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Out and Back Routes

Old 04-30-24, 04:51 PM
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Out and Back Routes

My solo and group rides have been loop, point to point and out and back routes. There are probably other types I don't know about, but the most common complain I hear from other riders is that out and back routes are just plain boring. So yesterday I got to the turnaround point of one of my out and back routes and began heading back home. A few miles later I realized it was not boring. The up hills were now down hills, the down hills were now up hills, and my view of the road ahead was not the same. Anyone have a similar (or different) perspective of out and back routes?
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Old 04-30-24, 04:59 PM
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When I was spending a few months a year in Santa Fe, NM, many of my road rides were out and back due to the lack of road infrastructure. It was hard to put together loops that were under 80 miles or so. A case of no choice, no problem. Locally (Long Island) there’s a huge network of decent roads so I pretty much always do a loop of some kind, but I do repeat some loops, or do them backwards,
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Old 05-01-24, 03:14 AM
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Most of my riding is out and back, technically it might be a loop since I go one way around lake natoma and come back on the other side of the lake, but it's what I do. I don't get bored since I am in the moment and just riding. I found even riding at night I can do loops and since it's dark I don't mind the same scenery. Each time I could take a different line, pass a different person, or see if I can power through the flat up the hill. Even playing music via headphones could give me a new experience.
I also enjoy seeing myself go faster up climbs, or carrying more speed through a section.
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Old 05-01-24, 11:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Qwertyportne
My solo and group rides have been loop, point to point and out and back routes. There are probably other types I don't know about, but the most common complain I hear from other riders is that out and back routes are just plain boring. So yesterday I got to the turnaround point of one of my out and back routes and began heading back home. A few miles later I realized it was not boring. The up hills were now down hills, the down hills were now up hills, and my view of the road ahead was not the same. Anyone have a similar (or different) perspective of out and back routes?
You're right - while the return leg might be retracing the outbound leg, it's certainly not the same in terms of views or terrain. I do try to avoid out-and-back routes as much as possible, but I acknowledge that the prejudice is all in my head
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Old 05-01-24, 11:23 AM
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The ride I do most often is an 11 mile out-and-back that I can sneak in at the end of a work day. Since it is 900 feet or so of elevation gain going out and 900 feet or so of elevation loss coming back, the two directions on the same roads are definitely different experiences.

Loop, out-and-back, point-to-point, lollipop, all can be great, all can be dull as dirt, all can be easy, all can be killer, depending on a number of variables (including who you are doing the ride with). I say: don't over-think it. A fun ride is a fun ride. Enjoy.
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Old 05-01-24, 11:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Qwertyportne
My solo and group rides have been loop, point to point and out and back routes. There are probably other types I don't know about, but the most common complain I hear from other riders is that out and back routes are just plain boring. So yesterday I got to the turnaround point of one of my out and back routes and began heading back home. A few miles later I realized it was not boring. The up hills were now down hills, the down hills were now up hills, and my view of the road ahead was not the same. Anyone have a similar (or different) perspective of out and back routes?
The same can be said for loops also. Many times I'll head out for one of my usual loop rides, going in the same direction. When I make a conscious attempt to go in the opposite direction, the ride looks and feels completely different...then I'll ask myself why I don't change it up more often
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Old 05-01-24, 11:36 AM
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One of my local personal routes is out a little river valley, and back. Since it is net uphill out and net downhill back, it makes the second half more fun and overcomes some fatigue. For variety, I can always take a turn and go up (~10%) a cross road, that makes the out and back even more appealing.
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Old 05-01-24, 12:01 PM
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I'm generally not a fan of out and back but it really all depends. I used to run an out and back route that was 6 miles total on a dead flat and straight bike path and I absolutely hated it, as boring as it gets. My commute to work is similar since it's on a dead straight and flat bike path, rather uninteresting.
However, an out and back up to the top of Mount Diablo is rather fantastic. Hill climbs are better as an out and back than straight and flat.

I will say that loops are, generally speaking, better for safety. What I mean is that typically loops give you multiple options to bail out early and cut down distance if you have a mechanical issue, injure yourself, wind up feeling like crud or any other reason that may make you want to cut a ride short. Out and back rides, generally speaking, go out to a far away point and turn around with no good bail out options. So, once you reach the turnaround point, you're doing the full ride no matter what, barring some ride stopping major issue needing a car to pick you up. You can always turn around early if you know early enough that you need to turn around but you're still going to travel at least the distance you already have.

There's been numerous times I've taken advantage of the loop or figure-8 nature of a ride/run to cut off miles or reduce elevation gain even as far as 4/5's of the way through.
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Old 05-01-24, 12:05 PM
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I grew up in S. Florida and the traditional route is AIA, along the ocean. The out and back, though nice in scenery, would often mean a headwind/tailwind situation. At least it makes the decision on which direction to go first easier but 1/2 of the route is pain.
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Old 05-01-24, 12:27 PM
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A lot of my routes are "lollipops" - Start and finish are out and back, but with a loop in the middle. Roads have different characteristics in different directions, though, as you mentioned. The segment that's slightly uphill for a mile or two, where I might push hard to keep my speed up in the 17 mph range, figuring on getting to the end of it just out of breath, becomes a slight downhill where I can get in the drops or aero hoods and do at Tempo, at more like 24-27 mph (for Bay Areans, that's Portola between OLH and Alpine)

But, you know, having ridden in the same area since 1995 or so, I've basically ridden every segment of all my routes dozens if not hundreds of times. I don't get bored with them, though, Indeed, I like to ride the same routes repeatedly. I may be strange that way.
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Old 05-01-24, 12:46 PM
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I don't mind "out-&-backs". it's interesting what our perception of time is. meaning you think you're close to the end but then you see something that tells you, you have further to go. another reason to have a bike computer, so you can gauge your effort. meaning, if you are closer to the finish line, you can expend more energy, but if you have a significant distance to go, you'll know to pace yourself. another thought, when I was learning a 22 mile bike commute route, I drove it in my car, in both directions, multiple times, until I learned all the turns. that was pretty helpful

but yeah the hills are different going back! a big hill that is fun to coast down, is now a lot of work going back up! nothing boring about that

I like the other types of rides too
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Old 05-01-24, 12:51 PM
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Yep, it looks and feels different going the other way.
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Old 05-01-24, 01:54 PM
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pretty much agree, its a different level of effort each way...

Key thing to remember is that, some people just like to complain. that is something that they themselves have to address.
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Old 05-01-24, 04:10 PM
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Loops rule and out&backs drool.
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Old 05-01-24, 08:22 PM
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I do a lot of out & back rides. I don't have a problem with them. Things look a bit different on the way back especially if you are doing a longer ride.
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Old 05-01-24, 08:25 PM
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Id rather do a nice, unfamiliar out and back than the same old loop time and again. And sometimes, you see neat things on an out and back.

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Old 05-01-24, 09:10 PM
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Out-and-back is just a skinny loop.
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Old 05-01-24, 09:39 PM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz
Id rather do a nice, unfamiliar out and back than the same old loop time and again. And sometimes, you see neat things on an out and back.

Be honest... that was a loop until you saw the bear and turned back.
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Old 05-01-24, 10:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Pantah
I will say that loops are, generally speaking, better for safety. What I mean is that typically loops give you multiple options to bail out early and cut down distance if you have a mechanical issue, injure yourself, wind up feeling like crud or any other reason that may make you want to cut a ride short. Out and back rides, generally speaking, go out to a far away point and turn around with no good bail out options. So, once you reach the turnaround point, you're doing the full ride no matter what, barring some ride stopping major issue needing a car to pick you up. You can always turn around early if you know early enough that you need to turn around but you're still going to travel at least the distance you already have.
Excellent points. I would add that when we had astronauts driving around on the moon in their little rover at the limits of their "walk back" distance, this was a major engineering consideration.
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Old 05-01-24, 10:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Qwertyportne
My solo and group rides have been loop, point to point and out and back routes. There are probably other types I don't know about, but the most common complain I hear from other riders is that out and back routes are just plain boring. So yesterday I got to the turnaround point of one of my out and back routes and began heading back home. A few miles later I realized it was not boring. The up hills were now down hills, the down hills were now up hills, and my view of the road ahead was not the same. Anyone have a similar (or different) perspective of out and back routes?
I completely agree. The return leg is different in many ways. Of course, it is perhaps not as different as a loop, but different just the same.

I have several out and backs I do regularly. I have several loops I do regularly and change up the direction of the loop.

I honestly don't pay that much attention to the scenery. I keep my attention on the road ahead to avoid hazards. That's not to say I never look around, and I do enjoy the occasional picturesque view. Sometimes just how the sunlight hits an old broken down building. I'm always a bit surprised how different things can look from different directions or in different light.
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Old 05-01-24, 11:42 PM
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I typically do loops or lollipops, but nothing wrong with an out and back IMO. For big rides on some of the larger nearby climbs, out and back is usually the only option. The scenery is great and you get a different perspective depending on which direction you're going. Besides, some of the 1 to 1.5 hour climbs equal 20+ minute downhills when reversed.
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Old 05-02-24, 05:06 AM
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Originally Posted by urbanknight
Be honest... that was a loop until you saw the bear and turned back.
Actually, that is Pete Creek Road, in the Yaak River Valley in MT, which is way up in the NW corner of the state, about as off-the-grid as you can get. It's an old USFS logging road (NF-338) that goes some 20+ miles into the forest before it ends short of the Canadian border. I was hanging out hoping to see a bear (There are both grizzlies and black bears up there.) when that bugger wandered out of the forest. He didn't see me until I shouted "Yesssss!" It stopped to check me out, which gave me time to fire up the camera. Then it wandered off towards Pete Creek.

While in rehab last year I was looking at real estate listing up there. This is a photo from one of those listings taken from inside the house. Here, kitty kitty.



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Old 05-02-24, 05:18 AM
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Ha, it's an unwritten rule of group ride route designers that it must be a loop ride. I'm guilty of this myself.

Out and back rides on the Blue Ridge Parkway are so nice. New perspectives, different sun angles, and seeing what I missed on the outbound fast downhills.

The Virginia Creeper rail trail's second section is 15 miles of steady uphill. There are shuttle services that drive casual riders to the top, and they coast and easy pedal all the way down. But you have to watch the trail surface and look out for other trail users. Riding uphill, I stopped a lot at scenic spots, and could hear the mountain whitewater splashing on a lot of the climb. The uphill direction was so much better.
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Old 05-02-24, 07:35 AM
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Originally Posted by rm -rf

The Virginia Creeper rail trail's second section is 15 miles of steady uphill. There are shuttle services that drive casual riders to the top, and they coast and easy pedal all the way down. But you have to watch the trail surface and look out for other trail users. Riding uphill, I stopped a lot at scenic spots, and could hear the mountain whitewater splashing on a lot of the climb. The uphill direction was so much better.
Sounds like the Hiawatha Trail in ID and MT. Most people start at the MT end, ride 14 miles down and get a shuttle back. I rode the opposite way fully loaded. Hardly boring.


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Old 05-02-24, 04:49 PM
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Loop rides look better on Strava... 😁
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