Cue Sheets by Chris

Mr. Chris Jensen would like to share a few words about cue sheets:

Hey everyone, I wanted to talk a bit about some of the equipment and navigating the course this year. As you have probably read, we are doing away with maps and turn markers and going with the original bike touring navigation: cue sheets. The great thing about cue sheets is that you can easily retrace your steps without having to either fumble through your Garmin menu or try to eyeball a distance on a map scale. You can also see what’s coming up the road and when to expect it.

We’ve mentioned that you will want to bring along a “Cyclo-Computer” (computer) that can judge distance (via the odometer function). This is important because of how the cue sheets are laid out. See the following example:

Cue Sheet Example

Cue sheets vary in format (and the final Gravel Metric cue sheet may not look exactly like this), but they all share the same general components. Every line in a cue sheet is called an “Instruction”. Each instruction will have the same basic parts: the Total Distance, Incremental (Leg) Distance, Direction, and some sort of Note.

In the example above, the first column is the Incremental Distance. You’ll notice that it doesn’t keep adding up, because that’s the distance in between instructions. For example, the distance between Hermann and Locust Roads is 1.6km. The second and third columns are the Direction. The fourth column is the Note on the instruction, and the last column (getting bigger every line) is the Total Distance.

Therefore, if we had just turned Left onto Hermann Rd at 74.4km, we’d know that in 1.6km, we’d turn Right at Locust Rd. and the total distance at Locust Rd would be 76km.

Make sense?

We will certainly be using miles for the final sheet, since it’s sort of a pain in the butt to change 300 people’s computers to kilometers.

So, on to the computer itself. Modern computers measure distance in two ways: a sensor capturing times a wheel-mounted magnet passes or via GPS. The GPS variety pretty much runs right out of the box, since it’s actually tracking your position in space. However, there are a few caveats you need to keep in mind when you’re setting up a sensor-based computer.

Often, riders won’t set their computer up for the correct wheel size plus tire width, and those inches will add up over the course of 60 miles. Make sure you read your instructions fully and ensure you’re set up correctly for those wide tires you just put on your ‘cross bike. You might end up missing one of the last few turns and then you’re in Iowa.


Riding gravel gets bumpy, so make sure your magnet and sensor are on TIGHT. It’s fairly common for the sensors to get misaligned or the magnets to get twisted on the spokes. If that happens, you’ll  be riding for a while with no distance being measured until you figure it out.

Learning to read cue sheets will make it easier to map out your own rides as well, and distribute them to friends. It’s a good skill any rural cyclist should have in their toolbox. So, you’re welcome.

This entry was posted in Death Prevention., Route Details. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Cue Sheets by Chris

  1. David says:

    When can we expect cue sheets or gps files to be available for download?

  2. How big (physically) will the cue sheets be? I’m pondering my carrying setup.

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