Preparing for a Cross-Country Bike Tour

This September I am extremely excited and nervous to set off on my first bike tour. While I have only ridden on an overnight trip once, I plan to cross the entire US from VA to San Diego. It may seem kind of crazy… but I have been thinking about this for a little over a year now and the time feels right to do it now. I’m also totally stoked and prepared to do whatever it takes to make this a success. In this post I’m going to lay out a few things that I’ve gotten figured out before I committed to doing this!

Bike and Gear

Last year I bought a Surly Ogre as a do-it-all kind of bike that I could commute on, get groceries and ride on trails or roads. Also, I had touring on my mind and knew I would take the Ogre out for some long distance trips. (side note, my friend Peter and I actually planned on a two week tour this summer before I found out about my job). It still has all stock parts, except a stiffer Bontrager saddle on it that fits me better. The thicker 29er tires may be a little slower than traditional touring bikes but I would gladly sacrifice the comfort for speed any day.

I have had a slowly growing collection of camping and backpacking gear for the past 5 years. So, the camping part of bike touring is in the bag and I feel comfortable enough to camp or sleep outside just about anywhere. In order to hold my gear, my mom bought me a pair of Ortlieb Back-Roller Classics for my birthday, and that was the first step to outfitting my bike. In a future post I’d really like to do a complete gear run-down for my trip. Basically, I accounted for how much I would spend on gear into my trip financing, tried to go cheap when I could and am making the best use of things that I already have.

Finances

There may not be a better time to cut loose for a few months than right now. I have emergency savings, a few hundred in an IRA, and no debts or loans or recurring payments like health care or car insurance (still being covered by my dad, thank god). My lease runs out in 4 days, so I will be couch surfing for August while I work until August 25th.

After graduation presents and working all summer, I am confident that I will have enough spending money to live like a hobo on a bike for AT LEAST 3 months.

Since I will be financing my own trip, I want to raise money along the way if people are open to it. So I set up a Crowdrise page for the New River Valley Bike Kitchen. Check it out here!

Route

Bike map

Map from Adventure Cycling

To choose my route, I took into account the seasons and chose to ride what inspired me. I also wanted to start from my home in Blacksburg and not fly anywhere with my bike. I live right next to the furthest right dot on the map, Christiansburg VA. I’ll take off West along Route 76, before getting to western Kentucky where the Underground Railroad trail crosses the TransAmerica Trail. I’m really excited about riding through Tennessee and rural parts of Mississippi and Alabama along the venerable “trail to freedom.” I anticipate an intense journey of self-discovery and adventure through these parts, and will not hesitate to stop at historic sights along the way. In Mobile, AL I will cross the Southern Tier route and take this all the way to the coast. I’ve never been to any of these southern states besides Arizona a long time ago. Overall, I chose this route because on any other path it will most likely be too cold to cross the mountains and I’m very excited about riding through the country-side and southern states that I haven’t spent any time in. Ambitious af.

I have the Adventure Cycling maps for these trails and plan to input them to my Ride with GPS app on my phone as well. In August, I’ll be on the lookout for more places of interest along the trail. If you know something close by, don’t be shy and give me a shout out!

 

Thanks for reading,

George

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