To maximize your chances of a safe, enjoyable bike trip, be sure you:
Are in good biking shape. You should be able to cycle at least as far as your longest planned day trip.
Take a test ride of a few days, with loaded packs and on a similar riding surface to that of your planned route.
Define your goals before the trip. Make sure everyone in your group has the same goals -- the same mileage each day, the same speed -- and that people have compatible personalities.
Get your bicycle in good working order and learn how to make small repairs, such as fixing flats and adjusting the brakes. Buy a bicycle maintenance book and carry spare parts, such as extra cable for the brakes and derailleurs, a tire patch kit, wrenches and screwdrivers and a first aid kit. If you are traveling with a group, decide who is going to bring what.
Know your route before you leave, but keep it flexible. Check to confirm that bicycles are allowed on the roads and bridges, and that there are adequate services such as food and shelter. The American Youth Hostels and state highway patrol may be helpful.
Overestimate the amount of money you will need. Carry traveler's checks and a credit card, and make arrangements at home to have money wired to you if necessary.
Eat lightly for breakfast and lunch, and snack each time you stop. When you have finished riding for the day, eat a very large meal, heavy on carbohydrates (pizza, bread and spaghetti are good choices) to replenish energy.
If you're going across the country, don't look at a map until you've gone at least halfway. It's too depressing to ride hundreds of miles, only to find that you've gone less than an inch on the map. Resources
American Bicycling Assocation, P.O. Box 718, Chandler, Ariz. 85224.
Bicycle Institute of America, 122 E. 42nd St., New York, N.Y. 10017
League of American Wheelmen, Box 988, Baltimore, Md., 21203.
United States Cycling Federation, 680 Rutland Ave., Teaneck, N.J., 07666.
American Youth Hostels, National Administrative Offices, 1332 I St. NW, Suite 800, Washington, D.C. 20005; 754-4152.
Vermont Bicycle Touring, Box 711-JZ, Bristol, Vt. 05443; (802) 453-4811.
Open Road Bicycle Tours, 1601 Summit Dr., Haymarket, Va. 22069; (703) 754-4152.
Potomac Pedalers, 363-TOUR. Books
"Anybody's Bike Book," by Tom Cuthbertson, Ten-Speed Press.
"Everybody's Book of Bicycle Riding," by Tom Lieb, Rodale Press.
"Get Fit With Bicycling," by Bicycling Magazine.
"The Complete Book of Bicycling," by Eugene A. Sloane, Simon & Schuster.
"Understanding, Maintaining and Riding the Ten-Speed Bicycle," by Denise M. de La Rosa and Michael J. Kolin, Rodale Press.