Author Topic: Avoiding highways  (Read 3794 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline dancingcyclist

Avoiding highways
« on: September 02, 2017, 11:22:57 pm »
I just got done with my first multi-day self-contained bike tour riding around the Olympic Peninsula following the Olympic Discovery Trail and side roads to avoid highways as much as possible. I found that highway riding is nothing but pure hell when riding a less then 2 foot shoulder with a ridge from repaving running down the middle and a 4-6 foot drop-off on my right, with or without a guard rail while big rigs and tourist in their over grown motor homes speeding by giving me no extra room to account for draft.

With that said I still want to travel the country by bike but I want to avoid the highways as much as possible. I've wanted for years to ride the PCH but now, no thank you. I've been thinking the Serria/Cascade route might be better but have not bought the maps yet as I'm tired of buying just to not use. I put together my own route for my last ride using "Ride with GPS" but it took many, many hours so I would like to get a bit of a head start if anyone has routes planned and ridden and willing to share.

I prefer to camp and cook my own meals as I'm not a big fan of cities. I'm 65, in good shape and an average speed/ability rider. On this last ride I rode an average of just under 60mi/day at 12+mph as it fit the campgrounds and found it comfortable, but could do more miles now that I've refigured my eating requirements.

Anybody have some good possibilities from your past rides?

Offline canalligators

Re: Avoiding highways
« Reply #1 on: September 03, 2017, 05:25:22 pm »
It sounds like you had a "worst case" situation.  While quiet backroads are almost always safer and more pleasant, not all highway riding is terrible.  I suggest that you pick an area or destination for a tour, then figure out a good route.  Find roads with low traffic volume, or moderate volume and wide shoulders.  Use an online map street view, or in some states/provinces, the transportation agency publishes cycling maps with volume, shoulder and rumble strip info.  They also publish construction information.

Just be careful with online maps.  Sometimes the roads are not improved enough for cycling, especially in the US western states.


  • Guest
Re: Avoiding highways
« Reply #2 on: September 04, 2017, 02:06:10 pm »
From what I understand the S-C route has some hairy sections with little or no shoulder and logging trucks.

To add to what Canal wrote, consider the time of year. Early to mid-June is going to be better in many places because the vacation season is not has not shifted into high gear. I started out from Missoula on 6/11 and headed west for a few day, ending up in ID before going back into MT. Even the unavoidable sections of I-90 riding were not bad.

Also consider adding dirt to your itinerary. You might be surprised what a fully-loaded bike equipped with good tires can handle.

Instead of taking I-90 to Lookout Pass I rode some of the old Milwaukee Road right-of-way and then the NorPac Trail, both of which were unpaved and quite scenic:

When I did part of the TransAm last year I mapped and explored a 9.8 gravel alternative:

Avoided a shoulderless section of MT 287 and was also quite scenic:

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Avoiding highways
« Reply #3 on: September 04, 2017, 05:20:59 pm »
I hesitate to bring this up because it always attracts inflamed opinions.

"Vehicular cycling" works well in many of the situations described by the O.P.  It involves a mindset that a bicyclist is a vehicle, and is entitled to use a traffic lane.  It's supported by the uniform vehicle code that's part of traffic law in 49 states.  And riding as a vehicle allows a cyclist to use far more roads and routes than any other alternative.

It takes a bit of work to develop the confidence required to "take the lane," that is, to ride in a lane of traffic vs. looking for a shoulder or off-road path.  If a cyclist is unable or unwilling to make that mental shift, he or she should look for off-road routes, such as the rail-trail networks of Minnesota and Wisconsin.  Even there, though, it's often necessary to ride on a regular road to reach food, water, and camping or lodging, unless you're doing an out-and-back day trip.

Offline RussSeaton

Re: Avoiding highways
« Reply #4 on: September 04, 2017, 07:17:23 pm »
I don't really understand this "nothing but shoulders" mentality.  Where I live and ride, almost none of the roads have shoulders to ride on.  And most of the very few shoulders would not be rideable anyway due to debris.  I suggest doing as alligator responded.  Pick somewhere and then map out a route using the numerous county roads available.  That is how I rode around all of Europe and parts of the USA.  Get a map with somewhat low/high resolution, and find the small paved roads.  No official pre planned route to it.  If you only will ride on trails, then maybe Netherlands is the only place on earth you can ride.  Lots of trails there.  But I rode on the roads too when I was there.  So...


  • Guest
Re: Avoiding highways
« Reply #5 on: September 05, 2017, 07:30:33 am »
One particular suggestion for a route: You can use sections 5 and 6 of ACA's Northern Tier route to make a loop in mostly MN that uses many miles of trails. Fargo is one possible starting point. Somewhere on the website is an article about it.

Offline JHamelman

Re: Avoiding highways
« Reply #6 on: September 11, 2017, 09:08:41 am »
One particular suggestion for a route: You can use sections 5 and 6 of ACA's Northern Tier route to make a loop in mostly MN that uses many miles of trails. Fargo is one possible starting point. Somewhere on the website is an article about it.

I rode some of those very trails this summer, really great riding and the on-road portions were comfortable, too, as far as traffic volumes (though little shoulder at times). I wrote a blog post on the topic when we first released this revise routing:


Jennifer Hamelman

Adventure Cycling Association
Inspiring and empowering people to travel by bicycle.
800/755-2453, 406/721-1776 x205

Follow Routes & Mapping on Twitter: @acaroutes