How-to: Choose a Route for your Bike Overnight
So, you want to do a bikeovernight? Great! Where are you going and what route will you take? There are a number of resources available to help you answer those questions. Planning doesn't have to be difficult. I hope I can distill the options down to a handful that will be useful to you.
One way to get going is to first choose your overnight destination -- a B&B in the next town, perhaps, or a friend's house or a county park campground. Once you've decided where you're sleeping, you'll need to find routing to get you there via a safe, enjoyable ride. Pull out a map and start eyeing the possibilities.
A good place to begin your route research is your state Department of Transportation. Each state has a Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator and oftentimes a helpful website with maps you can either download, view online, or order in a paper version. The Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center maintains a webpage of contact information. Once at your state page, there are usually resources listed that will allow you to drill down to more local levels including clubs and organizations.
There are several crowdsourced-type mapping websites that 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 others in your neighborhood are riding. If you are stuck in the where-should-I-go? stage, these results are a great resource for landing on a destination, too. You can create your own map and cue sheet from these sites if you so desire, or download your route into a GPS unit or smart phone via a mobile app.
Though still in beta, Google maps is a resource worth looking into. When you arrive at the Get Directions page, enter your location and destination, click on the bicycle icon, and then on 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, and feedback from cyclists. Routes are generated by an algorithm that doesn't necessarily take all factors into account, so you will want to closely review their suggestions to ensure they're viable for you.
Speaking of Rails-to-Trails, using one of their facilities is a good way to dip your toe into the Bike Overnight waters. From their TrailLink website you can discover a wealth of information about the surrounding area, including overnight possibilities, trail surface conditions, and access information.
Of course, if you happen to live on or near a route on the Adventure Cycling Route Network, picking up one of these comprehensive maps could be your simplest move. Everything you need to know for a successful Bike Overnight, from possible destinations to routing to services along the way, can be found on these maps.
This list is only the tip of the route-finding iceberg. The important thing is to find your way out there. Use the tools you have and know to explore your locale in a new and interesting way.
Photos by Michael McCoy