Fun things first: what are you looking for in the ride you’re planning? Sweet B roads blast or a long distance touring trip? Is there a route or biking mecca you’d like to visit maybe on the way? Would you like a circular route or out and back the same way? Are you riding in a group? Are you clear what everyone else wants?
Drag the maps out and start studying. If you have a particular target to aim for – a bike meet, a particular nice stretch of corners of a pub, pinpoint it, see what interesting roads are nearby, then trace them out, picking the ones that look most enticing. Scan the map for interesting places to visit – twisty B roads, bike shops or good roadside cafes – then see how they can link to each other, and to your start point. Tally your plan against your original wish-list to make sure it’s got everything you want, and trace round it to check for hazards like congested town centres or traffic pinch points, adding detours if necessary.
Suss it out
Your route may look perfect, but a paper map can’t show you every last detail. Use Street View on Google Maps at key junctions to see how clear (or otherwise) the direction of the route is. Also check the ‘show traffic’ option in the drop down menu to highlight any potential pinch points and don’t forget to add in some fuel stops!
A bike specific GPS is a very useful tool but too many riders rely on it as their only method of navigation. Slavishly following GPS directions means you’ll not only lose your sense of direction but you’ll also be so glued to your screen you won’t get the chance to enjoy the road. Many GPS navigation systems have the ability to download files from your PC so instead of fiddling around with the small screen on the unit, use your home computer to plan your route at your leisure.
You now know how far, but how long your trip will take depends on a variety of factors. Expect to travel at an average of 50mph plus fuel and rest stops. If you’re travelling over several days don’t plan on riding more than eight hours or 450 miles per day.
Friends in tow
Inspiring a love of riding in distance-phobic friends can be a thankless task, so you need to plan a route with things they already love (biking pubs, meets and bike museums) and things you know they’d love if you could only get them there (incredible roads).