As soon as the temperature drops and snowflakes start covering our landscape, some of us cyclists put our bikes and equipment away in the garage or basement and wait patiently for the next season. For those sitting on the couch watching Netflix and waiting for the icy patches to melt, how about planning a bike trip for better days of sunshine and no health restrictions? A few weeks ago, Seacoast Area Bicycle Riders Board Member Mary Malloy led an informal discussion on Zoom with friends who have taken a range of different trips. All were fun, some were Type 1 fun (exhilarating, picturesque, can’t stop smiling) and some were Type 2 fun (challenging, grueling, even better memories!). Here is a summary of the discussion with tips on how to best enjoy Type 1 or Type 2 fun.
The Biker-Camper type
If you would like to plan your own trip, Mary’s brother Joe and his wife Kathy retold their adventure last August riding the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath (C&O Towpath) followed by the Great Allegheny Passage Trail, for a total of 340 traffic free miles starting in Washington, D.C. While you will have to organize your own logistics such as camp site or hotel reservations and shuttle back to get back to your car, this is a beautiful, mostly flat ride with many stops to discover the historical and natural landmarks (Harper’s Ferry site, Great Falls of the Potomac, to name just a few). More information can be found here: http://bikewashington.org/canal/ and also here: https://www.nps.gov/hafe/planyourvisit
The Biker-Volunteer type
The organization “Bike and Build” offers tours for ages 18-29 all over the country. Multiple trips are offered every year from coast to coast. You ride in a group of 20 to 30 people and you stop at different locations to volunteer on building projects for a few days. This program promotes cycling and affordable housing while definitely channeling type 2 fun. The presenter, 24-year old Phoebe, shared pictures of the high-calorie meals she enjoyed with her newly found friends. If you are looking for camaraderie and hard work along the road, then this will be a good fit. More details at bikeandbuild.org
The Biker-Bon Vivant type
For an older age group with more resources, Mary and her friends recommend trips through Lizard Head Cycling (American West), Bon Ton Roulet (around the Finger Lakes, New York) and Velociped (Europe). These groups offer packages with bike rentals, tips, room and board. With the Lizard Head Cycling trips, a van follows you carrying your bags and you can stop along the way for hikes. For some of these trips, you may have the choice to rent an e-bike which is a great compromise among groups of different abilities. Mary mentioned her memorable trip in the Death Valley while her friend Gerry showed pictures of an 8-day tour in Germany which featured several days riding on a dedicated bike path. In Europe, trains have special carriages for bikes and major cities have dedicated bike paths which makes your cycling experience much safer and more enjoyable. The distance covered in these rides can be as short as 20 to 30 miles a day.
The ultimate “bon vivant” tour discussed during our Zoom presentation was the one involving a barge along the canal de l’Yonne in France where you and 15 other passengers enjoy the gourmet meals by a chef at night, after riding along the canal during the day.
Please note that several of the organized companies are waiting until the beginning of April to book these tours given the current global health crisis. But it is not too early to start planning though. You can watch the video of our evening of bike trips at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fe2cKF5iPG8 and many other videos on YouTube can help you plan your next bike trip.
Finally, please remember that there are many trails in New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts that you can plan a day trip around if you are not quite ready to pitch a tent. We recommend a visit to www.greenway.org/itineraries/new-england-ride here for more information on the East Coast Greenway and here for best places to ride in New Hampshire: www.nhmagazine.com/best-places-for-bicycling-in . Our friends at Gus’ Bike Shop in North Hampton share a collection of bicycle tour links on their website: www.gusbike.com/articles/bicycle-touring-bikepacking-pg344.htm
Anne Poubeau is a board member of Seacoast Area Bicycle Riders.