1. Roll Charts
2. Gaia GPS
3. Standard GPS
4. Google Maps
5. Paper Maps
This is the first thing we had to navigate the TransAmerica Trail by. Roll charts are a set of routing instructions used in enduro, dual sport, and adventure motorcycle rides. They are sometimes referred to as Route Sheets or Road Books. A roll chart consists of a sequence of detailed course instructions accurately describing the route to be followed in terms of turns, junctions, etc.
PROS: The roll charts gave us a very good idea of how far it was to the next turn or change.
CONS: We found multiple cases where street names were incorrect, 1 or two instances of a Zig Left, Zag Right, being the opposite of what you needed to do, mileage shouldn’t always be followed to a T because each bike will register 1 mile differently and some instructions that just plain didn’t make sense. There were quite a few cases where we just quit looking at the roll charts and utilized only the GPS.
Gaia GPS is an application for smart phones that you can use for navigation whether you have cell service or not. You can run it on airplane mode if you want to conserve on battery. You can upload your GPX files (the file type for GPS tracks/routes).
PROS: Gives you an exact visual route to follow. Allows you activate a “follow me” mode that continuously shows you your exact position in relation to your route.
CONS: Cannot be used for turn-by-turn navigation like Google Maps. The available maps that show street names are TERRIBLE.
Tim had a GPS from his BMW Motorcycle that gave us an overview of street names and upcoming streets. That was about all it was used for.
I tried an alternative to this. I downloaded some sections of the TAT on Google Maps to use them offline, though I did not find it very user friendly because the street names where hard to read, even while stopped. Also, despite having the TAT uploaded into my Google Maps, there are still no turn by turn directions. So I eventually stopped using it.
PROS: This turned out to be very useful when comparing streets or turns that were coming up next on the roll charts.
CONS: Another item to charge each night. Extra weight and realestate taken up on your bike.
We consistently used Google Maps to get directions to our hotel, search for auto part stores, locate car wash’s etc. I’m not going to go into too much detail because I think that most who will be going on the TAT are familiar with how to use Google Maps.
Sam also sells paper maps of the TAT. They correlate with the GPX files in that when you are riding/driving that TAT, when the GPS track changes color, you’re on the next paper map of the TAT. We actually scanned the paper maps into PDF files and saved them on our phones so they could be accessed at any time. The paper maps were helpful because you could plan your day, how many miles it was from your current location to the one you want to get to and you could see cities and such. Not 100% necessary, but they were helpful for planning to be sure. Tim was the one that referenced them most often.
I think having the GPS files is of paramount importance, then having paper maps would be second. If there was a GPS app that would name all of the roads coming up as well as show your position in relation to that TAT GPS route (which I’m sure there is, I just haven’t looked yet), that would allow you to eliminate having a normal GPS.
We used all methods of navigation for the TAT. It could possibly be done using ONLY Gaia GPS, but there were definitely some times where it was nice to have the roll charts, and having the paper maps was also very helpful for planning. The roll charts were particularly helpful in the mountains of Virginia and North Carolina. I found in many cases that the GPS line was quite a ways off and the only way to tell you were still on track is that you were generally headed in the same direction as the GPS line, and the space between you and the line not getting TOO far away.