Home | Classifieds | Mechanic | Links | Race Headlines | Features | New Books | Photos | Travel | Cartoons | OH-WV-PA InfoSite Map | Search | Contact

Bikexchange logo, link to Home    A Guide to West Virginia Biking Guides  Bikexchange logo, link to Home

By Dale Porter

This piece first appeared in Spoke Notes, the publication of the Mountain State Wheelers Bicycle Club. For short descriptions and small jacket pictures of the many of the books mentioned here--plus books that also cover Ohio and Pennsylvania--visit our Home Grown Books page.

Within this article, Mr. Porter reviews the following books:

Shifting Gears -- A Bicycling Guide to West Virginia
Rail Trails Along the Greenbrier River
Off the Beaten Track -- Volume VI: A Guide to Mountain Biking in West Virginia
Mountain Bike Rides in Pocahontas County, West Virginia
The Mountain Biker's Guide to Central Appalachia
New River Gorge Trail Guide -- Hiking and Biking Trails of the New River
   Gorge Area, Cranberry Glades and Greenbrier River Trail

40 Great Rail-Trails in the Mid-Atlantic
Mountain Biking in West Virginia
Adventure Guide to WV Rail Trails
Hiking Guide to Monongahela National Forest
Final Summary

The following are descriptions of some of the currently available publications that describe biking routes in West Virginia. A few years ago, there were no readily available publications. The oldest publication date of the guides reviewed is 1989 and that publication only covered one of our 55 counties.

All of the guides provide some useful information but I have tried to give some guidance as to which may be more valuable for the readers interest. (Links to each book's Amazon page are provided.)

If you are a road or cross bike rider, this is the WV guide for you. A few rides are better restricted to mountain bikes, but most can be done with a cross bike and some are suitable for road bikes. If there is one improvement needed for this book, it would be a mention of the type of bike suitable for the ride. Careful reading of the text should indicate what bike will be suitable for the route.

Detwiler provides detailed turn listings (cue sheets), and maps for 28 locations across West Virginia. Some locations list options, so there are actually more than 28 rides. It is unfortunate that no rides in the Charleston area are included, but if you travel across the sate and are looking for rides, this book will provide a start. Each ride has a description of how to get to the start, a brief overview of the ride, a page of information about the surrounding area and a detailed turn list. The book is spiral bound, which makes it convenient to photocopy ride descriptions to take along the ride.

This 4.5 X 7-inch format guide covers the Greenbrier River Trail and the West Fork (of Greenbrier) Trail. If you are planning on spending any time on the Greenbrier rail trails, this is a worthy investment.

Though a guide is not essential to find the trails or to prevent you from becoming lost, the information about the area surrounding the trail, both current and historical, will add enjoyment to your ride. The book breaks the trail up into 10 to 20-mile sections so the associated maps can provide enough detail and descriptions can be associated with the maps. The maps are good, showing parking, camping, phone, water, and food locations along the trail.

These rail trails travel some of the most scenic areas of the state.

Of the guides reviewed in this article, this is the only one I would recommend leaving on the shelf. It would be better titled, Not So Far Off the Beaten Track. You would think a book that proposes to be a "off the beaten track" guide to mountain biking in West Virginia would involve gnarly single track rides. Instead, the rides are poorly researched and overly dependent on heavily used, public access forest service roads. An example is ride #5, Spruce Knob Lake. Over two thirds of the ride is on forest service routes 1 and 112 which are heavily traveled during the summer. You will choke on the dust of passing cars if it hasn't rained in the past day. With all the riding available in the area, to be dependent on these roads for a majority of the rides is ridiculous.

This was probably the first biking guide devoted to West Virginia (or at least a portion of WV) that was published and widely distributed. This 5-1/4 X 8-1/4-inch format covers 18 rides in Pocahontas County, including the Greenbrier River Trail. When I purchased the first edition a few years ago, I picked up the Marlin Mountain and Gauley Mountain rides from it.

This is one of a series of mountain biking guides that covers various parts of the US and the second oldest one reviewed. It covers New York, Pennsylvania, Western Maryland and West Virginia. It includes 11 rides in West Virginia. All the rides are in the Davis and Spruce Knob areas. This guide, like Off the Beaten Track, utilizes some forest service roads, but only for parts of the rides and to complete loops. Each route includes a map and the usual items such as elevation change, hazards, maps and how to find the routes. Addresses are also provided to write or call for additional information about the rides.

The routes appear to be well researched. The guide set a standard for those that followed. Though this guide only covers a few rides in a limited area of the state, it would probably be a worthwhile purchase if you plan on travels in any of the other states covered in this book.

The title pretty much says it all. This 5-1/2 X 8-1/8-inch format, WV authored and published book gives the best coverage to the New River Gorge and Cranberry Glades area. Only a couple of the rides are suitable for road bikes.

The book devotes two pages per trail and these include an excellent map, a short overview, how to get there, trail description and a trail profile for trails in the gorge. For the Cranberry Glades, it has overview maps and trail overviews in a matrix format.

When I first picked up the book, I really like the inclusion of the trail profile graphs. Unfortunately, the value of these profiles is degraded by using a different scale for each trail. Therefore, you can't relate your actual experience on one trail to the graph on another. It would be better to use one for short trails and another for longer trails, but not vary them for each trail.

The maps are excellent.

This book covers "some" rail trails in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. It only covers 5 rail trails in West Virginia. There are better guides to WV rail trails. This is a handy guide if you are traveling in surrounding states.

This 5 X 7-inch format book has descriptions of over 40 mountain bike rides around West Virginia. This is the most comprehensive guide to mountain biking in West Virginia. The guide includes rides from Cooper's Rock in the North to Camp Creek State Park in the South.

The rides described range from public dirt roads to single track. It rates them by difficulty and scenery. The author provides directions to the start, names of topo maps that cover the routes and route maps.

Appendices included in the book are: Touring Companies, State Racing Information, Bicycle Clubs, Associations & Organizations, Bicycle Shops, National Park and Forest Offices, WV Average Temperatures and Precipitation.

This is an "almost" comprehensive guide to rail trails in West Virginia, covering 23 trails. There have been additional rail trails created since its publication, thanks in part to the WV Rails-to-Trails Council.

The trails are rated for scenery, difficulty and trail conditions. Because of the rapid progress being made in WV in adding rail trails and upgrading existing rail trail conditions, there is no way to publish a rail trail guide that is truly up to date.

The first release relies heavily on topo maps for trail maps. Being a map freak, I liked the topos but due to reader comment, they hope to replace many of the topo maps with the more standard maps, as found in other guides. Topo maps are of less value for rail trails than for other types of bike routes.

Though this is a hiking and cross-country skiing guide for the Monongahela National Forest, it is still indispensable for the mountain bike heading for the Monongahela National Forest. It provides descriptions of all the trails in the forest. Trails are rated for difficulty (hiking/skiing) and scenery.

The book includes reproductions of topo and US Forest Service maps. The layout of the book can be a little difficult for the novice user to find the areas and trails he or she is looking for, but you get the hang of it after awhile.

SUMMARY

There is now a choice of guides available. Though some value can be derived from any of the above publications, the following would be my first choices...

For road biking, Shifting Gears is the only one I've found. For rail-trails, support the local efforts and purchase Adventure Guide to WV Rail Trails and Rail Trails Along the Greenbrier River. Mountain bikers have a wider choice, but Mountain Biking in West Virginia, New River Gorge Trail Guide and Monongahela National Forest Hiking Guide provide the best coverage and information on West Virginia.

Some of these are currently on the shelves of local bookstores like Taylors and Trans Allegheny Books {Editor's note: Mr. Porter lives in the Charleston, WV area}. Those that are not can be ordered by the stores and the Adventure Guide to WV Rail Trails can be obtained from the WV Rails-To-Trails Council.

Features | Crank On Home