Kaizening Your Route
The Japanese concept of Kaizen means "Improvement as a gradual and methodical process." While the term is generally applied to manufacturing processes, it is also valid when it comes to designing a route. Many times, I have drawn up a route to ride, simply by looking at a map and sayiing "how can I get from here to there." And usually, the route will work. But, is it the best way to get there? What I have discovered is that over time, the route seems to evolve as I learn more about the area. Often, the changes come merely from my own knowledge growth, but change also comes from infrastructure improvements that also happen over time. I thought of this the other day as I was riding from Park Slope to Sri Pra Thai in Woodside, Queens. I have done this route several times before. But this time, instead of turning on 69th Street, I turned on 68th. This was only a six or seven block change, as I again hooked up with 69th. However, the new wrinkle had me on a quiet street, rather than on busy 69th Street. It was a minor change, but made the route just a little bit better.
One great way to practice Kaizen is merely to take another look at the route when you get back. Were there parts that you did not like. Traffic? Hilly? Just plain blah? Look at the map and see if there are alternative ways around what you did not like. Sometimes there are no valid alternatives. Like crossing through the cemetery on Eliot - where the alternate route is WAY out of the way. But often you can find another road that is just better. An example is taking Fox Avenue in The Bronx rather than Southern Blvd. And of course there is always the tried and true "Trial and Error" method. Sometimes this is due to issues such as milled roads, detours, and other events that mandate a route change. Other times it is merely a matter of saying, I wonder where this road goes. And having the courage to leave your comfort zone and check out a new way to go.
Some routes are perfect right off the bat, and need no further development. But others benefit by evolving over time. Kaizening your route continues to make it more fun to ride.