Enjoying the Journey: How to Plan Your Cycling Route

Picture this: it’s a beautiful day, your bike is all tuned up, your helmet is on and you’re ready to hit the open road for MS Bike! But you are missing one essential aspect – you have no idea where you are biking or the best way to get there. Fear not – we’ve got you covered with the basics of successful route planning!

The freedom that cycling provides to explore new areas on road, pathways, or off-road on dirt and gravel is truly like nothing else. Even if you aren’t prepping for MS Bike, cycling is a low impact activity that could be part of your exercise routine. For some people living with MS, recumbent bikes, adult tricycles and indoor training bicycles allow cycling to be an accessible and enjoyable activity. In 2013, the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology released the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for Adults with MS which recommends twice weekly 30-minute sessions of moderately intense aerobic activity, such as cycling, walking, or swimming. A study of these guidelines from two McMaster University researchers, published in 2020 in the International Journal of MS Care, concluded that people with MS who adhered to the Physical Activity Guidelines for a minimum of 12 weeks saw improvements in fitness, mobility, fatigue symptoms, and quality of life. (Read more about the MS research into exercise on our website.)

Whether you are discovering new routes or riding the same ones you know like the back of your hand, route planning is essential to a successful (and safe) ride.

Things to consider when planning a cycling route:

Route Library

All MS Bike tour routes nationwide are now available for free access through the official MS Bike Club account on Ride with GPS. “https://ridewithgps.com/organizations/3721-multiple-sclerosis-society-of-canada/home”  Follow along the traditional tour routes and stop at the check stops and points of interest along your journey. Check them out here: Route Library. If you’re just starting out, a solid cycling goal to aim for is 20 to 30 kilometers. This should take you anywhere from 1-2 hours to complete.

Terrain

Every bike is designed for a certain discipline of cycling. Depending what terrain/conditions you are cycling in there is a bike to best fit your needs.

  • Road bike – ideal for paved roads, bike paths or your morning commute
  • Cross/mountain/gravel bike – off-roading, dirt, mud, gravel, trails
  • Fat bike – snow, sand, loose ground, the fatter the tires on your bike the easier to roll over/through difficult terrain

Use the Buddy System

If you plan on heading out on your ride solo, always let someone know where you’re going. For your own safety and peace of mind, having a buddy know your whereabouts before taking off is invaluable. Consider enabling location sharing in Google Maps on your cell phone so your buddy can find your exact location if needed.

Planning for Pit Stops

Whether you are heading out for a long haul or a short pedal it always pays to plan ahead and see what amenities are nearby on your travels. If you need to stop for a water bottle refill, a casual coffee, or an emergency bathroom break take note of what options are available before heading out for a spin.

Technology Options

 There are many apps that offer route planning and activity tracking for all your cycling desires. Our top picks are Strava and Ride with GPS. Once your account has been created you have the capacity to plan your next cycling routes on either their apps or desktop websites. All your saved routes will be available on your devices to use for navigation tracking while out cycling. For ease of use you can utilize a handlebar mount to attach your cell phone directly to your bars to help you navigate your route. Additionally, voice commands can be activated to have turn by turn navigations read out to you.  *Added app features become available with a paid subscription.*

Choosing the Route

If you’re cycling through town, or out and about on the highways, byways and everywhere in between, it helps know what hazards or roadblocks may be in your way. Perhaps there’s some new construction on your chosen route or the highway you we’re planning on cycling doesn’t have shoulders to ride. Popular cycling apps such as Strava and Ride with GPS can help you re-route and choose a plan B if you run into any obstacles. Google Maps is a great tool to see street views when planning your route for roads you’ve never been down before.

Packing Gear for your Ride

Outside of your nutrition and hydration when cycling, it’s a necessity to bring your cell phone, ID and a bit of cash. Even the best planned cyclists get lost occasionally, so having your cell phone allows you to check in or phone for some help with an unexpected flat tire. Many buses are equipped with bike racks so having some cash is helpful if you are close to a bus route and need a ride to get you closer to home. Tip! If you experience a mechanical issue that you can’t fix on your ride and you are a CAA member – no matter where you are in the country – you can give them a call for a lift to get you and your bike back home.

Now you’ve got all the tools needed to route plan and create your next epic expedition. Most importantly, don’t forget to have fun! Remember, it’s all about the journey not the destination.


References:

Karissa L. Canning, Audrey L. Hicks; Benefits of Adhering to the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for Adults with Multiple Sclerosis Beyond Aerobic Fitness and Strength. Int J MS Care 1 January 2020; 22 (1): 15–21. doi: https://doi.org/10.7224/1537-2073.2018-061.

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