What do trucks, storm grates and left-hand turns have in common? They can all turn a relaxing bike ride into a harried, white-knuckle disaster. Bypass these stressors by learning how to map a successful cycling route.

Bike RouteThink like a cyclist. As motorists, we tend to plan our routes based on the shortest distance between two points. That path might include four lanes of traffic, dangerous intersections or potholes the size of small dogs. As a cyclist, you need to take all of these hazards into consideration, along with the volume of traffic flow. Rarely are our preferred driving routes also ideal for cycling.

Consult a map. If you’re looking for the best route between point A and point B, begin by pulling up Google maps and using their bicycle directions feature, which takes cyclists off of dangerous, highly traveled roads. Many cities also provide maps of cycling routes for commuters. Bike shops are another great resource for street recommendations.

Avoid the hills. Next head to a website like www.ridewithgps.com where you can plot your route and receive information on total miles and elevation. While hills are tremendous for building fitness, they also make for some sweaty (not to mention long) bicycle commutes. Use your crafty mapping skills to pedal on flat land as much as possible. Or, read our blog on how to challenge yourself with ‘bicycle hill climbing tips’.

Plan Bike RouteDo some fieldwork. Now that you have an idea of where you’ll head, take your bike out to do some investigative work along your bike route. Note things like an abundance of trucks or busses and if there is a bike lane or at least a wide shoulder. Check the shoulder for tire-munching storm drains, debris or other hazards, which you should be particularly cautious of if you’re riding at dawn or dusk.

Tweak it. Take what you’ve learned and re-route your commute to avoid unnecessary hazards. If you’re commuting during a high traffic time, you may want to find roads that cut down on left-hand turns or that contain the fewest number of traffic lights and stop signs. Bicycle safety is your first priority!

Piggyback with public transportation. If you’re a fair-weather commuter, you occasionally work after dark or your commute is too long or too dangerous to bike the entire way, you may want to plot a route that runs parallel to train or bus stations.

Enjoy the ride. As you commute by bike | stay motivated, thank your bike for liberating you from sitting in traffic or navigating the freeway at rush hour. Do whatever you can to keep the experience fun. Consider a route that takes you past your favorite coffee shop, park or bookstore.