Two-wheeler tours

By NINA MACLAUGHLIN  |  July 25, 2006

Massasoit State Park (Middleboro Avenue, East Taunton, 508.822.7405) “was my very first [bike camping] trip,” he recalls. The heavily wooded park has biking, canoeing, camping, fishing, and it’s right off 495 (not that you’d want — or be allowed — to ride that way on your bike).

An extensive network of trails loops around Myles Standish State Forest (Cranberry Road, South Carver, 508.866.2526). And Horseneck Beach (Route 88, Westport Point, 508.636.8816) hugs 600 acres of shoreline and salt marsh.

For parks south of Boston, Rubel recommends jumping on the commuter rail. “South is not nearly as nice a direction to bike,” he says. “I take the train to Plymouth or Lakeville, then bike to Cape Cod from there.” Rubel also recommends Pawtuckaway State Park (128 Mountain Road, Nottingham, New Hampshire, 603.895.3031), 63 miles from Boston.

If New England’s charms have worn thin and you want to trade familiar East Coast streets and hills for a more ambitious biking trip, check out Adventure Cycling Association. Rubel estimates about 10,000 people a year bike across the country, and Adventure Cycling helps them do it with route planning, maps, and organized trips. The organization started out as Bikecentennial in the summer of 1976, when 4000 cyclists had a cross-country bicycle birthday party for America. Now in its 30th-anniversary year, the group continues to research and develop touring routes, including an Underground Railroad route, a Utah cliffs route (maps are $20.50; $17.50 for ACA members), a Green Mountains loop ($20.50; $17.50), and the flagship TransAmerica trip from Yorktown, Virginia, to Astoria, Oregon ($114; $78 for members).

The association’s guided tours range in cost from $600 to $5000. The ACA also publishes the Cyclists Yellow Pages, which feature state-by-state info that can be accessed on the Adventure Cycling Web site.

Once you decide on a route, you’ve got to make sure you’ve got the right gear, because a few extra pounds can make a big difference when you’re cranking up the hills. Philip Keyes, executive director of New England Mountain Biking Association, references the Massachusetts company Topeak, which engineers innovative cycling products and the Bikamper bike tent (retails for about $200). The three-season tent holds one person, and uses the bicycle itself (with the front wheel removed) as a tent frame; the handlebars provide the structure. One difference between road-bike camping and mountain-bike camping, says Keyes, is that you’ll want to secure your gear better for bumping down (or up) mountain trails. With mountain-bike camping, “People tend to find a central location, set up camp, and then go off and do multiple trips around that. It’s not so much destination-to-destination,” he explains.

For more exotic (and luxurious) trips, look for Arlington-based Ciclismo Classico, which specializes in cycling tours in Italy; it also runs trips in France, Austria, Spain, and around New England. “The real drive,” says Joe Luchison of Ciclismo Classico, “is to combine good biking with fun and vacation and exercise. We’re creating an authentic experience. Our local guides really take people behind the scenes.” For these trips, a van carries your luggage from place to place, and you stay in three- and four-star inns, hotels, and B&Bs. One trip offered this summer for the first time is the Giro d’Italia — a Giro del Gelato, which runs through seven regions of Italy, and features all-you-can-eat gelato (plus gelato-making lessons and contests). “There are certain favorite foods for cyclists,” says Luchison, “and ice cream is one of them. Beer is another.” He emphasizes that seeing a country on a bicycle — be it Italy or the United States — lets riders enjoy a completely new appreciation. “You feel the sun beating on you, you smell the grapes. It’s a full sensory experience.”

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