So, you’ve signed up for your first Virtual Ride, and realise that you need to figure out where you’re going to go. That can be a bit daunting if you’re new to bike riding, but we’ve got years of experience here at Virtual Rides and have put together a few pointers below. Of course, we’re always open to suggestions too, so if you have some thoughts on the subject then please leave us a comment.

Type of Route

Before you start pouring over maps, it’s worth having a little think about the type of route you want to take. Are you going to start & finish at home, and take a circular route, or will it be a point-to-point ride? On road, off-road or a mix? Flat or hilly? Through countryside or in town? Getting answers to all these before you start sketching out routes will help give things a bit of focus.

If you’re not sure, and are very new to cycling, then we’d suggest keeping it as simple as possible…

  • Work out a circular route that starts & finishes at home, to minimise transport logistics.
  • Stick to quieter roads
  • Bring a buddy or two, for support, encouragement and a helping hand if something goes wrong
  • Pick a waypoint or two along the route. Somewhere with a great view, or a cool building, or a café you haven’t tried before?

Route Planning Tools

Once you’ve given your route a framework, you’re ready to start looking at actual routes. Here are some suggestions on how best to do that.

Paper map

It may seem ‘old skool’ in this age of technology, but it is tried and trusted. We’d advise having a decent map of your local area to hand anyway, because there is something very satisfying about pouring over a good map, so why not use it. The easiest way to ensure you cover the requisite mileage, if you haven’t got a measuring wheel to hand, is to cut a piece of string to the right length (most decent maps will tell you the scale, and how many cm’s on the map equate to a km). Then simply use the string to follow your chosen route, and make sure you run out of string before you reach the end.

Paper maps have the advantage that they show the elevation along the route, and any points of interest too. We’re all for using Virtual Rides to explore new areas and find hidden gems. Make sure you share your pictures with us too!

Websites

Google Maps has evolved over the years into a pretty decent route planning tool. Features can vary from country to country, but in many places you can ask Google Maps to work out a bicycle friendly route between two points. It will usually give you 3 different route options, which you can combine to make a circular route back to your start point. Google Maps is great for locating useful places you can visit en-route. Have we mentioned cafés yet?

A favourite route planning website here a Virtual Rides is Bike Route Toaster. It’s really aimed at creating routes for your bike computer to use, but if you want to get an accurate distance or elevation profile for your route then it’s a great tool for that. Fun to play with too!

If you’re looking for inspiration from other cyclists, then cycle-route.com may be able to help you. It features routes uploaded by other cyclists, so they are usually on bike-friendly roads.

Strava has become the leading route tracking app & website for cyclists around the world, and the Strava Activity Search feature can give you lots of routes in your area that you can use to guide your own route choice. Judicious use of the search criteria to limit the results is most definitely recommended.

Devices

Cycle computers have come a long way from simply tracking your speed and distance. Many devices now use GPS to track your progress, and some have large screens and preloaded maps, allowing you to effectively use them as a sat-nav for your bike. Devices like the Garmin Edge range, and some of the Mio Cyclo computers also allow you to enter a mileage and have them suggest some circular routes. As they are bike-oriented, they will tend to avoid high-traffic roads, and can be a good way to quickly find a suitable route for your ride.

Enjoy the ride

Once you have a route planned, you’ll need a way to follow it on your bike. If you have a GPS device then uploading the route there will give you turn-by-turn instructions. If you’ve gone down the old skool route, then writing out the relevant directions, or printing and annotating a map works pretty well too.

Our advice would be not to worry too much if you go off-route. Sometimes you can find some hidden gems on those little-travelled roads, and the extra mileage will be great for your fitness too!

Enjoy your ride, and be sure to tell us about it.

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