US Bike Route System

A couple years ago a 50,000 mile long US bike route system was designed. The system would create a national network of roads/trails for cyclists connecting major cities and creating epic bike touring routes.

Now that the plan is in place As it stands it is up to the states to design the routes and build the signs and other infrastructure for the routes. Of course those things cost money and require staff to work on the projects, things that states don’t really want to devote to cycling projects.

If you want to support the projects contact your local representatives and join the

In this part of the guide I will focus on maps. You can read this section alone but I recommend checking out and of this guide first.

The bike maps you carry can make or break parts of your tour. You should get some kind of handlebar mounted bike map holder so that you can read relevant sections while you are riding. The bike maps should also be formatted for use while riding a bike. Taking a region map and folding it into a shape that will fit onto your map holder is not nearly as effective as using a map that was designed for cycling. When it comes down to it you have three major options with maps. The first is plain text directions. While they aren’t strictly a map they are sufficient, provided you don’t miss your turns. Personally I can’t use just the text alone.

I like to use a combination of text and graphics. The maps I used had a graphical representation of the route and on the side the text directions were given as well. Lastly if you feel that the route you will be taking is simple enough you could use maps without text directions. Regardless of the map format you choose if you want to read a bike map while riding it will need to be divided into panels. Each panel will only show a portion of your total route. This allows a better level of detail and can help you organize your ride. How the maps are divided into panels determine how useful the map is.

If the maps show too much area then then off route areas will lack detail. This can become a problem if you take a wrong turn; are forced to detour from construction; or you just want to go off route. On the other hand maps that are too detailed wont show much distance and will force you to stop and switch panels often. If you ride through cities then having a high level of detail is a good thing. On the other hand long stretches of highway riding are good places where the map can zoom out and show a lot of ground. Ultimately the best bike maps will strike a balance between detail and distance.

While you are planning for your tour try not to over think things. Riding off into the sunset on a bicycle is not like firing a cannon, you can always change your course. If something isn’t working for you, fix it. If you aren’t having fun then stop riding. Take a rest day, enjoy your time! Lastly always remember: There is no wrong way to tour.

Ian Harper is an avid cyclist and publishes the blog about bike maps and other topics. The blog also hosts a bike map creator web app.

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How to Go on Tour – Thoughts From a Cyclist That Rode the Pacific Coast (part 2)

In of this guide, I discussed two of the most basic issues when planning a tour, lodging and training. If you have not read it yet I suggest you start there. In this article I’ll tell you about my favorite aspect of touring, food!

Eating while you are on tour is perhaps that most important thing you do. The food you eat is literally the fuel that gets you down the road. With that, all I can tell you about eating on tour is, it depends. One of the most limiting factors is simply what is available. If you are riding through moderately populated areas then finding a good grocery store shouldn’t be a problem at all. However if you find yourself nearing the end of the day at a gas station in the middle of nowhere, do what you can. Hopefully by the time you find yourself in that position you will know what foods get you down the road best. For me foods high in fat and protein worked best. Occasionally areas of limited food choice serve up amazing treats. Areas with lots of farmland are usually sprinkled with roadside produce stands so be on the lookout for those.

I had a simple strategy for diet: I literally tried to eat as much fat and protein as I could. I found that fat and protein gave me better energy than carbs. Your body and metabolism are unique and what works for you may be entirely different. I’ll leave you with the advice that was given to me and a word about applying it. When you are on tour put yourself on the 6,000 calorie diet. When something edible is out in front of you, eat it. It is better to eat too much and feel bloated than to eat too little and hit ‘the wall.’

In the final article I’ll discuss bike maps.

Ian Harper is an avid cyclist and publishes the blog about bike maps and other topics. The blog also hosts a bike map creator web app.

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How to Go on Tour – Thoughts From a Cyclist That Rode the Pacific Coast (Part 1)

Whenever I tell people about my big Canada to Mexico tour they invariably say what an accomplishment it is. I reply with a smile and a word of thanks but really I’m thinking something different: “There is no reason why you couldn’t do it too.” I saw all kinds of people on bike tours while I was riding. With every cycle tourist I met I saw a different way to go on tour. The range of people was truly vast; I met a trio in Oregon that was riding 100 miles or more every day; in California I met a man who was touring with a broken ankle that never healed. The biggest difficulty in touring is finding a system that works for you.

Camping vs Hotels

There are some big categories of ways people tour. How you spend your nights is the biggest division. You can either stay in hotels and bed & breakfasts or you can camp. Obviously sleeping with a roof over your head and a mattress under you is going to be easier. Of course the big drawback of doing that is going to be cost. In OR and CA the cost for a hiker-biker site in the state parks is about $5. Staying in those hiker-biker sites also lets you meet other travelers.


Training is the largest amount of preparation you will have to do before going on tour. No matter what you do to train you are going to have to do a lot of it. When you are on tour the object isn’t to exert yourself to the fullest every day. That approach is not sustainable. Instead your goal should be to find a balance between exertion and distance. What you do for training will determine how far you ride each day. Training methods don’t have to be complicated, just go for a long ride at least once a week. Each week increase the length of the ride. Simple. When you feel like the rides are getting too easy or take too long start adding weight. If you are going camping I’d recommend an overnight or weekend trip to work out the bugs. Once you have that down you are ready to roll!

In part 2 I’ll focus on eating while on tour.

Ian Harper is an avid cyclist and publishes a blog about bike maps and other topics. The blog also hosts a bike map creator web app.

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I found this while doing some you tubing today. I really agree with what he says about how a nice bike map is all you need to make a good ride great! The video also makes me want to print up some bike maps for Belgium and catch a plane. It’s the middle of winter for me and all I want to do is ride off into the sunset of some foreign land.