All posts in Routes

Colombia Route & Planning

Route Planning is fun, tedious and daunting in more ways than one. First, I come up with this idea of a ride in a particular place that pokes my interest. In this case Colombia, a country I’ve never visited before. I then go on google maps to check out the region, a few clicks here and there at images, and then comes the need of using more advance software to build my route.

On road touring can give you the ability of plugging in a point A & B address to have a line automatically drawn out for you, where as bikepacking is a little more involved because you are using off road trails, fire roads, rail trail, and often times unridden or unmarked paths that don’t always show up on google maps. This was the case when planning the route for Colombia.

Part of my process involves paper maps, online topo maps, and advance mobile apps for mapping. In this write up I will walk you through some of the programs and processes I use for navigation and resources to support my overall bike adventures.

Software:
Garmin Basecamp | Ride With GPS | Gaia GPS | MotionXGPS | Google Earth/ Maps (Streetview)

The software always varies depending on the ride. For local adventures I use basic point A to Point B software like Ride With GPS. I usually build my route referencing it with Google to zero in on my location. This helps if you want to see what the area of your route actually looks like You can go as far as using street view and Google Earth for a closer look.

A fast search online to see if other riders have traversed the area via bicycle is another option. That can help you build your route as well.

Garmin Basecamp software is another great platform with so many tools for building a solid route. You can setup waypoints, notes, gather elevation plots, install dedicated maps and easily export the completed route into different formats like gpx and tcx files to use for navigation devices.

For mobile navigation I am currently using Gaia GPS along with MotionXGPS as backup. Gaia GPS is great because you can plan out a route in the native software or upload your route that was previously built in other software programs like Basecamp or Ride with GPS, and have it sync up directly to your mobile phone. The desktop software works hand in hand with the mobile app with the syncing feature. It’s such an intuitive process for workflow because it shows up almost instantly.

MotionXGPS is a little different and getting your route loaded on to the app requires you to send it via their file sharing software via iTunes. It’s fairly simple to do but a bit of a learning curve. You can also email them your finished route and they will send you instruction on installing the route to the app. It’s fairly simple.

Determining Your Route:
The first step is to determine if your route is going to be a loop or a thru route. A loop begins at point A, circles around your desired region and ends back at point A. Thru route begins at point A and end at point B. Loops are easier to take on. You can get to your location, ride and end up back there however many days later. A thru route is a bit more difficult because you begin at point A, then ride to point B. You then have to figure out how to get back to point A.

While both will be exciting adventures, just keep in mind that you will need to figure out how to get back. Options like, renting a car, hitchhiking, Uber (possibly) or doing your route in reverse are options. For our upcoming Colombia trip we are taking a bus 8 hours from Bogota to Armenia, our starting point. Then ride back to Bogota. This would be considered a thru route.

Starting A Route:
The first route I officially planned was cycling from Poughkeepsie, NY to Woodstock, NY. This was a thru route that we also road in reverse. It’s a total of 70 miles round trip, and was built using Ride With GPS online software. My starting point was at the Metro North Station. The route then leads you through rail trail systems and ends in the main town of Woodstock, NY.

While it’s simple to plug in an address, you definitely need to zero into your route and use other resources to support your route planning. This is when Google Earth and street view come in. These tools give you the ability to view roads to get a closer look at what you’re getting into before setting off on your adventure. As mentioned earlier, it doesn’t work everywhere.

Colombia:
Colombia is a country I’ve always wanted to visit. While the media still reports talk of coca fields, rebels, violent crime, and kidnappings. Most travelers would opt for a location far from here. It’s true the country does have challenges with poverty and other unironed creases, but apart from the media reports, tabloid headlines and negative news bites from blog post, Colombia is a thriving country. It’s grown to be a major tourist destination with improved security. Cost are also low so now is a good time to go.

Colombia is an epicenter for bikes. It’s known for breading some of the top class road & mountain bikers and has an array of overlanding terrain. The rich culture and biodiversity, along with its coffee history drives my interest in visiting here. One of the more popular locations I want to visit is the Wax Palms that seat in the central region of the Andean Mountains in Quindío. The Wax Palms are incredible palm trees native to this region and Peru. They sit in the Cocora Valley spanning as high as 200 feet. So southwards we go.

I plotted this route using Garmin Basecamp software. I then moved it to Ride With GPS for a secondary map overview and finally to Gaia GPS for the mobile app navigation and routing. My dedicated GPS for navigation will be my Garmin Edge 500 which draws a track for you to ride on.

Garmin Basecamp View of Route:

Ride With GPS View of Route:

Gaia GPS View of Route:

Motion X GPS View of Route:

Garmin Edge 500 View of Route:

We’ll be riding from Armenia and heading northeast passing through Salento, with a stop at the Wax Palms, then back to our route heading southeast to Ibague, Giradot, Tocaima, Viota, and finally ending in Bogota. A total of 233 miles of cycling. Below is a route plot for the ride we’ll be taking on trough these destinations. I’ll be posting after the trip is completed with a full report along with the traditional gear breakdown hopefully before departure. If you have question leave them in the comments below.

Dirt Touring Poughkeepsie to Wookstock, NY

A little over 80 miles North of New York City is Poughkeepsie, NY. A connection to the Hudson and Wallkill Valley Rail Trail, and finally the Onteora Trail which will lead you in route to Woodstock, NY. For us, this was an overnight dirt touring trip. A quick weekend getaway that’s mixed with 80% dirt and gravel. I’ve ridden this route solo last July of 2016 on 23mm tires on my full carbon road bike setup for a fast light tour. You can read that write up here.

This trip was a duo with my friend George. A skilled mountain biker at heart with the desire to travel by bike. This is the first trip I’ve went on with George, and certainly not my last. You can sense the companionship through banter, views of the world, and bike stuff. I knew it was going to be a great trip.

The route is mainly intended for travel by rail via Metro North from Grand Central Station in New York City. Once aboard the train to Poughkeepsie you’ll be relaxed for two hours. George and I conversed back and fourth and before we knew it, we were on our bikes and off to the “Walk Over The Hudson”. This will put you directly on Hudson Valley Rail Trail. This 4-mile gravel trail passes through wood forest and creeks before leading you through New Paltz, NY where you will then pick up the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail.

One of the more difficult sections is the hike a bike up to camp at Overlook.

Walkway to the abandoned hotel that burned down several times and left for ruins.

Manual Pedal


Photo: George Regus

Some sections can be ridden while others can’t.

Beautiful vistas at the summit where we setup camp for the evening.


GPX Source: George Regus

 

NYC to Woodstock, New York

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I’ve been wanting to ride in the Catskill Mountains, bike-a-hike and camp in this region for quite some time. The Catskills out of Woodstock, NY is a special place. Spring, summer and fall are the prime seasons to visit here but winter will test your abilities with temps that can get to sub zero at the summit.

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This route is intended for travel by rail via Metro North from Grand Central Station in New York City. Once aboard the train to Poughkeepsie you’ll be relaxed for two hours as you transition from concrete jungle to mountainous vistas. Once in Poughkeepsie you’ll take the “Walk Over The Hudson” which will put you directly on Hudson Valley Rail Trail. This 4mile asphalt trail passes through wood forest and creeks before leading you through New Paltz, NY where you will then pick up the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail.

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The Wallkill Valley Rail Trail stretches 20 miles and will be the majority of your ride. Most of the areas on this trail are gravel and dirt road. I rode my road bike with 23mm tires as I was in pursuit of a high-speed ultra light setup. On the way there I didn’t get any flats but upon returning home I got two unfortunate punctures. I recommend a cross, 29er or proper touring bike for this particular route. You should be able to suffice with 28mm tires on a road bike with good puncture resistant protection.

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The end of the trail will put you near Kingston, NY where you will then pickup the Onteora Trail for 5 miles. This trail is also gravel and passes through the Bluestone Wild Forest. You will see a beaver creek on trail and if you wait a while you can catch them at work depending on the season.

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The end of this trail will put you on NY-375 in Woodstock, NY and from here you’ll be making just a few more turns down quaint country roads before ending in the center of town.

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I recommend stopping at Overlook Mountain Bikeshop. The guys there are really cool and can shed some light on the area if you’re new in town. You have options to stay in hotel in town or camp in the mountains. If you decide to camp, Rock City Rd will lead you into a climb with a big grade leading to the base of a trail head. Depending on your weapon of choice you can ride up the mountain to camp at either Echo Lake or Overlook. I had to hike-a-bike up. The views are well worth it.

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