If anything good has come about from the last couple of months it’s been the emphasis on riding close to home, I’ve spent quite a lot of time working out fun new loops to ride from the front door. An escape from the house without ever getting too far away from home. As a result I’ve found new roads, tracks and paths that I can keep on using even when restrictions get a bit looser over coming weeks.
Here’s my top tips for route finding close to home.
1. Maps are your friend. I’ll openly admit to being a bit of a map geek and have built up a bit of a map habit and collection over the years. Nowadays though, I’ll use digital mapping to check things out. Google Maps is pretty good, but OpenStreetMap and Ordnance Survey are superb tools. Supplement these with tools like Strava Global Heatmap and Trailforks and you can tell whether stuff on the map actually gets used by riders. Load the apps onto your phone and you’ll never get lost again (unless you want to).
2. Know your rights. Based in Scotland, I’m able to benefit from our amazing access laws, so as long as I’m behaving sensibly I can go pretty much anywhere, with a few sensible exceptions. If you’re not somewhere with open access, then make sure you know your laws from your bylaws, permissive bridleways from your cycle paths.
3. Make the most of online resources. Even if hardcore map wrangling isn’t your thing hit Google and you’ll probably find some route suggestions near where you live – maybe even with a theme. Where I live we have waymarked birdlife and industrial history trails to follow. Sustrans, Cycling UK and your local cycling advocacy groups have loads of info on them.
4. Explore everywhere. I’ve discovered some really cool, easy MTB trails recently, all by following a dull looking forest track and keeping my eyes peeled for something leading off into the trees. Side roads and lanes are always worth a spin along to see where they get too.
5. Follow your nose. Sometimes it pays to know where you’re going and other time a completely random, rambling route with a vague plan is the way to go. Don’t choose which way you’re going until you hit the next junction. You might get lost, you might not…