Author Topic: A free alternative to maps and satnavs  (Read 2811 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline Biker Mike

  • CBF God
  • *****
  • Topic Author
  • Posts: 6158
  • Bike: CBF1000FAB
  • City / Town: Ferndown, Dorset
  • Country: gb
A free alternative to maps and satnavs
on: 30 June, 2015, 09:35:42 AM
I’ve never really got on with paper maps.
I’ve often been frustrated by the fact the map scale restricts how much detail I can see unless I’m willing to invest in a large scale ring bound atlas and they’re typically too big to be called convenient.

Most reasonable touring maps are 400,000:1 scale and detail is usually limited to major highways and ‘A’ roads, whereas a more detailed map showing ‘B’ roads will be 200.000:1 scale.
The number of maps required to cover a given area seems to increase exponentially as you shift from 400,000:1 to 200,000:1 as does the overall cost.

As for satnavs, I think a fair analogy would be to say "go for a walk whilst wearing a blindfold and relying on being told which way to turn as you move along and at the same time, be certain you’re going to be misdirected or take several wrong turns along the way".
Seems strange that we’re willing to spend a small fortune for this ‘convenience’.

In both cases, there’s also the cost associated with keeping maps current to be taken into account.
Particularly if like me, you weren’t savvy enough at the time to buy a satnav with lifetime maps.

Ideally, IMO, the solution would be a map that can easily be zoomed in and out on and that showed a highlighted route as if you’d drawn it out on a paper map.

I think I may have found such a solution and the bonus being, it’s free (assuming you’ve already a smart phone or Android tablet).

Up until now, there have been a few satnav style applications available for smartphones/tablets, but not so many where you can plan out a route based on waypoints and apply an overlay of the resulting route on a map that you can show on the smartphone/tablet whilst offline (incidentally, there’s no need with this solution for any data downloads whilst you’re on the move).

The solution I’ve come up with means:

a] You can always get the most up to date maps free of charge for use on both smartphone/tablet and PC or MAC (royalty-free OSM data which is updated on a more or less weekly basis). The OSM map source for use with the PC/MAC app can be found here:
b] You can create detailed routes on your PC or MAC based on these same maps with as few or as many waypoints as you need using free software, in this case, Garmin Basecamp. The Garmin Basecamp website includes several good educational videos and IMO, with a little practice, it’s very easy to use.
c] You can easily transfer your routes from PC/MAC to smartphone/tablet.
d] The resulting routes as shown on the smartphone/tablet can be zoomed in or out on simply using stretch and squeeze touchscreen technique, so you can see as much or as little map detail as you need, depending on circumstances. My application of choice is MapswithMe ( ), although another app that gets good reviews, but I haven’t tried yet is Oruxmaps
( ).
e] Assuming your smartphone/tablet has GPS capability, you can monitor your progress along your route as your position on the map remains centred on the screen wherever you are (unless you’re underground, such as in the Eurotunnel for example).

If you want to give it a try for yourself, here’s what you need to do:

Start by downloading a copy of the app 'MapswiithMe' to your smartphone/tablet.
Once downloaded, you’ll then need to download whatever maps you think you’ll need via the in-app setup menu (I’ve downloaded all of Europe and a number of other countries to my devices (I run MapswithMe on both my smartphone and my two tablets). Periodically, the app will inform you if there are newer versions of the maps to download, so you don’t need to monitor this yourself. Just be aware you may need to update the map copy on your PC/MAC from time to time, to stay in sync.

Now download a copy of Garmin Basecamp ( ).

Basecamp doesn’t come with any maps so you next need to download a map or two.
Go to the website and select from ‘Choose your map type’ as ‘Generic Routable’, then from the dropdowns under  ‘Choose a predefined country’ , select your continent, then country and finally from the ‘Request your map or download it directly’, choose ‘Download map now!’
This will take you to a directory listing where you choose the map depending on whether you’ve a MAC or PC.
To keep it simple at this stage, just choose os_generic_windows.exe if you’ve a PC or if you’ve a MAC.
In both cases, you’ll need to either run the .exe file or unzip the file to obtain a useable map. Just note where your machine has placed the resulting map.

If you now start Garmin Basecamp, you will need to go to ‘Maps’, then ‘Installed Maps Info’, then ‘Reveal In Finder’.
At this point, you need to select the resulting file from the previous step and double click on it to initiate the option to install it to Garmin Basecamp. Once installed, you can navigate around the map and create routes, etc.

I don’t propose to teach how to use the app here. It’d take too long, but let’s assume you’ve created a route which can be seen listed in the left column.
Highlight the route name by clicking on it then choose ‘File’ and Export Selected User Data’. Assign a file name and elect to export the file in the Format ‘KML 2.2’.

This file containing your route data as a map overlay is now ready for importing into you smartphone/tablet app. The easiest way to do this is to attach it to an email you send to yourself from your PC/MAC and which you open on your smartphone/tablet using the MapswithMe app.
At this stage, you've now added the route overlay to your map.

Again, I don’t propose to teach you how to use the MapswithMe app. There’s a good User Guide available here:

Suffice to say, if you’re anywhere near your created route, you’ll be able to watch as you follow it on screen.

If you ride with your smartphone or tablet within view and running the MapswithMe app, I see little reason to bother using either a satnav or paper map as the only bonus offered will be the verbal turn-by-turn instructions.
As previously mentioned, you can zoom in or out at will to perhaps confirm you're on the correct road or to see where you might find a nearby petrol station or to see what towns or villages might be nearby.
Try doing that on a satnav.

Last Edit: 30 June, 2015, 09:38:13 AM by Biker Mike


Offline phild

  • CBF Legend
  • *****
  • Posts: 1681
  • Bike: CBF1000FA-B
  • City / Town: North Somerset
  • Country: gb
Re: A free alternative to maps and satnavs
Reply #1 on: 30 June, 2015, 11:55:46 AM

I put my routes into my Satnav, but never follow it blindly. When in towns it has always taken me to my hotel when trying to follow a street map would be almost impossible.

I always take maps and have a route card in the map pocket of my tank bag.

In the past I've also laminated pages of a road atlas (which I retain for future use).

One very important thing I do is research, as best I can, my route. It's amazing how my mind retains a mental picture of my routes.

I've tried a few different ways, but this is the format that works best for me. :028:


Offline Ali-bear

  • CBF Master
  • ****
  • Posts: 329
  • Bike: Was Mk2 Biffer
  • City / Town: Bristol
  • Country: gb
Re: A free alternative to maps and satnavs
Reply #2 on: 12 July, 2016, 04:13:48 PM
In my car I have an old Nexus-7 tablet (the 2012 model) with Open Street Map for Android app loaded with the UK maps. This is free or you can pay a few quid for unlimited maps.

On this old tablet things are a bit slow, but you can use the downloaded map for browsing and zoom to any level of detail, you can search, and you can get it to navigate for you turn-by-turn.

Takes a bit of getting used to, but a good use of the old and otherwise almost useless old tablet, and a ready-to-use map and satnav.
Designed in Japan, assembled in Italy, fiddled with in Britain


Offline Biker Mike

  • CBF God
  • *****
  • Topic Author
  • Posts: 6158
  • Bike: CBF1000FAB
  • City / Town: Ferndown, Dorset
  • Country: gb
Re: A free alternative to maps and satnavs
Reply #3 on: 12 July, 2016, 04:56:23 PM
Try the MAPS.ME app.
Uses the same OSM maps but also picks up your position via the Nexus GPS and now allows you to navigate with it.
I use it on my  S7 where I've loaded the entire global OSM.

Plenty to choose from nowadays:
Last Edit: 12 July, 2016, 04:59:56 PM by Biker Mike


Offline J-man

  • CBF Master
  • ****
  • Posts: 595
  • Bike: CBF1000A6
Re: A free alternative to maps and satnavs
Reply #4 on: 13 July, 2016, 10:44:37 PM
I found Basecamp cumbersome and needs huuuge downloads.
The warp speed small sized easier program:
Haven't used it much though,  but it felt swift from the first impressions, it uses google maps to work with, very smart move.


Offline Brickit

  • CBF Pro
  • ***
  • Posts: 75
  • Bike: CBF1000 A-7
  • City / Town: Exeter
Re: A free alternative to maps and satnavs
Reply #5 on: 14 July, 2016, 12:11:41 AM
*Originally Posted by J-man [+]
I found Basecamp cumbersome and needs huuuge downloads.
The warp speed small sized easier program:
Haven't used it much though,  but it felt swift from the first impressions, it uses google maps to work with, very smart move.

 :0461: :0461: :0461:
Absolutely agree.
I have tried and tried Basecamp and just given up, as it is so awkward and non-intuitive.
Been round Europe using routes stitched together from various sources,  prepared with Google maps and entered into the Garmin using and found the whole process very easy.  It works with TomTom as well.
The basic TyreToTravel programme  is a free download. There is a deluxe version you can pay money for, but it really isn't necessary.
Definitely worth a look if you want to pre-programme good biker routes to the sat-nav. It will also read the files given out by Ride magazine online.
IMHO it really does make, what can be a pretty tedious job, simple and quick.  :028:


Offline macdoc

  • Ex Member
  • CBF Pro
  • ***
  • Posts: 124
  • Bike: CBF1000 2009
  • City / Town: Mississauga
Re: A free alternative to maps and satnavs
Reply #6 on: 22 July, 2016, 10:34:54 AM
One App to rule them all......??  :028:

Just out

This new App might put it all together  - 100 way points eh

Scenic is the best motorcycle navigation app out there at the moment. It's the app alternative to, and in some ways better than expensive motorcycle GPS units like the Garmin Zumo and TomTom Rider. Plan, navigate and document your Motorcycle Trips with ease and
enjoy the Scenery and the freedom of the road more. No more time waisted on finding, editing, converting and transferring Scenic Routes to your GPS device. Why carry around an extra and expensive GPS unit while your phone can do it all?

Scenic is especially designed for motorcycle touring, which also makes it very useful for car touring and bicyclists who enjoy Scenic Routes. Mainstream navigation apps just don't cut it for Scenic touring. We want to create our own routes or import them from GPX and then navigate them with turn by turn and voice instructions; We want to avoid highways and city traffic; We want fully documented records of our riding adventures; We want to know the Scenic Routes in an area. Scenic does it all... and more...

List of Features:
- Turn by Turn and Voice Navigation
- Import any GPX Route or Track and turn it into a navigable route
- Offline Maps
- Create routes from scratch by dropping upto 100 via points
- Turn a trip into a navigable route
- Export trips and routes to GPX
- Scenic Route Database
- Trip Tracker & Recorder
- Use Scenic on all your devices. Your information is synced.
- Multiple Map- and User Interface colour schemes to choose from.
- Trip sharing on your favourite Social Channels

Ontario Canada rider staying in Cairns Australian for 3 months each year Jan to April
Australia> 04 KLR650 • 93 ST1100 sold • Canada > 09 Burgman Exec sold • 10 NT700v sold • 10 Wee ABS • 2009 CBF1000