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Old 04-14-05, 06:00 PM   #1
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Making my own touring routes (U.S.)

I'm completely new to touring, but looking to do some serious transportation on my bike this summer.

Most of the routes I've found online (although I haven't found much) don't seem to follow my planned route. (NYC to Madison, WI)

How do I make my own route? What maps are good to use? How can I tell if a highway is bike-friendly? Etc.

I'm sure a lot of these questions are second nature to some of you guys by now. Don't be afraid to give me answers that seem painfully obvious to you.

Thanks a lot.
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Old 04-14-05, 06:22 PM   #2
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What you're most interested in is the traffic volume of the roads, and the width/condition of the shoulders. Most states have biking maps available. I have one of Colorado, for instance, which gives a good overview of the roads in the state and how suitable they are for biking.

A quick google, for instance, led me to where they have bike maps of Wisconsin avalable.

The secondary consideration depends on what kind of touring you're doing, which is whether there will be services on your route. If taking a tent and willing to stealth camp, then you'll most likely want to make sure you've got the food you need if you're going to be on a stretch with no grocery stores, for instance. (These days, especially in the Eastern US, I'd say you'd probably have to work to plan a route that took you very far from the nearest convience store/grocery store.) If you're credit card touring, you may want to find the motels you're going to be staying at in advance.

I think a lot of people just make their own routes, though, so it's certainly doable.
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Old 04-14-05, 07:50 PM   #3
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A map with elevation information would be useful, too, so you can try to avoid very hilly routes.
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Old 04-15-05, 01:24 AM   #4
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I took a route from NYC to Washington DC by first (at home, before the tour) buying large state maps for the states along the route and mapping the route county by county, then (while actually riding the tour) when I came upon that county I'd buy each particular county map at the first available shop, (usually a gas station was the place I'd end up buying it.)

This enabled me to have a very flexible itinerary, though that also had a lot to do with having unlimited time for the tour. I did have Adventure Cycling maps, but strayed from their routes to visit friends along the way or sightseeing, etc.

If you want "the best route," you can ask people while in each county for the better cycling roads. They usually came through pretty well, or at least better than I expected.

Despite the route being a very heavily trafficked corridor, I stuck to county roads and had no problems with being forced onto large roads (except at one bridge in Delaware, which allowed no bike or ped crossing, though some folks told me the bridge authority gave rides across with their pickup, I got lucky and someone with a van offered a ride across without me asking, or even waiting at all).

Taking these smaller roads, I had great interaction with local people, and I intend to do it this way on future longer tours.

I know myself as a rider, (how many miles, how many hours in the saddle I could handle for the expected trip), so I calculated the expected distance (400-ish miles) and divided by expected days, (did 60 mile days average for 6 in-the-saddle days, 362 miles total); you being a bit new to cycletouring, you might want to do it some other (more predictable) way but it was a lot of fun.


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Old 04-16-05, 09:00 PM   #5
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Here in MN the state puts out PRIMS, that are sort of "county" maps. They have all the little farm roads, and culverts as well as some of the bike corridors. I didn't know there was a legthy route from Mankato to Faribault, virtually all rails to trails. Pretty sharp, and looking forward to including it in my southern MN tour.
Check with the DNR of the States you'll traveling to see if they have anything along these lines.
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Old 04-17-05, 02:35 PM   #6
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First of all, my route from NYC to Madison would go straight north to Albany, then westward to Buffalo. (Via that route you escape a lot of hills, and there are long bike paths from Albany to Rotterdam Junction west of Schenectady, and then a nice long one from Palmyra to Lockport(?). Google "ny bike route 9" and "ny bike route 5"). At Buffalo, cross the Peace Bridge into Ontario, and go to Port Huron MI. [If you can cross on one of the more northern bridges into Niagara Falls, Ontario, there's a delightful riverside ride along the Niagara River down to Ft. Erie ON where the Peace Bridge would've put you.] Then (your choice of ways) to Ludington. [I liked going north to Lexington on 25, and then through Croswell, etc. to Saginaw. Onward, via Ithaca, Stanton, White Cloud, then up 37 and over to Ludington on 10. All pretty bike-friendly.] Hop the ferry to Manitowoc WI, and then go back down to Madison by your choice of backroads.

Maps? DeLorme for NY, and Ontario's fine official map. Rand McNally got me to Manitowoc and all points west, but I've since found Wisconsin to be particularly hospitable to bikers; write for their free maps and guides.

In the "painfully obvious" department, I may have misinterpreted your queries in this and another link but I think you may be overworried about routes. The backroads of NY, ON, MI and WI that I've chosen with no consideration paid to surface conditions, traffic, shoulders, etc., have with few exceptions been enjoyable, bike-friendly experiences. I think overplanning robs you of some of the adventure of the trip. Strive instead to not know too much about the road ahead or where you'll sleep that night. [Your situation may differ from mine, though. I was retired when I crossed, and had as much time as I needed. I carried camping gear and was thereby lodging-independent. I had new equipment and nothing went wrong. So I'm speaking as one who may have led a charmed life while two-wheeling.]

To answer your main question (finally), you can make your own route by doing as I did. I had at hand the DeLorme NY, plus the aforementioned ON map and the Rand Mcnally Road Atlas. I knew beforehand my destination: Ilwaco WA. I started by drawing a great-circle line between my home and Ilwaco to get the crow's-flight path, and then worked from there. I wanted, ideally, all the roads to be ones I'd never traveled, and achieved about 95% of that. Road picking? I noted the locations of state and provincial campgrounds along the way and optimized the route so that I'd have a chance of landing in one each day. Sometimes that happened, sometimes not, but I did manage to follow the desk-planned route pretty well all the way. Because I'd already traveled by auto a lot of the U.S. over the years, I wasn't particularly interested in seeing the sights or visiting noteworthy destinations, but mainly in the biking itself, and in passing slowly and quietly through the territory so as to experience it from a different angle. That's why using campground locations worked well for me. You may well have a different set of "anchors" around which to plot your course. Oh, I used a "plan measure" (a device whose wheel, when rolled along a map's route, will give a readout of the mileage) to measure each day's ride in NY, since the DeLorme doesn't list mileages between points. After I'd mapped the whole route, I made cue sheets for each day by entering all the mileage and route data into a spreadsheet. I printed one in small type covering the whole trip, and also printed each day in large type, so I could keep track of the turns en route by placing it in the map holder of my handlebar bag. That may seem like overplanning to some, but to me, it's just a way of pushing the route details out of my mind while I enjoy the ride, knowing I can glance at the cue sheet whenever.

An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. - G. K. Chesterton

Last edited by meanderthal; 04-17-05 at 02:42 PM.
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Old 04-17-05, 04:58 PM   #7
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Don't layout too much in advance, anyway....listen to locals for advice about roads, shoulders, construction, etc. I tend to 'head for the hills' or the greened-in regions on state maps; these are often state forests or forested regions where I can sneak into the woods and wild camp on most nights. I find the real MINOR roads have low traffic but poor visibility and shoulders; so I often head for 'state' routes (not US federal routes, distinguished by the Federal Shield shape). These are often well shouldered, scenic, pass thru small towns instead of big MoFo cities, and make for very pleasant riding.

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