How to prepare to bike the Appalachian Trail

Follow these tips to prepare for a bike ride through the Appalachian Trail.

At a whopping 2,190 miles from end to end, the Appalachian Trail is one of the best routes in the U.S. for outdoor exploration. And when it comes to covering the most ground, bike touring can’t be beat. This way you can cruise through the most scenic stretches of the East Coast and reconnect with Mother Nature.

From the Northern regions of Maine to the balmy forests of Georgia, the Appalachian Trail can be a momentous challenge or just the site of an easy afternoon ride. Regardless of whether you’re setting our for an extend bike touring trip or just heading out for a day, here’s what you need to know to stay safe and maximize your trek:

Plan your trip before hand
Because the Appalachian Trail cuts across some of the East Coast’s most rugged stretches of wilderness, it’s best to prepare before heading out. Start by looking at a map and selecting a reasonable ride. Share your plans with a loved one, and bring a cell phone in case of emergencies.

If you are going to be staying overnight, plotting your ride is even more important. This way you can accurately estimate how far you will travel each day and ensure you leave plenty of time to set up camp. Likewise, simply throwing your gear in a pack and heading out is not in your best interest. Take the time to select the right items. Even for a short ride, it’s always best to bring a first aid kit. As for other gear, packing too many items can leave you weighed down. At the same time, being without the right equipment can also be a big problem. 

Prepare for the worst
The rolling hills of Appalachia may not seem as perilous as the jagged Rockies out west, but underestimating the risks and physical challenges can be a dangerous miscalculation. In summer the region can be subject to powerful thunderstorms, and during the colder months ice and snow can make bike touring on the Appalachian Trail very hazardous. Be sure your pack is full of the right clothing and equipment to be successful and stay safe.

Preparing your bike is also wise. This may mean opting for new parts. Schwalbe Marathon Plus Tour HS 404 wire bead tires, for example, are extremely durable and the perfect choice for an extended adventure through rugged terrain. Investing in new brakes or lights may also be useful before heading out.

Be mindful of your environmental impact
According to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, an essential but overlooked part of preparing to explore this region is to consider your personal environmental impact. This of course means not leaving behind garbage or other waste, but there are are other ways you can inadvertently harm flora and fauna.

Some adventurous riders may jump off the trail during a ride but this is unwise. First off, this increases your risk of getting lost. But this can also damage vulnerable vegetation. The same is true when setting up camp. Be sure to use pre-approved campsites to minimize the human impact on the surrounding areas.

Know the risks
Preparing for your ride and plotting out a days worth of bike touring is critical, especially when you factor in more specific risks. Is there a more perilous section of the trail you need to prepare for? Are there low-lying areas more prone to flash floods?

Aside from the elements, you also need to know when you might be biking through bear country. The largest predator on the East Coast, the American black bear can defend itself or its cubs if it feels startled or threatened. Likewise, these animals have a superb sense of smell and could wander through a campsite if food scraps aren’t well-secured.

Overall, being proactive can make your bike touring across the Appalachian Trail safer. In turn this means you can focus on enjoying your ride.

About Stephane Marchiori

Owner of
Bike touring since 2003, including:
a 5-Year Bicycle Journey Around The World!

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