PENNSYLVANIA WILDS BDR-X
Words: Amelia Nunn - Photos: Brian David Photography
Pennsylvania is a secret gem on the East Coast. When seeking outdoor adventure in the Northeast, riders might think first of locations like Maine and Vermont. Perhaps New York. Pennsylvania is usually skipped over for other states with more towering mountains, deeper lakes, and less people.
As they do, the Backcountry Discovery Route (BDR)team has stumbled on a secret in the middle of Pennsylvania, called the PA Wilds, an area home to millions of acres of unspoiled forests and mountains, and now they’re helping others to discover it with their latest BDR-X route. Launched August 31st of 2022, this route offers four days of riding in a loop route that intersects with the existing Mid-Atlantic Backcountry Discovery Route (MABDR), offering over 500 miles of primo backcountry riding terrain through Pennsylvania’s state forests.
The PA BDR-X is the second of the BDR-X series of shorter BDR-style routes that loop, and a winning one in my book. In a world where we are all striving to be better riders, to ride more extreme terrain, to fit all the gear in even less space, to camp for longer and to just do MORE, the ADV world sometimes lacks more realistic riding opportunities. I’m not knocking the big bike, epic views and scary terrain. I strongly believe there are some heroic rides that should be experienced by all ADV riders at some point, but this BDR-X model makes a multi-day adventure a bit more manageable to those just getting into the sport, riders without unlimited vacation days, and those who lack logistical prowess to make long distance multi-week rides happen.
In June I was invited to join the BDR crew to test out this route during the filming expedition, and it definitely delivered. Sweeping gravel roads, ferns covering the forest floor for miles, large and small wildlife sightings, canyons (the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, to be exact) optional mud pits, and, of course, mandatory ice cream.
The beauty of this route is its simplicity, accessibility, and ease of planning. Lodging is abundant along the route for those who prefer the comforts of a hotel to camping. The route starts and ends in the same place, eliminating all logistical gymnastics of slabbing back to a car or leaving a second vehicle along the route.
Stating the obvious, everyone’s experience on this route will be different. Weather changes, bike breakdowns, wildlife encounters, and ice cream consumption will vary greatly, but a major, and perhaps the most significant component of any ride, is the people you’re riding with. On this trip I was representing the route sponsor, REV’IT!, as a member of the REV’IT! Women’s Adventure Team, riding my KTM 1090. The team was led by route architect and our local guide/ADV extraordinaire Jack O’Connor (Husqvarna 701), who shared historical context and tidbits about every point of interest along the route. BDR Board President and fellow New Jersey native Tim James (on the Yamaha Tenere 700), is a familiar face to BDR fans. Tim always managed to find the best places to make bike modifications so that I was perfectly placed for wildlife viewing. Rounding out our group was the editor of ADVMoto Magazine and a perennial good mood guy Carl Parker (on the Royal Enfield Himalayan). Every group needs at least one Carl on their trip!
While it was my first time riding with this crew, it was not my first BDR nor my first time riding in this part of Pennsylvania. Having tackled parts or the entirety of six different BDR routes, I knew roughly what to expect while on the route. The same easy-to-navigate tracks, points of interest, and thoughtful route planning remain consistent in this new route, but it wasn’t stale or boring. This route showed me new additions to gravel I thought I had covered a hundred times over, as well as new points of interest and new ice cream flavors (Tea-berry ice cream? Twist my arm). The joys of experiencing the same tracks with new people, or new tracks with familiar people, are part of the charm of a BDR or any planned multi-day ride. You learn a little from each personality, you follow a different person’s line down a trail and the trip changes.
The route itself is one of the most mellow BDR options. Riders who skip the more technical optional sections will remain on scenic gravel forest roads for most of the route. The lighthearted riding still delivers on the adventure experience and the fun factor, whether you’re rounding a turn to scare bears off the road or pondering your good fortune from some of the best viewpoints in the Pennsylvania mountains.
Ultimately that’s why we ride BDRs - to get that taste of adventure, to experience the camaraderie with our team, and to see places that are off the beaten path, but are still within a short (or long) reach. This route offers a more accessible way to get that taste of adventure, and to make experiences that last a lifetime.
For more information about this route, visit www.RideBDR.com/PAwilds.