How to Build a Gravel Cycling Route With MapMyRide

Peter Glassford
by Peter Glassford
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How to Build a Gravel Cycling Route With MapMyRide

You have your gravel bike and all the important gravel gear, but where will you ride? Part of the appeal of gravel cycling is you can connect a great paved road with quiet gravel roads and spice up your route with a technical trail or farm lane connector. Perhaps more than any other discipline, gravel riding demands you develop a strong navigational sense and draw on tools like MapMyRide to continuously enhance your gravel cycling experience.

BUILD YOUR OWN ROUTE

The Routes Feature on MapMyRide allows you to build your own gravel cycling adventure or try out a route that another user has uploaded into the system. To build your own route with MapMyRide you simply select the start point and then click your way around a loop you want to ride. You can pull the line side to side by hovering until you see a small white circle on the route.

This is a screenshot of a route of a favorite gravel road in Sulphur Mountain near Ojai, California, which highlights a few features in MapMyRide to design a route:

  • The full-screen option (top right) helps to make the map visible as you are building.
  • The different map layers (topo, roads, etc.) helps visualize the route from a variety of perspectives
  • The traffic option allows you to find lesser-used roads and avoid highways

READ MORE > 5 GREAT CANADIAN SPOTS FOR ROAD, GRAVEL AND MTB


GET LOCAL KNOWLEDGE

One of the ways I quickly learn new routes while traveling is to look up keywords like ‘gravel’ in a given area. For example, if I am in New Jersey, I can look up the specific county or city and then the search pops up a bunch of rides that include gravel in the title or description. This almost always gives a great route, or at least some route ideas to build upon as I ride more in that area.


READ MORE > SEARCH FOR ROUTES ON MAPMYRIDE


USE YOUR ROUTE

Once you have created or found a route you can use a route on the MapMyRide app or download a file to a GPS-enabled device. Downloading a GPX or KML file lets you get the route on your GPS device. For hard riding, having your phone or the GPS device on your handlebar makes your gravel navigation much smoother and lets you keep track of navigation and all of your cycling metrics in one place.

PRINT THE ROUTE

One feature you may want to use on adventurous gravel rides (or while bike-packing) is the print feature. Having an old-fashioned paper copy for longer or more remote routes is a great idea to help you successfully navigate and avoid issues with connectivity or depleted GPS device or phone batteries.


READ MORE > 10 GREAT GRAVEL ROUTES IN THE USA


DUPLICATE THE ROUTE

A final trick that might seem obvious but that is underused is the duplicate route function. I like to duplicate rides rather than edit or start from scratch so I can reflect on a route and continue to build upon and improve routes. With any gravel ride, there will be great sections and less great sections.

If the first part of your route was great, simply go in and duplicate the route and pull the route as required to try a new variation. This practice of riding a route then tweaking it is a fast track to learning your area because you build it, experience it on your bike, and then analyze and tweak it. This way you can keep track of the routes you’ve done for reference, to use or share later, and you easily keep improving your route planning and navigation skills.

About the Author

Peter Glassford
Peter Glassford

Peter is a cycling coach and registered kinesiologist from Ontario, Canada. He travels frequently to work with athletes at races, camps and clinics. He also races mountain bikes for Trek Canada and pursues adventure in all types of movement. Follow @peterglassford on Twitter, or check out his online and in-person coaching at www.smartathlete.ca.

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