How Cycling Event Organizers Plan Routes

The San Diego Century Bike Tour is a 103-mile journey through everything that's beautiful about San Diego County.

The last several miles are along the Pacific coastline. After soaking in views of the ocean, riders reach a traffic light, where a left-hand turn goes directly to the finish line at MiraCosta College.

More: 4 Training Tips for Your Century Ride

The problem? After hours of riding, cyclists could see the finish 100 yards away. They have no interest in stopping at a red light, and for years they often didn't.

"Cyclists were not waiting. They were jumping the red," event director Jim Curl said. "They're going right through a red, which is green for oncoming traffic. I said 'This is only a matter of time...'"

Curl and the city of Encinitas agreed to make the traffic light a flashing red light for the day. He then put stop signs up at the intersection and even got assistance from police officers who barked on megaphones at cyclists to stop before making the left turn to the finish line.

More: How to Successfully Complete a Century

It's just one example of the logistics that organizers have to consider when putting together a road cycling event. In some cases, it's an ongoing project that takes into account factors like rider feedback, construction, safety concerns and more.

Here's a snapshot of what goes into planning an organized bike ride:

More: 6 Tips for Century Ride Rookies

Mapping the Route

The Chico Wildflower Century started in 1981 as an 85-mile ride through northern California's desert. There was a desire, though, to turn it into a century, but cramming 15 more miles into an established course that was otherwise great turned out to be tricky.

Organizers finally figured out how to add a loop that upped the distance to the magical 100 miles. Of course, it added a lot more climbing, but that was a small price to pay.

More: Preparing for a Hilly Century

In short, though, mapping out a ride often starts with a basic question—what are riders going to want? The answer is typically a lot of scenery and a little bit of climbing (but not too much).

Curl, a longtime cyclist, brainstormed all the rides he liked to do in the area, took them to a map and drew a rough draft of how the San Diego Century might look.

"I took friends out on proposed courses around the county after laying it out on a map to see roughly what the distances would be," Curl said. "I listened to what people told me. And I went back to the map and made changes, went out and rode it, drove it, made more changes."

More: 4 Training Tips for Your Century Ride

  • 1
  • of
  • 3
NEXT

About the Author

Ryan Wood

Ryan Wood is an editor for Active.com. He enjoys a good ride and loves participating in endurance events throughout the year. Follow him on Google+.
Ryan Wood is an editor for Active.com. He enjoys a good ride and loves participating in endurance events throughout the year. Follow him on Google+.

Discuss This Article