Jumping into a cross-country tour is a serious commitment with a host of tough choices to make. If it’s your first time, analysis paralysis can easily kick in and prevent or delay the trip from happening at all. We found Joseph Holway’s approach refreshing when we embarked on cross-country mission in the summer of 2014. Joseph made the NYC to LA route in record time, with a minimalist approach, and on a budget that was completely affordable. All without starving or being terribly uncomfortable. Coffee and beer were part of his daily budget. He even a couple hotel nights thrown in for good measure. All of this made us wonder, why aren’t we doing the same thing? Well we are, and it’s called the Search Brigade. These notes on touring, straight from Joseph, should help as you consider joining us this summer or planning your own adventure.
“The most important thing to know is that bicycle touring is can and should be a tangible endeavor for almost anybody. Whether you ride a local overnight or travel from coast to coast, you can likely do it with the things you own and a few key items.”
On Route Selection
“Personally, if I’m not following an established route, I use Google maps on my iPhone. I just charge it up when I’m at a gas station or taking a breaks along the way. The smaller the road, the more out of the way it is, and the more curves are all good signs. Essentially, if there is a more direct route than the one you’re taking, you’re probably making the right decision. Motorists usually take the shortest or fastest route. By consciously taking a slower option, you’re likely to see less traffic and, more often than not, have a better view.”
“You need to decide how much weight you are going to carry. On my first tour I had four large panniers holding books to read, tons of food, fly fishing gear, half a dresser of clothes, and a million spare bike parts. When I rode across the country for NYC to GSC I had refined my approach and just used a seat bag, frame bag, and a handlebar bag. You might need a rack system if you carry more than me, but I am a big fan of a ‘less is more’ mindset so frame bags are the way to go because they are lighter and more reliable. My personal choices are the Jaand Handlebar bag, the Vasacha Seat Bag, and Tangle Frame Bag both from Revelate Designs.”
On Bike Selection
“Don’t overthink this one. Dust off your old Schwinn if it’s all you got, or use your race bike, and just hit the road. I’ve been riding a Trek 520 for years.”
On Bike Maintenance
“Access to bike shops along the way makes a big impact on planning your repair kit. When riding across the country I knew I’d rarely be more than a hundred miles or so from some kind of bike shop so I left some of the essentials behind, like cables, tires, and chain links, and packed light. What I did pack is pretty much what you’d take on a normal ride: allen keys, a chain breaker, two tubes, a patch kit, a pump and chain lube.”
On Clothing & Gear
“Know the weather and what you’re getting into but don’t be afraid to maybe leave a few things behind and improvise if you’re faced with an unexpected situation. I packed the following: 2 Search and State S1-S Bibshorts, 2 Search and State S1-A Jerseys, 1 Search and State S1-J Riding Jacket, Wool Socks, REI Flash 30 sleeping bag, REI Minimalist Bivy, Exped Synmat SL7 sleeping pad, warm gloves, Search and State S1-AW Arm Warmers, and a tooth brush.”
On Where to Sleep
“I don’t stay in hotels and depending on what part of the country you’re in sleeping options will vary greatly. In the East, the South, and Midwest, campgrounds are nice, but they don’t always align with your drive to keep pedaling or stop early. I find that being nice to bartenders typically earns you a spot out back. Making friends at the grocery store could land you a spot on someone’s lawn. If these options fail, a local fire department will usually let you camp somewhere, so keep that in your back pocket. In the West and Southwest there are vast expanses of BLM and Forest Service land which offers limitless possibilities to get a few hours of rest.”
“For NYC to GSC I knew nutrition would be important over the long haul so I planned on one meal a day in a restaurant. Aside from this I survived on inexpensive calories from gas stations and grocery stores that I would pick up as needed. I really don’t ever pack much food. I also like to drink coffee and beer. All of this averaged out to about $50 a day for 21 days and I was pretty comfortable.”
Alright, now get after it! If you want to connect with Joseph, you can hit him up and see his latest adventures on Instagram @josephholway…Or better yet, join the Search Brigade and ride with him this summer – he’ll be leading a total of four weeks during the tour.
This story originally appeared on the SEARCH AND STATE blog.