Author Topic: Considering Solo XCountry Trip...friend can't get time off from work  (Read 6906 times)

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Offline merinojersey

Hey, I've been planning a tour from boston to oregon from about april 1 to june 20.  I know weather is a large variable, and you can see more of the plan and weather discussions if you go to my first post in the Routes section:

Recently my best friend found out that he wouldn't be able to get the time off from work without losing his job, etc.  Not including all of the other options like going with somebody else, shortening the trip, or changing the date to when he can go with me, I think I might want to do the trip solo.  There is a very specific mood or feeling associated with this trip that I don't want to lose by going with somebody else that I don't know very well, if that makes sense.  This trip would be about twice as many miles as I have ever ridden in my life and the longest trip I have ever been on was a 425 mile/6 day tour of northern New England with 0-2 other riders and a support vehicle all the way.

I think I have a fairly good idea about what a solo trip would be like, but I know that it's not nearly as valuable as actual experience.  I am pretty confident that I could ride the mileage by myself, and I can always fly home from any major city.  I am concerned or mindful about facing things by myself like:

-having a hard time pacing myself correctly without another (slower) rider
-getting a stomach bug while tenting alone in a remote place (i just got pretty sick so that's fresh on my mind)
-safety in terms of defense against other people/wildlife on certain parts of the route (I plan to carry some bear mace)
-injury/ nobody knowing where I am or being able to do anything to help me
-terrain i have never experienced on a bike, like flat windy grasslands, for hundreds/thousands of miles by myself

I plan to use a bob trailer and probably a handlebar bag and maybe some rear panniers for things like food.  I will be tenting and cooking on a white gas stove.  A motel will be a rare treat/reward/get out of the weather option.  I've thought about, but not much.

If any of you experienced solo tourists could shed some light on these things or at least point me in the right direction, I would appreciate it very much.  I'll take any other advice you have for me as well.  I'm aware that there is also info on the forums about this type of stuff, and I have been/will continue to look through as much as I can.  And please ask any questions needed for clarification.


Offline John Nelson

Re: Considering Solo XCountry Trip...friend can't get time off from work
« Reply #1 on: January 11, 2010, 10:44:07 am »
All of your concerns are possibilities, but most likely they won't happen. Just go. You'll be fine.

Offline aggie

Re: Considering Solo XCountry Trip...friend can't get time off from work
« Reply #2 on: January 11, 2010, 11:38:29 am »
I would think many of us had the same thoughts/concerns you do when we took off on our first solo trip.  As the trip develops most, if not all the concerns, evaporate.  I ride with a bob trailer with a small rear bag on the top of a rack.

While it is possible to have a problem with people/wildlife, I've never had a problem.  If you use the ACA maps they tend to keep you off the high traffic roads so that conflicts with drivers in a hurry tend to be avoided.  They also have a good "list" of campsites.

Pacing has never been a problem.  Just ride at a pace that you are comfortable doing.  When you tire - stop.  Stop (take breaks) during the ride to enjoy the scenery or road side attractions.  It breaks up the days ride and makes the trip more memorable.   This way the terrain/wind becomes less an obstacle and more a chance to experience a different part of the country.  You'll most likely find that some days you do more miles than planned and on other days you do fewer.  Pretty soon you'll see that you develop an average and that may help you plan your route. 

Wind for days on end can be discouraging but I've rarely found it to be a problem for more than a couple of days at a time. 

Getting sick is always a concern but I carry my insurance card just in case.  Never had to use it.  I buy packaged food and get water at municipal faucets or bottled water at convenience stores.  I also carry a cell phone.  It may not work everywhere but it does work along about 90 plus percent of the routes I take.  When there is coverage I check in with loved ones to reassure them that everything is ok.

On my first trip I packed too many changes of clothing.  I've found that I only need three days of clothing changes  (that includes the ones I'm wearing).  I wash that days riding gear at night and let it dry overnight.  On a rare occasion it may not be dry the next morning so the extra days stuff allows for an additional day to dry so I don't have to put on damp clothing and worry about saddle sores.  Some will only carry two days and I met one person who only had 1 days worth.  I prefer to wear "mountain bike" shorts over the "racing" style of shorts.  I can wear them around as casual clothes after the ride and they have pockets to carry money.  They also have a liner and pad to make the journey more comfortable. 

Just remember that the only "hard" day was yesterday.

Offline rabbitoh

Re: Considering Solo XCountry Trip...friend can't get time off from work
« Reply #3 on: January 11, 2010, 04:18:16 pm »
It's important to realise that EVERYONE is jittery and anxious over their first long distance solo tour. No amount of words of encouragement from family, friends, colleagues or strangers on forums such as this, can make that gnawing feeling in the stomach go away. However, once you are underway, you will soon discover your own rhythm for the ride, and you will be chuckling away at yourself over those early self doubts and what-ifs.

Do the ride YOUR way. Don't get hung up on what other tourers you meet might be doing. It is YOUR tour, don't compromise on places and things you have your heart set on seeing or doing. Most importantly, allow yourself to enjoy it. You WILL be fine!
Good Cycling

Offline Galloper

Re: Considering Solo XCountry Trip...friend can't get time off from work
« Reply #4 on: January 11, 2010, 06:10:49 pm »
Trust yourself and your kit!   You'll have a great time and even if you do find headwinds and long, slow stretches, think about the great stories you'll be able to tell!

And in the unlikely event that something does go wrong, in my experience you'll find that most people are generous and happy to help a stranger in trouble.

Offline tonythomson

Re: Considering Solo XCountry Trip...friend can't get time off from work
« Reply #5 on: January 12, 2010, 07:10:29 am »
Just wanted to add a comment of support and agree with all above.  I'm about to start my umpteenth solo ride and still have the same questions as you which disappear after  a day - go for it you have a great time.  Did anyone mention carrying a cell phone? On the ST last year I was only out of contact with the UK for about 3 days in total.  So it's pretty easy to get help if necessary (not suggesting they send an ambulance from England)

I personally prefer solo riding for many reasons.  Most have been covered on other threads in here.

Good luck
Just starting to record my trips

Offline staehpj1

Re: Considering Solo XCountry Trip...friend can't get time off from work
« Reply #6 on: January 12, 2010, 12:19:27 pm »
I agree with what has been said so far.  I say go and don't worry too much.  You will meet lots of nice folks on the road.  When things went wrong I have always found local folks who were not only willing, but eager to help.

Not sure what route you are taking, but the TA has enough folks riding it that you can meet folks who you can camp or ride with for some portions of your ride.  If you are on one of the major AC routes that will likely be the case.


  • Guest
Re: Considering Solo XCountry Trip...friend can't get time off from work
« Reply #7 on: January 12, 2010, 01:41:37 pm »
The only correct pace is the pace you are comfortable with.  And your body will tell you if you are riding too hard.

I doubt you will find yourself tenting alone in a remote place. Never happened to us during our Northern Tier trip.  There were always others besdies us around.  Same is true for the combination of the Great Parks North and South and Trans Am routes from Missoula to Cortez, CO.  The only place I ever camped alone was the AC biker camground on the west side of Togwotee Pass in WY, and even that was only about 5 miles from a town.  Unless you specifically intend to do othwerwise, for the sake of convenience you will likely find yourself camping in populated areas since those are the areas with services (e.g., private campgrounds with showers, grocery stores, etc.).

The major defense concern encountered were mosquitos.  DEET deters them quite nicely.

In theory you could run off the road into the woods and not be found until it's too late.  But you could also injure yourself while alone at home or while driving alone with the same result.  Again, since it doesn;t sound like you will be in the wilderness, I don't think it's something that should deter you.

Headwind is a great excuse to slow down and smell the roses.  You won't have stretches of flat, windy terrain for thousands of miles.  And I have a dollar to do a donut that says that on some hilly days you will long for those flat, windy stretches.

All the other advice given is sound.  Just go for it.

P.S. Consider front panniers rather than rear ones if using a B.O.B. to balance the weight.

Offline trout

Re: Considering Solo XCountry Trip...friend can't get time off from work
« Reply #8 on: January 16, 2010, 11:03:04 pm »
I learned a valuable lesson before my first bicycle trip in 1976, when as an 18 year-old, my best friend bailed on the trip the night before we were to leave. He never really gave a good explanation, but I took off the next morning by myself and never looked back. The trip was a 1200 mile ride and I had the time of my life. I still can remember the people I met along the way who extended hospitality and friendship to me.

The lesson I learned was to never have my plans contingent on someone else's calendar or availibility. Since then I have traveled as I wanted, I make plans, I may or may not invite a friend. If they can go, fine, but if not I never plan on them. Over the years I have completed numerous solo bicycle trips and a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. I have been lucky (luck does indeed play a role) and have suffered occasional injuries and illnesses along the way, but never any trip-ending events.

I also use "street-smarts" or "trail-smarts" with safety issues but have never been harassed, or victimized by other people, but like I say, I keep an awareness about me. This has worked for 34 years of bike trips, backpacking, stealth camping, hitch-hiking, and general vagabonding. People almost always have been kind to me. I cannot even begin to tell you about all the people who have opened their home to me. I have repaid the hospitality by doing the same for cyclist and hikers over the years and have raised my children with that tradition. BTW, we are warmshower hosts, but have opened our home for years before that concept.

As far as pacing, you'll settle into a groove. Go and enjoy, and let us know about you trip.

Offline mikedirectory2

Re: Considering Solo XCountry Trip...friend can't get time off from work
« Reply #9 on: January 18, 2010, 11:09:59 pm »
You will be fine, and you will probably make new friends on your trip. 
May the skies be blue and the road be flat... Happy Riding.

Offline dstory

Re: Considering Solo XCountry Trip...friend can't get time off from work
« Reply #10 on: January 21, 2010, 11:42:27 pm »
My solo trips have also been the most memorable and enjoyable.  I meet so many more new friends when I am solo.  I have never felt threatened by anything other than dogs and weather. 

Plan well, use good resources like ACA maps as guides, and have the trip of a lifetime.  I am planning my 2011 cross country trips and already have butterflys in my stomach- and can't wait to get started!