Cycle route planning: Ordnance Survey maps v. Ride guides v. being on the ground v. Sustrans.

How do people put viable rides together?

It can be a tough call finding your way around an area. Even tougher plotting a ride that is varied in terrain, avoids industrial estates, hits the high notes cafe wise, and avoids major roads.

I've a few books by Nick Cotton, collected some magazine ride guides, look at blogs, and sometimes just follow my nose. All are viable means to finding nice routes around an area. Which is the best though?

Take my trusty Ordnance Survey map.

If you look at the North Downs above Limpsfield. Where exactly is the interesting route here? Just a mess of roads, confused bridleways and a lot of grid lines. It looks, in a word, a bit boring. I've looked at the map of this area for decades, and as a result always head the opposite direction to Box Hill.

Box Hill is easy. Lots of bridleways to follow, lots of other cyclists around. Blogs gallore.

Limpsfield? Who rides there? Nobody.

Well people obviously do. Petra cycles are there for a start, and I've heard that the mountain bike section of Redhill Cycle Club use this area a lot. Nick Cotton in his lovely books has a few routes here. There MUST be SOMETHING!

Recently I've taken the bull by the horns and have been putting my backside onto my bike and riding off, just looking. Hours on the map, little link roads, little woods, follow my nose see where trails go.

And do you know what? It's not a bad area to ride at all.

Nick Cotton and others; may I have a word in your shell like please?

Look at the above route. The blue line represents the route suggested by Nick and everyone since. It's probably one used by cyclists going back years before. It's a fine route. Ride it, and it is quick and fun.

It's not the best though. There is an alternative that for an off-road cyclist is so much better. Instead of popping out on the road past Park Farm and turning right into Limpsfield, my little tip is to go straight over and into Hookwood. There's not much there, true, just a little bridleway.

The alternative is a road.

For me a little ride along bridleway through an ancient wood, past rich people's houses, is always, always better than a road ride.

Route 21.

It must be said that Sustrans got here first. Look on the map, find a nice looking trail, go ride it. Once on the ground, find another trail, ride it. Hey! Great trail, great route, high five's all round.

And then you look up.

There's a sodding great blue sign pointing back up the way you came.

These signs are appearing all over the place.

Need to get from Reigate to Guildford? Follow the blue signs. They'll be there somewhere.

Caterham to East Grinstead, Eastbourne or even Bedgebury? Follow the blue signs. It's easy.

I love these blue signs now. They're like opening that cupboard door and finding Nania on the other side. They go through the country, they spit you out in cool places. Whenever I see one I know I'm in safe hands.

The blue signs are like a cyclists comfort blanket.