How to craft an informative rando route sheet

by Raymond Parker on December 26, 2011

in Cycling, Randonneuring, Technical

(Click to enlarge)

I’ve written before about the importance of well-designed route sheets for randonneur events, primarily in “How to organize a brevet: a guide for randonneur club volunteers.

Still, looking over a route sheet for an upcoming ride, I’m reminded (if the organizer is not) how critical this element of the rider’s package can be to the success of any randonnée.

As I asserted in the tutorial linked above, it is impossible to plan a brevet using online mapping applications alone. Although such aids may be fine for initial sketching, the best routes are made in the real world.

The kind of auto-generated “cue sheets” produced by such services are no replacement for a route sheet crafted with care by a thoughtful organizer.

Whatever other formatting choices are made—column width, font size, etc.—certain recognized conventions should be preserved.

These may vary by club—if you travel around, you’ll come across some interesting iterations—but let’s look at common cues traditionally used by BC Randonneurs.


L = Turn Left
R = Turn Right
SO = Straight On

These are the basic directional acronyms. Occasionally, you may find these additional cues on your sheet:

CO = Continue On (usually where route continues on same road, after interruption)
BL = Bear Left (Not, as you might think, a wildlife warning but a direction where there is no clear intersection).
BR = Bear Right
U = U-Turn (These usually occur at the terminus of out-and-back routes, or when bears block progress).

These should be listed at the bottom of route sheets.

Additional cues & info

Next to directional cues, and no less important, are visual information cues (highlighted yellow in the example above) which should be employed liberally, especially at confusing intersections, road merges, and unsigned turns.

Imagine being in strange territory, far from village or town, at 3am. Wouldn’t you appreciate such visual cues to reassure that you’re on the right track?

Relate such cues to permanent landmarks (Don’t, for instance, say “turn L @ big tree.” These can disappear suddenly, especially in British Columbia). On existing routes, check these milestones before every version to make sure, for instance, your public house or stately castle hasn’t been bulldozed to make way for progress.

It should go without saying that interim and cumulative distances should be listed. Some organizers like to include compass bearings. These are a welcome addition, as long as they don’t add to the general confusion, say, on routes with many turns.

Short of “baby-sitting,” hidden hazards should be highlighted.


STREET NAMES should be in upper case, (Additional cues in lower case), offset in brackets. Use bold font for Controls

In addition to an explanation of directional acronyms, header and footer should also contain route number, title, club deatails and, most importantly, the organizers name(s) and phone contact information (home and mobile).

An excellent Excel route sheet template, complete with opening/closing time calculator for controls, can be downloaded here.

Though there is no rule committing organizers to do so, it’s nice if at least a provisional copy can be made available to riders online in the days before the brevet, and of course, the final masterpiece—checked forensically—will be issued before the event (no, you’re not obliged to supply GPX files).

I hope you find these notes useful. Please share your route sheet tips in comments.

Bonne route in 2012!

Related: Make a handy rando route sheet holder

{ 4 comments… read them below or add your spin! }

Kevin Bruce December 28, 2011 at 3:24 pm

Thanks for this, Ray. Intelligible route sheets make a huge difference in relieving the stress of figuring out where to go next and, thus, make the ride that much more pleasant. Whenever possible, I try to fit all the cues between two controls onto 1/4 or 1/2 page which lends a certain elegance to the design layout.

There is one thing about the acronyms for directions about which no one will ever agree with me, but if those reading this will bear with me a moment I just need to get this off my chest. My issue has to do with the abbreviations: “CO” and “SO” which stand for ‘continue on’ and ‘straight on’ respectively.

The term ‘continue on’ is a redundancy of speech. The word ‘continue’ means ‘to go on’, therefore the term ‘continue on’ means to ‘to go on on’, but why would you want to go ‘on on’ when you’ve already gone ‘on’? The ‘on’ part of ‘continue on’ is wholly unnecessary.

As for ‘straight on’, what other options are there? Straight up, perhaps?!

There, finally, after all these years I’ve said it. I’ve gone on long enough and shall continue no further.


Raymond Parker December 28, 2011 at 11:13 pm

Kevin: I agree with your assessment of the “CO” abbreviation–I don’t use it, not so much for its clumsiness as its general obtuseness.

I also like to print longer routes on both sides of the page and I like to flip pages in printing so that one can turn the sheet from bottom to top at the end of each section.

It’s nice to try to end a page, or fold section (see example above) with a control, so that riders don’t have to stop to turn the sheet mid-ride. Of course, this is often impractical, but worth consideration during the formatting stage.


Phil January 25, 2012 at 11:13 pm

Thanks for posting Ray, just wanted to add a few thoughts. Our sheets follow a similar convention but with a few additions. For a brevet our column headings would be:

[ At ] [ Look for] [ Proceed ] [ On ] [ For ] [ Note ]

‘Look for’ is a separate column for visual cues, e.g. SS = stop sign, T = t-intersection, 1st = first intersection, etc. We usually either append a compass direction onto the turn (proceed) direction, e.g. R-n, or include it in the cues column if space is limited. I don’t see any advantage to using CAPS for street names, especially when space is limited. We use all lowercase and brackets for [ unsigned ] roads. When possible we use reverse text for controls, i.e. white text on black background.

In addition to segmenting the Q-sheet, as Kevin mentioned, in a few instances we have also been able to segment the map. For example, if we had two route segments on one sheet then we might have the first segment cues on the upper left 1/4 and the corresponding map segment on the upper right 1/4. When folded in half and half again that enables riders to reference both the cues for one segment on one side and the corresponding map on the other.



Raymond Parker January 26, 2012 at 6:22 am

Thanks for the input, Phil.

That sounds like a straightforward, logical layout.

I will defend the use of upper case for street names; it sets them apart from secondary information.

I’m also not a fan of reverse text. That may be a design bias on my part. I hate websites with white text on black background. Nothing makes me bail faster. I think it better to keep everything on a page pretty much standard. Easier on the eyes.


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