This past summer, Pedal Power employee and resident Super-Star, Peter, rode across the country to benefit some great charities. He was kind enough to share some of his experience and offer some great, first-hand advice:
Every now and then an opportunity arises to do something amazing. For me, it was a chance to ride my bike for 73 days from Providence, RI to Half Moon Bay, CA. My summer was not only about riding my bicycle but it was a time to give back. With the help of the non-profit organization Bike and Build, myself and 29 other young adults pedaled 4000 miles for affordable housing. We stopped along the way to volunteer with several Habitat for Humanity chapters. It was the most rewarding experience of my life, the highs definitely outweighed the lows. Long distance cycling is challenging but with a reliable bike and a little planning anyone can ride on their own cycling adventure.
Before you first embark on a trip like this, you’ll want to make sure you have the best bike; and for me the best bike is the most comfortable bike. My bike is a Surly Long Haul Trucker; its steel frame rides smoother than anything else on the road and can carry a lot of cargo. Long distance touring is not a race. It’s all about having fun. Some steps to having the best bike are:
GET A BIKE FITTING- those little pains in your hands, stiffness in your neck, and soreness around your knees will multiply with each day on the bike. No matter how much you love riding a bike, there can be many issues that will arise after those long days on the saddle. For me it was 5-15 hours every day.
BIKE TUNE UP- nothing can be more frustrating than a skipping chain. A properly tuned drive-train will make your bike feel like new again. While a mechanic is working, have them take a look at your bike to inspect parts for wear. A bicycle chain should be replaced every 1200-1500 miles. It’s a good idea to replace your cables at that time to have silky smooth shifting again.
DURABLE TIRES- These guys let you roll almost everything and will cut down on the number of flats you get. My favorite are the Bontrager Race Lite Hard Case tires, it took hitting a piece of angle iron in Indiana to cut through their durable casing (the angle iron also completely ruined my rim in the process).
PROPER CLOTHING- pre-touring I would have told you that all you need are cut off jeans and a deep-v tee, but cycling clothing is designed to keep you cool and comfortable. Nice shorts can be expensive when you need to get multiple pairs, but the more expensive ones not only fit better but also last longer and save your backside on those rough country roads. Be sure to carry layers with you, going across Nevada the temperature was 45 in the morning and topped out over 110 in the afternoon.
SPARE PARTS/KNOWLEDGE- Pedal Power runs a bicycle mechanic course twice a year that’ll teach you everything you need to know about the mechanics of your bike. Along the trip we had to repair snapped chains and replace snapped cables, knowing how to do this is the difference of sitting on the side of the road sad or having fun. Knowledge isn’t everything though, you’ll want to have spare tubes, a derailleur hanger, extra cables, and spokes to make sure you can fix almost any issue you might have.
With a little bit of training and knowledge, you too can do something amazing! There is no greater feeling than the one you get when you’ve reached your end point. There are many highs riding across the country and some lows thanks to good old Mother Nature, but with the best bike you too can have the ride of your life.