Niq’s Guide to Planning a Ride

Presented here is a potted guide to planning a ride.  

This is not intended to be anything definitive, but merely one leader’s suggestions about route planning, and should be prefaced with the statement, that although this represents the electronic view, no slight is intended against those wishing to use more traditional techniques, especially as this ride leader is easily able to get lost, whilst simultaneously clutching a map, compass, and working gps device, and in extreme cases it should be added an A to Z as well.  Also the latter part of this discourse suggest Garmin based instructions, which is fine if that’s what you, as many of the club members do, are using.

As people may or may not be aware, at least some planning goes into leading a ride.

The starting point for this leader is to fire up Google Maps (obviously a multiplicity of other routing solutions do exist) 


Interestingly, if you are part of the “google ecosystem” feeding this into your browser will also append your current location to the url, so it will display the area where you are, by default.

The next thing is to feed the start and end points into Google Maps, by clicking on the familiar little blue arrow at the top left hand corner of the map, and adding start/destination and see what appears as a route.  This at least gives a geographical flavour of where the end point is located in relation to Lemon Quay, it also helpfully establishes what is likely to be the minimum mileage for the most direct route. 

At this point selecting the “bicycle” icon from the list of route options, beneath the start and end points you have selected, will likely change the selection of routes displayed, but not necessarily to something more cyclist friendly, this initial essay also tends to be very “main road-y”.

The route can then be altered by dragging it around, something that occasionally appears problematic, but mostly works ok in the Chrome browser.  Hovering the mouse over the (blue) selected route should show a pop up saying “drag to change route”, whereupon you can drag the circle that appears to a new location, the route will then reconfigure itself.  If this process doesn’t work correctly, sometimes it adds in weird loops, then hitting back button on the browsers will reset the route to its prior values.  The additions to the route can also be removed by hovering over the larger circles, where it should say “click to remove”, but again sometimes that doesn’t work, and it persists in only allowing “drag to change”.  Hitting the “refresh” button on the browser mostly fixes that.

So, the general idea is to modify the route so that its course merely intersects tangentially with any main roads, and if forced to take them, pursues them for the minimum distance.  In the process of doing this the miles count normally rises.  For an intermediate ride, the before lunch leg is aimed at between 18 and 22 miles, depending on the likely weather, the number of hills, and the possible length of routes back.  

Additional possibilities include either constructing separate routes for or being aware of one or more “get out points”, where sections of the route can be truncated, or missed out, 

so that in the event of unforeseen events, like unexpected bad weather, difficult to fix punctures, or losing one or more riders, which delay the ride, it can be shortened to accommodate the new timetable.

Having established a likely route the leader then mentally checks his memory of the junctions and if needed reviews them using “Google Street View”, this is accessed by dragging the little yellow person icon, by the scruff of its neck, to hover above a road and be dropped into place, which then magically transmogrifies the map into a view of the scene at that point (something that always gives this leader a special moment of wonder at the technological marvels).

Streetview is used both to verify any multi road turning layouts and to confirm that they are where and what he thought. It can also be helpful to notice the road signs visible, as an aide memoire. At this point any especially “naff” choices are re-routed via the application of some more copacetic directional decisions. 

Once satisfied with the plotted layout an attempt is made to memorise the route, especially any previously un-ridden or un-familiar sections, this is to provide an additional safety net in the event of technology failure, and it is helpful to be able to tell the other riders in the group in advance of the unexpected appearance of sudden turns, preferably before they zoom off ahead straight past them.

The final step, which given this ride leader’s geographical ineptness, is a positive necessity, is to feed the route into the Garmin 

(Note:- other Sat-Nag devices are available from your local electronic wonderland)


This is actually a multi stage process.  

1 convert the displayed Google Map route to a .gpx file

2 download the gpx file

3 Upload the gpx file to the Garmin

4 Fire up the Garmin and make sure it is there


The conversion process can easily be done here:-


Basically in the Google Maps browser tab, click on the google maps address bar, “select all”, “copy”, then paste the result into the “gpsvisualizer” page (where it says “Provide the URL of a file on the Web”),

also select the GPX radio button at the top, then hit the “convert” button, a new screen will appear with the heading “Your data has been converted”, this also shows a file name with today’s date, and “click to download”, if you do that you should end up with the downloaded gpx file.

At this point you can optionally rename it to something meaningful, before transferring it to the Garmin.  Specifically for the Garmin it needs to be placed in the “Newfiles” subdirectory, which in turn is under the “Garmin” subdirectory on the “Garmin” device that appears when you connect to your PC.  (If you have set the Garmin to record routes to the SD card make sure it’s on the SD card, otherwise, directly on the Garmin itself)

Stage 4 “check it’s there” is in fact crucial, as, should Gary the Garmin be having a fit of pique, it may just hide the new route, possibly out of spite, although having said that, to roughly quote “Hanlon’s razor”:- “”Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity”.  Equally as stated before, actually memorising the route, is probably a good bet as well…

When you want to follow the route on the Garmin, select “where to” and “saved courses” and hopefully all will be well, the only additional wrinkle is that when you fire up the course and select “ride” if you are not at the start of the course the Garmin will ask if you want to navigate to the start.  I normally select “no” at this point, especially important if you are already partway along the course.

If the route is largely unridden/unknown then the ride leader will also attempt to follow the route a few days before, especially to check for any unexpected hazards, and late road closures due to rail works.  This also gives rise to the handy feature of the Garmin, in that a previously ridden ride can be converted to a “course” by selecting it from the “rides list” and giving it a title, so if the test ride is markedly different for some reason, that ride can easily be substituted for the plotted course and re-used on the day.

In closing there is also a sense of triumph mixed with relief when the lunch stop hoves into view and the Garmin plays a jaunty fanfare to indicate that you have arrived at your destination, but that is of course just half the story, getting home can be equally interesting…

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