For most of us the world has changed in the past few weeks and lockdowns have been enforced in many countries across the globe. Some of us are still able to ride and others can’t yet go any distance from home. When riding resumes it's likely that it will only be possible in the local area so you need to be able to make the most of what's on your door step.
So what better time to make the most of your time in lockdown than planning local routes or exploring your local tracks and trails?
But what is the best way to plan a local lockdown gravel epic?
There are various apps put there that make planning a route quick and easy. Komoot and RidewithGPS are both well proven apps, however they do have their flaws. These apps rely on algorythms and data to calculate the best route and this does not always mean the best ride experience. The most direct route off road is not always the fastest and can sometime mean a hike-a-bike, riding a footpath which is illegal or just bumping your way over a ploughed up footpath or through a path of brambles.
So what is the best way to plan a local off road route? Well the old fashioned way is often the best… get your maps out! Studying a local map will enable you to find the smaller details in your chosen route and make a better judgement on the trail compared to that of a computer generated route. It may take more time but the results are often much more worth it. Below you can see a comparison between the same area on Komoot and an OS map, as you can see there is a considerable difference in detail.
So what do you need to look for?
Well the best place to plan a UK based route is using an OS leisure map. You can buy a paper version or use the online version. In the UK it is illegal to cycle on footpaths, so instead you need to try and piece together your route using bridle paths, byways and cycleways. You will most likely need to use a few short sections of tarmac to join together a loop or to link together the best tracks. The key below shows which marking you need to look for on the map.
Bridleways vary around the country. In some places they are little more than rough tracks around the edge of farmers fields, in others they can be perfect gravel roads or single track trails. Whatever they are like in your areas these will form a large majority of your route.
Byways are essentially larger bridleways that are also open to motor vehicles at certain times of the year. These are often fantastic for a gravel bike and normally are longer in length. If you can find these for your routes then they can be a great way to cover some distance.
The national cycle network is also an excellent guide to finding new routes. Some use quiet roads, some used segregated tarmac cycle ways and others utilise off road tracks but most have a good signage system and can be easily found online at the Sustrans website.
So once you’ve planned your route you need a gps file to make navigation quick and easy. Using the knowledge gained from the OS maps its then often easy to trace your route out on one of the route planning apps such as Komoot. By dragging and dropping the route on the tracks and trails you have identified as legal and ridable on the maps you can create an excellent local ride. The only thing left to do then is get out there and ride it!