Biking NYC to Providence?
March 26, 2018 1:54 PM   Subscribe

I've been contemplating guided-tour biking vacations, but I'm also cheap, and I happen to live about 100 yards from the East Coast Greenway. At which point -- hey, it's an already defined biking route, and a week or so to do 250 miles would be a very reasonable pace to get me from NYC to Providence, at which point I could take Amtrak back home with my bike. (Or, I suppose, go in the other direction -- train first and bike home). Specific questions below.

First: I don't want to camp -- the idea would be to go from motel/b&b to motel/b&b, not carrying much more than a change of clothes and a couple of granola bars. It seems as if someone should plausibly have scouted places to stay reasonably close to or on the Greenway, but a quick search isn't finding guidebooks. (The site I linked has some suggested trips, but not the stretch I want.) Anyone know about any guidebooks or blogs or forums that talk about specifically places easy to bike to from the Greenway on that stretch? Failing that, advice on how to find places? What I'm worried about is making a plan based on maps, and finding myself with night falling two miles away from the place I thought I was going to stay, but no way to get from here to there on a bike. Same with places to eat -- the goal would be restaurants for three meals a day, and only carrying snacks, but I'd need to be able to be sure I could get to someplace that would sell me food without too much wandering around getting lost off-route.

Second: Does anyone know what the Greenway is like to bike on that stretch? I know the Bronx bit, which is trails, but when you're out of the Bronx it's all on-road. I don't mind biking on roads, but long stretches on a gravelly shoulder with traffic whipping by at 40-60 are not my idea of fun. I am sort of assuming that if a non-profit has designated the roads on the map as a good bike route, they're going to be reasonably pleasant biking, but I'd love to hear from anyone who knew firsthand, or could direct me to anyone who's written about that.

Third: Generally, any advice that comes to mind, including "this is a terrible idea for the following reasons". I'm sort of a mid-grade bicyclist -- commuted 14 miles each way to work for years in NYC, and do the occasional longer ride, but I'm not super serious, and I've never done a long-distance multi-day trip.
posted by LizardBreath to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Hi there,

My impression of the Greenway from living near it for many years is that it's still an idea, not a reality. That is, there are parts of it that are well signed and organized for people to walk and bike, but many parts between those that are not yet complete. I don't think there is really much infrastructure there. You could certainly bike from place to place on it, but it's not yet a bike "trail" in the way we normally think of it. You'd be on road a lot.

I also think the way the ECG swings up at New Haven and then east across the boringest parts of CT and RI is not optimal for a bike Trip. You could take a wonderful bike trip along coastal connecticut and have nice places to stay each night. That won't be as easy going the ECG route, and it won't be very scenic, and it will be really hilly.

An alternative I might suggest would be to take your bike on the train to New Haven (skipping the gross passages through Bridgeport etc) and go from there along the coast to Providence. That could be a very nice trip in warm weather.
posted by Miko at 2:24 PM on March 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

The somewhat oddly-named Warm Showers website is a great way to find lodging along your route. I have frequently hosted cyclists and I find the system works well. If you decide to cruise past Providence and wind up in Massachusetts along the coast, I could host you down there for a night or two.
posted by jessamyn at 2:33 PM on March 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

Post your question on the Message Board at A $1.00 temporary membership fee may be required.
posted by JimN2TAW at 2:35 PM on March 26, 2018

I've ridden the ECG from the Bronx to Stamford and much of it was along pretty busy roads which, while ridable, were not really fun. I would not wed yourself to that particular route.

I also recently rode from Greenwich to New Haven along the coast (not following the ECG route specifically) and it was pretty awful, especially the Bridgeport-New Haven stretch. I imagine the Greenway route would be a bit better than mine but I didn't get the sense there are a lot of quiet roads along there. I would consider using Metro-North to start in New Haven to avoid the worst of the greater NYC sprawly bits (though I understand the appeal of starting from your doorstep).
posted by enn at 2:39 PM on March 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

You could also try the New York Cycle Club on Facebook.
posted by JimN2TAW at 2:41 PM on March 26, 2018

(BTW, you may already know this, but the Connecticut lines are unique among Metro North lines in having bike racks, which make bringing your bike aboard a more pleasant experience than the New York lines where you have to kind of find a corner to strap your bike into.)
posted by enn at 2:47 PM on March 26, 2018

If you stick to the shoreline, and take Route 1 (or local alternates as seems advisable) the route from Stamford to Providence is pretty flat. Inland, it's hilly. So you can go northeast from Stonnington/Westerly to Providence (rtes 184 & 3) and save a few miles, but it's hilly and rural so you would want to scout out your accommodation in advance. OTOH, it's only about 60 miles and you get to the populated metropolitan area long before you get to downtown.
posted by SemiSalt at 3:35 PM on March 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

Have you searched the Crazy Guy on a Bike trip journals to look for other folks' experiences along the same route? I'd also do that, though their search function is iffy at best and I'd probably select one random small town in the middle with an especially unique name to use as my keyword.

Multi-day cycling trips are awesome and I hope that this one is fantastic for you. Don't be intimidated by the unknowns; it'll be sorta hard because everyone's first multi-day trip tends to be (if there's anything I'd caution you about, it's not to take the wave of exhaustion that hits you at day 2-3 too seriously; take it easy and tomorrow will be better), but it'll open up a whole new world of possibilities.
posted by tapir-whorf at 5:19 PM on March 26, 2018

The adventure cycling Atlantic coast route map (or a subset) may be helpful. it doesn't follow the greenway much in that section, but gives ideas for an alternate route

We followed it from Portland ME to Boston a few years ago, and it did a good job finding quieter routes. I can second crazy guy on a bike and warm showers as well.
posted by dttocs at 10:14 PM on March 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm pretty familiar with ~Milford to Old Saybrook along the shoreline. There are some good stretches not along Route 1, things get a little depressing through New Haven but not unsafe, and even on Route 1 east of New Haven there's generally enough shoulder. That was my default ride a few years back when I was training for a flat Ironman course, and while I don't fear traffic, I also will avoid it if I have the option, and this route was less traveled but still close enough to stores/gas stations. There's plenty of lodging along the way also.

MeMail me if you want my routes; I think I should have some saved to strava or mapmyride.
posted by disconnect at 6:14 AM on March 27, 2018

The idea would be to go from motel/b&b to motel/b&b, not carrying much more than a change of clothes and a couple of granola bars.

Bicyclists often refer to this kind of touring as 'credit card touring.' I don't have any specific recommendations about this route, but that search phrase might be helpful.
posted by box at 1:37 PM on March 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

Thanks for all the advice: Crazy Guy on a Bike and searching for credit card touring were both helpful. Overall, I think I'm probably not doing this on my own first time, I'll try the guided tour route.
posted by LizardBreath at 1:41 PM on April 26, 2018

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