There are a variety of reasons why people start traveling. Maybe you’re tired of routine. Maybe you want to get out there and experience LIFE. Maybe you lost your job, you’re depressed, or the 9-5 job just isn’t cutting it for you. Maybe you want freedom. Everyone travels for different reasons and I’m not a therapist so I cannot sit here and say that running away from it all will cure your problems because it didn’t for me. But, I will say, getting out there and experiencing the world around you is the most fulfilling experience ever. Whether you’re sleeping in the dirt, or you encounter the hardships of the road, you’re relying on yourself, you’re out in it and each day is different. Maybe you hitch a ride with the owner of an illegal snakeskinning ring. Maybe you end up on a Meth Lord’s couch who just finished his sentence in prison. Maybe you have a one night stand with a milf. Maybe you ride free into the sunset on the high line cruising through America’s Cascade Tunnel, the longest tunnel in America. Maybe you hitch a ride across the country and sleep under the stars. Maybe you sell all your possessions after losing your job and set out on a bicycle tour. That is what I did and it worked out in the end because I’m still traveling.
If you’re goal is to travel and make a living off a travel blog, think again, as even with dedication and work, this takes time, money and skill and the more you travel, the less time you have to maintain a blog. But, if you’re thinking of trying something new, but you don’t want the footloose lifestyle of wandering by foot, thumb and train, then set out on a bicycle tour and use this guide to help you plan your first trip. I recommend bike touring to all new travelers out there.
Bicycle Touring Gear
Alright, so you want to go on a bicycle tour, but you’re unsure of what you need? Well, this is Bicycle Touring 101, much like the sections of Train Hopping 101 and Hitchhiking 101, the gear is pretty much the same, however you’ll need a bicycle of your liking with a rear rack and rear panniers, along with about 4 to 5 extra tubes, tire levers, a portable bike pump, extra chain, extra brake pads, and extra tires. You can check out the list of Bicycle Touring Gear to see the similarities of gear compared to train hopping and hitchhiking. It’s the same with the addition of gear. The pitfall of bike touring is it is much harder to hop a train if you’re trying to get somewhere that is not a stopped open boxcar or a stopped gondola. So really you can only travel by bike or hitchhiking. I have not tried a folding bicycle yet, but that might eliminate this problem by allowing me to travel more freely on a wider selection of freight cars, but regardless, it’s looking like the lightest one is still about 20 to 23 pounds.
Keep in mind you can travel however you want to travel. If you check out my gear list you’ll see that much of my gear I purchased at the start of my travels I STILL HAVE NOW. I’m a dirt traveler. The more you travel, the less you work, so you need to hold onto your gear. My bike is since in someone’s closet, but all of my other essentials for wandering around are in my pack because I’m on a low budget and wander between seasonal work. This does not mean this gear list is a comprehensive list of WHAT YOU SHOULD HAVE, it’s just a mere suggestion from a more minimalist standpoint. You could travel with even less if you really wanted to, I’ve seen people do it, especially some of the Dirty Kids out there. However, if you have more of a budget and are looking for more expensive gear, and a more reliable bike for longer bike touring, then you might want to check out this guide here for information on more luxurious bicycle and camping gear. Head on over to CycleTrekkers and check out there gear for more low budget luxury travel. In the end, it’s all preference. I have traveled many different ways, hitchhiking, freight hopping, bicycle touring, bus, plane, etc. and my three lists of gear are what work for me. Use a combination of lists to find out what works for you on your travels.
Adventure Cycling Association
Bicycle Touring Route Downloads
So firstly, if you are looking to do long scenic tours across America on your bicycle then I recommend checking out the Adventure Cycling Association ACA Routes KML files and using GPS Visualizer to convert them to GPS files so you can import them into Backcountry Navigator on your Android Smartphone or another similar GPS application of your liking. If this is too much work you can pay them the $40 fee to access the website and access the download sections which offer the files in GPX.
Now that you have some routes, import them on your phone, and you’ll notice the routes have Waypoints with food, campground locations, hotels, motels, etc. I really only utilized the food and campground locations and even still, I primarily used the campgrounds to shower, fill my water, charge my electronics and I slept elsewhere for free. You can do the same if you so choose. Other places I refueled at were some of the local churches that had extra food or random people I met on the road who offered me it. Talk about your journey, not many people ever do this in their lifetime, they want to help you get to where you’re going, just tell them a story or two.
Overview of Maps for Bicycle Touring Around America
Overview of My Bicycle Tour
Where to Sleep on a Bicycle Tour
WarmShowers – WarmShowers is like the couchsurfing of bicycle touring. If you’re looking for a place to crash for a night you can use this app which is available for your smartphone to find other cyclists in the area whom have a couch you can crash on or a yard to pitch your tent. I have never personally used it. I would rather camp outside under the stars, but it is an option.
CouchSurfing – is another friendly site where you can crash on hosts couches. I have personally used it one time over my five years of intermittent travel and found it to be accommodating. It’s pretty cliquey, and hard to get responses back if you are randomly roaming around from place to place, but if you find yourself in an area for a few days it’s worth checking out.
Stealth Camping – A lot of times you can pretty much camp wherever you end up for the day, just make sure you’re off in the woods, away from civilization, or you can even camp on the outskirts of a campground if you’re low on money. I did this plenty of times. I’ve found it to be safer to camp in the wildness or alongside roads in a bivy sack out of sight rather than around people who might harm me or steal my belongings.
Blog Posts and Photography
I have created a photo diary of bicycle touring from Delaware to Colorado for you to navigate and see the possibilities of the road and what it offers. You can see just as much as I did for cheap, if you choose to go this route.
Journals from my Bicycle Tour
This is a small diary of blog entries from my 2013 journey across America on my bicycle, my first experience on the road with misfit travel.
Day 53 – Breckenridge Jerbs
Day 52 – Prospector Campground – Sleeping in a freezing bathroom during a government shutdown
Day 50 – Theo, Weed Plants, and Trazadone – Idaho Springs
Day 49 – Denver with a Bud – Denver, Colorado
Day 48 – Welcome to Colorful Colorado – Eads, Colorado
Day 47 – A Day With the UK -Tribune, Kansas
Day 46 – Tommy, Serg, Grain and Beer -Dighton, Kansas
Day 45 – Feelin’ Lean in Bazine – Bazine, Kansas
Day 44 – The 120 Mile Day – Larned, Kansas
Day 43 – Newton and the Cowboy – Newton, Kansas
Day 42 – Eureka!!! – Eureka, Kansas
Day 41 – Feed Silo Climbin’ Toronto Lake – Toronto Lake, Kansas
Day 40 – Pittsburg not Pittsburgh – Pittsburg, Missouri
Day 38 – Sleepin’ Under the Marriott -Springfield, Missouri
Day 37 – Radio Tower Climbin’ – Hartville, Missouri
Day 36 – Dolomite Caves and Vipers – Houston, Missouri
Day 35 – The Ozark Mountains and Alley Springs – Alley Springs, Missouri
Day 34 – Al’s Place – Farmington, Missouri
Day 33 – Long Hilly Roads – Farmington, Missouri
Day 32 – The Home of Popeye – Chester, Illinois
Day 31 – Couchsurfin’ in Carbondale – Carbondale, Illinois
Day 30 – Sam Dale Lake, The Prairie State – Sam Dale Lake State Park, Illinois
Day 29 – Wanderin’ a Blast Site…Kaboom – Vincennes, Indiana
Day 28 – Changin’ Tubes for Vincennes – Vincennes, Indiana
Day 27 – Hungover on Helios – Bloomington, Indiana
Day 26 – A Key to Howe Street – Bloomington, Indiana
Day 25 – Rollin’ Outta Indy
Day 24 – Climbin’ Girders on the Monon
Day 23 – Bond…Trev Bond
Day 22 – Down and Out with Fresh Cantaloupe
Day 21 – Breakin’ 1000 – Clarksville, Indiana
Day 20 – Lost, Naked, and Cold – New Haven, Kentucky
Day 19 – Jimmy the Kingpin Meth Lord – Springfield, Kentucky
Day 17 – Booneville Billy the Ex-Marine
Day 16 – Who Let the Dogs Out – Hindman, Kentucky
Day 15 – Breaks Interstate Park
Day 14 – Pizza and Tryin’ Not to Hurl – Elk’s Garden Methodist Church in Virginia
Day 13 – Windin’ Roads and Flat Tires – Damascus, Virginia
Day 12 – Sweet Tomato Sammies – Rural Retreat State Park in Virginia
Day 11 – Gettin’ Caught in the Bush – Radford, Virginia near Claytor Lake
Day 10 – Wattstull Inn – Buchanan, Virginia
Day 9 – Knee Pains in the Shenandoah
Day 8 – Sippin’ on Bold Rock Hard Cider
Day 7 – Pain is Weakness Leaving the Body – Charlottesville, Virginia
Day 6 – Campin’ in a Trailer – Culpeper, Virginia
Day 5 – Gettin’ Tipsy at World of Beer
Day 5 – Digger and the Gang – Woodbridge, Virginia
Day 4 – Burke Lake Park