How to Create a Route Sheet

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Leading a ride can be fun, but if group members become separated, it can be daunting for the ride leader and scary for new riders. Thus printed instructions — “route sheets” — are vital to keep everyone on track to finish safely and on time. This is generally not something you can do at 5:30 a.m. on the morning of your ride. Prepare the route sheet ahead of time to avoid mistakes.

A. Information Required for a Route Sheet

Route sheets usually contain the following information (see my blog post about reading route sheets for details):

  • Starting and ending points. An address an parking instructions may be useful, if you can get the route sheet to your riders in advance.
  • List of roads and bike paths. Knowing how the route will proceed before you start generating the sheet will help you avoid making decisions on the fly. 
  • Left turn, right turn, or crossing. With each road, you should note whether the turn is right (“R”), left (“L”), or crossing (“X”) where appropriate.
  • Cumulative mileage. This information will help riders get back on track if they become lost and will help you create the route sheet.
That’s all you’ll get from the automatic cue sheet generator, described below. The following additional information will be especially helpful for new riders, long or complex routes, or routes which go through uninhabited locations:
  • Regroup, water, and lunch stops. Plan these out and make sure everyone knows where to get water. You ride could be ruined by one person who runs out of water on a hot day.
  • Cautions about the roadway, traffic conditions, or special instructions. Sometimes it is best to walk your bike. Sometimes a road will change names. Sometimes the police are checking to see if cyclists stop at stop signs. Note these things concisely and in the entry for the turn they are most likely to affect.
  • Telephone numbers for the training ride leaders. Remind your riders to call if they bail out on the ride, get into trouble, or jet on ahead too far.

Unless there’s a special reason for it, don’t include a printed map. These often too small or undetailed to be useful. Instead, provide riders with the route information to use on their GPS devices.

C. Trace the Route in a Map Application

Using Ride with GPS, you can (1) start with an existing route, or start with a blank map. In both cases, you open the route for editing, create “control points,” and generate a “cue sheet.” Watch these videos for detailed tutorials.

Creating a cue sheet from an existing ride’s data.
Creating a cue sheet from scratch (see also their “advanced video).

I’m a novice at this, so please leave any pointers in the comments.

Figure 1: Auto-generated cue sheet.

At this point, you can just print out Ride with GPS’s cue sheets. But if you want to give riders the additional information to help them get through the ride, you’re best off converting the route sheet to a Word table.

B. Route Sheets in Word

So, here is a route sheet I found on Ride with GPS. (See Figure 1.) Looks like a great ride out of Martinez, over the Benecia Bridge, and then on the San Francisco Bay Trail. Follow the link to see the route.

But as you can see, the auto-generated route has at least five problems:

  1. It gives multiple directions for the same turn (see highlights for 1st Street).
  2. It requires two pages for all directions. One page is confusing enough.
  3. Turns onto bike trails are not explained. Often, especially in rural areas, such turns are not obvious. (See highlight for the trail.)
  4. It doesn’t tell you if Hale Ranch turns into Busch Drive or is a different road. This can be difficult if there are choices at that point. (See highlight.)
  5. It doesn’t tell you where to get water, food, or where to rest or regroup.
Figure 2: Route sheet edited with Word
Each of these problems can be solved by converting the sheet to a Word table. You can: make duplicative entries into one, compress the description cell, add notes for confusing turns, road name changes, or rest stops, add color to aid quick comprehension; and create columns to get it all onto one sheet.
Here’s my route sheet for a similar ride. (See Figure 2.) It eliminates redundancies, explains confusing turns, and guides riders to rest stops and food.
I use red to indicate rest stops and blue to indicate important instructions. How complicated your instructions are depends on your ridership. Novice riders may need more instruction to get out of confusing jams if they get lost. Experienced riders will appreciate clear and simple turn instructions with little fanfare.
Finally, the ALC has an excellent route sheet library for Bay Area rides (and beyond). Their route sheets don’t provide much detail, but eliminate confusing redundancy and get the rides onto one page. (See Figure 3.)
Figure 3: Official ALC Training Ride Route Sheet
Love,
Your Bear
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2 thoughts on “How to Create a Route Sheet

    Lorri Lee Lown -- velogirl said:
    December 29, 2013 at 10:53 pm

    I'm rather new to RideWithGPS.com, but here are some tips that might help (and some address problems you note):

    #1 — you can write your notes directly on the RideWithGPS Cue Sheet. Just highlight the cue and then type in whatever you'd like in the pop-up box. This is especially useful for bike paths or for designated stops.

    #2 — if you're getting multiple turns on the cue sheet, zoom in on the map and check the route. Often, it's because RWGPS has re-routed, but you can't see this unless you zoom in. I actually create all my routes with the map zoomed in really close. It takes additional time to click through your route, but it prevents these bogus turns.

    #3 — If you have these bogus turns, it will affect the TCX file that folks download to their device, so it's best to fix them.

    #4 — Sometimes, these bogus turns are the actual route, but are just the continuation of a current road (perhaps with a name change). You can delete these cues by highlighting them and then deleting in the pop-up box.

    #5 — Always click on the route before or after an intersection. If you click on the intersection, RWGPS will sometimes create a wrong turn.

    Robert Boucher said:
    December 30, 2013 at 4:48 pm

    Thanks, Lorri Lee! I will incorporate your suggestions next time I create a route and will report back!

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