What You Should Know Before Pedaling the Journey of a Lifetime
Chris Thornham - There comes a point when cycling becomes far more than just a hobby. Often, the dedication to pedaling makes you want to kick it up several notches and try something extreme — like biking across the country.
While the concept may sound a bit far-fetched at first, it’s been done many times before (and is even happening right now) — sometimes even by people with no fitness or cross-country cycling experience whatsoever.
Regardless, biking across the country is an enormous challenge, and one that shouldn’t be taken on lightly. It’s more than just a long journey; it’s an adventure. There are myriad risks that exist, but for many, the rewards of the experience can make it all worth it.
Here are some pros and cons to consider before starting your adventure:
Pro — seeing the country from a whole new perspective
Looking out your window on a road trip provides some great scenery: the hills, the road, the wildlife, and those unforgettable sunsets.
Now, imagine that, but slowed down. It’s just you, your bike, and the road with no windows as barriers or Top 40 radio tunes getting stuck in your head. Sounds great, right?
Even Ernest Hemingway would be inclined to agree. He once said, “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.”
Con — the risk of accidents, injury, and illness
Biking such long distances each day can result in your body breaking down. Even the most minor injuries can prove to be debilitating, especially if they start adding up or you can’t get proper treatment.
Spending so much time on the road exposed to the elements could also lead to illness. While it may seem easy enough to just power through until you get better, overexerting yourself often makes it worse.
The road can be as unforgiving as it is unforgettable. You do have to be aware of the fact that, even if you’re completely careful, there’s a small chance that something undesirable could happen.
Pro — getting away from the daily hustle
Getting away from the daily grind (and from technology) means spending some alone time with yourself — it really allows you to clear your mind and reflect.
When it’s just you, the road, your bike, and the sound of your breath and your bike chain, the tranquility can help you work out some deep thoughts.
When you’re doing something you love that’s beneficial to your health day after day on your cross-country trip, it’s fairly easy to not be bothered by the tedium of everyday life when you’re soaking in so many new experiences.
Con — homesickness
Being unplugged and on the road also means you’re going to spend long stretches of time on your own. And while it can be a wonderful escape, after a certain period of time, just a man and his thoughts can become lonely.
Pro — the satisfaction of completing the journey
Cycling across the country is an adventure that will likely test your physical limits, patience, and commitment. After you check this journey off of your bucket list, make it back home, and reflect on your accomplishment, you’ll have a whole new array of stories to share with the people you missed (and to reminisce about for yourself).
Should you do it?
My stance has always been “to each their own.” After reviewing the risks and rewards of the journey, if you decide you’re ready to embark on the adventure, figure out a timeline and pace appropriate for you.
Some cyclists participate in the Race Across America. These highly tuned athletes complete roughly 360 miles per day to complete the 3,000-mile race in about eight days.
For the rest of us, there are far more reasonable ways to plan your trip. The journey can be taken on in the span of three or four months and average a workable 25 to 33 miles per day.
If you do decide that a cross-country cycling trip is both doable and desirable, make sure you plan your trip down to a T so you aren’t left high and dry.
Pack the essentials and extras, make sure you have funds and someone to call in case of emergencies, and ensure that you’re utilizing the proper riding technique to reduce the risk of an unnecessary injury.
Ultimately, this trip is going to test the bounds of your physical ability and mental commitment. Without the proper preparation, your dream journey could go downhill fast. That being said, there is no substitute for the experiences you’ll live out on the road, and you’ll probably be better off for having done it.
Chris Thornham is a co-founder of FLO Cycling, which engineers aerodynamic cycling wheels. The company uses computational fluid dynamics software to develop its wheels and verifies its results in a wind tunnel. Less than three years after launching, the company has sold 15,000 wheels to customers in 60 countries. Chris enjoys learning, triathlon training, skiing, hiking with his dog, and spending time with family.