Map Boards

To Trailquest successfully, you need to have your map in front of you at all times. This allows you to sneak a peak whilst riding along and saves you stopping at every junction to take a creased map out of your pocket. There are many varieties of map board from the bought professional model to the home made lash up, and each one has it's own features most appropriate to the mountain bike orienteer.

Map boards available to Purchase:

A brief search of the web reveals that 3 different map boards can be purchased online in the UK, these are the Miry Map Holder, the Polaris Maptrap and the Silva Map Board

The Miry rotational map holder needs no introduction, it is the weapon of choice for Steve Heading, Andy Conn, John Houlihan and Gary Thompson to name but 4 of the top UK riders. It is the rolls royce of map boards and is reviewed very well by this Australian article. Tried, tested and proven pedigree, This is a classic 'you get what you pay for' item. Rotating the map will not appeal to all, but it is handy in MTBO where you need to concentrate fully on going directly between set checkpoints, one at a time.

The Polaris Maptrap is a sprung folded piece of acrylic which grips a map up to 8mm thick. It is compact and therefore cannot show much of a single sheet map at any time without it flapping about in the wind. It is easy to swap your folded map around, probably with only one hand or at least whilst riding no hands.

We don't have any experience of the Silva model, but it appears to work in a similar manner to the Miry. It can be purchased from the well respected orienteering equipment company Compass Point Online. There is also a map board available called the Windchill Map Board which gets a review here but is only available in Australia.

At EBOR events in Yorkshire, Steve Willis can be seen selling map boards from the shop Karbitz. They are a rotating plastic square of approx. 7 inches and simply clip onto the handlebars just next to the stem. The map is held in by an elastic cross.

Making your own map board:

This one measures 240 x 280mm overall and has proved very successfulA cursory look around at any Trailquest event will reveal a plethora of ways to mount a map on a bike, from the obvious to the ingenious. Most are variations on the flat board theme with different sizes, fastenings and materials. There are instructions on Singletrack web site well worth a read on how to Build your own Map Board. This is a cracking article and one which I myself followed in detail to produce my first map board.

Size is a compromise between the board not overwhelming the handlebars and having as much map on view as possible. The fewer times you have to re-shuffle it during an event the better and consequently, the less time you will loose. Mine has ended up at an overall size of 240mm wide and 280mm tall. This is so that it will hold a folded OS map equally as well as an A4 TQ map.

Any sort of stationery clip can be used to attach the map. Big elastic bands are a slightly less secure option but don't compromise the polythene map bag's integrity. Also, the bottom corners of the map board do need chamfering off, a lot! Otherwise when you stand up and pedal out of the saddle, your knees will hit the corners.

Perspex gets a good mention as it is handy stuff, but there are alternatives. Lexan looks and does the same but is a lot stronger, shatter proof, easier to drill and inevitably more expensive. The map board doesn't have to be transparent, Barney's is made from wood laminate which works just as well.

If you choose to use the famous 'House For Sale' notice board type corrugated plastic, this has strength in only one direction. The answer is to thoroughly glue together 2 pieces with the second piece running at 90 degrees to the first, resulting in a very light and strong panel.

Riser bars are tricky, but it should just be a matter of spacing the board up from where it is mounted. Always wrap tape round your handlebars where the tool clips grip, and replace it if it wears. You don't want steel chaffing carbon bars as the results could well be catastrophic. Aluminium is harder, but you still want to avoid any chaffing and metal scratching.

Do consider what would happen in an accident. Cable ties act as a week link and will hopefully snap and give way to save you 'knee capping' yourself during a crash. Assuming you survive this then what? Have spare cable ties taped to the bottom of the board so that you can hastily fasten things back together and proceed as before.

Getting the most out of your map board:

The best time to have a good study of the map is when it's safest. This is probably when you are going up a tarmac hill, ie. smooth surface and slow speed. Keep an eye on the edge of the road so you don't drift across to the right. Beware of folding the map to hide controls on the edge of the event area which you then forget about and fail to collect.

Carry more clips than you need to fasten the map to the map board. Inevitably they will get pulled off by foliage or knocked off on a gate, and once they drop into long grass, you can't find them for love nor money.

Keep air out of the map bag, it stays flat and works much better this way. In the rain, it is of utmost importance to stop water destroying the paper map, without your map, you are sunk.

You can still use lights, certain ones will mount upside down on the handlebars. You can revert to using a helmet light or the more creative approach is to make a new bracket to act as a piece of handlebar below the map board. The lights will be harder to operate, but don't be put off. Lumicycle Halogens are shown in the picture.

Other options & map board alternatives:

If you really don't want a rigid board on the handlebars, you could persevere with the waterproof map bag around your neck like fell walkers use. It will swing about and get in the way, but these are available from most outdoor pursuit type shops. A variation on this theme is the REI Bar Map Holder which is a flexible wallet that attaches to the handlebars, probably best suited to touring, rather then Trailquesting. It is available in both small and medium sizes.