My 9-Step Route Planning Process For Motorcycle Touring

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The first time I rode up Stelvio Pass, I stopped at the top to get a drink and some food from one of the many kiosks.

Feeling proud of my achievement, I found a parking spot and observed the sights.

I remember being surprised at how busy it was. Cars, people, buses, cyclists, and motorcycles were everywhere I looked. And having had my fill of overly excited bikers swapping stories, I found a quiet spot where I could take it all in unmolested.

I looked down on the hubbub of people milling around. I observed the melee of tourists taking selfies, laughing, and generally having a good time.

And as I observed the bikers among them, I realised that we’d all come from different countries, continents, and walks of life. Yet we’d all made it here – to this one, single place on planet earth.

It hit me that we’d each used our own route planning method to get here – each of them different from the others. But the result was the same for all of us.

route planning process - stelvio pass
Image: Viktor Hanacek

Stelvio Pass Realisations

If there’s one thing I learned from this experience, it’s that there is no right or wrong way to plan a motorcycle tour. There is no magic route planning process to ensure the best results. You simply do the best you can with what you have and hope for the best.

And ultimately, it doesn’t really matter. Because if it did matter, there wouldn’t have been hundreds of bikers at the summit of Stelvio Pass that day.

Over time, you’ll learn what works for you – and what doesn’t. And as you play with the various apps, websites, and software available, you’ll come across intuitive ones and others that are awkward.

As time goes on, you’ll do it more and more. You’ll refine your route planning process into something that works for you. 

And that’s exactly where I’m at now. I know what works for me. I know what I like and what I don’t. And as technology evolves and new tools emerge, I test them and add them to my arsenal if I like them.

stelvio pass
Image: Jens Herrndorff

The Ultimate Route Planning Process

The point of this post isn’t to tell you how you should be planning routes. It isn’t trying to define the ultimate route planning process. The purpose of this post is to tell you how I do it. 

If you’re new to touring, it might guide you through the process until you find a system that works for you.

And if you’re an experienced tourer, you mind find something in my process that makes your life a little easier. Or, you might look at it and decide your way is better. And that’s fine, too!

So I’ll show you the route planning process I used to plan my upcoming trip to Norway.

1. Start Your Route Planning Process With Research

The first thing I do is make a list of everything I want to see and do. These could be certain roads, particular mountain passes, specific points of interest, or even tourist sights.

I don’t think about logistics at this point – I just want an overall view of everything I’d like to do in an ideal world.

The ways to do this are endless – and what you jot down on your notepad will be a direct result of what’s important to you.

And the reason I advise you do this is that it stops you from following other people’s tours! Don’t just download a route you find online and follow it. Because you’ll end up following an empty tour that means nothing to you.

The route you’ll be following will be significant to the person who planned it – not necessarily to you. So you need to jot down your own priorities before you even begin to contemplate plotting on a map.

Google is the obvious tool to use. The briefest of searches will throw up a list of things that might pique your interest.

As for me, I like hiking and landscape photography. So I asked a few photographer buddies who are familiar with Norway for recommendations – which they gave me in abundance!

route planning process - research

2. Find The Roads You Want To Ride

Next, I want to know of any unmissable roads to ride in the areas I’m visiting. For example, if you’re riding in the Alps, you’ll need to know about passes such as Stelvio, Susten, Furka, and Grimsel (among many others!)

Again, Google is your friend when it comes to researching roads. But outside of search engines, I particularly enjoy using Best Biking Roads, MyRoute-App, and Motorcycle Diaries.

All three websites utilise rider uploads, as well as comments and ratings for specific roads in any given region.

I find all of these websites invaluable in my route planning process.

global map orange background

3. Start Using My Maps In Your Route Planning Process

Once I have a list of the things I want to see and do in an ideal world, I plot them on Google My Maps.

Why? Because My Maps gives you an overall view of where these things are. It doesn’t connect them or form them into any sort of route – it merely shows you where these places are in relation to each other.

From here, I usually find that one or two of the places I’d like to go are miles away from the rest of them. So I cross them off my list for this particular trip.

Sometimes, you simply have to accept that, logistically, it won’t be possible to visit all of them.

route planning process - using google mymaps
Image: Google

4. Plot Waypoints On MyRoute-App

Once I’ve deleted any rogue points of interest, I’m left with a cluster of places I’d like to visit. These (technically) should now be feasible to turn into a route – providing they follow the general direction of the tour.

From here, I open a blank route on MyRoute-App, and start plotting the waypoints.

As MRA is an actual route planner (unlike My Maps), it will automatically begin to fill in the blanks between waypoints. Ultimately, it begins to form the route I need to take to visit these particular locations.

At this point, I also personalise my route by utilising custom avoidances. For me, this usually includes telling MRA to avoid motorways and toll roads.

So now I have a map with all the places and roads I wish to visit. I also have a preliminary route (formed by MRA) that connects these waypoints per my custom avoidances.

In the case of my Norway tour, this is a 1,387.89 mile trip (one way).

myroute-app showing waypoints

5. Route Planning Process: Finding Your Accommodation

Once I have my route, I like to add my accommodation for each day. The beauty of MRA is that incorporates into the route planner.

So if the first waypoint is where I’m starting, I find another waypoint that is 250 miles away (for example) and then tell MRA to find me a hotel in that area.

This forms a day. I then use the hotel I’ve just found as the start of tomorrow’s ride and continue the process to the end of the route.

In the case of my Norway trip, you can see I now have tonnes of waypoints that form my route (blue), and I have hotels (red) spread throughout the tour.

This is my tour, ultimately split into days that I can view in one go.

route planning process - hotel stops on myroute-app

6. Split Your Route Into Days

Once I have an overview of my trip, this is when I like to split it into individual days. 

So using the ‘split’ function on MRA, I can tell it to split the route at specific waypoints – in this case, the waypoints will be hotels.

What I end up with is a route that is split into days according to the plotted hotels.

In the case of my Norway route, it’s split my trip into 29 days – where the hotel points are.

list of routes on myroute-app

7. Refine Your Route Planning Process By Customising Each Day

Once I have my route saved into individual days, this is where I begin to personalise it further. How you customise each day will depend on your personal preferences.

For me, I like to pre-plan fuel stops, supermarket stops, and lunch stops. Those are just the things I look for – but as mentioned, yours might be different.

So if we use the route below as an example, you can see I now have a fuel stop added to the route (green), as well as a hotel at the start and end (red), and a sight-seeing point (yellow.)

This is also a good time to add any other points of interest – such as lunch stops, hikes, or photo opportunities.

route planning process - colour coding waypoints on myroute app

8. Use Street View To Avoid Pitfalls

A few years ago, I planned a tour of the Pyrenees. But brimming with confidence, I strayed from the well-trodden path and ended up in some truly sketchy parts of the mountains.

And this was fine – until I realised that I’d inadvertently planned an off-road route on a bike that wasn’t prepared for off-road riding.

I spent the best part of two weeks struggling, and it was a tour that ended up being hard work and full of frustrations.

So now, I take the laborious action of assessing each route on street view. You don’t have to do this, but I find it helps to iron out problems with the route at home rather than dealing with it on tour.

In MRA, I open the street view and physically look at any roads that look like they might be going off-piste.

If I can see the road surface is dodgy, I can re-route it onto an appropriate road. The extent to which I do this depends on who I’m riding with.

I tend not to bother quite as much if riding solo. But if riding with others who have mixed abilities, I assess it more thoroughly and re-route any potentially hazardous routes back onto the main roads.

google streetview in lofoten

9. Route Planning Process: Download Navigation By MyRoute-App

By this point, I have 22 routes spanning 29 days in the library of MyRoute-App. And in days gone by, this is where I would import all 22 routes into Garmin BaseCamp and put them on my sat-nav.

But this time, I’m running the routes through my smartphone using the Navigation app by MRA.

Technically, I can ride the routes as they are. But seeing as though I’m going to Norway, I’m not convinced I’ll always have a phone signal in the Arctic Circle!

So to avoid any internet issues, I’m downloading offline maps to ensure the routes work even without a phone signal.

route planning process - using myrouteapp navigation
Image: MyRoute-App

Route Planning Process Conclusion

As mentioned at the head of this post, there is no perfect route planning process to ensure you get the best ride possible. This is just my way of doing it.

Sure, some of it seems long and convoluted. And I know that most people wouldn’t view each day on Street View, nor would they add fuel stops, lunch stops, or supermarket stops.

Of course, you could argue that you could simply stop in a random town for lunch. Or stop for fuel whenever you see a petrol station. But for me, having them planned means not needing to worry about them – I just enjoy the ride.

Once you get a hang of this route planning process, it’s logical and intuitive. But I’d love to hear from you if you have your own system for route planning!

What tools do you use? Let us know in the comments!


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