The Legendary Cross-Country Bike Trip

A cross-country trip. Since the days of Manifest Destiny, people have been captivated by the notion of spanning the length of the United States. Kerouac did it by car; Forrest Gump did it by foot. But increasingly, the trend of a cross-country bike trip is taking hold. Spanning over 3,000 miles, the trek is a far cry from your typical weekend excursion. But it can also be one of the most rewarding experiences of a lifetime.

If you’re thinking of heading from Atlantic to Pacific – or the other way around – there are a few things to consider.

cross country bike trip
image courtesy of Iain Lees

Why are you making the trip?

If you want to cycle for a cause, there are a plethora of organizations that you can align with. Biking Bis is a great resource for all of the charity rides that are taking place across the country. Bike the US for MS, Tour de Cure, American Lung Association’s Big Ride, and Bike & Build are a few of the most popular choices – but the options are endless. If you have a specific cause in mind, align yourself with an organization.

If you’ve been hassling your friends and family to join you on your trip without any luck, utilize Adventure Cycling’s Companion Listings. This is an excellent way to find a partner to make the trek with.

cross country bike trip
image courtesy of Michael McCullough

Where are you going?

The United States is a big country, and your route deserves some careful planning and consideration. Adventure Cycling offers an incredibly detailed U.S. Bicycle Route System (USBRS) that can help you map out your trip. The world is your cycling oyster… but take advantage of this invaluable resource to appreciate your trip to the fullest.

New York Times author Bruce Weber also has a lot of insights that he’s packed into his chronicles of cross-country trips. Not only is it great background information – it’s also really entertaining.

cross country bike trip
image courtesy of RJ Stratchko

Where are you staying?

This decision affects your entire trip. If you’re planning upon checking into a motel every night, your pack can be relatively lightweight. If you’re camping, you have to include a tent, sleeping bag, and camp stove with your load. That’s not to say that the rustic approach isn’t a good idea – it’s the makings of an incredible adventure! Just make sure you keep this in mind while preparing.

The United States plays host to an incredibly diverse range of landscapes, communities, and experiences. This is your chance to see deserts and glacial mountains, to grab a drink in a local pub or acquaint yourself with a new city. Your bike isn’t just a vehicle; it’s an experience. Armed with the right tools, your cross-country journey will be a defining moment in your life.

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