Learn how to Create a Bicycle Tour Route by following our detailed Step-by-Step Guide. We will help you pull together the research and materials required to prepare a complete, ready to ride, bike touring route.
Road maps, military maps or local tourism board maps were some of the best tools for planning a bicycle tour route not too long ago. Cyclists today, on the other hand, have access to a wealth of knowledge to help them create a bicycle touring route.
If you haven’t yet read our article on how to plan your perfect bike tour route, you should read that first to get a little more background information on bicycle tour route planning.
This article lists in more detail the steps needed to create and build the actual bike tour route and itinerary for use during your ride.
It includes tips on maps and apps to use, and resources to help you compile a route, such as lodging and points of interest along the way, whether you're riding trails or roads.
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Table of Contents
- Creating a Bicycle Tour Route: A Step-by-Step Guide
- Maps for bicycle tour planning
- Apps for bicycle tour planning
- Additional Planning Resources
- Points of Interest
- Seasons or Time of Year
- Final Thoughts
Creating a Bicycle Tour Route: A Step-by-Step Guide
If you've looked through existing touring route sources on other websites and apps, and haven't found what you're searching for, here are the steps you can follow to create your own bicycle touring route:
Choose the theme, scenery and touring style you prefer.
Determine when, where and how long you want to or are able to travel.
Find the appropriate mapping and travel information resources online and offline.
Measure distance, consider traffic, road or trail conditions, and elevation.
Determine your definitive route, points of interest and overnight stops along the way.
Create a daily itinerary that breaks the route down into enjoyable days rides.
Organise your maps and daily itinerary into an easy to use package for your tour.
Maps for bicycle tour planning
For both practical and safety reasons, when planning and designing a bicycle touring route, one should have a better understanding of what lies off and around the specified route (especially when bikepacking in remote areas), which is difficult to obtain just in an app.
Larger maps, predictably, offer a better overall image than GPS maps on handheld devices. Starting with a larger map can give you a better understanding of your selected area and allows you to choose you route better.
For route planning, printed maps on paper can be a valuable resource. While perfect for preparation and planning, they are not very practical to unfold and fold back up again on a bike ride. But if you want to really understand how to create a bicycle touring route, a classic paper map is a great place to start!
Apps for bicycle tour planning
Despite the benefits of printed paper maps, the technology for route planning and navigation available today is amazing, and it will only get better as time passes and connectivity improves.
Some apps only provide base maps for particular continents, while trails and roads might not be included in the cartography of others. Furthermore, some web applications can lack a corresponding app or downloadable data for the route you've designed, making them useless in terms of navigation.
To successfully plan your own bicycle touring route, we suggest combining paper maps and digital information.
Depending on where you plan to tour, the consistency and usability of web and mobile route planning applications can differ. If you would like to find the best app for your style of cycling, I wrote a full article reviewing the Best Bicycle Navigation Apps currently on the market.
Additional Planning Resources
There are hundreds of excellent websites where you can find additional bicycle tour planning resource, gps tracks and more, below are some of my favourite:
Adventure Cycling Association is a great resource for route ideas in North America, navigational tips, and recommendations from seasoned cyclists. Mostly focused on long distance routes.
Bikepacking.com is the leading online resource for rugged, self supported off road and gravel style overnight bicycle touring routes all over the world, offering many suggested routes with detailed road book notes.
When you are planning a multi-day bike tour route, you will need to consider where and what style of overnight accommodations you are looking for - hotels, B&Bs, private homes? You may be camping or you may prefer credit-card style bike touring where you stay in mid to high level accommodation along the way.
Find Camping Accomodations
For camping resources in the US, we recommend the KOA or if you are looking for something more specific Tentr or the more upscale GlampingHub.
Find Hotel and B&B Accomodations
If I'm not camping, I generally prefer to find a nice local hotel and B&B, which usually offers more flexible hours to suit my bike touring schedule - early breakfasts and possibly late check-ins. My preferred resources for finding and booking are Booking.com or Tripadvisor, as they offer the most up to date information, user reviews and the option to book directly on their websites.
Find Private Home accommodations
While you can find outstanding value for overnight accomodation at private homes, and often a wonderful local experience thanks to great hosts, you should bear in mind that this type of accomodation is not always best suited to bicycle travellers. Many places have more than a single night's stay, and may have check in and check out limitations based on the availability of the hosts. While your mind may turn naturally to AirBnB, you can often find better deals on VRBO or you could simply compare multiple listings using HomeToGo.
Points of Interest
To enrich your bike tour experience, why not break up the days ride with visits to points of interest along the way? Look at your selected route and see what historic landmarks, monuments, museums, breweries, galleries or similar, and what sites of outstanding natural beauty are nearby.
Great tools for researching such points of interest are local tourist board websites, travel forums and Google Maps or Tripadvisor. It’s worth spending the extra time to add these places of interest to your bike tour route to really tie it all together and make the most of your bicycle touring experience.
Seasons or Time of Year
Make sure to check out the seasonal weather conditions along your chose route. For example, some places may not be transitable in the winter due to snow or mud or in the summer months, it may just be too hot - or there may be excess traffic from other vistitors.
Don't overlook the importance of the time of year - it could make or break your bike tour experience!
Try to find the elevation profile of the route you're considering using maps, apps, or a combination of the two. Biking becomes more challenging, but also more exciting, if there are a lot of major climbs and descents. Take into account the route's road conditions. Is the road congested, does it have enough shoulder, and is it heavily used by trucks? You must also bear in mind the gap between facilities and opportunities to refill your water bottle.
This is where getting a first-hand account from a local bike traveler who has traveled the path can be incredibly useful.
If you liked this article and found it useful please share it with friends, and if you would like to contribute your suggestions to make it more useful to more bicycle travelers, please let us know!
I loved your guide to building a bike touring route! I’m a cyclist and I love planning my own routes, so this was perfect for me. I also really loved the idea of looking for local tourism board maps. I’m not sure how much I like the idea of using military maps, though! Could I suggest you add some more images to your article though? Great content but a little dry without pics…
Thanks for breaking this down. My friends are always talking about taking a cycling trip but no one seems to know how to put one together. Now we do thanks to your informative article. I think the biggest help is the list of apps for tour planning. Why do it yourself if you haven’t planned one before?