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  1. #1
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    Tips for Teenage solo bicycle touring.

    I'm 16 years old and starting my life. I have plans on going to California in 2014 from Ohio. I'll be 17 at that time and hope to have experience. I am looking for good tips for touring as a teenager. My age restricts me against a lot of things like hotel's. But I know it's possible to do bicycle touring.
    I got a lot of things going for me, My parents are supportive and give me a lot of freedom. I have a good job so I have the money to buy equipment. I'm healthy and mature.
    Just to make sure to let you know. My bicycle touring fantasies are not just a lazy day summer day dream. My intentions are legit. I know what it takes to tour.
    I already own a surly Long Haul Trucker, all the camping gear. I just need to get some panniers, I am looking at Lone Peaks from the Touring Store.
    This summer I plan on going on a couple short weekend and week long tour. I live 4 miles from Adventure Cycling Underground Railroad trail so I might go to Cincinnati.
    I am just looking for advice from tourist on teenagers bicycle touring solo. Thank you for you reply's.

  2. #2
    Certified Bike Brat Burton's Avatar
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    There are already two recent and fairly extensive threads on this page on just that that subject. Suggest you have a look.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    Welcome to BF. Congrats on being more knowledgable about touring than most teens who post such. And better equipped.

    Be sure and have a notorized letter from your parents stating their permission. Journal your ride at www.crazyguyonabike.com.

    Oh, and take Burton's advice.
    The bicycle is one of the great inventions of mankind. Delights children, challenges young men to feats of daring, and turns old men into boys again.--Me

  4. #4
    Macro Geek
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    Maybe things have changed since my youth, but I stayed in hotels as a 16 and 17 year old.

    A credit card would be a handy to have "just in case," even if you don't need to use it. I don't think you can get your own until 18, but you might be able to become an authorized user of your parents'.

    Have a frank talk with your parents about how often they would like you to check in with them. An offer from you to text (or call) daily may go a long way toward easing any lingering doubts they might have!

  5. #5
    Senior Member mdilthey's Avatar
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    I toured as a 22 year old, with two others. I'm a little older than you, but still perceived as "youth" by a lot of other people. This was last year, so very recently. The location for me was the northeastern United States.

    First off, we got swindled in a bike shop. Get to know your bicycle inside and out so you don't have someone putting an 8 speed chain on a 9 speed cog, which happened to me. Not every bike shop has expert mechanics, especially around touristy areas. My issue happened in Cape Cod. The entire setup tore itself apart about 40 miles later, and I had to bike to the next bike shop on one gear. Because we're younger, bike shop owners seem to be ready to charge us for the absolute highest amount of repairs. The same dealership convinced me to replace my entire crankset for fish-hooking when I may not have needed to, which I only found out later. Again, understand the bike. Find a dealer locally that you trust and hang out there to learn the trade.

    Second off, be especially wary of people doing you favors. We got an entire night in an apartment on our tour out of the goodness of someone's heart, but we were three twenty-two year old men, in very good shape. Not likely to get entrapped. You should keep very clear of any offer that seems the slightest bit sketchy. Don't let anyone watch your stuff. If a place looks likely to have had previous guests, like a hiker hostel, that's a safer bet.

    Earn your right to the road. Be confident in signaling for using the lane and don't cheat red lights. If you don't make mistakes, drivers give you space, but if you start cutting between cars at reds they tend to bully you.

    Don't let anyone tell you you're too young to do this trip. Just keep making good decisions and do practice. if you can find a buddy, I HIGHLY suggest it. I didn't know a lot of basic stuff about camping, but after 30 straight days without a hotel, I am now much more confident.


    If you have any other questions, message me.
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  6. #6
    Senior Member adventurepdx's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by acantor View Post
    Maybe things have changed since my youth, but I stayed in hotels as a 16 and 17 year old.
    Many hostels will allow unaccompanied 16 and 17 year olds stay as long as the minor provides a letter from a parent/guardian that explicitly gives permission to do so (along with contact info to the parent/guardian.) If you're planning far enough in advance, it wouldn't hurt to get the letter notarized, and check with hostels you might stay at and see if they're cool with it.
    http://urbanadventureleague.blogspot.com/ http://societyofthreespeeds.wordpress.com/ http://www.flickr.com/photos/urbanadventureleaguepdx/

  7. #7
    Senior Member mdilthey's Avatar
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    Oh yeah, single best piece of advice I ever got (and it was from this forum!):

    Cars travel in packs. A slow driver will pick up a tail of 1-3 other cars over long distances, so if you hear and see a car on an empty road, expect more immediately after. Don't swerve back out into the lane.
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  8. #8
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    Yep, cars do run in packs.
    The bicycle is one of the great inventions of mankind. Delights children, challenges young men to feats of daring, and turns old men into boys again.--Me

  9. #9
    Fraser Valley Dave
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    Quote Originally Posted by adventurepdx View Post
    Many hostels will allow unaccompanied 16 and 17 year olds stay as long as the minor provides a letter from a parent/guardian that explicitly gives permission to do so (along with contact info to the parent/guardian.) If you're planning far enough in advance, it wouldn't hurt to get the letter notarized, and check with hostels you might stay at and see if they're cool with it.
    Very good advice! I don't know what specific rules restrict 16-17 year old's now-a-days, but I was 14 when I went on my first tour (with the blessings of my folks) I camped well hidden off the side of the roads and was well educated on the mechanics of my bike and how to repair it. Nobody seemed concerned about a young teen traveling through the country by bike, but I didn't advertise that I was far from home, I consider this very important. I took a train home without any problems getting a ticket, including freighting my bike. That was in 1960, but now you have to break down and box your bike.

  10. #10
    Senior Member bhchdh's Avatar
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    Check out Sarabeth's journal on crazyguy. https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/...c_id=5137&v=2O She was a teenager when she did a cross country tour.

  11. #11
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    You guys are all great, thanks for the info and encouragement. Sorry about making a new thread, I should have just continued on the old thread. But I wanted to get my own story out and so far I like the results. I live in Ohio and the Ohio law for camping at state parks is a required letter from parents. But if I tour to a different state the rules might not imply.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by crazy cheste View Post
    I live in Ohio and the Ohio law for camping at state parks is a required letter from parents. But if I tour to a different state the rules might not imply.
    Private campgrounds can make their own rules. I have seen some in PA that require at least one person 18 or older.

  13. #13
    Member CarolynBikesUSA's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mdilthey View Post
    Don't let anyone tell you you're too young to do this trip.
    +1 on this. I was 24 when I took my first solo trip last year--Maine-to-Ohio in September 2012. Like you, I am also from Ohio, and I'll be doing Ohio-to-California this summer, starting either May or June. My biggest pre-tour trip was dealing with worried relatives--especially grandparents. It's great your parents are supportive of you doing this--mine were too--but one thing that went a long way towards convincing my grandparents was agreeing to use a SPOT GPS tracker, so they could follow along online! It's not cheap--$120 for the device + another $100 for a one-year service plan--but Mom paid for it, so it was no big deal.

    I'm curious to know what part of Ohio you're from--feel free to message me if you want. I'm in Beavercreek.

  14. #14
    Member CarolynBikesUSA's Avatar
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    Also, there are (sometimes) ways to get around the age restrictions at campgrounds--if you get there after-hours and there is nobody to take your money, camp there anyway and pay up on your way out in the morning...or via dropbox, as the case may be. With the exception of one night I stealth-camped, I didn't find any free camping on my Maine-to-Ohio trip, but I've heard from people here on BF that free/cheap camping opportunities increase as you go further west. I'll let you know how it goes after my trip this summer!

  15. #15
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    On balance, I would not do a blog while you are on the road, or you could write it day by day, then put it up later. I don't see the benefit to that kind of profile.

    I wouldn't worry about multiple threads, one of the earlier ones was all about a guy who did not have parental permission. So your situation is very different.

    While I think your plan to go to Cali sounds great, don't set yourself up for failure with overly ambitious plans. Take it one step at a time. Or not. 17 year olds do some awesome stuff in the outdoors. But touring is a day to day thing, a long tour is months, it isn't all equally fun, quality over quantity.

  16. #16
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    Definitely see what you can do about getting a credit card. Some banks have a secured card option. This is basically a credit card who's limit is the funds you have on account. I recall having one when I was a teenager, but it's been so many years I don't know if I was seventeen or eighteen. (They say the memory is the second thing to go. I don't remember what went first.) A credit card is a good "just in case" device.

    I do know that I was staying in hotels when I was sixteen. Of course, I was buying alcohol in liquor stores shortly after that, so maybe I looked a bit older than my years. Small, family-run operations rarely turn away business; corporate chains might have some policy that has to be followed.

  17. #17
    Senior Member mdilthey's Avatar
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    My folks were thrilled I was doing it. Sure, my Dad was a little nervous, but at a certain point all relatives need to recognize that you're an adult. My grandparents were thrilled too, we stopped over at their house during the tour and were treated like world travelers.

    Sometimes worried relatives need a push. Push them!
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  18. #18
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    17 and riding across the country on a bike!! Sounds like a great way to stretch your wings.

    I agree that having a notorized LOA from your parents is a terrific idea. As is having some sort of secure credt/debit card. Also, don't ask don't tell on your age. If someone questions you fess up and produce the letter. You seem mature so most of us older folks are going to be able to tell 17 from 18 unless you tell us.

    I don't see the motel thing being a problem as most of the places you'll likely stay aren't the kinds of places where lots of questions are asked. Still, the letter will come in handy.

    The state parks could be more problematic. The front gates are manned by low paid employees, each with their own interpretation of the rules. Most will probably give you little problem, but you never know when you're going to come across a gate keeper with a square inch of authority and no give. Be prepared. Arriving late works in that situation.

    Regardless of how you are treated, of how tired you are and frustrated you become if someone won't serve you or allow you to enter, be polite and go on your way. The trip is an adventure. Adventures have good days and not so good days. But the only bad days are the days you deem so. Don't ruin it for yourself. Make every day a good day!
    Last edited by tom cotter; 01-29-13 at 09:22 AM.
    I'm just trying to be the person my dog thinks I am.

  19. #19
    Fraser Valley Dave
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    In regards to the age rule concerning access to State Parks and campgrounds....if a youngster of age 11-14 can sail a boat or fly a plane solo great distances or around the world with their parents signed permission, why wouldn't someone 15-17 be allowed to camp in State facilities while on a bicycle tour if they had notarized permission from their parent or legal guardian? I realize times do change, but when I began my first tour, which was through semi-wilderness, at age 14, neither my buddy, our folks, or I even considered that we would be denied access to any venues, providing we carried a letter of parental consent.

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    Aside from the advise given already, I would say some other important points are:
    -Pack as light as is reasonable (do you need 4 sets of cloths plus outer layers; or would a 2-3 base layers plus a fleece vest and a good wind breaker, plus some light gloves and a balaclava work better when layered), you will be spending probably half the days on the bike and most of the rest is you sleeping so prioritize so you can do those two comfortably but not excessively so.
    -Try to keep heavy/ spare items at home and set it up so you could get them mailed to you if you should need it along the way (waiting a few days for a bottom bracket tool, or a different set of cloths for certain weather, or even spare parts like a wheel or more spare tubes can be better than the alternatives), the other advantage is this leaves more room for food and water, items which will keep you moving, or happily fed if you are waiting out a large storm.
    -Read up on forums like backpacking light http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-...glight/forums/ because they have tons of great ideas on reducing the amount of needless stuff you carry, or making your own gear.
    -Plan some bail out options so you can jump ahead or get to shelter quickly if there is some issue like severe weather or you get injured. It would also be great to plan your route with lots of detours because while it is just so much fun to be on heavily traveled main roads breathing the exhaust of every passing car, you would probably appreciate some planned detours down country side roads or fire access roads in woodland areas to really make the trip (they can have the best scenery, and you have a LHT so as long as you have some moderately wide tires on you are all set for dirt road touring without worrying about things being uncomfortable or falling apart)

    -I hope you like your saddle (bike shorts are meant to keep sweat from rubbing you wrong, but don't use them to make an otherwise uncomfortable saddle bearable), if you are looking for a saddle it might be worth it to look into the Brooks or the Selle Anatomica saddles
    -You are going to be on a bike ride, I hope you are used to riding it anywhere in most weather, and preferably with a load and for decent distances (at least so you can decide if all the stuff you are hauling will be worth it)
    -Sometimes its the small things you bring that can make a trip like a helmet mirror, a decent flashlight you can mount to your bike (and then use it off the bike), a very small MP3 player, or things like zip ties and paracord plus a needle and thread (so you can solve most types of gear failure and keep rolling), and at least a partial frame bag to use some of the dead space for accessible items or odd items like tent poles.
    -Have fun doing it and enjoy every moment because once its done you are back home!

    I don't know how much of that will be helpful to you, hopefully somewhat.
    I ride my bikes...

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Big Lew View Post
    In regards to the age rule concerning access to State Parks and campgrounds....if a youngster of age 11-14 can sail a boat or fly a plane solo great distances or around the world with their parents signed permission, why wouldn't someone 15-17 be allowed to camp in State facilities while on a bicycle tour if they had notarized permission from their parent or legal guardian?
    There is no exception listed on the PA DCNR web site. Anyone renting a campsire must be at least 18 and must be present at the site (i.e., a absent adult cannot rent one for a minor).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Big Lew View Post
    In regards to the age rule concerning access to State Parks and campgrounds....if a youngster of age 11-14 can sail a boat or fly a plane solo great distances or around the world with their parents signed permission, why wouldn't someone 15-17 be allowed to camp in State facilities while on a bicycle tour if they had notarized permission from their parent or legal guardian? I realize times do change, but when I began my first tour, which was through semi-wilderness, at age 14, neither my buddy, our folks, or I even considered that we would be denied access to any venues, providing we carried a letter of parental consent.
    The times in which we live. Not that bureaucrats need a reason to create new rules but in some states the camping permit could be considered a contract. 17 year olds are too young to sign. Additionally, there is a liability issue in that regardless of how mature a child may act, legally they are still a child. My cynical side tells me the state doesn't give a rats ass about any camper's safety. But they do care about their own liabilty. Can the minor swim? Do they know how to set up camp? Do they know not to eat the posionous plants? Can they be trusted around fire? Is the old guy at the next site a pedophile? Kids come with many different skill sets and experience levels. Adult supervision goes a long way in shifting liability away from the state. Add in the not wanting to turn campgrounds into high school party central and I can see why there are rules keeping minors without adult guardians out. I can also see that one size does not fit all.
    Last edited by tom cotter; 01-29-13 at 12:41 PM.
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  23. #23
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    17 v 18 isn't that noticeable of a difference. Unless a business is ID'ing you, they're probably not going to know you're a minor. I would ignore hotel and campground age restrictions, and ask forgiveness if you get caught. Don't volunteer the information.

    I agree that a letter from your parents would be useful if someone asks, but the best thing you could do is have access to a credit card - both for emergencies, and they're often used as security deposits. The nicest thing I've found about being an adult is that I have access to more money than I could possibly need to get myself out of any situation that crops up...I had a much harder time of that when I was young, and I would hate to be cash strapped when far from home.

    Everything else is standard first tour stuff. Do a trial run. Pare down any unnecessary equipment before you go. Have a few tools and know how to deal with common mechanical problems (broken spokes, broken chains, flat tires...that sort of thing). One multitool and patch kit+mini-pump can solve a huge number of problems. Enjoy.

  24. #24
    Fraser Valley Dave
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    There is a lot of good advise and comments given within this thread.
    I also agree with "tom cotter" stating 'The times in which we live' and regarding the liability concerns...it's sad though...Like in most things, those that
    adhere to society's rules suffer because of the 'blanket' rulings created to address those that don't, as well as the keenness of persons willing to sue others rather than accept their own responsibilities.

  25. #25
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    So,a 16 year old needs a note from his mom and dad nowadays to ride his bicycle away from home?????? With a note,the army will hand him an M-16 and a 45.

    If it's OK with your folks,that's all that matters.....get on your bike and ride dude.....and have fun!

    At that age,I was mountain climbing,hanging on the end of a rope,1000 ft off the ground and riding my bicycle 100's of miles away from home......nobody asked me for a note.

    Do minors need notes to go to Disneyland also?????
    Last edited by Booger1; 01-29-13 at 05:05 PM.
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