What do you Pack for a Cross-Country Bike Trip?

Brian Richardson

When people hear about this trip, one question they tend to ask is: What do you take with you? We will have absolutely no vehicle support, which means that everything we need has to fit into two panniers that attach to the backs of our bikes. When deciding what to pack, we have to consider the utility of an item versus the weight it will add to our bikes. A second clean t-shirt? No way. A full jar of peanut butter? Absolutely.

Here’s a working list of what I’m packing:

Things for Biking

  • 1 bike (Surly Long Haul Trucker)

  • 1 helmet

  • 2 rear panniers (Ortliebs)

  • 2 bike water bottles

  • 1 saddle bag

  • 1 bike lock

  • 2 pairs of bike shorts

  • 1 bike jersey

  • 1 pair of finger-less bike gloves

  • 1 bottle of sunscreen

  • 6+ packets of chamois butter

  • 2 spare tire tubes

  • 1 bike tool

  • 2 spare spokes

  • 1 mirror

  • 1 bike lock

  • 1 rear light

  • 1 front light

  • 1 first aid kit

  • Other bike maintenance gear that will be shared between the four of us: spare tire, bike pump, Leatherman tool, brake cables, brake pads, chain lube, maps, spoke tool, tire patch kit, spare chain, spoke tool

Things for Sleeping

  • 1 tent

  • 1 sleeping bag (20 degree)

  • 1 sleeping pad

  • 1 headlamp

  • 1 pair wool socks

  • 1 pair warm tights

  • 1 short sleeve shirt

  • 1 warm long sleeve layer

  • 1 down jacket

  • 1 rain jacket

  • 1 warm hat

  • 2 pairs of underwear

Things for Eating

  • 1 stove

  • 1 pot

  • 1 fuel canister

  • Food (rice, beans, couscous, oatmeal, bagels, peanut butter; pretty much anything we can get our hands on)

  • 1 bowl

  • 1 spork

Things for when we are not biking, eating, or sleeping

  • 1 pair of crocs

  • Toiletries (this is pretty much just a toothbrush and some toothpaste)

  • 1 book

  • 1 journal

  • Other items that will be shared between the four of us: frisbee, deck of cards, camera)

As you can tell from the way the gear is divided, most of what we’ll be doing is biking, sleeping, and eating. Sounds like a pretty fun trip.

The Route: Northern Tier

This next post is from Evan Malinchock. Evan was in charge of planning our route across the US.

Ever since Brian proposed the bike trip to me I have been fixated on finding the perfect bike route with constant beauty, diverse landscapes, and open (friendly) roads. After weeks of research and an almost obsessive use of google street view, I settled on the Adventure Cycling Northern Tier and Great Lakes Route. This route is over 4,200 miles long, with more than 200k feet of climbing, through eleven states and two countries.

The ride starts off in Olympic National Park in Washington just outside the town of La Push and follows the US and Canadian border (until it crosses the line in Ontario) to the shores and peaks of Acadia National Park off the coast of Maine. National Parks seem to be a bit of a theme for the entire bike trip where they are not just bookends for the ride, but constant points of interests. We will be encountering parks such as Glacier Ntnl., Theodore Roosevelt Ntnl., and Niagra Falls Ntnl. (on both sides). The beauty of the earth will be constantly panoramic for every pedal stroke of our grueling ride.

Bike Map.PNG

Another massive benefit of The Northern Tier/Great Lakes ride is the comfortable weather and a vast network of bike trails. Unlike many other bike routes, there will be very few desert days with long, flat, open-road stretches of brutal sun. We are going to be gifted (knock on wood) with miles of tree tunnels and lake shores on greenways.

So summed up, our trip will be long, difficult, fun, beautiful, and gratifying, these adjectives are everything that you look for in a successful cross country bike trip.

Meet the Long Haul Trucker

Here’s a post that Ed Billings wrote in 2015 about the Surly Long Haul Trucker. Since we are using the same bikes this time around, I figured it would be worth re-posting.

It's time to admit it: I'm a bit of a bike geek.


So a good deal of late night research time has been going into what would be best bike for the BikeLoud tour. One bike keeps leaping to the top of the list: Surly's Long Haul Trucker (the LHT). Here's a typical review from an adventure blogger:

"If you want to know what I think of my Long Haul Trucker than consider this: we travel all over the world and when people ask me what I miss most from home I always answer “my bike”, then Kathleen proceeds to roll her eyes…

So, If you are in the market for a new touring bike then take a look at the legendary Surly Long Haul Trucker. This bad boy was built for the sole purpose of carrying you and all your goodies comfortably and efficiently. The bike sets the standards for what a touring bike should be, affordable, reliable, and most of all, a blast to ride."

Cyclists are really passionate about this bike. What makes the LHT so good? Allow me to geek out a bit:

1. The LHT has a really long wheel base and a low bottom bracket. What does this mean? Stability at high speed with heavy loads. That's really important. You don't want a bike that starts shaking during 40MPH descents because it's not built for the task. The LHT will stick to the road like glue.

2. Got to love the low gearing. The LHT comes with the lowest gears available, which will allow the crew to spin up those steep mountain grades in a seated position, all day long if needed.

3. It's a steel frame. There's a saying in the cycling world: Steel is Real. A high quality steel frame soaks up the bumps in the road, is a pleasure to ride, and with proper care and feeding it will last forever. It's the standard, and the LHT's got it.

4. It comes with 26" 36 spoke wheels. Again, a bit of a bike geek detail, but 26" wheels are slightly smaller than a typical road bike wheel (700C). This makes them stronger and less likely to break spokes. Don't want to be stuck on the side of the road fixing a broken spoke, day after day? Go with a 26" 36 spoke wheel. They are also more readily available in remote areas if replacement is needed.

5. It's got bar end shifters. Bar end shifters are super reliable. This eliminates a big mechanical risk on the road.

So the bottom line is the Long Haul Trucker is the choice for this adventure, as it will provide the safest, most reliable ride for the scouts.