I'm going to be visiting family on the Outer Banks in mid-August, and am planning to take a few extra days to ride the length of the coast like I'd always dreamed of doing when I was a kid growing up there. There's no way I'm dealing with taking my bike on the flight from California, though, so I'd like to rent a bike when I get there. I know there are tons of places offering rental bikes, but I don't want a typical heavy, poorly-maintained tourist rental cruiser. Any suggestions for the best place to recent a decent road bike or hybrid for a few days? My homebase will be the Manteo area, but I'm willing to travel anywhere along the Outer Banks to pick up and drop off the bike.
Also, anything I should know about the route itself? I'll be doing my research soon, but it's been awhile since I've been there, and I've never really looked at the area through the eyes of a cyclist before.
Schwinn Continental, Schwinn Paramount, Schwinn High Plains, Schwinn World Sport, Trek 420, Trek 930, Giant Iguana.
I don't know about bike rentals, you might also consider checking in Norfolk, but you are going to be going down Highway 12 most of the way. For long stretches on Hatteras Island, it is the only route. It is a narrow, two lane road laid down on sand. So not much of a shoulder. Be sure to stop at the Orange Blossom Cafe in Buxton, the apple fritters disappear fast so get there early. Good coffee. You should plan to take the ferry to Ocracoke Island. It's 12 miles from the ferry terminus to Ocracoke Village, that stretch often has a pretty good headwind but the village is worth the trip.
Last summer my wife and I stopped in at Kitty Hawk Cycle Company (http://www.kittyhawkcyclecompany.com/) and it looked to me like they had a variety of styles of bikes to rent. Looked closer to a "real" bike shop than the other touristy rental places. We had brought our bikes, though, so didn't rent anything there.
Routes: I feel like there are some bike maps for the area, worth looking into. There are only one or two roads, depending on where you are, to choose from. I mean there are lots of roads that go East/West, but they're rather short, so your route options are rather limited. In the places where there are two North/South roads, the ocean-side road seems less busy, and the sound-side road has more businesses, so it depends on what you're looking for. There are some bike paths around Kitty Hawk, and, I think, around the section near Manteo as well.
Most sections are easily bikeable, but some are more pleasant than others. Just south of the section closest to Manteo is the Oregon Inlet Bridge. It looks to be terribly intimidating to bike on. I haven't tried it, but my friends have, and didn't enjoy it. It's a long climb to the center, and I don't think there are any kinds of bike lanes. If want to tackle that, you might plan it around high traffic areas. Personally, if I were starting in Manteo, which is about halfway up the banks, and was only going to go one direction, I'd go north. It avoids the Oregon Inlet Bridge, and the scenery is more varied. Ocracoke is a nice, little town, but the stretch of road to get to it is rather dull. I feel like for a good amount of time I was between sand dunes, close to the ocean and/or the sound, but able to see nothing but the road ahead and piles of sand on either side of me.
Rob_E, thanks! That's all great, helpful info. Kitty Hawk Cycles has been recommended by someone else as well, so I'll definitely give them a call. Routewise I was already planning to take the beach road (Hwy 12), with maybe a few short detours for snacks and lunch and visiting old stomping grounds on the sound side.
The idea of biking over the Oregon Inlet bridge sounds pretty terrifying to me--I was living on Hatteras when the barge knocked out the center span of the bridge and haven't really recovered from that! I'd been thinking of doing it anyway if there were a bike lane (I couldn't remember if there was), but knowing that there's not, maybe I'll just start my ride at the top of Hatteras. Or just screw my courage to the sticking place and ride over just after dawn when there's less traffic.