How to plan a bike adventure

Emma Frampton By Emma Frampton

You don't need to be an expert cyclist to go on a bike adventure. The beauty of travelling by bike is that you can choose the distance and speed to suit you. If you just want to take it easy, no training is involved, you'll soon build up your fitness when on the road.

When it comes to planning, people generally fall into one of two camps - the avid planners or the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pant-ers.

Both are valid ways to roll, and there’s no right or wrong. But depending on how far away or complex your adventure is, sometimes a rough plan can be useful.

OS Maps makes it easy to plan an epic bike adventure and navigate when in the saddle.

Here are 12 steps to help you on your way.

Bikes leaning against a bench

12 steps for planning a bike adventure

1. Decide if you’d like to go on your own for a solo challenge or share the experience with friends or family. Going solo will give you more freedom and you may find you meet more people but sharing the experience is always nice too. There's certainly benefits to both.

2. Choose when you want to go - is it a specific time of year/season you'd like to see, or prefer it to be more spur-of-the-moment. Don't forget to pack for the season you'll be riding in.

3. Decide where you want to go - leaving from your front door or jumping on a train to explore another pocket of the UK? There's thousands of miles of on and off-road routes to explore on two wheels.

Find where you want to go with OS Maps

4. Suss out how long you’d like to go away for - an overnight trip, weekend excursion or longer, Not everyone can get time off work and an overnight stay at the weekend can make just as good adventure as a week long trip.

5. Agree what kind of terrain you'd like to cycle - road, friendly off-road, mountain biking - and the level of difficulty. This is where you may want to do a bit of research and make sure you have the correct type of bike and tyre thickness. Of course, there's no rules on which bike to take but if your bike isn't suitable for the surface you'll be cycling on, it may slow you down and you may have to push some sections (which if it happens, should be seen as part of the fun!)

6. Decide if you’d like to camp or stay in accommodation. Camping gives you more flexibility as you may not need to reach a certain point in a certain timeframe but it will mean you have to carry more weight. Accomodation will also cost more.

7. Decide if you’d like to cook along the way or eat out. Eating out will cost more but you'll save weight by not having to carry cooking gear.

8. Suss out how you’d like to carry your gear - panniers or frame-bags. There’s no right or wrong, and you can do a combination. Once you’ve decided the type of cycling you’d like to do, the level of difficulty, and style of eating and accommodation (so you’re aware of the amenities you’d need to pass through), research routes.

Let your fingers work the magic! The researching can be exciting and overwhelming, as there can be so many options. But don’t let choice paradox put you off; any other routes can go on your cycling list for another adventure. Browse the internet for popular cycle touring/backpacking routes and head over to OS Maps to find thousands of tried and tested cycle routes. If there's a particular place you'd like to visit, or facility you'd like to reach (like a campsite), you can create your own route in OS Maps. Use the Aerial 3D feature to fly-through a route and get a good understanding of the terrain, viewpoints, and points of interest. Cycling UK have some great routes for multi-day adventures.

Find, plot and record cycling routes with OS MAps
Bikes at the coast

10. Once you’ve decided on the route, book anything as needed - train ticket with space for bicycle, campsites etc

11. Prep your gear, making sure your bike has been serviced and you have everything else you may need

12. Depending on where you found your route, load it onto your phone or GPX device with OS Maps to you can navigate on the move. If you're likely to be out of phone signal, consider taking a paper map, as well as a portable phone charger, and for safety purposes make sure someone else knows when you’re going.

Other things to consider before heading away

If there’s any kit you’re missing, don’t let this stop you! There are so many communities out there, with people willing to lend you kit. And even local outdoor shops can rent you equipment.

Consider attending a bike course if you haven’t been on one for a while. Most local bike shops offer a basic bike course which cover changing tyres etc. Read our bike maintenance guide here.

If you’re planning to head away for a few days and not likely going to be close to towns, but haven’t been on a bike adventure before or are just using a different set-up to usual, consider going on a test ride first.

It doesn’t have to be far, just a couple of hours from your front door to check everything works and feels comfortable.

Bike Maintenance guide
Bike outside a castle wall

Ordnance Survey are supporting Cycling UK in their 12 nights in one year challenge. We're challenging you to spend 12 nights sleeping under the stars with your bike in one year. That's just one night away in a tent, bivi bag or hammock, with your bike each month!

Now, it's time to step out of your comfort zone and cycle off for an incredible overnight bike adventure, enjoy!

When riding, please be a considerate cyclist.

Plan and navigate with OS Maps More on cycling Cycling UK 12 nights in one year

Edited: 28.05.2021

Emma Frampton By Emma Frampton


Emma is a co-founder of Adventure Queens, explorer of London & beyond, hiker and cyclist.

Find out more about Emma Frampton.