Using Travel Guides – to Plan Bike Rides

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

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