Circumnavigating Indian River Bay on Bike

Crossing the bridge had been a goal of mine for several years.  Each summer, I’d paddle board out into the Indian River Bay in Delaware and stare at the bridge off in the distance.  How far away was it?  I knew it was too far for me to paddle board, but could I bike it?  I could physically do it, but I still had questions.   Would there be too much beach traffic?  Would it be a fun ride or would I be fearing for my life on the side of some busy highway?  Could I ride all the way around the bay without abandoning my family for an entire day on our vacation?  I really, really wanted to ride over that bridge and around the bay.

Indian River Bay in Delaware

Off in the distance you can see a suspension bridge that separates the bay from the ocean. For years, I’ve been wanting to ride from White House Beach, where I was staying, to this bridge and then around the other side of the Indian River Bay. It seemed like a doable ride, but there were a lot of unknowns about the journey.

Why Indian River Bay?  My college roommate, David Hartogs, and his wife, Jenn, have a house there.  Every year we load up the Toyota Rav4 and head east from Ohio to visit them.  It’s always a great trip and the perfect opportunity to catch up with our friends.  From the house we can swim, go clamming or crabbing, paddle board, bike or just sit by the bay and enjoy a cold beverage while we relax.  We also venture out to great beaches like Rehoboth, Dewey, Ocean City, and Assateague.

James Knott sees a wild horse at Assateague

Speaking of Assateague… We went to this beach for the first time this year. This island is famous for its wild horses – which is very cool to see until they start rifling through your beach bag in search of food.

James Knott bikes in Washington DC

We stopped in Washington, DC to see friends and I took a fun early morning ride around the National Mall.

This year on vacation, my body was waking me up really early.  My eyes popped open around 4:45 am everyday and my mind immediately started racing with thoughts of adventure that pulled me out of bed.  It was June and sunrise for this eastern part of the time zone was around 5:30am.  So, I usually had a lot of daylight to work with before the family started stirring.  All week, I explored Long Neck, Delaware and the surrounding towns on runs and bike rides.

Click here to see reviews and prices for the Topeka Tourguide Handle Bar Bag that I used on my journey.

Saturday morning was my last chance to ride around the bay.  I wanted to do it, but I didn’t tell anyone because I wasn’t sure if I was actually going to finish it.  I decided to start the adventure and just turn around if the trip turned out to be a lot longer or more daunting than my expectations.  I was guessing that the ride was going to be about 60 miles, but I wasn’t really sure.  I figured if I started riding by 5am, that I would be done by 9am and would have a full day to spend with my friends and family.  Hopefully they wouldn’t miss me too much while I was gone.

Garage Bike on early morning ride.

It was an early morning start. I used lights to see and make myself visible to drivers. It was very peaceful riding in the dark.

James Knott rides in the dark in Long Neck, Delaware.

Street light selfie.

My bike was lit up like a Christmas tree with a Light and Motion Stella on the front and a Planet Bike Blinky Super Flash in the rear.  I started pedaling in the peaceful, calm, dark morning to begin my adventure.  The roads that I was taking all had huge berms dedicated to cyclists.  There were very few cars, just a couple of fisherman driving to the docks, and I felt very safe since I was so visible and there wasn’t anything else around that would distract the drivers.

I was on the garage bike, which is faster than my mountain bike, and I wanted to start out easy.  I picked a target speed of 15 mph and watched the sunrise as I rode.

Should I take the shorter route straight to Dewey - or the detour to the boardwalk in Rehoboth? Detour!!!!

Should I take the shorter route straight to Dewey – or the detour to the boardwalk in Rehoboth? Detour!!!!

My first stop, 15 miles in, was Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.  I reached their famous boardwalk around 6am and stopped to take a few pictures of the sun reflecting off of the Atlantic Ocean.  There were just a few early birds stirring about in the center of town.

Sunrise in Rehoboth Beach

Sunrise on the Atlantic Ocean. What a great way to start the day!

Click here to see reviews and prices for the Polar Insulated Water Bottles that I like to use on all of my rides.

Early morning boardwalk in Rehoboth

The boardwalk in Rehoboth is pretty quiet at 6am.

Next I rode through Dewey Beach, a small town on an isthmus between the ocean and Rehoboth Bay.  I made note of the Dewey Beer Company, which we had visited the day before.  They have some delicious beers and a great atmosphere. If it was later in the day, then I definitely would have stopped for a pint.  Recommendo!

Dewey Beer Company

Dewey Beer Company is my new favorite spot in Dewey Beach. They’ve been open for about a year. Can’t wait to go back and see what they are brewing next time I’m in town.

Up next is one of the most scenic parts of the ride.  The Delaware Seashore State Park stretches along the same isthmus for several miles.  It is full of long, sandy beaches that will get you away from the crowds and it is home to an abundance of wild life.  The ride through it is long, straight, fast and flat, which is true of almost anywhere in the state, but particularly true here.

The Delaware Seashore State Park

The Delaware Seashore State Park stretches for several miles along an isthmus with the Atlantic Ocean on one side and Rehoboth Bay on the other.

Turtle crossing sign

We don’t have signs like this by my house.

At the end of the state park, the Indian River Inlet Bridge towers above the horizon.  It was 23 miles into my ride and definitely the biggest climb of the day (but that’s not saying much).  I stopped on top of the bridge, which had been the inspiration for this whole trip and squinted off into the distance to see if I could spot the house I was staying in.  All I could make out were tiny, white specks 8 to 10 miles in the distance.  It felt good just to make it this far.

Indian Creek Inlet Bridge

My only hill of the day – the Indian River Inlet Bridge, formally known as the Charles W. Cullen Bridge, was the landmark that inspired this whole trip.

Indian River Inlet Bridge

Indian River Inlet Bridge as seen from the top.

The view from the top of the Indian River Inlet Bridge.

The view from the top of the Indian River Inlet Bridge.

Now I was heading into uncharted territory.  I had never ventured beyond this point by bike or by car.  I didn’t know how the roads were or how much further I would have to ride to get around the bay.  I still felt energetic though and I soldiered on.

The roads continued to be great.  95% of them had wide berms that were dedicated to bikes and this was turning out to be a much more relaxing ride than I had imagined (or worried about).  This was a very bike-friendly route.

Bike symbol on road

Most of the roads that I was riding on had huge berms dedicated to bike riding. It turned out to be a much more bike-friendly route than I was expecting.

I rode through Bethany Beach, Millville, Dagsboro and then turned north to cross the Indian River at Millsboro.  The significance of reaching Millsboro was that I was once again back in territory that I was familiar with.  I knew that I had about 15 miles left and that meant that the entire journey around that bay would be a very manageable 55 miles (…with only 200 feet of climbing.  Did I mention this place is very flat?!?).

Bethany Beach Sign

Bethany Beach sign with helicopter crashing in background. Nothing to see here… Move along…

I decided to tack on a 7-mile detour to make the ride a 100k.  The final 10 miles was into a head wind which twisted my relaxing adventure into a challenging endurance workout (in a good way).  I was so pumped to be close to finishing my longtime goal that I continued to up the pace.  My speed had been slowly inching up over the course of the ride, but now I was pushing hard and my average was climbing rapidly.  I started to feel a light burn in my quads and I started doing standing intervals to make things harder.

I turned right on Long Neck Road and made my way to White House Beach where I was staying.

James Knott's shifter fell off

Right after I turned on to Long Neck Road, I tried to change gears and my shifter fell off. What? I’ve never heard of that happening. All of a sudden I was riding a singlespeed! (I could still change gears, but it was just inconvenient.)

When I got back to the house, my friends David, Todd & Richard were emptying crabs from the traps we had set the night before.  My wife and kids were playing near them in the sand with Jenn and her kids.  It was 9am and I had crushed it.  I was happy I did it, happy I was done and happy I would get to spend the rest of the day hanging out with my friends.

My bike at the bay.

When I got back to the house I felt a sense of accomplishment. My friends were active on the shore and I was looking forward to hanging out with them the rest of the day.

It was a great way to start my last day of vacation in Delaware.

I’m already dreaming up new challenges for next year!

Click here to see my ride on Strava.

James Knott bikes to Indian River Bay

Crushed it! What a fun adventure!

James Knott has a beer at Indian River Bay

Time for a cool, refreshing recovery beverage!

More Photos