How To Create a Cycling Route Using Google Maps

A great way to make cycling more fun and more efficient is to create bike routes. Modern technology has made building fun bike routes easier than ever.

This article will take a quick look at the most effective mapping tool out there: Google Maps.

Google Maps has a built-in direction system that makes it easy to build your bike routes. Below is a step-by-step guide on how to use this system.

Man learning how to create a cycling route using Google Maps on a smart phone

How To Create a Cycling Route Using Google Maps

Begin by Opening Google Maps

First things first, you will want to navigate to the Google Maps website. You can log in to your Google Maps application on mobile devices, but until you are really familiar with an area and Google Maps’ interface, creating a route via a laptop or desktop computer will be easiest. Google Maps overall is the best platform to use for creating cycling routes because they have had the most people on the ground actually riding bikes while mapping roads and bike lanes.

Choose Your Starting Point

Once you have Google Maps open and ready, navigate to the large search box. Enter in wherever you plan to start your bicycle route.

This will generally be your home or garage where you store your bike, but you might have a different location if you plan to meet up with a group of friends to cycle somewhere else. The important thing is to enter your starting point first, as this will make it easy to create an eventual loop cycling route that brings you back to where you began.

Press enter once you have finished inputting your desired starting location.

How to enter start point to create a cycling route on Google Maps

Hit the blue Directions button beneath the address.

Click the parallel arrows next to the address so that your starting location is on the top of the two search bars.

Graphic showing to switch order of addresses on Google Maps

Add in Your Waypoints

Now comes the fun part. Consider the places you want to go on your bicycle route. Maybe you have an exact destination in mind, such as if you are trying to create a safe route to work, or maybe you just have a general idea of things, such as wanting to visit parks in your city or neighborhood. For your first cycling route, aim to have a list of three or four waypoints you want to bike to.

  • Enter the first waypoint into the search box beneath your starting location.
  • Click the plus sign next to the words Add destination to add your second waypoint.
  • Repeat this step until you have entered all of your waypoints.
  • Finally, add your starting location again as a final destination to create a full loop route.

Graphic showing how to add waypoints to a Google Map

The map below has five waypoints entered at top left, and the final waypoint is the same as the starting point. That completes a loop.

A completed route on Google Maps
Entering your starting point as the final destination completes the loop.

Congratulations, you now have your cycling route! The final step is to make sure you have an effective way to check your bike route while underway. You can go old school and print out the cycling directions, but most people find it easier to just save and send the route to their phones. That way you can use your phone as an ongoing GPS as you ride.

Adjust Your Route To Be More Bike Friendly

Navigate to the icons above the search boxes and click the cycling icon.

Graphic showing where the cycling icon is on Google Maps

Now you will have a simple route determined by Google Maps’ algorithms to have the best balance of time and safety. Your route will show up as a solid blue line. Click and drag that line around the map to adjust your biking directions as desired.

For some cyclists, this might be enough. But to really get the best bike ride route, you’ll want to make a few more adjustments.

Utilize the Biking Layer

At the time of writing, Google has moved the Layers options to the bottom of the desktop view. If you hover your cursor over the Layers button, you’ll see options for Terrain, Traffic, Transit, and Biking. Click Biking to have your map display all dedicated bike lanes, bicycle-friendly roads, trails and off-road trails. The best bike lanes for bikes are displayed as solid green lines. Adjust your bike ride route by dragging the blue line if you want to take advantage of some of these.

Graphic showing how to switch to biking view in Google Maps

Utilize Satellite View

Switch your map display to a Satellite view, which will show you finer details such as how much of a bike lane an area has, how many trees are along a route, and how many stoplights there are. Use this view to get a better sense of traffic and bike-friendly infrastructure, such as dedicated bike lanes.

Utilize Street View

Concerned about how a certain intersection looks? Many streets have been photographed from the street level so that you can see what an area looks like as if you were actually there.

Street view of an intersection on Google Maps
An intersection as seen from Google Street View.

To enter street view, click the yellow human figure on the bottom right of the Google Maps screen and drag it to the desired point.

Graphic showing how to choose a location for Google Street View from Google Maps

Utilize elevation information

Google Maps also has elevation information, offering users an easy look at how much elevation gain they can expect in a given route. You might use this information to push your route out of the way of nasty hills. If you’re looking for a more intense bike experience, you might want to incorporate as many inclines as possible.

Screen shot of Google Maps' elevation profile feature
You’ll find the elevation profile on the left side of the map, under your waypoints. This particular route is quite flat.

The Benefit of Planning and Building Cycle Routes

Cycling pedaling uphill after researching if mountain bikes do make good commuter bikes
Planning your bike route can help you avoid tough hills on days when you’re not feeling them.

Feeling like the above is too much work? Consider the benefits of planning and building cycle routes. Planning and creating your bike routes is important for safety, time, and general enjoyment. Here’s why:

  • Safety. Pre-planning your route and alternative routes is incredibly important for safe biking. Pre-planning your cycling route enables you to avoid busy thruways, dead ends, and dangerous roadways, such as those with steep or tight curves that lack visibility or bike lanes.
  • Time. Even if you just want to enjoy an afternoon biking, how long you’ll spend getting from point A to B and back again will be an important consideration. Pre-planning your route helps you understand just how much time you can expect to ride, which is especially important if you’ll be exerting yourself in hot weather.
  • General enjoyment. Do you really want to climb up the biggest hill in your city every day on your way to work? Does going through a heavy industrial area with bad traffic sound like the ideal commute? Probably not. By planning and creating a cycling route using Google Maps, you can take routes that make your cycling experience more enjoyable.

Go Out, Experiment, and Have Fun!

We hope this quick guide on how to create a cycling route using Google Maps will come in handy for you. If you’re tackling a new route for the first time, try to avoid rush hour traffic and try to go during good weather for a safer biking experience, and remember to practice defensive cycling.