How to Make Cycling Across the U.S. Look Easy

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The open road is impossible to resist, and if you give yourself enough time to prepare, you can make an epic, once-in-a-lifetime bike journey look like a breeze.

1. Find the Right The Bike

This is a heavy-duty journey, so the bike with pegs your mom got you when you were 14 isn’t going to cut it. If you can afford one, a serious touring bike will make your pedal-fueled adventure much easier. These bikes are built for the long haul with durable frames, strong wheels, and appropriate gearing.

2. Or Modify Your Current Bike

If you don’t want to take on the expense of a touring bike, you can tweak your current bike to make it work. Road bikes may be fast, but their thin wheels will ensure that you spend more time on the side of the road performing maintenance than on it. Mountain bikes are more durable, but you’ll end up pining for the nimbleness of a sleeker model during long stretches. However, adjustments and modifications can be made to these wheels and frames to speed them up for long hauls.

3. Pack Wisely

You aren’t cruising to the store for milk here, so you can’t just throw your keys and cellphone into a fanny pack. You’re going to want to install pannier racks to the back and front of your bike. These can handle a lot of gear—a tent, clothes, emergency equipment—and will essentially become part of the bike. This is important for handling, as a trailer attachment can be unwieldy.

4. Learn Quick Fixes

Chances are you’ll have to play mechanic along the way, so make sure you bring an air pump, tools, and spare tire tubes. You can buy puncture repair kits as well, which will come in handy when you encounter the inevitable roads that aren’t smooth as silk.

5. Get Your Body Ready

You can have the nicest gear in the world, but you won’t make it out of your driveway if you aren’t physically prepared. There are plenty of 70-mile days ahead of you, so make sure you can handle that kind of haul. Take at least a month to get into peak biking shape before you really hit the road. Also, go on a few long training rides with all your gear packed. You’ll be adding dozens of pounds, and peddling a loaded-up bike is a whole different animal than the unencumbered sleek machine you’re used to.

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