Thursday, August 28, 2014

Taking the Lane: Planning the Perfect Route!

You have the perfect bike, the matching commuter friendly outfit, and all the gear to get you from home to Mars safely, but do you have a route? The last bit is typically overlooked as being not important. You can always hop in a car and hit up familiar routes or use a GPS system while driving to direct you. On a bicycle most of your senses are preoccupied with riding and staying upright. Using a GPS while riding is possible, but for daily trips isn't necessary. In this post I will talk about how to how to find safe commuting routes for your daily adventures!

I will start with the most simple method of finding a route, exploring! Take out your bike, walking shoes, or even your car and scope out neighborhoods, quiet side streets, and basically every direction you could take to your destination. I almost want you to get lost. Well, strategically lost. I have found the best paths to work, home, or the corner store just by wandering in the general direction. These paths may take longer, but they are usually more fun.

While exploring is the adventurous part of commuting on the slightly more serious side you may want an actual route that is quick and safe. Other resources that are incredibly handy are websites like Google maps, Map my Ride, and even Strava. If we start simple Google maps has bike routes that are surprisingly handy. They will give you a good route that can be adapted to your needs also. Maybe you wanted to stop at that little coffee shop on the way to work. It's easy to see where all the sneaky side streets are along their recommended route.

Easy to understand!

Next level internet road sleuthing involves making your own routes on websites such as Map my Ride or Ride with GPS. You will be able to take your knowledge of roads and create your own route. You can even put these routes onto your phone or GPS device and have them help you navigate while you ride. Using a bike mounted phone carrier would be ideal. Something like this from Topeak. Hopefully you won't need to use the GPS for very long, but it is a great idea to break the ice and get you out there on safe routes!

The last bit of helpful information I have found online is within Strava. You do have to have a premium profile on Strava to use this information, which is why I mention it last. I personally don't even use this information, but with that being said it is very helpful. They are the heatmaps, they show the routes people have traveled on all of their rides. This is a great way to get a feel of a new city, you can check and see where the locals have been riding and what type of riding they are doing. Typically people will explain their rides, but all styles of riding and types of rides should be allowed on all legally shared roads. Do not be afraid if a fast road ride always goes down your new route for commuting. Every style of cyclists should be accepted on the road.

In conclusion it really is important to have a set route before you head out on your commute. It will make the ride much less stressful, empower your sense of belonging on the road, and you will probably see parts of your town you never knew existed. I have lived in my town for nearly 7 years and I see something new weekly. I have multiple routes to locations, usually depending on how many hills I feel like riding. But really, this has allowed me to just slow down and enjoy the ride, even if I don't know where I am going.

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