This is a question I get asked all the time, and like so many things in life, the answer is “it depends”. Here’s some options to help you work out which one will suit you best.
Garmin Edge maps for road cycling
If you’ll be riding mostly on road, then you want a map which displays an appropriate level of detail, but not too much extraneous stuff that will distract your attention and make it slower to use. Quick and clean.
My map of choice for road use, for many years now, is the City Navigator map. You can buy a map for your part of the world.
The City Navigator maps have a perfectly balanced level of detail so that it has everything you need, and no more. It loads fast and looks clear on screen, and the maps are of course, fully routable on all of the appropriate roads.
As I said, it’s what I use most of the time.
Garmin Edge maps for off-road
Off-road cyclists will need more visual detail in their maps. Whenever I’ve gone off road, or indeed just using my Garmin Edge 800 when walking in the hills, I tend to use the Ordnance Survey Discoverer maps.
These are the maps that are most similar to the printed paper maps you will have bought in the past, so it will feel familiar and useful.
Again, you can buy maps for distinct areas.
But what if, I hear you say, you don’t want to spend any money? This is the internet, after all. Isn’t everything supposed to be free these days?
Thanks to the rather amazing Open Source mapping projects, the answer is yes. You can download totally free maps for your Garmin, for any part of the world, and they are ok to use. I’ve used them, for the purposes of testing and so on, but as I’ve already mentioned, my personal choice is the City Navigator map.
Read my tutorial – How to download free OSM maps for your Garmin, for almost any country.
Why do I favour the paid City Navigator Map over the free OSM map?
Good question. Have you ever been in a meeting where you need to achieve something rather simple, but there are quite a few people involved, and everyone wants their say? Everyone is very polite, and nods approvingly at every suggestion being made, regardless of going off on tangents and coming up with ideas that don’t add value to the core thing that needed to be sorted out? It’s the classic “designed by committee” syndrome, and I feel that compared to the planned, rationalised commercial products, sometimes the OSM maps suffer from having too much pointless detail.
Sometimes it’s better to have a product that’s been well designed, with clear intention, rather than something that’s evolved rather wildly and almost randomly, with little consistency. You wouldn’t buy a bike that had been designed by committee, would you?
Don’t get me wrong though, I do love the concept of Open Source :-)
This was another “Reader’s Questions” post.