American History Bike Tour

40+ American History Sites 22 Revolutionary & Civil War battlefields 16 states (17 if you count DC) 8 President homes 2,000+ miles of Route 66 4,200+ total miles 400+ hours in the saddle

 

After nearly a decade in NYC and set on applying to business school in late 2015 — I’ve since been accepted to Duke Fuqua — I took a huge gamble and left my job in the summer of 2015, moved out of NYC, and tackled a dream I knew would be a once in a lifetime adventure.

Data
Time on Bike 438+ hours
Total Mileage 4,200+
Avg. Miles/Day 44.4
Avg. Speed 10.1mph
Max Speed 36.8mph
Flat Tires 11
Bike Tumbles/Close Calls 1
Hitchhiked 3
Roadkill Count Off the charts
Stayed w/ Warmshowers 18.9%
Camped 36.9%
AirBnB/Motel 44.2%
Sunny Days 80.5%
Rainy Days 19.5%
Avg. Start Time 9:05 AM
Avg. End Time 5:07 PM
Weight
Alex Weight Start 156.6 lbs
Alex Weight End 155.4 lbs
Naked Bike Weight 32.8 lbs
Water Weight 10.3 lbs
Packs Weight (shed a lot) 59.6 lbs
Full Loaded Bike Weight (including packs + water) 102.7 lbs
Full Loaded Bike Weight + Alex Weight 259.3 lbs

 

Some highlights of the trip include: camping at Gettysburg on July 4th, sleeping on the floor of a bike shop, large meals (12 eggs for lunch, 24 wings for dinner), a child remarking on how bad I smell in line at Burger King, spending a rainy night in a Virginia farmhouse with a family who invited the neighbors over for poetry and guitars in celebration of hosting me, sleeping in a church gym in eastern Kentucky, turning 30 years old as I crossed the continental divide, and following the Grant vs. Lee duel on my bike through Richmond, Petersburg, Lee’s retreat, and the surrender at Appomattox, which became my favorite site because of what it represents: grace in victory, dignity in defeat.

A map showing where I slept each night along my route, along with a list of American history sites I pedaled through is below.

    American History Civil War
    Valley Forge Gettysburg
    Washington's Crossing Antietam
    Lincoln Memorial Harpers Ferry
    Washington Memorial Manassas
    Capitol Building 2nd Manassas
    Jefferson Monument Fredericksburg
    White House Spotsylvania
    Theodore Roosevelt Island Chancellorsville
    Mount Vernon The Wilderness
    Montpelier Petersburg
    Monticiello Malvern Hill (Seven Days Battle)
    Ash Oak-Highland Cold Habor
    John Tyler's house Appomatox
    Yorktown Hanging Rock Battlefield
    Jamestown Perryville
    Williamsburg Hartville
    Benj Harrison house Fredericktown
    Andrew Jackson's Hermitage Wilson's Creek Battlefield
    Country Music Hall of Fame Carthage Battlefield
    Maker's Mark Pilot Knob
    Popeye Museum
    Lincoln boyhood home
    Route 66

     

    I rode a touring bike, a brand new Surly Long Haul Trucker, which I named “Big Medicine” after the .405 Winchester rifle Theodore Roosevelt brought on his post-presidency life adventure in East Africa. The detailed bike specs, and list of things I carried and places I visited are below (more for my own record).

    But essentially touring bikes have a number of features that help with consistent, daily, long-distance pedaling: a steel frame (makes it a tank, and a much softer ride than aluminum), thicker-walled frame and tub ends at stress points (so it can hold more weight), versatile drive train/crankset/cassette (increased gear range and torque ratios), a higher, more comfortable front end with drop handlebars, a skinny saddle (minimal surface contact is important), cantilever brakes (about as strong as disks, but designed for easy brake pad swapping), stronger wheels (36 spokes!), and bar-end friction shifting (less likely to break, can change from smallest to largest gear in one swoop).

     

    Strapped to Bike or Wearable Handlebar Bag Front Left Pannier
    Front Fender In all bags: In Case of Emergency Sheet (included health info like blood type, ICE phone numbers, photocopies of identification, etc.) In all bags: In Case of Emergency Sheet (included health info like blood type, ICE phone numbers, photocopies of identification, etc.)
    Rear Fender Swiss Army Knife (shed it) Toiletries Bag:
    Front Rack Maps Shower Wipes
    Rear Rack Keys Ibuprofen
    USA Flag Passport Small Travel Towel
    1 Front Light Electronics Bag: Pocket Tissues (used as backup toilet paper)
    2 Rear Lights Small Flashlight Vaseline
    Bike Computer Headlamp Suntan Lotion
    2 Water Bottles iPod Small Medical Kit (neosporin, bandaids, cleansing wipes)
    Hand Pump Compass/whistle Small Body Wash (for showers & laundry)
    Bike Tool Container Anti-chafe Glide Small Deodorant
    Helmet Headphones Contacts & Solution
    Handlebar Bag Small Waterproof Baggies (shed it) Travel Toothbrush, Floss, Toothpaste
    2 Front Panniers Snacks (nuts, Snickers, etc.) Travel Razors & Cream (shed it)
    2 Rear Panniers Visor/hat (shed it) Travel Shampoo
    Inflatable Sleeping Pad Battery radio (shed it) Nail Clippers
    Sleeping Bag Hand sanitiser Shower Sandals
    Pepper Spray 2 Moleskins Cord Bike Lock
    3 Bungie Cords 2 Pens
    Bike U Lock Cleat Removal Tools
    Bike Tire Presta Valve Converters
    Sunglasses
    Cycling Gloves
    Cycling Shoes w/ Removable Cleats
    Front Right Pannier Rear Left Pannier Rear Right Pannier
    In all bags: In Case of Emergency Sheet (included health info like blood type, ICE phone numbers, photocopies of identification, etc.) In all bags: In Case of Emergency Sheet (included health info like blood type, ICE phone numbers, photocopies of identification, etc.) In all bags: In Case of Emergency Sheet (included health info like blood type, ICE phone numbers, photocopies of identification, etc.)
    MacBook Air & Case MSR Camping Stove Belt
    Macbook Air Charger 2 Stove Fluid Kahki shorts
    GoPro case & bag (with misc. electronics) Foldable Pot 2 Cycling Jersies
    Book (Life is a Wheel by Bruce Weber) (shed it) Food (beef jerky bags, nut bags, 2 cans chicken, 2 cans soup, 2 cans tuna) (this all changed daily) Sleeveless Shirt (for sleeping)
    Eyeclasses & Case Nutrition (hydration powder, gu, gummies, protein smoothie mix, vitamin C packs, cliff bars) (this all changed daily) Cotten Shirt (shed it)
    Sweatshirt (shed it) 2 Liter Water Pouch (lived off this) Long Sleeve Shirt (shed it)
    Viking Helmet (shed it, lol) Bike Repair Bag: 2 Pair Underwear
    Sweatpants (shed it) Chain Lube 1 Pair Heavy Socks (shed it)
    Toilet Paper (shed it) Backup Front Light 4 Pair Cycling Socks (shed 1)
    Rubberbands Backup Rear Light 3 Pair Cycling Underwear
    Zip Locks Duct Tape 3 Pair Workout Pants (shed 1)
    Emergency Crank Radio (shed it) Waterproof Baggies Neck Warmer (shed it)
    Locker Lock (shed it) Rope to Hang Food from Bears (shed it) Inflatable Pillow
    Sunglasses Case Travel Lock & Cord (shed it) Sleeping Pad Liner
    Collared Shirt (shed it) Harmonica (shed it) Thin Cycling Rain Jacket
    iPhone Rain Case Jacket (shed it)
    Superglue Travel Laundry Bag
    Flint Fire Starter (never used it)
    Water Filtration Kit (never used it)
    Batteries (4 AAA, 4 AA)
    Waterproof Matches (never used it)
    Velcro (shed it)
    Emergency Blanket (never used it)
    Trash Bag (shed it)
    Clothes Pins (shed it)

     

    Frameset
    Size 700c wheel; 56cm frame
    Frame 2015 Surly Long Haul Trucker, Black (touring bike); 56cm inseam (center to top); 4130 CroMoly steel; triangle double-butted; TIG-welded
    Fork Surly Long Haul Trucker, 4130 CroMoly, lugged and brazed, lots of eyelets
    Seatpost clamp Surly Stainless, 30.0mm
    Drivetrain
    Crankset Andel RSC6, 26/36/48t; crank length 175' (170mm)
    Bottom Bracket Shimano UN-55, 68 x 118mm
    Front Derailleur Shimano Sora FD-3503
    Rear Derailleur Shimano XT-T780-L SGS
    Cassette Shimano HG-50-10, 11–32t gradations; friction shifting
    Chain KMX X10, Nickle plated (replaced halfway through tour w/ unknown brand)
    Components
    Headset Cane Creek 40, 1-1/8˝ threadless
    Brakes Tektro CR720, Cantilever. (will get disk brakes someday; but the stock brakes fit with the fenders perfectly)
    Brake Levers Tektro RL340 standard reach (quick release)
    Shifters Microshift BS-M10 10-speed bar-end set as index shifters (but I set as friction shifting for more cable options)
    Stem Kalloy AS-009, 26mm bar clamp. Aluminum. 4-bolt face. (stem length 100', stem angle 17')
    Handlebar PMT, 26.0mm. (width 440')
    Saddle Velo, VL1353
    Seatpost Kalloy SP-248D offset (27.2mm x 300mm)
    Wheels
    Hubs Shimano LX T670. 36h
    Rims Alex DH19, 36h. Double wall. Eyeletted.
    Spokes DT Swiss Champion, 14g; Silver (36 of them! many road bikes have <30)
    Tires Continental Contact, 700c x 37mm (80 psi); upgraded back tire to Schwalbe Marathon Plus for the heavier tread); with attachment for both Presta and Schrader valves (so I could fill up at a gas station)
    Pedals Shimano A530 SPD Pedals (cleated on one side, flat platform on other side)
    Info Forthcoming
    Bike computer
    Fenders
    Panniers
    Front rack
    Rear rack
    Pump
    Multi tool
    Other Tools

     

     

    Route 66 Certificate of Completion

    4 thoughts on “American History Bike Tour

    1. I was really impressed along with your style, analysis and how you created it all simple to adhere to. My friend and I have been searching for this info and I told a colleague about it as well. It’s fantastic to see when somebody takes as substantially pride in their perform as you do. I hope you continue to work on new projects. Thank you once again and keep up the superior work.

    2. So cool! I would love to do something like this…although my dream is to travel down the west coast from Vancouver to San Diego. Those long haul truckers are sturdy but so heavy…I can tell you were trying to cut weight wherever you could. How many flat tires did you get along the way?
      Tessa (from Bucknell)

      • Tessa! How’ve you been?!

        I love my Long Haul Trucker, and it is heavy, but ironically it feels like it rides more smoothly when it’s fully loaded up with even more weight. On the days when I’d lock my gear at the campsite or in a motel and rode the bike naked it felt surprisingly more rigid.

        11 flat tires, but that’s deceptively high. 3 or 4 of those flats were because my back tire’s tread wore out and I tried patching in every way possible to try to get to a bike store to replace the tire. And I had one day where some kind of staple was stuck in the inner lining of the tire, so I blew out like 5 tubes that day. Except for those two occasions, there were very few flats!

        Let me know if you end up doing Vancouver to San Diego! I have lots of tips/feelings about what I would have done differently going into my first tour like this.

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