Canberra cycling planner

If you want to plan a ride around Canberra, you will need a good map. After that, a route suggestion could be useful. Here both are discussed.

I have experienced that many are happy to ride Canberra without any destination in mind. Some enjoy just the joy of riding on a sunny day. For many the idea of route navigation is foreign. Others would like a plan a trip.

Varied interests and needs

It would seem reasonable to break the interests into three groups:

  1. A good map is all that is need so that I can think about where to go and how to get there.
  2. A map is great, but I would like a route suggestion too.
  3. What I need is turn by turn navigation on my bike and the option to download the route from somebody else or share my route.

Also, the type of riding comes into question.

  1. Some wish to ride on the road
  2. Some wish to ride a hill
  3. Others want to stay on the flat
  4. Most will not want on the road but prefer a bike path
  5. Gravel riders like fire trails (management trails)
  6. Mountain bikers prefer single track – graded by difficulty.

Due to the varied interests, it makes it very difficult to find one answer for everybody. Here are the best options.

Photo by Pixabay on

A good map of Canberra

The best map of Canberra is OpenStreetMap. What makes a map good is that information it contains is current and that all types of paths are included that a cyclist is likely to ride. The map should therefore include just not roads but all paved paths, dirt roads, and dirt paths.

We are lucky in the ACT as the vast majority of the territory belongs to the commonwealth. Leave the ACT it is private property up to the road edge. River access is impossible except at bridges. In the 19th century, it was not uncommon in rural Australia to ride across the paddocks into town. Farmers provide each other with the right of way. This is not the case today. Private property is private and trespassers are unwelcome.

In the ACT we can ride in the Namadgi National Park, most of Canberra Nature Park, the National Arboretum, parks and all seal paths in any public space with very few exceptions. The choice in Canberra is great.

A good map will include all this detail and as the map has so much information it will include various ways to view that map depending on your interest. As maps are digital now they will be view mostly with an app on your phone or in a browser. The best app for Canberra is Komoot and this app will use OpenStreetMap.

Worth reading

Route suggestions

There are many ways to get route suggestions:

  1. a shared route that somebody has ridden
  2. an official route from the CBR Cycle Route path network
  3. plan a route for your own purpose

Many sports apps that allow you to plan a route, ride a route and share that route with others. The best for Canberra is komoot.

The official Canberra bike path network has been branded CBR Cycle Routes. The ACT has produced a map that looks like a subway map. The routes are colour code and around Canberra, you will not find directional signage for these routes.

CBR Cycle Route C3 - Belconnen Bikeway
CBR Cycle Route C3 – Belconnen Bikeway. Map: CBR Cycle Routes Current principal and main off road routes Version 9 TCCS

The advantage of apps and digital maps is that you can plan your own routes. The best app for this for Canberra is komoot. Komoot now offers different route planning modes depending on your interest: roads, bike paths, gravel or singletrack. We recommend also CyclOSM which is a website for cyclists with OpenStreetMap and includes a route planner.

CyclOSM, standard view. CyclOSM v0.3.6 | Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors
CyclOSM, standard view. CyclOSM v0.3.6 | Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

Turn by turn navigation

Turn by turn navigation is not new of course but the idea of having something like this on your bike may seem strange. Many are happy to ride Canberra without any destination in mind.

Canberra’s network of seal paths is a maze. The directional signage has improved but only the major routes are marked (Principal Cycling Routes). The paths are often not all that direct and one would often think that they have been built there as this was the space that was left and nobody seems to mind. Turn by turn helps navigate this mess.

The best turn by turn app for all types of cycling in Canberra is komoot.

With both hands on the handlebar turn by turn navigation is either is something one hears with the pone tucked away in the bag. An alternative is to attach a navigation device to the handlebar. The boom in cycling has produced a range of devices that do this. They are not cheap or perfect. Most commonly sold are from Garmin. If you want something easy to use or cycle indoors too, try Wahoo. How to update the map from OpenStreetMap is discussed here.

Garmin cycle computers are supported by komoot with an applet. This allows you to download a route planned with komoot and play it back with turn by turn navigation.

Garmin cycling GPS with Komoot app shown
Garmin cycling GPS with Komoot app shown

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