The best way to get better at ride-planning and leading rides is to simply do it! You'll never be more motivated to learn than when you have a horde of lights behind you, relying on you to find the correct turns and keep things flowing!
Planning rides is mostly stitching together known segments, filling in the gaps with measured risks and exploration, and making sure your mileage, speed, and total ride time accord with rider expectations.
It's good to try something new every time you plan a ride. Not only does it keep things interesting (since it's guaranteed that some or all of your fellow riders will also experience something new), a willingness to explore lets you expand your knowledge of terrain, segments, and what is fun to ride and what sucks. This knowledge then informs your choice of waypoints the next time you click away on a map etc.
Speaking of mapping tools, I favour Plotaroute, because
- it's free!;
- its mapping tools are fairly intuitive;
- when you click two waypoints while building a route, you can specify whether it should chart a route between them (a) as a straight line, (b) by road, (c) on foot, or (d) by bike (this saves a huge amount of time! The premium version of the tool also lets you differentiate between road and off-road bicycle, though I've found this a bit spotty.);
- it has a funky feature called "route timer" that lets you input your predicted average speeds on the flat, as well as enter speed adjustments for inclines and declines of varying severity, and it will calculate your predicted time at every point along the route (important to ensure your crew makes coffee on time!); and
- it offers multiple layers that can be changed anytime during route-building or viewing, including ones offering contours, roads, satellite imagery, foot paths, bike paths, hill-shading, and the very interesting "world topo" which often has accurate depictions of legal boundaries and parcels as they are registered in the Land Title Office (and is thus very useful for ferreting out public rights of way and avoiding trespassing.)
If you need to follow along your route on a handlebar-mounted GPS, I think using a Strava-built route lets you enjoy having both your real-time Strava data and a route-map handy. But experience has shown that being forced to follow a map during a ride can result in slow-downs; it's always better to memorize turns if you can, and if they're new to you, to suss them out on Google street-view in advance so you know what they look like.
There are other online route-building options such as MapMyRide, Ride with GPS, and Bikemap.net. I've tried these at least once, and they each have some neat features, and may have improved since I rejected them in favour of Plotaroute.
Where to Ride
Many of the routes I've mapped using Plotaroute are public and you should feel good about copying or using them for ideas. Routes I've mapped on Plotaroute that turned out crappy in real life have subsequently been marked Private or deleted.
For route ideas, there's the MTB'ers' favourite Trailforks, which offers incredibly detailed information on established mountain biking trails in focused MTB areas—but sometimes eschews the kinds of isolated, multi-use, gravel trails we usually favour on our TSCX rides. I also understand Trailforks only shows sanctioned cycling trails, and not multi-use trails which may in fact allow cycling (as well as foot traffic, horses etc.)
Ron recently pointed me at a global, user-built depository of gravel segments called gravelmap.com, which has led to some really great new local discoveries (and which also looks like it may be valuable for finding trails while travelling abroad.) Ron also found opencyclemap.org which has some trails marked on it that you can't find on other open source maps.
To get route ideas, I also follow a bunch of trailblazing local cyclists on Strava who have shown me so many new trails through their activities. Many of these folks have been riding local trails much, much longer than I have, or suffer from an even more extreme addiction to maps and discovery (I'm looking at you, Magnus!) When I see a red-line pattern from these guys that I don't recognize in my activity feed, I go trace the route and often learn of new places to ride.
- Dave. A.
- Rob B.
- Parker B.
- Garth C.
- Glenowyn C.
- Kyle D.
- Greg F.
- Yves. G.
- Ron S.
- Julie vV.
- Magnus V.
- Clay W.
- No. 38.
Where Not to Ride (or to Ride With Care!)
I've created a Google map of Forbidden Cycling Trails that is based on reviews of municipal bylaws, organizational/institutional landowner policies, legal boundaries, and observed signage. It also incorporates input from other Club members. (Thanks to those of you who have made contributions and suggestions; keep 'em coming!)
Once you've built a route, it's a good idea to check it against this "Forbidden" map so you know what you're in for. Riding responsibly and giving restrictions their due, maintains and builds goodwill toward trail-riders, protects the Club's community reputation, and ideally contributes in the long run to growing opportunities to enjoy new terrain. Where restricted trails are built to sustain cycling without erosive effect and there is a complete absence of competing users, there is often a balance to be found between no-harm-done rule-bending and scofflaw-ery. Just be aware that if you've organized a ride on the forum, or are wearing TS gear, you're representing the Club and should ride (and change your Strava settings!) accordingly.
Finally: everyone should feel good about posting a ride on the forum and leading on any given day! This is especially true for those who haven't led rides much in the past. Change is good! We've also recently had multiple ride options on Sundays and even some weekdays. Growth in our number of regular gravel-riders can likely sustain this change.
I'm sure some of you have lots of good tips to add and I hope you do so down below. (Please also feel free to tell me where I've been full of kaka, hypocritical, or just plain wrong—it will make both me and you a better person. xoxo) I've also asked Roland to pin the post up top for a while so it's easy to find and to encourage others to share in the route-planning fun!
Note: though everything here is written in a prescriptive tone (professional hazard!) it is, of course, just my own blathering. None of it should be confused as offishul Tripleshot Cycling Club bizness.
Weekday Route Suggestions
These route suggestions are to help new leaders pick routes appropriate for different ride levels. They are there to be shortened, lengthened, diverted, generally monkeyed with, or ignored completely.
Please let me know if you find errors, or have any comments, particularly if they don't reflect current conditions. A bunch of these were also mapped by Claire (Thanks, Claire!) Names are all my own invention and nothing should be read into them. I mostly just named them so Alan wouldn't.
CX_1 (16 km) UVic - Queen Alexandra - Uplands
CX_1 (20 km) Oak Bay - Fairfield - James Bay
Cutting Through Gordon's Head
CX_1 (20 km) Cedar Hill - Gordon Head - UVic - Henderson
Johnny "Ten Myle" Tyre
CX_2+ (31 km) UVic - Ten Mile - Oak Bay - Fairfield - James Bay
CX_2+ (29 km) Cedar Hill - Broadmead - Colquitz - Beacon Hill
The Place of Shoaling Waters
CX_2+ (24 km) Vic West - Esquimalt - Beacon Hill
The Beard's Panama Flats
CX_3+ (31 km) Tolmie - Haro - Colquitz - Panama Flats
CX_3+ (30 km) Gordon Hd - Fennell Wood - Outerbridge - Cuthbert Holmes
Quick Bottomed Ace
CX_3+ (31 km) Cedar Hill - Quadra - Quick's Bum - HCP - Colquitz
Claire’s Speedy Elk
CX_3+ (32 km) Beckwith - Broadmead - Grant - Elk - Colquitz - S. Valley
South Saanich is for the Birds
CX_3+ (29 km) Peacock - Swan - Eagle - Goose
View Royal to Viaduct
CX_4 (31K) CHGC - View Royal -Trillium - Hector - Colquitz
Claire’s Weekday Thetis
CX_4 (32 km) Switch - Bellamy - Calvert - Beaver - Broadmead
The Far North
CX_4 (36 km) CHGC - Cecilia - Christmas - Caldecote - Carolwood
CX_4 (35 km) Beckwith - Quick's Bottom - Calvert - Trillium - Gorge
Elk Lake Barn Burner
CX_4 (38 km) Cordova Bay - Elk - Colquitz - Gorge