Ride North Texas – A reviewPosted: July 30, 2013
Texas has several bike coalitions and communities and boasts many terrain parks and trail systems. This review is what to expect when riding roads.
In urban areas there are trails, but you can count on them to be short lived and most likely stay within
a park area. The rest of the time you will be on relatively busy roads littered with litter. Expect lots of trash and many many many broken bottles. Make sure you have tires, Kevlar lined for instance, up to the challenge.
The traffic is considerate however not used to contending with bicycles for use of the road in many areas. Plan to ride defensively. If you are using a GPS it will send you down roads not specifically designated for bicycles which is illegal, however that shouldn’t be cause for concern. The police are indifferent to your presence providing you are not calling attention to yourself.
In the country county highways have very limited paved shoulders and the gravelled ones often prove difficult to make good time on. Riding on the road is completely acceptable as a calculated risk. Again drivers are considerate but not expecting to see riders so ride defensively. A good indicator of how well ridden the area: the live stock. If you notice the cows along the road don’t run when motor
vehicles go by, but take flight when you silently roll take extra caution. You are an anomaly to the area. Make sure to carry about a gallon of water particularly in the summer since you may not have access and you will be sweating a lot.
Rural Gravel Roads:
The gravel roads vary from reasonable to impassable, and depending on the season you are riding may be completely washed out. Make sure you know the weather trends of the region particularly if you are wild camping. While there is much less traffic on these roads you will find yourself in dust clouds from passing vehicles. Take caution in these situations. If there is another vehicle passing they may not be able to see you. If the traffic becomes consistent wear a bandana around your neck to pull up over your mouth to block dust. Average riding sunglasses should be enough to guard the eyes but contact wearers may want extra precautions. Again carry a lot of water. Push comes to shove you can ask any local farmer and they will likely be accommodating.
A few things to keep in mind. There are many, many, many fences in North Texas. You may have to ride some distance before you can find a place to roll the bike out of sight and set up camp. If the sun is going down and you see an ideal spot but wanted to make it another few miles, it may be advisable to stop then and make the miles up tomorrow. Major highways often have land at intersections owned by the county and state and are less likely to have fences. Do your best not to camp on land posted with signs such as “no trespassing”, “posted”, “private property”, “do not enter”, “keep out”. A fence post or tree painted purple also means the aforementioned so take heed, the owner is not decorating. Remember this is Texas and while most people are professionals at southern hospitality, they are also often armed and suspicious of anyone on their property. If you cannot find a place to camp go up to a house, knock in a friendly way and step back so the owner doesn’t think you are a push-in robber. Introduce yourself and why you are there. Politely ask if there is a place to set up your tent. More often than not you will get a meal. Possibly even a shower and a couch to sleep on. If they say no, thank them for their time and be on your way. Always be polite. Remember, you represent all cyclists to everyone you meet.
Again pay attention to the weather and season. This is tornado country and flash floods aren’t unheard of, however staying out of flood plains and watching the weather should keep you out of harm’s way. Getting an app to warn of extreme weather takes some of the leg work out. I used weatherbug and it was acceptable, however the weather is often unpredictable and an eye on the sky is better than any app. Learn to read weather patterns visually. “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in the morning, sailor’s warning.” If the sky turns green or yellowish, get to shelter. Cover your reflectors, don’t build fires (cook stoves are acceptable if you have enough cover), and most importantly leave no trace. Getting a lightweight camo mesh to throw over your tent is wise as well and can double as a bug net in a pinch.
There are a myriad of camping areas in this region varying in quality, size, cost, and amenities. All will be able to accommodate a tourer. While there are many, it is wise to map to one and not hope you stumble across one. Know the park rules. Read them when you come in or look them up before hand. If you want to drink at state parks, do not let the ranger’s see it is alcohol. While it is illegal to have alcohol on state land in Texas, rangers will look the other way if you are not flaunting it. It does not matter if you are consuming it. Having a bottle sitting out on the table is illegal. If they catch you they will likely have you empty it out. Check for burn bans in the area before lighting a fire.
In general wild life is not going to be an issue. It is wise to hang your food pack at night and never eat in your tent. There are some animals which are very dangerous to humans like, panthers, wild boars, and venomous snakes, but they want to bump into us as much as we want to meet them. Some precautions to take: Make lots of noise when going off trail or scouting a wild camping area. Carry high-grade pepper spray on your person. It does no good in a pannier bag. A snake venom kit costs few dollars at most sporting good stores. An emergency charger/battery for your phone to call 911. I used a solar charger I got for $20. Again, it is unlikely there will be any issues with the local critters but they don’t call it wild life for nothing.
I found North Texas beautiful, relatively smooth, easy to find water, and the people were incredibly kind and accommodating. Besides the occasional unnameable gravel road and fences making it difficult to wild camp I enjoyed my ride through the region. I give it three out of five stars and would happily recommend it to any tourer.
Drive fast. Take chances. Thanks for reading.