In this new normal many of us our self-isolating enough that we don’t want to get in a car with others even for a head hanging out the window shuttle…so the obvious solution is a bike (or hike) shuttle.
I’ve also seemed way too many Facebook posts about missing gear – more during this special situation but also during the old normal. So investing in a few locks and using them seems like a pretty good idea.
The basics of bike shuttling are pretty obvious. Drop a bike at one end or a boat at the other.
Less obvious things about bike shuttling.
- 1 piece kayak paddles can be locked securely with a tight lock around the shaft such as bicycle U-lock or many wraps of a cable. Canoe paddles need a tighter pull which usually requires a dedicated cable or larger shaft padlock.
- Most paddling clothing can be locked by putting a cable thru the neck, relief zipper, arm or leg hole.
- Shoes, dry bags and life jackets are hard to lock. The workaround is usually older, less valuable stuff or carrying it with you on the shuttle. Since they’ll likely be a few valuables you want to carry…
- A cheap day-pack with little padding crams into the back of your boat or is less likely to get stolen if locked with the bike. Of course if you have a bigger boat or way to lock the pack a well padded midsize bag or pannier is an even nicer solution.
- Kayaking helmets are usually not comfortable biking unless your sitting completely upright on the bike.
- Kayaking shorts – especially wet ones – aren’t much fun biking in either. Dry shorts – preferably cycling shorts – don’t take up much room.
- Biking first usually requires and extra driving lap just like the decision on normal car shuttles as to whether to shuttle the boats or just drop boats and then shuttle cars.
- Biking can be thirsty work. Leave a biking water bottle on the bike as having to unscrew a bottle while biking is a recipe for falling.
- Enjoy the ride. Many paddles are in remote areas with the shuttle giving beautiful views of the water. Believe it or not many folks actually call biking along a river some of their favorite recreation.
Some paddles like the Lehigh, Ken Lockwood Gorge and the Moodna, all mentioned below, even have shorter off road or limited access trails along the river.
And some words on locks and locking.
- Locks generally get heavier and more expensive as they get better.
- Thicker cables and heavier u-locks are generally better.
- Braided cables are a lot harder to cut then twisted, usually self coiling cables.
- Lock to the solidest thing you can find. Iron or steel structures like gates, guardrails and utility pole guy wires or anchor points are harder to cut so usually better then trees. As anyone who’s tried to clear trees off a river knows, big trees are harder to cut then small and hard woods are harder to cut then pine.
- One school of thought says hiding stuff makes it less likely to get stolen. But someone working to cut any descent lock is going to look pretty suspicious in a public place.
Running or hiking the shuttle is another alternative…and for canoeists on easier waters putting the bike in the boat adds the advantage of just paddling as long as you want and peddling whenever the whim and a convenient pullout comes by (hence the picture).
Where to bike or hike shuttle
some suggestions in the NY/NJ area.
Lehigh Gorge – 9 mile upper and 12 mile lower (Class 2) mostly level ride- beautiful and enjoyable if you take your time along mostly a packed gravel path.
Esopus– (Class 2-3)Fairly level. Main road can be busy with high speed traffic. Relatively flat, less than 5 miles for the usual route. Main road has a good shoulder but side roads parallel the river. 40 south of Phoenicia, cross river on Bridge by Town Tinker and right onto High Street. Right on Woodland Valley back across river and left onto River.
Deerfield – Fifebrook – (Class 2,3) Fairly long shuttle. The road has some hills but not too steep. Not a lot of traffic and it’s mostly paddlers. Steepest hill is just upriver of Zoar Gap, so if you aren’t paddling the gap (which is significantly harder then the rest of the river and often skipped by open boats and beginners) pull out before this hill and you don’t miss much river.
Dryway– (Class 4) Long hill up from the takeout but not a bad ride from there. Andy F. have done 3 laps in a day on his bike. With the long walk up to the parking area you can almost save time.
Hudson/Indian (Class 3+ at release level) – Long shuttle for the Hudson on a fairly busy high speed road. Laps on the Indian possible and not a bad shuttle on dirt roads (ed. note. Normally only an hour and a half release though, which doesn’t give you a lot of time for laps). River is about 15 miles and the shuttle about the same.
Lackawaxen (Class 2)– About 10 miles mostly flat
Salmon – Another that could be easily shuttled about 5 miles
Sacandaga – Another one that looks OK on the map very short, less than 3 miles total but uphill
Beaver – Possible to walk Taylorville. Could bike shuttle Moshier. The Eagle is park and huck.
Lower Yough – Park and Huck the loop – might be able to bike shuttle the entire run on the rail trail
Black (Watertown NY) – could be combined with a day at hole brothers. Fairly easy shuttle but through town and on busy roads
Tohickon (Class 3+)– Andy Frey has done a bike shuttle numerous times but it is a very demanding shuttle on a narrow road.
Mongaup (Class 2+)– Biking is a bit of a grind and you need a dirt road bike or at least good brakes for the last run down to the powerhouse. A workaround would be car shuttling just the paved section and the passenger jogging the dirt road section which is all downhill. Can be walked on either side of the river but it isn’t ideal.
Ken Lockwood Gorge, Raritan(Class 3) – Easy walk or bike shuttle on dirt roads mostly closed to traffic – Very flashy difficult to plan trips.
Lamington (Black) (Class 4)– Not a bad bike shuttle but it rarely runs (very flashy) and is full of wood – all drops are clear as of summer 2020 but you will get out of your boat 10-15 times – Solid class IV skills needed
Shahola Falls/Upper gorge – Park & Huck
Brodhead (miracle mile)(Class 3+) – Fairly level short shuttle. Stretch it out if you want as the road parallels the river for miles.
Schroon – Short walkable shuttle – very short run should be combined with something else (Indian/Hudson)
Lower Moose – Long shuttle on hilly roads
Bottom Moose – Lot of hills. Not an easy shuttle.
Moodna (Class 3-,4)– From 9w put in head south and take the first left at the light (Sloop Hill Road) and then the first right (technically staying on Sloop Hill) and cut thru the back of the former NY military academy (Trump’s Alma mater that went under in 2016). This will dump you onto local streets thru Cornwall. Taking the right onto Willow which turns into Mill is the shortest route which T’s on Quaker and a right down a short hill is the rt 32 bridge.
The upper class 2 section parallels 32 which has a wide shoulder and is nearly flat.
Alternate mountain bike option. Just east of the Forge Hill Road bridge find a way to get up to the old rail bed and follow this around and you’ll end up on Mill.
Pequonnock (Class 2+)– 511 and then 23 parallels the river. 23 has a wide shoulder thru this section though most folks start at the 511/23 intersection.
Delaware (Class 1-2) relatively flat easy ride distance depends on section.
(This list was compiled with help from Andy F. , Tom H. and Ellen M.)