No matter what your cycling experience level may be, taking a bike ride across America can be somewhat of an intimidating adventure proposition.
When considering the type of cycling adventure you want, it’s important to understand two types of cross country bike rides.
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There are supported bicycle tours that provide somewhat of a controlled atmosphere for you as the cyclist. These tours are often guided tours by professional companies that help with the journey planning and logistics and provide a support vehicle that follows the cyclists.
Supported bicycle tours often prove a great option for first time riders or those who simply want to enjoy the rigors and overall experience of the ride while eliminating some variables of uncertainty and complexity that come with self-contained bike rides.
For other cyclist who want a rougher, more “off-the-grid” adventure, self-contained bike rides give you the ultimate control and independence. In a self-contained tour, you carry your “home” on your bike. Food, shelter, water, tools, toiletries, etc.
As for determining which type of ride is ‘better’ for you, it will totally depends on your personality, desire, and cycling ability. Some enjoy the freedom of a solo, self-contained ride while others like the organization and security of a supported tour.
Both options provide a great way to bike across America. Here are some of the differences between a self-contained bike ride and a supported bicycle tour to help you determine which is ideal for the adventure you have in mind.
Supported Bike Tours Across America
- Schedule – often a supported ride is dictated by a predetermined schedule. The journey doesn’t allow for much leeway when it comes to taking off days when tired or hanging out an extra day in a cool town.
- Cost – supported tours are a service, therefore they have a price. Many cyclists pay upwards of $5,000 for a service to support their bike ride across America.
- Speed – a supported tour often travels faster because of the expectations of ‘keeping up to the pack’ as well as…
- Lighter Bike – supported tours also travel faster because the bikes are lighter. Support vehicles carry your gear from destination to destination which means you only have to carry the bare essentials (snacks, water, tire tubes, etc.) for the day’s ride.
- Meals provided – often up to 2-3 meals per day are included in the supported tour with the commissary vehicle delivering the food right to the route.
- Itinerary – guided tours feature an itinerary, which is nice to know when planning for the places you’ll see and experience. Although the itinerary doesn’t leave much room for straying off the beaten path and exploring. You’ll likely be cycling with others, and the others may not have the same interests as you. A planned, supported tour will need to appeal to all riders, since all are paying customers.
- Up to 14 more riders – one of the great benefits of an organized cross-country bike trip is the inclusion of othre cyclists. Tours often include up to 14 riders which is excellent for companionship and camaraderie.
- Bike repair experience– with additional riders and a support vehicle, your bike is more likely to stay running based on the experienced repair skills and advanced tools that come with a larger group and a van that can cary spare parts.
Self-Contained Bike Trip Across America
- Make own schedule – Self-contained tours let you explore the country on your own schedule, seeing the attractions that suit your own interests and pace.
- Dictate cost – whether you want to camp out in the woods many nights to save money or eat a delicious steak dinner with a bottle of wine, you determine your expenses on self-contained tour. You can make a it a cheap adventure or expensive adventure, depending on your tastes. For most budget conscious cyclists, the self contained bike tour is the way to go to keep costs low to bike across America.
- Set your own pace – when biking across America, some days you just don’t have your mojo. Sometimes pedaling light or even taking a day off can benefit the adventure experience.
- Carry your own gear – In a self-contained tour, you carry all of your gear. This can be great because you are independent, but the added weight on your bike from having to carry your own clothes, gear, camping supplies, bike equipment, tools ,etc. will slow you down.
- Finding meals and sleeping provisions – one thing about making your own schedule is that you are also responsible for finding your own sleeping arrangements; which some people like and others loathe. There are many campsites in America and plenty of restaurants and stores, but they aren’t always easy to find and may be off your path.
- You can cycle solo – Many people make the cross country bike ride by themselves as a vision quest of sorts. A self-contained bicycle tour will let you enjoy some solitude, and you can be as alone or social as you’d like.
- Responsible for keeping your own bike on road – those who do the self-contained bike tour across America must be adept at fixing their own bike. Be prepared to make on the spot repairs or hitchhike / call a cab to the nearest bike shop for repairs.