Tell me about bicycle touring.

Having cut short my original plans for what to do with my deferral year, I’ve found myself with a lot of time on my hands. Sometime around… oh, last week or the week before, an idea came to me: why not hop on a bicycle and use it to see a big chunk of the country? Certainly I’ve never done anything like this before, but I enjoy biking, I’d love to see the country, and well, it wouldn’t hurt to have one more mad adventure before starting into the life of a first-year associate in some New York law firm.

So I’ve started doing a little bit of research, but it still seems to be a lot to wrap my head around. It seems that there’s going to be camping involved–fair enough. I’ve never really done any of that either, but I’m willing to learn or otherwise figure it out as I go. The where seems a bit odd–I’ve read tales of city parks, folks’ yards, and any old bit of ground that’s a bit secluded and not fenced off or posted “No Trespassing,” as well as the more quotidian commercial campgrounds. Food–where to get it, how to make it on the road, all of that. Er… how to use the restroom, even.

Then, the bike part itself. I suspect that my old and ever more beat up mountain bike is not the answer–the one braze-on that used to hold my water bottle cage is half-broken. Where I’d stick all the other junk one sort of needs on this sort of adventure is entirely beyond me.

Oh, did I mention that I’d like to set out in about a month? :smiley: Don’t have a start date for work yet, but if it’s fairly normal, I’d just about need to start out at that point to have a shot at making it a (mostly) cross-country trek, starting from here in Ohio. I’m not wedded to it being cross-country–I’ve entertained the notion of going up into the northeast, or down into the south. But since the Adventure Cycling Association has a well-defined cross-country route that I could pick up in Kentucky, going cross-country is, in some ways, a bit simpler than what might otherwise be a less adventurous plan.

Anyway, it’s this huge thing, or it feels like it. So I’m looking for a little bit of advice and guidance from those’ve you who’ve done it, or something like it, before. I figure this place’s got at least one or two other oddballs of this particular persuasion! :slight_smile:

Join and read and ask questions. You do need to get a bike and start riding it right now if you want to be able to go a large distance a month from now. I’d recommend a steel touring bike with panniers. I think Soma is supposed to get high remarks.

Thanks! I’ll swing over there and see what I can find. And yeah, I’m already started on that project. Rode 66 or so miles thursday. Nothing worse than slightly sore/stiff knees and achilles tendons on Friday. Looking for a place to head tomorrow… :slight_smile:

I’m actually building a touring bike right now, but I suspect you are not going to have time to do that. :slight_smile: If you are looking for an out-of-the-box tourer, take a look at Soma, the Surly Long Haul trucker or the Salsa Casseroll. Get the right size, make some fit mods, grab some bags and off you go!

Hi there,

My husband and I just finished a trip around the world by bike (our first bike tour!) and we blog about practical info on our site,

Bike touring is a great way to see a place, you get such an in depth view of the landscape, the people… in a way I’ve never gotten travelling by car or train. You don’t necessarily have to camp, but camping does make things a lot cheaper. Depends on your budget and your style.

As for planning a route, the Adventure Cycling Association will give you lots of ideas and they sell great maps.

You might be able to fix up your mountain bike. Check out our experiences cycling around Holland on an old bike…

We’re going to be bringing out a free 60-page ebook on bike touring later this week too, so check back on the site. I hope it will inspire you and answer a lot of your questions. Feel free to contact me too with any specific questions.


A very good site for bicycle touring is

I have a Trek 520 (bike designed for touring). I’ve only done short loaded trips on it though. Once with a borrowed BOB trailer, and once with 4 panniers.

I’m thinking of a trip to do this year - but probably something in the 4-5 day range


I would recommend a couple of warmup trips, mostly to help you sort out what gear is useful to you and what isn’t. Do an overnight trip this weekend if you can (doesn’t matter if you have to use your old bike; just do it); if not, then definitely do an overnight next weekend. The experience will clarify your thinking immensely.

Then do another, slightly longer trip (maybe away from home ~3 nights) sometime between then and your planned departure date for the big trip, preferably on the new bike.

If you have a PDA, google maps app now has a bike path layer.

ETA: Which I just noticed was the subject of the mid-page ad. For once targeted web advertising works.

Holy :eek:! Your site is fascinating. I am very envious of your trip!

I agree with the handlebar extensions on a mountain bike. I spent a month in Utah on my mountain bike (an '87 Fisher hoo-koo-e-koo) with just the basic bar and lost some feeling in my pinkies and outer parts of my hands. Everything recovered fine, but it was unpleasant at the time. Other than that, great all-day-in-the-saddle bike. I would go for a more upright position than what a lot of mountainbikes put you in these days.

The few times I toured I found it to be the best way to see the countryside. Faster than walking, but slow enough to still immerse yourself in the surroundings.

I second the kudos on the website!

Thanks for the kind comments. We enjoy sharing info via the site. If you have any questions, just send them my way and I’ll do my best to help.

I just got back from a short dirt road bikepack in the Mojave desert. Absolutely beautiful. I remember after my first bike tour thinking that the best advice I could give someone was to go for it. Sure you can spend a lot of money on gear, and planning and that’s fine, but you can make most bikes into some kind of touring rig, and most backpacking gear will suffice. Sure, a dedicated set up will cover more miles and give you flexibility, but with the right plan and goals you can have a good run on whatever you’ve got (within reason).

Any tire recommendations for light touring? (mostly paved or crushed limestone, rare gravel). Shauble(sp?) Marathons are supposedly bulletproof, but also weigh more than most bikes (exageration)

edit: 700 x 35 size


The only thing I regretted not spending money on was a good set of mtn bike pannniers for my mtn bike trip. I used a set from a roadbike trip and the hooks for the rack didn’t hold up and I dumped my load after the first good bump. I was able to secure the panniers by lashing them to each other across the top of the rack using heavy cord, but it was always a worry. Other than that, as long as my butt was in shape, I was good to go.