Charting your ride on the go can be exhilarating, but if you’re trying to reach specific training goals, exploring new territories, or simply striving to stay on schedule, you need a well-planned cycling route. Cycling route planners help you plan the distance, terrain, and elevation to maximize your ride. Strava is one popular, feature-packed cycling route planner that will help you map the best route. You can also take advantage of Google Maps for free and easy route planning. We’ll show you how to use both tools to create the perfect route wherever you go, whether you’re seeking a path through a picturesque landscape or a challenging ride to push your limits.
Benefits of planning your cycling route
In addition to receiving navigation guidance and staying on track, planning your cycling route has many additional benefits.
Track your training progress and achieve fitness goals.
Planning your cycling route allows you to measure and track important metrics such as distance covered, average speed, and elevation gain. With this data, you can monitor your training progress, set new fitness goals, and challenge yourself to improve over time.
Save routes you love.
After discovering an enjoyable route, you can save it with a cycling route planner. Building an archive of awesome routes makes it easier to choose a ride that matches your preferences on the fly.
Stay safe and avoid heavy traffic.
By planning your cycling route, you can prioritize roads with less traffic and dedicated cycling lanes or paths for a safer and more enjoyable ride.
If you’re not sure where to go, you can choose a pre-planned route.
Using cycling apps like Strava allows you to explore popular routes taken by other cyclists in a particular area. This opens up new possibilities for discovering hidden gems and popular cycling destinations.
Find motivation within a cycling community.
Planning your route using platforms like Strava enables you to share your rides and achievements with a vibrant cycling community. Interacting with fellow cyclists and participating in challenges can be a great source of motivation and camaraderie.
If you enjoy a bit of healthy competition, planning your route with Strava allows you to participate in segment challenges. You can compare your performance against other cyclists who have ridden the same segments, adding a fun and competitive element to your rides.
Manage your time well.
When you plan your cycling route, you can estimate the duration of your ride more accurately. This helps you manage your time effectively, ensuring that you don’t run late or underestimate the effort required for the ride.
Enjoy the scenery and points of interest.
Planning your cycling route allows you to incorporate scenic spots, parks, historical landmarks, and other points of interest along the way.
How to plan your cycling route on Google Maps
Planning a bike route on Google Maps is simple and convenient, but it doesn’t have all of the performance features that a cycling route planner does. If you’re not yet heavily invested in cycling or like the simplicity of Google Maps, here’s how you can use it to plan your route.
1. Open Google Maps and type in a starting location in the address bar or click a starting point on the map.
2. Once your starting destination appears to the left of the map, click on the Directions icon.
3. Type your ending destination in the address bar.
4. Drag your starting point to the top of the route using the red location icon.
5. Hover over the “Layers” box in the lower lefthand corner and select “biking” to show the best route for cycling.
Google Maps bike route color key
- Dark green: No automobile traffic
- Green: Roads Shared with cars
- Dotted green: Bike-friendly path
- Brown: Dirt roads
6. Add additional points of interest in the address bar or by clicking the map. You can also choose Things to Do, Coffee, Groceries, or Restaurant for places to stop along the way. If you see something interesting, click “Add stop” to make it part of your route.
7. Drag points to change the order of the route.
8. Adjust the route by dragging the white dots on the map that indicate turns.
Note: The estimated ride duration on Google Maps reflects the average commuter cyclist. If you are an avid roadie, this will not be an accurate estimate.
9. Open the hamburger menu in the upper left corner and choose “Share or embed map” for a shareable link. Or, if using a computer, you can choose “Send directions to phone.”
How to use Strava Route Builder to map your bike route
Strava Route Builder is a popular favorite route planner among cyclists for its extensive database of existing routes and powerful features for riders of all skill levels and preferences. Here’s how you can design your route in Strava for a unique, personalized challenge.
1. You’ll first need to create a Strava account if you haven’t already and start your Strava subscription.
The free version of Strava allows you to record your rides, but you’ll need to start a subscription to build them. A Strava subscription costs $11.99/month or $79.99/year and gives you access to the Route Builder, group challenges, training plans, custom goals, and many more features that we’ve listed below.
2. Go to your dashboard, choose “Explore” from the navigation, and select “Create a Route.”
3. Type in a location to bring up the map of your area.
4. Choose “ride” as your activity.
5. Choose to follow either the most popular or the most direct route.
Tip: The most popular routes are the tried and true bike paths and are usually the best to follow.
6. Select any elevation, maximum elevation, or minimum elevation.
7. Select any surface type, paved surface, or dirt surface.
Tip: As you map your ride, watch the surface area on the roads you select at the bottom of the screen to make sure you don’t choose dirt if you’re on a road bike. A dashed white and orange line indicates a dirt path.
8. Leaving the global heatmap enabled will show you where most people ride.
9. If you have cycled in the area before, click “personal heatmap” to view your previous route.
10. Choose to show or hide points of interest.
11. Click a point on the map to start the route.
12. Plan points along the dark blue lines that show which roads are most popular.
13. As you begin to plot your course, you’ll see mile markers appear so you can keep track of your distance and drag points to shorten the route if needed.
14. You’ll also see the estimated duration and elevation gain as you map your course.
15. Once you’ve finished mapping your route, click “save route” and give it a name and description. You can also decide to make it public or to keep it private.
16. To see the route you’ve created from the Dashboard, go to “my route.”
17. Export your route to your cycling GPS computer for navigation.
How you export your route depends on the type of cycling GPS you have. For example, you’ll need to sync your Strava account with your Wahoo account in your GPS mobile app on a Wahoo GPS. You can then download the routes onto your Wahoo GPS device when connected to Wi-Fi or via Bluetooth.
How to import your Strava routes with your Wahoo ELEMNT GPS
If you’ve already synced Strava with your ELEMNT app, jump to step four. If you haven’t, here’s how to get started.
- Open the Wahoo ELMNT app, and go to your Profile.
- Select Authorized apps and choose Strava.
- You’ll then be prompted to login with your Strava credentials.
- Then, make sure your GPS connected to Wi-Fi.
- On your GPS, select Page, and you should see the map appear.
- Once the map appears, choose Route.
- Then, select Sync, and the names of your Strava routes should appear.
- Choose the route you want to ride, and get going!
8 of our favorite route planning features with a Strava subscription
- Route Builder: Easily map out the perfect ride by simply dragging and dropping waypoints on the user-friendly, feature-packed map.
- Segment results and leaderboards: Compete for the fastest time on specific sections of your route and earn the title King or Queen of the Mountain. You can compare your performance against other cyclists and climb the ranks on leaderboards.
- Custom goals: Set personalized goals for distance, speed, or elevation gain and track your progress with performance insights.
- Performance data: Stay motivated with performance metrics, including distance covered, average speed, heart rate analysis, and elevation gain.
- Power analysis (with a power meter): Receive deeper insights into power output, efficiency, and training zones, enabling more precise training and optimized efforts for better results.
- Training plans: Use curated training plans designed by professional coaches that cater to all cycling levels and disciplines. These plans provide structured workouts, recovery days, and progress tracking, making it easier for you to reach your fitness goals efficiently and safely.
- Personal heatmaps: Personal heatmaps give a visual of the paths you’ve traveled most frequently. The personal and global heatmaps help you remember preferred routes and serve as a source of inspiration when exploring new areas.
- Group challenges: Group challenges encourage cyclists to come together and achieve collective goals, track group progress, and keep each member motivated. These challenges foster a sense of community and camaraderie, making cycling a social and rewarding experience.
To improve your cycling strength, power, endurance, and skill, incorporating training exercises is essential. Here are a few cycling fitness guides to help you get started.