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Ride Planning

by Ron Schinnerer
Originally Published in the IAMC Newsletter, November 2014

Sometimes it’s fun to jump on the bike and go wherever the mood takes you. If you are going on a multi-day ride or a ride with a large group, some planning and preparation will go a long way to making the trip fun for everyone. The first step in planning a ride is to decide on the points of interest that you want to visit. For me, I frequently plan my rides around the club Challenge Sites. In other cases, it might be a rally or some trail that I’d like to see.

I do a lot of my ride navigation by GPS, so when I start planning, I use a mapping program that is compatible with my GPS. I start by placing the major locations that I want to visit as waypoints on the map. This will give me a basic idea of where my route is going to need to go. With the major points of interest on my map, I’ll usually let the program generate an “Auto- route” of the trip. This usually doesn’t produce the routing that I want to ride, but it will give me a general idea of how many miles I’m going to be traveling and lets me start thinking about how much 2me the trip is going to take. With a basic idea of what the trip is going to look like, I can start to put together more of the details. There are a couple of things that need to be considered in building a more detailed plan.

One of the big items to consider is fuel range. Most dual sports should be able to go at least a 100 miles. Many are capable of 150 to 200 miles and a few can go farther than that. You want to make sure that everyone in your group is able to make it from one gas stop to the next. It may be necessary to alter your route to get gas when it is needed. I usually put a waypoint on my GPS map with a gas pump symbol to remind me where the gas stops are located.

If the ride is a multi-day ride, the other thing to consider is where you are going to stop each night. How far you can go in a day depends on how much 2me you want to spend in the saddle and the pace that you want to set. With larger groups, you want to plan on more or longer breaks. Generally, a larger group will also run a somewhat slower pace. The types of roads that you will be riding also will impact the pace of your ride. Highway miles will click away a lot faster than winding down a dirt road. For Highway miles, I usually consider 40mph to be a good number for planning. That allows for stops along the way. For dirt roads, the average will be lower. I usually es2mate an average rate of about 20mph. With everything considered, a day of riding can be as little as 150 miles or up to 300+ miles. A 300+ mile day can get to be what is commonly referred to as a “Death March.” On one trip, I had planned to ride 270 miles in one day. Late in the Afternoon that day, we had only covered about 150. I totally misjudged the riding conditions for that sec2on.

You may want to also consider what you are going to do for meals. In some cases, you may find yourself near a town for breakfast or dinner. When I can, I usually try to space things out with that in mind. If it just doesn’t work out, your group will need to be prepared to cook on the trail.

Once you have an idea of where you’re going to get gas, and the area where you would like to stop at night, it’s time to start picking out a more specific route. This is where you will want to use all of the resources you can. A lot of the GPS maps are pre9y accurate, but there will be times when they are not accurate. My GPS map does not show a road connecting between Shafer Bu9e and Harris Creek Summit but I’ve ridden that road so I know that it is there. Similarly, I’ve had a GPS route tell me to turn on a road that is clearly on the map, but when I get to the location, it’s obvious that there is no road. I generally will put a route together on the GPS software and then compare that to Google Earth, Google Maps, Benchmark paper maps and even other riders who have been there before. Google Earth is helpful because you can usually see if a road exists or not. It doesn’t tell you if the road is steep or rocky or rutted, so there still can be some surprises. Getting reports from riders who have been to an area before is usually a great way to get good planning information. With specific route information in mind, I will start building the routes on the GPS map software. You will want to go over your route choices a couple of times. Doing a good job of route planning at this stage will make a big difference in how well your ride goes. Once you have the specific roads picked out and your route plan is taking shape, it’s a good idea to go back and review your gas legs and daily miles just to make sure that your initial estimates are still valid.

A few days before your ride, it’s usually a good idea to check your route one more time. Depending on the time of year, there could be fire closures or road construction to consider. There are a variety of websites that are helpful in doing this sort of research. The various national forest districts will have web pages and usually will provide road closure information. Ride reports on the club page and Advrider are also helpful. InciWeb ( is where you will find information on all fires across the nation.

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