Author Topic: Best Novice Route Under 500 Miles  (Read 2348 times)

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Offline LawDog

Best Novice Route Under 500 Miles
« on: February 02, 2012, 07:55:33 pm »
I'd like to hear which route you would nominate as being the best (perhaps easiest) ride under 500 miles.

I'm trying to get my wife interested in bike touring. She's quite athletic, but just doesn't have the same appreciation for cycling that I do. She has, though, enjoyed rides where there is a lot of scenery and no automobile traffic--and it helps if there is ice cream somewhere along the ride. The ideal would be a rails-to-trails kind of route, where the only other trail users would be pedestrians (she somehow hates cars but doesn't seem bothered by children and dogs running in front of her), the surface is moderately smooth (she doesn't like long stretches of gravel but can handle a limited amount), and there are enough nearby amenities to eat in restaurants (not every meal) and sleep in hotels.

We live in Alaska, where there is plenty of scenery on any ride, but also an abundance of hills (or mountains), lots of gravel, and seldom an ice cream stand or hotel. So we'll be jumping on a plane to whatever the destination. I think Europe would be our first choice (I'm dreaming of Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic), but would also be interested in rides inside the U.S. We would be doing this as credit card tourists--traveling fairly light and staying in hotels, but without the benefit of a SAG wagon. The 500 mile limit isn't an absolute number; I'm just looking for a trip that takes one to two weeks at a moderate pace.

Within those parameters, what route would you nominate as the epic ride?

Offline adventurepdx

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Re: Best Novice Route Under 500 Miles
« Reply #1 on: February 02, 2012, 08:50:15 pm »
Within those parameters, what route would you nominate as the epic ride?

Well, I wouldn't go as far as "epic", as my West Coast acclimated head associates epic biking with lots and lots of mountains. But for "pretty darn good" bike touring for someone who doesn't want to deal with mountains and who wants to be near facilities, I'd recommend checking out some of the long-distance bike trails in the Upper Midwest, particularly in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Since most of these are rail-trails, they are flat or have gentle inclines, and are either paved or have crushed limestone.

I can't think of any of these paths are over 100 miles, but you could always string together a few different routes to give longer rides. I've ridden a few, like the Munger Trail in northeastern Minnesota, the Elroy-Sparta and other linked trails in southwestern Wisconsin, and the Glacial Drumlin in southeastern Wisconsin. I'd like to ride them again at some point!
http://mntrails.com/
http://www.dnr.state.wi.us/org/land/parks/trails/bike.html

Offline cdavey

Re: Best Novice Route Under 500 Miles
« Reply #2 on: February 02, 2012, 09:48:55 pm »
You might consider the Great Allegheny Passge (GAP) and C&O Towpath from Pittsburgh PA to Washington DC. It runs about 320 miles. If you are willing to poke around in the towns you can things worth stopping at in most of them. If you willing to do that, then there are only two criteria it may not meet:
1. The surface for the most part is crushed limestone (GAP) or dirt (towpath - but they are supposed to be limestoning it at some point to make more suitable cycling). If "gravel" means road type gravel, you're OK; if it includes crushed limestone, you're not. When you say "moderately smooth" I am taking that to include crushed limestone surfaces.
2. The towpath may not please your wife as a good part of the time you are riding in a tunnel of trees and there is not a lot to see around you.  Even though the Potomac River is nearby you often cannot see it.

I've always thought the best part of the GAP is the ride from Meyersdale to Cumberland -- viaducts, the Big Savage tunnel with a spectacular view on the south end when you come out of it, and a 20 mile downhill ride. On the C&O probably the last 15-20 miles as you come to DC is the best. You can spend time in DC being a bike tourist and avoid the hassle trying to drive there. I've done it and it's amazingly different. Don't worry about the traffic. The street lanes are wide and drivers are used to see bikers, runners and skaters. I wouldn't want to tour DC any other way but by bike.

Offline John Nelson

Re: Best Novice Route Under 500 Miles
« Reply #3 on: February 02, 2012, 09:53:08 pm »
Normally I'd recommend a route close to home. But that apparently isn't in the cards for you.

So next I'd recommend a supported ride. I know you kind of ruled that out, but a supported ride would take out a lot of the risk and anxiety, and might make her more comfortable. So a nice inn-to-inn ride with all support included with breakfast and dinner provided makes for a nice ride. Most of these rides offer a short and long route each day, which allows more flexibility to do what you feel, including sitting out a day if you want. These rides tend to be fairly expensive, but they are a nice way to get used to touring.

If you don't like that idea, then I'd pick a ride where the towns are close enough together to allow plenty of route options without unusually long days. Perhaps a nice tour in Vermont and New Hampshire. Even a hilly day isn't too bad if you keep the distances reasonable.

If you want to stay off roads, then, as you suggest, a rails-to-trails route seems ideal. These routes are usually fairly flat too. Two you might want to consider are the Mickelson Trail in SD and the Katy Trail in MO. I'm not being sexist when I say this because studies back it up, but women tend to dislike sharing the road with traffic more than men, so your wife is in good company.

Offline lyngg

Re: Best Novice Route Under 500 Miles
« Reply #4 on: February 03, 2012, 12:28:06 am »
Two other options - the Katy Trail across Missouri (www.bikekatytrail.com/) and the Natchez Trace Parkway (www.nps.gov/natr/) from Nashville to Natchez, Mississippi.

Offline geegee

Re: Best Novice Route Under 500 Miles
« Reply #5 on: February 03, 2012, 12:34:49 am »
+1 on the Great Allegheny Passage, it is a great ride. The C&O can be a bit rough, though, and muddy and buggy if it's rainy.

You could also consider the Veloroute des Bleuets (the blueberry route) up in northern Quebec. It's an easy 160-mile loop around Lac St-Jean, but if you don't mind some hills you could easily extend the trip down the Saguenay Fjord to Tadoussac. Services are good along the way, SAG transport between accommodations is relatively cheap, and the local cuisine is a hearty brand of French Canadian country cooking. There is a surprising amount of interesting things to see and do in this area besides cycling.
« Last Edit: February 03, 2012, 07:55:25 am by geegee »

Offline staehpj1

Re: Best Novice Route Under 500 Miles
« Reply #6 on: February 03, 2012, 08:31:42 am »
The Oregon Coast is a great place for touring and is very suited to those who want distractions rather than just riding.  There are cheap hiker biker camp sites where you will meet other cyclists in camp every night, beautiful beaches, and lots of rural riding interspersed with smallish towns.  It is quite hilly though.

Just me, but I find the rail to trail type rides and GAP C&O pretty ho hum and not at all what I look for in touring.
« Last Edit: February 03, 2012, 08:34:01 am by staehpj1 »

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Best Novice Route Under 500 Miles
« Reply #7 on: February 03, 2012, 11:16:37 am »
No first-hand knowledge here, but Europe + no traffic + 500 miles to me sounds like a trip along the Rhine (+Rhone?) or the Danube.

Offline hem

Re: Best Novice Route Under 500 Miles
« Reply #8 on: February 03, 2012, 11:24:48 am »
I can relate to your situation as I went with a "Bike and Barge" tour in the Netherlands to achieve the same thing. Didn't work out though, she still doesn't want to bicycle tour regardless of the accommodations.
Since you are inclined towards Europe there are a number river routes in Germany and France that may be what you are looking for. I found the Moselle (Mosel) and upper Rhine (Rein) to be nice. Also around Bordeaux is quite flat and interesting.

Offline geegee

Re: Best Novice Route Under 500 Miles
« Reply #9 on: February 03, 2012, 11:28:42 am »
No first-hand knowledge here, but Europe + no traffic + 500 miles to me sounds like a trip along the Rhine (+Rhone?) or the Danube.

Rhine ≠ Rhone. The former flows north to the Atlantic and has better beer, the latter flows south to the Mediterranean and has better wine. Both are good cycle routes! :)

Offline LawDog

Re: Best Novice Route Under 500 Miles
« Reply #10 on: February 03, 2012, 02:05:02 pm »
Thank you for all of the suggestions. The GAP route sounds promising. I've got some friends working in D.C., so I could probably enlist some logistical support from them. I've never ridden on crushed limestone, but my understanding of it makes me think that my wife would be fine with that. She just doesn't like bumpy, jarring roads or surfaces that may cause her to lose traction in corners.

I've wondered a lot previously about routes through Oregon. I found a loop route (somewhere in the southwest of the state, but I don't recall the name) that looked promising for me. But I didn't think she would like camping through the whole trip, and it wasn't a route that offered a lot of hotels.

The prospect of linking multiple short trails together is something that I hadn't considered. Even if we had a hub-and-spoke plan, where we stayed in the same place but went out for multiple half-century rides that might entertain her. She likes speed, which makes me think she could enjoy road riding. But she has some kind of aversion to road bikes. Mostly it is that she doesn't like drop bars. On the right bike, she could comfortably cover 50 miles in a day (though she may not admit that herself), but she wouldn't be happy to not have a shower after that.

I'll give more thought to a SAG wagon or a supported tour. That may be what it takes to keep her content. I've been resistant to that prospect because of my own desires. I like traveling without reservations; going as far as I want to go and then setting up camp wherever I can find a level patch of ground. For me, the structure of a supported tour takes away a lot of the spontaneous fun. But I realized years ago that my desire for spontaneity and my wife's desire for planning are directly at odds with one another. And for this trip, I really need to give in a bit more to what she wants.

Thank you all for the input.

Offline bbarrettx

Re: Best Novice Route Under 500 Miles
« Reply #11 on: February 07, 2012, 09:50:00 pm »
West coast of the south island of New Zealand. Backroads runs a nice supported tour but it's quite easy to to unsupported as well. I've done both. Great riding.

South coast of Ireland has superb and generally quiet riding.

The Oregon coast (north to south with prevailing winds) as mentioned above is also a superb ride. You can cut off the coast for a few days to head into Crater Lake for a bit of variety.