Pre-Ride Report for Pennsylvania section of MABDR

Dirt_Dad

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I am posting this as a guy who has planned and lead a good number of off pavement Tenere group rides. Riding this PA section last week I saw a lot of different bikes, but I did not see a single Tenere. For anyone that watched the MABDR video and was concerned about the rough stuff, I can tell you it represents a tiny, tiny fraction of the approximate 400 miles of PA riding. Overall the route through PA is very big bike friendly.

MABDR site

If your comfort level is basic forest roads in good condition, then I've seen only two short sections that may be of concern. To be fair, due to my mistake with the GPS, I have not seen the dirt part of MABDR section 5 below Mt Holly Springs to the PA border. The video did not show those roads as much of any thing to worry about, but I do need to go back and confirm at some point. I have done everything in the state above Mt Holly Springs. No, not the "hero" stuff. I'm not interested in being a hero when alone.

Assuming you're riding north like the video, the first section you'll want to aware of is section 7, where they talk about Bald Eagle Forest, Ravens Knob Road. I found it on the GPS around 33 to 35 miles south of the end of section 7.





It's a switchback section of the road. Once you think you're done with it, you hit the switchback, then do it again on a lower section, then again, and again. The rockiest stuff is higher up. Each section get a little less challenging as you go down.

The next challenge is much less exercise. Walter Road has a good amount of loose rock for about 2 miles of section 58 to 60 miles south of the end of section 8. No where near the challenge of Ravens Knob Road on section 7, but this is not a smooth forest road. And the switchback corners do not give you a break, they are just as stony as the rest. As long as you have a skid plate this section may cause you to break a sweat, but it is not as steep or as challenging as section 7.



That's it. I found nothing else that would inspire me to give a caution. You will experience numerous different types of dirt/gravel roads. Many of them vary enough that you'll need to adjust your expectation of traction for that particular unique surface, but mostly it's just your standard forest road experience.

To me, section 8 from the start is my favorite section of PA MABDR. Below Rt 192, it's a fun roller coaster of a road with lots of up and downs and twist and turns. Above 192 it has some fun easily handled whoops that had me just laughing. I'm more of a spirited dirt ride guy than a rock crawling guy. I personally would be inclined to skip Ravens Knob Road on a Tenere. Not because it's impassable, it's not. It's just not the type of road I enjoy on a big bike, but that's a personal choice, and not a recommendation. Anyone who enjoys rock crawling will likely be very comfortable on this road. And if you're emsreno, you probably won't even notice that you went through it.

In my opinon you must have a GPS to do this route. There are too many road changes to attempt this with just a map. Even with a GPS, it is easy to find yourself off the route. I did it at least twice. If you normally mute your voice navigation on the GPS, you'll be off route a lot. Let it talk.

Section 9 is pretty great scenery wise. At one point the forest is so dense that even at 2:00 in the afternoon, the headlight was clearly illuminating the path. The camera really brightened the photo below. I found flipping between the hi and lo beam made a difference here.



It also contains the PA Grand Canyon


You will see lot's of people whenever you take a break. These guys told me riders are everywhere on the BDR.


And I'll say whenever not riding, you will see a lot of adventure bikes. At hotels, lot of bikes. Talk to riders and they'll tell you they are riding the BDR. There was one time saw two guys pulled over. But I never once passed anyone going the same direction as me, and I never was passed. The entire 400 miles up and another 100 of it going back, I saw a grand total of 4 bikes going the other way. I have no idea where all these riders were, but they hid from me. Overall, you feel pretty alone on the MABDR.


The scenery is great throughout the PA section. Highly recommend giving it a shot.





 

RCinNC

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Much appreciation for the post, and the information on the road in Bald Eagle. I'll make note of it on my MABDR route.
 

ballisticexchris

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Man you guys have some beautiful country and nice terrainII Just looking at the map it looks to be very doable on a Super Tenere with minimal off road skills.

The CABDR is damn near impossible on a loaded down beast unless you have serious skills. Only reason I know this is because I have ridden a bunch of the sections before it was even created. And the beauty is nowhere near what you lucky dogs have in the East!!
 

Checkswrecks

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Great write-up D_D.

Need to repeat and emphasize what Dirt_Dad wrote about the need to have the map downloaded versus just having the paper map. I've only ridden pieces in WV, MD, and PA and the paper map is only good enough to seriously screw me up. Save your money and do not buy it.

For example, going north from Burkittsville, MD the route turns onto a gravel road to parallel the asphalt road which the gravel turns off of. However, like so many roads on the paper map, the name of the gravel one is not shown because the scale is too zoomed out, plus, the road in real life is easy to ride past.
 

Dirt_Dad

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One more note about downloading the route. If you have one of the new Zumo units, don't think the route will just load and be exactly the MABDR. I made that mistake with my Garmin XT. The Avoidances were set to avoid off road, so the downloaded route calculated in the XT to stay on pavement, regardless of what the downloaded route actually showed. Make certain your Navigation preferences are set to allow off road.
 

RCinNC

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There's a way to make a photographic map overlay of the MABDR for some Garmins. It's not a track or a route, although it gives the appearance of a track on the screen. It doesn't recalculate if you get off the route (which is the way I prefer it), and the route stays the same regardless of any settings in the GPS. I used it on the section of the MABDR I rode this summer, and it worked really well. I used it on a Garmin Nuvi 2455; wonder if it would work with a Zumo?
 

Dirt_Dad

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There's a way to make a photographic map overlay of the MABDR for some Garmins. It's not a track or a route, although it gives the appearance of a track on the screen. It doesn't recalculate if you get off the route (which is the way I prefer it), and the route stays the same regardless of any settings in the GPS. I used it on the section of the MABDR I rode this summer, and it worked really well. I used it on a Garmin Nuvi 2455; wonder if it would work with a Zumo?
Does it give audio alerts of turns? Even with audio alerts I still ended up off route a couple of times. There are so many turns and unmarked splits that I don't think I'd have a chance without the audio.
 

ballisticexchris

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There's a way to make a photographic map overlay of the MABDR for some Garmins. It's not a track or a route, although it gives the appearance of a track on the screen. It doesn't recalculate if you get off the route (which is the way I prefer it), and the route stays the same regardless of any settings in the GPS. I used it on the section of the MABDR I rode this summer, and it worked really well. I used it on a Garmin Nuvi 2455; wonder if it would work with a Zumo?
When I downloaded the AZBCDR to Basecamp I converted the tracks to a route with waypoints. You have the ability to choose each individual waypoint as you go along and and it will take you there and recalculate. I discovered this by mistake when I was riding. I was zooming in my screen and accidentally touched a way point. It asks you if you want to start a new trip or add as next stop. This feature is a game changer!!
 

RCinNC

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Does it give audio alerts of turns? Even with audio alerts I still ended up off route a couple of times. There are so many turns and unmarked splits that I don't think I'd have a chance without the audio.
The way I have it set up, the MABDR as it appears on my GPS isn't a route or a track; it's a photographic overlay on the map. In essence, it's another map layed over the existing one that's in the Garmin. You can't interact with it; it always appears on the screen. On my Garmin, I have it set up so each section is a different color so I can tell them apart, and the bypasses are blue. The expert sections are all in red. They are all visible at the same time on the screen. You can't add or alter the MABDR while you're riding, since it's not a track or route, so accidentally touching the screen and adding a wayppoint doesn't do anything to the way the MABDR appears on the Garmin. You follow the MABDR map overlay just like you would follow a track on the screen; if you veer off course, you can still see the MABDR map overlay and work your way back to it. You can program an entirely new route and follow it, but you'll still see the MABDR on the screen.

The point of doing it this way is that GPS units like the Nuvi can't read a GPX track with hundreds of wapoints; they can only read a GPX route, which is just a series of route points that the GPS decides the best way to get from one route point to another. The GPX route will give you turn by turn directions as you ride, but it'll also try and reroute you if you miss a route point, and that's the frustrating feature for me. With a Nuvi, you can't always tell you missed a route point; for instance, you might have accidentally placed it too far off the road when you planned the route, and the GPS unit then identifies it as a missed route point. Since it doesn't warn you that you missed a waypoint, the Nuvi suddenly starts trying to reroute you, sometimes choosing a big meandering route, to try and get you back to the missed route point. Meanwhile, the original MABDR route that you planned on Furkot or MyRoute or whatever disappears, and the new rerouted one is the one you see.

About two years ago I created a bunch of GPX route files (not track files) for the MABDR using MyRoute. They were designed to work with my Garmin Nuvi. I can load those onto my Nuvi, and I'll get the turn by turn audio directions for the MABDR. The limitations for this is the automatic rerouting feature that Nuvis use and that you can't turn off. However, if I get off course from the route file and it starts trying to reroute me, I can still see the MABDR on the screen, so I know immediately that I'm off course because the purple line from the route is no longer laying under the MABDR photo overlay. It's a very clear visual indicator that you aren't on the MABDR any more, and you can work your way back to it regardless of whatever convoluted reroute the Nuvi is trying to make you follow.

This is an example of what it looks like on a Nuvi screen:



That's the area near Harper's Ferry. The main route is in green, and the Antietam Battlefield and the Harper's Ferry Bypass are in yellow.



This shows the MABDR in green, and the Flat Hollow Road expert section in red.



This shows what the screen looks like when you're using a turn by turn route layered under the photographic map overlay. This would give you turn by turn directions.

So, long winded explanations aside, I can get turn by turn directions with this hybrid method, though for me it isn't an issue, since my Nuvi isn't bluetooth capable and I can't hear directions over my helmet comm unit anyway.

I first read about this method of creating a photographic overlay to simulate a GPS track in a posting on ADV rider from a member named Yinzer Moto. It's a great workaround to the limitations presented by using a car based Garmin GPS unit that can't read a GPX track file on something like the MABDR. I added the turn by turn directions feature, and the methods seem to work well together in my experiments on Section 2. I don't know if they'd work with a Zumo or Montana or any of the units that can actually directly read a downloaded GPX track file from the MABDR site.
 

Dirt_Dad

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So, long winded explanations aside, I can get turn by turn directions with this hybrid method, though for me it isn't an issue, since my Nuvi isn't bluetooth capable and I can't hear directions over my helmet comm unit anyway.
Cool trick you have there.

I would personally find it challenging to do the PA section without audio. There are just so many road changes that's I'd have to be looking at the GPS more that I desired. Of course, since I've always had access to audio, that may just be my being spoiled and it's not a big deal if you're accustom to not having it.

In the end, it really doesn't matter if you find yourself off course. Anytime I did, it was still a good ride, so no worries at all.
 

Checkswrecks

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I gave up on Garmin several years ago and use OsMand+ on my Samsung Galaxy S10. Downloaded the GPX file and other than one bad point (VERY obvious) it works just fine.
Same with sailboats, where B&G just blows the usefulness of Garmin devices out of the water. (bad pun)
 

Dirt_Dad

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I believe I was waiting for you up in Pennsylvania the day you gave up on Garmin. I rode by the particular breakfast spot on my Garmin miscalculated (avoidance issue) route of the MABDR.

I also gave up on Garmin years ago. Didn't know what I was going to do when my 665 died, but I was fed up with Garmin. Steve (Firedog) worked me over good singing the praises of the XT. When the SAS GPS was not a viable option, DM hounded me into pulling the trigger on the XT. I have to say Steve was right.

I used the 665 on this MABDR ride. I had declared it dead, but managed to figure out a way to get the touch screen to work for this trip. Surprisingly, it worked much better than expected. Even after it fell out of the mount in Wellsboro, PA with a dump truck close behind. Truck driver made a big arc to miss it for me. Much appreciated. Fortunately we were the only two on the road at that particular moment. Retrieved it, and it kept working...until I got it home, then it started acting up again.
 

ballisticexchris

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I have to say I am a big fan of Garmin. Once they switched over from Mapsource to Basecamp I was sold. Basecamp has so many options and different ways to dial in your trips it's mind boggling. The one thing I don't like about the last latest software updates is I have seemed to lost the ability to overlay Google Earth.

Now as far as B&G navigation I have no clue. DeLorme was the aviation and ocean go to. Now that Garmin owns it I'm sticking with what I know. Now if google maps was GPS driven I would get an iPad with weatherproof cover and use it.
 

med.jeeves

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Rode the MABDR N to S over the Fourth of July weekend. I used Gaia GPS (I pay for pro - your experience may vary with the free edition) and the GPX routes from the BDR website. Never got lost or sidetracked by it, and if you are willing to play with the map layers in Gaia GPS, one of them is a National Forest roads layer. Worked great. Just my .02 on an alternate to the dedicated GPS devices. I have a Google Pixel 3, and Google Fi service. Even if the map "greyed out" on me (only happened once in VA, never in PA), the route was still accurate. Just followed my little arrow as it followed the GPX route.
 

Venture

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Assuming you're riding north like the video, the first section you'll want to aware of is section 7, where they talk about Bald Eagle Forest, Ravens Knob Road. I found it on the GPS around 33 to 35 miles south of the end of section 7.





It's a switchback section of the road. Once you think you're done with it, you hit the switchback, then do it again on a lower section, then again, and again. The rockiest stuff is higher up. Each section get a little less challenging as you go down.
I rode this section the FIRST time I ever was on dirt with my KLX250S. My mentor must have thought very highly of me because we parked at Bald Eagle (had a hitch carrier) and this was the first section we rode up to the vista at the top. I didn't dump it, but I definitely wasn't comfortable! Trial by fire, as they say.

Good times.
 

Dirt_Dad

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I rode this section the FIRST time I ever was on dirt with my KLX250S. My mentor must have thought very highly of me because we parked at Bald Eagle (had a hitch carrier) and this was the first section we rode up to the vista at the top. I didn't dump it, but I definitely wasn't comfortable! Trial by fire, as they say.

Good times.
Tough road for a first time, but the KLX250 was an excellent choice on that road.


Today I went out and did Section 5 to the end. Did the PA stuff in both directions. Gorgeous fall ride day. Not peak colors yet, but very nice.

This road is behind section 7 and 8 for challenge level, but it is an interesting ride. At times there is more texture on the road here than your average forest road. I would not call it difficult for a bike bike and a mildly comfortable dirt rider. It's slightly more rough, but I would not have a problem taking my big KTM, with no real skid plate and 95% road tires on this route. It's a lot of fun with some nice up and down mountains on route.



I actually think I enjoyed it more heading south as opposed to north. The humps in the road just seemed better for jumping going south.

Today seemed to be 'Take a Pennsylvanian To the Forest Day.' Car and trucks were everywhere on the forest sections. Most were very considerate and all but one moved over quickly as I approached them. One moved to block me as I got to the left. Observing his driving I was fine keeping back from him. Otherwise it was a friendly day full of waves to nice people.



The route had a lot more bikes than I saw last month. Saw a total of 5 in the forest, and another 4 GSs at the final stop gas station.



Section 5 is the closest to home for me. Although the towns are familiar, the route took me on some nice roads through Maryland I'd never seen. Maryland after Harpers Ferry heading north has very little dirt, but does have one steepish downhill dirt section that was new to me and a real treat.



Once again, big kudos to the BDR organization for such a nice ride all the way through Pennsylvania. I've seen basically all of the Pennsylvania MABDR section now and it really is a fun, outstanding way to get across the state. Highly recommend it.

 
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