Planning a route takes – well, planning! So think about the kind of route you want to design:

  • What level is the ride? Think about the abilities and experience of the riders who would be interested. See below for the club’s description of each level.
  • What kind of ride are you planning — road only, off-road, technical trail, or a mix of different terrains?
  • Think about the type of bike suitable for the ride — road bike, touring bike, hybrid, gravel or cross bike, MTB.
  • How long is the ride — a quick 10 miles in the evening, or 40+ miles taking all day?
  • Where would you like the ride to start and finish — is it a point to point, there and back or circular. How will riders get to the start, or get back from the finish — is public transport available, car parking nearby? Do you need to set up a shuttle so there are cars at each end or the route to get riders back to then start?
  • What size group are you expecting? Think about what other co-leaders you need for back stop and subgroup leaders.

All of these considerations, and much more, are covered in the Cycling UK ride leader training courses.

How rides are graded

The difficulty is graded like this…

  • Level 1 : Mostly flat, slow pace, suitable for beginners or those returning to cycling.
  • Level 2a: Some hills, moderate pace. We will ride up some of the hills, but may walk up the steeper ones. Suitable for those who are progressing beyond Level-1 riding, there will be several stops.
  • Level 2b: Some hills, good pace. We will ride up most of the hills. A certain level of fitness is needed, and compared with 2a rides these will probably be longer, faster, and maybe with fewer breaks.
  • Level 3 : More hills and a faster pace. A good level of fitness is required, and these rides are most suited to a Road Bike

The distance is graded like this…

  • Short distance; Less than 15 miles total
  • Medium distance; Between 15 and 30 miles
  • Long distance; Over 30 miles

First steps

If this is your first time leading a ride, consider using one of the rides already tried. Ask more experienced ride leaders for suggestions. Volunteer to be back stop or be a co-leader if the group is large enough to be split into multiple subgroups. Check the rides on Dale’s Ideas for Rides document. Hopefully there will also be more rides added to the Routes section of this website.

If you feel you want to do something different, then…

Next steps

Get out the map!

Use OS 1:50000 or 1:25000 maps to plan your route. Photocopy the relevant section of the map so you can mark in your route and make notes about waypoints, points of interest (coffee and cake stops, pub lunches, viewpoints, etc). Take note of the terrain – look out for hills, especially where the contour lines are close together!

Once you have a route drawn up, make cue sheet listing all of the turns, distances and obstacles (for instance, gates, sections of pathway you might need to negotiate, road closures — check local authority web sites).

If you can, ride the route — or at least some of it. You can add any problems or more info to the cue sheet if necessary.

Once you are happy with the route, and can use a navigation device (including a smartphone, Garmin or other GPS device), try entering the route into an online route planning application to generate a GPX file which can be downloaded onto your device. If you have used an OS map to plan your route, then sign up for OSMaps and add it to your routes.

OS Maps route example
OS Maps route example

Alternatively, use one of the excellent cycling-specific online tools – which generally have less detailed maps (usually based on Open Street Map cycling maps), but offer differing sets of advantages. In particular RideWithGPS and Komoot allow you to add start, intermediate and end waypoints and the route will automatically snap to follow the road or track linking the points.

OSMaps will also do this if the route is inside a National Park area, otherwise you have to add several waypoints to approximate to the route – the more you add, the more accurate the track.

GaiaGPS is also widely recommended, and it is equally useful for hiking and other expeditions.

I’ll also mention Strava, but this tool seems more useful for recording and sharing routes than planning.

All of these online tools have apps for Android and iOS smartphones – some of which allow route planning on the phone, while others use routes that you have planned online.

Once you have created your route, load a GPX file of the route onto your navigation device. See the Navigation Guide for your next steps.


Send your ride to the club’s ride coordinator to put it on the ride calendar — include the name and description of the ride, its starting point, date and time, its level and distance, and your contact number. This section needs more detail!!!

Enjoy the ride!