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  1. #1
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    Non-Traditional Touring Routes

    New to touring and want to start out with about a week long tour. I live in Northern Colorado and am thinking of going to Yosemite, or maybe east through Nebraska. I have checked numerous sources and looked for routes but only have found details for the main "Adventure Cycling" type routes (Trans Am, Great Divide, etc).

    I'm wondering if anybody has some tips for planning routes yourself. I tried doing this with mapmyride.com, but I am not sure I what to make of this. Most biking options appear to take me on busy highways, which I dont mind, but would like to at least know if bike friendly paths were available, even if they took a bit longer. I can turn on "Avoid Highways", but then it seems to put me on what appear to be rough dirt roads. Basically just looking for any help or starter info to plan some routes. I dont foresee myself doing month or multiple month trips, at least for some time now, so I'd like to be able to prepare routes to places in the area I'd like to see. Using highways is fine, but would rather use a bike path or bike friendly route if available. Also, possibly any tools that also show this detail along with campsites in the area.

    I went to REI and checked out some high-level maps of the area, but those did not appear to be extremely helpful, and I'd imagine certain online tools would be much more intuitive. This may be a shot in the dark, but figured I'd check. Any ideas?

    Thanks.

  2. #2
    Senior Member gif4445's Avatar
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    Forum resources that I use include here and Adventure Cycling (check the routes section especially). For specific information, I read a lot of journals at crazyguyonabike.com. Use the search function to select your desired locations. I live in SC Nebraska, near Kearney, and have journaled a couple of tours. The first one, my destination was Breckenridge CO. ( https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/..._id=10146&v=7z ). This one might be helpful for a Nebraska trip. For me the journals are my best resource, especially on those routes that are less taken. Not as much info out there compared to the Trans Am, Northern tier, etc., but you will usually find some. I also use google maps a lot. The biking option is good for finding the bike trails, as they show up in green. But I do not use the bike function as a route planner alone. Not good. I use the street view component of google maps a lot to see if the road route I'm considering has a good shoulder and to get an idea of the level of traffic. The DOT websites of each state usually have a state map that shows bike friendly (and unfriendly) routes, based upon traffic levels, type of road etc. For Nebraska, the BRAN (Bike ride across Nebraska) website ( http://bran-inc.org/wp/ ) has past route information in its forum section. I think it goes a number of years back, so you can browse a particular year, look at the route and ask some questions on the forum. "Granny" is a frequent contributor on the BRAN forum and has ridden around 30 BRANs, so she knows the good routes across the state. And she loves to talk about the good routes across Nebraska. Seek her out specifically and you won't be disappointed. All these fore-mentioned forums have sections on what to pack to be prepared for the road. The journals too usually have a packing list in the intro/beginning of the journal. Just be prepared to do a lot of reading and research. To me that is part of the fun. But if your planning has some holes, don't worry. As you will see in my Breck journal, the mistakes you make just contribute to the adventure!

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    Just because you are on a 4 lane highway doesn't mean there is a lot of traffic. Look at where the 4 lane highway is in terms of nearby cities and interstate highways. I learnt that lesson on my trip last summer. I was travelling from Albany, NY to into Ohio on US20, 4 lane. It ended up being dead, traffic wise and had the best pavement of the entrie trip. I would have never guessed it until I got to thinking that I-90 and I-88 had to be diverting the traffic leaving US20 sitting empty. I camped out practically right on the highway one night and it was a very calm peaceful night.

  4. #4
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    The most direct route has over time became the major highway, or largest volume street.

    just a geography of human cultures..

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    Just come up with a likely-looking route and post it here. You'll get lots of comments and suggestions about potential alternatives if you have some hairy sections in there.

    For example, if you're planning to get to Yosemite Valley by way of Tioga Pass (highway 120), the eastern climb up the pass is fairly tranquil, but many people don't like the narrow road with frequent RV traffic once you're in the park itself, plus the tunnels on the descent into the valley make some folks' hair stand on end. But any alternate route will add many miles to your tour.

    If you don't want that traffic, maybe an alternate destination, such as the Lake Tahoe region, would be more in order. It doesn't have that insanely crowded Disneyland feel that a summer day in Yosemite Valley has, and has several state parks with discount hiker-biker sites on the lake or a bit north or south of it.
    Last edited by stevepusser; 04-30-13 at 02:06 PM.

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    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    I'm planning a route from Rochester, NY to Boston via Portsmouth, NH. I've called or emailed several WS hosts to get pointers on best routing/camping recommendations. Local folks usually know best. If they're cyclists. Civilians, no.
    The bicycle is one of the great inventions of mankind. Delights children, challenges young men to feats of daring, and turns old men into boys again.--Me

  7. #7
    Hooked on Touring
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    Most state departments of transportation have traffic volume or traffic count maps.
    These are excellent resources for finding lightly travelled roads.
    Of course, these only apply to state highways - not county roads.
    (Some states also have county road traffic info, too.)

    Shoulders tend to be something only on busier roads.
    Really - an empty road needs no shoulder.
    But a busy road with no shoulder is something alse altogether.
    Some states also have shoulder width info.

    Beware state bicycle maps - they vary from fair to awful.

    As for traffic counts - AADT - average annual daily traffic is the number.
    Under 500 - Ideal
    500-1000 - Very Nice
    1000-2000 - O.K. but requires more attention
    2000-4000 - Really need a shoulder for comfort
    4000 plus - Constant traffic - with a shoulder O.K. but hardly idyllic

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by jamawani View Post
    Most state departments of transportation have traffic volume or traffic count maps.
    These are excellent resources for finding lightly travelled roads.
    Of course, these only apply to state highways - not county roads.
    (Some states also have county road traffic info, too.)

    Shoulders tend to be something only on busier roads.
    Really - an empty road needs no shoulder.
    But a busy road with no shoulder is something alse altogether.
    Some states also have shoulder width info.

    Beware state bicycle maps - they vary from fair to awful.

    As for traffic counts - AADT - average annual daily traffic is the number.
    Under 500 - Ideal
    500-1000 - Very Nice
    1000-2000 - O.K. but requires more attention
    2000-4000 - Really need a shoulder for comfort
    4000 plus - Constant traffic - with a shoulder O.K. but hardly idyllic
    Great stuff here! Your AADT "table" is right on the money. And AADT maps are your friend, especially when county/town roads are included.

    I like state bicycle maps that simply give the map reader the underlying data (AADT, shoulder width, pavement) far more than bike maps which rate road suitability without providing the underlying data. But even bike maps that fall into the latter category can be good sources of information if they provide more detail about county/town roads than the typical state highway map (I'm thinking of the Illinois and Wisconsin maps, which contain all sorts of very small quiet paved roads beyond County roads).

  9. #9
    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    My wife and I try to avoid "traditional" routes except in place like the Pacific Coast Route where there are not any options. We rode through Nebraska on US Highway 20, as part of our non-traditional route across the U.S. It took us through some nice areas, and the road varied from busy to low traffic with plenty of options to vary it a little. There was free camping in city parks at most small towns along the route. Cycle tourists were a novelty which seemed to make interacting with the locals a lot easier than on some of the established routes where they see 100's of bike tourists in a month. We only saw 6 other bike tourists in the entire 3700 miles, except where it crossed the Trans- AM near Yellowstone. It is the only contiguous road across the country, starting in Newport, OR and ending in Boston, MA. That is the reason we picked the route.

    Pick a route, and work it out. There is no need to Google or map it electronically to the most finite turn. That is part of the fun of touring is the unknown. I know, I'm on a rant, but I told my wife the other day that sometimes the way we did it in the past had some merit. This was pre -internet, pre-cellphone, and pre- CGOAB days when you took a road map and went from point A to B without much knowledge of what was in between. It was definitely more of an adventure. Heck, on a tour last fall we changed our route after checking the weather on Accuweather, and did a completely different tour than originally planned. I'm not sure she was convinced.
    Last edited by Doug64; 05-01-13 at 12:52 PM.

  10. #10
    Question Authority JoeMan's Avatar
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    For a week long tour your state (CO) has oodles of possible routes. I once did a short tour 8 days on some back roads in Nevada. Used an older MTB and pulled a trailer. I like this forum but I can get caught up in over-preparing. Gear is important but not critical to a fun tour - just go!!
    2007 REI Safari, 2006 Rocky Mountain Solo 30, Cannondale F1 MTB.

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    State Highway maps can be found online that indicate traffic density and shoulder width. Google Maps is good for getting a (very rough) idea of what traffic is like and what the shoulders look like. Bing is useful too. I then use my Garmin map software to plot the route, which will ultimately be loaded onto my GPS.

    Google Maps also has a lot of bike routes marked on its "bicycling" layer.

    Works for me.

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    Yosmite vs Nebraska -wow polar opposites! If you decide on Yosemite, post your proposed route here and I'll tweak it for you, I used to spend a lot of time there.

    edit - post it in google maps, not mapmyride, mapmyride is no good for editing.
    ...

  13. #13
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    >As for traffic counts - AADT - average annual daily traffic is the number.
    Under 500 - Ideal
    500-1000 - Very Nice
    1000-2000 - O.K. but requires more attention
    2000-4000 - Really need a shoulder for comfort
    4000 plus - Constant traffic - with a shoulder O.K. but hardly idyllic[/QUOTE]<



    Interesting to note that the pacific coast hwy is an extremely popular route and yet very much falls under the category of "with a shoulder OK but hardly idyllic". While riding it last summer I came away feeling just exactly that. "hardly Idyllic". I guess a lot of people aren't bothered by the noise of heavy traffic all day.

  14. #14
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mvallejo View Post
    New to touring and want to start out with about a week long tour. I live in Northern Colorado and am thinking of going to Yosemite, or maybe east through Nebraska. I have checked numerous sources and looked for routes but only have found details for the main "Adventure Cycling" type routes (Trans Am, Great Divide, etc).

    I'm wondering if anybody has some tips for planning routes yourself. I tried doing this with mapmyride.com, but I am not sure I what to make of this. Most biking options appear to take me on busy highways, which I dont mind, but would like to at least know if bike friendly paths were available, even if they took a bit longer. I can turn on "Avoid Highways", but then it seems to put me on what appear to be rough dirt roads. Basically just looking for any help or starter info to plan some routes. I dont foresee myself doing month or multiple month trips, at least for some time now, so I'd like to be able to prepare routes to places in the area I'd like to see. Using highways is fine, but would rather use a bike path or bike friendly route if available. Also, possibly any tools that also show this detail along with campsites in the area.

    I went to REI and checked out some high-level maps of the area, but those did not appear to be extremely helpful, and I'd imagine certain online tools would be much more intuitive. This may be a shot in the dark, but figured I'd check. Any ideas?

    Thanks.
    Don't expect to find too many separated bike paths outside of major metro areas if that is what you are looking for. There are some exceptions but generally you are going to be traveling on roadways no matter where you go. Some are better than others and some are necessary evils because alternative routes, especially out here in the west, just don't exist.

    That said, Google maps does a good job of giving you routes that are bicycle friendly. I use it to get a general idea of where to ride in areas I travel to while using other maps for the day to day riding. In the past that meant using AAA maps which aren't bad but more recently, I've used the mapping app on my smart phone. I used it to navigate a 1200 mile circle in Appalachia last year. It worked very well with only a few hiccups.

    I used the map app in conjunction with another app called All-Stay camp and tent. That allowed me to decide where I was going to camp and then map the route to that campground. It worked very, very well.

    I know that many people think that Nebraska is a bad place for a tour but the Sand Hills are actually quite pretty. I'd suggest using Google maps to plot a route to Fort Robinson from Fort Collins. Fort Robinson has a long history in the US and is a fascinating place to visit. While in that area, take a side trip to Hudson-Meng Bison site and Toad Stool. All of these are along the Fossil Freeway which wouldn't be a bad road to ride on a tour. You could also go east from Ft Robinson on the Cowboy Trail which is one of those rare bikepaths outside of a major city. This is a railtrail which is packed dirt and is a bit easier to ride than most dirt roads. Only sections of it are open from Valentine to Chadron but Nebraska 20 would be a good route for bicycles.

    Don't sweat too much about routes when planning a trip. Get a good idea of where you want to go and then adapt when you get there. Routes can change based on what you find in any given area.
    Stuart Black
    Solo Without Pie. The search for pie in the Midwest.
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    An Good Ol' Fashion Appalachian Butt Whoopin'.

  15. #15
    509
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    Learn to read and interpret maps. In my case, it was easy since I was a professional Forester. I did a 2000 mile trip in Europe and it was easy to pick out great secondary roads. It is a little more difficult in the US. However, many interstates have frontage roads to are right next to the interstate.

    I think, however, the best thing in the states is to totally rethink routes. The trip is not the journey between two urban areas....the journey is the journey. Here are two web site on American ByWays and Backcountry Byways. These are scenic routes, most times with little vehicle traffic. Cobble a few of these together and you would have a great bike trip. However, the route becomes journey not just a trip between two urban areas. And it might seem weird at first to travel in more or less circles.

    http://byways.org/ and http://byways.org/explore/.......then, of course, there are the rails to trails http://www.railstotrails.org/index.html.


    Why ride the interstates when these roads are out there?

  16. #16
    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    I was a professional Forester.
    +1, and I still manage to get lost!


    How did you do in dendrology?

  17. #17
    509
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    I took Dendrology my super senior quarter after getting accepted in all sorts of graduate schools. This is important....because I got a D. But in the words of that country song....."those times are gone, but not forgotten". It was without a doubt the most fun quarter I had at school.

    Just because I cannot identify trees in a city park, does not mean I can't use a map and compass. I did pay attention during THOSE four hours!!

    But, to get back on topic most bicyclist would benefit from spending more time on map interpretation, no matter what the map. It pains me to see bicyclists riding on the edge of an interstate when there are frontage roads available or great secondary roads that get to the same destination.

    It really did make a difference in Europe where we had little traffic on the secondary roads. It was almost like taking a 2000 mile bike path. It did not work in Finland, since ONLY the main roads were paved at that time. Even looking at a state highway map will give you "some" information on better routes.

    On similar note....I would get an IPAD mini with 4G or similar for route planning. You can use Google Maps and Google Earth for trip planning. That would have been great on a long distance trip. Also you can take screen shots with your IPAD and they will be placed into your photo roll. Not having cell service then becomes a non-issue.

    I have used Google Earth in this way. It's like having your own stash of aerial photo's in the panniers!! I did get an A in aerial photogrammetry.

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