While you won’t find crowds of people at your local bike store who have made this amazing journey, those who have will tell you it was a life-changing experience, and almost always a positive one. If you’re thinking of trying it out for yourself, talk to as many people as you can to get tips about training, preparation, what to take, the best route, and what it’s like to ride between 50 and 100 miles, day after day, for weeks or months at a time. There are some great online forums with plenty of friendly people and tons of information. Solid preparation and knowing what to expect from yourself, your systems, and the experience itself will help to guarantee your success.
Training And Fitness
Start your training early and be consistent and determined about it. Work your way up to riding at least 50 miles a day. Then add some weight to your load, vary your terrain, and ride 50 or more miles on consecutive days. Obviously, the better prepared you are, the less likely you’ll be to sustain injuries and the more pleasure you’ll get out of your adventure. By the end of your training, you should have logged anywhere between 2,000 and 4,000 miles on your bike.
If you plan to do an unsupported or partially supported ride, you need to eventually train doing long rides while carrying 40 to 60 pounds in your panniers or trailer. This gives you the chance to work out any kinks in your system, and to learn how your bike handles when loaded down. In addition, you’ll have the chance to familiarize yourself with the subtleties of riding long distances with a heavy load: how your body reacts to the stress, how to pace yourself, how to think about the ride and the progress you’re making.
The Kind Of Bike You Will Need
You don’t have to buy a new or specialized bike for your cross-country trip, but you may wish you had if your trusty set of wheels breaks down after 1,400 miles and you need to repair it or buy a new one. You will add to your chances of success, as well as your comfort, health, and safety, if your bicycle is a touring bike, designed specifically for carrying heavy loads on a 3,500 to 4,000 mile ride. A touring bike is lighter than a trail or mountain bike, but its strong frame and front fork, along with extra sturdy wheels and wider tires, make it heavier than a road or racing bike. Cost (new): $1,000 to $3,500+
A few basics to watch for are:
- Low gearing (21 speeds or more)
- Touring tires
- Fenders and clearance
- Slack frame angles to soften the ride
- Long chainstays
- Cantilever brakes or V-brakes
- Drop handlebars
- Mountings for three water bottles
- Built-in rack mounts for front and rear panniers