Plan Bikeable Bike Routes

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Plan Bikeable Bike Routes

San Francisco's Clipper Street may look like an attractive cycling shortcut in Google Earth's top-down view...


...but check out the rise in elevation (in rectangles) from one intersection to the next (in circles). Better choose an alternate route.


A love of bicycling is possibly my father's most valuable gift to me. But it's easy to get into a riding rut, slavishly following the same roads over and over. (My own weakness: the San Francisco-to-San Jose route along the Caltrain tracks.) So lately I've turned to my Mac - and the Internet, of course - for new routes.


There are two difficulties in planning bike routes: 1), determining which roads are safe and legal for bikes (which rules out most highways), and 2), finding ways with the right amount of "climb" for your strength. (Yes, some nutjobs seek out the hillier routes. It takes all kinds.)


One solution is a GPS (Global Positioning System), paired with downloadable "waypoint" files that advise you not only where to turn, but also about interesting places along the route. The files are prepared either by organizations or (more often these days) ordinary bicyclists with an urge to share. I still haven't bought a GPS -- my eye's on the waterproof Garmin Edge 205 with handlebar mount -- but when I do, the first place I'm going is to the website of the Adventure Cycling Association. This nonprofit sells long-distance riding maps that are a bit pricey at $12 or so each, but well worth it.


But even better: The same maps are available for free as downloadable GPS waypoint files! Other sites, such as and, offer guides to shorter rides.


Another solution is to plan your trip using Google Maps and/or Google Earth. I like the latter is that it tells you the elevation of wherever your cursor points, and accepts KML files that are easy to create, save, and distribute via the Google Earth Gallery. And while they don't tell you everything you need to know, the satellite photos can give you some idea of a road's width, traffic, and overall bike-friendliness. The downside: It takes some work to make such maps portable, and they don't offer a GPS's sense of live feedback while you cycle.


My next step: To buy that GPS, then show you all the GPS software that's available for your Mac.


Let's ride!


Check out more from Tom Geller on his website,




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I do like bicycling but i do find my ways in the old fashion, I dont think i will use it for the bicycle trip. If i have to do such things than i better search about any free DVD movie download website from the google.

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