The Big
American
Bike Ride

In 2023, adventurous riders will load up their bicycles and take part in a 3,500-mile journey from one side of the U.S. to the other.

Throughout the spring and summer and fall, riding solo or in small groups, they'll travel through stunning landscapes, experience the kindness and generosity of strangers, and embrace the challenge of the road ahead.

They'll learn more about America in two months than most people learn in a lifetime.

Will you join them?

What's this all about?

There hasn't been a major cross-country cycling event in more than 40 years, since Bikecentennial in 1976. We're a few cyclists who really love bicycle travel, and we hope to change that. The Big American Bike Ride is a free event, open to people of all ages and abilities and backgrounds, from all over the world. We'd love to have you join us.

Throughout the spring, summer, and fall of 2023, thousands of people will leave home behind and pedal into the unknown at about 12 miles per hour. Riding solo or in small groups, they'll pass through cities and suburbs and towns and villages, in heat and cold and wind and rain. They'll sleep mostly in tents. They'll eat more food in a day than they ever thought possible. They'll make new friends, develop outrageous tan lines, and come away with so many great stories.

Along the way they'll experience a rich cross-section of what makes the United States the United States. Vast open spaces: the prairies, the Great Plains, the Rocky Mountains. Grand rivers: the Mississippi, the Missouri, the Columbia. Amish country, steel country, ranching country. College towns and tourist towns and logging towns. Affluence and poverty. People whose experiences and worldview are very different from theirs.

There aren't many experiences that cause you to come out the other side feeling like a different person. This is one of them.

Will everyone ride together in a big group?

No. This isn't an organized ride; it's more of a disorganized ride. Because riders can join and leave the route wherever they want, whenever they want, some days you might see a few dozen riders; on others you may only see one or two. We expect about half of riders to travel from east to west, while the rest will go west to east.

Daily logistics are also up to you. You'll decide when to start your day, where to eat, where to take breaks, where to sleep, and when to take days off. We just provide the basic structure within which your own adventures can happen.

Will I have to ride by myself?

Only if you want to. If that's your choice, you'll still end up meeting a lot of other people along the way, so you won't be truly alone. If you'd rather ride with friends, do it. If you'd prefer to ride with a group of people you may not know, we'll provide an online tool to allow you to connect based on shared interests, or common backgrounds, or similar riding styles, or whatever else is important to you. Join our mailing list for updates about the availability of this tool.

Is this a race?

No. You can ride as fast or as slow as you want, although most riders will cover 50 to 60 miles per day. The more modest your pace, the more people you'll meet, and the more unexpected experiences you'll probably have, so in many ways it's the opposite of a race.

What's the route?

Washington D.C. and Washington state mark the route's start and end points. In between it will travel a mostly rural path through Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. You can ride east to west, or west to east.

Although the exact route is still under development it's expected to pass within 100 miles of several major cities, including Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Indianapolis, Chicago, and Seattle. Join our mailing list for updates about the progress of the route.

Do I have to ride the whole thing?

It's up to you. If you only have a few days, ride for a few days. If you have more time, ride for a few hundred miles, or across a couple of states. Or go all the way from Washington to Washington. Because there aren't any required stops, or fixed starting and ending dates, you can join and leave the route whenever and wherever you'd like.

The distance and elevation of the route have been set up so that an average rider can complete the full length in two months. Those traveling lighter and faster can finish in as little as six weeks.

What if I haven't ridden very much, or at all?

Being in better cycling shape will give you an advantage at the start, but after a few weeks on the road your body will adjust, so don't worry if you're not an athlete. What matters more is making sure you don't pack too much weight on your bike, and finding a seat that stays comfortable during long days on the road. Those will slow you down more than anything.

But the most important thing for riders with little or no long-distance cycling experience is learning how to travel safely. We'll provide as much information and help as we can to ensure that all riders have the necessary equipment and knowledge to be safe on the road.

What kind of bike would I need?

Because the route travels more than 300 miles on unpaved trails, and includes a few short gravel sections, road bikes with narrow tires aren't the best option, although you might be able to make them work.

You'll do best with tires that are at least 35 millimeters or 1.4 inches in width; a frame that allows you to attach a rear rack or frame bags without affecting your ability to pedal; low enough gearing to climb the steep hills of the Appalachians without wrecking your knees; and a stronger than average rear wheel to support both you and whatever gear you decide to carry. Suspension forks and knobby-treaded tires are not needed, nor helpful.

There are many types of road and mountain bicycles that fit these criteria, but you'll want to avoid bikes with cheap components that could leave you stranded far from the nearest repair shop.

Where will I eat?

Long-distance cyclists burn between 3,000 and 5,000 calories per day, so after a few weeks on the road you'll eat anywhere and everywhere. Some people choose to mostly cook for themselves, buying food at grocery stores and markets. Others rely on prepared or packaged food from restaurants, cafes, and convenience stores. Whatever approach you choose, you'll need to carry extra food and water with you during the more remote sections of the route, where towns with services can be more than 50 miles apart.

Where will I sleep?

The route is set up so that you can tent-camp every night and travel as cheaply as possible. Although larger cities and many smaller towns may have indoor lodging options like hotels, motels, bed-and-breakfasts, and hostels, there will be some nights when these choices aren't available. A lightweight backpacking-type tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad will serve you well.

Is this safe?

Cycling has inherent risk, whether you're riding across town or across the United States. This risk can take many forms, including close proximity to vehicles, inconsistent road conditions, inadequate safety equipment, cycling with unbalanced or excessive gear weight, and simply not paying attention to the road ahead.

The route is being designed with safety as its primary focus. It's expected to include more than 550 miles on vehicle-free trails, and a thousand miles more on roads with extremely low car traffic. Between Nebraska and Washington state, however, the rural nature of the route requires hundreds of miles of travel along highways. Although traffic volumes on these highways are generally low, and many of them have paved shoulders, some don't.

We take safety seriously and expect all riders to do the same. Once the route has been finished you'll be required to complete an online safety course before being granted access to turn-by-turn directions and other route-related materials.

How can I learn more?

Join our mailing list for updates about the progress of the Big American Bike Ride. We promise not to email you too often.

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web@bigamericanbikeride.com