the survey departments are permanently transmitted to the land registry offices, a change to a newer map usually makes sense every two years. For completeness of the explanation we name everything here as a "map", even if it is a topographic map, map or road map. It simplifies the explanation.

Maps are usually purchased at gas stations. Shell usually has our favorite in stock, the GENERALKARTE. The advantage of a local purchase is in most cases the selection available. Very often the local gas station has local maps in scales for hikers and local travelers that show additional local highlights and attractions. We can also recommend the RV Verlag published 1:300,000 and bicycle scale maps which are just good for a journey in a short-range. But very low scales are not useful for our purposes. And of course the Internet is another source for maps, if you know your prefered favorite and know where it is published. Maybe we can help with a little background knowledge a little bit down in this article.

All maps are based on the official topographic maps from the land offices. So, if you want to really discover hidden corners, then you have to source, the land registries. All land offices can be found on the Web and mail order all maps and CDs out of their program. Usually at scale of 1:50,000. In addition, CDs are published with maps. This is also true for Switzerland and Austria.





A difficult decison - the scale

Traveling to your starting point - scale 1:300,000

motorbike travel map set
If you have to travel over a long distance to reach your holiday or travel region, like from Calais or Denmark down to the Alps , it is certainly reasonable that a travel map should be on a scale of 1:300,000. We recommend here the RV Verlag (today MairDumont) who have an appropriate choice in their program. Since the main routes change only rarely, such a map will not be changed regularly and will do its job for several years.

Here too, the dealers offer special motorbike travel map sets. Stowed in the map pocket of the tank bag the resolution of the scale ranges always just long enough to get from one break to the next gas station and allows to comfortably moving forward.
A map of this type makes really only sense for motorway and driving directions, but mostly on main roads and highways. To plan a tour, this map scale is not so good. Here we would always recommend the GENERALKARTE in 1:200,000 scale. This map does also usually include the printed longitude and latitude in 10'min grid as thin blue lines. We'll get to that later on.



Planning and navigation - scale 1:200,000

For us it is and remains the ultimate planning tool - the Generalkarte in scale of 1:200,000. The sheet is large enough, it fits well into the map compartment of the tank bag and by the blue lines of latitude and longitude locations are also quick to find in any routing software. In addition, you can read the coordinates and add them in almost any navigation system which will let you find almost any place without name or knowledge of the street.

We have just published an extract of the GENERALKARTE at the picture on the left. It is from the Generalkarte Austria Extra 3 with Vorarlberg, Tyrol, Upper Bavaria and South Tyrol. Good to see the blue line with the value of longitude 11° 10 '. 10 degree-minutes equals about 6.4cm on the sheet or in relation to the scale of 1:200,000 (1cm = 2km) - 6.4x2 = 12.8km. A degree-minute is about 1.3km. Just to say to have a tape measure on the tour. We use one out of paper from the hardware store. With that combination, using the map and the navigation system, you will find any water mill, ruins, natural monuments and biker meeting points easily.



Overview about the most relevant paper maps for the European Alps region

We have listed here all the relevant road maps of the General Map “Gernalkarte” compiled with the ISBN number for you to easily find in online ordering systems. The list is not complete, but covers pretty much the area of the Alps down to the French Alps and of course the arrival areas southwestern such as the Black Forest and the Allgaeu.

ISBN 3-82972-030-0

Baden-Wuerttemberg 11
From top left Alzey, Kirchheim-Bolanden to top right Wuerzburg to bottom left Bale, Olten and bottom right Dornbirn, Hohenems.

ISBN 3-82972-150-1

Die Motorrad Generalkarte Österreich 2 (motorbike Generalkarte Austria)
Salzburg, Linz, Innviertel, Muehlviertel
From top left north of Salzburg to top right Baden near Vienna to bottom left Karnisch Alps to bottom right Maribor.

ISBN 3-8297-2059-9

Österreich Extra 3 (Austria extra 3)
Vorarlberg - Tyrol - Oberbayern - South Tyrol
From top left Bad Waldsee near Ravensburg to top right Salzburg down bottom left Maloja pass and bottom right Cortina d’Ampezzo in the Dolomites

ISBN 3-89525-216-6

Schweiz 1 (Switzerland)
Western Section
From top left Belfort in France north of Bale to top right Waldshut-Tiengen down bottom left Annecy and bottom right Lago di Omegna near Lago Maggiore

ISBN 3-89525-217-4

Schweiz 2 (Switzerland)
Eastern Section - Central Switzerland
From top left Waldshut-Tiengen to top right Kempten in Allgaeu to bottom left Lago di Omegna and bottom right Lecco respective the Stilfserjoch pass.

ISBN 3-89525-230-1

Italien 1 (Italy)
Upper Italian lake district - Milan - Turin
From top left Lausanne and Lake Geneva to top right Davos to bottom left Modane and Susa, Col du Mont Cenis and bottom right Pavia, Crema and Bergamo



Planning in detail & best landmarks - scale 1:100,000 / 1:50,000

map of Allianz insurance
When you finally have found the region where you would like to travel and explore, then maps with a larger scale are used. To the scales and descriptions a few more explanations. All scales can be grouped into sections.

Large scales such as 1:25.000, 1:50,000 and 1:150,000 allow a relatively high level of detail and allow a fairly good regional detail planning. Maps with scales 1:200,000 and 1:300,000 and higher count as small scales where the scale may be up to 1:1,000,000 as a minimum that can be purchased.

Let’s run this through an example. Suppose we plan a trip to the Alps and arrive through Calais. The plan takes into consideration that we want to arrive on the first day in the northern Black Forest. We select for this section, the faster motorway, and then switch in the Black Forest area to smaller roads to traverse on beautiful trails.

Planning begins with the Generalkarte of Baden-Wuerttemberg 11 (see above) at a scale of 1:200,000. An accommodation is to be found near the Devil's Mill, which is to be scheduled in the tour. To support the planning effort, we use in addition  the Leisure Map Alliance. It has the scale of 1:100,000 and is available under ISBN  978-3-8297-1730-4 online or locally at service stations. We have shown for comparison a cut. It has a very high level of detail, but no lat/long lines. Locations are reported herein with red markers (red box with number), the included activities guide explains locations in detail and the information then can easily be transferred to the Generalkarte for finding the GPS coordinates.

In addition, we would like to enrich our tour example on the way to the Alps with some Black Forest mountain hostels with local food. These are usually some outlying farms or small restaurants that have in addition a snack menu and pretty good local cuisine as well and can offer you an accommodation if the tour group is not too large and if booked in advance. But again - the so-called one night sleepers, that rummage through the bed only one night and then move on - are not seen as premium guests. So reserve always some time in advance or move into a bigger hotel. The Guide “91 Black Forest mountain Vesper hostels" (91 Schwarzwald Vesperstuben) is available under ISBN 978-3-934793-11-8.

MagicMaps / 1:25.000 topografic map

Even larger scales usually are not worthwhile to purchase, however as a digital version on CD/DVD or as part of a so-called "moving map" software, it again does make lots of sense. In the picture above you can see an example out of the software package Tour Explorer 25 from MagicMaps. As the title says it is here a topographic map at scale of 1:25,000 with superimposed grid lines. Depending on demand, regional map CDs can be purchased. The interesting thing with this software package are the tour planning options. You can plan two ways, for a motorbike tour but also for a bicycle tour and the export of the planned route as a gpx file for other common file formats can be done to all the popular navigation systems. Besides Germany, Switzerland and Austria maps are also in appropriate large scales available.

Equipped with these tools, the planning will be for sure succesful based on our example which will show aside the large highways the landscape and people in their regional setup. Then your vacation motorbike trip is ready to go, since it has just staretd with a good planning setup.
Last but not least we would like to give an answer to the task of the example on the map above,
the coordinates of the Devil's Mill north 48°45'24.18 "/ east 008°24'28.84"
Oh, a preferred Black Forest hostel for motorbike travelers can be found here
north 48°43'19.68 "/ east 008°21'35.93"

Always ride safely.


(c) Alpentourer 2002 - 2013