How to plan a cycling route for your commute: seven tips and tools you need to know
You probably know the route of your ride by heart. If you usually take public transport, you probably know all the roads around your place of work, while if you drive, you will know the fastest roads. You’re probably also familiar with bottlenecks and can hope to steal the show from motorists by weaving around them while they’re held there.
But you can almost certainly make your commute easier and less stressful by finding alternate routes that bypass them altogether. You’ll likely find that they’re faster, you can keep rolling steadily rather than stopping and starting at lights and intersections, and you won’t be rolling in exhaust fumes either.
Here are seven suggestions for planning an easier, smoother, more comfortable and enjoyable commute to work so that you continue to enjoy the many benefits of cycling to work. Trying out a few different route options will also help make your trip more interesting.
Our top tips for planning a cycling route for your commute
1. Use route planning tools for cyclists
The best route for a driver is probably not the best for a cyclist. Google Maps (opens in a new tab) has the ability to plan a specific route for cycling, so it’s worth seeing what options it suggests and if any are faster or quieter than riding the route it suggests for a car.
More and more cities have separate cycle lanes along the roads. These often get you by faster than mixing it up with traffic, so it might be worth taking a slight detour to make one.
You may find a B or C route parallel to an A route that is shorter and has less traffic or fewer stops for traffic lights. Once you enter urban areas, there may be a network of quiet residential streets that you can take to bypass the busy main roads into town. As they often have traffic calming measures, you may be able to travel faster than a car can drive.
Beyond Google Maps, there are other resources for cycling commuters, such as Sustrans’ maps of the National cycling network (opens in a new tab). There may be traffic-free bike lanes that go where you need to go. CycleStreets (opens in a new tab) is another option for plotting a commuting route. It gives you three options: quietest, fastest and most balanced, so you can choose between routes or mix them up on different days.
2. Avoid hills
Cyclists love the climbs, but this might not be the best option if you’re commuting with a bike backpack with a load of kit you need for work or there’s a lot of traffic trying to pass you. You may find that a slightly longer route that skirts a climb is faster and more enjoyable than a more direct route that requires you to climb a steep incline only to have to take it carefully on the other side to keep up with the flow Traffic.
That said, one of the reasons an e-bike is a perfect bike for commuting is that you don’t have to worry about your route being filled with hills, as the motor assist will make things a little easier. .
3. Check cycle heatmaps
Cyclists are adept at finding clever routes that are quieter and faster than the main roads. You can find them via heatmaps of where cyclists ride most frequently.
Millions of miles of driving are logged on Garmin devices, so Garmin Connect has some of the most comprehensive heatmaps available. Creating an account is free and you don’t need to own a Garmin device to use its route planner.
Strava has just as much heatmap data. You’ll have to pay for its route planning feature, although you can get a free trial. Other bike computer brands like Hammerhead also offer heatmaps to help you plot a route.
4. Look for clippings
If you study heat maps, you’ll likely see routes taken by runners that look impossible on a standard map. There are often alleys, paths or simply blocked roads that a car cannot cross, but which it is perfectly possible to travel on foot or by bicycle and which quickly bring you from one area to another, perhaps between secondary roads or through an open area or park.
You might be able to spot the options yourself using Google Street View, checking either end of a potential shortcut. Google satellite imagery can also help. Even if you can’t ride a stretch, it can still save you time.
5. Think outside the box
Going deeper, you may find that a stretch of off-road driving can get you to work faster than a highway. You may find it to be tarred or paved with hard, compressed rocks and therefore relatively dry and quick to ride. Even if it isn’t, it can stay relatively dry all winter.
The canal towpaths are another great option for getting where you want to go. They often lead directly to the center of a city and can be metallic and easy to drive. You can return to a street at a bridge closer to your destination.
A gravel bike with fat tires is ideal for this type of riding, but many hybrid bikes have clearance for fat tires with plenty of grip and you may even be okay riding a bridle path on a bike. of road because more and more of them can mount tires. 28 mm plus the width.
6. Change trains strategically
Thanks to the vagaries of railway construction in the 19th century, you’ll often find stations on different lines that are just a short bike ride away from each other. You may find that by getting off at a station and taking a different line you can get on a train that is closer to your destination than by taking a train and having to depart from a stop farther from your destination .
You might also find that a bike ride from home will take quieter roads and take you to a line that gets you closer to your place of work, rather than going to the nearest train station and having a ride. busiest in town.
7. Keep it fresh
Cycling gives you plenty of options to add variety to your ride. Along with varying your route, there’s nothing like keeping track of how far you’ve traveled and how fast you’ve been riding to stay motivated. So a bike computer or just a cycling app on your smartphone is a great tool and usually automatically feeds your data into an app like Strava so you have a running total of your rides.
Strava also lets you set up segments on your ride, so you can see how fast you’ve covered certain parts of your ride and challenge yourself. Go through some segments in fast and slow intervals and you can add some practice to your ride.
If you’re looking for easy-to-achieve efforts to mix up your rides, try this “big-gear minute” bike workout that improves your fitness by working specifically to increase your pedaling strength.
Komoot and Strava let you embed photos and other media to keep track of your rides. Take a photo every week and you can see how things change over the year.