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Feasibility of a Cross-America Ride for a Sixteen-Year-Old Girl

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Feasibility of a Cross-America Ride for a Sixteen-Year-Old Girl

Old 02-27-16, 11:19 AM
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noether
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Feasibility of a Cross-America Ride for a Sixteen-Year-Old Girl

Hello!

I'm a sixteen year old girl wondering if bicycling solo across the US is feasible.

I'm currently a junior in high school, but my school isn't challenging enough. I've tried to find other local options (e.g. taking math classes at a nearby university), but I'm feeling more and more restricted. I'm able to graduate in May, and I want to do something that will challenge my body and my soul, not just my mind, next year.

I want to see the world around me, to take the time to examine the rest of this country. Suburbia is wonderful and all, but there's so much more to this country than the bubble of privilege that I've grown up in, and something inside of me is pushing me to explore it. I'm a highly reflective person, also, and I feel like I need time to settle into myself a bit. This year has consisted of non-stop homework and extracurriculars, and while I love the things that I do, I need to grow up as a person, alone. Cycling across America alone seems like it would help.

On the other hand, I have no idea if this could work. Safety and logistics are major concerns. Sleeping, eating, interacting with people -- how does this work as an underage female? I'm up for problem-solving and toughing things out, but selling this one to my parents will require careful preparation, if, indeed, it's feasible at all.

Apologies that this post is so long! I understand that there's probably no good way to do this, but my wanderlust is at an all-time high, and I feel like I'm in need of a journey. I'm open to suggestions also, if anyone has any. I hope I posted this in the right place; I'm new around here.

Thanks for your help!

~noether
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Old 02-27-16, 11:31 AM
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As an adult male, I would think long and hard about a solo crossing. And I'm a pretty self sufficient rugged guy.

There is just so much that can go wrong with no warning, and 90% of it isn't even malicious stuff. Crashes and mechanicals can be life threatening in the wrong circumstances.

As a small group of 2 or 3, I think things would be much more secure, particularly if you can round up someone with a chase / support car.

Having said that some people are just perfectly fine solo-ing through almost everything.

I guess I would start with a few questions:

have you done any multi-day unsupported solo hikes or bike trips?
when? where? how long? what did you carry?

If the answer to that is "no" then I'd suggest a couple 2 day rides, out and backs, with "find my phone" enabled. that way you can be supported in the event something should go wrong.

then a couple 4 day rides (2 days out, 2 days back). Then a longer one, maybe 10 days point to point.

By the time you've done that, you'll know your gear, you'll know your bike, you'll know your capabilities, and you'll know how you want to handle yourself.

Finally, I'd ask how sure you are about being alone with your thoughts for such an extended period of time.
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Old 02-27-16, 11:42 AM
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It's certainly possible. I have two 16 year old daughters. They are both fit enough and competent enough to do it, but it doesn't sound like a good idea to me. As a parent, I would need a lot of convincing too. Maybe do a couple of short tours of increasing length to prove to your parents and yourself that you can do it before you attempt the big tour. You can start with something as simple as an out-and-back overnight. I'd be ok with that as a parent with almost no planning or convincing. Then you can work your way up to 2-nights, 3-nights, etc. until everyone is comfortable with the idea of a longer trip.

Most people are really great, but it only takes one nut-case to ruin your whole life. Consider looking for a buddy to tour with. Everything is safer in a group. If you can't find someone your age I bet there's some retired person out there considering a tour that would really love to share the experience with a young person. Keep an open mind and get creative.
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Old 02-27-16, 11:58 AM
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Originally Posted by noether View Post
I'm a sixteen year old girl wondering if bicycling solo across the US is feasible.
A lot depends on the individual. It is possible, but I would have worried if my daughter had done a coast to coast trip solo at that age. I have met a few young women touring alone, but I think they were a little older. I also met a few who were travelling in groups of two or three. If you pick a popular route you can probably ride with others most of the time even if you don't start out with anyone. This is likely possible on the Trans America. It is a slam dunk for the Pacific coast, if coast to coast isn't a must.
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Old 02-27-16, 12:05 PM
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Why not do a group ride? Adventure cycling organizes cross country rides and the prices are reasonable.
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Old 02-27-16, 12:12 PM
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How about another country instead ?

You can have a State funded college education in some European countries , if you apply.

(rather than a Mountain of Debt of borrowed money, to get a degree from US colleges)

The Gap Year between Highschool And College is commonly done there ..
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Old 02-27-16, 12:17 PM
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If you were willing to switch to hiking the Appalachian Trail, You would meet much fewer of the local wierdos.
Whatever you decide , be safe. Look as less feminine as possible.
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Old 02-27-16, 12:17 PM
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of course it's feasible. i'm sure (90%) girls your age, perhaps younger
have successfully crossed the country by bike.

logistics should not be a problem, especially if you follow established
routes.

your main concern i guess is safety. what can go wrong as you're cycling
alone on an isolated country road? crazy drunk drivers, grizzly bears,
feral dogs or raccoons, crazy dudes with guns, chainsaw guys in hockey
masks, larry the lounge lizard.......

if it's in your budget, have you considered a tour of europe? excellent
transport systems, more of a bike culture, youth hostel network, more
chance of being able to use your student card for discounts, etc.

plenty of challenge........climb the alps! follow the tour de france route,
study a bunch of languages, teach yourself to converse with the locals.
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Old 02-27-16, 12:29 PM
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Europe is a great alternative assuming that it's within the OP's budget.
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Old 02-27-16, 01:08 PM
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All 3 of my sisters joined me on a long tour at some point before they hit 16. The youngest being 13 (turned 14 during the trip). Although they weren't true cross country trips (Seattle to Green Bay, Cincinnati to Seattle, Seattle to San Diego) they could have made it all the way had we done as such.

As someone with younger sisters though I'm hesitant to suggest doing it solo for the same reasons @staehpj1 mentioned. I wouldn't have wanted my sisters to do it alone and I'm not sure they could have. They'll all really petite and I carried most of the gear.

Even now, one is 15 and the others 20, I wouldn't want the 20 year olds to go solo. I'd worry too much about them.
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Old 02-27-16, 01:33 PM
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On our TransAm trip, my wife and I met a 16 year-old young woman almost finished. She was solo, self-contained and self-supported. By the time she got to Oregon, where I met her, she was one impressive young woman. I'm not sure there were many who could have kept up with her, which made a good argument for going solo.
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Old 02-27-16, 01:47 PM
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Originally Posted by andrewclaus View Post
On our TransAm trip, my wife and I met a 16 year-old young woman almost finished. She was solo, self-contained and self-supported. By the time she got to Oregon, where I met her, she was one impressive young woman. I'm not sure there were many who could have kept up with her, which made a good argument for going solo.
Even more impressive that she went W<----E instead of W---->E!
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Old 02-27-16, 02:18 PM
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I think at 16 you are old enough to handle it physically. It wasn't unusual for junior racers that age to ride 400 miles a week. I did. If you really want to do this I'd suggest getting as many long easy miles in as possible before you go, to get your body accustomed to being on the bike. Rest up for a couple weeks before leaving though...

That said, I don't think it's a good idea. 99% of the people you meet anywhere are going to be nice, but it's that 1% you have to worry about. Frankly I don't think it's entirely safe for a 16 year old female to be traveling alone. It depends to a degree how streetwise you are. If you have lived in the 'burbs till now, I suspect you are not streetwise enough.

If you went with a group of 2 or 3 people, it would be a whole different story.

Actually, I agree with the others that suggest Europe instead. Get yourself a backpack and a eurailpass. Travel around and do some hiking and camping wherever you go. Or for that matter do the bike camping thing there. They have a great infrastructure of youth hostels to stay in. There's a bit of cultural difference also, as it's sort of expected for youths to take a gap year to find themselves.. Obviously there are bad people there too, but you are less likely to run into them hopping from hostel to hostel in Europe than stealth camping in the USA.

Then when you're like 18 or 19, try the solo bike crossing.
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Old 02-27-16, 02:37 PM
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My first self-supported, multi-day trip was at 18. You sound a little more advanced now than I was then. Prior to that I had taken lots of day trips all over my corner of the state, but never camping. I'm not a girl, which I know makes a difference in perceived safety, if not in reality. But my trips were also done in a time where we had paper maps and pay phones, rather than GPS and constant communication. Sometimes I think that the easy dissemination of information makes it seem less safe today because we get to hear about every horrible thing that happens. But in reality, being always connected is a huge safety net that we never had when I was starting out. I have to wonder if there's ever been a more safe time to undertake a trip like this. What I wouldn't have given for a map that actually shows my exact position...

I dont see see why you couldn't do it physically, if you work up to it. One piece of advice is to get your gear as sorted out as possible before you leave. My initial trips were taken with little preparation and poor gear choices. The result was trips that, while fun, were far from comfortable. Some more adventurous plans were cut short because sleeping warm, dry, and comfortable took precedence over the otherwise enjoyable ride. These days I enjoy the riding and the resting, thanks to more appropriate gear.

Another thing: for a lot of people, there will never be a better time to do this than right before, after, or during your college years. It's possible to arrange your life with that kind of freedom in adulthood, but not so common. A friend of mine took a year off school to hike the Appalachian Trail, and it had a huge impact in his life going forward. These types of adventures seem worth perusing if you have the itch. Depending on your career path and choices going forward, a trip of this length might not be possible once you enter the next phase of your life. If this something that interests you, you should make it happen.
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Old 02-27-16, 02:50 PM
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Find out about the Youth Hostels
HI USA Hostels Membership | Hostelling International USA

The rules for Americans in the USA aren't clear, but I think they may be available. Also it appears as if the underage membership is FREE, but you might ask about restrictions.

How far is the furthest you've ridden a bike on your own?

I'd encourage you to go out and do a few "Century" (100 mile) rides, either on your own, as an organized group event, or with some friends. It will be good training, and help get you started.

What do your parents say?

Figure out how to keep your parents informed about the trip. Something like STRAVA will allow you to upload rides every night. Not necessarily real-time tracking, but at least daily tracking. Your safety is important, either use an obfuscated username, or keep everything private (only allow your parents and/or friends to see it). There are other services like RideWithGPS or MapMyRide to also consider.

Anything is possible, but you are also young, and potentially a target for malice. Maybe not so much while you're on the bike, but there may be some places where you might need to take caution, especially if camping, or camping outside of camp grounds.

Also, each person develops their own habits around traffic, again, perhaps a bit of a learning curve. So, an older rider might be safer on the road than a younger rider (although one would note big arguments about the safest way to ride on this forum).

When I was 16, I went to Europe with my parents. I bought my Colnago in Italy. I was "home" every night, but I did a lot of day-trips around town own my own. I visited nearly every castle on my own within 50 miles of Parma, Italy. At about age 20, I went back to Italy for a whole year on my own. Of course, unfortunately, the world is different for young men and young women. Not all of it is bad. Some doors open for women that wouldn't be open for men. But, there are also different dangers.

Most importantly, BE SAFE.
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Old 02-27-16, 03:08 PM
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Since you are still your parents' responsibility, you should really discuss it with them. If they say OK, then of course it is doable. Is it sensible for a 16 year old girl to travel by bike unsupported? That is a whole different question.

You explained your reasons for wanting to do this. But what about your abilities? Can you handle the solitude of days or weeks of riding solo? Are you physically fit? How much do you ride currently? Have you done solo camping and bike touring before? Do you know how to repair your own bike in the middle of nowhere? How much money do you plan to take with you? Have you thought of contingencies? (mechanical problems, what happens if you get sick or injured along the way?, what would you do if someone stole your bike, your money, your gear, or all three?)

If you can answer all these questions, and your parents are good with it, then start planning, and training.

I think it could be done,
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Old 02-27-16, 04:04 PM
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After thinking about this I have some more comments. I always figured that I was as safe or safer on tour than riding at home. So why would I worry more about my daughter if she toured than if she did a lot of mileage when not on tour. So I think maybe I would be a bit more supportive as long as you are mature enough to make good decisions.

I'd still advise picking a popular route and being open to meeting other friends to ride with.

Would I still worry if my daughter did it even at her current age of 30? Yes, but my Mom worried when I did the TA at 56. Parents worry.
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Old 02-27-16, 04:19 PM
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I was enjoying this blog when it was being regularly updated: Confessions Of A Small Girl | Cycling the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route

Not underage, but a woman traveling solo in the US. I believe she had some set-backs in the form of injuries or illnesses and maybe mechanical issues, but she took it in stride and pushed on. I feel like I was also reading of another woman's cycle trip in the Yukon recently. Also solo. It's unfortunate that gender plays such a big part in whether or not this deemed a safe trip, but I think there are role models out there that show it can be done.
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Old 02-27-16, 05:37 PM
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I wish I had good advice based on having children of my own. I would have to suggest a group of some sort. If you end up doing something solo, and if you use social media like an online journal or blog, keep your actual location low key, only letting loved ones know where you are, where you are going to be, and when. I am an unattractive and largish guy, and that my rule.

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Old 02-27-16, 05:42 PM
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Originally Posted by noether View Post
Hello!

I'm a sixteen year old girl wondering if bicycling solo across the US is feasible.
How much cycling have you done? You will need a debit and credit card and a good cell phone too.

I would advise you to look at organized cross country tours. These will give you the safety of a group and you won't have to worry about the logistics of where to stay each night. Of course it's a very different experience than doing it solo, part of the fun of doing a tour on your own is not having a definite plan and working out where to stay each night. If you were a little older I'd say go for it, but you might want to get a bit more experience before you head out on your own.

https://www.adventurecycling.org/gui...m-76-eastward/

https://americabybicycle.com/aan-short

Last edited by nun; 02-27-16 at 05:45 PM.
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Old 02-27-16, 06:03 PM
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Adult on the internet talking a minor into leaving home and riding across the country?
No chance here.

Look up and talk to your parents about this.

A healthy 16yo could do it, sure. I would imagibe it would be more mentally difficult than anything youve attempted before.

Again- parents. They know you.
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Old 02-27-16, 06:56 PM
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Keep in mind, many 18 yr old girls head off to college, often out of state from their homes. Some join the "Greek System", and suddenly have a tremendous amount of contact with other boys or young men, as well as access to alcohol, and what not.

The OP is just 2 years younger than that, but already taking some college courses. Is she headed into early college admission?

Lots of good suggestions though.

If it was me, I'd probably use the 2016 summer as a prep year. Go on a few cycle camping trips, mini tours, etc. Keep within maybe 300 miles from home.

Then, either work or study during the winter of 2016, and start the grand tour in spring of 2017. It may seem like a whole year wasted, but it wouldn't be wasted. I'm sure there are a lot of interesting things to explore near home, as well as a lot to learn about striding out on one's own.

Good points about learning to be self sufficient. Get 1000 miles from home, and Mom & Dad won't come to fix a flat tire or splice a chain. If the OP isn't familiar with her bike, then hang out at the local bike co-op, or take some bike maintenance courses. Maybe try a scratch-build of the ultimate GIRLY touring bike.
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Old 02-27-16, 07:20 PM
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One other advantage of using a group tour, figuring an organized group tour is the possible contacts you could end up making while on the tour that could work to your advantage later on in life. You never know what the future is going to bring until you arrive there. If you would have told me when I was 16 that I we be living 750 miles from family by myself for the past 16 years and I would have ridden the bike trips I have been on I would have laughed at you. Even as recently as 2010 when I gave up driving I would have laughed at you if you would have told me that I would have over 17K miles of open road travel by bike under my belt right now.

While nothing compares to getting away form the parents it can bring you, especially as a kid, a rude awakening to what it means to be on your own with no one but yourself to rely upon. As you get to know more about bike repair and what can go wrong, none bikewise, during a trip you just create a major leg up on what you have in your arsenal of things you can do when crap hits the fan. My trip this past summer would have broken most people since I rarely had a day when things went smooth. I was fed up with it when I got home, granted I was fed up with it LONG before that but I continued to persevere each day and kept riding. I had no other option.

You only know how tough you are, mentally, when things just won't cooperate and they continue not to cooperate and you have to keep on keeping on. The more you know leading into dealing with everything going wrong the better able you will be to handle it and not cave in under the pressure. That comes from gaining the experience a little at a time, not trying to bite off more than you chew all at once. Give it some time and gain some experience before tackling a full unsupported cross country tour.
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Old 02-27-16, 07:45 PM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by bikenh View Post
One other advantage of using a group tour...
Originally Posted by bikemig View Post
Why not do a group ride? Adventure cycling organizes cross country rides and the prices are reasonable
Originally Posted by nun View Post
I would advise you to look at organized cross country tours...
The ACA led trips suggested above require participants to be at least 18. America by Bicycle requires 16 year old to be accompanied by parent. They also charge $8.5-$13.5K depending upon lodging options.

Originally Posted by CliffordK View Post
Find out about the Youth Hostels...
Hostelling International, also suggested, is pretty useless for a cross country trip. They only have 50+ facilities in the entire country mostly in bigger cities. You might encounter a few on the ACA Northern Tier Route but none on the TransAm Route or other routes further south, aside from two or three on or near the Southern Tier. Nothing between Chicago area and OR, CA.

Start Planning Your Next USA Hostel Adventure | HI USA
https://www.adventurecycling.org/rou...e-network-map/

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Old 02-27-16, 08:58 PM
  #25  
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Hi, and welcome to the Forum

As you can see, you will find a wide range of people here. Some would not leave home without packing a weapon, and at the other end of the range are those folks that believe that 99.99% of the people they encounter will be helpful and friendly. I believe that most of us are somewhere between these extremes, but clustered more toward the optimistic end. You will likely get a wide range of responses.

I don't believe that Europe is a good alternative. There are more levels of complexity planning and executing a bike tour in Europe than in North America. It would probably be even more difficult for a minor. Cost will also be higher. Europe will be a lot more fun when you gain a little experience.

I have encountered several young women riding solo. They were not riding cross country, but they were on long and strenuous trips. Sure, it is possible for you to complete a cross country ride, if you prepare for it. Take a look at this site. I went to a presentation she made about her trip, and she was impressive.

the loong way home
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