Help my bike escape from central Jersey.
February 11, 2010 8:56 PM   Subscribe

I'm on the North East Corridor line in central New Jersey and I've got a new bike. It folds up. I'd like to take it away for 4-7 days of cycling in the second half of March. Where can I go that's within a half day's journey on public transport?

I'd like to take my bike away from suburban New Jersey next month, for some proper cycling (say 40-80 miles a day) on mostly quiet roads. But I don't know where to go, and the bike shops around here aren't much help. I could just start cycling at my front door; or I could stick my bike on the NJ Transit to New York or Philadelphia, and beyond. But I don't drive, and I'd prefer not to travel more than six or eight hours by train and/or bus. Where should I go--north? South? West?

Cycling out of and/or into a bigger town or city at the start or end of the trip is fine: a gorgeous ride last year took me from Glasgow city centre to the foot of Ben Lomond via 40 miles of bike paths and marked routes (mostly on NCN Route 7, if anyone's interested), and if there's something similar starting from midtown Manhattan I'd love to know about it. Or Philadelphia 30th St Station, for that matter. For the most part, though, I'd like to be outside towns and suburbs, and away from major roads. Ideally I'd be in an area where I could do 150-400 miles over a few days without covering too much of the same ground--that is, a route that is either a biggish loop starting and finishing in the same place, or a journey from one public-transport-connected place to another one several days' cycling away.

The bike has small wheels, so I'm not looking for anything seriously off-road (which means no mountain-bike routes). Decent tracks like the canalside path on the Delaware & Raritan Canal are okay too, but rough tracks aren't--though obviously this doesn't disqualify hilly or mountainous areas.

Recommendations of not-too-expensive, cycle-friendly hostels or small hotels are also welcome: it doesn't have to be a flophouse, but the more expensive the accommodation, the shorter my trip will be. ($40-a-night hostels I could manage for a week; $120-a-night hotels for a weekend.) Likewise, if it costs me $300 just to get there and back, I won't be able to stay so long--but if the place is worth the effort for a three-day-trip...

As you can probably tell, I'm new to this part of the world, in fact to this country, so everywhere is new to me, too. This means that no suggestion is too obvious: for all I know, NJ Transit could be all I need. Or Amtrak to Harrisburg? Or further afield--Virginia, Massachusetts? The more suggestions I get, the more ideas I'll have for next time.

Bonus points if you can tell me what maps to use.

Thank you!
posted by lapsangsouchong to Travel & Transportation around New Jersey (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The Schuylkill River Trail starts near 30th Street Station in Philadelphia and currently in runs for about twenty to twenty-five miles up the river from there. (It's supposed to go another hundred or so miles eventually, but that doesn't help you now!) That could be a good way to start or end the trip, but I'm not sure what to do from there.

I'd head south, not north; March can be snowy in New England.
posted by madcaptenor at 9:13 PM on February 11, 2010

Best answer: I can answer part but not all of your questions. Okay, I'm an idiot and don't recognize all the parts of NJ by name...and when I ride it is ~100 RT max. I think that I can give you a start , though (you mentioned that you were open to starting in midtown Manhattan?). First, here is a resource that should give you pretty good cue sheets (Notice on the left that you can pull down the destination or area that you are interested in traveling to – unfortunately you have to pick and glance at the rides to figure anything out).

Rides that I think would meet some of your criteria (away from busy roads and possibly isolated/rural areas, suitable for a road bike [similar to your bike, not going on dirt paths and off road]) are as follows:

Poughkeepsie is an interesting place. This area has a lot of rural type roads, and goes through a lot of historic sites if one is so inclined. Here is a cue sheet for a ~100 mile ride in that area, and there are a few others there, too. This area is accessible by train from NYC (I think the ride there by train was a couple hours…can’t remember).

Another ride that I think would meet your needs is a ride from NYC to Denville NJ. It is ~ 60 miles on way and is a bit hilly, but it gets to a very rural location and there is even a lama farm or two along the way. Actually I don’t think that website gives you that cue sheet but I have one – if interested, feel free to memail me and I can send it to you. The Denville ride ends at a train station, so you can ride back, or stay there and check out other areas. I just googled Denville and bike ride and found this website, which has a route/cue sheet for a ~70 mile ride.

There are other places accessible from here that I would highly recommend for riding (again meeting the criteria of rural roads). One area is Virginia – a lot of the rides there are in rural areas, small towns, and almost no traffic. This website has good cue sheets (and later if you want, I can get you in touch with a friend who rides there all the time if you want more specifics). I don’t think you can get there for this trip, though, as Amtrak will easily eat up all the $ to get there and back.

A place that looks interesting to ride is Lancaster, PA. I visited the area and noticed surrounding areas were rural – home of the Amish so people seem used to riding their cars at a slower velocity. Similarly, I think the train there will eat up your entire budget. Ride on and have fun.
posted by Wolfster at 10:07 PM on February 11, 2010

Amish country in PA (as mentioned by Wolfster with his reference to Lancaster) is quite pretty and would serve all your needs.
posted by Netzapper at 10:51 PM on February 11, 2010

Wolfster says that trains to Lancaster will be expensive.

The thing is, Amtrak on the Northeast Corridor is a ripoff. But from what I've heard, trains off the corridor are not nearly so expensive per-mile. In particular, I'm fairly sure Pennsylvania subsidizes the Philadelphia to Harrisburg trains (which actually run NY-Philly-Harrisburg, but they only subsidize the Philly-Harrisburg part).

So you can take local trains to get to Philadelphia, to save some money:
- New Jersey Transit from wherever you are to Trenton; a few dollars?
- SEPTA from Trenton to Philadelphia (30th Street), about $7 each way?
- then Amtrak (Keystone service) from Philadelphia to, say, Lancaster. The Keystone runs every couple hours, and the Philly-Lancaster trip looks to cost $15 and take 65 minutes. It also doesn't require reservations west of Philadelphia, which is good for you because if you want to use it on the return trip you might not know exactly when you'll be back.

In short, you should be able to do this train trip for perhaps $30 each way.

(But I'm not sure if the railroads involved will let you bring your bike! That obviously matters.)
posted by madcaptenor at 5:09 AM on February 12, 2010

You can take the train to DC and ride the C&O Canal trail.
posted by TDIpod at 7:00 AM on February 12, 2010

Take teh train to New York Pen station and then take the LIRR all the way up to Montauck. Ride all around the Hamptons while noone's there in March.
posted by WeekendJen at 8:50 AM on February 12, 2010

Best answer: I took a bike tour up and down the hudson river valley last may and LOVED it. If you can make 50 to 60 miles in a day it should be no problem finding cute towns, B&Bs, good beer, all the comforts of home. (The Woodstock/New Paltz ride was great, and lovely.) It might be chilly in March, though. I got most of my info from here.
posted by Pickman's Next Top Model at 9:18 AM on February 12, 2010

Response by poster: This is great, folks--any further suggestions will go on my list for later in the year, so please add more!
posted by lapsangsouchong at 10:20 AM on February 12, 2010

« Older How to keep a toddler or infant amused when it's...   |   moose vs elephant Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.