10 Things You Might Think You Need for a Long Distance Tour, but Don't

April 10, 2012

The April issue of Adventure Cyclist delivers a detailed Cyclist Travel Guide. But since Adventure Cyclist  anticipates that our readers will be keen on more information, we present the second of four blog posts  by Ryan McAfee and Michelle Cassel (of America ByCycle ) to appear in the month of April that will serve as the sassy supplement to our annual Cyclists' Travel Guide.

As touring season ramps up and you’re getting your things together, you may be weighing what you do and do not need to bring, or what you need to make room for as your storage space fills up. You may be forced to make cutthroat decisions, and knowing which items to eliminate from your supplies can make a huge difference in your storage space, your stress level, and your overall weight. A dry or "shakedown" ride is always a good way to find out what is working and what isn’t.

And let’s face it, having to push your bike up Afton Mountain because you’re carrying two heavy bike locks isn’t fun. Fewer things that serve multiple tasks should be your M.O. If you're stuck, think to yourself, “what would the 1976 Bikecentennial cyclists do?”

So let’s figure out what you don’t need to bring. 10 things, to be exact:

1. An Expensive “Touring” Bike

People have been riding bikes long distances for many decades, and plenty of them weren’t necessarily suited for touring. Sure, having a strong frame and nice tires on your bike is reassuring, but is not absolutely necessary. The bottom line -- you need to find a bike you’re comfortable riding, and one that can carry your load. It doesn’t hurt to find one you like looking at, either.

2. Cleated Shoes and Clip-in/Clipless Pedals

We started our bike tour with cleated shoes and pedals, and quickly learned that we didn’t need them. About 3/4 of the cyclists we came across wore cleats/clip-ins though, and some thought we were crazy for not using them! To us, shoes and clips are a little on the pricey end, and unless you’re a serious cyclist you probably won’t notice a difference in your pedaling. Plus, you’ll fall over a lot when you start using them, and people in cars will laugh at you. (Just me?)

3. Lots of money

Money is a huge obstacle for people wanting to tour. They think they don’t have enough of it. But if you’ve read or watched anything we’ve done, then you’ve no doubt seen us cut costs and do things as cheaply as possible. It’s 100% possible to be safe, warm and well-fed while at the same time being cost-efficient. Make sure you set a budget, and stay as close to that daily budget as you can. $10 a day, $20 a day, or whatever you can afford. Things like bananas and peanut butter are way cheaper than any restaurant, camping out is way cheaper than hotels, and it will be VERY easy to cut out your Ebay addiction when you're biking all day. Trust me.

4. Cycling Jerseys

If you want to buy a cycling jersey, buy a cycling jersey. They can look cool, they hold some of your loose items effectively, and there’s even an Oberon Jersey, so they've got to be cool. That being said, people who did the first TransAm ride in 1976 were crossing the country in tank tops and cut-off jean shorts, so think about that before you think you really NEED a cycling jersey. You know what else keeps you cool while biking? No jersey.

5. A Wealth of Knowledge of Bike Repair

Chances are you don’t know everything about repairing bikes. Neither do we. The best thing is to watch some free online tutorials on how to do some basic maintenance, or you can go to free classes at your local REI (if you have one). If you don’t have these options, then go to a local bike shop and just ask if they’ll show you how to repair a tire! That's not even a joke, you should really try it!

6. Several Days Worth of Bike Clothing

We carried lots of clothing, and it took up a lot of room in our panniers. Then once we neared the end we realized that we were carrying too many different layers, and that we could get the same comfort and warmth from fewer items that were higher quality. You'll end up paying a little more for these items, but they drastically cut down on the amount of clothing you have to carry. Look for clothes that wick the sweat away from your body. Wool clothing keeps you cool in the summer and warm in the winter, so it serves two purposes. Also, almost every town has a place to do your laundry, so it’s very likely that you’ll be able to wash your dirty pair while wearing your clean pair, and switch when necessary. This cuts down on the amount of clothing you pack, and also lets you get rid of that old change jar you’ve had sitting on your shelf for years!

7. A Full Kitchen’s Worth of Cooking Supplies

You should keep it to your essentials when dealing with your food while touring. Your cooking pot can double as a bowl or supply holder, your plate can double as a cutting board, and a spork is both fun to say and easy to use! Just make sure that your knife NEVER doubles as your spoon -- soups are really hard to eat with a knife.

8. Makeup/Blow Dryer/Vanity Items


9. A Solar Charger

Solar chargers are fun. They’re cool techie gadgets that charge your phone using the power of the sun! However, you will usually be able to find a power outlet no matter where you are. There may be some campsites or national parks that don’t have any outlets, but for the most part you will be able to find an outlet to plug your phone/mp3 player/tablet/computer into. Libraries, gas stations, post offices, and Yellowstone’s gift shop were all places we plugged in our phones and charged, while awkwardly standing near the counter making the clerk anxious. (Hint: The top plug in the outlets behind vending machines are almost always free and within reach for those who prefer 'stealth charging.')


10. Physical Fitness

Our first day on tour we did 13 miles. 13. You don’t need to be in great physical shape to do a tour. You can do 10 miles a day. You can be 80+ years old. You can be a paraplegic. Over the duration of our trip we heard about all of these situations, and the underlying theme throughout is that mental toughness trumps physical fitness. Hills suck, this is true. The wind can be awful, without a doubt. But the best part is, none of these things will stop you. You will get stronger every day, and soon 30-40 miles becomes easy. Then 70-80 miles becomes easy. As long as you don’t lose it mentally, your body will follow. Just make sure you take breaks every now and then and give your legs a rest!

Photos by Michelle Cassel and Ryan McAfee


MICHELLE CASSEL & RYAN McAFEE are Los Angeles-based journalists who recently biked across the country on the  TransAmerica Trail. They continue to ride their bikes on tours and share their stories of the road through videos and blogs, and can be found at  AmericaByCycle.com.



Agreed on all points!!

My first serious multi-day tours were on a mid-80's Miyata (and not a higher end one, either, a 210), I ride with sneakers and toe straps/cages...you get the idea.

I did carry a lot of clothes, but I didn't regret the weight, so hey.

April 10, 2012, 8:15 PM

Glad to see you two made it! Good little articles too. Glad we all went to the flagg ranch (snake river) semi-dispersed free sites, that was quite a find. I'll surely be back to that spot some time in my life - maybe Gary will be there.

April 10, 2012, 8:38 PM

Great post - thanks for helping to keep it all in perspective! It's easy to get carried away with what we think we "need" to go ride.

April 10, 2012, 9:10 PM

I went fishing with some thread, paperclip and an eggcup - I caught a fish! My wife's father who is a surgeon performed a tracheotomy with a biro.

I could go on with these kind of examples, of course many things can be done without proper equipment or preparation or training but it's terrible advice to give to say that they don't need these things.

As someone who works in the bicycle industry I have a massive issue with the first point "1. An Expensive “Touring” Bike". Suggesting that quality equipment is expensive is misleading, sure you could buy a bike from Wallmart for the fraction of the price of Rivendell/Soma/Vanilla/Surly or similar but which bike is going to last, which retailer is going to provide service and advice. And most importantly which bike is most likely going to turn you in to cycling advocate?

I agree that it's important to encourage people to tour and cycle and I agree that it's not essential to have all the gear and knowledge of a bike geek but ensuring that you are prepared and not reliant on good fortune to stop your tour being a disaster is paramount.

April 10, 2012, 11:59 PM
bonnie mckibbin

when we rode from ca, az, las vegas nv. I had a 15.00 rock hopper that i rode. it was fabulous, worked great!!! we are taking a trip now from las vegas nv to evanston wy...this time we bought mongooses...can't wait to feel that, it will be great!!!!

October 25, 2014, 12:47 PM
Steve Newton

Don't listen to Anonymous. He gives himself away as jaded when he says he works in the industry. I've had my share of problems on a bike tour but I never considered any part of it a disaster. Relying on good fortune (and good people) has made for my most memorable stories.

July 20, 2016, 6:03 PM

Steve Newton says, Don't listen to Anonymous. However he wants his comment to be valid just because he disagreed with Anonymous. Can't help but to see the hypocrisy in his statement. In essence.."Don't listen to that guy, but listen to me."

If one is riding across town 20 miles round trip or so, than I'd say, the quality of the bike isn't a big issue. However, if one is doing a long tour across multiple states. Then I'd say that Quality of a bike IS of the most importance. Quality of: tires, tubes, seat, brakes, all things shifting and gearing, etc.,etc.

Especially if one is going solo unassisted. To underestimate all these things and have something go wrong out in the middle of nowhere on a cheap bike is not only not fun, but could be mildly hazardous to Extremely hazardous.

I'd say spend the time to do your do diligence, plan accordingly and DON'T be Cheap or Thrifty, because you don't have the means to spend appropriate funds to cover all the necessary cost of bike and gear for a safe and successful tour.

November 18, 2016, 3:52 AM
Stephen Peel

I am preparing for my own cycle around the world adventure. I'm 53, my daughters are grown and living their own lives, and after grafting all my life in the building industry, I'm about to take on that life time dream of cycling completely around the world. I too believe that the best gear one can afford is the way to go, as to me, this is a one time only deal and I want to have reliability and of course I want to feel I am using quality gear and not just something that I will worry will fall apart 15k miles into my trip. I have no time limit and have my budget is good. Never cycled more than 30 miles in a single day, suffer multiple injuries from being flattened by an articulated lorry, and am on all kinds of meds to boot. But you know, this is my dream, and I'm going to live it. Family and friends were all told on October 28, and in Feb 17 my house goes on the market so I don't have maintenance headaches while away. All my gear will go into storage, and what little interest I will get from the sale of my house, will cover the storage costs. I've been all over the world and had some crazy adventures, but this will be my swan song :) , so if it takes me 10 years of cycling and adventure to complete, so be it. Check out the site I have been constructing. Steve


November 18, 2016, 2:36 PM


We did LEJOG this summer and the best bit, without a doubt, was the people we met.

The generosity & kindness of strangers was inspiring - it's the people (& crying at the beauty of Glen Coe :D) that I'll always remember

We were just 2, carrying camping kit, & got fitter by the hour I think.

Kept it up all x

October 28, 2017, 5:17 PM
Tricia Hedahl

Ten years ago I rode down the West Coast. For several days creeped paths with two teenage brothers who had ridden from Alaska to Oregon on Walmart bikes. They were having the time of their lives on those crappy bikes. That is all.

June 30, 2017, 12:25 AM
Rolf Riley

In 2012 I met two young girls in Montana who were riding across the states on cheap wallmart bikes having a great time, and a young guy in the big hole riding across on a rusty old mtb of dubious acestry lol!

June 30, 2017, 7:04 AM

All good points I can vouch for. You are helping to lower the barriers to the great adventures! I don't even use panniers or a rack anymore. I just bolted an old aluminum crutch (vertical) to my back axle and hung a couple of old book back packs from it directly behind me so its more aero than panniers.

It's all part of the total adventure. And with goofy gear you meet more interesting folks.

April 11, 2012, 3:49 AM

Great message, thanks!

For the Dutch, there are only a few essential differences:

* get a bike with really low gear and hillproof brakes. Many Holland-bikes have neither.

* Local bike stores tend not to teach you much. The best way to leurn is from collegue bikers or a 'wereldfietser'.


April 11, 2012, 7:42 AM

WOW! I absolutely loved reading this! My son and I are doing our first tour this summer and it's a cross country one! This puts my mind as ease about a lot of concerns I had.

Thanks Much!

April 12, 2012, 2:32 PM

I think the point that they're trying to make is that you can tour on whatever bike you have at the time. Yes, the marquees you mention are going to be better than a Wal-Targ bike. But I've talked to a lot of potential bike tourists over the years. A lot of them get hung up on having the right bike, and feel that they can't tour until they have that right bike.

I think it's better to get people out there on whatever bike they have than convince them they'll need a new one before they ever pedal one stroke on a tour. If they like touring, and they want a different bike, they'll most likely upgrade to a nicer bike from one of the makers you suggest or another quality bike manufacturer. That's what happened to me.

And there is another avenue to pursue: a decent second hand bike. There are plenty of good options out there if you know where to look.

April 13, 2012, 4:09 AM

My first overnight trips, three years ago, were on a mid-70's bike with a gas-pipe steel frame and horrible 10-speed gearing. My next bike was a 1985 Miyata 210 that took me on a dozen or so short trips, ranging in length from overnights to a nine-day tour covering 350 miles. Then I got a 1995 Novara Randonee and rode that 3,800 miles over four months last summer. Within the next month and change I'll have an even better (and new) touring bike.

The only reason I say this? If I had decided, at the start, that I would only bother touring if I had a Surly LHT (or other new bike), I would not have taken the trips I did and I would not have fallen in love with bicycle touring.

People should start with what they have. If they decide they love touring, they'll upgrade (slowly or quickly) with better bicycles, clothes, and equipment. But they have to START.

April 14, 2012, 8:48 AM
Davey D

I agree with everything, but since I wear clipless MTB shoes all the time (even right now, as I type this in my room), I'm bringing them on tour.

April 28, 2012, 6:14 PM
bike clothing

Thanks for detailing all these. Your list will definitely help a lot of touring cyclists out there. Much appreciated!

May 1, 2012, 4:55 AM
Mac, Media Specialist

All true. Re. point #3, when Nancy and I headed out on our (almost) cross-country tour in 1974 we had around $100 in our pocket. Somehow it worked out, and we were on the road for almost three months. http://blog.adventurecycling.org/2011/01/my-first-bike-trip-part-1.html

May 2, 2012, 12:41 PM

There's no need to spend a lot of money for pedals & shoes - you can get a pair of SPD mountain bike pedals on eBay for under $25, and I bought a pair of biking sandals from Nashbar for something like $40. The sandals are so great that I'll never again wear cycling shoes - they're much cooler when it's hot, and when it's cold or raining you can wear wool socks (two pair, even) with them. If (when) your feet get wet, no worries; the wool keeps you warm and after the rain stops it all dries out much faster than any pair of shoes. They're pretty comfortable off the bike, too; you might not even need camp shoes.

April 29, 2013, 1:53 PM

What is the big deal about surly L H T? It is not really that good a trek is just as good if not better? And my mountain bike does me good thick spokes steel frame came standerd with eyelets my racks fit fine no problem. In fact my gearing is better than a lht ? I got over 3000 mile on my next parawan no next isn't a trek but built just as good . Plus if I wanna haul a trailer it will do it also .Any bicycle you are comfortable with will do for a long trip as long as it is in good mechcanical shape will do as good as any lht and chances are you get the bike cheaper so you can get more stuff you actually need for your tour I don't have 500 to 1000 dollars to spend on a bike I can and will spend 2 to 300 and that is max

May 9, 2013, 9:51 PM

Great article, for me the information is priceless especially #1 and #10. I might write out #10 to keep with me. I am 60 years old, have about $180,000 in my back, hurt 24/7 and have no business taking a bike tour but am going next spring from MT. to AZ. to OK. and back. I know nothing about bike touring so will stay glued to sites like this for the next 8-9 months. I hope to find someone who understands my insanity.

August 5, 2013, 7:42 AM

I understand your insanity. I am taking my daughter on a cross country next summer with little money and walmart bikes. My daughter is what society considers "special needs" but she loves bike riding and we are doing this to prove that no matter what life throws at you, you can always achieve your dreams if you just BELIEVE...Most think we are crazy and that's ok because it just gives us that much more determination to succeed....Much fun to you on your ride!

September 23, 2013, 2:30 PM
Kevin D Cornwell

Did you do your ride?

November 27, 2015, 10:56 PM

Well done Mike did you finally go on your trip ? Im leaving York town in June 2014 and will be in Oregon by August ,to celebrate my 70 birthday

March 4, 2014, 7:19 PM
Brad Rininger

I hope you get this message. I am 66 years old on March 5th. And expect to ride from Pittsburgh Pennsylvania to Baton Rouge Louisana. (1200 miles).never did anything like this.

I'm told I can't do this. But I need to just to get in shape. Please respond back to me with encouragement. Thank you.

March 1, 2016, 2:57 AM

Brad, when I was 50 I rode from North Carolina to New York. 183km per day average. Slept in a tent the entire way. So, I think you can do this. Just be sure to get lots of advice from others you trust, & put in those training km.

March 13, 2016, 7:59 PM
Mark Troup

You can totally do this, Brad. I'm a Pittsburgh kid myself so I know we've got some tough, stubborn sonsabitches 'round here. People today always underestimate what they are capable of. The battle is mostly mental, not physical. Get out there and have a great ride!

April 14, 2016, 11:42 PM

I'm in Pittsburgh also. That sounds like a great trip. I can't wait to get out riding.

April 15, 2016, 8:09 PM

good luck my friend from italy

April 29, 2016, 9:26 AM
David Osborne

Brad, happy birthday! I turn 67 this week. My intense recommendation is that you commit to very slow travel for at least a week. I've found that each new season it takes me 12 days of puttering to start feeling strong, and four weeks to become a powerhouse. The first three or four days can be really awful on the mind and body. Get beyond that, and you can go anywhere.

April 8, 2017, 5:45 PM
Dez Acosta

Did you go? I live in the Yucatan and started doing 50k day trips, and 100k overnighters around my area. Planning a longer Uruguay/Argentina run in Dec 2016 (if I can get it together). I'm 66, and will be 67 by the end of the year.

I agree that the point is...... to start on whatever you have, in my case, an old 70's 10 speed, upgraded with all new, quality gearing (12 speed), deraillers, crank, chain, handlebars, and "click" speed changers. The bike rides so much better than before. It's steel, but still has the old style, thin, 27 x 1-1/4 wheels. They are steel as well. I love the bike, it rides well, and I'm thinking of using it for the 1000 mile + trip. Great to hear there are other older guys out there doing far out things.

March 1, 2016, 11:40 AM

You may want to look at a recumbent trike. I love mine and no longer have wrist, neck and back pain.

April 23, 2016, 5:51 AM

Love your blog. If anyone is thinking about biking in Nepal, please check Dawn Til Dask site. They introduced mountain biking in Nepal back in the days. For me I am a road biker and can't wait to do across the country ride.

August 5, 2013, 6:14 PM

up date to my post in may I did a little better on my touring rig I bought me a tour easy frame from someone and built it up my self it is also gonna be a tour rig i'm taking it for a week long tour this spring from new Madrid Missouri to Memphis ten and return no more sore butt and no more wrist going to sleep or elbow pain with the recumbent bike..

October 25, 2013, 4:06 PM

This list was very helpful, I did a tour myself in South America with Tour d'Afrique in 2009. It was a life change experience.

January 7, 2014, 2:22 PM
Clint Ballinger

I am reading through a lot of cycling blogs, and love posts like this. I am planning a first long trip through Central America. I am at the end of a long trip around the world (not cycling) and want to get into long distance cycling, finishing the trip with a long ride on locally bought gear (I am in Costa Rica). When I hike I use the "homemade and simple is better" philosophy and usually it works great. I am trying to raise a tiny amount of funds for this trip to make a small short documentary on it precisely about amateurs doing long trips with minimal equipment (the URL I am linked to here is an Indiegogo funding page if anyone knows how to help get the word out on it - I really don;t have any cycling connections now so any help is greatly appreciated).

May 26, 2014, 9:24 AM
Clint Ballinger

Sorry - On my name above the link doesn't work, it is https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/costa-rica2dallas-by-bike-a-short-on-distance-cycling-life-in-central-america/x/7392074#home

May 26, 2014, 9:27 AM

Thank you for this. We're gearing up for our first tour and the there is MUCH to learn. We're deciding to go with cleats or not. The bike shop swears by them, especially where knee strain issues are a concern.

July 27, 2014, 9:56 AM

I really enjoyed reading this blog. It is inspiring! I really enjoyed points #1, and #3. Regarding point #1, I have an '80s Univega mtb that I have been upgrading for my tour (when I decide to begin the tour). Regarding point #3, I am glad to read that money should not be an issue when touring.

At 61, I have keep the desire to do a long - distance bicycle tour with me for years. While raising two daughters, and being in and out of several careers I am getting close to kissing my daughters )(who are grown) farewell, and leaving

on my tour.

I do have a question: what is the part of the bicycle that is most prone to failure while on a tour?

January 30, 2015, 6:22 AM
Fred Nicolet

Your inner tubes then tires.

February 19, 2015, 7:17 PM
Crni Zec

Wanted just to correct a few things.

1. Never ride long distances without jerseys. Based on years of experiance don't wear underwear with jersays. Jarseys will keep you dry, under your amrs and between legs and in that way minimized the level of bacterias that usually starts to multiply if you wear regular cloths while cycling. The other thing, jerseys will nut rubb against your skin between legs or under the arms, regular cloth will, and if you get infection, you will not sit on your bike anytime soon.

2. If you don't know to dimantle and fix your chain, your wheels, pedals and axle, knowing to fix only tires will not save your day. Always carry at least one replacement for axle balls, axels and chain. In that way you minimize the expenses alot, because it's cheaper to pay for the part and fix your bike on your own, then paying 3x times more to someone else to do it.

3. at least one per week take a night with a tent in a camp that have showers with hot water. It will help your muscles to relax, clean your skin and keep you going. (This is must do for those who travel 700km per week). Also if you are driving near sea, take your time and float on the surface for a few hours.

4. After long ride if you feel very tired take one liter of yougurt (2,8% or 3,2% of fat) and drink it all up. It will reset you instantly.

March 8, 2015, 5:40 AM

A agree about the yogurt - for some reason I find myself devouring yogurt when I'm cycling long distances. The other points though I'm indifferent. T-shirts work fine for me, and I don't even use cycling shorts or chamois. Spare parts are only perhaps necessary if you're in very remote countries that don't have cycling culture. In N.A. and Europe it's easy enough to find parts and service on the road. I typically ride 700-1000 km/week

February 29, 2016, 2:21 PM

Can't agree with your No. 1. I often wear tank tops or t shirts. I don't find jerseys appealing in any way; fashion wise, I find them abysmal. When I see riders with them on, I usually avoid them, they seem to have a god complex mentality when biking. Just my experience.

May 20, 2016, 9:11 AM

Yeah, I've found this is often the case too. The cyclists most likely to not say hello are those decked out in faux-sponsorship gear.

May 20, 2016, 9:16 AM

Brian, you hit the nail right on the head imho. May I expound a bit and say, again, there seems often to be a superiority stigma with cyclist dressed in full regalia. I find those not touring, but the racer cyclist with their Matrix like helmets& 3 thousand dollar touring bikes, often the most crass and ostentatious. The touring folks or families while en route to a destination, of course, the most pleasant.

Here I am with a modded, albeit by 16 year old Trek, and Red Bull Stickered helmut, which was a Walmart brand, just sensationalized with advertisements, with a tank top or often no shirt on, ripped jean shorts (crotch protector of course) and beat up cross trainers on that look as if they've gone through a week in in drain pipe in Mumbai, and a AETHER 70 Osprey, which is the only thing I own worth my than 300 lol, and I always look like a hobo, or transient. I say hello while riding and usually the 'gear guys' with their flashy riding shades and spandex tops and bottoms, 'often', not always, but often, don't even nod in my direction. It is also why I would never join a local cycling club, etc. Perhaps its me, and I could be the douchebag, hahah; but again, I find the elitism rather jading and a giant turn off (often whispering explicates about their non return of hello or a nod under my breathe after passing by hahahah; come on we've all done it lol). All sports or associations naturally have this hierarchy or attitude but with cyclist I find it is more evident; I'd say the same exist in long distance runners who do it for sport; they can be wicked rude, nasty even.

I say hi to 'everyone' riding by. The nicest people I have met who are cycling while I am cycling have been in Scandinavia and Western Canada. The U.S Cyclist in general, imho, can be really arrogant; which I find perplexing.

May 20, 2016, 12:01 PM
Vince Bochsler

Nice List. As the saying goes if you have extra space you will fill it up. On my 1976 across America trip ( Oregon to Virginia) I was always having to get rid of collected junk every couple of weeks. Ha-Ha. Keep up the good work with this site. Thanks.


March 19, 2015, 1:24 PM
LT Torg

I am in the beginning steps of preparation for a long distant bike ride from Washington to Arizona.

I am 60 years of age and in fairly good health now, but just over a year ago I was in critical condition and in the hospital. I decided back then that I was going to do this for my kids and grand-kids. I inspire them maybe, to show it could be done and that I can do it ..... that I'm not quitting.

I appreciate this site and all the posts, it helps a lot.

My bike is an older Norco Highbyrd Cross, it's in pretty good shape for the shape it's in!

I'll get new tires and tune it up.

I still need to get all my gear together ... still figuring out what all I'll need for a 1400 miles trip. Thanks

March 25, 2015, 9:17 PM
Janet Voth

I'm putting in a word for Warmshowers.org. We did a supported ride - I drove the "15 passenger motorized quadricycle" while the 8,15, and 16 year old boys and 72 year old husband rode from Newton, KS to Fairbanks, AK (3700 miles). None of them rode the whole way, but the number of miles ridden decreased with age with the old guy missing only 170 miles. We did some camping, some staying with friends and more motels. It took 61 days with 11 or 12 rest days. At that point all the bikes went in the van and we toured AK for 11 days. We drove from Homer, AK to home in 10 days. Last summer we were warmshower hosts and had more than 20 guests, 1 - 4 at a time. Newton is on the Trans-America route.

April 23, 2016, 10:34 AM

so great this URL. Had no idea of its existence!! Massive thank you!!!!!

May 20, 2016, 12:19 PM

Janet, that sounds like an awesome trip! What an experience for your boys. That will be something they remember for life, and most likely will help them to succeed in any of their endeavors the rest of their lives.

The "old guy" completing the trip is helping me with some of my concerns about my upcoming cross (or rather, around the) country tour, including, and especially, Alaska.

Thanks for posting!

October 3, 2016, 8:33 AM
ralph newton

Well good info.I was one of those early,(1979),cross country crazies.Went from Portland Or to New York City,alone,in 34 days,on a northern route.Took 50 lbs of mostly unused gear that i sent home in a box in Casper Wyoming.Dont know how you ride seriously,though,without cages or clips,using the auxiliary muscles on the up pull is invaluable in tough riding conditions,and cant be done without being"Cinched in".Just me thinkin' outloud..,Regards,Ralph

May 11, 2015, 2:08 PM

Hi Im 58 yrs ,love cycling.I may need a knee replacement surgery,I get a lot of pain bending my knee after stops.I really want to do some long tours in the coming years and wondered if anyone out there has had this problem and if anyone has had a knee replacement and how does it stand up to long distance trips and climbs?Anyones experiences would be appreciated.Conor.

June 1, 2015, 4:44 PM

I'm younger than you, 25, and have had a couple knee surgeries, one partial replacement. I was a semi-pro snowboarder/skateboarder looking for sports that I could keep up in. No more 30m+ cliff drops for sure. Cycling is one of the best things for my knee, as is swimming. Both are low impact. Of course it gets stiff and sore I just try to keep up with my stretching. Having a little puff helps tremendously :D they will most likely put you in a pool then on a stationary bike in PT. Knee replacements are getting so sophisticated. I got mine in '06 and want to get it redone soon. Look up "Matt Hoffman" and his knee surgeries. He's bmx so on the extreme side but he's had synthetic ligaments put in and was back on his bike a week later. Staggering how many knee injuries he's had and still going strong. Good luck! I know he's a professional rider and can't be grimacing for the sponsors but check out what he can do on a bike with MULTIPLE knee replacement.

June 25, 2015, 12:24 PM

Wow, this is really good stuff! I've planned a tour with a couple of friends in southern Europe this summer. Because it's our first time doing a trip like that, we can use all the advice we can get.

Have a nice summer!

June 15, 2015, 5:05 AM

Agree with almost everything, but not item 2 clip-in pedals. Of course it's perfectly possible to cycle without, but clip-in pedals is probably the single best investment you can make in terms of comfort and efficiency :

- Way more comfortable (say, like running with running shoes and not boots...)

- Saves a lot of energy (I'd say 10% percents) because your legs push AND pull

- Less (and not more) risks of falling once you've got used to them. This is because you have a lot more balance, especially while going downward (no risk of your foot accidentally slipping).

My two cents...

July 31, 2015, 9:06 AM

I've been contemplating a tour from California to Tierra del Fuego starting this coming fall 2015. I'm 63 and never done a long distance tour before. The info here is very good, and I'm wondering if anybody reading this has made this trek before...any advice would be most appreciated.

September 21, 2015, 7:33 PM

I have often thought of doing that trip, but can't start until June 2016

October 31, 2015, 10:28 PM

Wow, sounds fantastic. Are you wanting to ride from your doorstep rather than flying down to S.America and starting from there? That's an epic trip. I'm planning to do a segment of that trip but I would start in norther Chile and work my way south as the early spring turns to summer. I think it gets extremely remote and rugged in many areas, but absolutely stunning. A bit like the coast of BC but even more pristine and undeveloped.

February 29, 2016, 2:14 PM
Dez Acosta

I also am trying to get my act together for a trip from Buenos Aires to Montevideo, then up the coast a ways, then cross Uruguay to the west and head toward Mendoza in Argentina, then Bariloche. After that...... don't know, mayby cross over to Chile. Loosely planned to head out in Nov/Dec. I'll be 67 by then. Currently I've started doing 50k (30mi) day trips (+/- weekly),and 100k overnighters (monthly), just to see if I can do it. At this time, a distance of 30/40 miles a day for me is a lot. It takes me 4 - 6 hours to do it, with rest stops every +/- 5 miles. the terrain is quite flat here, but it can get quite warm. There is always a little head wind to deal with, and it can get really tiresome. I'm using my old. 70's steel, 10 speed bike, upgraded to 12 speed with all new, quality, gearing, derailleurs, bottom bracket and sprockets, chain, new seat, handlebars, and "click" speed changers. The wheels are the original Araya steel rims and spokes (27" x 1-1/4"). I use the bike daily for 5 -10 mile grocery and supply runs in the city. I have mid size panniers on the back and carry a pretty good load every time I come home from the store. I am a bit concerned about how the bike will handle larger panniers, more gear, more weight, front and back, with those skinny tires, but otherwise the bike seems pretty stout. The roads here in Merida are pretty bumpy and it's normal to run through segements of rocky, dirt roads, here and there. The wheels have held up fine, and this article gives me more confidence with my thin tire tour bike idea. Anyway, i just saw your post and was energized by seeing that other folks in my age range want to do more physical and really fun stuff. I play a djembe that has a 13" head and weighs about 15 lbs. I'm trying to figure out how to carry it with me when I go. As well I will not be in a rush. The trip will take whatever time it takes, and it will be high on the list of great adventures in my life time.

March 1, 2016, 12:36 PM

I would be more than happy to join you if you decide to do your trek from Buenos Aires to Montevideo if you want to do a practice run this summer, rather than your Nov/Dec time frame; would be an honor to ride along with you. I have to be in Rio for the opening ceremonies, but I am free most of July, coming in from Holland. I just don't like to rush, and find myself camping out in cool little towns along the way after I meet some of the locals, and one August, spent four weeks working on a farm in Southern Denmark because a 1 Night AbNb, turned into a four week jaunt of aiding on their giant farm. I digress, but if you ever want company, let me know :)

May 20, 2016, 12:07 PM

Pretty good info! I got a 1975 Raleigh Super Course about 11 years ago and have put just about 67,000 miles on it . 28 miles a day commuting to work and four 2,000+ mile trips. One per year for the past four years. I ride in shorts, a tee shirt and gym shoes in good old rat trap pedals and have no intention of stopping either the commute or the long rides. Next spring will be San Diego to St. Augustine again. First time it took me 49 days. One more thing....I just celebrated my 70th birthday.

October 27, 2015, 12:44 PM

You remind me of a guy I teamed up with on a trip down the California coast many years ago. He had a fairly basic bike, rode with sneakers, and his gear was strapped to his bike with big bungee cords. But with his 50lbs of gear he could still power up hills faster that the roadies decked out in all their posh gear and fancy jerseys.

February 29, 2016, 2:10 PM

John, I hope to be as tough, fit, and practical as you in twenty-three years. Keep spinning those pedals!

October 27, 2015, 1:15 PM

I agree with most of this list, but like everything, it depends on how you like to roll. I wouldn't ride around the block without cleats - it's just too inefficient. But I typically ride at a much faster pace than most people I encounter on long distance tours.

February 29, 2016, 1:46 PM

Also, regarding phone chargers - it's important to make sure you've got one with sufficient voltage to fast-charge properly. On a previous tour I used the one that came with my phone and took 4 hrs to charge. This made it necessary to carry a second charger and a backup battery, but then you're always looking for places willing to let you leave the battery charging overnight. Charging became a primary concern and a complete nuisance. Now I have a true high-voltage fast-charger that charges my phone fully in 1.5 hrs instead of 4. Problem solved and 5 ounces lighter.

February 29, 2016, 1:59 PM
Brad Rininger

I'm 66 and want to ride Pittsbg.Pa. to. Baton Rouge Louisana (1200 miles ). Never did it. Have no experience. Need a mentor. So much info out there. Don't know where to start. So many ripoffs and people taking advantage. I just need a little help from some one that will help me get set up. And then encourage not discourage. Waiting for response! Thank you in advance.

March 1, 2016, 3:04 AM
Dez Acosta

I'm 66, live in Merida,Yucatan, and have started doing 50k day trips, and 100k overnighters in my area. In Dec. I would like to do Uruguay and Argentina. I love my old 70's 10 speed that I brought with me from the states 9 years ago. It has always been in mothballs until the last couple of years. Now I've upgraded it to all new, quality, gearing, deraillers, sprockets, crank, seat, handlbars and "click" speed changers. Now its a 12 speed! The frame is steel as well the wheels, Japanese Araya's. I just wonder if it can handle the weight loaded with gear on those skinny tires (27 x 1-1/4).

March 1, 2016, 11:51 AM
Sarah C

The one thing you absolutely need is time. And time is the thing that most Americans have in short supply. That's what has kept me from going cross country. Not lack of money, not lack of equipment, not lack of desire. Lack of time.

April 18, 2016, 9:09 AM
Sean L.

I'll only disagree on point #2 for those who ride a recumbent, tadpole tricycle like I do.

There are two things that can go wrong when riding such a cycle: rolling over ("fail to keep the trike rubber-side down"), which requires doing some pretty wrong things (turning at high speed, especially on or from a transverse slope) .... and the dreaded "Foot Suck", also known as a heel strike.

The latter is what happens if your heel touches the pavement - and at the bottom of any revolution, your heel is likely within an inch of that pavement, maybe less. This causes your foot to be dragged backwards, off the pedal and under your seat.

Well, the front crossmember - the bar between the two wheels - is rather in the way of that. And when your leg hits it, OWIE. Trust me, I had it happen once - just once. Relatively low speed, maybe 5mph or 6mph. And for the first ten minutes, I honestly thought I must have broken that leg! There I was, sprawled forward over the crankset, legs tangled up in the trike ... in the middle of a travel lane on a 45mph-limit road ... barely able to drag myself off the road, trailing the fifty-pound trike, on hands and one knee. A scary two minutes, for sure.

Now, if I'd been on a downhill run, doing 18mph or more? Yeah, I suspect I _would_ have broken my leg. And lost most of the skin on my knees, palms, and elbows before coming to a stop.

So ... while it needn't be clips and cleats specifically, whenever I meet a newcomer to 'bent riding, especially a tadpole trike, my first piece of advice is "GET SOME FOOT RETENTION". Heel sling, SPD cleats, duck tape your shoes to the pedals, _whatever_ ... just do it. It will be worth every single penny you ever spend on it. :)

And as a bonus, for us trikers? We NEVER fall over because we're clipped in. Dead stop, clipped in, who cares. :D Nyah!

Instead, we just huff and puff more going up hills. Ha!.

April 21, 2016, 2:18 PM

Yeh I did it in 76 and I bought my bike from an auto parts/hardware store a Mercier if I recall, and I made it just fine. You don't need anything fancy as long as you are comfortable on it.

April 23, 2016, 6:06 PM

I'm 61 have a '87 Cannondale that I upgraded with Shimano mega-range freewheel, derailleur and 50-36t chain rings. I'm 205lbs (soon to be a little lighter) going from Cincinnati to St. Pete in a little over a month. Have 27" tires what width would be ideal for this? Have 1-1/8 on now thinking about 1-1/4s for the extra pack weight and comfort. Not sure benefits of 1-3/8

April 28, 2016, 1:30 PM

Mentally and physically prepping for a long haul from Ibiza to mainland Spain, into Holland and then most of Italy and eventually to Rio for the Olympics. Obviously ferries here and there. I will keep you posted. Leave June 1. Free camping the entire way. Did it last year from Copenhagen to Salzburg. Was not properly equipped, but I looked like a Greek God arriving back stateside :)

May 20, 2016, 9:55 AM

If any long, long distance cyclist could give their opinions on weight and bikes (tires) and what tires you recommend for lengthy treks with a heavy bag. I attach nothing to the bike on any part of the frame. Everything is in my pack, but its usually at max 65-70 pds. So my 190 pds with the bag weight, and the past two trips my wheels blew out within a few days. Do you have any advice (save packing lighter), on what I can do to alleviate that situation from occurring so quickly. Any links or recommendations for specific wheels to handle heavy loads. One of the longer parts of my journey approaching is Amsterdam to Prague through Germany, (around 850km I believe), I'd like to make it through that leg, without having any wheel issues that arise because I have the wrong ones. Any recommendations or personal experiences I would greatly appreciate! Thanks

May 20, 2016, 12:15 PM
Ed Park

I did the transam in 2013. I was heavy at the start, 190, and carried a lot of gear in 4 panniers, plus a forward center bag. The bike weighted 104 (with water load) before I got on. I rode with conti 37s, and never even had a flat - entire trip - 4000 miles for me. I put 80 pounds in the front, and 100 in the rear and finished the trip in 64 days. Wheels were HD, not the best for climbing fast, but damn sturdy.

August 13, 2016, 7:20 AM
Steve Newton

I went cross-country (US) on 32mm tires inflated to 75psi. If you have blowouts, you might like solid inner tubes. If the wheel or spokes are breaking, upgrade to better wheels. Campag Zondas are good. I'm curious, what's in the 70lb. bag?

July 20, 2016, 6:09 PM

I did a trip in 1972 on a hercules all steel bike with a sturmey 4 speed,a real beast that the local policemen used to patrol on.I started off with a vango cotton tent,petrol stove,airbed,even some mocassins.IT WEIGHED A TON and,even for a fit 20yr old,was not going to work.Starting at Bergen in Norway,I managed to offload tent,stove,airbed,mocassins and managed with a plastic sheet,one pan,cooked on open fires.Went up to the arctic circle,then south through europe to Naples,worked in French vineyards to get enough money to get home.Still biking,love all my bikes ranging from 80,s mercian,trek 2100,giant tcr,spesh full suss.

July 24, 2016, 9:05 AM
Jackie Oliver

I really like what you said about having a wealth of knowledge of bike repairs. That way, while you are on a tour, you know how to fix things that could potentially go wrong. I like the idea of going to a bike store, and having them help me learn those things.

November 18, 2016, 1:59 PM

Totally agree with you, you said absalutely rite.

April 23, 2017, 11:54 AM
Michael Gage

Don't trust motorists. A car once passed me before pulling into a driveway immediately in front of me. I hit the rear panel, rolled over the trunk, and landed in the dirt... where I lay for ~20 minutes. The driver & passengers pulled into the garage, shut the roll-down door, and left me 4 dead. W. Hampton, NY a__holes probably hoped I'd die on the soft shoulder so I couldn't sue them. Expect the unexpected.

July 3, 2017, 10:37 PM
James Phillips

Im about to travel 700mi on a walmart bike, even went as far as making some crappy panniers, I did it on foot about 6 months ago.

July 30, 2017, 7:29 PM
Jeffrey M Herbert

Beautiful article! I'm planning on doing a bike trip myself, all the way from Bonita Springs, Florida to the south rim of the Grand Canyon! At a biking speed of 24 mph when taking it easy, it won't be as impossible as I've heard many say. Even with a wealth of health problems, such as low blood pressure, heart problems, kidney problems ( I have a transplant at the moment, though ), diabetes, I'm prepared and know I can do it! I'm also planning to push the limits of what is needed when it comes to money and food, and I've judged how much I'll need based on how much I eat and drink, rather then what I hear others say is needed. Your article was very informative! Thank you!

September 26, 2017, 5:25 PM
Tom Iarossi

I agree on all except the jerseys. Cycling jerseys are above all functional; in addition to the handy rear pockets and longer tails, the long zippers allow for adjusting ventilation as needed and the fabric is usually quick wicking and allows for fast evaporation. T-shirts retain moisture and get very stinky very quickly.

October 9, 2017, 12:00 AM

what about fitting? I injured my knee riding a bicycle that was only very slightly to small for me. a permenant life long injury.

October 9, 2017, 2:16 PM

Last summer I began doing early Saturday morning rides with a small group of "roadies" usually covering about 60-70km. I enjoy the outdoor sport and fitness aspects of riding. For the last five years I've also had a hobby building one custom bike over the winter. I don't understand mindset that those who wear technical gear are all snobs. Also you can find good jerseys that don't have advertising logos on them. I recently built up a Surley Crosscheck to use as my winter bike so I can be in good shape come springtime. I could see myself doing a couple weekend / overnight trips next summer. Doing a long distance ride is very appealing, if only I could afford the time. Maybe when I retire?

December 21, 2017, 8:46 PM

An aside I thought interesting: the fellow on the blog at http://ultralightcycling.blogspot.com/ buys a used bike and ships it where he is going to tour, then sells the bike when he gets to the airport to go home. Or he just gives it away and goes home sans bike.

March 21, 2018, 11:14 PM

That's a great link. Thanks for sharing it.

March 22, 2018, 9:07 AM
John B. Wider

Good point about clip-in pedaling. And when you are pulling up with those pedals it puts more weight on your pelvic area. So if your butt hurts more than your leg, go with flat pedals/street shoes!

March 22, 2018, 10:20 AM
BikePackingPleb @ youtube

my most recent trip (1300miles FL-KY) I started out with a $50usd in my pocket, a walmart bike equipped with a walmart rack, and a VERY bare-bones repair kit including patches, crankbros tool, and a hand pump a cheap diy cookset, a hammock and ad a tarp. I replaced my derailer twice and my bottom bracket hub. I cant remember how many times I repaired/replaced my tyres. I was only stranded once with a busted back wheel from a derailer getting shot into the spokes on a particularly fast downhill off a mtn. I could have used better gear or had a bit more money to make life a bit more easy but in the end Im very happy I did it the way I did! The end result puts my upmost faith in doing a tristate solo tour.

July 16, 2018, 8:57 AM
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