Adventure Cycling Association Forum

Bicycle Travel => General Discussion => Topic started by: oldgroundhog on December 07, 2012, 06:39:35 am

 
Title: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
Post by: oldgroundhog on December 07, 2012, 06:39:35 am
What are your thoughts on the advantages of bicycle touring over backpacking, or vice versa?   I've hiked the Appalachian Trail and made several Pacific-Atlantic cycle tours.  I'm frequently asked which is best and why?  I have my thoughts on the subject, but was wondering yours?  So if you are both a backpacker and a cycle tourist, what do you say?
Title: Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
Post by: DaveB on December 07, 2012, 09:19:59 am
I guess I don't understand why one has to be the "best".  They are such different modes of travel and offer such different experiences that they should be treated on their own merits.  The closest comparison to backpacking would be MTB touring and, even that, is very different.
Title: Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
Post by: John Nelson on December 07, 2012, 09:50:01 am
Backpacking is pretty-much a 100% nature experience. Bicycle touring (on roads) is a mixture of nature and civilization. Backpacking allows you to get away from it all more completely. Bicycle touring allows you to travel greater distances and see more. Backpacking is good if you are nervous about sharing the road with traffic. Bicycle touring is good if you want to meet people and experience rural life.

Do both.
Title: Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
Post by: staehpj1 on December 07, 2012, 10:14:14 am
Backpacking is pretty-much a 100% nature experience. Bicycle touring (on roads) is a mixture of nature and civilization. Backpacking allows you to get away from it all more completely. Bicycle touring allows you to travel greater distances and see more. Backpacking is good if you are nervous about sharing the road with traffic. Bicycle touring is good if you want to meet people and experience rural life.

Do both.

John hit the nail on the head.

I removed my first reply because I misunderstood and read backpacking as bikepacking.
Title: Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
Post by: ezdoesit on December 07, 2012, 10:14:29 am
Backpacking is pretty-much a 100% nature experience. Bicycle touring (on roads) is a mixture of nature and civilization. Backpacking allows you to get away from it all more completely. Bicycle touring allows you to travel greater distances and see more. Backpacking is good if you are nervous about sharing the road with traffic. Bicycle touring is good if you want to meet people and experience rural life.

Do both.

+1
Title: Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
Post by: johnsondasw on December 07, 2012, 03:25:50 pm
I've done a lot of each, and can't really name a "best". One big advantage to biking is you can get whatever food you want every day.  To me, that's a big plus.  Backpacking, especially combined with scrambling/climbing, offers special thrills that biking can't.
Title: Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
Post by: jamawani on December 08, 2012, 01:13:10 am
Why not both?

I have toured extensively in the West with a moderate weight 2-day pack which allows me to go on extended wilderness hikes of 3 to 4 days by hiking light.  I've had the concession service take my bike up from Yosemite Valley to Tuolumne Meadows a couple of times and have hiked up the John Muir Trail.  I shuttled my bike at Grand Canyon and have then hiked rim-to-rim a half dozen times - not to mention out-and-back hikes.  I've hiked Bryce Canyon, Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Glacier, Waterton, Banff, Jasper, Yoho, Mount Robson, North Cascades, Kluane, Wrangell-St Elias, and Denali.  All while on long bike tours.

There is no need to choose.

Pic - Backcountry camping on Upper Athabasca River in Jasper NP
Title: Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
Post by: staehpj1 on December 08, 2012, 09:39:06 am
I've had the concession service take my bike up from Yosemite Valley to Tuolumne Meadows a couple of times and have hiked up the John Muir Trail.
Do they officially offer that as a service or is it a matter of asking nicely and hoping for the best?

BTW, that sounds like a great way to enjoy Yosemite.
Title: Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
Post by: jamawani on December 08, 2012, 09:58:31 am
At Yosemite there is no shuttle, you have to go by the concessioner's office and beg nicely.  It would be better to go directly to the office of the warehouse manager than the "main" office as each employs persons with different mentalities.  The latter will say "Impossible!" while the former is more likely to say, "Yeah, we can toss it in a truck."

At Grand Canyon these is a shuttle during the summer season, but technically, they don't offer bike shuttle service.  You need to arrange to have your bike stored on the other end and have all the loose ends tied up - then meet the van departing with everything ready to go.
Title: Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
Post by: staehpj1 on December 08, 2012, 01:10:52 pm
At Yosemite there is no shuttle, you have to go by the concessioner's office and beg nicely.  It would be better to go directly to the office of the warehouse manager than the "main" office as each employs persons with different mentalities.  The latter will say "Impossible!" while the former is more likely to say, "Yeah, we can toss it in a truck."

At Grand Canyon these is a shuttle during the summer season, but technically, they don't offer bike shuttle service.  You need to arrange to have your bike stored on the other end and have all the loose ends tied up - then meet the van departing with everything ready to go.

Thanks.
Title: Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
Post by: dennityrrell on December 09, 2012, 01:01:22 am
This summer I left my job to do the following:
- Hiked 230ish miles of the John Muir Trail (3 weeks)
- Peddled the 1900ish miles of the Pacific Coast Bicycle Route from Canada to the Boarder of USA/Mexico (6 weeks)

Backpacking rules because there is no noise / light / garbage pollution, your not competing for shoulder space with distracted drivers, your days are simple, you can camp for free almost anywhere youd like, abundant wildlife and mountain scenery and you are surrounded by clean air and water. Although it does require a lot more planning, its hard to cover a lot of ground (10-15 miles is a decent days work) you cant really mail anything home that you dont need, you have to carry everything on your back and your more exposed if something goes wrong.  More experienced is required.

Bike touring rules because you can cover so much more distance in a day (50-70 miles is a decent days work), you can eat/drink whatever you want (ice cream x3 a day, why not? Or how about some espresso?) and you hardly need to pack anything in your panniers. If you have a rainy day - you can hole up in a hotel or just brunt riding in the storm knowing that you plan to stay in a hotel with a hot tub later that night.  Touring is more social and you get to have a lot more conversations with random people and hopefully inspire people to get back on their bikes.  Mechanical breakdowns suck, paying for hotels / camp grounds can add up pretty quickly and people giving you the finger for taking up a bit of space on the road sometimes can rub me the wrong way.  Really not much prior experience needed ... just get up and go.

Overall ... I wouldn't choose one over the other. Thats why in the near future I plan to bike 20 miles to a local backcountry trailhead, stash the bike and trailer and hike a few miles into the woods. Might even bring the dog along ...

 

Title: Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
Post by: gubbool on December 13, 2012, 10:15:40 pm
From my experience, which is just under 20,000 miles total, in its simplest form the answer is:

thru-Hiking - meet some people; can carry nothing extra, dream about sitting in a chair; camp most anywhere you want, any time you want, for as long as you want; breakfast not so good; cheap

thru-padding - meet nobody; carry everything you want including a chair, none of it on your back; camp IF you can reach land that's not guarded by soft mud or oyster beds; cold breakfast in da boat or you'll miss the morning's calm water; so much food = so much money

bike-touring - meets lots of people; carry most of what you want, no need for a chair, for every 20 minutes spent pushing your gear up a hill you get a 20 second free ride on the other side; camp at walmart  - if you are brave enough; AND breakfast at McD's - budget for it.

AL-Me '08 Hike
Me-AL '08 Bike
ASRT '09 Paddle
EDC '10 Bike
FCT '11-12 Paddle



Title: Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
Post by: oldgroundhog on December 17, 2012, 02:40:10 pm
It's been interesting to read these replies.  Thanks to all who's posted.  I've found in the last decade a marked distinction between the two travels.  I prefer cycling, but places to camp now are becoming increasingly more difficult to find.  School grounds and ball fields once welcomed touring cyclists.  Now I'm called a 'potential terrorist' and turned away.  Churches once welcomed touring cyclists also.  Now I am a 'liability issue' and turned away. 

There are exceptions, but from my experience, policemen also have a negative view of touring cyclists.  I've been called a 'vagrant' and 'homeless' simply because I ride a loaded bicycle.  This is obviously a topic for another post, but I hope there becomes more trust in the bicycle non-community towards us who travel on two wheels.

So for awhile, I'll just keep the boots laced up and hike the Appalachian Trail.  Thanks again for all your inputs.

Title: Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
Post by: staehpj1 on December 18, 2012, 07:17:13 am
It's been interesting to read these replies.  Thanks to all who's posted.  I've found in the last decade a marked distinction between the two travels.  I prefer cycling, but places to camp now are becoming increasingly more difficult to find.  School grounds and ball fields once welcomed touring cyclists.  Now I'm called a 'potential terrorist' and turned away.  Churches once welcomed touring cyclists also.  Now I am a 'liability issue' and turned away. 

There are exceptions, but from my experience, policemen also have a negative view of touring cyclists.  I've been called a 'vagrant' and 'homeless' simply because I ride a loaded bicycle.  This is obviously a topic for another post, but I hope there becomes more trust in the bicycle non-community towards us who travel on two wheels.

So for awhile, I'll just keep the boots laced up and hike the Appalachian Trail.  Thanks again for all your inputs.

That doesn't match my experiences.  The nice folks I meet along the way and the ease of finding places to camp are a big part of what I like about touring.  I guess it depends on where you tour, but I have seldom had trouble finding places to camp often for free in the West, in the plains, and in the South West.  Local folks have generally been hospitable and the interactions I have had with the police were rare, but positive.  The police have been extremely helpful on a number of occasions and even the one time I was pulled over for riding where I shouldn't have been they were respectful and courteous.  In the 5 years I have been touring I have done several long tours and have noticed no decline in the warmth and kindness of strangers met along the way.

Also I have heard plenty of laments about how the AT experience just isn't what it used to be.  I do not know how much that is really the case, but it is enough to have put me off of wanting to thru hike it.  I think I'd rather hike less used trails and am considering the Allegheny Trail for later in 2013.

Bike touring, backpacking, and wilderness canoe tripping all are equally great experiences with their own pluses and minuses in my opinion.
Title: Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
Post by: johnsondasw on December 18, 2012, 01:04:49 pm
I agree with Staehpj1.  In over 30 years of touring, the only negative interactions I have experienced have been with motorists driving by, you know, the finger, the yell, etc.  With people I actually meet, it's all been positive, even to the point of going up to the cash register to pay the bill for breakfast and being told it was already taken care of buy an anonymous person in the cafe.

A little off topic, but one of the strangest things I've noticed about the people I meet is that locals often know nothing about local geography, roads, etc.  They can't tell you which road to take, where a particlar road goes, etc, even when I'm asking in a small town where a road leaving is going or which way to another nearby town or how far it is or especially if a road is hilly or  not.  I think I often leave a town I've never been to before knowing more about the area than the people living there!
Title: Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
Post by: 2riders on January 05, 2013, 11:49:41 pm
I came across this while reading "Retired Couple Tackles The Northern Tier" by Jim Cox on CrazyGuyOnABike from 2006:
...You may wonder how doing this compares to hiking the Appalachian Trail. It's a little early to answer that, but to me the big appeal of both is the SIMPLICITY of the life style. Everything you "own" is right there in a few cubic feet -- plus your only real concerns are eating, sleeping and whether or not your body will hold up. The negatives about biking are the mechanical concerns and the traffic. The positives about biking are: (1) You sleep in beds a lot more often. (2) You eat a lot better food. (3) You cover a lot more miles and, therefore, see a lot more things...
Title: Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
Post by: canalligators on January 28, 2013, 01:07:33 pm
I just find the speed of travel from walking to be too slow.  Maybe I just haven't learned to slow down enough, I've only backpacked a total of about four weeks in my life.  We'd probably all agree that travel by car is too fast, you don't see anything.
Title: Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
Post by: Dr. John on January 30, 2013, 05:54:56 pm
My first love is long hiking.  Still one of my best summers was a hike from Katadin to Mass, then taking commuter buses up to Burlington, buying a LHT etc, riding back to central Maine, then down the coast, over to DC, then Pitt, back to Harper's Ferry and down Skyline Dr. and BRP while chasing the turning leaves.  Is the AT what it used to be?  Well a big difference is everyone has a cell phone and it can be quite crowded.  But if you go late (or very early) or head south people can be a bit sparse.  I have yet to bike tour on a route where I have run into more than the very occasional touring cyclist.  I must admit one reason it love long hikes is the community of hikers, not to mention usually clean air (but not on the southern PCT about 3 p.m. when the L.A fog rolls in, or the smell of cow shit on the Colorado trail etc.).  I also love the taste of the water on the AT.  What I have noticed on my AT thru-hikes is when I get near the big cities (SNP comes to mind) I can smell the air pollution on the day hikers, somewhat like you can smell the smoke on a cigarette smoker.  Anyone else notice this?  I can only imagine what I must smell like after riding in traffic.
Title: Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
Post by: Sean T on February 05, 2013, 05:05:07 pm
I did most of the Pacific Crest Trail from Oregon to Mexico for six months in 1981, and I remember feeling like a mule after a few months, slogging along with that heavy backpack mile after mile, day after day, week after week, dreaming about how sweet it would be to do a bike tour instead, carrying nothing on my back, eating all the tasty food I wanted. But on the hike I got to be in awesome places no bike could go.
 
I've never done a bike tour, yet, but if I do I'll probably dream of how great it was to do the PCT as I pedal mile after mile, saddlesore and tired, worrying about flat tires...  :P
Title: Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
Post by: Dr. John on February 06, 2013, 04:21:26 pm
Hey Sean, things have changed since 1981.  My typical pack weight is 18 lbs. + food and water, yet many get by with 15 or less.  And lightweight food choices are easier and likely resupply points more frequent.  Still, it takes a few weeks to get your legs, but the point is you do get to where you don't feel so much like a mule.  Funny thing, I have a very hard time not losing too much weight backpacking, but I can put on weight bike touring - it is way too easy to eat all the tasty food you want, or suck down sodas on a hot day (and I usually don't like sweet things).  Still I hope you get to do a bike tour soon.
Title: Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
Post by: Sean T on February 06, 2013, 07:30:39 pm
18 lbs!  My Jansport external frame pack, loaded with gear but no food or water, weighed about 50 lbs. After I loaded up with food and water from a post office drop it was around 70 lbs.  By the time I got to the High Sierras I'd worn out the soles of my new boots and the frame broke. 

I sure didn't gain any body weight either on that trip!

18 lbs. would be heaven.  So would a bike tour, with 0 lbs.

Title: Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
Post by: staehpj1 on February 07, 2013, 09:31:29 am
18 lbs!  My Jansport external frame pack, loaded with gear but no food or water, weighed about 50 lbs. After I loaded up with food and water from a post office drop it was around 70 lbs.  By the time I got to the High Sierras I'd worn out the soles of my new boots and the frame broke. 

That sounds miserable.  I don't think that I would go on a backpacking trip if it meant having to carry 70 pounds.

It really isn't very hard to go light.  I can get to under 7 pounds base weight if I don't need a bear canister or a lot of extra clothing.  It doesn't even require using fancy cuben fiber stuff or much high dollar cottage industry stuff.  In addition to the lighter load, I also like having a simple minimal kit.
Title: Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
Post by: Sean T on February 07, 2013, 04:56:25 pm
That is definitely the way to go.  With feather weight like that my aging knees and feet might actually be able to handle backpacking again.
Title: Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
Post by: Dr. John on February 08, 2013, 03:06:47 pm
Is it just me, or do many (especially young, testosterone filled men) try to inversely correlate pack weight with physical endowment?  :)  Still what a pleasure it is to fall asleep in your tent at night with so few possessions and know that is all it takes to be truly happy.
Title: Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
Post by: Sean T on February 08, 2013, 07:17:04 pm
 ;)  Indeed!
Title: Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
Post by: Dr. John on February 08, 2013, 10:36:13 pm
"Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving." - Albert Einstein

"To get to know a country, you must have direct contact with the earth. It's futile to gaze at the world through a car window." - Albert Einstein

Would dear old Albert have been jealous of us all? Would (or did?) he prefer backpacking or bike touring? It is curious to ponder that many great physicists and mathematicians love to walk.
Title: Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
Post by: Sean T on February 09, 2013, 06:42:26 pm
I think it's because walking (or riding a bike or watching your breath or any physical activity) is grounding, it liberates our attention from the mind, bringing it home to the now, where life is actually happening, where real creativity is possible.  Physicists and mathematicians of Einstein's caliber are creative.

Of course it's all too easy to keep thinking while doing physical things, but at least physical activity makes it easier to be present, to not miss out on your life.
Title: Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
Post by: johnsondasw on February 10, 2013, 12:02:13 am
Would (or did?) he prefer backpacking or bike touring? It is curious to ponder that many great physicists and mathematicians love to walk.

Well, I guess I can't lay any claim to greatness, but I've been a mathematician for the past 30 uyears or so, and I love to walk, bike and climb.  In fact quite a high proportion of climbers are into mathematics, science, and other technical fields.  I find solving the problems and meeting the challenges in climbing and mathematics to be metaphorically quite similar. 

If anyone's interested, there is a delightful biography on Einstein by Walter Issackson.  I listened to it on CD on a road trip a year ago.  It's worth a read if you're into math/physics/etc.

Title: Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
Post by: MrBent on February 10, 2013, 03:22:32 pm
Thread drift:  Hell yes, Johnson!  What the hell is it with people knowing almost nothing about where they live?

OP:  I like both but these days I'm leaning towards the quiet of hiking, although as I can see spring coming on, I can feel myself itching for the bike, too.  The only downside to backpacking is the pack itself--even ultra light there's some discomfort there, but I suppose cycle touring has its analogous aches and pains.  I'm working on developing a lighter pack.  I've done almost all bike touring for the last ten years, and now I'm excited about hiking again.  I'm envious of people back east and in the Midwest for all the paved cycling options.  The West is more congested with fewer options.  Still, I ride.
Title: Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
Post by: mucknort on February 12, 2013, 01:10:24 pm
What a great question!
I really can't choose one over the other.
-Backpacking is slow, Biking covers more ground.
   -Still, compared to driving, biking is slow/ hiking is much slower. You explore your environment in either enhanced or super enhanced.
-Biking allows you to have access to civilization (if needed), Hiking removes you from civilization. (Both can be good.)
-Biking allows you to connect with other human beings in a very personal way along the journey, Hiking can cut you off from human contact completely. (Both can be good.)
-Both are human powered and are excellent for body/mind/spirit. (But no more so than kayaking/canoeing.)
-Both should be required subjects in all elementary/high schools. (In my humble opinion.)
Title: Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
Post by: Dr. John on February 12, 2013, 01:31:21 pm
I like tensors myself.  I have noticed that many thru-hikers have advanced degrees - certainly at a much greater rate than the general population.  I suspect this is partially due to having both the time and money, not to mention if one makes a living doing physical labor, one might be more inclined to want to rest.  But I also suspect that the same personality trait which would drive someone to push their brain might also cause them to push their bodies.
Title: Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
Post by: staehpj1 on February 12, 2013, 03:50:18 pm
I'm envious of people back east and in the Midwest for all the paved cycling options.  The West is more congested with fewer options.  Still, I ride.
I had to laugh at that one.  I'd say the exact opposite.  I live in the east and always fly out west to tour although I do sometimes ride to the east coast.  I always figured that the east was a much inferior place to tour compared to the west.  Camping tends to be harder to find and expensive in the east unless you want to stealth camp.

I guess the east and midwest do have things like the GAP and Katy trails, but they do not appeal to me.

I figured that Oregon, California, and Colorado were pretty much bike touring heaven, with Montana and Wyoming close behind.

Just personal preference though...
Title: Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
Post by: RussSeaton on February 12, 2013, 08:08:53 pm
For paved roads, the east and midwest have the western states beat.  There are numerous county and state paved roads connecting all of the small towns in the east and midwest.  All of the farm towns up and down every river.  The west does not have many towns.  And the few roads connecting the few towns are main, highly traveled roads.  The west does have the advantage of every paved road being a scenic road through the mountains.
Title: Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
Post by: staehpj1 on February 13, 2013, 09:54:20 am
For paved roads, the east and midwest have the western states beat.  There are numerous county and state paved roads connecting all of the small towns in the east and midwest.  All of the farm towns up and down every river.  The west does not have many towns.  And the few roads connecting the few towns are main, highly traveled roads.  The west does have the advantage of every paved road being a scenic road through the mountains.

I realize that it is all personal preference, but I have to say that I am really surprised to read that folks feel that way.
Title: Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
Post by: Sean T on February 13, 2013, 09:34:44 pm
I agree it's a matter of preference; for those who prefer the rugged, wildness of the West, the quality of rides is more important than quantity. For those who appreciate the relatively pastoral beauties of the East, the greater quantity of uncongested secondary roads must be fantastic.

I've lived in the West all my life (California, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Arizona), and have never traveled farther east than the high plains of the Rocky Mountain Front and West Texas. So it has always seemed to me that there are a huge number of lightly traveled roads here, especially in farmland like the Sacramento Valley, San Joaquin Valley, Willamette Valley, Eastern Washington, and the vast areas of wide open sageland and desert. But then I've had nothing to compare it to, and have never experienced Western roads from the perspective of a bike tourist.

The West certainly has a lot more mountains and fewer towns (although way too many towns by typical Western preferences!), and those two factors would have to narrow and lessen the quantity of travel routes and thus create relative congestion. Are roads in the Appalachians and Adirondacks similarly congested?
Title: Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
Post by: Dr. John on February 14, 2013, 01:17:32 pm
Wow, what a can of worms!  What I've noticed of people in general (not specifically bike tourists) is a tendency for westerners to feel claustrophobic when traveling back east with all the trees, and easterners to feel exposed and vulnerable when traveling west (although I've certainly met many easterners who are in awe of the grandeur of the mountainous west).  Personally I like both except for large, flat, expanses of sage etc.  What I can say is that I very much prefer the small towns back east.  Small western towns seem to me to either be completely void of any charm and/or ridiculously expensive.   I can say pretty much the same as far as cities go, but I usually try to avoid cycling in cities anyhow.
One thing I find odd is the availability of cheap bike camping in the Pacific states, e.g. ~$4 at many CA state parks, or free on BLM land etc., yet when backpacking it seems you almost need a (often fee-based) permit to take a leak!  And there have been proposals in the CO legislature to require a fee to climb 14’ers in the state, similar to CA.  I’ve seen fees charged just to walk into many western Wilderness Areas, yet never back east.  And I must carry a campfire permit in CA just to use my Jetboil (I will admit, given the number of morons I’ve met when it comes to fire, that may not be such a bad idea!).
Title: Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
Post by: mucknort on February 14, 2013, 02:15:14 pm
Wow, what a can of worms!  What I've noticed of people in general is a tendency for westerners to ..... and easterners to feel ......

Well, I've toured extensively in the NorthEast-MidWest-West. Yes, there are differences regarding availability of camping, types of roads available and their quality, but I've mostly found that  vehicle drivers are tolerant to welcoming of cyclists on tour. I have not toured in the Southeast, a good deal because of the stories I've heard regarding the intolerance of a large enough number of vehicle drivers toward cyclists. For me, this is a much bigger issue over campsite availability/road quality/etc.
Comments?
Title: Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
Post by: Dr. John on February 14, 2013, 04:33:07 pm
The West certainly has a lot more mountains

The East used to have a lot more mountains.  I saw a few years ago that the coal companies had leveled over 650 mountains in the central Appalachians :'(
Title: Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
Post by: Dr. John on February 14, 2013, 05:38:23 pm
I have not toured in the Southeast, a good deal because of the stories I've heard regarding the intolerance of a large enough number of vehicle drivers toward cyclists.

When I lived in South Carolina, if I was riding in the country and stopped by the side of the road to shed a jacket, get a drink, or I recall once stopping for the few seconds it took to realign the computer sensor on my fork, almost invariably if someone passed by they would stop and ask if I was alright.  This has been a rare occurrence for me elsewhere.

Southern hospitality on the Appalachian Trail is well known.  The number of times I have arrived at a road crossing intending to hitch into town for resupply only to have someone pull over before I even got my thumb out are way too many to count.  I've known people who have had rancher point a gun at them on the CDT in Montana, and I had that happen to me on the CDT in central CO.  A few years ago I was passing thru Grand Junction, CO and stopped at a LBS for brake pads.  I had several people hanging out their windows yelling at me or even throwing garbage at me on the way and told the owner.  The owner told me that CO had just passed the 3-foot law, and a couple weeks earlier during a large (charity?) event, a number of people had situated their vehicles to block the route at several locations in protest.

A woman I met on the AT had traveled all over the world and much of the US, and even been in the Peace Corp, but never to the South until she and her mother drove down from her home in CT to get to the AT.  She was surprised that when driving down a country road other drivers would wave.  She was also surprised at how many old people she saw, commenting that up north when people got old they were often just "shipped away".

Yes there are intolerant people in the South just like everywhere else.  And I have heard horror stories about Florida myself, yet I don't know how common these are.  I haven’t had people try to run me off the road, or point a gun at me in the South.   So don't let your prejudices stop you from touring the South.  From my extensive travels in the US, I must say there are few things as pretty as springtime in the southeast or autumn in upper-New England (I’d move to central Maine if it wasn’t for the cold winters and springtime bug bloom).


Southern hospitality on the Appalachian trail is well known.  The number of times I have gotten to a road crossing intending to hitch into town for resupply only to have someone pull over before I even got my thumb out is way to many to count.  I've known people who have had rancher point a gun at them on the CDT in Montana, and I had that happen on the CDT in central CO.  A few years ago I was passing thru Grand Junction, CO and stopped at a LBS for brake pads.  I had several people hanging out the window yelling at me or even throwing things at me on the way and told the owner.  The owner told me that CO had just passed the 3-foot law, and a couple weeks earlier during a large (charity?) event, a number of people had situated their vehicles to block the route in protest.

A girl I met on the AT had traveled all over the world and much of the US, been in the Peace Corp, but never to the South until she and her mother drove down from her home in CT.  She was suprised that when driving down a country road other drivers would wave.  She was also suprised at how many old people she saw, commenting that up north when people got old they were often just "shipped away"

I'm sure there are intolerant people in the South just like everywhere else.  And I have heard horror stories about Florida myself, yet I don't know how common these are.  But don't let your predjuces stop you from touring the South.  From my extensive travels in the US, I must say there are few things prettier than springtime in the southeast or autumn in upper-New England.
Title: Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
Post by: MrBent on February 17, 2013, 01:29:58 pm
Touring East vs. West:  My experience is based on my 2007 cross country tour.  I was so impressed with the numerous road options I was seeing.  Granted, I was away from all the big cities as I followed the ACA Norther Tier route as far as Muscatine, Iowa.  Then I took the Great Rivers south to pick up the Katy and, eventually, the TransAm route as far as Salida, CO.  Then I followed my own route the rest of the way, dropping down through Colorado and NM as far south as Socorro where I headed due west again with, of course, a lot of zigs and zags.  I've also crossed, now, N--S, a big chunk of Alberta, Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado.  For pure light traffic, wild touring, New Mexico has proven to be one of the best states so far--paved riding, that is.    Since I'd never ridden back east or the Midwest, I was very pleased with the riding and the ACA route.  In the Midwest, although often boring, the riding was bliss with nice roads between fields and virtually NO traffic---like private bike paths.

Scott
Title: Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
Post by: johnsondasw on February 18, 2013, 09:03:00 pm
For paved roads, the east and midwest have the western states beat.  There are numerous county and state paved roads connecting all of the small towns in the east and midwest.  All of the farm towns up and down every river.  The west does not have many towns.  And the few roads connecting the few towns are main, highly traveled roads.  The west does have the advantage of every paved road being a scenic road through the mountains.

I find these claims to be kind of bizzare.  I've toured all over the West and never felt the need for more towns! And the West has, to my liking, much superior weather in the summer months.  There are many fairly cool places in the West and even the hot ones may be similar temps to the East but with much lower humidity.
Title: Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
Post by: jamawani on February 18, 2013, 11:21:39 pm
You say, "To-MAY-to" and I say, "To-MAH-to".

Yes there are some lovely back roads in the East, South, and Midwest - -
And far fewer paved back roads in the West.
But the West has an abundance of public lands - -
Glorious natural landscapes that are rare east of the Rockies.

East or West, if you are willing to do a little dirt, the payoffs are big.
This is especially true if there is only a short dirt section in a route.
For example, the main highway is 30 miles with shoulders and moderate traffic.
The old road is 32 miles with a 6-mile dirt section and almost zero traffic.
For me, the choice is obvious.

Also, you have to be willing to ride extra miles in the West to discover the empty paved roads.
If you want the direct routes - it will usually have traffic, although often not that much.
But if you are willing to zig and zag some, you find the jewels.
For example, US 50 across Nevada - supposedly the "Loneliest Road" - ain't that lonely.
But US 6 to the south has half the traffic - profoundly empty.

Similarly, in Wyoming's Grand Teton N.P. back road options are there.
After riding the park loop, you can swing around Mormon Row, then use Spring Gulch Road into Jackson.

Title: Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
Post by: lesliehorning on February 22, 2013, 04:10:20 pm
If you do the Appalachian Trail, you should read Bill Bryon's book, "A Walk in the Woods" before you go.
Title: Re: Bicycle Touring vs Backpacking
Post by: MrBent on February 23, 2013, 01:12:35 pm
@Jama:  You're certainly right about going dirt.  It's especially nice, I noticed, that some through roads with dirt lose virtually all the traffic.  We experienced this in riding County Rd. 3  south from Sulphur Hot Springs to get to Ute Pass--great riding!  And the dirt was so good it practically qualified as pavement.