Overview

Pine Creek Canyon Bike Rides contains descriptions of back country bike rides in and around Pine Creek Canyon, near Wellsboro, Pennsylvania. The rides vary in distance from thirteen miles to fifty miles. All the rides are loops and generally have one major hill climb. The rides are mostly on unpaved state forest roads with some unpaved farm roads, and paved country roads. As such, they are mostly free of automobile traffic, which from my point of view, is their finest feature.

 I began bike riding in 1976 on a 27Ē road bike, which I loved. I loved the speed of those bikes on the highway. But the traffic!  For a number of years I followed the biker discipline of riding along the side of a road and ignoring the traffic. Look straight ahead, keep a straight line, and if somebody hits you at least you can sue them. One day I decided to try the state forest roads. I was surprised at how good a surface these roads provided for bike riding, even though they are unpaved. I have not gone back to the highways since.

 In the 1980s mountain bikes made their debut and bike riding changed. It became a grunge sport with people riding up and down hiking trails, through mud holes, and over logs. I tried trail riding but it just wasnít for me. In the 1990s the rails-to-trails movement kicked into high gear, generating a renewed interest in bike riding. Mountain Biking has transformed itself from a grunge sport into a sport for families, the middle aged, and the early retirees.

 The rides in this book are for people who want to split the difference between gentrified rails-to-trails and bone jarring trail rides. The rides take the rider off the main roads and into the mountains and forests, away from people, and away from traffic, but on maintained forest roads rather than trails. The unpaved forest roads have a surface similar to that found on a rails trails bike path.

Northern Pennsylvania is a great place for bike riding. A number of factors make it so. First is the topography. As you drive through the area it appears to be mountainous, but it really is a heavily eroded plateau. What difference does this make? It means that when you climb up to the top of one of these plateau blocks, you donít have to go down the other side, because itís a plateau, not a mountain. You can stay up on top and ride on a flat to undulating terrain and then end the ride with a three to five mile downhill run off theplateau. This is why the rides in this book, for the most part, only have one major hill despite the distances.

 A second attraction of Northern Pennsylvania for bike riding is the vast holdings of state forest, park, and game lands. Tioga State Forest around Pine Creek Canyon contains 160,000 acres. The adjacent Susquehannock State Forest contains 264,000 acres. And thatís just for starters. There is an enormous amount of national forest lands, state forest lands, park lands, games lands, and privately held forest lands. In short, there are plenty of undeveloped forest lands to ride in.

 A third factor that makes bike riding in Northern Pennsylvania good is the forest roads. In the 1880s and 1890s the timber was lumbered off before being replanted into todayís forests. To accomplish this, a vast network of roads was built through the forests and these are still maintained by the forest service. Also, a bit of geology kicks in. The area is underlain by shale with very shallow depth to bedrock. This means the roads are not generally subject to rutting and tend to weather into a relatively smooth surface. In fact the worst roads for riding are the ones that are newly repaired.

 I worry that many people will put this book back on the shelf when they read that the one hill on most of these rides is a 1,000 foot climb. The topography is very uniform and itís almost always 1,000 feet from the canyon floor to the top of a plateau block. But climbing these hills on a bike is not as hard as it sounds. The logging roads, some of which were built over older logging railroads, have relatively modest grades. This means the hills are long, but not that steep. You just have to gear down, take your time, and focus on the long downhill at the end of the ride as you come back down off the plateau block. The rides also lend themselves to a two car shuttle approach similar to what you do for canoeing.  Eliminate the big hill by parking one car at the bottom of the hill and hauling the riders and bikes to the top of the hill in the other car. On most of the rides you can eliminate most of the hill climbing this way, accommodate riders of differing ability, and still only have the cars be 2 to 4 miles apart.

Traffic on these rides is for the most part very light to nonexistent. But, when you don't see a car for two hours of riding, you stop expecting to see cars, so itís a surprise when one suddenly shows up. So, still be careful. Also, on these rides you may occasionally encounter a lumber truck coming down a forest road. You can hear these trucks quite some time before they get to you. My approach is to just pull off the road and let the truck go by. I figure the driver has probably been going up and down the road for a week and hasnít seen another car and is certainly not expecting to see a biker. It's easy to not see what you don't expect to see and forcing these trucks to slam on their brakes, needless to say, can be dangerous so just stop, step off the road, and let them go by. 

 The attraction of the rides is the remoteness of the areas in which you are riding.  You will encounter few cars and see few people on these rides, except in a couple of places as noted in the ride descriptions.  But remoteness brings its own set of risks and problems. Cell phone services will likely not be available. Emergency assistance will take much longer is get. Donít ride into the back country unprepared. Pack extra clothing and food, and allow enough time to allow for unexpected contingencies.

Disclaimer of Liability
The author does not warrant the accuracy of information contained in this web page. Users of the web page who engage in backcountry bike riding should be aware that changes in road conditions, road names, weather, and signage are possible, and may cause the rides to be different from that described in the pages. Riders should be prepared for these and other eventualities. Users of the web page assume responsibility for the risks normally associated with bike riding as well as the additional risks associated with riding in the remote areas described in these webpages.

Distance Measurements
Distance measurements listed for the rides and segments of the rides are rough approximations and should be regarded as such.

 

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