Get lost! Or not, as the case may be. I’ve been thinking about grabbing a dedicated GPS unit, something like the Garmin Etrex 20 or similar. I do like the freedom of being able to ride anywhere I want, but I also like the ability to turn on some gadget to see my location, overlay-ed on a map with a route indicated too. This means I’m free to ride around for a bit, looking at interesting things, then get back on the pre-planned route to get to some destination. Easiest way to achieve this is by utilising a GPS unit, loaded up with some maps and some GPX files for routes. Or, you could always use a smart phone instead of a dedicated GPS unit like the Garmin. The question then, is which GPS / mapping application do you use? Also, how would you deal with the power requirements of a smart phone over a multi day trip? I’ve tried a couple of apps including BackCountry Navigator and I recently downloaded an app called Maverick, which seems to be a little simpler to use, which is a good thing for me. Both of these apps allow you to download maps for use offline, meaning you don’t need a mobile data connection in order to use them.
I’ve always found planning routes to be fun but challenging. I’m aware of my own limitations as a rider, so try to avoid huge ascents and try to be a little more strategic about climbs on my routes for example. There are plenty of tools out there that can help you plan a bikepacking trip, and by this I mean both on road and off road, one of my favourites is BikeHike. The course creator lets you see both a Google maps / OSM style view and a more traditional OS format map. It’s really, really handy, especially when you switch over to “satellite view” too, just to check there’s actually something on the ground.
As you can see from the images below, both Maverick and BackCountry Navigator revolve around similar map view screens showing a map, your current position and, if required, a GPX route overlay. These GPX files are very useful, especially when riding an ITT with a predetermined route that is new to you as a rider. Most of the well known ITT (Independent Time Trial) routes have freely available GPX files hosted around the internet, information on many of the UK routes can be found at: Self-Supported, including the basic rules of self-supported, or ITT, routes, which I have helpfully stolen and copied here.
- Complete the entire route, under your own power – no drafting
- Be completely self-supported throughout the ride – absolutely no support crews, absolutely no gear sharing
- Only use commercial services that are available to all challengers – no private resupply, no private lodging
- If you have to leave the route, you must re-join it at the exactly same spot
- No caches of any kind
- No pre-arranged support, which means before you begin your ride – e.g. booking a B&B, arranging to meet a vehicle
- No travel by any motorized means during your ride – by all means do so if necessary, but understand if you do your attempt is over
All common sense stuff really. However, this is for the “competitive” types, personally I’m out there to enjoy myself, not try and beat someone else’s times. Anyway, that’s beside the point. At the end of the day the routes and trails exist, if you want to pootle along enjoying the scenery or absolutely cane it to see your name on a website leader board, then so be it, the choice is yours. I’ve got a stash of GPX files, some I’ve created myself using BikeHike or are made from previous routes I’ve ridden, others are taken from various resources around the internet. You can take a look at the files in Google Drive by clicking here, help yourselves. Oh, and if you fancy planning riding a little further afield, I’ll just leave this here, European Bikepacking Routes.