MTB vs Touring for Eastern US

zelseman

Observer
The wife and I will be traveling through the Eastern US (South Dakota across to Nova Scotia then down through Virigina then down along the Gulf in the Winter)from July until December in our skoolie and we are thinning the heard on what gear we bring. We normally have 4 bikes on our rack, but want to minimize and bringing only 1 bike each. We work remotely, so we spend a few days per week in a coffee shop or library to use the internet, have calls, etc. When we traveled in the WEST last year, we road more mountain bike and less cruiser/touring as the trails were really good and the campsites were super far from town. In the East it seems like we will be free camping in Walmarts and visitor's centers more and would be able to ride our bikes around town and not move the bus as much.

I am finishing a deal on my dream bike-Surly Disc Trucker. It will be running 40c gravel tires and should be a decent all around rider. My wife already has a Surly Crosscheck that has been everywhere and seen a lot. It's setup to cruise town/commute as well. Our mountain bikes are aluminum hardtails with nice forks and wide ish tires.

Trying to avoid this look:


Any thoughts on which would be better?
Are we missing out on Mountain Biking on the East coast by bringing our Surly's?
 

Phoo

Observer
As a mountain biker who lives on the east coast, I'll insert my highly biased assertion that the mountain bike is always the correct answer. If you can swing it, a second set of wheels with slicks for asphalt duty is all you need in life. If you make it to Vermont, check out Kingdom Trails. You will have a hard time not enjoying yourself there. There's plenty of good riding out this way, but it is of a very different flavor than the typical western variety. I'd say it's worth it!
As for wilderness camping, ME, NH, VT, PA and NC aren't so bad. The others can be tough to navigate, outside of expensive private campgrounds.
I'm currently marooned in CT, so holler if you need some New England specific advice.
 

jhl99

New member
I live in PA and would recommend bringing the mountain bikes. For the record, I only own (2) rigid mountain bikes and use them for all my riding, which includes paved, gravel and single track (day rides and touring). A rigid mountain bike (or a hardtail with fork lockout) is a good 'least common denominator'. If you are mountain bikers, you will be missing out if you don't bring mountain bikes.

You will find the east as the same as the west "the trails were really good and the campsites were super far from town." It takes a little more local knowledge in the east of figure out the free, boondocking type of camping that you are probably looking for. Given your itinerary through, you can find in the Adirondack Park in NY, and in the national forests that run along the Appalachians from New England down into GA. Keep in mind there is no BLM land in the east, only national forests and the various state public lands, which vary from state to state.

Small towns you might want to visit that will somewhat support the camp/ride/wifi work would include State College, PA, Davis, WV, Harrisonburg VA, Damascus VA, Johnson City, TN, Brevard, NC and probably others.

If you decide not to bring mountain bikes, there are still a lot of gravel roads and rail trails that can be ridden on narrow tires without issue. PA has a lot of rail trails, the grand daddy is the Great Allegheny Passage (Pittsburgh to D.C.) , but I think the gem is the Pine Creek Rail Trail which is in north central PA
 

zelseman

Observer
As a mountain biker who lives on the east coast, I'll insert my highly biased assertion that the mountain bike is always the correct answer. If you can swing it, a second set of wheels with slicks for asphalt duty is all you need in life.
I have considered this as my MTB is setup 3X and fairly comfortable for long days in the saddle. I might shop around for some budget 29" wheels to put some smoother tires on.

If you make it to Vermont, check out Kingdom Trails. You will have a hard time not enjoying yourself there. There's plenty of good riding out this way, but it is of a very different flavor than the typical western variety. I'd say it's worth it!
We try to avoid the big "park" style trails as the crowds become more trouble than they are worth and stick to more remote and cross country style rides. Some of the reviews and videos I have seen of Kingdom trails makes it look like a circus.

As for wilderness camping, ME, NH, VT, PA and NC aren't so bad. The others can be tough to navigate, outside of expensive private campgrounds.
I'm currently marooned in CT, so holler if you need some New England specific advice.
Thanks for all of the advice. We will do some more research. Our only real experience trying to camp is around NC and it was hit or miss.

I live in PA and would recommend bringing the mountain bikes. For the record, I only own (2) rigid mountain bikes and use them for all my riding, which includes paved, gravel and single track (day rides and touring). A rigid mountain bike (or a hardtail with fork lockout) is a good 'least common denominator'. If you are mountain bikers, you will be missing out if you don't bring mountain bikes.

You will find the east as the same as the west "the trails were really good and the campsites were super far from town." It takes a little more local knowledge in the east of figure out the free, boondocking type of camping that you are probably looking for. Given your itinerary through, you can find in the Adirondack Park in NY, and in the national forests that run along the Appalachians from New England down into GA. Keep in mind there is no BLM land in the east, only national forests and the various state public lands, which vary from state to state.

Small towns you might want to visit that will somewhat support the camp/ride/wifi work would include State College, PA, Davis, WV, Harrisonburg VA, Damascus VA, Johnson City, TN, Brevard, NC and probably others.

If you decide not to bring mountain bikes, there are still a lot of gravel roads and rail trails that can be ridden on narrow tires without issue. PA has a lot of rail trails, the grand daddy is the Great Allegheny Passage (Pittsburgh to D.C.) , but I think the gem is the Pine Creek Rail Trail which is in north central PA
Thanks for the advice. Time will tell which way we go. I really hate hauling 4 bikes all over the country.
 
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DaveInDenver

Expedition Leader
I think you'd have just as much fun back east on a MTB as you did out here. The riding is just different. I am not a good bellwether since I have a quiver of one bike, a singlespeed REEB hardtail for everything. But I don't actively seek long pavement rides. I do long pavement if necessary due to muddy trails or linking dirt while touring, though. I'm just never going to win a land speed record.
 

zelseman

Observer
I think you'd have just as much fun back east on a MTB as you did out here. The riding is just different. I am not a good bellwether since I have a quiver of one bike, a singlespeed REEB hardtail for everything. But I don't actively seek long pavement rides. I do long pavement if necessary due to muddy trails or linking dirt while touring, though. I'm just never going to win a land speed record.
That's probably the difference between most of the guys on this group, my wife and I ride a lot of gravel and touring type rides (necessity in Oklahoma). We are both just learning mountain biking and it's hard to not bring a gravel grinder with you when you know you're going to be in South Dakota for a month before heading East.
 

DaveInDenver

Expedition Leader
Totally. I think gravel grinders are the most fun types of bikes all around. Most of what had morphed into "mountain biking" used to be downhill or all mountain, which I'm not into either. I prefer a 29'er hard tail with bags any day over slack angled unpowered dirt bikes. Used to be a time when MTB meant you had to do some hiking and route finding rather than trying to session and worry about flow. Meh. To me the Dirty Kanza is more mountain biking than Red Bull Rampage.
 

zelseman

Observer
Totally. I think gravel grinders are the most fun types of bikes all around. Most of what had morphed into "mountain biking" used to be downhill or all mountain, which I'm not into either. I prefer a 29'er hard tail with bags any day over slack angled unpowered dirt bikes. Used to be a time when MTB meant you had to do some hiking and route finding rather than trying to session and worry about flow. Meh. To me the Dirty Kanza is more mountain biking than Red Bull Rampage.
Agreed. My wife has finished DK and we have both ridden Land Run in Stillwater, OK a couple of times and really enjoy that style. I think I am going to throw some small block 8's on my new Disc Trucker and ride some back roads this summer.
 
I think you'd do well if you have your mountain bikes with you on the east coast. Theres some great trails that have already been mentioned, but I'll throw out a plug for Richmond as an area to ride. Pocahontas state park just south of Richmond has some of the best trails I've ever ridden on, and the James river park system in downtown Richmond is fantastic. There are trails that run right along the river, past historical sights and beautiful urban scenery. PM me if you want any further insider info, I'd be happy to share.
 

zelseman

Observer
So I made a compromise...




I got a smoking deal on a 2012 Disc Trucker in my size and I couldn't pass on it. This photo is more for fun than anything. I have a set of 29x1.9 gravel tires that will be replacing these, I just wanted to see what I could fit on the bike. 2.0 in the rear and 2.1 with knobs in the front. Oveja Negra 1/2 frame bag should be in any day and I already have bags for the rear rack, it should be a fun fire road tourer once I am done.

Thanks for all of the advice!
 

ober27

Adventurer
You'll love that bike. My wife bought me a Long Haul Trucker last year. I've put about 1,200 miles on it so far, it's been my favorite bike ever by far.
 

zelseman

Observer
You'll love that bike. My wife bought me a Long Haul Trucker last year. I've put about 1,200 miles on it so far, it's been my favorite bike ever by far.
What would we do without the women in our lives? My wife is my inspiration for most cycling endeavors and she did a Pacific Coast tour on a Cross Check a few years back and says she will never get rid of that bike. I have only had a couple of rides so far, but it mixes all of my favorite parts of a bike: bigger than average tires, stiff 90's mountain bike geometry, and comfortably being able to haul a lot of gear. I am excited to get the 1.9's on and see how it rolls on some singletrack!
 

dman93

Adventurer
Can’t give you much advice ... we live in the West and ride short travel FS 29-ers, mostly on singletrack, but count me in as another guy whose wife continues to push and inspire me after 30+ years, from our first ride together on rigid bikes in 1988 (her way out in front), to a 4 day White Rim tour 2 weeks ago in Utah.
 

zelseman

Observer
To wrap this thread up, I have had the DT for a month and it might be the perfect bike for the way we travel. We have only been in Tulsa, Flagstaff, and South Dakota, but so far I am super impressed and glad I went with the trucker. 25+ mile gravel rides are great and commuting into town is easy. Got the tires changed and am upgrading to tubeless really soon, just waiting on tape.

 
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