How to Plan Bicycle Touring Routes

How to Plan Bicycle Touring Routes

Want an easy method about how to plan bicycle touring routes? Well actually, there are a number of excellent ways and we cover them below.

Easy Way to Plan Your Own Bicycle Touring Routes

First, the best way to plan bicycle touring routes is to cheat. By that I mean do not reinvent the wheel; use an existing route that someone else has already planned.

• Tourist Organizations – national, state, provincial and local tourist offices frequently print information on routes that you can use partly or totally. For example the German Tourist Office has a brochure listing 200 long distance cycling routes, many of which can be combined.

• Bicycle touring guides and maps – good for routes, accommodation sightseeing along the journey

• Free web programs such as Map My Ride and Bikely have rides submitted by an average cyclist. A caution with these is that the quality varies depending on the author but they do give you an indication of possibilities. Check out these and other cycle touring resources.

Designing Your Own Bicycle Touring Routes

The second method to plan bicycle touring routes is to totally arrange your own.

Bicycle Touring RoutesFirst, try to get a general idea of where you wish to cycle by reviewing the itineraries offered by guided group tours, destination bicycle guidebooks and your general interests

• Then, decide on approximate daily distances keeping in mind rider ability; terrain; sightseeing options along the way and that you are cycling with loaded panniers

• Circle the closest towns along way

• Then connect the dots using roads and bike paths. Stay off of busy roads so you do not need to concern yourself about the traffic. Some of my best cycling has been from back roads I just plotted on a map. Keep in mind also the most direct route is not always the best when travelling by bicycle.

• Highlight the route on a bicycle touring map or detailed highway map. A scale of 1:50,000 is preferred although I have successfully used maps up to 1:200,000

• Other cyclists use Google Earth to actually plot their bicycle touring routes but I never seem to get it to work

• Be flexible as you are bicycle touring as other cyclists you meet and local citizens may provide additional ideas and you may wish to revise your itinerary a bit.

Some people go to the effort of obtaining traffic volume reports but I have never gone to the trouble. If concerned about a particular road ask on one of the bike forums for advice from local cyclists. You can also check other posts on this site regarding bicycle touring route planning.

Whatever you do carry a local detailed map in case of emergency. On arrival in Germany one year we were taking a train to our starting point but the tracks had been washed out by a flood. The passengers were to be bused to the final destination but our bikes were refused. I quickly had to work out a suitable bike route for our group and a little unexpected extra distance to our bicycle tour. It actually worked out wonderfully.

If done right how you plan your bicycle touring routes can make memories and the trip of a lifetime.

At this time of year cyclists have itchy feet and are planning their summer schedule and finding bicycle touring routes. The biggest question is finding a perfect bicycle touring route that is exciting, safe and enjoyable and for some challenging enough. So, how do you find such a route?

Finding Bicycle Touring Routes

Tourist offices – contact tourist offices for the country or region you are thinking of basing your bicycle touring. For example Germany publishes a guide listing 200 long distance cycling routes and Wisconsin publishes a biking guide listing 10 road; 10 bike touring and 10 mountain bike trails. This is a good starting point for finding bicycle touring routes  although you will need to do further research.

Books and guides – there are many excellent guides on for cyclists which may include sections on finding bicycle touring routes which are suitable if you are bicycle touring. A better option is usually specific guides on a specific region or route such as the Cycline series of guides which I strongly recommend (the German editions are Bikeline and the maps are excellent even if you cannot read the text).

These are my best sellers (from

Having a good guide is important as I once followed a route marked on a map published by one company where the trail disappeared even though it was clearly marked on the map. We had to follow a rugged hiking trail not even suitable for mountain bikes for a fair distance.

Travel companies – you can purchase a guided bicycle tour from a travel company. Or, see the route the travel companies use on their tours and make your own arrangements. These companies have spent a lot of time researching the best routes and destinations and know what works well for cyclists.

Bicycle Touring RoutesBicycle club – use the knowledge from the member of your local bike club. Members of my club are off to destinations in France, Thailand, Japan, the U.S. and Canada this year and have already done plenty of research.

Internet – Bike forums or programs such as Bikely and Map My Ride make finding bicycle routes easy by outlining many possible options submitted by members. This site also lists many bicycle touring routes and bicycle touring planning tips.

So now is the time to sit down and start to finding bicycle touring routes which are perfect for you.

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