Bicycle touring travel choices
Supported or non-supported?
There is a lot of adventure and independence that comes with a non-supported bike trip and some potential risk. What is your comfort level? You might try a short bike trip to test this comfort level.
If supported, you travel much faster and easier when you aren’t loaded down by gear. Knowing that your gear is waiting for you at the end of the day is a real luxury. If you break down, it’s nice to know that you aren’t stuck in the middle of nowhere.
Motel or camp?
Finding a place to camp where you feel comfortable is a daily concern. I found camping areas all over including parks, backyards, etc. I mainly stayed in Forest Service and State campgrounds. Some even had hot showers! Also, it takes time to set up camp and to repack in the morning. I stayed in a motel about once a week on my rest day. I came to prefer camping outside, though.
Solo or with friends or an organized group?
I decided to ride Xcountry before I considered these options. My thinking was that I would solo unless I found somebody to ride with. I understood that taking 10-12 weeks off work is not something everybody could swing. I checked with friends, first. There was a lot of interest but, unfortunately, no takers. Then, I advertised on the AdventureCyclist.com website. Surprisingly, I got several email responses. We exchanged ideas, routes, miles per day, etc. Meeting somebody via the internet is dubious, for sure, but it worked out pretty well. I was fortunate enough ride from Astoria, OR to Bozeman, MT with an experienced bike tourer who shared a lot of little practical tricks along the way.
Traveling with an organized group definitely has its benefits. Shared experiences and shared equipment. Also, meeting new people with similar goals and interests.
West to East?
If you live in the east it might seem logical to ride east to west. There is the convenience of starting close to where you live and where you are familiar, but there one very important thing to consider. Headwinds. Prevailing winds generally blow west to east.
I traveled West to East. Even with that, in South Dakota, I fought with very stiff head winds for several days. It wasn’t very pleasant. You definitely want to minimize head winds.
North route? South route? Central?
Personal preference reigns, here. I wanted to visit my brother in Bozeman, MT and travel through Tyrone, PA. I also had a lot of places that I wanted to visit in the north part of the USA. My route became obvious.
AdventureCyclist.com has several Xcountry routes. It’s a good place to start.
Time of year?
After I chose my route, I had to consider the time of year to travel. Obviously, going over the Rocky Mountains (or Appalachians) in January is not recommended. I decided on August to October and it worked well. In hindsight, maybe I’d leave a week or 2 earlier to take advantage of the longer days.
If you are traveling the south route, you might consider biking earlier in the year because of the deserts of the southwest. Weather, heat, tourist season, available daylight are all things to consider.