1. Brooks Saddles are the best seat in the whole world to bike far distances in. They are made of leather and mold to your sit bones. If I were to give any advice about what you definitely need on a trip like that, I'd recommend investing in a Brooks Saddle. I was in zero pain the whole trip. When you sit on a bike 8 hours a day it's worth it to be as comfortable as possible.
2. Anyone who is able to ride a bike can do a trip across the country. We had a 60 year old couple on a tandem in our group and they were bad ass. Plus we came across all kinds of people along the way doing the same trip. Some were riding solo carrying their own gear, others were a husband and wife carrying their 8 year old on a recumbent bike (the daughter read many books on their trip, but could also pedal if she wanted to). There were lots of different types of riders, young and old, all doing it.
3. People just want to share their stories. Everywhere we went, from tiny two road towns in Montana, to big cities like Chicago, more than anything people wanted us to listen to their stories. It was quite fascinating. People would be interested in what we were doing, but more so they'd want to talk about themselves. This stood out to me especially in the small towns where people lived many acres apart and didn't see other people very often.
4. There is this funny and interesting optical illusion that happens when you bike up mountains. I have yet to fully figure out what it is that makes it look like the road ahead is descending when it is actually ascending. It's really trippy. Maybe it's something about the grade of the road with the mountain peaks in the background, or the effect of staring at the road for too long, I'm not sure. But several riders experienced this illusion, some to the point of getting off their bikes because they thought something was wrong with the bike. The thought was always, "but the road is going down, why is it so hard to pedal?" It's odd, and if someone can explain to me why this happens I would be stoked.
5. You can get to a point where biking 60 miles in a day is very easy. Our longest day was 120 miles and on average we biked between 80-90 miles every day. That became normal, so 60 miles and under became our easy days (though depending on the terrain it could take just as long). It was pretty cool to realize what we were capable of.
6. The part of my body that hurt the most were my hands, believe it or not. The pressure of holding the handle bars became very painful about half way across the country. Even with good gloves it was difficult to ride more than a few miles. So I bought aero bars to rest my arms in. That saved me and it became very fun to ride more aerodynamically.
7. The simple life is addicting. Living out of a backpack and riding a bike every day is pretty sweet. Once your only goal of the day is to bike to the next place and that is all you have to do, it becomes a meditation and a way of life. I remember not wanting to stop at the end of the trip, I just wanted to keep riding. I also remember feeling slightly overwhelmed after trying to adjust back to regular life where more than one thing had to get done in a day.
8. The world is really small and awesome. Seeing the country on a bike is really amazing. It's not too fast and not too slow and you meet all these really inspiring people. After accomplishing this trip I just wanted to go bike across another continent (I still want to do that). It made me feel like I could do anything. Also, I realized that no matter how crazy you think you are for doing something, there is always someone out there doing something crazier (like biking from Sweden to Everest, climbing Everest and biking back).
9. Doing something where you are totally in your body, and dependent on it everyday more than anything else, is a really cool way to learn about yourself. I became very in tune with my body and I knew exactly what I needed to keep going. For example, I knew when my body was awake and fully warmed up (20 miles in), or when I needed to stop and eat my first peanut butter sandwich on the road (also about 20 miles in). Things became a little like clock work and if anything was off I knew immediately. When your body is your engine it becomes vital to listen to it closely.
10. Laughing you way across the country is the best medicine. Most of the days I rode with my mom and we had a total blast the whole time. My strongest memory of the trip is how much we laughed along the way. Sure, there were challenges throughout the trip and crazy things that happened but everything just became a funny story after the fact. It was one of the best experiences in my life to have shared with my mother.
What have you learned on your adventures?
Leave comments below.