My cycling friends had just ridden up a small hill and when I reached the top I continued to follow what I thought was a section of the EuroVelo 6 route just outside the town of Augst where we had visited the Roman ruins. But my friends must have gone ahead I thought and continued along the paved bicycle path.
After a few kilometers I soon realized I haven’t seen any cycling direction signs, other cyclists including my friends. I only carried long distance cycling maps and no GPS so I had no idea where I was. Stopping a jogger who seemed to understand my English he basically said if I continued on the same local route I would reach Basel. And reach Basel I did about 10 km later where I again hooked up with Eurovelo 6 again just as my 3 friends arrived, how amazing.
I, a long time bicycle tourer was using just using cycling maps plus common sense. Okay I cheated and used a few Google maps for some close in stuff. However one of our group was using a Garmin Edge 800 Cycling GPS so I was interested to see how it would perform.
Our group was following signed routes along the Rhine River (EuroVelo 15) and around Lake Constance (Bodnesee Route), local routes across Switzerland to Zurich and Basel and finally the Alsace Wine Route (EuroVelo 6 and 5).
Our Experiences with a Cycling GPS
We had started our cycling adventure in Strasbourg and used the GPS plus local signs to find our way to the European Parliament and along the canals back to our hotel successfully.
Next when departing Strasbourg on the Canal Du rhone-Au-Rhin (Rhine Route) the GPS decided we should take a closer look at local neighborhoods and took us on a bicycle route sidetrip meant for cycling commuters before taking us back to our intended route.
After about 60 km the GPS guided us as we left the signed route for Breisgau, Germany which we could see in the distance. It found the only bridge across the Rhine River and using the bike lane made it into town where our GPS indicated our hotel must be nearby. One of group was smart enough to actually read the sign of the hotel in front of us, yes it was the Hotel Breisacherhof.
The next day we really didn’t need a cycling GPS as the Rhine Route on the German side of the river was clearly signed, until we reached Basel. It was well signed here but we needed the GPS to take us the correct 2 blocks from the waterfront to our B & B. It worked well.
Again for the next few days we found the same results with the Rhine Route easy to follow. But we needed to GPS to find our way along the local streets to get us easily to the accommodation we had booked in the towns of Waldshut-Tiengen, Schaffhausen and Konstanz. We found it saved immense time by not having to stop at a tourist office or ask local citizens.
In Switzerland while riding from Zurich to Aarau, a distance of 57 km the GSP indicated the correct road to take to get us directly to our hotel which was about 2 km from town.
We also found it useful when taking sidetrips such as the visit to the Roman ruins in Augst I mentioned about.
Perhaps the best use of the GPS came on one long day when we were riding 105 km over hilly terrain and the Garmin 800 recommended a paved lane through the woods instead of the signed hard packed (and slower official route) saving us a lot of time.
The next day along the Alsace Wine Route we only had a short ride of 6 km from Egusisheim to Colmar and the GPS suggested a gravel shorter route rather than the smooth paved official wine route only 1 km longer, well it is not always right.
Taking the TGV back to Paris with our bicycles we arrived a different train station further from our hotel than the station we had departed from and had to make up a route on the fly. The local tourist office plus two nice Parisians who saw us looking at maps and came to our assistance and the GPS ensured we were going in the correct direction.
To see some of our other journeys click on European cycling routes.
On this bicycle tour, overall we found the GPS saved time and was useful it taking us locally to our accommodation. On the long distance signed bike routes we really didn’t require a GPS but it a nice safety net which can be handy if you get lost like I did.