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Touring Have a dream to ride a bike across your state, across the country, or around the world? Self-contained or fully supported? Trade ideas, adventures, and more in our bicycle touring forum.

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Old 06-21-11, 06:11 AM   #1
03staylo
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What roads do you tour on? Main, country or bypass?

Hi all,
I am just setting out to plan a route for a short tour and wondered what people did to find their route. How do you find the route to go and what roads do you plan for?
Obviously it would be great just to go on quiet country lanes with few cars but that means much more planning, great map reading skills for unnamed roads and constantly checking your location compared to well sign posted main linking roads. What does everyone do?
Thanks,
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Old 06-21-11, 06:33 AM   #2
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Hi all,
How do you find the route to go and what roads do you plan for?
Even for a short local tour, I go to Google Maps for ideas. Also use www.ridewithgps.com or www.bikeroutetoasters.com for elevation info and for creating a track for transfer to the gps. Will then revert to a paper map to back up the gps. For a long tour, I will gather the state maps, mark the route, then cut and paste them together into a convenient foldable pkg.

On long tours, I tend to stick to US and state highways for the high probability of having some sort of shoulder and more shallow grades. Farm to Market roads, when available, also tend to be good for their low traffic density and usually decent surface.
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Old 06-21-11, 06:35 AM   #3
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Does your short tour start from your doorstep? If so, then you should already have a good idea of the route you want to take.

Where do you ride in the evenings and on weekends?

I like to explore all the roads in my area in all directions, and so I am quite familiar with all the roads in about a 100 km radius around the place I live, and somewhat familiar with many roads further out ... and that goes for all the places I've lived for the past 20 years. Sometimes I just go and ride and explore and learn from trial and error. Other times I will sit down with a variety of maps and plan a route.


If your tour starts somewhere other than home, you can use your knowledge of the roads in your area, and your maps of those roads, to put together a route from similar maps in the unfamiliar area.

So get some maps ... and go ride!
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Old 06-21-11, 06:47 AM   #4
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the harder the road, the better the view
that was the golden rule when riding in South America
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Old 06-21-11, 07:57 AM   #5
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All of the above. I am leaving for Montana next week for a nine day trip. We will be riding on an interstate highway, a U.S. highway, frontage roads, paved state highways, an unpaved state highway, a paved U.S.F.S. road, an unpaved local road, city streets and even two bike trails.

The route is all based on research, including one instance of contacting a local cyclist campground to inquire about the condition of one road. Google Maps is helpful because it wil show locations of lodging, etc., if you ask it too. The one limitation is that it will not tell you whether a road is paved or not.
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Old 06-21-11, 08:21 AM   #6
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Just be aware that almost all Interstate Highways (and controlled access roads) are restricted for bikes - even though they have some of the best shoulders....

I'm using ACA maps, and they tend to keep you off the main roads (a bit too much IMO) and out on country routes. I've had roads so far when I haven't seen any cars in 1/2 hour stretches.
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Old 06-21-11, 08:48 AM   #7
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Google Maps is helpful because it wil show locations of lodging, etc., if you ask it too. The one limitation is that it will not tell you whether a road is paved or not.
In my area, the lack of distinction can be an adventure. Last Saturday, a good looking (on google maps) named road turned out to be a flatish grassy spot. There was some evidence of foot traffic, so I risked it. After 1/4 mile, I hit pavement.

As to the original question, I try to stay off the main roads as much as possible. For me, that means a lot of gravel and extra miles, but a lot less traffic.
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Old 06-21-11, 09:21 AM   #8
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Just be aware that almost all Interstate Highways (and controlled access roads) are restricted for bikes - even though they have some of the best shoulders....
Depends where you are. In MT, I believe most interstates are open to cyclists. Other western states allow cycling on large portions of interstates. Sometimes, it's the only way to get between two points. Heading east from Rawlins, WY on AC's Trans Am route is a great example. Once you reach the Sinclair plant, I-80 is the only road that continues east. If my memory serves me, I was on it for about 16 miles. I have also ridden interstates in OR and ND.
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Old 06-21-11, 09:30 AM   #9
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The ones in the country I happen to be cycling through, ..

I was riding towards the Northern Irish coast, I noted to a local
How much the road surface improved, they said it was because it was closed
regularly, to be used for FIM Sanctioned Motorcycle races.
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Old 06-21-11, 09:34 AM   #10
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State roads are usually the sweet spot for me; paved reasonably well, and usually not too much traffic. It really depends on location, though; some U.S. highways are built too large for their normal traffic loads, so they're great to ride on. Near larger cities, county roads or even local city streets may work, although the hassle of finding your way and the stop-and-go nature of city streets usually means there's a better way to go.

U.S. 50 in northern Virginia? Heck, no! U.S. 50 in western Kansas? No problem!
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Old 06-21-11, 12:29 PM   #11
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Even for a short local tour, I go to Google Maps for ideas. Also use www.ridewithgps.com or www.bikeroutetoasters.com for elevation info and for creating a track for transfer to the gps. Will then revert to a paper map to back up the gps. For a long tour, I will gather the state maps, mark the route, then cut and paste them together into a convenient foldable pkg.

On long tours, I tend to stick to US and state highways for the high probability of having some sort of shoulder and more shallow grades. Farm to Market roads, when available, also tend to be good for their low traffic density and usually decent surface.
You should check out google cue sheets, handy little utility that integrates with google maps.
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Old 06-21-11, 04:06 PM   #12
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Google Maps is helpful because it wil show locations of lodging, etc., if you ask it too. The one limitation is that it will not tell you whether a road is paved or not.
That's where paper maps come in handy. Most of the time they will show you paved and unpaved roads.
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Old 06-21-11, 05:08 PM   #13
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In most of the areas where I've toured, I don't have a lot of choice as to which road I'll take. Often there's just one road, sometimes two, between Point A and Point B.

When I have a choice, I prefer the secondary highways to the main highways, especially if the main highway has a lot of high-speed traffic going by.

When I lived in the Prairies, I occasionally used the grid roads for part of my route. These roads are quiet and the most activity will likely be a farmer on a tractor or a herd of cattle crossing to a pasture. In a perfect world, the grid roads form a nice grid and will eventually connect with the main highways again. However, some of the roads just come to an end, sometimes stopping in the middle of a field. To use these roads, one has to know the area quite well.

Here in British Columbia, there are books which show the back roads and forestry roads throughout most of the province. As with grid roads, the forestry roads sometimes provide an alternate route but at other times, they simply end somewhere. For this reason, it's a good idea to plan the route before using these roads.

Topographical maps are available and will show the roads and trails in a given area, but check the date. Some of the roads shown on the maps may have been decommissioned since the printing of the map.
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Old 06-21-11, 06:05 PM   #14
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I avoid major highways as much as possible, however sometimes you have no choice. In some parts of the country you have grid pattern roads where you can get a parallel road pretty easily. Midwest comes to mind. I currently live in the Sandhills of NC so it is a crap shoot, local knowledge is a plus. Google Maps, DeLorme Atlases, state and county maps all come in handy for trip planning. And yes I have actually hauled a couple of states worth of the paper Atlases with me and mailed them home when I was done with them.

Another thing you can do is search for traffic counts for a specific stretch of road via most states DOT websites. Somewhere I have seen recommended traffic levels that supposedly make a road better for cycling.

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Old 06-21-11, 07:19 PM   #15
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Ever since I got my DroidX phone I'm always scrolling around on Google Maps with the satellite layer on. Talk about awesome. I'll find somewhere I want to ride, punch it into my GPS and roll. For a tour I'd do that, plus have a paper map backup. Or two. And 3 extra batteries for the phone. And another GPS unit. The farther away from home I get, the more of a fan of quadruple redundancy I become.

In Ohio around the Metroparks area we have bicycle transportation maps available. Each county is $2, except I think Lorain is free. What makes these maps handy to have is all of the roads are labeled beginner, intermediate etc depending on the width of the shoulder, avg amount of traffic, speed limit and such. Great tool to have. Maybe you have an organization around you that does something similar?
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Old 06-24-11, 05:08 PM   #16
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It is always a quandry, a busy highway will usually have a well paved wide shoulder. A minor road with less traffic might have no shoulder at all. A firm well groomed dirt road can be as good as asphalt but if it rains then you are riding in mud. Sometimes you know there has got to be a better way. Sometimes you get it right..................and that is cycle touring.
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