MTB Tip of the Week – Episode 4: Maps for Mountain Biking

This is Episode 4 in an ongoing series of videos we will be posting regularly to share our mountain biking tips and tricks with our subscribers.

Prior Episodes:

Episode 3: The LBS

Episode 2: 1X Drivetrain Bail Out

Episode 1: Cold Fingers Remedy


EPISODE 4: Maps for Mountain Biking


This week, I thought I would share a great solution I have found to view where you are on a map with your mobile device, even when you don’t have a data connection.
With the free version of the PDF Maps app (the only one I have used or tested), you can download base maps while you have a data connection and then display them on your device when you are out for a ride. When having your GPS location enabled, you will be able to see where your location is within the map in real time. Not only that, but you can drop a pin (waypoint), give the pin a custom name, save it, and come back to it later. You can also record a track (line) as you ride. The line appears in the map and provides you with a distance and elevation measurement as well. Seeing your route displayed on a custom map is huge.
For example, here in San Diego, we have some riding locations that have new trails that have opened this year and others that have recently closed for habitat restoration. In many of these areas the trails are a labyrinth of segments looping back on one another with many junctions through thick chaparral and scrub oaks that make it very difficult to tell where you are in the landscape. If you have the city’s georeferenced PDF uploaded and displayed in the PDF Maps app, you would be able to see which trail you are on and when you come to a junction, you can see which direction to go and which to avoid. This could save many riders from having to backtrack for miles after finally realizing they had made a wrong turn a ways back.
The maps available in the PDF Maps Store seem to be pretty decent for the San Diego Area and there are plenty of free downloadable maps, such as the USGS Topo Quad maps and many of the City of San Diego’s Open Space Area trail maps. Don’t let the lack of free maps stop you however. Many of the downloadable maps in your area might cost a fee, but most are minimal at $0.99. You can search the PDF Maps Store by viewing and searching a map of your desired location. There is even a check box to display only free maps which is great to see what is first available without spending any money.
Another great option is to make your own georeferenced PDF to use in the app. You will need specific software to place your image on the earth’s coordinate system and export out a georeferenced PDF, but it makes the use of this app limited only to your imagination of what map you could make to bring with you I’m on your next ride. I have made these custom georeferenced PDFs for a few people and it has been exciting to hear how useful they were while out on a ride. One of the most requested types of maps is a satellite background with a route shown that they plan to follow. Sometimes they have used a friends previously ridden route, other times it is a recon mission to see if they can connect a route that they have drawn by studying different segments of trail. Those are the most basic maps and it doesn’t take me too long to make them. I can only imagine the value it has added for them while on the trail.

You can click the icon below to visit the PDF Maps Store, find what maps are currently available in your riding area, and read more about the app and how the vendor, Avenza describes how to use it.

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(Note: There are many FREE maps in the PDF Maps Store, just add them to your cart and check out, you don’t have to enter any billing info at all if you are only buying the FREE maps, but you still have to click the BUY NOW, add them to your cart, and check out as if you were buying the maps. Its actually a very quick and easy process.)

Here is a quick video I made this week to quickly show me using the app to display my locstion on a few maps while I was out on a ride.

After filming the video above,  I had wanted to make a second video of the track I created, but figured that a screen shot of the custom, satellite background map showing my GPS track after riding around a little would be simpler and take up less of your time.

All of the downloadable maps I have made available for download on the Mappy Trails to You page of are georeferenced PDFs that can be downloaded and displayed in the PDF Maps app.

Let me know your experiences with this app, if I can help you utilize it more effectively, or if you need any custom georeferenced PDF maps made. Leave a comment below or send me an email at .

Thanks for your support! Now get outside and find some trails to ride!

– Nick

About RideAlongside

Ride alongside one another. Through life, on bikes, together.

Posted on January 10, 2016, in Maps, MTB Tips, San Diego Riding, Videos. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

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