Motorcycle Navigation: Best Practices for Route Design

Sep 02, 2015 View Comments by

Motorcycle Navigation: Best Practices for Route DesignA Motorcyclist’s Guide to the Galaxy –

In the previous articles in this series (follow these links to Yuval’s previous articles: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4), I explained how to create your own route. The recommended method is a hybrid design—a combination of bottom-up route planning followed by on-the-fly rubber band dragging of waypoints.

For both hybrid and rubber band approaches, one of the key design challenges is deciding which waypoint to select and drag—ultimately creating the best possible route. This is where great or poorly conceived routes are typically determined.

A good route designer, someone who consistently produces interesting and successful routes, learns to use a methodic approach and adopts some tools and practices, which are refined over time. This is not much different from other fields, such as software or hardware design.

I’ll present a few best practices for route design—selecting waypoints and general route building recommendations.

Best Practices for Waypoint Selection
There are a few techniques I use, which have proven to be successful over the years:

1. Look for green—parks and forests.
Green areas represent national parks, state parks, or forests and are almost always beautiful places to ride through. Zoom out to detect those areas and drag points into roads and trails inside them. Note: A green area doesn’t necessarily mean that one will see green trees; it might be in the middle of the desert.

2. Look for blue—lakes and rivers.
Blue areas represent bodies of water. Riding along lakes and rivers often provides stunning vistas, while following small rivers tend to be the best roads.

Look for green areas-parks and forests3. Look for twisty roads.
If possible, opt out of highways and straight roads. Instead, focus on roads that have twisty and interesting shapes, which are often along winding rivers.

4. Look for county roads with two or three digits.
County roads (typically starting with a prefix of CR and with two or three digits after it) are prime candidates for good routes. Common to such backcountry roads are farms, picturesque views, and minimal traffic.

5. Use terrain map mode.
I seldom use satellite map mode. It doesn’t show roads clearly, and all the details can make it hard to pick good waypoints. 
Good news—there is terrain map mode, which shows topography elevation changes, and it is a great tool. Mountains and valleys that appear flat in regular map mode suddenly ‘pop out.’ Roads that follow mountain ridges or canyons should be considered with high priority.

6. Use Google Maps 3D view.
Another valuable tool is Google Maps 3D view (through Google Maps website or TyreToTravel) or Garmin BaseCamp’s ‘View in Google Earth’ option, if you have Google Earth installed on your computer. When in doubt about a certain road, changing to this mode can confirm that decision or rule 
it out.

Aside from waypoint selection, there are other more general practices for best route design.

1. Place waypoints after corners.
For every major corner in the route (i.e., going from one road to another), consider placing a waypoint on the road after the corner’s intersection.

This waypoint will ensure that the receiver is forced to choose the correct road. If one doesn’t add a waypoint, or put a waypoint before the intersection, the receiver (i.e., GPS unit) might choose a different path. Remember, the receiver is not necessarily using the same map database as a desktop route editor.

Using this technique ensures that the route is much more resilient to changes in the map’s database and works properly on different satellite receivers, which is important for group rides.

Look for blue areas-lakes and rivers2. Verify and proof the route.
This is a vital step in the process. Once the route’s design is complete, zoom in to see each waypoint and make sure that the waypoint is indeed on the right side of the road (for countries riding on the right), not the opposite side.

Another similar issue can happen when the waypoint is incorrectly placed on to a side street instead of where you intended it to go.

An incorrectly-positioned waypoint, done typically with the drag-and-drop technique due to the inaccuracy of the mouse position, will lead to complicated, lengthy, and illogical loops as the receiver is trying to get the rider back to the next waypoint. Finding this out on the road can be extremely frustrating. Just take a few minutes to proof the route.

3. Don’t overdo it.
Trying to include too much of everything typically results in routes that are too long and/or too time consuming to complete. A route which is not feasible can cause frustration and present safety issues.

When riding solo, this might be corrected. However, riding in a big group with an unreasonable route can be an unpleasant experience if the evening hours arrive and the group is nowhere near the finish line.

4. Break down complex routes into subroutes.
On especially long trips with complex routes, be sure to check if the receiver can handle the number of via/waypoints in the route. One can usually find the amount of points used inside a route editor, such as Garmin BaseCamp, by double clicking on the route.

Look for twisty roads with elevation changes using terrain mode5. Don’t forget about fuel.
This depends on the motorcycle and riding style, but intentionally adding gas stations every 100-150 miles and stopping there for a short refreshment can improve the routes by reducing fatigue as well as stress due to low fuel warning lights.

6. Consider two routes for loops.
For circular routes (i.e., routes that begin and end on the same waypoint such as home or camp), always break down the path into two routes. Create one route to the middle waypoint and another route back to the starting waypoint. Some receivers can get very confused with waypoints that are adjacent to each other, but belong in a different order on the route, especially when a recalculation occurs. RR
The next article will discuss utilizing a smartphone as a satellite receiver.

Watch the instructional videos below for a demonstration of these techniques. The next article will discuss using a smartphone as a satellite receiver.

Part A

Part B


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