Taking my bike x-country; we're both riding the bus.
March 9, 2010 11:47 AM   Subscribe

Trying new things! Two week, cross-country (and back) adventure on Greyhound. Level of difficulty: with a bike.

Right now the plan is for us (friend and I, both mid-20s gals) to get 15 day Greyhound Discovery passes and go from Nashville to Portland in late August. We'll do some couchsurfing and sightseeing to break up the massive amounts of bus-riding involved. I'm... okay with that idea.

Then I hit upon the thought of taking bicycles along on the trip for mobility, independence, and exercise. That got me really excited.

I'm new to both long distance bus-riding and cycling, but it sounds reasonable to buy a beater (~$100) on craigslist, spend between now and August getting familiar with it, make a soft carrying case for "luggage mode", and assemble/disassemble the bike when we stop in a city for anything more than a couple hours.

Is this possible? Realistic?

What else should I be considering?
posted by itesser to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The biggest problem I see with your plan is that your 'beater' may not be able to withstand the kinds of abuses that sort of transport might heap on it. If you're a decent mechanic, you might be able to ensure that all the cables are in top-notch condition, and threads on pedals are okay (not frozen/stripped); but have ever watched how luggage is handled on a bus? They'll be tossing heavy suitcases into your soft cased bikes - and I just dunno...
For me, it adds an unnecessary level of complexity.
posted by dbmcd at 11:50 AM on March 9, 2010

When it's on the bottom of the pile, it'll get squished by other luggage and the wheels may be irreparably damaged by getting squished... Unless you're on a really low budget I don't think a "$100" bike would be worth riding between now and august. Have you considered a 'good' bike and something like a Trico Iron Case?
posted by thewalrus at 11:51 AM on March 9, 2010

I'd say: folding bike and hard case.
posted by the jam at 12:05 PM on March 9, 2010

bike rental? just locally, for a day at a time?
research ahead where to get one in your stops. you'd spend about $100 in two weeks, it'd save a ton of hassle, and you'd be riding a decent bike.

definitely get a good bike for use around home, great fun, y'know. but don't throw it on the bus.
posted by gijsvs at 12:06 PM on March 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Folding bikes? I hate riding them but if you're just covering small, flat distances, you'll save yourself nightmarish amounts of packing (and you can bring them on the bus and put them in the overheads).
posted by zvs at 12:17 PM on March 9, 2010

Besides the mechanical issues (a 'beater' holding up to the stress of a bus trip), there is this from Greyhound's Baggage Policy website:

Bicycles can be accepted as baggage only if they are in a cardboard box designed for bicycles and are subject to the maximum charge ($30 plus GST) regardless of the distance traveled.

I have never checked a bicycle with Greyhound, but I have with other bus companies and they were pretty strict about their policies (which were similar to this one). Seems to me that there are pretty large logistical problems (i.e. carrying around a 'cardboard box designed for bicycles' while you are sightseeing) created by this policy. The exorbitant fee, which I am assuming you would have to pay each time you checked your bicycle back in after an afternoon of riding around town, doesn't help either (though that might be covered by your Discovery pass?).

If you really want to carry a bicycle with you, the jam has the best solution: as long as you can't distinguish between your folding bicycle's hard case and a normal suitcase you should avoid any bureaucratic nonsense regarding Greyhound's bicycle policy (but you might want to check that first with your local Greyhound agent).

Other options: renting bicycles at various destinations (would require a bit of planning, might end up costing more than $100), bringing longboards or scooters instead (would require knowing how to ride one, not as versatile), or just skipping the Greyhound idea altogether and going on a two week bicycle trip (which could be an amazing experience but wouldn't get you to Portland and back).
posted by soy bean at 12:27 PM on March 9, 2010

Dang, someone beat me to the folding bike suggestion. Amazon's got some for around $100, and a less dorky-looking folding mountain bike for just over $200.

Disassembling a bike is a real pain, and I've found that I always screw the bike up a little more every time that I assemble it. Nthing that a beater off Craigslist may not stand up well to this trip.
posted by _cave at 12:27 PM on March 9, 2010

Came in to say don't waste your time/money on a beater bike; you won't enjoy riding it and it'll break when you need it not to. Spend $250-300 and get a decent used bike w/good components that'll last you, that mechanics will enjoy working on if you ever do need work done on it, that parts will be readily available for. I like the idea of a hard-case but they are not cheap, for sure; maybe buy, use for the trip then sell on Craigslist or eBay?

Anyways, cheap bikes just aren't a good idea, IMExperience.

My $0.02

Have fun!
posted by dancestoblue at 4:15 PM on March 9, 2010

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