Words by: Grace Lambert-Smith
Gone are the days of folding a map into the back pocket of your jersey prior to jumping in the saddle for a day of exploring new routes in unfamiliar territory. We're now in a world of GPS devices and smartphones that take the stress and inconvenience of map reading away by providing a simple line for us to follow while we're out pedalling.
Plotting a cycling route has its advantages. It encourages you to scope out new and interesting ways of discovering what's around you. Just when you think you know a place, you can find hidden shortcuts or scenic alternatives to widen your horizon.
Planning cycling routes saves time for those who are against the clock. If you know your average speed and the time you want to ride, you can easily plot a route of a certain distance knowing you'll be back at a reasonable hour. If you've always wondered how to plan a cycling route, you've come to the right place. There are a number of options from the software you use to plot your route, to the GPS device that shows you where to go while you're on the road.
Plotting Your Route
Whether you ride from home and want to explore different lanes at the weekend or plan a cycling holiday to somewhere you've never been before, knowing where to point your front wheel is key to a fun day out. There are so many mapping tools out there that we can't list all of them but some of the most popular are Strava, Ride With GPS and Komoot. Each has its own benefits so take a look at the features to see which best suits you and your needs.
Most mapping websites are a self-explanatory game of dot-to-dot, tracing the roads you want to ride along and many display the elevation profile adding to the security of knowing exactly what you're getting yourself into before committing to a route. If you're partial to double-digit gradients, you'll be able to seek out those out-the-saddle gear grinders easily. Likewise, if you're more of a fast-and-flat type, there could be a way around those big hills you didn't know about.
Plotting a cycling route helps alleviate the worry of cycling down busy roads. Some planning tools integrate Google street view, so it's possible to look at the condition of the road before you take to the pedals. Make sure you zoom in to double check there are no bridleways or mountain bike trails that have been chosen for you - this is particularly important if you're on skinny tyres! If you're in need of inspiration, try searching for other people's routes. Plenty of event organisers now upload the routes for their bike rides so you can follow a tried-and-tested safe cycling route. If there's a particular Strava segment you'd like to incorporate into your route, click on the name of someone else who has done it to see how they got there.
There are a whole host of other mapping tools if you look for them from more detailed OS Map interfaces to paid-for added extras like custom cue sheets (a good idea for noting down cafes and points of interest). Some websites highlight the Sustrans National Cycle Network and Eurovelo cycling routes which is useful for routing down quieter lanes, off-road bike paths and dedicated cycling infrastructure Choosing a GPS After you've plotted your routes, you'll need a GPS device on which to display them once you're clipped in and ready to go. Most GPS devices display other useful data such as total climbing, average speed and distance ridden. They work like an in-car sat-nav or you can upload your own route. GPS computers are designed to withstand the elements: they're waterproof, have a backlit screen and long battery life. If you're out on a particularly lengthy bike ride, you might want to take an external battery pack and charging cable to top it up as you go around to avoid getting lost.
Garmin cycling computers have been around for many years and for a long time were unparalleled in the market. Garmin devices use GPX files which can be uploaded from mapping websites to the unit via USB connection. The brand name is synonymous with cycling computers and they're well known in other industries (automotive, sailing, aviation) for providing accurate GPS data. However, with the rise of competitors such as Wahoo and Lezyne, Garmin is no longer the only choice.
Garmin Edge 1030 Plus GPS Computer
Explore your world and your limits with Edge� 1030 Plus. This advanced GPS cycling computer syncs structured workouts to your device and provides suggestions based on your training load and VO2 max.
- Upto 48Hrs battery life with added Garmin Charge Power pack
- Display size - 3.5 inches
- Turn by Turn Navigation
- MTB Jump statistics so you can measure how smooth you ride
- Bundle includes Tickr HRM, Speed Sensor & Cadence Sensor
Garmins main competitor when it comes to GPS Computers is Wahoo. Wahoo have been around for a few years now and they solely focus on delivering efficient GPS tracking, Turn by turn navigation and Workout data. Running alongside their fleet of Turbo trainers, Wahoo have developed a plethora of GPS Computers that are good both on and off the road!
Wahoo ELEMNT Roam GPS Cycling Computer Bundle
With the Elemnt Roam, Wahoo have taken what cyclists loved about the first Elemnt and delivered a design that has been optimised and primed for performance. So it's basically an Elemnt, only it's jam packed with incredible new features, even better functionality, and is more durable than anything to have come before it.
- Turn-By-Turn Navigation
- Live Tracking
- Text & Phone Notifications
- Workout/ Training features
- Battery Life - 14 Hour GPS | 10 Days Smartwatch
Ride Your Bike
Once you've uploaded your route, it's time to put your plot into action. Most GPS devices will display a line to follow complete with turn-by-turn directions, much like a car's satellite navigation system. If you miss a turning, the cycling computer will let you know so that you can backtrack and continue where you left off. Most modern GPS trackers also have the option to get you back on track if you get lost, plot a route to the start or plot a route home which ensures you will never be lost again!