Philadelphia has a couple of "City to Shore" rides, where you ride your bike essentially from Philadelphia to the Jersey Shore. As it so happens, I am riding a 100 mile route in October as part of the MS City to Shore ride. But there are other ways to bike to the shore. Like hop on your bike and get those wheels turnin'!
Okay. It does take some more planning than that. But this was my very first long distance bike trip and the first time I could classify myself as a "bikepacker" because my bike was decked out with some panniers (basically saddle bags) to hold a lot of goodies. I wouldn't call myself an expert at this point, but I do have some suggestions if you are undertaking a trip of your own.
5 Beginner Tips for Bikepacking Philadelphia to the Jersey Shore
1. Get a tune-up. I know. This should, theoretically, be a no brainer. But I easily embraced the excuse that all of the bike shops in Philadelphia were busy. An alternate phrasing for this tip could be: "Plan Ahead Accordingly" or "Don't Be Lazy" or "Don't Be Putting Your Rack On 15 Minutes Before the Trip." You can manage to survive, even if you don't follow any of these tips (look at that, four tips for the price of one!). However, it'll make your trip a lot more pleasant. And less noisy. Bikes in need of a tune-up can get noisy.
2. Take breaks accordingly. We usually stopped every 10 miles for a little break. Heck, talk about taking a break, we split the trip up into two days. We stopped at Wharton State Forest, which is just about halfway. We camped for the night and then continued on the next day. (If you do this, I suggest calling ahead to see if they take walk-ins...otherwise reserve a spot!)This makes this a possible microadventure without taking away too much of your weekend! While we did it on a long weekend, we left on Friday evening and were down the shore by 3pm on Saturday. That leaves you with plenty of beach time! This IS possible!
3. Food + Water = Happy Cyclist. Again, this may be a no brainer, but hear me out. If you pack a bunch of trail mix thinking that you will be satisfied for every snack, you are SEVERELY wrong. Mix it up! Salty, sweet, crunchy, chewy. You're going to want to have them all covered. A Justin's Nut Butter Packet and apple slices might be my favorite snack out on the road. Also. Just a note. If you are using a hydration pack instead of a water bottle, make sure it doesn't have a hole in it before your back is soaking wet and you lose half of your water. Just saying.
4. Stuff Sacks are the BOMB. You would think that as a traveler/novice outdoors enthusiast/etc., I would have heard of stuff sacks before. Not so. People. This is as close as you can get to that purse Hermione has in Harry Potter. YOU KNOW THE ONE, DON'T LIE. I was astonished at how my sleeping bag could pack down. This is how people become magical packers, I am convinced. (Side note: if you have any recommendations for stuff sacks, please let me know! I borrowed the heck out of them.)
5. Go with people you like. Or who know more than you do. Or who are nice and resourceful. Ideally, you'll find people that fit all bills! And since you're carrying everything with you on your bike, if you recruit more people, you'll be able to bring more FOOD (see tip #3). But in all seriousness, sometimes when you're traveling big miles you need to chat to get out of your own brain. You should pick your companions wisely!
The Dirty Deets
- Our trip turned out to be about 75 miles - CHECK YOUR ROUTE. Make sure you aren't traveling big roads if you don't want to!
- Crossing the Ben Franklin Bridge requires you to carry your bike down a set of stairs.
- Wharton State Forest has a couple of primitive campsites (as well as many other types), the cost is anywhere from $3-5 per person. We did have access to a water pump. You might have to walk along a sand entrance trail. Just walk your bike, it is definitely deep sand!
- We saw one bike shop on our way, so make sure you know how to do minor things (ie. fix a flat) to your bike. Or just bring a mechanic. But you should learn how to change a flat anyway!
- How do you get back? BIKE! (I sure didn't...) Or have somebody pick you up. Or, Atlantic City has a train station and you can bring your bike onboard.
So, would I ever go bikepacking again? YES, I totally would. I am already dreaming of different destinations that could make potential bikepacking trips. It got a little tough towards the end, simply because I am fairly familiar with the route to the shore. And I knew exactly how far away I was from sand and beer. That was probably the toughest part for me!
One of the coolest things for me is that this can be classified as a microadventure! You don't have to take any time off from work (or grad school, heyo) to get this trip done. And you get to relax at the beach afterwards! It's the perfect blend of activity and relaxation, especially if you have a place to stay for the rest of the weekend. Or you can get super impressive and bike the way back! This is a totally flexible idea and you should TRY IT.
Quick note: THANK YOU to Danielle and Arianna for putting up with me and teaching me the ways.
Would you ever think of bikepacking Philadelphia to the Jersey Shore? Have you been bikepacking? Add your tips!