[Part 1] Three-Day Two-Night Bike Camping Trip

in #cycling4steemit3 years ago (edited)

I had initially been planning a 3-night 4-day bike camping trip after looking up the locations of free campgrounds in Western New York. Many state forests allow camping. Some have designated campsites while others just let you camp throughout the park, with some restrictions. Free camping is going to mostly be primitive wilderness camping with no running water or bathrooms. So you need to bring plenty of water, especially when arriving by bicycle.

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I decided to cut one of the campsites out as it quite a distance to travel in the hills. The route I initially planned was about 70-75 km a day, but we ended up making some changes in destinations. I'm glad we did as this ended up being a lot of fun, and still a challenge.

I ran into my friend Daniel at a 4th of July party last week. When I told him about the ride he said he would join me. I put out a post on Facebook as well but it ended up being the two of us. That's perfect anyway. I am much less experienced and often couldn't keep up. It would have been worse if there was a large group.

The destination for the first night was East Otto State Forest. Now, as you can see by the elevation below, it is almost entirely flat where I live, which is the start of the ride. Once the elevation started to change, it was up and up and up. Then it eventually started getting into hills I came ill prepared for, being used to biking around flat Buffalo. But I persevered, switching into low gears, and getting off to push if I had to. Now, I know this looks like nothing compared to what I see on other blogs, but I'm new to hills.

We stopped for a late lunch at Fiesta Bamba after getting about 3/4 of the way there. We left early enough in the day so we had plenty of time for breaks. This place had great cheap Mexican food and even allowed us to order lunch specials despite being too late for lunch deals. This gave us time to watch the football match, seeing France beat Belgium to go to the World Cup final. Alright I don't care about this or any sports that much but Daniel loves football so I'm happy to take a break from riding. It was a good game actually.

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Feeling replenished we decided to go for a swim at the Scoby Dam. Now it wasn't really out of the way, maybe a half mile. But that was a half mile down a steep hill, which meant we would have to get back up the hill after swimming. The water was deep in front of the falls, but it was easy to get up on the rocks and slide back to the waterfall for a back massage. Of course we also both got hit by fish coming over the falls! If you are going to East Otto and want to swim, it's worth stopping here as the ponds in East Otto aren't anything you want to take a dip in. I'm warning you about how hard it is to get back up that hill though.

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We came across this interestingly named antique shop that was not open. Even if I can't buy anything, I still like to look at shops like this.

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After some more hills, we realized there weren't going to be any stores around. We saw a small farm stand and bought some blueberries. The guy was kind enough to let us fill our water bottles with his hose. We finally arrived at East Otto Forest. Google Maps worked and brought us right to the campgrounds. There are about 6-7 sites so I'm glad we rode on a weekday. I didn't want to go on the weekend because I was worried that all the spots would be taken by locals partying in the woods. Only one other site was taken when we arrived and one more person was set up when we left in the morning. They were in cars, not on bikes.

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I think I finally understand something about the importance of weight when bicycle touring. I packed way too much, especially for a 3-day outing. To be fair, I was using this as a practice run for a larger tour and so packed stuff to see if I could handle it all on a longer trip. I obviously didn't need my solar panel for just 2 nights, but I still would bring it if going for a week or more. The only thing I didn't bring, that I was planning to have on a longer tour, is my Surface Pro. I bought this instead of a larger laptop because I thought it would be small enough and light enough for bike camping. I want to do these blog posts from the road. I'm not sure if a keyboard and a phone would work.

I think I will ditch the u-lock. This is a hard one as I'm so conditioned to never relying on a cable lock. Bikes get stolen everyday where I live and the majority aren't locked up adequately. However, when I'm all loaded up I have to use a cable anyway just to reach whatever I'm locking up to. Perhaps I could just carry a cable lock and a kevlar Ottolock Cinch Lock for when I lock up without my bags. I'm thinking the cinch lock would be useful if I'm staying at a house and want to go out somewhere.

I also stupidly brought two stoves. I love my wood stove but bought a gas stove recently, which might be easier to use. I just thought the wood stove could be a backup if I ran out of fuel, but I will leave it behind next time. I also have way too much cooking wear. I don't need two mess kits. I can take the cup from one and ditch the rest of it.

I brought Chacos sandals so I can get out of my shoes and also have something to pedal in if it rains. I bought these just for such a situation but these are way too heavy. I'll need a lighter alternative.

My riding partner had great advice. If I can't fit everything in my bags, I have too much stuff. I had my tent and sleeping bag on the outside with an additional waterproof cover if it rained. I can ditch stuff to fit these in my bags instead.


That's awesome! Is there a specific app you use to find free camping and that sort of stuff in the states? Just curious for when I eventually make my way down I'd like to kinda prepare before hand!

I use the website https://freecampsites.net/. A lot of it is geared toward car and RV camping (I'm not looking for Wal Mart parking lots) but there is some good free tent camping sites on there as well. It might help to verify info on official sites as well. There are some that look not too legit though. One spot said it was an abandoned building.

haha wow thats crazy! Definitely helpful though. I've saved it and hopefully come back across the link one day when I go tour the states. Thanks :)

looks like a nice trip man!
what's your strava i'll follow you?

Thanks! I've been trying to get started all summer and ran into trouble finding a dogsitter. I have someone reliable so there should be more trips soon!


cool thanks man!

Hi Rob, so happy to see your tour report on here :) It looks like you had an amazing adventure, both challenging and entertaining! Also glad you had a partner to join you on tour - traveling together is always better as you can both motivate each other during the difficult times :) Besides that, it allows you to gain a better pace, since whenever one of you gets tired, he can hide behind the other one and rest a little bit (less resistance).

Once the elevation started to change, it was up and up and up. Then it eventually started getting into hills I came ill prepared for, being used to biking around flat Buffalo. But I persevered, switching into low gears, and getting off to push if I had to.

Riding uphill is a whole different story compared to a flat surface, huh? 80 km feels like 120 km :) To me personally, mountainy trails are the favorite ones, but I own a road bike, so again, there's less resistance involved.

I think I finally understand something about the importance of weight when bicycle touring. I packed way too much, especially for a 3-day outing.

To me, the only way to tell what's necessary and what's not is by actually taking to much luggage :) Over time you gradually get rid of the stuff you don't need!

I think I will ditch the u-lock.

These are goddamn heavy so I feel ya! But then, as you said, bikes get stolen without a proper protection. I'd rather add a couple kilograms to the overall weight, than worry that I'll wake up to no bike at all, especially when I'm far from home!

Anyways, thanks for sharing your story and tagging it with #insaddle :) Looking forward to seeing how'd the rest of your trip go!

PS. How'd your dogsitter do? :) From your comment I'm assuming she did a good job.

Thanks! The key to riding with someone is to stick to your pace. I forgot to mention how difficult I made it for myself to try to keep up with my friend while going up hill. The more I tried to catch up, the more tired and slower I got. Also, if I happen to be the faster one on the trip, I would have to be courteous enough to either go slower or wait when I get too far ahead. One thing to also remember is that if I'm waiting 5 minutes for someone to catch up, that doesn't mean I should immediately start pedaling as soon as he has reached my resting spot. It's only fair to let him also have a rest break before starting to pedal again!

Everyone tells me how you always end up going to the post office by the third day. Happened to me on my trip last year.

I guess the lock depends on whether I plan to ride around without all my bags. When fully loaded, I usually have to get a cable lock out anyway because the ulock won't reach far enough. I need to look up some reviews on that Ottolock as an alternative.

My dogsitter had no problems at all! She said her dog bosses him around sometimes but I think that's exactly what he needs to get him to behave! She said she can watch him again next time.

What a journey Rob

What model is that tent? I'm looking for a new one as mine wights 2,3 kg, I've seen the Naturehike ones, seem fair.

As for light slippers just to relax, nothing can beat the brazilian Havaianas, light,easy to pack and great for using just around campsite. I could send you a pair from Brazil.

Guess that's the way to go, by packing and testing. Many things we learn on the go.

It's an ALPS Mountaineering Lynx tent. Weighs 1.8 kg. Nothing too fancy and I could get a lighter one if I spent more. If it doesn't hold up, then I'll spend money on a better one next time. There's so much to buy that my philosophy is kind of to buy cheap but if it breaks then get something more expensive and durable next time. It would be a waste to keep buying a new tent every year. But some stuff lasts surprisingly long.

I have a pair of lighter flip flops. I just want ones that protect the toes better, but are still light. My feet got bloodied from riding in those last year. Are there any Havaianas that could be good for riding a bit too? I just want to keep my shoes dry when it's raining. Maybe I need better shoe covers.

It looks compact, one of these days I may need you to send some stuff from the US ahaha, starting with the Saywer Mini filter. Do you have one of those?

Ah you are looking for something light that you can also ride the bike? Then I don't think Havaianas will have something. But still, they are light and good for wearing around.

For when it's raining I rely on running shows, especially the ones that are super vented and easy to dry. Even for trails I use them, they dry quicker than boots and are lighter.

Looks like a great adventure. Much more vegetation than the one I had last week on my trip :)

Nice adventure, I had my share of bike/camping earlier this week. Too many mosquitos in the evening and morning. I guess roughing it is not really my thing, although I don't mind getting dirty mountain biking...

Thanks! I sprayed my tent and clothes ahead of time to keep ticks away. I put on bug spray when I got to camp but was a little late in doing so. I maybe got 2 bites.

Some very cool reflective thoughts you had there. This is why shorter tours are important first! It is always easy to fill your bags with stuff you dont need. (LIke your double stove). Less is more for me and usually I go by the rule if I don't need what I carry for 5 days, then I dont need it for a year. :)

I always carry my tent outside. Rest I have is in two rear panniers. I even carry a laptop to write on steemit, haha.

About your lock.. I switched from one of those heavy 1.5kg locks to a small light cable lock that I quickly can put around my bike if I go to a shop. It will not fend off any prepared thieves but those who looks to just run away with it at least cannot. I have never thought of needing another one. When you are sleeping in tent well, you can hear or see anyone coming close. When I go into a hostel or house to sleep I always ask them for a safe place to put my bike if not in the room with me. lol.

To your sandals just take some cheap light flipflops. Replaceable and easy to attach outside your bags. No need to get anymore advanced !

Thanks! My only problem is that I cannot bike in cheap flip flops without messing up my feet every time I stop. I hit a lot of rain last year and even with shoe covers I ended up getting my cycling shoes soaking wet. I thought the Chacos seemed like a solution, but they weigh 2 pounds. I could go back to flip flops for the campsite no problem. Keen makes bike sandals that weigh just 14.7 ounces. That could be an alternative for heavy rain and mud puddles.

I definitely will switch to the cable lock and just keep my bike close. The laptop will be useful for writing on Steemit. I just figured it was something that wouldn't get any use since I wasn't riding alone and was camping in the woods.

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