Author Topic: Looking for a Sept/Oct route suggestion for a long-ish first time bike tour  (Read 2178 times)

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Offline wundrian

Hi folks! I stumbled on this forum looking for an option to spend my sabbatical, coming up probably in the Sept to Oct time frame. I'll get 7 weeks of free time to explore the USA, with what I assume is a bit of leeway when I start and end.
I'm looking for an option that takes me from the east coast westwards. I'm currently in central Mass, so I've considered the East Greenway as well. But as far as routes go, I'm completely open to anything that's realistic in the 7 weeks.

So what can I plan with: I originally bought what turns out to be ~50 miles radius ebike for commuting that I could use for this adventure, making wind and mountains less of a concern for me but does add the need for a charging port once in a while - I'd consider either planning a lunch stop to recharge or just buying a regular touring bike.
I'm generally sporty and hiked 150 miles over several weeks on foot once, so I'm not a total stranger to a time on the road. But definitely need to brush up on road knowledge, esp in the States.

Can people recommend anything for that time of the year (telling me I'm nuts and should have started planning waay ahead is totally valid, I'll just come back another time  ;))

Offline staehpj1

That is usually a nice time of year for the Pacific Coast.  I like Oregon and California the best, Washington less so.

Offline John Nettles

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Welcome to the ACA Forums!

It is a bit hard to give some detailed recommendations.  Try looking at this: for some suggested questions to answer. Other things to consider for your specific trip is do you want to tour in your area, an area you are not familiar with (what states??), what temps do you prefer (be specific in degrees not vague like "cool"), etc. Just give your "must haves" and your "preferreds".

As far as the e-bike goes, you might be able to do a tour with an e-bike but I would wonder how many times you will be riding unassisted because the batteries died and you have no where to charge.  If you are hoteling it each night, then that is a different story.  A used regular touring bike, a la a Surly Long Hall Trucker, might be worthy considering.  You could then sale it after you get done and the overall cost would be fairly low.

September and October are great months to travel typically.  Without knowing your answers, I would probably start with ACA's Atlanta Coast Route (AC)and head south.  I personally do not like parts of the East Greenway as they can have tremendous traffic and times.  ACA reserches their routes much better IMO.  Anyway, take the AC to the Chicago to NYC route (CNYC) and head toward Indianapolis.  From there, follow the East TransAm Express route (non-ACA) to St. Louis where you can take the train back home.  If you have more time, you can pick up the Katy Trail, a rail trail, in St. Louis, and end in Kansas City (take train back). 

Of course, a great area is New England and its colors, i.e. MA, ME, NH, VT, NY then head down to Pittsburgh and circle back to MA using the CNYC and the AC back toward home.

Due to the time you are traveling, other than the northern Rockies, you can almost travel anywhere. 

Tailwinds, John

Offline wundrian

Thanks for the suggestions so far, that's awesome!

I tried to pack some answers from the questions post you linked, but let me try to be more specific:

* I enjoy scenery, my best times have been hiking the Atlantic coast in Spain or Ireland. But I can do without water. I'd try to see something that isn't New England because I've been here for two years and would love a change. I haven't done a lot of training, so I'd rather avoid intense hilly country, I guess?
* I can do without historical or urban centers, but one of the draws of the TransAm (I already read I'm too late for that) were the National Parks on the way. I'd consider them a very nice bonus, I always get asked about Yellowstone and Yosemite by fellow climbers so at least seeing the rocks would be awesome. And a reason to pack climbing shoes.
* I had great experiences with a mix of hotels and camp grounds when on foot. But I'm open to new experiences. I don't have a strict budget I need to stick to but experience told me the fun is in shared spaces on camp grounds.
* For mileage I know I can do about 50 miles easily, probably more. Part of the fun would be to find out how much I can do. No experience means I'd rather start slow and plan enough rest for an occasional trip to a climbing gym or just sightseeing for when I do pass through a town.

I'll check out the suggestions already thrown out, thank you!

Offline HikeBikeCook

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You mentioned getting out of New England and a start from Central Mass. You also mention possibly using an E-Bike, which I cannot comment on since I have no experience. However, you also mentioned doing 50 miles a day, which if it is your daily average on an EMPTY bike, may be a lot lower when you add 30 lbs of gear. Also, the range of your E-Bike may be a lot less with a load.

For route options, the ACA has the Atlantic Coast Route which passes through Windsor Locks, CT in North Central CT you could jump on and that intersects with the Chicago Route in Port Jervis, NY to provide a few options. Or you could pick you way on a few roads going West (you will find Bike Route 5 just over the MA/NY Line) and get on the Erie Canal Route going West in Albany, NY. You can intersect with the North Tier Route in Rochester, NY.
Unsure exactly where in Central MA you are but, The East Coast Greenway passes through Worcester, MA (East-Central), Putnam, CT (North-East, CT) and Simsbury, CT (North-Central, CT). The East Coast Greenway intersects with the ACA Chicago to NYC Route in Fort Lee, NJ providing additional options.

I would suggest using the ACA Route Network Map which shows ACA Routes, The East Coast Greenway, as well as State and National Bike Routes.
Surly Disc Trucker, Lightspeed Classic, Scott Scale, Klein Mantra Comp. First touring bike Peugeot U08 - 1966

Offline Pat Lamb

Just a couple ideas:

1. Fly to Wichita and pick up the TransAm heading east.  You'd have a chance of hitting some early leaf color by the time you get near the Blue Ridge; or you could loop south from Damascus towards the Blue Ridge Parkway and take that north toward Waynesboro/Afton to pick up the last part of the TransAm, with the chance of more fall leaves in the process.  (Just be careful about the BRP closure near Roanoke, I don't know if they've finished rebuilding that section.)

2. Take one of the last flights of the year into West Yellowstone and head east on the new Parks Peaks and Prairies route.  From the end of that you could cobble a route south toward St. Louis on the Northern Tier and Great Rivers routes. 

I suspect, as John hinted, trying to get motel reservations might be a challenge (especially behind option #2).  It'll be a double whammy if you're trying to balance reservations with the need to be flexible to avoid snow in the mountain passes.

Offline jamawani

Some considerations:

1. New at touring
2. Not sure about bike
3. Huge, new Covid spike
4. Heat wave and fires in the West

Big, tough routes are not a good idea for a newbie.
An e-bike takes 4-5 hours to charge - the library wouldn't be cool with that.
The Covid surge is likely to lead to campground and public closures.
The fires & smoke in the West will not abate until Oct/Nov rains and snow.

It would be a good idea to stick to a designated route.
Perhaps, the Northern Tier from Minneapolis to Maine.
Frequent towns and services, nothing daunting, good weather.
(May need to swing south to Mass. in October.)

PS - I think the e-bike is a bad idea.

Offline BikeliciousBabe

Buying a touring bike in these times would not necessarily be an easy task.

My first unsupported tour was across the country and then some. While I got the bike early, I did not get by racks and panniers until about three weeks before I headed out west to start the trip. Rode the bike fully loaded only once before that. However, I had loads of cycling experience, including some week-long supported tours. I was also with a group of 12 others, so there was knowledge I could pick up along the way. I would not recommend my path to a newbie.

Agree with the above about the fires.

Offline wundrian

I've been very quiet because of work, but I've used whatever time I had to do some research. Jamawani - I hear you about the e-bike. I'm charging it to do some test tours, see how the battery does with weight. And yeah, Covid and an interest in the outdoors has apparently emptied the local supply of used bikes.

Thanks for the suggestion about the AC route to St Louis, I may hop onto that for a few miles to see how that would feel. When I tried to plan out a route using the ACA interactive map I was wondering about the "may not follow roads exactly" part - is there a way for me to align it to roads and bike paths? I've tried open-street/cycle map, but of course their planner has no idea about the AC and mapping the route out myself is suuper tedious. How do people do this?

Offline SwampYankee

Re: Looking for a Sept/Oct route suggestion for a long-ish first time bike tour
« Reply #9 on: September 17, 2021, 10:00:06 am »
Hi all, I am late to this discussion, but thought I would add a couple thoughts:
E-bike: go for it!!! My wife and I just finished a ride from Buffalo NY to Pacific City OR. 3,200 miles Her bike was converted Rivendell to e-assist. Battery was large enough for us to assume 40-50 miles/day. She was carrying 30-35lbs and total bike weight with gear was 69lbs at ACA HQ.

Climbing over Powder River Pass (9,666') was fine as we stopped overnight at 18 miles and charged. Wind in eastern OR was the real battery killer. She got 65 miles when elevation gain was 1,200' - 1,500' and no wind or a tailwind. Got 25-28 miles with a 15-20MPH headwind. We carried an extra battery from MSP to Pacific City OR. It weighted in at 9lbs and I carried it - which was fine with me since she was willing to go the distance with me.

You can UPS a battery to yourself at a hotel or home from your destination if needed.

Yes, you need to charge everyday (unless you invest in an extra) and it takes 5 hours or so. BUT, most campgrounds have electricity and we're too old to camp exclusively anyway, so cabins in campgrounds were a favorite. Motels might be the best way to do your first lengthy tour anyway. I've become a big fan of e-assist bike touring!!!

First Tour - I would suggest the Erie Canal or C&O as a way to break in. Good surfaces, easy places to stay, will meet other people and cyclists. Erie Canal has some road sections on NY State Bicycle RT 5, which is a nice mix and breaks from the tow path only scenery. Erie Canal would be my suggestion since from Central MA to Albany is short drive and you can Amtrak or simply rent a pickup one way from Buffalo back to your car. But be aware you need to rent ahead of time since car rentals are scare.

If I am so late you've already gone and done your tour -I hope it was a great experience. Welcome to this forum, these people are great and provided lots of help for us in planning our tour. DM me if you'd like more on the e-assist touring. SY
Travel well, kjr

Offline HikeBikeCook

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Re: Looking for a Sept/Oct route suggestion for a long-ish first time bike tour
« Reply #10 on: September 17, 2021, 11:41:01 am »
Good luck on renting a one-way pickup or van. Car rental companies sold off their fleets and closed local offices during COVID. With the chip shortages many still have not replaced vehicles. We just did the Erie in August and had to rent a one-way UHAUL 10' box - no vans or pickups for 1 way. Almost $500 from Albany to Buffalo with gas and tolls. Amtrak was totally booked for bikes, so that was our only option. Only one shuttle service and they were booked as well and wanted $500 for the trip. The year before we could have rented a 1 way pickup from Enterprise for less than 1/2 the cost.
Surly Disc Trucker, Lightspeed Classic, Scott Scale, Klein Mantra Comp. First touring bike Peugeot U08 - 1966