Trail Guides

Using Travel Guides – to Plan Bike Rides

Plan Your Cycling Routes with Travel Guides

 

I have used travel guides for most of my life as a valuable resource to help me find destinations of interest. They have reduced my research efforts and saved me travel time by pointing me in the right direction. Here is why you should invest in a few good books.
I have listed a few favourites here.

Guide books reveal local hidden gems, or distant epic rides just waiting for us adventurous types to discover. They prompt our curiosity to explore and investigate further, beyond the pages of the book. And if they’re written well, they instil a desire to experience this new place, to go there, and soon.

Some travel guides are broad in scope, covering North America or world destinations. Others focus on local areas or topics like bicycle routes, scenic roads, nature parks, waterfalls, historic buildings, train history, ghost towns…the interests seem endless.

Whatever turns you on, there is likely a book about it. And you might be able to string together a cycling circuit for when you visit your places of interest.

cyclist road

Why Buy, When Info is Free?

The internet is certainly an important research tool to get current (we hope) information on destination costs, operating hours, directions, and seasonal changes.  Some say, “Why buy a guide when you can get everything free on the web?” Sure, go ahead, if you have more time than money. 

Getting a head start with a guide literally gets you there sooner with less digging around to find loose ends. It depends on how you value your free time. The authors of these books have already done most of the homework for you. Flipping through a guide, scanning the maps and photos, will tell you swiftly what to bookmark.

It also answers your main question—Where are the top destinations I am interested in? — quicker.

Level of Detail

Some travel books are factual, mapping out routes and/or suggesting loops, while others just talk about interesting destinations. 

Or they are just an easy read with pretty pictures—an escape in the middle of winter for the armchair adventure cyclists who don’t intend ever to recreate the trip within the pages. These coffee- table books are full of the best, craziest, most far-flung cycling trips. Most have simple maps, if any, and offer impressions and clues, not detailed info, for those who might actually want to go there.

Other travel destination books guide you to varying degrees. Publishers set a certain level of detail and style in the way they present this information. It depends on what suits you and if they can answer all your questions. (Well, most of them, as no guidebook is complete.) 

A travel guide can get very specific, literally telling you the road to ride and how far before the next turn, describing and mapping every inch of the way in daily stages. This can be comforting to some, but perhaps excessive for others who like to wander and explore.

Store guide books

For certain travellers with grand expectations, these books never have enough. They want every minute detail laid out and made effortless, something only a bicycle touring company could take care of, at a price. And for some, this is a better worry-free way to trek, in style, than a cheap self-guided book.

Be sure you buy a suitable guide to meet your needs and that there is enough substance in the pages.

 

My travel books
My travel books

What to Look for in a Guide Book:

  • Do the maps have enough detail?
  • Are there concise directions to get there and do the circuit?
  • Are there enough photos? Does the book tell you what there is to see and suggest points of interest, lookouts, etc.?
  • Are the reviews and commentary descriptive enough to answer your questions?
  • Is there a helpful list of tips and suggestions – when to go, how to get there, what to bring, typical costs, recommended places to eat or stay at, bike rental and repair shops?
  • Are there enough references to other resources to follow up on (websites, phone numbers, other books)?

 

Guides come in many shapes and formats. Some strictly stay on the bookshelf; others are smaller and more portable; some have eBook formats for your tablet or phone. The benefits of a hardcopy book: it needs no electricity to run, it’s quick to flip through, and it’s easy to scribble notes in.

Some would think the information in a guidebook would get dated. And yes, some of it does – prices, operating times, and services change, but much of the content is evergreen. A road or trail seldom changes or disappears. Most tourist destinations remain or expand. A natural landform will always be there, a historic building (hopefully) as well. 

I have amassed over the decades an assorted collection of reference books to give me ideas as I dream and scheme about future outings. Years ago I first bought a used copy of the Canadian Book of the Road and then I found Back Roads and Getaway Places and then others. They all still have relevant, timeless info to sort through for my next road trip.

I have made a new Store page with some of my favourite recommended titles. Naturally, my own two books are there, along with other noteworthy travel guides for Ontario. I added some more distant locations for those of us with big dreams and a yearning to travel afar (especially after being stuck at home for so long).

Find your favourite titles and start making BIG plans. You can cover a lot of ground on two wheels.

Dan Roitner



June 12, 2021No comments
Park & Rail Trails Book 2021 Update

A few improvements have been made to this book, but this is not a new edition, more like version 1.5. The original content is the same with minor corrections and typos fixed. What has improved are the maps and parking location listings.

User feedback had shown that some riders like a little more direction in their quest to starting a good day of cycling. My original maps gave a general sense of the scope of the ride, but lacked detail and did not tie in well with the parking suggestions mentioned.

Over the winter we all had to endure Covid isolation, which gave me some extra time at my desk. Last year, I sorted out a better way to stylize and render my maps when I published my other book, Best Mountain Bike Trails in Ontario. So with that insight, I finally took on the daunting task of updating the maps in this book.

Combining GBs of map data, run through a very slow mapping program x 66 maps… well, it took months to do. Using mapping services and aerial photography I plotted viable parking locations where I could find them. These were listed for each trail review with numbers referencing parking icons on the map.

What’s New

  • Trail maps now have legible road names were space permits.
  • Maps have contoured hill shading & North compass marker.
  • Parking icons on the maps have numbers corresponding to a list of suggested parking locations.
  • A new Ontario map at the back of the book now displays of all the trail locations.
  • The eBook a has bookmarks and updated links to other websites.
Sample map

sample map

I have always intended that this book be a starting point for ideas to find new rides. Now you have more clues on how to get there and where to park. Still, you should do further research that my book cannot cover interactively, online zooming into maps and checking current trail updates, directions, weather, etc.  Some of this can be done by using this site, and/or other website resources or your favourite phone apps to plan your outings.

Here is how to interpret my parking listings. I tended to favour public lots: most have free parking and can hold 10 or more vehicles. Many are in city parks that do not have exact addresses. You will need to drive in and find them. Surprisingly, some locations have little to offer, and street parking will be your only choice. 

By doing a search of my parking addresses on Google Maps, you will get directions right to the parking lots.

For Rail Trails, almost any road crossing can manage a few cars on the shoulders. As always, be cautious in where you park to be safely away from traffic as you get ready.

These are just suggestions for parking. I leave it to your good judgement where you wish to leave your car. You could even try shopping malls—at your own peril. Always secure your vehicle and hide any valuables. After decades, I have yet to get a ticket or break-in anywhere in Ontario, but it can happen. 

I have also listed for long linear trails the start and endpoints. These have a target marker symbol by the addresses. But note not all of these locations have parking lots.

For those who have bought an older version of this book (pre-April 2021), there is a file you can download and print out as a book insert to aid in finding parking, along with the newest version of the eBook. Instructions on where and how to do that, at the back of your paperback.

Thanks to the age of digital publishing these updates can be made possible, truly amazing times. I think all my efforts should make everyone happy, have a good one, wherever your bike takes you. – Dan Roitner

May 26, 2021No comments
Bicycle Trail & Tour Guides

After publishing two editions of my own bicycle trail guide, I got to know other guide books out there. Some are useless, while others are very inspiring to browse through and consider riding.

Whether you actually cycle any of them is secondary. Just exploring the possibilities, dreaming and scheming a way to do them is a buzz.

Here are a few guides I have checked out that will get you perhaps planning your own grand tour…far away.

Cicerone

In the U.K., Cicerone has been for a long time a big name for hiking and cycling guides. I had a few books sent to me and the quality is excellent.

You can tell the authors have ridden the routes many times. The books have plenty of detail and directions. At the beginning of the book is a primer to get familiar with the way the author rates trails.

There’s also some insight into what you need to prepare for the rides and conditions to expect. Colour maps and photos round out the guide.

Here is a sample of the two types of the many riding guides offered – MTB trails or longer cycling tours.

If you favour mountain biking, pick your flavour. The Lake District is a hilly and beautiful place in England. The rocky highlands in Northern Scotland push your limits and give you awesome views when you finally make it to the top.

Both guides give you a taste of what to expect with difficulty ratings and elevation graphs. MTB riding in Europe is different than Ontario. Expect more open established paths (centuries-old), with some side roads, farm fields and a recommended pub at the end!

Bike touring can be all road riding but I found these ones use paved path off the road too. Following along the famous Rhine, Danube or Loire Rivers gives flat terrain with scenic historic sights.

After looking at the guides, I am thinking of now doing sections of the Rhine River, one summer soon. The Loire Valley in France, I have done and it was a marvellous time. Then perhaps trying a few MTB trails in the Lake District is next.

 

Buy the book on Amazon – MTB Lake District, Northern Scotland or tour Rhine, Danube or Loire Rivers.

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Detour – Cycling Across Canada on a Recumbent

An old riding mate, Paul Stockton from the Toronto Bicycle Network, (TBN) sent me his book to read. Though I am not much of a road rider anymore, his tales of cycling across Canada from the comfort of my couch were enlightening and entertaining to read.

A few years ago he got laid off with a “package”. Just the excuse to go for a spin — a long one.

Paul has a dry sense of humour and many years of touring behind him. (India, New Zealand, Switzerland, the North Amerian Pacific coast…)

He details his daily encounters with other riders, local friendly Canadians, the ever-changing weather and contending with 11 flat tires.

To make it even more “fun” he went basic, no electronics (left his cell phone at home) and promising never to enter a Tim Horton’s on the way.  If you ever considered the journey, here is a book to get you going.

Buy the eBook or Paperback 

August 10, 2019No comments,
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Hey, this may be interesting for you: Using Travel Guides - to Plan Bike Rides!

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Lets get together and do a ride soon.