Monday, 25 February 2013

Route Planning with Raymondo “The Devil is in the Detail!”

Well February has been an interesting month to say the least. Sadly I've not been out on Mr T as much as I would have liked but the weather wreaked havoc with the planned rides.

The only good thing to come out of all this is, I've had time on my hands to plan ahead. This has allowed me to put a few routes together ready for later on in the year.

As those of you who know me personally will know that Garmin’s MapSource & I are very close friends. My affinity with route planning goes back year, right back to my childhood in fact when I used to plan walks out in the Peak District with walking maps. I then started on pushbike rides all meticulously planned using Ordinance Survey Maps. The thing is I just hate being lost, it’s that simple.

Looking back on my first motorbike ride from Munster in Germany back to Chesterfield makes me smile now. No Sat Nav, not even a map, I was given the route home by my Cook Sergeant on a small "Yellow Stick-it Note”, it read :-

1  Munster,  2  Duisburg, 3  Antwerp (keep in the middle lane), 4  Gent, 5  Brugge,  6  Calais 

Don’t be late back on Monday or you’ll be Duty Cook for a week!

Have fun!

I kept that bit of paper for 3 years and rode between Germany & the UK relentlessly never getting lost once. Mind I did run out of petrol on one occasion at 1.00am in the morning! Oh and the tip about the middle lane around Antwerp was spot on, even though there are 6 lanes of traffic around the city!

I suppose my route planning took a turn for the better when I volunteered to become the IBA UK Official ride verifier back in 2010. I spent many hours over the next two years checking IBA UK rides. I would plot in each and every stop measuring, checking both distance travelled and in what time to ensure all the stringent rules were met in order for the  rider to receive an IBA UK Certificate commensurate with whichever ride they had chosen to attempt. Verifying rides which had taken place throughout the UK & the whole of Europe including Poland, Lithuania, Italy & Greece. This has given me a thorough understanding of what it takes to plan a successful and enjoyable route.

Riding 1000 miles in under 24 hours needs planning thoroughly, often right down to each and every fuel and rest stop. Nowadays I just enjoy using MapSource to plot new adventures both in the UK and around Europe. There are individuals out there who just know where they want to end up and “Just Go for It!” That’s fair enough, as long as you’re not on a tight “time budget”. This approach can be very rewarding but in my case I usually find I’m always on a tight “time budget” . Therefore I like to know where I’m going, when I’m due to arrive there, how far each section of the ride is & how long my journey is going to take. Sad I know but everyone has their own way, this is mine.

I’m not really interested in the age old debate over which is the best mapping program, MapSource, Basecamp, Google Maps, Microsoft Auto Route or The AA Route Planner. All I will say is find a program that you feel comfortable using and just enjoy making it work for you.

MapSource is my program of choice simply because I have been using it since 2009 and I run a Garmin 660 Sat Nav.

Here's one I planned earlier, in 2009 to be exact!
9000 Mile round trip in 14 days 
Who says Route Planning isn't Fun

So how do I plan a route? Well the very first thing I do is open my basic route, aptly filled as AAA. This MapSource file has just three Points of interest (POI’s) already plotted, Home, Folkestone Channel Tunnel & Calais Channel Tunnel & with that I’m off!

I find UK routes so easy to plot due to our glorious “Postcode” addressing system but remember those postcodes can be misleading. Europe can take a little more effort but using coordinates can really help bring routes to life.

Here are a few tips that I think may help you in planning your next “Big Trip”

1 – “Zoom is your friend” The closer you zoom into the map the 
more of it’s hidden secrets reveal themselves.

2 – “Use the POI Coordinates” Such a simple statement but totally overlooked by many.

Here’s a fantastic tip for getting accurate coordinates.

a)      Google Wikipedia & find a POI - eg. Trollstigen in Norway and open that page

b)      In the top right corner there are a set of coordinates for the POI but the coordinates will not work in MapSource as they are not in the right format

c)      Left click on the coordinates themselves - this will take you to the GeoHack page

d)     Now look down and find ACME Mapper - left click on “Map” to the right of ACME Map

e)      A map will open up & in the bottom right corner are the coordinates

f)       Highlight & copy these coordinates

g)      Open MapSource & create a new “waypoint” anywhere, paste in the coordinates into the “Position” box and re-name the “waypoint” Tollstigen. Job Done!

Give it a try with a POI you know, you will be surprised just how easy it is to do.

3 – “Take you time” In the excitement of planning a “Round Robin Trip” be it in the UK or abroad many rider just do “fly-by’s” Missing so many spectacular views and attractions that it beggars belief why you bothered setting off in the first place. I know I've done it myself, numerous times.

4 – “Get someone else to check the route” It’s no good spending hours on end plotting the perfect tour only to discover, you've missed a classic monument or a POI that’s just a mere 5 mile detour from your planned route.

5 – “Break routes down and number/alphabet each stage” Rename each stage using numbers 1 – 9 or if it’s a really complicated or a multi-day trip us letters A - Z

6 – “Check uploaded Routes before leaving” Simply view the route once uploaded onto you Garmin (or other Sat Nav).

7 – “Carry a map & a list of you destinations” If your Sat Nav gives up the ghost there is nothing worse than being left high and dry.

Armed with these simple tips you can really create an enjoyable route all from the comfort of your favorite chair.

The Derbyshire ride was snowed off the day before but no sooner one door closes, another one opens in its place.

This really is a great day out in Derbyshire

I’ve just finished putting the final touches to our North European Tour Route which Bruce of & I will be undertaking in July. There were a couple of locations which Bruce wanted to visit including Tollstigen being Hairpin Heaven, plus the amazing Atlantic Road & I obviously want to visit NordKapp at long last.  

To prevent us having to back tracking through Norway I've planned for us to return through Finland then taking the ferry over to Estonia then on through Latvia, Lithuania, where we will visit the Geographic Center Of Europe  & Poland just to keep the ride interesting on the return leg.

9 Days of Biking Bliss!

To stop me going stir-crazy, Jeannie & I have decided that I will ride down to Spain this weekend  to a business meeting. Rather than ride straight there and back I've taken my own advice and created a round-robin route!

Just popping out Love, see you Sunday!
Don't you just love Europe?

So as you can see, plotting routes and having some fun with mapping programs really can keep you busy and stimulated. Ultimately it will also have you visiting some stunningly beautiful corners of the world.

Here’s hoping to see you out and about in the not too distant future and remember “The Devil really is in the detail!” Happy Route Planning folk’s.


  1. My 2010 North American Tour I did 30,000 kms without a map. Now I don't go anywhere without my Garmin and Google waypoints uploaded.

    Thank you for the great post!

  2. If your Sat Nav gives up the ghost there is nothing worse than being left high and dry.AA Route Planner