Quiet, low-stress routes - CycleBlaze

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Quiet, low-stress routes

Erika Brewer

Coastal routes and mountain passes are generally beautiful, of course, but around here (Western U.S.) they also tend to be busy because there aren't many other routes for cars and trucks and RVs to take. Which means the beauty is kind of offset by noise, junk on the road, cars passing close, etc.

More and more I find myself liking and looking for roads that aren't like this. Ones that are quiet, mostly empty, more peaceful. Which routes like this are your favorites?

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5 months ago
Steve Miller/GrampiesTo Erika Brewer

notice from your profile that you want to cycle in Europe. If cycling off busy roads is your preference you are on the right track in thinking about Europe. There are literally thousands of miles of beautiful cycle paths, trails and quiet roads with gorgeous scenery, interesting old architechture, markets, and wonderful food at every turn.  That is why we go back year after year and avoid cycling in North America. It is expensive, and really you should go for a minimum 6 weeks, 2 to 3 months is better, but any time you could get would be worth it. 

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5 months ago
Jeff LeeTo Erika Brewer

There are many, many empty roads that are great for cycling in the USA. You just need to avoid densely populated areas (such as the coasts), and areas where (as you noted) there just aren't that many roads because mountains are in the way.

For example: Kentucky, where I grew up, and where I recently moved back to, has lots and lots of empty paved roads. I can ride from our house here in Western Kentucky and do a 100 mile ride and see very, very few cars and trucks for the six to eight hours I'm on the ride. I've done four 100-mile rides this year, on different routes, and each time I was struck by how few vehicles I saw all day. I much prefer the pleasant-but-not-spectacular scenery I experience on those rides over, say, the gorgeous scenery you can see in Colorado - which for me is ruined because I'm being passed by hundreds or thousands of speeding tourists in SUV's.

(Note: The Adventure Cycling Association's TransAmerica route through Kentucky is NOT that nice, and uses several busy roads for no good reason, in my opinion. There are much better Kentucky riding opportunities than the TransAm.)

I lived for a while in downstate Illinois, and I experienced the same thing - hours of riding with very little traffic, if I picked the right roads. I've had similar experiences in Indiana, Ohio, Iowa (although you might have to a little gravel there), and Tennessee.

Bottom line is, the Midwest has a lot of great, quiet roads for cycling.

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5 months ago
John PescatoreTo Erika Brewer

I haven't done a lot of touring outside the US but last year my wife and I did a Freewheeling Adventures week-long tour of Finland's Aland Islands.  I guess all islands have natural barriers to high levels of traffic - that was definitely the case. On the first day ride from Turku to Galtby, there were several short ferry rides to cross mini-fjords. On the other side, once the cars on the ferry passed you, there were no cars coming from behind you for 20-30 minutes or so until the ferry made another round trip. That was very cool.

Here in Maryland, it is hard to string together multiple days of road touring that don't put you on higher traffic roads for long stretches. I did a 3 day ride on Pennsylvania's Bike Route S, west to Bike Route G and then south back into Maryland. That had really nice stretches of low traffic roads (especially G) but was interspersed with stretches of high traffic and not so bike-friendly roads.

I have a friend in OH who has to take blood thinning medication, which has made him overly fearful of road riding because of accident potential. OH has such an extensive network of rail trails, we have been able to string together multiple days of riding on those, augmented by low traffic back roads. He complains about traffic in Columbus, but by East Coast standards even the busy roads are pretty serene!

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5 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Erika Brewer

I agree that the west coast in general and many of our passes are a disappointing cycling experience any more.  Actually though there are plenty of terrific low stress, low traffic cycling regions in the west if you get a ways into the interior.  Up our way, I especially enjoy riding the backroads east of the mountains close to the Columbia Gorge - near The Dallas, Goldendale, Wasco, Walla Walla and so on.  I’ve written up a few short tours in this area that might give you some ideas, such as our five day Walla Walla loop we took a few years ago.  Also, if you’re careful about your route selection there are great cycling roads east of San Diego, such as around Anzio Borrego Park.  And southern Utah.  And southeast Arizona.  You can ride for miles on many of these roads through spectacular scenery and hardly see a car.

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5 months ago
Robert EwingTo Erika Brewer

If you are willing to put up with a bit of noise and traffic some of the time it is possible to find peace and quiet in the western mountains and Pacific Coast. Even the Oregon Coast, perhaps the most bike traveled route in North America, offers alternative routes.  Some years ago started near Port Townsend, WA, followed the coast down to Gold Beach, OR, turn east along the Rogue River to its source in the Cascade Mountains and finishing in Eugene, OR where I took the train back to my home in Portland, OR.

My intent was to stay off of Hwy 101 as much as possible. I’m guessing I was on busy “intense” roads perhaps 25% to 30% of the time and I could have lowered that with a bit more time. The Oregon Coast section was particularly nice in that I would ride on the many Forest Service roads in the Coast Range but would drop down to the hiker/biker campgrounds on the beach for a little comradery with my fellow cyclists at day’s end. With a little planning you don’t have to ride through either of the two narrow tunnels on 101 or over the many narrow coast bridges, and you are rewarded with some really beautiful scenery. The exception is crossing the Columbia River at Astoria and even that can be avoided with a day or two of riding and taking the up river ferry to the Oregon side. Some of the back roads are dirt but well maintained. Some reasonably wide gravel type tires are highly recommended.

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5 months ago
John SaxbyTo Erika Brewer

Hi Erika,

I'm a little slow in replying, with apologies, because I've been wrapped up in a wintertime home-reno project for several weeks.  Happily, that's now finished, and the house is warmer and more comfortable :)

A few notes in response to your question about quiet, low-stress routes:

1)   Cycling in Europe:  I don't have a lot of experience in cycling in Europe--there are lots of people on CycleBlaze who do.  My European tours have been limited to Amsterdam-to-Vienna, and a couple of weeks in Denmark, southwestern Sweden, and Rostock-to-Berlin.  Both of those treks showed me, however, that where there is good cycling infrastructure, you can tour in places with lots of people, and still enjoy a relaxed and stress-free ride.

In September 2012, for example, I cycled up much of the Rhine and down ditto the Danube, and the quality of the bike paths (not to mention the cafés and bistros) made for a hugely relaxed and enjoyable safari.

My Denmark/Sweden/Germany tour in August/September 2014 included more mileage on public roads, but it was similarly relaxed and enjoyable.

2)   Cycling in North America:  I've found lots of quiet, stress-free routes in Eastern Ontario, in Québec, and in Atlantic Canada, especially Nova Scotia.  (Similarly, but to a lesser extent, in upstate New York, in & near the Adirondacks and the finger Lakes regions.)

For the Canadian regions I've mentioned, it helps if you like hills, trees, and rivers and lakes.  I've posted a couple of journals on CycleBlaze on short tours in Eastern/Central Ontario, which give some idea of what my extended neighbourhood is like.  If you're interested, I've posted some other accounts of shorter tours on another site.  Let me know if so--no obligation.

Québec is its own special place, and to get a sense of what it offers to a cyclist, I suggest you look at the website of la route verte/The Green Route, here: https://www.routeverte.com/en/   This network now covers 5300 kms, and the Guide (available electronically and in hard copy) includes very good maps.  I've also found, however, that most of Québec's secondary highways have reasonably good paved shoulders, so that even roads that aren't formally in La route verte can still be good cycling routes.  Tertiary roads are less likely to be well paved, but more likely to be even more quiet.  You can, if you want, go to some very distant places by road: as an example, trace route verte #5 along the north shore of the St. Lawrence, east from Tadoussac towards Baie Comeau.  The route verte #5 ends there, but Hwy #138, which route #5 follows, contiunes a loooong way further east, all the way to the ferry dock at the extreme eastern corner of Québec, where the ferry departs for newfoundland.

It's noteworthy too that La route verte also gives you good access to both Montréal and and Québec City.  Both are well worth a visit.  For me, la ville de Québec is without parallel in North America -- how many walled cities do you know on this continent?  If you like jazz, then I suggest you visit in mid-summer, and have a listen to jazz at night outdoors on the boardwalk in front of the Château Frontenac, on the cliffs overlooking the river.  (Full disclosure:  I have a soft spot for the place, because it's there that we disembarked more than sixty years ago, after sailing up the St. Lawrence in late May, to a new home in Canada.)

Hope that's helpful,


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4 months ago