Handlebar-Mounted Map Holder

Handlebar-mounted map holders are one of those esoteric outdoors items that only complete cartographic nerds and adventure racers can wax silly about. Since I fit both molds—and add orienteering to my topographic confessional as well—the Rotating Map Holder from Adventure Racing Navigation Supplies caught my eye.

Last month, I employed the plastic platform on an adventure race along the St. Croix River in Minnesota, navigating trails and county roads for about 20 miles with relative ease. The 9×9-inch platform did not flex or flap, and the bungee cords held the map in place fine while on the go. The board does add wind drag, though less than I expected.

Made to fit all standard bike handlebar setups, the Rotating Map Holder mounts via a lever-activated clamp. You put in rubber shims to fit it tight against your handlebars. When putting the clamp on my bike, however, I had trouble getting the lever to snap down tight, though the platform stayed stable while I rode.

For reading the map on the ride, the platform rotates 360 degrees, allowing you to spin and orient the map with the lay of the land. This alone is a huge advantage to simply using an over-the-shoulder map case and trying to read a wrongly-oriented road map while riding on a bumpy road.

Indeed, pedaling and navigating has got to be one of the most dangerous parts of adventure racing. Several times while coasting downhill during races—the one time when I finally get a second to stop pedaling and try and peek at the map—I’ve squinted at bouncing details on a page and almost crashed. It’s like driving and talking on a cell phone, though much worse.

The Rotating Map Holder, on the other hand, keeps the map flat and easier to read. It costs $55 and adds just 8 ounces of weight to your bike setup.

While they seem hokey, the dual bungee straps pretty much keep the map in place. I had my map come out and blow off the bike once during my race. This was because I folded it a bit too small, and one side slipped out of a bungee, and the wind caught it, and . . . time to hit the brakes and head back for the page.

One feature that would be nice—and something I plan to add to my Rotating Map Holder—is a small stick-on compass. This way you would not have to check the lanyard around your neck for north before looking down each time at the page.

Anything you can do to make map reading easier (and safer) while riding is a good thing by me.

Price: $55

Company contact: Adventure Racing Navigation Supplies, http://www.arnavsupplies.com

Stephen Regenold

Stephen Regenold is Founder of GearJunkie, which he launched as a nationally-syndicated newspaper column in 2002. As a journalist and writer, Regenold has covered the outdoors industry for two decades, including as a correspondent for the New York Times. A father of five, Regenold and his wife live in Minneapolis.