Author Topic: Cross Country Bike Trip  (Read 4102 times)

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Offline cwarshaw

Cross Country Bike Trip
« on: June 23, 2008, 11:31:39 am »
My friends and I were planning a trip next summer, and we were thinking about riding across the country. Due to a time constraint we decided the best trail would be going from Kentucky to the Grand Canyon, and going through the Rockies (Using the TransAmerica, Western Express, and Grand Canyon trails). This would be about 2800 miles in 45 days which is about 64 miles a day.

I have no idea how realistic this is, we're not very experienced riders, other than riding bikes for hours at a time when we were younger, but I do have a full year to get into shape for this.
Has anyone tried something like this before? I really don't know where to get started. We started looking at possible pathways we could go but that's about it.

Also, what type of bike would be best for something like this? I read somewhere that 'touring' bikes were best, but they can be pretty expensive, and I kinda wanted to only spend 4-5 grand total on this trip.
If anyone has any experience with this stuff it'd be cool if you could share.

Offline JimF

Cross Country Bike Trip
« Reply #1 on: June 23, 2008, 12:11:28 pm »
Great goal. You'll find many folks with helpful info. Try "" for lots of detailed journals. Three others and I did the TA back a few years ago. All retired. It was a great experience. Your schedule is ambitious. The 64 mpd doesn't allow for any breaks. Unrealistic. Weather, mechanical problems, need for rest days, and other reasons should be factored in. However, if all are strong cyclists and mentally prepared for the grind, it's doable. As to bikes, "touring" bikes are certainly desireable. Key are reliable components, ability to transport gear (unless doing it in credit card mode (no camping or cooking)), and drive-train gearing for the climbs. (I found the hills/mountains east of the Rockies more demanding, btw.) Good luck. The planning is half the fun.

Offline wanderingwheel

Cross Country Bike Trip
« Reply #2 on: June 23, 2008, 02:37:51 pm »
I think 64 miles per day is completely reasonable, depending on how far you can confortably ride in a day.  When touring, my usual day is 80-100 miles.  After factoring in rest days, my average drops to around your 64 miles.  If 64 miles is a full days ride for you, then 45 days without a break may be too ambitious.  

On the bike, I figure on riding 12 mph plus 1 hour for every 1000 feet of net elevation gain.  This formula for me includes all my time off the bike, too, such as sightseeing, rest breaks, and lunch.  Therfore, my 80-100 mile days are leisurely 6-10 hour rides depending on terrain and daylight.  I can, and have, gone much faster, but then it's just a long bike ride, not a tour.

I don't think you need to be in great shape, but you should be in reasonable shape.  Is there a local club (not a racing team) that you like?  Consider riding with them and askig about touring.  It'll be a great asset to you if you can find an experienced tourist nearby who can help you with the planning and learning.

A touring bike is best, but any bike can be made to work if you want it to.  What bike do you have now, and what are you planning on taking with you?  If possible, show it to your local touring guru.  Do you want to ignore the bike during the tour, or can you complete the tour in spite of the bike?

Good Luck

Offline staehpj1

Cross Country Bike Trip
« Reply #3 on: June 25, 2008, 08:37:22 am »
It all sounds do-able.  Allow extra time if you can since having to meet a deadline can detract from the trip.  My advice would be to plan on 65 miles per day and allow an extra week just in case if you can.  You probably won't need the extra time, but it takes the pressure off.

As far as the $4-5K... That can easily be done if camping.  I did the whole transamerica on substantially less including the bike, racks, panniers, and some of the misc gear.   We even ate quite a few restaurant meals.  I think I would have still been under 4K if I had to buy all of my gear from scratch.  I may be more frugal than most though.

My advice is to take it easy in the beginning and build mileage as you go.   Don't worry if you start out making less mileage than you want the first days of the trip.

If you are experienced campers, camping on a bike tour is no big deal, if you aren't try to get up to speed on all of that before you go.  At least know how to cook with your stove and camp pots, and how to pitch the tent.

IMO, rest days are counter productive.  They break the rhythm of the trip.  If you need rest days you are pushing too hard.  If you need a rest take a 30-40 mile half day instead.

Save the days off for places where you are taking off because you want to do something fun, like ww rafting, hiking, or whatever.  Taking a day off to lay around because you are tired seems like a huge waste to me.  I have read journals where folks did a 100+ mile day and then took one or even two days off after it.  To me it would be easier and more pleasant to just ride both or all three days at a lower mileage.  You would not break the rhythm, would do more total miles, and would have more fun.

This message was edited by staehpj1 on 6-25-08 @ 4:42 AM

Offline windrath

Cross Country Bike Trip
« Reply #4 on: June 26, 2008, 10:55:21 am »
To cwarshaw -

My experience regarding mileage is similar to the others.  I too have found that taking a complete day off can be disruptive and a 20-30 day provides almost the same thing.  Sometimes where you think you want to stop is not at all what really happens and breakdowns do occur.

As for your bike, many bike shop salespeople have no clue.  When you has for a touring bike, they often do not understand the demands of the bike.  You, and many others, have gotten by on less, so these are just my suggestions: the bike should have:

- 36 spokes per wheel
- Shimano equipment because it is easy to find
- Simple shifters & brakes (combination brakes/index shifters are great until they break)
- triple chain ring (48-38-28 is standard)
- Rear Cassette with a big gear of 34 is available although 32 is more standard.  If 26 is the largest rear gear, you might have trouble.  You will want 32-34 for the climbs.
- You will have to decide on drop handlebars vs mountain/hybrid type.  This is personal preference.
- If you have heavy panniers or trailer, tires should be 32-35 although many do it with 28. Tires should alos be durable.  Something like the Bontrager Hard Case wear and roll well.
- Handlebar headsets and stems are often not adjustable and you might like to be able to adjust during the trip.  Again, personal preference.
- Bike geometry varies greatly from company to company.  Make sure you can get out and ride a bike for 20-40 miles to see if it fits you right.
- Check for braze-ons for panniers racks, water bottles, etc.  Some bikes have them, some do not.

Just some thoughts.  Good Luck and have fun.

Offline MrBent

Cross Country Bike Trip
« Reply #5 on: June 26, 2008, 10:59:18 am »
You're getting lots of good advice here.  You should have no problem with the cost given your price range, even buying a pretty nice touring bike.  I like to camp most nights, so that saves A LOT of money, especially, of course, stealth camping.

As for mileage, that will depend on many factors, mostly fitness and motivation.  I, for one, really like rest days, about one a week, give or take.  During my cross country last year, my longest stretch without a rest day was 11 or 12 days, which seemed too long for me.

If possible, get your gear and do a couple of shorter shake-down tours.  You need to dial in all the systems and get a feel for what you will be facing.



Offline Turk

Cross Country Bike Trip
« Reply #6 on: June 28, 2008, 03:04:13 pm »
Don't forget that carrying gear can slow you down noticeably.