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Roads Less Traveled
The best way to start a cross-country bicycle trip is to pretend you're not doing it.

Convince yourself you are embarking on a series of day trips. It will do no good to anticipate the Rockies while still smelling the salt air of the Atlantic, or to think about the East if leaving from the West.

One rest stop to another, one day at a time, one state before the next. That's the essential mind game. It will all add up to a journey exposing you to staggering landscapes, the kindness of strangers and abilities you didn't know you had.

Many who bicycle recreationally dream of going the distance. Few do it, largely because of the time commitment. You need close to three months -- more if you want to smell the roses. That's why cross-country cyclists usually fall into two categories -- those taking time off before college, and those whose kids have just gone off to college. Getting that much time in prime working and family-raising years is tough for others.

Once you set aside the time, you must overcome the myths and make a plan. Here are some tips.


A few thousand dollars will do if you rough it. Plan on $4,000 to $5,000 if you hope to spend most nights in a (cheap) motel. Don't skimp on the bicycle; count on $1,200 at least, on top of trip costs, for a genuine touring model.


You don't need to be Lance Armstrong. Although I commute regularly on a bicycle, 40 minutes or more a day, I hadn't ridden more than 50 miles in a single day before I crossed the country last summer. Nor had I ever done two long rides back to back.

So I hurt more than fitter bicyclists at first. But I felt stronger by the day and found my rhythm within two weeks. Ideally, though, train beforehand and do some rides loaded down with everything you'll take.

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