Bicycle! Bicycle!
February 28, 2005 4:19 PM   Subscribe

I'm thinking about riding my bicycle from San Francisco to New York City next summer. Has anyone here done it? What should I know? What routes do you recommend? On which highways and interstates are bicycles allowed? What special things should I see? How do I build a solar-powered charger for a cell phone? I'd spend this year planning, training, and saving money, so I have some time to prepare.
posted by fandango_matt to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Sounds fantastic. Start with the American Discovery Trail.

This google search seems to contain some good links to journals and commercial tours. Most of these are charity-oriented.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 4:23 PM on February 28, 2005

Some cyclers have posted their entire trip online. One website I really loved years ago was by Fred McClelland, who rode from Los Angeles to Baltimore. His writing style and attention to detail impressed me more than any other cross-country cycling log, possibly with the exception of Wade Anderson's trip (going crosswise from Florida to Alaska). Lots of good info on how to handle sticky highway & road situations, and what the daily grind is like. I'd imagine there's better and newer trip logs online... I'd love to read them, but they're harder to find now that the net is so huge.
posted by rolypolyman at 4:30 PM on February 28, 2005

A good friend of mine did this, when she was 18 or 19. She motorcycled from Sacramento to DC, ran out of money, worked for a few months, bought a bicycle and came back to California through the south. I know she'd be happy to tell you about her trip; email me and I'll pass on your note to her.
posted by luriete at 4:37 PM on February 28, 2005

Thanks for the link to the comic. I recommended these folks in a previous thread. The special things you should see is how kind people can be to strangers. Every on line bike trip web site that I have ever seen and every solo cross country rider I have ever talked to told the same sort of stories. The guy who insisted that they come for dinner. The diner where they were told that someone else had paid. The bike shop that rebuilt their rear wheel while they waited. Have fun.
posted by fixedgear at 5:05 PM on February 28, 2005

I'm sure you know, America doesn't live on highways. That and Zen should help you effectively plan your route.
posted by sled at 5:23 PM on February 28, 2005

There are a number of ready-made solar cell phone chargers on the market, but somthing like this might be easier to pack; and you could recharge at night.
posted by mexican at 5:52 PM on February 28, 2005

Here's another trip diary I have bookmarked. I also second the link to Adventure Cycling--a trans-am ride has always been a fantasy of mine, and they sell detailed maps for northern/central/southern-tier crossings.
posted by adamrice at 6:07 PM on February 28, 2005

Cool -- thanks adamrice -- that will keep me busy!
posted by rolypolyman at 6:26 PM on February 28, 2005

If you want solar recharging in style, get the Voltaic Backpack. The shoulder straps even look decent enough for a long trip.
posted by falconred at 7:13 PM on February 28, 2005

My brother biked from SF to DC one hot summer and the main thing I remember him telling me was that he had to shave his legs. So be sure to shave your legs so when you fall the skin doesn't rip off like velcro.
posted by TheGoldenOne at 8:03 PM on February 28, 2005

Joel Spolsky did Virginia to Orgegon and has extensive postings about his experience including links to a place that has preplanned routes across the US.
posted by mmascolino at 8:27 PM on February 28, 2005

fandango_matt, if you decide to do this, you won't regret it. I've ridden coast to coast twice. Both tours were unsupported and done as inexpensively as possible, relying on tents, cook gear and lots of bulk-purchased starch. Both were distinct high points in my existence to date.

Right after college, three friends and I rode from Virginia to Oregon, towing B.O.B trailers behind converted mountain bikes. In 2002, again finding myself between things, I set off on a solo trip from Bar Harbor, Maine to Anacortes, WA, and on down the coast to San Diego. This time I went with panniers and a Surly cyclecross bike converted into a touring rig (a much better approach).

Long-distance touring really puts you in contact with people - that was a highlight for me. Rolling into tiny towns on a comically laden bike is a perfect conversation starter. You'll get to be a deeply involved, albeit transient, participant in the lives of Americans of all stripes. People are amazingly friendly - offers of food and shelter are frequent, and should you ever have a problem you can't fix you'll have folks lined up to give you a hand.

Definitely consider using Adventure Cycling route maps - they're the best way to tour in the U.S. Don't ride on highways and interstates unless you ABSOLUTELY have to - they're a tremendous buzz-kill, insanely dangerous and often illegal to ride on. There are lots of other ways to get from point to point.

You won't have to train as much as you might think in order to have a great trip. Provided you set realistic mileage goals for yourself during the first two-three weeks and allow sufficient time off for rest, you'll train as you go. Four to six weeks out, you'll have bizarrely hypertrophied leg muscles and the ability to ride a hundred miles without breaking a sweat.

I'd be happy to answer any questions you have as you're thinking about and/or preparing for your trip - just email me.
posted by killdevil at 9:55 PM on February 28, 2005

Watch the film True Fans before you go, for inspiration.
posted by bondcliff at 5:47 AM on March 1, 2005

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