By Nigel Wynn
It's very easy to fall into the habit of using the same old routes when you go out riding. Most of the time, that's fine: it's good to stick to familiar roads that you know well, without worrying about getting lost or suddenly finding yourself facing a 20 per cent climb that you didn't know about.
However, it is also good to discover new places, and keep your riding fresh. There's nothing better than the anticipation of riding a great new route to get you motivated.
Finding new places to ride isn't always easy, so we've put together seven ways that you and your bike can blaze a new trail.
1. Take an unfamiliar side road
It may seem the most obvious thing to say, but why not explore a side road you have never been down instead of ploughing along your regular route.
Chances are, the roads and lanes you ride on are peppered with lanes branching off them. Some are clearly signposted with regard to their destination, and some aren't.
Go on, take a risk and take a turn to explore what's down it.
The worst that can happen is that you'll have to turn back at some point, but nothing ventured nothing gained. Although you can look at maps and study aerial photos online, you can't truly tell what somewhere is like until you've travelled down it on two wheels.
2. Explore your local area using Google Street View
Although we've said nothing beats riding down roads in person to check them out, the next best thing is definitely Google Street View. For those of you unfamiliar with this service, it's part of Google Maps where you can take a street-level photographic view of the vast majority of roads in Britain.
You can also take a virtual trip down roads by clicking on the on-screen arrows. As a way of 'seeing' what a route is like before you try it, it's fantastic. Although photos do have a way of hiding how steep hills are.
3. Take a look at local riders' routes on Strava
Take a look at local rider's route via cycling and running website Strava
Ride logging and comparison website Strava is an excellent place to see the routes that local riders in your area are taking.
You can get a good idea of which riders are regulars in your neighbourhood by taking a look at the leaderboards of local Strava segments. Click on the rider names and see how they got to and from that segment.
This may feel like you are prying into their rides, but they'll never know and you'll come away with some good ideas. If you have a GPS computer, you can also share digital maps of routes with other riders, which can be downloaded to your GPS computer to give you directions as you ride.
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4. Join a local rider on a ride
If you usually go out riding on your own, why not meet up with a local rider who could show you some routes? If you know one or two local riders of a similar ability why not join them for a ride.
Chances are they will know of routes and lanes that you don't - and equally, you could suggest new routes to them, too.
5. Join a cycling club
Taking things a step on from number four, there's no better pool of knowledge of local routes than a cycling club.
Collectively, they will have ridden every lane, road and byway in a large radius. Most clubs have one or two club runs every week, and with groups of varying ability and a variety of distances to ride.
As well as finding new places to ride, you'll also hook up with a group of like-minded people and it is great fun riding along in a group.
6. Ride a sportive
Rather than sticking to your local roads, you could travel further afield and explore an entirely new area.
One of the easiest ways to do this is to take part in a sportive. There are now literally hundreds of these timed mass-participation events around Britain: it's easy to find one in an area you are interested in, and on a date that suits you.
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The routes are way marked, meaning that you don't have to worry about which way to turn. You'll also have food and drink provided en route at the feed stations and there will be mechanical back-up if you need it. There's a cost involved, but it's worth it.
7. Good old-fashioned OS map
Digital mapping, with its satellite photos and street view is great and all, but there's still something satisfying about spreading out a paper Ordnance Survey map over the dining room table and taking a look at what's around you.
You can easily get an overview of the lanes, and find ways of joining them up to form a loop.
The map can then be tucked into a back pocket should you need to refer to it out on the road - once you've figured out hold to fold it back up.
If you are still struggling with creating a 'bike friendly' route, then an online cycle-specific route planner can help you plot your path, particularly if this is an A to B type of journey.
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