June 27, 2013
Though our 48,629-mile route network covers a lot of ground, there will be times when you want to ride somewhere in the U.S. we haven't mapped. Outside of doing an internet search on your proposed route, there are a few other tips I can offer that I hope will make your route creation process easier.
Of course, I heartily suggest you begin your process by perusing our route network. It is available as a pdf download or to view online interactively and though you may not use an entire route, mixing and matching a section here and there can speed up your research.
Every state Department of Transportation has a bicycle/pedestrian coordinator — even if they are not full time in this position, they will know the resources in their state better than anyone else. Nearly every state publishes a bicycle map of some sort they will send out for free. The coordinators or their state website often have more information available right there online or in print. And while the maps often aren't as detailed as ours, they generally offer suggested roads for cycling through their state. The Federal Highway Administration maintains a webpage of contact information for each state.
If there are urban areas you want to ride through, crowdsourced-type mapping solutions might be helpful in your planning. Two of the most popular are MapMyRide.com and RideWithGPS.com (free account required). You simply input your location or destination and you can see where local cyclists are riding to begin planning your route through the city.
Google maps is a resource worth looking into. Generally the feedback I've heard is it does better over short distances rather than one long route. When you arrive at the Get Directions page, enter your location and destination, click on the bicycle icon, then Get Directions to see their recommended routing.
These routes are based on data from the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, local and state bicycling organizations and agencies, as well as feedback from cyclists. Routes are generated by an algorithm that doesn't necessarily take all factors important to a touring cyclist into account so you will want to closely review their suggestions to ensure their routes are viable for you.
And finally, once you have a route pieced together, or you've found a sticky spot you just can't quite figure out, tap into the resources of our forums. Cyclists from all over the world who have cycled all over the world participate in these discussions and are quite willing to help you fine tune your route.
Photo from Seth Werkheiser's photostream on Flickr
GEOPOINTS BULLETIN is written by Jennifer 'Jenn' Milyko, an Adventure Cycling cartographer, and appears weekly, highlighting curious facts, figures, and persons from the Adventure Cycling Route Network with tips and hints for personal route creation thrown in for good measure. She also wants to remind you that map corrections and comments are always welcome via the online Map Correction Form.