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Finding a bike route

Old 08-18-17, 12:30 PM
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Finding a bike route

So how do I find a good bicycle route for a tour? I know about adventure bicycles maps, but not much else. I've heard of google bicycle maps, but have no knowledge. I was reading about the person who wanted to pick up the Blue ridge on a Trans Am. So just as an example I was looking at how to do Berea Ky to the southern end of the Blue Ridge. Are there any good you tubes on how to?
Thanks for your advice.
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Old 08-18-17, 12:37 PM
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I learned map reading in the Boy Scouts * So, bought Big Panel Paper maps.. There were 4 that covered the whole of Ireland..

Touring Europe , I bought a new map in a Book Shop when I rode off the edge of the last one..

* 1957 I was 10.

Delorme Publish Bound Atlases of US State maps , with nice details.. REI Carries them..

Garmin Bought Delorme, so I expect you can pay them for digital versions.






...

Last edited by fietsbob; 08-18-17 at 12:40 PM.
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Old 08-18-17, 12:49 PM
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BITD of paper maps, one could become proficient in predicting, road type/pavement, traffic volume, and terrain off maps. My favorites were from Rand McNally, whose road codes is where the expression "blue highways" comes from.

These days, I use my old maps to get a general idea, then various online sources. Google maps is nearly useless for long distances, but can be excellent for shorter legs, and they also show bike paths. So once I've blocked out the big picture, I'll use Google maps to fill in details.
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Old 08-18-17, 12:59 PM
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Old 08-18-17, 01:03 PM
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I've ridden across the US 2 times, both with my own routes. Planning a route isn't easy, but the payoff is well worth it.


Google Maps should be your main resource. Ignore the bike feature. Use "avoid highways" instead. This is good for long-range planning. You can get a good overview of overall mileage, how far apart hotels/campgrounds are, etc. You can fine tune the route after you get a big picture idea of what you want to do.


Strava's heat maps are another good resource. The most popular routes aren't always the best, but sometimes they are. Their route builder has improved a lot over the last few years. You can set it to use the most popular routes.


RideWithGPS is another good resource. I always use their maps when I print out cue cards. I'm not sure what algorithm they use, but if you just click from one point to another, generally I have found that it will pick a pretty good route.


State DOT websites are hit and miss. Some are great and have bike info, traffic volume, shoulder width, etc. Others are less helpful. When you find a good one it is a very valuable resource.


Same goes for local cycling clubs. Some have local routes and info. Others are useless. I don't use these much any more, to be honest.


You have to piece together information from multiple resources. I use Google Maps as my main resource and do my final plotting on RideWithGPS.
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Old 08-18-17, 01:11 PM
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Originally Posted by DXchulo View Post
State DOT websites are hit and miss. Some are great and have bike info, traffic volume, shoulder width, etc. Others are less helpful. When you find a good one it is a very valuable resource.
Yep, MDOT has freely downloadable cycling maps of the entire state.
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Old 08-18-17, 01:11 PM
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Originally Posted by DXchulo View Post
Use "avoid highways" instead.
Is that something that is in the Google Maps App?
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Old 08-18-17, 01:17 PM
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Originally Posted by jonc123 View Post
Is that something that is in the Google Maps App?


I've done it on the app, I'm pretty sure. It's in the same place where you avoid tolls and/or ferries.
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Old 08-18-17, 02:07 PM
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Crazyguyonabike is a great site as you can read journals and post questions. Some are better than others so you will need to search. BTW, it is Adventure Cycling. Their maps have been terrific for us.
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Old 08-18-17, 02:32 PM
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Originally Posted by DXchulo View Post
I've done it on the app, I'm pretty sure. It's in the same place where you avoid tolls and/or ferries.

Is this on a smartphone or computer? How do I find it, exactly?
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Old 08-18-17, 02:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Squeezebox View Post
So how do I find a good bicycle route for a tour? I know about adventure bicycles maps, but not much else. I've heard of google bicycle maps, but have no knowledge. I was reading about the person who wanted to pick up the Blue ridge on a Trans Am. So just as an example I was looking at how to do Berea Ky to the southern end of the Blue Ridge. Are there any good you tubes on how to?
Thanks for your advice.
I find it hard to equate the question with someone who wrote this less than a month ago:

"I have at least 150K miles cycling. Some of that touring."

but to answer the question directly:

  • Go to google maps.
  • In the directions boxes type Berea and Blue Ridge (I'll assume you mean the end of the Blue Ridge Parkway).
  • Select the Bicycle icon. This shows elevation for the route and eliminates Hwy's where cycling is prohibited.
  • Google will give you options.
  • Pick one. The Blue Ridge Parkway looks nice for example.
  • Select "details" to see specific details of the route.
  • Zoom in, click on some spots and use street view to see what the road look like.

At least that's what someone who hasn't gained any knowledge from touring would do.
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Old 08-18-17, 03:02 PM
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Originally Posted by DXchulo View Post
I've ridden across the US 2 times, both with my own routes. Planning a route isn't easy, but the payoff is well worth it.


Google Maps should be your main resource. Ignore the bike feature. Use "avoid highways" instead. This is good for long-range planning. You can get a good overview of overall mileage, how far apart hotels/campgrounds are, etc. You can fine tune the route after you get a big picture idea of what you want to do.



.
Good rule if you don't know the area or can't confirm the route with local knowledge. I don't know how many times I have been screwed by both Garmin and Google.


The worst is making a climb right outside of Klamath, CA to a road that was supposed to have RVs restricted. Got up there and there was no road. I found out later that the road is actually fine if you push through several feet of grass that is over grown on the road but I was in no mood to do any exploring at the time so I rode down the same road I had just climbed.


I remember once on a local ride, It was awful hot and I was exhausted from riding in the heat. I was only a few miles from the car but wanted to know exactly. I consulted the GPS and it told me something like 25 miles. It wanted me to avoid a perfectly safe road.
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Old 08-18-17, 03:18 PM
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In Canada I would not use the "avoid Hwy's" feature. This tends to send cyclists on wildly circuitous routes that can add hundreds of Km's of sketchy roads with little or no shoulders in order to avoid safe roads with good shoulders. A perfect example is Hope to Revelstoke. Avoid Hwy's sends you up either the Fraser Canyon or the Crowsnest (both of which are Hwy's) and which have worse shoulders than the Coquihalla and adds at least 100km's to the route.

I use google to select a basic route and then the street view feature a lot to actually see what it looks like. I know I can ride about 100km/day pretty easily so I use that as a rough guide when looking for camping areas, stores etc... The good thing about the bike feature is that it shows rough elevation so you can plan distances accordingly.

I tend to look at web reviews/suggestions with a jaded eye. When I was looking at a cross country route from Winnipeg to Vancouver the common suggestion was west to east and took a crazy zigzag route north of Calgary east that made no sense what so ever. West-East is suggested due to prevailing wind but I found it didn't matter except near the foothills while westward also gives huge uphill climbs right off the bat compared to East-West.

Several websites suggested the same route and I soon realized that most had just copied each other and regurgitated it.

Last edited by Happy Feet; 08-18-17 at 03:32 PM.
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Old 08-18-17, 03:21 PM
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Originally Posted by Happy Feet View Post
In Canada I would not use the "avoid Hwy's" feature. This tends to send cyclists on wildly circuitous routes that can add hundreds of Km's of sketchy roads with little or no shoulders. A perfect example is Hope to Revelstoke. Avoid Hwy's sends you up either the Fraser Canyon or the Crowsnest (both of which are Hwy's) and which have worse shoulders than the Coquihalla and adds at least 100km's to the route.

As you liikely would not want to use it for NW US roads where using the interstate is the norm. You have to use your head too.
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Old 08-18-17, 04:20 PM
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Originally Posted by DXchulo View Post
Google Maps should be your main resource. Ignore the bike feature. Use "avoid highways" instead.
Originally Posted by jonc123 View Post
Is this on a smartphone or computer? How do I find it, exactly?
On mobile app...

click on "GO>" icon lower right corner > choose driving mode > enter start location and destination > click on "..." icon by starting location window > click on "Route Options" > check "Avoid Highways"

On desk top...

Click on blue ">" directions icon > Choose driving mode, then enter starting location at least one destination. > "Options" will appear > Click on "Options" > "Route Options" appears > check "Avoid Highways"
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Old 08-18-17, 04:38 PM
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Originally Posted by spinnaker View Post
As you likely would not want to use it for NW US roads where using the interstate is the norm. You have to use your head too.
I've found that this isn't too hard to deal with.

On a really long route of a thousand miles or more, the "avoid highways" often seems to pick a route with US highways that just happens to not include the interstates.

When one is more constrained, e.g. essentially shorter segments but one might catch a bit of an interstate, then when the "avoid highways" ends up with a big extra loop or segment - one looks at the specific details and just does a routing on the interstate for a short segment.

To make a concrete example: if one wanted to travel from Boise to Salt Lake City - then the most direct auto route would be I-84 (342 miles). The "avoid highways" route roughly follows this but seems to jump on a combination of frontage roads and weird loops (403 miles) - and also gives an alternative of US 20/26/91 (469 miles).

I would probably be inclined towards the US 20/26/91 route while also jumping on I-84 much of the way to Mountain Home and picking some more local alternatives from Ogden. That is all for an area with fairly sparse non-interstate alternatives. If you are instead doing something a bit more askew from the interstates and a bit further e.g. Boise to West Yellowstone, MT than you get a fairly reasonable combination and still might jump on I-84 initially but otherwise get mostly where you want to go on major US highways.

My experience with US highways in the western US has generally been more favorable than those similar US highways in the eastern US. For example, I remember getting on brief parts of US 50 in Kansas or US 64 further east or US 61 in Mississippi and thinking these really aren't pleasant travels. In contrast, I've had more favorable experiences in the US west (outside huge urban areas) with the US highway system.

Last edited by mev; 08-18-17 at 04:41 PM.
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Old 08-18-17, 04:42 PM
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I use google maps, basecamp and create tracks for my bike tours. I then transfer these to my etrex 20. The beauty of google maps is street view. Where available it permits viewing the roads, bike lanes and traffic patterns so you get an idea of the suitability of the route. I also use existing gpx files from crazyguyonabike and other sites to simplify. I planned the gpx route for Ireland but was able to readily find the routes for the Rhine, Mosel, Saar and Lake Constance....our next trip. The learning curve is a bit steep but works like a charm.
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Old 08-18-17, 05:05 PM
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Originally Posted by hockey View Post
The beauty of google maps is street view.
RWGPS gives you access to street view, satellite, google maps, OSM, OSM cycle, and OSM outdoor (a sort of topo view). It's easy to switch between them.
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Old 08-18-17, 05:12 PM
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Originally Posted by mev View Post
My experience with US highways in the western US has generally been more favorable than those similar US highways in the eastern US.
I would also say my experiences are in western canada where long distances are crossed either by highway or rather random secondary roads. I find I don't mind the highways as they usually have decent shoulders which I find safer than narrow/no shoulders when it comes to trucks and Rv's in the summer.

A couple of weeks ago I did the 5a (Merritt-Princeton Hwy) which was a very beautiful route.
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Old 08-18-17, 05:22 PM
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Are you navigating by paper map, by cue sheet, or by a GPS device? The GPS does allow you to follow very complicated routes, with lots of turns. This can get you off the main roads and onto quiet country roads.

I've looked at some official state bike routes. (For a few different states. Perhaps some states have awesome routes.) They seem to want to avoid lots of turns, tending to stay on one medium duty road for quite a while.

The Strava Route Builder often makes a complicated route, to stay on popular biking roads. No problem with a GPS showing the route.
See my post about ridewithgps, Strava Heat Map, and Strava Route Builder.

Last edited by rm -rf; 08-18-17 at 05:26 PM.
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Old 08-18-17, 05:25 PM
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Originally Posted by mev View Post
I've found that this isn't too hard to deal with.

On a really long route of a thousand miles or more, the "avoid highways" often seems to pick a route with US highways that just happens to not include the interstates.

When one is more constrained, e.g. essentially shorter segments but one might catch a bit of an interstate, then when the "avoid highways" ends up with a big extra loop or segment - one looks at the specific details and just does a routing on the interstate for a short segment.

To make a concrete example: if one wanted to travel from Boise to Salt Lake City - then the most direct auto route would be I-84 (342 miles). The "avoid highways" route roughly follows this but seems to jump on a combination of frontage roads and weird loops (403 miles) - and also gives an alternative of US 20/26/91 (469 miles).

I would probably be inclined towards the US 20/26/91 route while also jumping on I-84 much of the way to Mountain Home and picking some more local alternatives from Ogden. That is all for an area with fairly sparse non-interstate alternatives. If you are instead doing something a bit more askew from the interstates and a bit further e.g. Boise to West Yellowstone, MT than you get a fairly reasonable combination and still might jump on I-84 initially but otherwise get mostly where you want to go on major US highways.



My experience with US highways in the western US has generally been more favorable than those similar US highways in the eastern US. For example, I remember getting on brief parts of US 50 in Kansas or US 64 further east or US 61 in Mississippi and thinking these really aren't pleasant travels. In contrast, I've had more favorable experiences in the US west (outside huge urban areas) with the US highway system.
That is the problem in Idaho, sometimes there are no other reasonable options but the freeway. I think this was between Boise and Arco.


We tend to use all the resources available, many which are already mentioned. We also rely on state and local bike maps. These are usually available on line.

I believe that Google Map should only be used as a guideline, and double checked for feasibility. This was is the Czech Republic where Google Map took us over several miles of muddy road to these steps. Luckily, they lead up to the road we were looking for, and the steps were nice and wide. Not a big deal in this case, but if the steps were not there it would have been a challenge.

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Old 08-19-17, 06:42 AM
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From my point of view, Touring is the key word. I research place I want to visit. Then, to find roads that take me from place to place I use Google Earth. It has street view as well all photos that also help me choose places to visit. Finally I plot the route on google maps which allows you to click and drag and create your own routes.
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Old 08-19-17, 08:50 AM
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The question, for me at least, can be approached on three levels: (1) where to go, i.e. somewhere in Utah vs somewhere in Asia; (2) planning a route, and (3) navigating it.

1. I've purchased Lonely Planet's "Epic Rides of the World", National Geographic's "Destinations of a Lifetime", and family dinners include learning about a different UNESCO world heritage site, every night (should keep us busy for a couple of years). Keeping an eye on this forum is also useful. This is where I've learned about the Katy trail. Looking at the ACA for the US, Eurovelo for Europe, and Canada trail websites is also useful.

This gives us ideas, that are then tested for feasibility (weather patterns, terrain, logistics, safety). So we have a tentative list of places where we'd like to ride.

2. Lots of googling to search for routing candidates. But in general I turn to Google maps for the rough sketch. The OP writes that he has little/no experience with Google maps: Dive you must. Go to the site, search for Berea KY, then click on the "directions" button and select the end (start) point. It'll give you a rough idea of the distance, and very possibly a workable route, in seconds.

As others have indicated, blindly following a Google maps generated route can lead to a disaster. I usually eyeball the route in satellite mode and often ask for opinions on this very forum (did so for SFO->LAX, Kyoto->Tokyo, Portland (ME)->PEI, Las Vegas->Grand Canyon North Rim. Always very useful comments. Most recent question was on Transamerica which made me (re)discover the Eastern Express.)

Since I belong to the planning school of thought, once a rough sketch has been selected, I plan the details, i.e. the exact route including the location of the campgrounds, at proper intervals. I locate campings using Google maps (search for campings and/or use another source to find them since Google doesn't find all of them).

Then I compute the daily numbers (distance, elevation gain, estimated travel time) with Locus Pro, a navigation software that runs on Android. This step will often trigger significant changes because it'll highlight exceedingly long segments (more than 10 hour saddle time). I will sometimes eyeball the segment to see if we can get supplies under way (food, water).

3. We usually navigate with Locus Pro. Although I hear the arguments in favor of cue sheets/paper maps, I find that electronic navigation is infinitely superior. It would have been impossible to safely/pleasantly ride in Japan using paper-based tools. Locus helped us navigate turn by turn using small alleys, back roads and bike paths that would have been impossible to summarize on a cue sheet, and impossible to locate on a paper map as well. Locus Pro works offline (beware of gmaps! It does keep maps offline, but will not be recompute a route offline if you deviate).

I will often review next day's route before going to sleep, using what we learn from the locals about what they think we should or shouldn't do.

Feel free to ask for specific details.
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Old 08-19-17, 09:03 AM
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Oh my! Google Maps everywhere!!
What ever happened to using other sources - more reliable sources?
Google Maps is big - but than again, so was the Titanic.

Nearly every state posts online traffic volume maps and detailed county road maps.
Unfortunately, many state are now going to online data maps which preclude a general overview.
(Technology is not always helpful when the result is the loss of the big picture.)

Here is the fixed Kansas Traffic Volume Map -
https://www.ksdot.org/Assets/wwwksdot...untmap2016.pdf

What's nice about a map such as this is that you can spot good routes easily.
Since you want to stay under 2000 AADT - ideally under 1000 AADT - you look for the gray and purple.
Obviously the western part of Kansas has less traffic - but you can find the best possible routes.
(These are US and state highways - there are regional maps which include county roads.)
Notice how Highway 18 has much less traffic than most other E-W routes in central Kansas.

Kentucky has good county traffic volume maps, but not a statewide map -
Traffic Counts

Tennessee has county maps and traffic data but it is in a terrible format.

<<<>>>

Than, perhaps, you can use Google Streetview to see road conditions / shoulders etc.
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Old 08-19-17, 09:09 PM
  #25  
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I'll often get the US Forest Service maps for areas I'm riding, if they happen to have a bit of forest land. These show the forest service roads and the surface, as of the year the map was made. Those routes may be slower, but for my taste are usually what I'm looking for. I also often head out on an FS road only to find a private logging company road that looks promising. Of course I take those, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse.
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