Author Topic: First timer questions  (Read 2860 times)

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Offline chefjnelson

First timer questions
« on: February 14, 2020, 12:56:57 am »
Hey all,

So thinking of taking a cross country trip from ohio to west coast. Not much if at all in experience and not in very good shape. 34. male. Is this a crazy idea?
Where is a good place to potentially find someone else who is interested in such a trip if that is even possible? I have pretty much all the questions about what I would need but am currently scanning forums before asking that. Paying for one of the tours is out as that is way above my budget.

Was thinking of leaving april or may. How is safety when concerning a solo biker who plans on criss crossing up and down on my way to west coast. Are bears a thing I would need to worry about? or those big cats?

Thanks in advance.

Offline Nyimbo

Re: First timer questions
« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2020, 02:03:03 am »
Looks like I'm the first to reply so a few opening comments are in order. 
Yes, keep reading all you can. For me it took weeks of reading before I started to feel like I had a good idea of what I was getting into.  In addition to reading interesting threads to past forums discussions here you can read journals of people who have ridden the routes you might be taking.  Try

Regarding routes the will give you a researched route to travel west from Ohio and connect with the Trans America Route which continues to the west coast.  I think you will find it is much easier for first timers to follow established routes, and also much easier to to travel alone if you are not in good condition. 
There are many discussions about raccoons and bears, and safe camping, and bicycle gearing and equipment for bicycle travel, weather conditions for safe months of travel for each route, riding yourself into shape, how many miles to expect to travel each day and on and on... so again - yes, keep reading the forums.

The red flag comment for me when reading your first post question was when you said crossing up and down on your way to the west coast.  You only have so much time to get across the mountains, and I think you will find early and late snow storms much more likely to cause concern than lions, tigers and bears and that choosing a route direction and sticking to it for the most part will be important.

Congratulations on your new adventure.

No, not too crazy, only a bit  ;D

Offline staehpj1

Re: First timer questions
« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2020, 06:17:50 am »
It is a great idea if it is something you really want to do.  Lots of people have done it before you and it can be a good time and maybe even a life changing experience.

The best advice i can give is to follow an Adventure Cycling route and use their maps if you can.  That will eliminate the need for a lot of the planning.  They list a lot of logistical info.  The maps will be money well spent especially in the beginning of your touring career.  They will have a lot of free places to camp listed especially in the middle of the country.  Using them will help you learn to find such places on your own in the future.  If you choose a popular route like the Trans America, you will also be on a route traveled by other cyclists and will meet some of them along the way.  Not enough to ruin the solitude, but enough to allow some camaraderie.  You will have a chance to camp and ride with others some of the time if you choose to.

One of the biggest pitfalls I have seen folks suffer with is overpacking.  I tend to be in the ultralight packing camp, but you don't need to go as far as I do.  Still, do pay close attention to what you carry.  Do not over pack.  I suggest that if you don't go ultralight at least shoot for a gear weight of no more than 30 pounds or so.  Definitely don't carry over 50 pounds.  Don't think you need to carry a lot of food.  Buy as you go. daily where possible.

Offline Patco

Re: First timer questions
« Reply #3 on: February 14, 2020, 10:13:08 pm »
I may be repeating what has already been said, but here it goes -
Yes, read the journals at Crazy Guy and the various forums. Good info and fun reads.
Yes, use a route that has already been mapped, such as the Trans Am. Reduce the anxiety.
On my first tour I laid out what I was going to take, packed it, then did some training rides. This helped with ascertaining how a loaded bike would handle. I then revisited, and revisited, and revisited what I might need. I found this exercise very helpful. I still found myself sending stuff home on the fourth day of my tour.
As mentioned, buy food on the road. Determine where you can obtain supplies and plan accordingly. To minimize weight I do not take any cooking gear. What I do bring is a plastic spoon and, for emergency food, two freeze dried breakfasts (Mt. House granola and blueberries - only requires cold water to hydrate).
I have only taken a water filter when my route is devoid of guaranteed water sources and the four bottles of water I COULD carry may not be enough (I always have two full water bottles and two empty bottles that I can fill if I might need to dry camp that evening).
Ride as often as you can to get into touring shape. I have found that being in bike shape makes that first week much easier to take, then you are more able to ride into touring shape. Riding a loaded bike over long distances over a period of time is not easy, and if you find it physically demanding you start thinking about calling it a day. Don't let the mental overwhelm the physical.
Stay hydrated and stay fueled. Bonking (running out of energy) is a terrible feeling and will ruin your day. I carry half a dozen energy bars with me each day and I make sure to not go long without ingesting food, or water.
Embrace the challenge and you will find the ride will be worth it.
Best of luck.

Offline canalligators

Re: First timer questions
« Reply #4 on: February 14, 2020, 11:29:03 pm »
I offer three bits of advice. 

First, start with an overnight, then do a weekend, then a trip a few days or a week long.  Nothing will help you to tweak your gear list like getting out there.  And those short trips are fun!

Second, there is a lot of good info on the AC blog pages, see
  And if you're a member, log in and select Resources then How To Department for even more info.

Finally, consider an AC Intro to Touring class.  There's an investment, but you'll learn a lot in a short time. And have more fun!

Offline John Nelson

Re: First timer questions
« Reply #5 on: February 15, 2020, 01:06:23 am »
Wow, the answers you’ve gotten so far are fantastic. I agree with everything said, especially about following an ACA route and starting with a few shorter trips.

Short answers:

Safety: not an issue.
Bears: only in certain places, and easily mitigated.
Cats: not an issue.

Offline Inge

Re: First timer questions
« Reply #6 on: February 15, 2020, 01:44:43 am »
I recommend you do all of the above.

When you start plannin your daily mileages - make sure you do fairly short days at the beginning of your tour and have 1 or 2 rest days every 7 days or more if come across interesting places.

Make  sure you also know your bike so that if something goes wrong you can fix it.

Weight-wise I tend to bring around 20/22kg of gear (without the panniers and/ or filled waterbotttles) - I try to keep weight down as much as possible but do bring eg. a fairly heavy camera (1kg) and a chair for after my rides (1kg). Depending on how much luxury you want to bring the weight can add up quickly. Suggest you take a look at other people's packing lists and then comprise one for yourself.

Offline BikeliciousBabe

Re: First timer questions
« Reply #7 on: February 17, 2020, 09:44:02 am »
Where in Ohio? The Northern Tier route goes through the state. Mountains-wise, it's easier than the TransAm. You won't hit any until Montana, so you will have time to get in better shape. You could then ride down to Seattle for easy transportation options home, including Amtrak.

Offline hikerjer

Offline bobbys beard

Re: First timer questions
« Reply #9 on: February 18, 2020, 03:57:41 am »
It’s definitely helpful to build some bike fitness before you start. Maybe ensure you can comfortably ride at least 30-50 miles in a day. It isn’t essential, but you’ll enjoy the scenery more and thank yourself on those mountains and be less prone to muscle injury.

Another piece of advice is learn some basic bike repairs. In some areas you might be fixing punctures 3 or 4 times a day. Chains can break and tyres can bulge etc. Just the basics will give you confidence and save you hassle and money.