Memory Map has long been one of our favourite mapping systems for riding on the road. The service has now been extended to include a new way of buying mapping, called Digital Map Shop.
It used to be the case that you bought huge tranches of the UK (such as Southern England, or Wales) on DVD, ending up with nice big areas mapped but plenty that you'd never use. Digital Map Shop introduces a pay as you go system that allows you to buy mapping in chunks and download the bits you need for a certain route. £25, £50 and £100 top ups are available (via CD with its own serial number, or you can top up online) and £1 buys you 1000 square kilometres of 1:50k Landranger mapping, or 30 square kilometres of 1:25k Explorer maps.
Draw a route on the 1:250k road map (or just a route that's a box around the bit you want), click on Activate and the Memory Map software will drag the bits of map you need off the server, ready for you to use. It's a clever system that means you get a lot more usable mapping for your money. Given that a whole standard Landranger map (1600 square kilometres) will only cost you £1.60, and you can choose the exact bits you want, you can certainly save plenty of cash over buying the full maps.
We've been testing the system with a £25 Landranger top up and it seems to work very well, downloading large map sections in a few minutes. You get a running total of how much mapping you have left, and you can top up online should you run out. £25 goes a pretty long way too, certainly enough to do your neighbourhood with plenty left over for trips away. By way of example, the area I normally ride in (circular rides up to about 100km) plus a generous buffer came to about 10,000 square kilometres, leaving 15,000 for routes in other parts of the country. In theory you can even download maps on the fly from your internet enabled PDA, though we haven't tried that...
The Digital Map Shop is open for business now. Top up CDs will be in major retailers from next week, or you can point your browser at www.digitalmapshop.com. On top of covering the UK, Memory Map will be extending this service into Europe: France is next, and will be followed by Germany, Holland and Belgium.
Dave is a founding father of road.cc, having previously worked on Cycling Plus and What Mountain Bike magazines back in the day. He also writes about e-bikes for our sister publication ebiketips. He's won three mountain bike bog snorkelling World Championships, and races at the back of the third cats.