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Route planning

Old 04-12-15, 09:35 AM
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Route planning

I'm new to touring and am trying to create a route for a trip I'm doing during the summer of 2016. I've looked at adventurecycling.org's routes but they don't quite hit all the places I'm trying to go. What about planning trips using the Google Maps bike setting? Do these suggested routes work well?
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Old 04-12-15, 09:42 AM
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Where are you starting from and destination?
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Old 04-12-15, 09:56 AM
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OP - In my limited experience I've found that while the bicycle option on Google Maps is a decent place to start, but it omits alot of good bicycling routes. For instance, there is an excellent 10-ish mile long country road loop here in my hometown that almost no one ever travels, has great visibility, and therefore it makes a great training venue, but its not shown on Google Maps as a bike route. I'm not sure what criteria they use to select which routes are considered good for bikes, but I suspect it might be the presence or absence of wide shoulders, dedicated bike lanes, etc. The road I mention has neither. I would recommend that you also look at other resources like Strava Global Heatmap (which visually shows you real data from anywhere in the world you are interested in what routes are preferred and used by cyclists the most).

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Old 04-12-15, 10:00 AM
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Planning? Ive planned as far as getting my boxed bike and gear to the airport on time. then upon arrival 1st town I Came to I bought a Good map at a Bookshop.

when I rode off the edge of that one I bought another..

I used to live in a College town, their Geography department has a map library .. There I got to look at maps from around the world.. Big panel maps .

I like Maps Mailed them home to myself, now I have a collection.
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Old 04-12-15, 10:43 AM
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My experience with Google maps bike routes is that you end up with a lot of dirt roads and walking trails. Be really careful to review the entire route to make sure it's not putting you on something you don't actually want to or can't ride.

Using avoid-highways and then reviewing & adjusting the route in small segments works better.

Where are you trying to go? There's a lot of collective experience here, maybe someone can help.
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Old 04-12-15, 10:51 AM
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Thanks for all the responses so far! I'm leaving from Ann Arbor, MI and want to go to Santa Cruz, CA. The reason I ask is because I'm trying to avoid Nevada specifically. I'll be riding in the Summer and, since I'm new, I'm not sure it would be safe for me to be riding through that heat.
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Old 04-12-15, 11:40 AM
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Cool, I used to live in Santa Cruz!

I would go something like the Northern Tier or Lewis and Clark ACA route and maybe pick up the TransAm to the coast, then hang a left when you hit the ocean. On the map below - yellow pink brown orange

Interactive Network Map | Adventure Cycling Association

Probably don't ride the Columbia River Gorge into Portland, because of the wind direction (west).
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Old 04-12-15, 11:43 AM
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Originally Posted by questr
Thanks for all the responses so far! I'm leaving from Ann Arbor, MI and want to go to Santa Cruz, CA. The reason I ask is because I'm trying to avoid Nevada specifically. I'll be riding in the Summer and, since I'm new, I'm not sure it would be safe for me to be riding through that heat.
Get some Bright Lights.

Leave Very Early each day and be finished by 12N-1:00 PM.
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Old 04-12-15, 12:43 PM
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Originally Posted by questr
Thanks for all the responses so far! I'm leaving from Ann Arbor, MI and want to go to Santa Cruz, CA. The reason I ask is because I'm trying to avoid Nevada specifically. I'll be riding in the Summer and, since I'm new, I'm not sure it would be safe for me to be riding through that heat.
Nevada is a big state. Average temperatures in the central parts (e.g. Ely, Austin) somewhat cooler than southern Nevada (e.g. Las Vegas). Eastern Oregon can get hot too in July.
Nevada: https://www.maps.com/ref_map.aspx?pid=12563
Oregon: https://www.maps.com/ref_map.aspx?pid=12684

As far a routes go, I often start with Google Maps but get the Auto directions with "Avoid Highways" setting. That gives me an approximate distance and rough route. I then fine tune a bit more by done some of the following to adjust smaller segments:
- Use google maps again (biased towards auto/no highways)
- In/out of large cities, look at strava heat map find find routes local cyclist use: https://labs.strava.com/heatmap
- Consult paper maps and state bicycling maps

Last edited by mev; 04-12-15 at 12:49 PM.
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Old 04-12-15, 03:38 PM
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Originally Posted by valygrl
My experience with Google maps bike routes is that you end up with a lot of dirt roads and walking trails. Be really careful to review the entire route to make sure it's not putting you on something you don't actually want to or can't ride...
This is my experience as well. I don't think Google Maps knows the difference between a road bike and a mountain bike. Around here, they definitely include single track mountain trails as bike routes. You have to be real careful with it. There is a disclaimer on the version of Google I use that says bike directions are in beta, and for good reason.

Many states publish bike maps. Most at least will show shoulder widths and traffic volumes of state highways. But they might completely neglect some excellent county roads. You pretty much have to get lucky or find someone with local knowledge to find those.
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Old 04-12-15, 04:48 PM
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Google maps bike routes tend to go out of their way to hit "bike trails". With some exceptions I typically avoid those. I too think car directions using "avoid highways" is a decent start. On the other hand I find that Adventure Cycling does a good enough job that I tend to use them when possible.

Valygrl's suggested route sounds pretty good to me.

What places that you want to hit do the ACA maps miss?
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Old 04-12-15, 08:55 PM
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Originally Posted by questr
Thanks for all the responses so far! I'm leaving from Ann Arbor, MI and want to go to Santa Cruz, CA. The reason I ask is because I'm trying to avoid Nevada specifically. I'll be riding in the Summer and, since I'm new, I'm not sure it would be safe for me to be riding through that heat.
Nevada's not that bad heat-wise outside of Vegas. I'm assuming you'd do something like this, which doesn't drop below 4,000 feet. CA is going to be hotter than NV unless you're riding along the CA coast the whole time.
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Old 04-12-15, 08:59 PM
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Also, check out this thread: https://www.bikeforums.net/touring/99...e-touring.html
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Old 04-13-15, 09:51 AM
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No need to plan in advance. Set your starting and ending locations and map out any cities or places on the way you'd like to visit. Set off in the general direction, and buy maps at gas stations as you go. Plan your route each night inside your tent. Supplement your paper map with your phone map as needed, or if you get lost.

You can plan as detailed as you want, but if your tour is more than a couple of weeks long, I guaratee you will fall back to what I have just described eventually.
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Old 04-14-15, 06:54 AM
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https://labs.strava.com/heatmap/#11/-...7429/gray/bike

Howdy neighbor. One thing that hasnít been mentioned is Strava heat maps. I love using this in new places to find out where the best rides are: often they are the prettiest and have the least traffic. Like all auto generated maps, you have to take them with a grain of salt. A road might be fine for a club ride Sunday morning, an d a nightmare during the week. Also, if there has been a race in the area, that circuit will show up strong (which may not be a bad thing). All in all, it gives me a good idea of good bike routes, and possible areas to avoid in an area. Just check out all the popular rides around Ann Arbor!



For google maps, the bike routes are put together by us Ė the biking community in the local area. They tend to be pretty good, but are put together by a small community and can reflect an individual bias. I ran into a trail once that was pretty much unridable (and Iíll ride anything), removed it, and only to have it put back by the original poster. Ultimately google maps is as reliable as the information here (so take it with a grain of salt).
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Old 04-14-15, 08:05 PM
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Originally Posted by chas58
https://labs.strava.com/heatmap/#11/-...7429/gray/bike

One thing that hasn’t been mentioned is Strava heat maps.
Actually mentioned in post 3 and 9 already, but its good to repeat it again...its a great resource.

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Old 04-14-15, 11:04 PM
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ACA and Google are starting points, but I wouldn't ever use those for my final route (which naturally changes on the road, but that's another story entirely). Since you've got some time, consider ordering relevant paper maps of the approximate route you get from other resources. National Forest Service maps are cheap and great and they are very useful in the west. They give details like if the roads were paved when the map was made, as well as the date the map was made. Even AAA maps are decent. Basically, look for the smallest roads and use those. If you aren't happy doing some gravel/dirt, then you'll need to make the effort to confirm pavement. If you don't want to go uphill, then you're back to the ACA maps, since they prioritize flatness (at the cost of increased traffic counts).
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Old 04-14-15, 11:43 PM
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Originally Posted by 10 Wheels
Get some Bright Lights.

Leave Very Early each day and be finished by 12N-1:00 PM.
Yes, some people choose to switch to just night-time riding through there if the weather is particularly hot. Not much traffic on Hwy. 50 (America's loneliest highway), so with reasonable lighting it should be pretty safe. If you do decide to cross Nevada you could use the Western Express routing from Adventure Cycling, i.e. Northern Tier - Great Rivers - Transamerica - Western Express - Pacific Coast).
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Old 04-15-15, 08:54 AM
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I learned my lesson. I start with Google maps, and double check on each state's Gazetteer (which are available at most book stores as well as Walmart). ACA maps have never led me astray (as long as I followed the directions). I recommend placing a piece of blue masking tape (the easily removable kind) over the "other direction." If riding WB cover the EB portion.
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Old 04-17-15, 04:59 PM
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You could cross just north of Nevada, then cross California north of the Central Valley and head south on the coast to Santa Cruz. In my experience, the heat is much more miserable in the Central Valley.

You'll have to decide what you want on your tour. Do you want to hit the Grand Tetons? Do you like quiet routes between funky little towns (who doesn't?) Camping or indoors as much as possible?

What I would do is look for some waypoints I would want to hit along the way, then search for other tourers that hit those places on their routes on crazyguyonabike.com. Their journals can provide invaluable information. Google Street View can show you what a road is like. There's a good reason bike tourists don't cross the Sierra on Hwy 50, for example.
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