Like many people, my first experience using navigation for my rides was through Google Maps. For the most part, this satisfied my needs for commuting within a city. It was convenient to route from one place to the next, but I found it’s accuracy a hit or miss for biking. Sometimes I would be routed to a safe bike path and the next it would recommend a busy street with lots of car traffic. And once I became more interested in off-road riding, Google Maps often didn’t recognize the gravel roads that I wanted to explore.
Another method for navigating my bike rides was paper maps. When I rode my bike across the country from Virginia to Oregon I used Adventure Cycling’s Trans America maps. These maps were perfect for road touring because they provided easy to follow panels with turn by turn directions and elevation graphs. There was also a lot of other helpful information like resupply stops and the history of the area. The downside of ACA maps was that they were only for their proprietary routes and the cost was expensive if you needed a set.
Based on those two experiences I was pretty limited in navigating, not to mention trying to create my own routes. Of course, that all changed when I started working at Ride with GPS. When I became a full-time designer at Ride with GPS, I learned how to seamlessly combine my love of bikepacking and gravel riding with RWGPS’ route making and navigation tools.
I started out by exploring the Find page to discover which routes I wanted to ride. Once I found the one, I would send the route to my phone so I could download it for offline use – this was essential if I didn’t have phone service or wanted to save my battery. Once I became more familiar with the type of riding I wanted to do, I modified the existing routes that I found. I changed the start and end location or often made small changes to fit my needs. This also gave me the confidence to lead organized bike trips without worrying about getting myself and others lost.
Once I was confident to create my own routes from scratch, I was able to fall in love with cycling in entirely new ways. I became more confident in familiarizing myself with the area in which I rode. I learned more about the statistics of the route and was able to research the land’s history, which created more intention and purpose to my rides. I became more adventurous because I was able to combine different types of riding styles together like single-track with swimming in lakes. I gained more independence because I spent less time worrying about navigating and more time enjoying the ride. Lastly, I was able to discover new places in areas I would have never dreamed of riding.
In the end, I have gotten more inspired, less lost, and found new ways to love cycling even more.