This past weekend I was a part of the TransIowa V.11 Clinic. The clinic was in Des Moines and since I am still without a car I decided the best way to get there was by gravel. Makes sense, right? I got a couple of questions about how I made my route and what roads I took. Realizing that making routes is one of the trickiest parts of getting out and riding I am going to share exactly how I crafted my route to Des Moines!
The first step of planning is making sure this is actually a possibility. I wouldn’t have to cut into any work or fun-time responsibilities so it was on! I made support plans with a friend who offered to come get me if I needed and to also take me back home on Sunday, which made planning for Saturday that much easier. Finally before I even thought about my route I double-checked my bike and gear to make sure it was all still there, TransIowa had been at the back of my mind for nearly 6 months.
Next up is the route. I will typically start browsing a few key websites to see if anyone else has ever ridden where I am going. To keep things simple I stick with Strava and Ride with GPS for this. I do pay for Strava premium mainly so I can download the GPX files straight to my computer. Within Ride with GPS I can save the GPX files to my account and load them to my Garmin 510 for free!
Once I have scoped out some of the previous routes I start building my own. I use Ride with GPS to make an actual GPS route. While I have this page open I will be checking Google Maps, the Iowa Gravel Roads website, and the Iowa DOT county maps just for a little extra help. Between the Iowa Gravel Roads Website and the DOT county maps I know if they roads are gravel, paved, or B-roads. I will then double check to make sure the roads exist on Google Maps. I had a destination in mind and the mileage was easy to tweak due to the straight lines I could take. I ended up pretty lucky with two towns to roll through and at least 3 C-stores to stop at. I do not pay for Ride with GPS because I can upload the GPS files at no cost! The file type I chose for my Garmin 510 is the GPX track.
My last and probably favorite part of creating these longs routes is my final step. I go through the route and make a paper cue sheet. Then I delete my route and recreate it on Ride with GPS. While this sounds like it takes a while it really takes no more than 15 minutes. Then I have extra back-up cue sheets and I have gone over the route a couple different ways to help me remember where I am going. When I started riding gravel and had no GPS this was how I created routes. Paper and pen. I still have scraps of routes lying around my room ready to take me through the hinterlands.
My route was perfect. I didn’t get lost and I utilized both the cue sheets and Garmin. Between the two I could distract myself from the long stretches, but still keep an eye on my mileage. I didn’t stop at any of my C-stores, but it’s nice to know where they are. I typically will only go this in depth for rides 100 miles or more, but it really helps me get into the mindset of staying focused and practicing using cue sheets.