To make life simple, efficient and predictable we often fall into a pattern of routine. When it comes to our cycling life it's much of the same there too. When we find a route that works we tend to stick to it, especially when the right route can take some finding. You've got it down to a good quality road, a challenging climb or flat for a sprint, safe traffic, and relatively easy to get to. The only issue with a routine is we can get into a rut and not even realise it.
That everyday route can hold you back from making gains in time or performance because you aren't facing new challenges. You also take a bit of a mental holiday, your brain semi-shuts off because it knows what's ahead. Did you consider though that, just over the way, could very well be a fantastic ride experience, better road conditions, a more scenic route or less traffic, never gained, simply because you've never ventured?
There is nothing quite as refreshing as going for an unknown ride. Your brain switches on, your muscles are challenged, your senses are engaged. You will be required to react to the unexpected. You might even find you get a break from any stressful self-talk that's been plaguing you on regular routes. The touch of variety will do amazing things for your brain, body, mood, ride ability and can get your motivation rebooted so you jump out and get riding.
Here are some great ways to find new riding routes.
There are cycling clubs for every area and every level of rider. Going out on a club ride is a great way to see the world differently, and take a new route without any of the worry, someone else will have done all the planning and plotting for you. As well as every day rides look out for big club rides where you'll head out to tackle a 20:1 climb or blast an ITT. Get out of your comfort zone and on onto new roads with the safety and security of having a support group behind you to laugh and cry with.
Not up for joining a club? Next best thing is to talk to other cyclists. Ask them where they love to ride, what their favourite routes are and any advice for cycling in your area. People will be happy to share, either in person or online. Take it a step further by meeting at a café and heading out for a friendly casual ride to share your experiences.
Joining STRAVA and logging your rides is also a great way to see what other cyclist are doing and challenge you to try a different route or step up your pace.
Australian councils like to promote cycling as a healthy lifestyle choice so you will find a good variety of specific bike riding trails across the nation. Bike paths are often family friendly, meaning you can get out and about for a day of picnics and nature rides. Routes can also be challenging with steep climbs, narrow bridges and long loops that will keep you in the saddle all day.
There are many kinds of maps and many ways to explore them. Scouring a map is a great activity for a wet and dreary day. Take out a map, which could be a road book, fold out map, Google map, street view or STRAVA. The amount of detail you go into is completely up to you. Scan your usual ride area and see if anything jumps out at you as being a good route, add on, short cut or place of interest.
Try a few different formats and see what inspires you the most or challenges you the most when you overlap it with a real world ride.
Once upon a time bikes were all about getting around. Pick a place you want to go and get yourself there on pedal power. It might be a breakfast spot, scenic lookout, hangout spot or attraction. Or you can pick a place that has notoriously poor parking facilities, giving yourself a day out without the driving headache. Make sure you have a suitable bike lock with you so you can leave your bike and explore when you get there.
Community events are a great way to see new roads and meet new people. The roads are chosen because they are safe, challenging and usually scenic. From the start line, simply follow the crowd or the signage, whichever is most obvious. There are plenty of toilet breaks and food and water stations to keep you comfortable as you go.
Getting lost is great for your brain. Figuring out where you are and how to get where you need to be is one of the few activities that uses both sides of your brain simultaneously. It's a great mental boost and if you don't have any time restrictions it can be a lot of fun. See what you find as you go and give yourself permission to get curious about, what's down there?
To get a great balance of familiar and new, open your ride repertoire to include a bunch of different rides routes you can switch between. Seek out particular rides for holidays and long weekends, others that you can swap to for a ride with friends, another you might do every two months or so. As well as regular changing rides, continue to hunt out something new, just because you can.
Finding new roads to enjoy? That's freedom!