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I am planning on doing a long distance bike trip through part of Europe. I would like to start in Amsterdam and bike through the Netherlands, parts of Belgium, France, Luxembourg, and Germany and end in Switzerland. I have found that OpenStreepMaps has a very useful "Cycle Map" layer which displays many bike routes. However, when I look up biking directions on Google Maps or OpenStreetMaps, it routes me on many roads. I would prefer to stay on as many bike routes as possible, especially since there are so many in the region. Is there a good way to get directions using only bike routes? Or a good way to create and save my own custom route?

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    My experience is that the data quality in OpenStreeMaps is often not good enough to plan bicycle trips. I have often been fooled by alleged bicycle paths, which are in reality not passable with a regular touring bike and there is usually no reliable coverage for bicycle prohibitions on regular roads. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Apr 8 at 13:54
  • When traveling by bike I usually have a satnav/GPS on my phone in case I get lost and need to get back on track. But most mapping services are not good enough in their cycling networks. – Willeke Apr 8 at 15:40
  • Two unpleasant experiences with Google Maps cycle routes in France. One was simply slightly matted path through a field, with no guarantee of going anywhere. The other entered a posting hunting zone. (Maybe it doesn't show that one during hunting season.) – Andrew Lazarus Apr 8 at 18:02
  • @Tor-EinarJarnbjo in the UK it's the legal status that gets picked up so bridleways corrcetly show up as rideable even if they're hard work on a mountain bike. Similarly we have very few roads apart from motorways that can't be ridden on legally, so it works well. – Chris H Apr 9 at 14:19
  • @ChrisH But the question is not about UK. In many European countries, bicycling is prohibited on specific stretches of 'regular' roads as well and not always directly related to the road class. Tunnels and bridges can also be restricted. It may be that some of these restrictions are available in the OSM raw data, but I have not found a single mapping app, which can visualize the restrictions in a useful way. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Apr 9 at 17:20
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I would suggest at least basing a route on one or more of the EuroVelo routes. Particularly Route 5 and Route 15.

Map of EuroVelo routes

It should save quite a lot of planning time and the routes are more or less signposted.

In terms of a tool for selecting a route manually, I have long been impressed by Ride With GPS's mapping functionality.

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    I agree, and you can of course always adjust the route once you have a good base in a long distance route. – Willeke Apr 8 at 15:37
  • Thank you, that would save a lot of planning by using those routes. Is it safe to assume these routes would be more scenic and go through more interesting towns than lesser known bike paths? – Ben Apr 8 at 22:11
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    @Ben, they are designed exactly for the sort of long-distance, scenic, interesting touring that you seem to be after. In many cases they follow long-standing national cycle routes. While there may well be other good options on lesser known paths (and you can always detour a bit if somewhere takes your fancy), they should at least provide a guarantee that you won't suddenly be faced with a large road/ploughed field/etc. – Mark Perryman Apr 9 at 9:05
  • @MarkPerryman That is not entirely correct. E.g. EV6 is east of Bratislava on many stretches routed along both very poor and/or heavily trafficed roads. I soon gave up following the 'official' route and had to look for alternatives. Also in France, at least between Nantes and Orleans, the EV6 routing is pretty strange and confusing. – Tor-Einar Jarnbjo Apr 10 at 14:13
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Use a dedicated bike route planner.
For the Netherlands and Belgium you will find several or even many.
Search on fiets route planner or try in your preferred language.

For long distance travel, as you are planning, I would use long distance bike routes. There are planners which combines those. Fietsvakantie is one of them. This page tells you how to use this site.

It combines long distance bike routes into one long route for you, giving several options where there are more routes. In 'overige route voorkeuren' (other route preferences) you can select routes with sign posts, routes with GPS (satnav) and to avoid ferries.

Once you have found which routes are useful for you, you can buy them from this site but you can also search online and often get them for free elsewhere.
One site where you can find long distance cycle routes in the Netherlands is this one of the cyclist union.

The sites I linked to here are mostly to show what is around, there are more sites specific for long distance bicycle trips.

  • I'm a bit confused how the fietsvakantie.eu website works. When I put in my starting point and destination, it gives me routes such as "de wegen naar het zuiden - deel 0", which seem to be maps that I need to purchase from the website? If this is the case, this isn't quite what I'm looking for. Fiets route planner does seem useful though. Thanks! – Ben Apr 8 at 4:52
  • It does combine long distance routes, which are often known by name. You can set it to select which languages it uses. Many of the long distance routes are free available and/or printed on maps. – Willeke Apr 8 at 8:07
  • I wandered around the internet for a few minutes, trying to find a simple map of the LF-routes. But I could not find anything other than a "route planner" which was quite annoying to attempt to use. – Michael Hampton Apr 8 at 18:19
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There will be quite a lot of road in there, so I think you're best off using a tool that routes well on roads, and pulling it onto bike paths where you can. I've done quite a few (part-day) chunks of Euro-velo 6, and that includes quite a lot of road, most but not all of which is quiet. By sticking too rigidly to maximising bike paths you can end up having to join them with some nasty stuff.

I take a multi-tool approach to route planning. For me the biggest requirement is getting out a GPX file of the route I planned. If you can get a reasonably detailed map of a long-distance route that goes in roughly the right direction, it's easy to re-create it, but note that many long-distance routes use quite a lot of road.

As a primary tool in the UK and France, I use Strava's route builder. It's quite good at routing on quiet roads, with the "popularity" option turned on. If you're touring you may want to use the "minimise elevation" options to route round hills. The crucial feature in its favour though is that you can drag unlimited points on the route onto the road/track you want.

I tend to have OSM and Google maps open in other tabs at the same time (also Cafe Network to plan my stops but that's mainly a UK thing).

I initially tend to let Strava auto-route segments of up to about 100 km between points I think I want to stop at (perhaps using Google Maps to generate an overview). Then I tweak the route by hand. Street view is good here if you have the slightest suspicion about the road; some bike paths are on it too.

Caveats:

  • The popularity option can pick up busy commuter routes in cities as it works on rides logged within Strava (many users log their commutes, which tend to be more direct than bike paths). Toggling it and looking at the difference in route can help a lot.
  • High in the Alps I found it could route along some rough dirt roads when I was looking to bag cols (so my destination was rather remote). Routing between places normal people would like to visit this wasn't an issue.

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