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Biz Profile: Butler Maps

The Masters of the Motorcycle Road Map

By Gary Mraz with photos from the Bob T. collection

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Mrs. Butler was stuck, but she didn't give up.
Mrs. Butler was stuck, but she didn't give up.

I love pouring over a map spread out over the dining room table, scrutinizing every back road and twist in the ink. There is a scale involved with maps that allow you to dream and plan differently then looking at a GPS or computer screen. I’ve been known to draw a radius and pick a destination at random, but usually my trips are well thought out. That’s where Butler Maps come in. I picked up the California edition about a year ago and was thoroughly impressed with their detail and focus solely for motorcycle riders. Mr. I’ve-been-everywhere suddenly realized I’ve yet to scratch the surface.

If you’re heading to Arizona Bike Week on the 10 freeway you don’t need a map. And cheap (they charge 10 bucks at some places now!) disposable gas-station maps may be fine in a pinch, but try to find some obscure, apparently non-existent ribbon of pavement as the pathetic excuse for paper rips apart.

Butler staffer testing small Arizona trails.
Butler staffer testing small Arizona trails.

GPS? God only knows where you’ll end up.

“Make the first available U-Turn, make the first available U-Turn." Just ask friend and two-time Hoka Hey first finisher Will Barclay. “In 2010 I used a Rand McNally Atlas of the US, it had missing roads, showed roads that didn’t exist and was actually blessed when it disappeared and had to rely on local maps,” Barclay stated. “In 2011 I bought tons of maps, cut them up, enlarged the sections I needed, had them laminated and created four volumes each fit in my tank bag…Butler Maps does that for you!"

Butler Maps are printed on tough, waterproof stock that shrugs off abuse, and each one folds down to a relatively compact 4.25 x 9 inches—too big for the average pocket but perfect for tankbags and fanny packs. So far Butler has covered Southern California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Texas Hill Country, Utah and Wyoming, plus a planning guide for the five Rocky Mountain States.

Mrs Butler, making road notes in Colorado.
Mrs Butler, making road notes in Colorado.

Butler got started in 2008 when four hard-core riders figured like-minded souls would benefit from maps showing an assortment of excellent motorcycle roads. Roads that, as opposed to what you might find on other so-called motorcycle maps, the company’s owners have actually ridden. It’s a tough job, but thank God these guys are doing it. And their work pays off every time you unfold one of their maps. It doesn’t matter whether you ride an adventure bike, a sportbike, cruiser or Trike. There’s something for just about everyone here, especially if you like to ride where most people don’t.

The maps are easy to use with the best segments of road highlighted in gold, red or orange. G1 (gold) is the best of the best providing elevation change, big views, and most importantly, drama. Red (G2) and Orange (G3) are not to be avoided as well. You can think of their ratings as Good, Better and Best. If a road has color at all, it’s worth going out of the way for.

Scrutinizing Butler I have decided to straddle a dual sport bike. There are too many cool dual sport roads and “Lost Highways," memorable roads that time, tourists and maintenance crews forgot. Butlers California map also shows what they call Paved Mountain Trails (PMTs): Technically these roads are paved, but they are rough, remote and genuinely twisty with stunning views that give welcome excuses to take a break. If there’s a road that’s not on the map, it’s probably not worth riding anyway. Beyond that, there are plenty of other vital details to keep you on-track and out of trouble.

Each carefully researched map shows expanded views of every gold section, providing great detail at a scale most maps don’t give you. On top of that, things like elevation profiles and written descriptions make sure no detail is left behind. If you think paper maps are a thing of the past, you may want to reconsider. These guys have brought the past into the present by printing QR codes on all their maps. Scanning these codes with your smart phone will quickly link you to hotel and restaurant recommendations in addition to some great video content that will help you plan your next adventure ride.

Next we'll study the roads of Europe.
Next we'll study the roads of Europe.

I wrote a series called Piers of the West Coast and inset box # 23 from Butlers Southern California map Nails It! Just look at the incredible riding and multitude of options riders have within close proximity to the Malibu Pier & Malibu Inn.  Enjoy: Click here!
Planning my trek to Sturgis this year I just ordered their entire set. Ultimately, if you really ride, and like exploring, adventure Butler Maps are a must have stash in your Bandit's Bedroll.

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