Exploring somewhere new on your bike is one of the greatest pleasures of cycling. But to make your day out fun you need to do a little bit of preparation first with some cycle route planning.
A great bike ride starts with planning a great route. Getting lost, tired, riding further than expected or a surprise big hill at the end of the day can put even the happiest cyclists into a grump. Avoid these route-planning errors with our 5 top tips…
Use a route planning app
Absolutely the easiest way to plan a route is with an app. Cycle route planning apps are becoming increasingly intuitive to use and apps such as RidewithGPS, Strava and Komoot include crowd-sourced route knowledge from other cyclists to help ensure you’re picking the best places to pedal. If you want the easiest route-planning approach possible then check out suggestions of rides other cyclists have planned so that you’re following something tried and tested.
Think about height gain as well as distance
Some cyclists love hills, others hate them, but regardless of which camp you fall into it’s important to make a note of the elevation gain on your route, not just the distance. A flat 20-mile ride and a hilly 20-mile ride will be significantly different in terms of effort level and time taken.
If you have any really big climbs on your route try to plan them into the first half of the ride when you will be feeling most energetic. If you’re planning a café stop, schedule it at the top of a hill not the bottom. It is not fun to start a very steep climb when you still have a full stomach!
If you’re planning a route for other people let them know when the climbs occur and how hard they’re likely to be, that way they will be mentally prepared and can save their energy for when they most need it.
Plan bail-out options
We’ve all had those rides when we have bitten off more than we can chew, so this is hard-learned advice. Having some short cuts in mind is always helpful when route planning. If the weather changes, riders get tired or you need to get home in a hurry, a pre-planned bail out option can really save the day. Look for ways you could cut off distance or avoid a big hill without having to retrace your steps.
If you’re unsure of your fitness or how long a route might take, plan a figure of eight that passes back past your home – that way you could cut it off at the halfway point if necessary. It’s a great way to build confidence that you can handle longer distance rides.
Take a copy of the map
GPS devices are absolutely brilliant for making route planning and route following easy, but they can run out of battery, fall-off bikes or lose signal. Also, if you accidently mis-click in your route planning, the map you upload could be completely wrong! Here is some advice on when you should ignore your bike computer. Having a paper map version of your route, or even just a list of place names and directions, is a useful back up.
Knowing the place names or general direction of your ride can help avoid mindlessly following a GPS device into trouble. It can also help with how you pace your energy and food consumption. Familiarise yourself with the route so you know when the big climbs are, how far it is to the lunch stop and which towns and villages you’re expecting to cycle through.
You can find out more about our favourite bike routes here. Why not share your favourite routes and route planning advice with us on our Facebook or Twitter?
Enjoy your ride!