If you’ve never ridden in Vermont it’s time you did! Vermont has some of the nicest roads and trails for biking that you will find.
A Good Workout on Vermont Trails
Of course as some say “Vermont ain’t flat” and if you bikehere you quickly see what they mean. There are some flatter roads and trails in the Champlain Valley but you will often have a head wind to deal with in exchange for the lack of hills.
Most of the hills really aren’t that bad and with many bikes having triple chain rings you can gear down enough to make the climbs manageable. As a reward for conquering a hill you’ll see fantastic views and experience the fun of coasting back down; “what goes up must come down!”
Low Traffic on the Roads of Vermont
For road biking there isn’t much that beats the northeast corner of Vermont. The population is low and so is the traffic. If you are able to ride during the week rather than weekends you may only see a car or two over the course of your ride. Even on the weekends the traffic is pretty low on most of these roads and when I say “low traffic” that is from the perspective of someone who lives on a dead end dirt road. I think the traffic in Montpelier is heavy. If you hail from the flat lands (south of Brattleboro) you are probably used to a much higher level of traffic.
Even with the light traffic keep in mind that Vermont road laws require that bicycles ride single file. Please respect this if riding here as it goes a long ways toward keeping good relations with the automobile drivers on our roads. Sharing the road goes both ways.
The Views along Vermont Roads
Along with the low traffic in the Northeast there are wonderful views of woodlands, lakes, old farms, and small Vermont villages. Many of these villages have quaint general stores where you can stop for a break and a cold drink while out for your ride.
We do have our share of potholes and cracks in the roads so it’s a good idea to use a durable tire. I’ve ridden with narrow racing tires but had problems with pinch flats from hitting some of these potholes. Be sure you have a patch kit just in case.
Plenty of Off-Road Biking
If dirt roads are your thing Vermont is the place for you! At times these roads can actually be smoother than the paved roads. The conditions do vary however depending on how much rain we’ve had and how long it has been since the road was last graded.
Most towns use a grader many times a summer to remove washboards from the dirt roads. If you happen to be out for a ride the day after the road has been graded it can be like riding on marbles. It will take twice the energy to get to where you are going. Dirt roads can also be very dusty leaving you in a cloud of dust each time a car passes by.
Now that I’ve made dirt roads sound so appealing lets look at some of their finer points. They really can be great roads to ride.
You’ll typically find even less traffic on them and they can take you to some beautiful locations that you just won’t see by sticking to the pavement. Traveling on secondary dirt roads just gives you a feeling of a slower pace and a step back in time. A cross style bike will make these rides more enjoyable since they have wider tires than a road bike to absorb the bumps; yet narrow enough to lower the rolling resistance.
Variety of Roads, Trails, Paths for Biking
Vermont truly is a paradise for mountain biking. There are many single track trails through out the state and miles of old forth class roads and jeep trails.
In Vermont we have a road classification of forth class which is an unimproved road. These are not maintained in the winter and are often little more than trails since they have not been maintained for years. It’s not uncommon to find the remains of old villages and homestead sites on these old roads. Many of them lead to old settlements which were abandoned back in the 1920s and have long since collapsed leaving just the stone cellar holes as evidence of habitation.
If you don’t want to see any traffic this is your best option. These are still state roads so it is possible that you might encounter a jeep or four wheel drive pickup out there but odds are you won’t see anyone at all.
Vermont has a growing number of mountain bike groups which are always working on new single track trails. Many of these are only know to locals so your best bet is to visit the neighborhood bike shop for tips on finding these rides.
Much of the single track is less visible than the moose and deer herd paths so they can be very hard to find if you don’t know where to look. Use common sense when riding these trails, do not skid and stay off the trails when they are wet or muddy. This causes erosion and animosity toward mountain bikers as a group. Please respect the land.
Vermont has it all: Great low traffic paved roads, miles of dirt back roads and a wide variety of off road options. Make some time to visit this season and see what Vermont has to offer!
About the author: Ken Haggart of Lake Elmore, Vermont, is the owner of Peace Pups Dogsledding and Vermont Bicycle Tours. He is a musher, tour guide and custom woodworker.