Route Planning Websites

Please Note:  Google Maps have recently changed their licensing and charging policies, which has meant that some of the websites listed below are not working as was originally intended.  We are looking for alternative sites that can perform useful route planning and profiling and we will update this page as soon as is practicable.  

Some useful websites for planning routes and using a gps

–  Provides the ability to select a route according to the worldwide region, length and amount of climbing, or the site will generate a gpx route between a given start and end point. Registration is required and there is also a payed premium service which gives access to offline maps.

bikehike   Home page giving instructions on how to use the site.

       to go directly to the gpx loading/saving page.
The site displays routes and tracks in tcx, gpx, tri, kml and fit formats. Routes may be saved as in tcx, txt, kml, gpx route, gpx track and gpxx route formats. When the “Show Elevation Data” option box is ticked elevation data will be saved with a gpx track file.
No registration is required.

NB. Press Shift-F5 when the Route Creation page is displayed in Bikehike to display maps and routes with Open Street Maps instead of the default Google Maps.

Provides a basic point to point route planning service with gpx route download facility.

  –  Alan Jelley and Mike Thomas have both used this simple and intuitive website to plan tours in both the UK and France. It appears to use a database of cycle cross country routes and local cyclepaths as the ‘core’ (rather than variation of ‘roads for cycling within googlemaps’). It has proved very successful in finding very effective and safe routes through towns (such as Milton Keynes and Caen) as well as cross-country routing.   Home page gives access to route planning facilities and tools for distance calculations conversion of degreee formats.

    Direct entry to profile plotting page. 
A very useful site that will draw an elevation profile from any input gpx file. It also gives an outline map of the whole route with colour coding to show the height of each part of your route.
No registration is required.   Route generation. Allows gpx files to be loaded, displayed and downloaded with elevation data in a gpx track file. No registration is required.   A Norwegian site providing download facilities for processed Open Street Map files for all European Countries. Summer and winter options are available for all countries, but unless you are planning a cross country skiing tour the Summer option is the one for you. Map background files can be downloaded for direct installation on a gps (gmapsupp.img, which can be renamed to ‘country’.img to allow multiple countries to installed at the same time) and also an installation file for loading the map into Garmin’s Basecamp software.
The site asks for a voluntary donation, but this is not essential.

Using a gps

Most of our group use one of the family of Garmin gps units, so the following comments refer to Garmin units and may not apply to other makes.

GPX file contains information (in xml format) for navigation, which comprises waypoints, routes and tracks.  More information can be found on the official GPX website.

The TCX format is also an xml format, but was created by Garmin to include additional data with each track point (e.g. heart rate and cadence) as well as a user defined organizational structure. The format appears to be primarily used by Garmin’s fitness oriented GPS devices. The TCX schema is hosted by Garmin.

Many of the dozens of other formats can be converted into GPX or TCX formats using GPSBabel.

A waypoint is a single point, for example the all important café stop.

A route is a sequence of points to be followed. It contains no elevation, or timing information.

A track is a sequence of points with optional elevation and time data. If the track has been recorded during a bike ride, each point will be stamped with the date and time when the point was recorded and the elevation, or height above sea level.

A course is a description used by the Garmin Edge family for a route, or track that has been processed by the gps unit. When a gpx file containing a route, or a track is copied into the New Files folder of your Garmin Edge unit it is automatically processed into a ‘course’, adding the turning instructions displayed as you progress on your journey.

Elevation profiles – when a gpx file with elevation data is used, the displayable profile on your gps will show the elevation profile of the ride so far and also the profile of the journey ahead. If no elevation data was present only the profile so far will be displayed.

Using a micro SD card can help with the use of memory in a gps with limited internal memory. If you need to store map background files for several countries you can use a micro SD card, 4Gb or bigger. To initialise a new card, install it in the gps unit and switch on the gps, which will automatically create the required folder structure.

A Map backgound file is stored in the Garmin folder with the default name ‘gmapsupp.img’. It may be renamed to something more meaningful e.g. England.img; any name may be used, but it must have the suffix ‘.img’. Thus multiple .img files may be stored on the gps.  Either the Garmin folder in the internal memory, or on the SD card may be used, but it makes sense to use the SD card to free up internal memory for recorded tracks.

Prolonging battery life – The most common cause of batteries running out of power before a ride is completed is having the background light level too high. Lowering the backlight setting will extend the battery life.