Making a route guide

What actually goes into making a route guide? For me, it begins with research – what sort of route am I thinking of? Do I want a traffic-free and family-friendly route, a fast, hilly and challenging road route, or a leisurely slow route, perhaps with a picnic at the end?

Once I know that, I cast my mind back to everywhere I’ve cycled, or wanted to cycle, to see if anything obvious springs to mind. Sometimes, a route is based on somewhere I’ve only heard of, but have never been to, like the Grand Western Canal, Tiverton.

Next, it’s mapping time! For me, that means using RideWithGPS – a mapping site I’ve been using for many years now. RideWithGps allows me to switch between Google maps, satellite maps, Open Cycle Map, and even use Google Street View, all while plotting a route.

Once I have the preliminary route done, when possible, and if I don’t already know the route, I try to memorise it, using maps and often relying heavily on Google Streetview. The aim is to create a route, and route guide, that doesn’t require a masters degree in quantum physics to follow.

Following that, it’s time to head out into the real world! Depending on the route and route guide I may have planned, this could involve cycling to the start of the route, driving there, or cycling to a train station, and taking the train to the start.

Again using the Grand Western Canal as an example, the first time I cycled that route, I drove to the start, then parked my van up, before setting off on my bike. The second time, I took the train there and back. Well, when producing a route guide that explicitly states you can, and should consider taking your bike(s) on the train, then I simply have to at least once take my bike on the train.

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Once at the start of the route, I set my Garmin cycle computer to follow the route, though I mostly try to cycle the route from memory. Obviously, I take photos as I go, which means stopping regularly. I also carry a notebook, so I can scribble down notes and tips, to be included in the route guide.

When back at home, I start writing the route guide, and (if necessary) tweak the digital route map. Next, I add some photos, then create a PDF of the route, before finally publishing it as a blog post, and adding a direct link from my Route Guides page.

As you’ll undoubtedly appreciate, by the time a route guide is published, I’ve spent a fair bit of money, and a huge amount of time, which is why I ask for a donation from those using the shorter, DayCycle route guides.
The multi-day GoCycle route guides aren’t available for free, because I spend an extraordinary amount of time creating those, as well as a considerable amount of money. As a result, I sell my GoCycle guides, but they’re a steal – going for the price of a cup of coffee.

Incidentally, I’ve only ever had one single person donate on here, despite the web stats showing my route guides are very popular, and that person is a friend, who made a donation as a joke. It seems people who happily use my route guides don’t appreciate what goes into creating them.

I didn’t start doing route guides to make money off it. I started because when I got back into cycling, there were no such route guides for me to use, and so I created the guides I would have like to have been available when I started out.

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I hope you enjoy them, and that my guides have helped you.

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