In a world of smartphones and Google, finding local bike routes and trails has never been easier. However, there are also tons of other ways to find a great ride that even the most technophobic bikers can manage. This article provides an overview of different tools and resources that will get you out there with confidence and will answer this simple question: Where are there bike paths near me?
Method #1: Map and Compass Style
Part of the fun of riding bicycles is they can take you far and wide under your own power, so sometimes just looking at a map and choosing a direction to explore is a great way to get out there and find a new route. There are, however, some things to keep in mind if you choose to just pick a direction and go:
- Always pack gear essentials to support yourself in unexpected situations.
- Carry a map (and the knowledge of how to read it), and seek out less traveled auto roads for a close-to-car-free ride.
- Be sure to have appropriate clothing in case of inclement or cold weather.
- Carry enough food and water to keep your energy up for as long as you will be out.
- Have tools, patches, pump, tubes and the skills to fix any minor issues that could prevent you from continuing on your bike.
- Keep an open mind, and have fun. It’s not always about the destination or how far you can get but the journey that takes you to places you didn’t know you could go!
- Always give someone a general idea of where you are going and when you expect to return. This is especially important if you plan to travel on wooded or single-track trails.
Method #2: Phone Apps and Internet Resources
There are some great apps out there to help you get going and find new, fun routes. Below is a short overview of some cycling applications commonly found in the Apple App Store (for iPhone users) and Google Play Store (for Android users and others). Cycling apps are typically free or have a nominal fee for upgraded features and will usually feature route inputs from other riders. Most applications offer a multitude of options and even work in conjunction with a smartphone’s GPS capability.
Map My Ride—With over 70 million routes to choose from, activity-tracking capability and a social media component, this popular app (with both free and fee-based versions) is a quick and easy way to find a workout ride, leisurely route, bike-friendly commuter path or mountain bike trail. The phone app tracks cycling information, speed, distance and elevation, all of which can sync with your online account. This can be created at MapMyRide.com.
Bikemap.net—Similar to Map My Ride in its ability to find over 1.1 million routes uploaded by users and “official routes” in Europe, this site allows you to look at routes online and through the Bikemap app. On iPhones, users can record routes on the go and upload to the Bikemap community. The phone app also allows you to search for and view routes, along with elevation, distance and rating.
Google Bike Maps—Google offers an interactive map that allows you to easily plot and shift routes, as well as find points of interest along the way. Google Maps also shows elevation change over a route, and you are able to easily print or e-mail turn-by-turn directions. Directions can be seen in great detail on a computer, and GPS-enabled directions are available through the Google Maps phone application.
TrailLink.com—This membership-based website and phone app was created by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a nationwide network of trails from former rail lines and connecting corridors. TrailLink offers a searchable database of 25,000 miles of trails around the United States and allows users to view interactive maps, save trails, share photos and reviews and submit new trails to the system.
Trails.com—This subscription-based site was created by a team of outdoor enthusiasts and is partnered with a number of outdoor activity organizations. This enables the app to deliver over 52,000 well-written guides, route descriptions, topographic maps and GPS routes for not only road biking but also mountain biking, hiking and other multisport activities.
Method #3: Talk to People or Join a Group or Bike Club
If in doubt, go ask a local! Bike shops are a great place to buy and fix a bicycle, but more often than not, the people who work there are also riders themselves, and they will likely know the best routes in their backyards.
Backroads Pro Tip
Many bike shops will have organized rides headed up by volunteers in order to show new riders the routes in the area. New to your neighborhood? Wondering, “Where are the best bike routes near me?” Your local bike shop might just have that answer!
A great resource to find bike clubs is USACycling.org, where you can search for clubs all over the United States by region and find website or contact information to reach out to group leaders. Cycling clubs and bike shops are a great way to meet new people who are into riding, and they can also help you find some great places to ride.