I'd always recommend carrying a good paper map of the area you're cycling in, and this normally means an Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 Explorer map which are simply unbeatable. OS 1:50,000 Landrangers also do a reasonable job but are no where near as detailed - eg. they don't mark walls.
Harvey also do an excellent set of maps of the Yorkshire Dales (and some other areas), at 1:40,000 with bridleways graded for off-road cycling - pretty useful as you can never really tell what a bridleway's going to be like.
I use Memory Map software to plan and record rides. This is a pretty cool piece of kit, especially combined with GPS (which unfortunatley I don't have yet), though it apparently has a very good rival in Tracklogs. You'll need either of these applications to open the .mmo and .trl files on this site, respectively. There's a free utility, GPSU, that can convert between their file formats.
Key for sketch maps on this site:
Please note that GPS route information isn't guaranteed to be accurate as it's been taken from maps rather than from the field.
distance, ascent, time allowance
Distance and ascent are pretty self-explanatory I think. The time allowance given is very approximate and is based on a reasonable average speed with perhaps a few breaks, but obviously everyone's different. Take into consideration the distance, ascent, elevation profile and terrain description when planning your ride. Oh, and conditions - nothing like a bit of bad weather to slow things down.
|Based on my own personal opinion.||Based on the international colour grading scheme.|
|5||Top notch, massive grin on your face. All-round good shit.||Easy||Surfaced tracks and roads with shallow gradients. Suitable for all levels on any bike.|
|4||Great stuff! 'Nuff said.||Moderate||Unsurfaced tracks with moderate, but some steep, gradients. Suitable for cyclists on hybrid or mountain bikes.|
|3||Good. Variety is the name of the game. We like games.||Difficult||Likey to include single track sections and/or technical elements with steep gradients. Suitable for good mountain bikers.|
|2||Yeah, pretty decent. Plenty to keep you happy.||Severe||
Technically challenging and physically demanding. Suitable for expert mountain bikers.
|1||I'm not saying any biking is dull, these are just at the less interesting end of the spectrum.|