Author Topic: Plotting my own course  (Read 7459 times)

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Offline ride29

Plotting my own course
« on: February 27, 2007, 11:28:30 am »
I'm taking my first tour this summer, a 60 day trip out to Wyoming from Michigan. Due to logistics, I won't be following any of the established ACA routes until the very end of my trip through Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Instead, I'm plotting my own course using state highway maps. I'm choosing what appear to be minor roads/state highways, etc., with small towns interspersed throughout.

Just wondering what your experience has been with this type of route planning (as opposed to the organized, detailed maps for ACA showing bike shops, camping spots, stores, etc). Thanks!

This message was edited by ride29 on 2-27-07 @ 9:48 AM
Daryl Bernard

Offline ptaylor

Plotting my own course
« Reply #1 on: February 27, 2007, 04:45:40 pm »
This is a great question Ride. I'm looking forward to seeing some of the answers.

This is what I call a 'roll your own' tour. (Hearken back to the days when cowboys roll their own cigarettes rather than buying store rolled smokes.)

I've done a few 'roll your owns', with mixed success. If I'm close to home, they work OK. I define 'close to home' as within a couple hundred miles.

Let me tell you about two glaring bad routes I selected:

  • When I routed myself south on MI-37 (your home state). Big mistake since traffic was maximum and shoulder was minimal
  • Atlanta GA to Orlando FL. I did a good job in Atlanta and Northern Florida, but as I neared Orlando, I feared for my life. I later learned there was a bike route I should have used.

So my advice would be this:

  • Contact the state bike association/coalition and see their routes if they have them. for example, Wisconsin is very good, Indiana is dismal. Google 'state bicycle routes' for each of your states.
  • Buy regional maps. For example, you can get paper maps of only a portion of a state, which show more detail than maps for the whole state.
  • Consider using GPS technology. Visit the GPS topic on this forum for more info.
I wish you the best.


Offline wanderingwheel

Plotting my own course
« Reply #2 on: February 27, 2007, 05:10:25 pm »
I've had fairly good luck picking my own routes for tours.  I think a lot of it just comes down to your skill at reading maps.  There is a lot of information that can be gleaned off of maps that is not specifically listed.  It is possible to get a general idea of the terrain by looking at things like rivers, lakes, railroads, place names, and road layout.  Similarly, traffic conditions can be implied by the road and town layout.  Likely places to find (or not find) services can be seen in intersections and the surrounding areas.  One last thing to consider is the part of the country.  Roads in New England, for example, will be much different than roads in Wyoming even if they look the same on the map.


Offline ride29

Plotting my own course
« Reply #3 on: February 27, 2007, 10:24:05 pm »
One thing that concerns me somewhat (I'm not overly concerned about much of anything) is the condition of the road itself, such as the width of shoulder, etc. This information simply isn't on the map, so it seems like it's pretty much a crap shoot.

Daryl Bernard

Offline biker_james

Plotting my own course
« Reply #4 on: February 28, 2007, 09:02:26 am »
I've never used "organized routes", and don't feel too left out. I know where I am, and where I want to go, and just use a road map to connecet the two. Now, in some parts of Canada we don't have a lot of roads to choose from, but even where there are choices, you will want to stay off the freeways, but just about any road should get you there. A lot of times the locals can tell you something about the roads ahead, and alternate routes. Just remember that there isn't a motorist on the planet who can give ACCURATE information to cyclists. Drivers don't know that there are hills, because they just press slightly harder on the throttle and are over them. Distance? 10 minutes could be 5 miles or 30 miles-nobody knows what the actual distances are, just how long it takes to drive there (if that).
Another option is to use a computer program like "Roads and Streets" (I think thats what its called) to plan your own route. Services arelisted along thjese routes, although I have no idea how accurate they all are.

Offline dombrosk

Plotting my own course
« Reply #5 on: February 28, 2007, 01:17:14 pm »
One resource that hasn't come up yet in this thread is state supplied bicycling maps.  Not all states offer them, but those that do often include specific figures on width of shoulder and traffic flow.  Some states even give specific traffic numbers for trucks.  Check out state tourism web sites to see which states along your route offer these maps.

Offline Sailariel

Plotting my own course
« Reply #6 on: February 28, 2007, 04:34:02 pm »
Maine provides excellent maps for free--also tell you where convenience stores, camping, and bike shops are. and

Offline Turk

Plotting my own course
« Reply #7 on: March 02, 2007, 09:59:58 pm »
You can generally get traffic count maps that give cars per day. These are quite useful. The state DOT's websites have them. You generally want roads with less than 500 cars per day.

With Microsoft Streets and Trips there are several ways to get routes. You can set it on "shortest". That's the one I've used the most. But you can also choose low speeds for main roads and very high speeds more desirable bicycling roads. That will give you interesting and useful routes.

Offline schultzbike

Plotting my own course
« Reply #8 on: March 07, 2007, 04:06:55 pm »
Hey ride29, sounds like a great trip you've got planned.  My wife and I are planning a cross country trip for 08, a portion of which will roughly follow the reverse of your route from Yellowstone to Michigan's UP (WY to SD to Minn thru WI to UP, then into Canada over the Great Lakes, back to US at Niagra).  I'd be very interested in any insight you can offer on the route you end up choosing (either before or after your trip, or both).  Have a great time!!

Offline ride29

Plotting my own course
« Reply #9 on: March 07, 2007, 08:14:35 pm »
Hi Schultz...I am getting very excited about my first tour this summer! I've just ordered my Arkel panniers, and will order my Old Man Mountain racks in a couple days.

My route back from Yellowston will run along northern Wyoming, including the Bighorn range and Devil's Monument. Once in South Dakota, I plan to head north on US85 to TRNP North, then east thru ND and Minn on 200, until I join up with US2 near Wisc - then into Michigan. Is that what you were planning?

I will be glad to get back with you and let you know how it goes.

Daryl Bernard
Daryl Bernard