Preparing for Our Bicycle Ride Across America

(Follow my Facebook page for daily video updates as we ride across America.)

On February 23rd I asked my son what activity he would like us to do together. He surprised me with the idea of riding our bicycles across America. He was about to have a window of opportunity that would begin April 1st. Once one is in the workforce, large blocks of free time to do an epic adventure do not come along very often, and he wanted to take advantage of the opportunity. He was changing his line of work and could put off starting his new job until after this adventure.

For me, it meant fitting the ride between two already planned trips. I had a window between April 1st and June 15th. Of course, we could always cancel or postpone the later trip, but if we could fit the adventure in between those two events, it would work well.

I had remembered that my brother-in-law, Paul, had mentioned once that he would like to ride his bike across America. So, we asked him if he would like to join us. After checking his schedule, he agreed to come along. Now that we knew who was going on the adventure, and it seemed feasible, the prep work began. 

Choosing an excursion method

Before heading out on an epic adventure, one must first figure out how it will be done. There are several options in our case. 

First, we could take a guided tour. I researched some tours that would support us and lead us on the adventure. Some involved camping while others involved sleeping in hotels. We chose to avoid camping. Frankly, I’m getting too old to enjoy sleeping on the ground. Guided tours are expensive, ranging from $5,000 to $30,000 per person, and they have set start and end dates that didn’t match our schedule. 

The second option was to do a self-supported trip. This would involve making our own preparations and carrying all the gear we would need on our bikes. With a short window to complete the trip, ten weeks max, we felt we needed to ride faster than we could if each of our bikes were loaded down with 30+ pounds of extra gear.

The third option was to arrange our own trip, sleep in hotels, follow someone else’s already mapped out route, and use a sag wagon (support car) filled with our gear and support equipment. We liked this option the best. 

My wife, Carolyn, agreed to be the sag wagon driver for our adventure so the plan was set.

Clearing our schedule and preparing the house

The next task was to clear our schedules for the time we would be gone. Since this adventure came up without much lead time, we already had many obligations on the calendar. All four of us, my wife, my son, Paul, and I, needed to clear our schedules.

We had doctor appointments, babysitting agreements, scheduled lectures, coaching clients, estate probating, dental appointments, family obligations, concert tickets, and other events that were already on our calendars that all needed changing.

The sprinklers needed to be checked and turned on for the season. Deliveries of papers and mail needed to be accommodated. We looked at last year’s expenses to identify which bills would come due during our travels and paid them in advance. House sitter arrangements needed to be made.

This is tax season, so we needed to have our taxes either completed by April 1st or file an extension. 

Picking a route

Now that we knew how we were traveling, we needed a route. This is not a time to ride out of the driveway and head East. Cycling requires a pre-planned route that is bicycle friendly. Interstate highways are not a good option. 

I have been on several bicycle tours in the past, all of which had great maps of our routes. I wanted to find a route that someone else had mastered and buy their maps for the journey. We do not need to reinvent the wheel. 

After looking around a bit I discovered the Adventure Cycling Association. This group has maps available for several routes throughout the United States. Some travel north and south, while others go east and west. Looking at their options, we had several routes to choose from in the northern, central, and southern US going West to East. 

Since we would be starting in early April, we decided against the routes that would traverse the high Rocky Mountains during snow season. Cycling in the snow is very dangerous. That left us with the Southern route. If you click on their link above, you can see their routes and look at where we will be going on the Southern Tier.

Their maps take us along the southern US Boarder starting in San Diego, California and ending in Saint Augustine, Florida. This route is 3,075 miles long, and serendipitously the shortest route of the three. 

If we complete our ride in eight weeks and take one rest day each week, we will need to average about 64 miles a day. We all agreed that 64 miles a day was doable. That will give us a week to drive back home from Florida and a week to catch up our mail and get ready for our next trip. It sounds funny to rush home in time to leave on vacation.

I purchased both a hard copy of the maps for this route and an online version of the maps on their app. Then we would give us two ways of viewing our route. The physical maps cost $110 and the online maps were $69. 

These maps give us a safe route for cycling and show us where we will find hotels along the route. The night before each ride we will plan the length of the next day’s ride based on the terrain, weather we will be facing and how we are feeling.

We have also installed an app on each of our phones that track our location. This app allows the sag wagon driver to know where we are currently located. The riders can also see where the car is located. Periodically Carolyn will drive to a location in which we will cross her path for us to resupply. We can also call for the sag wagon when we have a mechanical issue and need supplies from the car and Carolyn will know exactly where we are, which will save a lot of time and aguish.

Prepping our gear

Getting ready to take our bikes on a 3,000-mile ride means starting with everything in good condition. I took my bike in for a checkup and put on fresh, puncture resistant tires. For those interested, they are Continental Gator Hardshell tires, 700c|32mm. We will each have a spare tire in the support car.

I bought some new riding gloves to start with fresh gel pads on my hands. We also purchased some spare parts to take with us for on-the-road repairs, such as tubes, tires, cables, chain links, and brake pads. My son is a bike mechanic and will bring all the tools we need.

Prepping our bodies

Getting ready to ride 64 miles a day necessitated ramping up our training ride length. I had been riding 20-30-mile rides. I have gradually moved up to 40+ mile rides. This will not be enough to be fully ready for the ride, but we will improve during our adventure. 

I increased my stretching exercises, added bike sprints to build up my leg muscles, and ab work for a stronger core. You need a strong core to ride long distances, but your core doesn’t get stronger by riding the bike. I am using the routines developed by Graeme Street on his Cyclo-Core DVDs I bought in 2009. I have many DVDs of his different workouts and used them extensively when I was racing. 

One issue for me was our week in San Francisco before we embark on the adventure. The trip was already booked, and I didn’t feel like canceling it. I guess that would be considered a rest week before we hit the road. I did get in two rides on a rental bike during that week.

Ready or not here we come

With only a few weeks to prep for this adventure, we can only do so much. The day to start will come and ready or not, we will begin. 

We purchased a lot of the things we will need for the entire trip, like enough prescription medications and special foods we like to eat on the bike. Anything we forgot or run out of we likely can find along the way. We will be riding through both small towns and large cities throughout the ride and hopefully we don’t run out of something we need while in the middle of the desert.

Whatever happens, it will be a grand adventure. One we will all be talking about for years. I hope you will follow along with us and forgive me for not writing my usual blogs that are geared toward helping you out personally and financially. Even blog writers need to take time for an adventure now and then.

Share this article:

5 thoughts on “Preparing for Our Bicycle Ride Across America”

  1. What a great adventure with family (brothers, son and a very accommodating wife! Many friends have done the southern route, some self contained on their bikes, some with Bubba’s tours. Texas is a long state. Might want to get Texas flags while going across this huge state! Might reduce some of the pick up truck blow by! Have a great time!


Leave a Comment