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Bikepacking Routes – How to Get Started!

Updated: Jul 21, 2023

When it comes to creating routes for cycling we are spoilt for choice these days. There are dozens of mapping programs and apps that are at your fingertips with a quick Google search. The best part – most of these are free.

Now if you have read some of my previous reviews you will know that I’m only reviewing products I have personally used / use. It seems pointless, in my opinion, to share generic information about gear or apps that you could read anywhere on the internet. I would rather be able to give you a slightly more in depth review of something I’m familiar with.

So What Do I Use?

When it comes to making a route, whether it be for a road ride or a bikepacking trip, I’ve been using Komoot for years. The interface is good, the map (and it’s various views if you’re a premium member) are easy to navigate, and once you are used to creating a route with waypoints etc you can be very specific. There is nothing worse than trying to create a route and the program rerouting you because it thinks it knows best! Actually there is something worse… when you haven’t noticed that the program has done this, you upload said route to your trip computer, and then end up going on an unintended detour mid ride. That is worse.

I briefly mentioned ‘premium member’ above. However, I am not one of those members. This means that when I’m planning a route on Komoots route planner I am using the default map that everyone has access to. So far I have found it to be more than sufficient. Of course I can’t comment on how good the activity specific maps that come with premium are so if you are a premium member then drop me a comment and share your wisdom!

So let’s set the scene here – the bike is prepped, chain lubed, a blinding glint catches your eye when the sun hits the frame just right, the water bottles have been cooling in the fridge, and you’ve got a variety of Haribo stuffed into your jersey pockets. But where are you going? Not that same old loop you always ride surely? The sun is out, there’s roads to explore. You boot up the laptop and head to Komoot. Route planner open, start point selected, it’s time to start dragging that blue route line all over the map!

Let’s take a second here to appreciate that scene I’ve just set. Phenomenal stuff.

Now I love writing but it’s time to get the screenshots out:

Step 1 – Make sure you have chosen the correct sport because I’m pretty sure Komoot uses this information when trying to decide where is best for you.


Choose the correct sport!

Step 2 – Let’s have a quick look at the map and pick out the main things you need to know before you start clicking away! The thicker darker yellow / orange roads are major roads / ‘A’ roads. Usually busier with traffic and, personally, roads I would rather avoid. The lighter yellow roads are usually a little quieter but still a good size, and the white roads are local roads / ‘B’ roads. If I can, these white roads, are how I am planning my entire ride. The less traffic the better for me. When you zoom in further it can also show cycle paths, rivers etc and these are pretty obvious to pick out. The little red bike symbols are ‘cycling highlights’ that Komoot users have made to highlight a particularly good bit of road, hill climb, viewpoint, coffee shop etc. Worth a look for sure.

komoot map

How the map will look at the start.

Step 3 – So my aim here is to keep this nice and simple. I’m sure a lot of you could figure this out on your own but I know that it took me a while to start making routes exactly as I wanted. Here you can see A & B points. This signifies the start and the end of the ride.

komoot map

A to B – The Shortest Route.

Step 4 – So Komoot has picked the shortest, most direct, route to point B. However, what if you want to ride down the High Street instead? Click on the road where you want to go to get the pink marker and then select ‘include on route’. You will see the pink marker is replaced with a number 1. This is what Komoot refers to as a ‘waypoint’. A point you have manually chosen to include on your route. These are golden when you want to be very specific!

komoot map

‘1’ – Manual Waypoint Added.

Step 5 – If I was to start at point ‘A’ and then pick point ‘B’ as my destination Komoot would not route it like this screenshot. I have done it like this to show the versatility and customisation of ‘waypoints’. This custom route is entirely my design. It takes a little bit of work but at least I know I’ll be going where I planned to go and not getting routed down a shortcut Komoot has chosen for me. These are particularly helpful in busy areas with lots of streets or cycle paths.

komoot map

Use waypoints to be specific with your route.

Now these points are the basics but they are more than enough for you to plan any sort of ride of any sort of distance. This is my ‘go to’ route planning program and it’s not let me down yet. I’ve discovered super quiet, smooth as silk, roads. Local gravel paths and tracks that I didn’t know existed, as well as roads I will definitely avoid in the future.

You can plan routes through Komoot on your phone but in all honesty I would try and avoid it. It can be pretty awkward and frustrating. Use a PC or a laptop because it is far easier and way more user friendly.

Where Should You Go?

Anywhere you want. That was an easy answer.

Do you want to rack up the miles on the road bike? Climb and descend off road trails on the mountain bike? Discover gravel fire roads that take you deep into the forest? All of these are options that, when using Komoot, you have the option of planning with relative ease.

When I’m planning a bikepacking trip I like to have a variety of bike riding on offer. Most of it I will try to plan on those quiet ‘B’ roads we discussed earlier – this helps me get further afield on my trips as road riding is usually quicker even with a loaded up bike. Then I’ll throw in some weird and wonderful gravel road / track that appears to link up with a trail at some point. It doesn’t always work out that way but when it does you know you are one of a few to have been out there on a bike. That’s a nice feeling! Then towards the end of the day I’ll peel off the road one final time in an effort to find that perfect looking camping spot. Quiet and secluded or open with a spectacular view – either way I’m happy.

Making a route is just as important as packing your gear in my opinion. Fail to prepare – prepare to fail.

Some of you will think that sounds so stupid. Where is my sense of adventure? Just ride and go where you feel like going Jack! 5 years ago I would have done exactly that. However, I’m a Husband and a Dad now. There’s people at home who rely on me and need me to be around. I don’t want my wife to not know where I am for potentially days at a time. What if I’m needed back home? What if something happens to me?

father and son walk

Family Comes First.

Being able to share my routes and live tracking adds that extra peace of mind for all of us. Plus, just because my route is planned doesn’t mean I’ve ridden that road before, doesn’t mean I’ve climbed that fire road before. It’s just a guide. The trip is still very much an adventure into the unknown!

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