Whether on a long trip or on a short ride, it is critical to be able to find one’s way, and therefore to have a detailed and current map, preferably one made especially for the cyclist.
Let’s take a look at the availability of maps in some European countries.
In Italy there isn’t an overall bike map, but rather various maps focused on particular areas of travel interest. Primarily I use the regional maps of the TCI [Touring Club Italiano. RB] at 1:200,000, even though they are intended for motorists and not for cyclists; where they exist, I then use more detailed maps such as those of Kompass, and when I’m in the Veneto, maps from Tabacco or from the publisher Berica.
The situation is quite different in Germany; the ADFC [Allgemeiner Deutscher Fahrrad-Club, the German cyclists club] has its official map (at 1:150,000) in 27 sheets (6.80 €) published by the Bielefelder Verlagsanstalt, which is probably the best resource for traveling on bike in Germany. It indicates in great detail all of the bike routes, routes along local roads, etc., and etc. against the background of a normal roadmap. Accompanying this series there are also some regional maps at 1:75,000. Another good resource is the Deutsche Radtourenkarte [German bike route map] at 1:100,000 in 35 sheets published by Haupka which classifies the routes in inverse order to the amount of motorized traffic; also useful for the cyclist are the maps by Kompass, for the most part dedicated specific routes (for example, the Donauradweg or the Altmühltalradweg). These maps can be found in most bookstores (buchhandlung) and in large department stores, in particular those of the Karstadt group, which in the Karstadt-Sport shops always have a Fahrrad [bicycle travel] department full of accessories for the bicycle.
The situation in Austria is similar: first of all there is the series of Cycline maps (at 1:50,000; 75,000 and 100,000) published by Esterbauer, which also publishes the guides of the Bikeline series, perhaps the most comprehensive series of guides for bike travel in Europe; Kompass publishes a map covering all of Austria in 6 double sheets at 1:125,000; while Freytag & Berndt publishes maps at 1:50,000 covering areas of tourist interest.
In Holland maps dedicated specifically to the cyclist are less abundant; the best large scale map is probably the map at 1:200,000, the De sterkste fietskaart van Nederland [the strongest bike map of the Netherlands] published by Buijten en Schipperheijn, created on a special paper resistant to rain (a rather frequent event in Holland!). At the VVV tourist offices, present in nearly every city, maps are sold that provide a more detailed scale; the best is perhaps the one published by the VVV itself.
How can you obtain these maps before you start your trip? It’s almost impossible: in Italy one can find (with difficulty) only the Kompass maps; the other maps can be found only in their respective countries; one should therefore buy them in the first German or Austrian or Dutch city one comes to on our route. Even better is to buy on-line where it's easy to find them on websites like amazon.de or directly from the original websites listed above.