If you’re anything like me, you may have just woken up to realize that summer is upon us. Some places in the US, like my old stomping ground back east, experienced an abnormally short spring. The rest of us, may or may not have been working like dogs in the mean time.
Whatever your reason, if you’ve just realized that your summer weekend calendar is already starting to fill up, and you need to get your bike camping trips on the map in order to make them happen, this is a post for you.
Block off your next two available weekends. Boom. Done. You’re going bike camping.
If you’ve already got a bike in good repair with a rack, you’re ahead of the game. If not check out Spinlister (it’s like AirBnB for bikes) to see if anyone has something listed that fits your body and needs. If you can spend some money here, then do so at a local bike shop getting something that fits.
From here you just need a destination and some supplies.
Let’s talk about destination first.
To find where you could travel to, you need to assess your physical ability, the time you have available and your comfort level. I tend to plan for an average speed of only 10 miles an hour, with an additional hour for every 1000′ of climbing. I got that second part from Cycle Wild, and it feels about right.
If you don’t know where to camp yet, and are not familiar with the area around you, or the resources where you would find that information, you can use the Google. Just type in “camping near me” and if your location services are turned on, it’s going to give you a whole slew of responses.
Another option would be to start at your own location on Google maps, and look around for green shaded areas on the map. Click on the names of those parks, and you should pull up more information about their amenities. I would aim for something 25-30 miles away, taking into account any climbing along the route.
Do you have friends who are going camping on a particular weekend? If the distance fits into your physical ability and time budget, why not ride out and meet them? It sure is nice to get to a camp ground that’s already warmed up with smiling faces happy to see you, excited to hear about your adventure, and usually with food and drink at the ready. Besides, you’ll be a total rock star.
There are a few layers of campground options:
Private – this is generally more expensive, and the owners or hosts are likely going to want you to pay in advance to save your spot. I find the commitment and coordination uncomfortable.
Public – remember that bureaucracy has layers. You can look Federal Bureau of Land Management, state parks, county parks – many of those fall under reservation contracts with Reserve America. Here in the pacific northwest there are things such as “hiker/biker” sites which means that there is always a spot for you, usually in a designated area that is not available to car campers. Hiker/biker spots should be available at every public campground in the country. Unfortunately that is not the case and accommodations vary from campground to campground.
Just Google a bunch, and the options will start to materialize. You’d be surprised at what comes clear after plugging together a bunch of relevant local keywords.
Don’t forget, that you don’t have to ride door-to-door. Meaning, you can start your ride at the terminus of a public transportation line, or even drive out to a good starting point and leave your car overnight. It’s usually safe to do this, but you could park at the police station or some place where you feel comfortable leaving your car.
Other resources you can use are the Adventure Cycling forum, local cycling clubs, touring groups or Facebook.
Once you have a few options, compare them using Google Maps. Set up your starting point and your destination, set your mode of transportation to bicycle and see what the Google machine spits out at you. There’s even a cool chart to map out elevation along the route. This is helpful, as you may want to start off with an easier route in the beginning of the season, instead of charging out the gates up a challenging route.
Search for any existing bike routes for your destinations – chances are, someone has done it! It’s just a matter of checking to see if they published anything about it online. MapMyRide, Strava and Ride with GPS are all great route resources.
Just get out there, search adventurously and you shall be rewarded!