Why are cycling routes so important?

A whistle-stop tour of how we create routes over at Huli HQ.

3 mins
Written by
Steve Owens

Why are routes important?

I want to take things back to basics regarding Huli, and go through why I think route choice is so important and give you a good understanding as to why Huli has certain features that don't exist in other cycle route planners. Of course this is partly an advertisement as to why you should be using Huli, but it’s main purpose is to be informative and to help you get the best experience from what you are doing on your own cycling journey. 

My route choice process questions

When I’m thinking of going out a ride, there’s a few questions that go through my head; something like this:

  1. How long have I got available today for my ride? 
  2. How hard do I want to push it, or what are my fitness aims of this ride? 

                     -The answer to this can simply be: “I don’t have any, I’m just after a leisure spin with a nice big cake and coffee” - perfectly acceptable and actually recommended. 

                     -On a slight segue, I very much work on the premise of striking balance: a decent ride = a decent feed 😄

  1. Should I go road or gravel?
  2. Do I have a weather window?
  3. Is there a good spot for food/water/coffee/cake?
  4. Is there somewhere particular that I want to checkout, or an area I would like to avoid?
  5. Is anyone else up for it? If so, what’s their ability and do I need to be wary of anything on the route?

How long have I got available today for my ride? 

For this in Huli we have two choices👇🏻You can plan via ride duration or distance. For me, if I think I want to go harder than my normal average speed, as part of a training programme for example, then I’ll work that speed in as an average per hour and select how long I’ve got.

Distance or Time, what do you prefer?

As an example, If I’m looking for a fast lunch break on the road, then I’ll aim for 31/32 km/h. If I’m going for a leisurely cruise at my normal pace, then I’ll often opt for the time suggestion in Huli. Say 2 hour gravel ride.  One of the advantages of selecting duration over distance is the fact that Huli takes into consideration elevation profile when creating the route, meaning you won’t be caught out by a sneaky hill three quarters of the way round and ends up missing your 1:30pm meeting. Yikes!

How hard do I want to push it, or what are my fitness aims of this ride? 

This ties back to the previous question, but we can also go a bit deeper by looking at elevation choices in particular. So for example, if I am specifically after flat routes, say for triathlon (I once dabbled in this…) or TT training, then I can select the flat route option to imitate that event more closely. Similarly, say I’m after some practice on my hill climbs trying to imitate Urán or Aru, then I’ll go select a hilly ride and brace for some pain. After these selections I can then dive into the elevation profile to see exactly what is coming my way and when, taking note of the steepness and length of the climbs.

 Should I go road or gravel?

For road rides this is where the route description and road type colouring are handy within Huli as it shows where the quiet and major roads are on a route. By design, Huli will select quieter, safer minor routes but busier roads are inevitable, so looking at the key tells you when you need to have your wits about you. e.g. at a junction going from a minor to major road. This is particularly important if you are in new areas or riding in on unfamiliar roads.

Route descriptions and road keys help you understand what to expect

For off-road rides, the description will tell you how much will be off-road and the surface type will show you exactly the surface to expect where and when. Huli maximises off-road time with gravel routes as you would expect, but not everyone lives on a farm so there will likely be some tarmac time while you find your way to the good stuff. The surface type map tells you this so you can plan to have your lights ready etc. 

Analyse the amount of time your route will spend off-road

Do I have a weather window?

A recent feature add is our weather info. Underneath the route description you can see the weather forecast for the next 24 hours so that you can dial in that perfect weather window, or perhaps look to select your route based on wind direction. Nice, simple feature. Very handy to save switching between apps and also good to know that this is weather specific to your route.

Route specific weather

Is there a good spot for food/water/coffee/cake?

Yes, the most important question! ☕️ + 🍰

EVERYONE LOVES A CAFE RIDE, PERIOD. So this is a bit of a manual process at the moment as we don’t have cafes on the map, but you’ll be glad to know that this is coming. Indeed it is built and now being tested. Soon enough you’ll be able to identify the best cycling cafes on your route to make sure you can reward yourself with that very well deserved medal! 

Side note to this, if you know a great cycling cafe that could be a great addition to the Huli map, then add their details here and we’ll get on the case.

Is there somewhere particular that I want to checkout, or an area I would like to avoid?

This is a feature we have just launched and was a regular request from Huli users. By selecting your route heading, Huli will create 10 custom routes in that particular direction. So if you know there is an area that you have your heart set on, this feature is for you. Similarly, if you've done an area to death, then this is the perfect way to avoid that and put your explorer hat back on. Any feedback on this new feature, or what you think we can do to improve it, then drop me an email!

Route heading choice is now available in the app

Finally, is anyone else up for it? If so, what’s their ability and do I need to be wary of anything on the route?

Group riding is quite a hard planning task if there are mixed abilities, so I’ll mainly be looking at the overall distance covered and the elevation plot to get a feel for the amount of climbing and the length and steepness of climbs. With road cycling the majority of climbs are rideable, but with gravel stuff we can also come across some pretty unforgiving forest climbs that make it into hike-a-bike territory. Check out this monster climb for example: 😱

How to choose a route based on group ability

We’ve not got to the stage of automatically pointing these out in Huli but it’s on the roadmap so watch this space. 
And that's a wrap.That’s a short insight into my general route planning process. I should point out that with Huli all this can be done in less than a minute given it’s all automatic. Other cycling route planners will take considerably longer. If that’s enough to convince you to go try Huli, then you can go download it 👇🏻. Remember there is a 1-month free trial of Huli Pro so you can give all these features a run for their money without any 💸 leaving your pocket!

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