Become a supporter
Ending up on a bad road or a muddy track can ruin a day’s ride. So we jump through hoops to find the most enjoyable route for you. Overall, we think cycle.travel finds quieter, better routes than any other route-planner. Our users have ridden thousand-mile routes across Europe and America and told us they’re delighted with them.
Most route-planners just base their decisions on the ‘class’ of a road – A road or B road, Interstate or County Road. cycle.travel uses real traffic data (where available) to steer you away from busy roads, no matter what the signs say.
cycle.travel’s base mapping is uniquely designed. It shows small, quiet roads more prominently than other maps do. It shows national and local cycle routes, but not obtrusively. It shows all cafés in rural areas, but thins them out in cities where they’d clutter the map. It uses contours and hill-shading to give you the lie of the land. We don’t just use an off-the-shelf map; we designed our own.
It takes cycle.travel just two seconds to calculate and display the best route from New York to San Francisco. That’s 3,500 miles. A city route takes a fraction of a second. And if there’s a bit you don’t like? Just use your mouse to drag the route away – it moves with you in real time.
Like most route-planners, cycle.travel uses OpenStreetMap’s wonderful volunteer-created data under the hood. cycle.travel’s developer Richard Fairhurst has been at the heart of OSM since its first months back in 2004, including seven years developing and maintaining the OSM map editing software. That means we know how to make use of OSM data better than anyone. Our algorithms dive deeper into OSM’s intricacies to get great results.
You like good surfaces, we like good surfaces. By default cycle.travel finds you a route on tarmac or good-quality compacted/gravel paths – and highlights the unpaved sections clearly in green. But if you have to stick to tarmac? No problem. Flick the ‘Paved only’ switch and we’ll keep you on the black stuff.
Sometimes you just want to ride, no matter where. cycle.travel will give you ideas for enjoyable routes from where you are now. 20-mile afternoon ride? Overnight to a campsite? A leisurely excursion to a café?
We love paper maps. So we made some. Just click ‘PDF’ and your route is turned into a clear routebook of strip maps, to stash in your pocket or your barbag.
3D elevation graph, cue sheets, clear turn-by-turn prompts, direct links to Street View, bike network points and mountain passes in instructions, downloads in any GPS-compatible format you want… all the little details we put in to make your route-planning easier.
It’s easy to plan a route on cycle.travel then get it onto a GPS unit.
If you have a recent Garmin GPS unit, we recommend using Garmin Connect to transfer your routes.
Make sure you have an account on Garmin Connect as well as your cycle.travel account. Download the Garmin Connect app to your phone, and link it to your GPS via Bluetooth.
Then on cycle.travel, when you've planned and saved your route, click the GPS button. You'll see this:
Click Send to Garmin Connect. A new window will appear asking you to log in and grant permission to cycle.travel. (You’ll only have to do this once!)
Once you’ve done this, your route will be transferred to Garmin Connect as a ‘course’. The Garmin Connect app on your phone can then transfer it via Bluetooth to your GPS unit.
You can also download a ‘GPX track’ file, which can be read by all brands of GPS and many apps. This will show the route as a line on your GPS screen. Click Download GPX track, and the file will be downloaded to your computer or phone. You can then copy it manually to your GPS unit.
There are lots of different formats of GPS file. You can access these by clicking More download options. GPX tracks are simplest, but you can also choose a ‘TCX course’ which includes turn-by-turn prompts. cycle.travel offers these formats:
If you choose a format with turn icons, you can get cycle.travel to position them slightly ahead of each turn. This means any audible warning from your GPS will sound before you get to the turn. Select ‘TCX course’ or ‘GPX route’, then select ‘Announce turns in advance’.
If you download a route from cycle.travel, it will by default simply appear as ‘cycle.travel’ on most GPS devices. To give it a distinct name, save it on cycle.travel before you download it. The name you choose on cycle.travel will be reflected in your download.
You can include elevation data in the downloaded file so that it shows up on your GPS unit. To do this, download from the map page (not your journeys page) and click the elevation button so the graph is showing before you download it. Elevation data can be included in GPX routes and all TCX files.
Our maps are made using open data from OpenStreetMap, licensed under the Open Database Licence; with additional UK data from Ordnance Survey, licensed under the Open Government Licence (© Crown copyright and database right 2019), and additional Canadian data from StatCan (Geography Division, Statistics Canada). Additional UK data from the Department for Transport under the Open Government Licence; additional US data from federal sources; additional French data from départements under Licence Ouverte and the Open Database Licence; additional Australian data from the governments of NSW, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Victoria under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0.
OpenStreetMap is made by people like you. If a cycle path, road, pub or café is missing, just head in and add it. It’ll then be available to thousands of other cyclists using cycle.travel, OpenCycleMap, CycleStreets, Sustrans’ printed maps and many other projects: we all take the same data and add our own spin to it.
Here at cycle.travel we’ve supported OpenStreetMap since its first months back in 2004; we’ve mapped countless miles of cycle routes and contributed a lot of the code that’s been used in the project over the years.
We aim to take updates from OpenStreetMap every month: it then takes around three days to do all the calculations to find the best routes. Here’s the date on which we last updated the data.
We do a lot of processing work to make the raw OSM map as useful as possible for cyclists (several thousand lines of code!). If you’re editing OSM, here are some of the things to keep in mind:
We also use Ordnance Survey data for UK built-up areas, Corine data for European built-up areas, and government open data for North America. We use both Ordnance Survey and NASA data for elevation.
If you find something missing or misleading in our maps and directions, head over to OpenStreetMap to fix it. But if OSM’s right, and cycle.travel isn’t doing what you’d expect with the data, we want to know. Post in the cycle.travel site forum and let us know what you think.
Yes! We now have a ‘paved only’ option, which avoids all gravel, earth and other unpaved surfaces. This takes up a whole bunch of memory on our servers, but so many people asked for it, we thought it was worthwhile.
The fast speed of our route-planner works means that it isn’t feasible to add lots more options: basically, the speed comes from precalculating all the best routes, which requires more memory, which means more expensive servers. But we aim to make it easy for you to adjust the route (by dragging) if there are sections you want to avoid.
Alternatively, you can turn the route-planner off between any two points, by clicking the first of the points and choosing ‘Go direct’ to the next one. This means you can plan a short stretch on a busy road even if cycle.travel doesn’t recommend it.
(If you want to read up on the maths behind cycle.travel’s super-fast routing algorithm, it’s known as Contraction Hierarchies.)
Calculating the total climb of a ride is notoriously difficult!
cycle.travel, like most route-planners, uses a worldwide grid of elevation data. When it’s calculating the elevation for a route, it looks up each point on a grid, and works it out by averaging the nearest points. It then calculates out the amount you’ll climb over the course of your ride by looking at the elevation difference between points.
Sounds simple? If only. On its own, this method leads to a lot of little fluctuations that aren’t reflected in the road/path you’ll ride. It doesn’t take any account of tunnels or bridges, where you’re not riding at ground level. And in areas where the road follows a steep-sided valleys, like the Alps, it can sometimes appear that the road is further up the hill than it actually is – causing lots of little ups and downs that aren’t there.
cycle.travel does a lot of extra calculation to minimise these effects and make the total figure more accurate. We think our figures are among the most accurate there are. But because different route-planners (and GPS units) use their own calculation methods, comparing figures from two sites will invariably result in a discrepancy. We’d suggest that you use the total climb as a guide to determining which of two cycle.travel routes will be the hilliest, rather than as a gospel fact.
As explained above, the fast speed of our route-planner is very hardware-intensive. In other words, adding more countries means renting more expensive servers!
We launched as UK-only; since then, we’ve gradually expanded our coverage to include the rest of Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand.
(We also believe in doing things properly. We have custom routing rules for different countries – we don’t just apply the same rules to every country, as most route-planners do.)
Unfortunately Wahoo don’t yet provide a upload facility like Garmin Connect. Until they make that available, you can download a GPX or TCX file using the ‘GPS’ button, then manually transfer the file using the Wahoo app on your smartphone.
We’re developing an iPhone app at the moment and plan for it to be available soon, with Android to follow afterwards.
Our costs are covered by advertising, the commission from hotel bookings, and support from users, so we can’t offer a free routing API. However, if you do want to use our mapping and routing, drop us a line and we can chat.
If you’re looking for custom development work on cycle routing or cartography, our editor Richard Fairhurst would be delighted to talk to you. If you are looking for an off-the-shelf UK cycle routing API, we recommend you talk to the lovely people at CycleStreets. If you are looking for map tiles, talk to the equally nice people at Thunderforest.
Thank you! You can make a donation to us via Patreon. But you can also help by spreading the word about cycle.travel to your fellow cyclists.
Unlike many other route-planners, we don’t have external funding from venture capitalists or investors – we’re entirely independent. So your support makes a big difference.
No problem. Ask away at our forum.
When you use cycle.travel on a mobile phone, you’ll find a few things are different to make best use of the limited screen space.
Click ‘Map’ as usual, and you’ll see a bar at the bottom of the screen with three sections: Map, Directions and Routes.
You’ll also see a three-line menu (‘hamburger menu’) at the top right, which is where you can find useful functions such as saving and downloading your route.
You can tap to add your start and end points as usual. If you want to add more points, double-tap on the screen (iPhone) or long-press (Android).
You’ll need to install an app that can open GPX files. There are many, but try:
Then back in cycle.travel, plan your route (and save it) and click “Open in phone app”. The route will be downloaded to your phone. It may open automatically in your app, or be downloaded to the Files area of your phone, from where you can click ‘Open in MapOut’ or something similar.
Not quite yet – but we’re just finalising our iPhone app! Android will follow later.