Monday, May 4, 2009

Cue Sheet Survey Results and Recommendations

Thank you to everyone who participated in the Cue Sheet Format Survey. 66 of you filled out the survey, more than enough for statistical significance. And so...


The survey was publicized in the Portland Velo club forums, the Oregon Randonneurs mail list, the Cascade Bike Club forums, and this blog.

Cue Sheet Use Context

Participant ride categories:
  • Club rides 59.1%
  • Event rides 80.3%
  • Randonneuring rides 43.9%
  • Rides with friends 24.2%

The distribution of results changed markedly as the Event Ride participation number went up. In retrospect, there should have been one more question regarding actual usage of the cue sheet - on event rides the route is usually well marked, there are many cyclists, and generally no actual need to look at the cue sheet!

Carrying the cue sheet:
  • folded in a sandwich-sized bag 36.4%
  • clipped to the handlebar 27.3%
  • map window in a handlebar bag 13.6%
  • map holder attached to the handlebar 13.6%
  • in pocket or under the leg of the shorts 60%
  • other 15.2%

The sandwich-sized plastic bag (Ziploc TM) is 6.5" wide and 5.5" high. Of the 10 other data points offered, 5" high and either 4" or 8" wide were most common. However, this represents a small percentage of the data. I will tentatively conclude that the most common map carrier size is the sandwich-sized plastic bag, which is often clipped to the handlebar, stuffed in a pocket, bag, or under the leg of one's riding shorts.

Less than 20% of riders use a GPS unit.

68% of the riders ride in the dark. This has further implications for readability of the cue sheet.

Route Information Most Wanted

The following items were rated most important to be included on a cue sheet (in order)
  • turn 88%
  • road or location description 83.5%
  • cumulative distance 40.8%
  • leg distance 36.4%
The following items were rated as unneeded:
  • latitude and longitude 83.5%
  • distances in both miles and km 80.9%
  • compass degrees 83.9%
  • compass points 60.8%
Elevations and overall route map were both rated as nice to have.

Presentation of Route Information

An overwhelming 76% prefer the turn information as simple abbreviations: R, L, X, VR, VL, etc. 21% are ok with spelling it out, and 3.1% prefer the additional word "Turn".

For general overall cue sheet formatting the following is preferred:
  • All components in separate columns 62.9%, 79% if the Preferred and Required responses are combined
  • Turns in boldface are preferred
  • Street names in boldface are nice to have
  • Each cue line clearly delineated 62.5%, 86% if Preferred and Required responses are combined
  • Easily readable and sufficiently sized font 97% Preferred and Required
  • Cue sheet can be folded to fit my map holder with no loss of information, 81% Preferred and Required.

Preferences on mixed case vs all caps were inconclusive. Many other studies show that text recognition is faster when the text is in mixed case; I'd recommend that.

Themes from the verbatims

35 participants provided additional comments. Themes that emerged were:
  • big enough font for those with reading issues. (Lynne: Note that this is ALSO an issue for reading cue sheets at night)
  • More complete descriptions - landmarks, nice views, "T" intersections, places to eat
  • Cue sheet should fold to 1/4 size of standard sheet of paper and have all needed info viewable; it's ok to have the text in the description field wrap.
  • Excel format and editable
  • Use color or lines to delineate each cue

"Enough information, but not *too much* information." - participant verbatim

Minimum content
  • cumulative distance, turn information, leg distance, and description.
  • Overall map and elevations are nice.
  • Consider providing the map in an editable format for those who have particular formatting preferences

  • Format the content such that the paper can be folded into quarters and put into a sandwich bag with no loss of information
  • Preferably, format each content component into its own column
  • Describe the turns as R, L, BR, BL, VR, VL, X, etc. Don't spell them out, unless they are embedded in the description. Don't add extra words. If you want to say "Turn" use it as a column header
  • Clearly delineate each cue line
  • Distinctively format Rest Stops and Controls - color, all caps, bold, bigger font. Make sure the additional formatting does not reduce contrast between the text and the background
  • Note "T" intersections. Less worrying about missing the turn with that bit of info
  • Arrange content in a logical "sentence" order - At Mile X Turn R, Turn Description, And Go Y
Some prototypes, one with just miles, one additionally with km. Either the miles or km can be folded under, with no loss of information and a logical flow to the presentation.

Prototypical Cue Sheet Miles

Prototypical Cue Sheet Miles and KM


John Henry said...

Nicely done!

A couple of questions...

What were you testing?

Did you accomplish what you were after?

lynnef said...

part of it was to keep my hand in, so that was accomplished.

I had some ideas as to what should be on a cue sheet and what shouldn't. The survey helped clarify that.

Yes. Well, I might have. Time will tell. As you can see I've got cue sheets from a variety of sources, some more usable than others.

Duncan Watson said...

Interesting data. I will bookmark this for future use as I build more cue sheets and routes.

Kevin T said...


This is fantastic work, and so helpful! I'll definitely incorporate many of your findings.

Thank you.

Robert H said...

Thank you for the very timely article. I am working on my first cue sheet for SIR's summer 100k when I ran across this.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Lynne,

Gene Smith in Tacoma here. Not sure how to contact you separately so I'm adding a comment on your blog.

I'm working on cue sheets for the Headwaters Century to incorporate many of these suggestions, esp. being able to format into quarter folds. Did the subject of "font size" come up in your review?

When I format to be able to fold into quarter sections, the font ends up being smaller than when I format for half sections. There are some obvious solutions to this problem but they require re-structuring my format which I'm not sure that I have time to do. Would you be willing to take a look and comment if my current format is totally obnoxious?

lynnef said...

Hi Gene,

Surely. Send it along!

lynnef said...

Gene - you could pm me on the Cascade forum...