How to Plan an Awesome Cycling Route

How to Plan an Awesome Cycling Route


The where, how, sharing and riding of planning an awesome route to cycle. Something everyone should do frequently. 

how to plan a cycling route

Cycling is all about the open road. No matter your persuasion – racing, touring, mountain biking, even urban – a greater or lesser part of your cycling experience will involve exploring.

And unless you’re a perpetual tag-along, exploration will involve route planning – from working out the best way to get to work, to self-navigating 200km epics.

But where to start?

The Where

When route planning, often the best way to start is with a mid point. Decide where you’d like to go for coffee, cake, or even how far away from home the turning point of your ride should be.

“Interesting routes shouldn’t be defined by a distance; think more about the journey…”

For a start, this gives you something to aim for, a target to push towards, and perhaps most importantly, a signposted destination that’s going to be hard to miss.

Interesting routes shouldn’t be defined by a distance; think more about the journey, the roads and the experience yet to come.

The How

This is the best bit.

Deciding how you’re going to get to ‘the where’. I’m tingling already. Aren’t you?

This is the part of the route planning process that cycling is all about. Deciding on the roads, twists, turns, hills, descents and coffee stops you want to venture to/past. But where to begin?

“Google Maps is simply awesome for route planning. It’s all you’ll ever need.”

Well, for us there’s only one tool you need in your inventory at this point. That tool is Google Maps. Google Maps is simply awesome for route planning. It’s all you’ll ever need.

My process is this:

  • Presumably you know where you’re setting off from and where you’re heading to. So, set your beginning and end. If you’re doing a loop set a second destination – your original location. Though if the ride is over 50-60 miles you may like to plot it in two halves.
  • Now, decide on the roads you’d like to take by using ‘Street View’. By using this approach, you can easily include the quietest, best surfaced and most picturesque roads in your ride.
  • Google will have naturally given you the quickest route for a car to get to your destination (and back). I’d leave the car option selected, assuming you want to avoid relatively shitty cycle paths, and drag the route to take in the roads you fancy.
  • From here, you can save your route through Google Maps and share it with others. But, there are better options for storage and sharing.

The Sharing

We’re going to assume that you’re not up for committing your route to memory. And there’s no need – you’ve probably got a Garmin. But where to share, save and upload your route?

By far the best option here is www.ridewithgps.com, where even a free account will enable you to save rides (which you can export from Google Maps and into Ride with GPS). Once uploaded, the software gives you an accurate representation of the ride’s elevation profile and distance. This can easily be shared with others and downloaded for upload to your Garmin.

The Riding

And that’s all there is to it. Many cyclists are scared of route planning and cycling their own routes alone – there’s no need to be. As long as you take a systematic approach to route planning, you shouldn’t stumble across anything unexpected or difficult.

Pure enjoyment.

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