The Alpine Bicycle Club

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Route Finding, Navigation & Orienteering
Anyone contemplating mixed terrain touring should be aware that biking through the alpine environment creates special demands on navigation. At a minimum you should:

  • Pre-plan your route
    Exploring the unknown is part of mixed terrain touring. But proper planning can minimize the risk of getting lost. Always have a plan and know the general terrain. Pre-planning with Google Earth or similar program and studying your route maps can help with an understanding of the larger topographic context and likely exit strategies.
  • Never rely exclusively on GPS
    Batteries run down, electronics get damaged. It's best to have redundant backups for safety.
  • Carry a map
    Always carry a map and know how to use it. Always have a good idea of where you are and what to expect. If expectations differ from reality, stop and reassess.
  • Carry a compass
    Always carry a compass and know how to use it. Always know your direction of travel. Know how to coordinate the use of map and compass to determine bearings and verify your position.
  • An altimeter is helpful
    Although not completely necessary, an altimeter can help confirm your location by giving additional data for confirmation with your topographic map. An altimeter can also help you determine that your route is correctly ascending or descending.
  • A bike computer aids in navigation
    General route way points can be confirmed through mileage readings on your bicycle computer. This is known as dead reconing and is commonly used for ocean navigation.
  • Stop at critical locations, look around
    It's easy to focus entirely on the trail and immediate surroundings. Look up and behind regularly to identify views and landmarks.

Tech Help

Google Earth
GPS Guides (Garmin)
How to Use a Compass
NPS Map Reading Guide
Princeton Map & Compass
US Army Navigation Manual
Wilderness Manuals