Cross country biking was never something I really thought about doing. Then, a couple years ago, a few of my friends were planning a long ride that piqued my interest. Although challenging, I have to say the experience was more rewarding than I could have ever imagined it would be.
Preparation is really the key with long distance riding. Even though I was already an avid rider, I trained quite hard to be ready for the adventure. My bicycle touring preparation became a bit of an obsession for me. I am quite glad I did allow myself that prep time because I certainly was not expecting the trip to be so wearing mentally and physically.
Cross Country Biking: More Common than You Think
When you first hear about cross country biking, you might think, “Does anyone really do this?” Well, interestingly this is the most popular discipline of mountain biking.
It is not as easily televised as downhill mountain biking, which leads you to believe it is not as common, but it certainly is. In fact, it is the only mountain biking discipline practiced in the Olympics. You may not already know that cross country biking became an official Olympic sport back in 1996, which boosted its popularity even more.
Preparing for the Journey
You may think that taking long rides every day is all the bicycle training you need to do, but it’s not.
Once you decide you are going to embark on an adventure, developing a training plan is essential. The plan serves a few purposes:
- Keeps you disciplined
- Ensures you include variety in your training
- Eliminates risk of overtraining
Training For Cross Country Biking
An effective training plan will be well-rounded. Recommended types of training include:
- Long Distance Rides – To get your body used to being in the saddle long distance you need to take lengthy rides. Start with 20 miles, working your way up to 70 miles, or more.
- Tempo Rides – Ride with higher resistance, but at a slower cadence for at least 20 minutes. Your legs will probably burn a little. You are essentially weight training your legs and building power.
- Interval Rides – Intense intervals help improve endurance. Ride at a normal pace, working in sprints and high-resistance spurts.
- Hill Climbs – When you are cross country biking there is a good chance you will encounter some hills. Include hills in your training plan, and get really comfortable with your gears.
- City Rides – If you generally ride in the country, parks, or quiet towns, you should spend some time riding in a busy city. This way, the fast-paced environment will not come as such a shock.
Choosing the Right Bike
You can adapt a mountain bike or road bike, but not all are good for undergoing conversions. See, cross country biking puts too much pressure on a road racing bicycle. You might think a mountain bike will be a better solution, but you will struggle to carry all your supplies with its thin frame.
A touring bike is highly recommended for travelling a long distance. It is designed to go the distance yet its frame is far more travel-friendly. Touring bikes are not cheap, but they are well worth the money.
What Bicycle Features Do I Need?
One of these bikes will likely cost you over $1,000, but if you are traveling hundreds or thousands of miles, you really cannot afford not to invest in one. A few design elements that distinguish these bikes from others include:
- Frame – Strong aluminum or steel frame
- Gearing – Low end starting gears
- Fork and Stay – The front fork and rear stay is deep and wide enough for touring tires
- Long Chainstay – Provides sufficient clearance for tire seat tube and heel pannier
- Brakes – V-brakes or cantilever brakes re powerful enough for the long haul
- Eyelets – Front and rear eyelets are essential for holding pannier racks
- Handlebars – Enjoy more hand position options and reduced wind resistance with drop handlebars
Essentials for Your Journey
If you are like me, you tend to forget something important while packing. Keep this list handy for when you pack for your cross country biking trip.
- Bicycle repair kit – Be prepared for accidents and repairs with a kit and extra parts.
- Maps – There are mountain biking maps that show trails, bike-friendly motels, bike shops, etc.
- Cycling Backpack – Also called a “hydration pack,” this allows for easy access to your water without reaching for your bicycle water bottle.
- Bicycle Safety Equipment – Safety is a priority on a long distance trip. Even a few cuts from a small fall can slow you down, if not taken care of.
- Money – Have more than what you need. Carry some cash and pack your credit card and/or debit card.
- Cellphone – You will want to check in with folks, so you’ll need a phone. Plus, this will be needed if there is an emergency.
- Solar Power Pack – You will need something to charge your phone, camera, iPad, etc.
- Camera – A quality camera is essential to capture all the natural beauty and exciting things you see along the way. You may even want to buy a helmet video camera. Either pack extra batteries or rechargeable ones.
Where to Buy Bikes for Cross Country Biking?
If you are interested in buying XC Mountain bikes you can always buy them at your local bicycle store, however there is another alternative: you can buy them on one of these trusted online stores:
Cross Country Bikes on eBay
Books about Cross Country Bicycling
For more information, there are some informative books about cross country bicycling. Take a look:
Last Word About Cross Country Biking
You may think this is a lot of money and time spent preparing for a cross country endeavor. It is, but an experience like this comes with no regrets. You may think you will only do it once, but when you get out there and see how empowering the journey is, you will be planning your next ride before you are even done with the first one.