My Bike Ride Across Georgia

my bike ride across georgia

This is one of the camp sites we set up on tour.

There is no better way to experience a new place for the first time than on the seat of your bike. I learned this firsthand when I did the Bike Ride Across Georgia (BRAG) in 2007 with a good friend I met in college. His family did it every year, and he asked me to come along for the ride.

I was slightly intimidated at first, but he explained that his family liked to take it slow, and that he only lightly trained to prepare every year. We clocked hours together at the campus gym, and finally made our way down to his hometown of Savannah.

It was my first time in Georgia. In fact, it was my first time in the south. If you’re a New Englander like me and you’re thinking of trying the Bike Ride Across Georgia, get ready for the humidity.

I’m no stranger to summer up on the East Coast, and I’m a true beach bum with no real risk of overheating. I love soaking up the sun and can stand a little sweat. However, Georgia was the most humid place I had ever been.

Even before we got started, I was sweating at the picnic table because my skin was sticky and my pores were open. I looked ridiculous, but luckily I was prepared with a lot of water and light clothing.

Anyway, aside from learning about my ability to sweat buckets, I learned how beautiful Georgia really is, and how to push myself without straining myself. If you’re thinking about trying BRAG, here’s a quick overview.

What You Need to Know About Bicycling Across Georgia

BRAG Basics       What to Bring    Lodging/Food    Tour Tips

BRAG Basics

The Bike Ride Across Georgia lasts one week and is a “supported” bike tour. That means trucks and personnel follow riders from town to town making sure their gear is successfully transported and that they’re safe each day.

It was founded in 1980, and between 1,000 and 2,000 riders have registered annually ever since. It isn’t a race, and people all join for their own reasons. Many do it for the inevitable weight loss from the training while others ride to meet new people and see new things.

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What to Bring

I packed too much when I did BRAG, and it’s best to bring as little as possible (I didn’t know about how to pack for a cycling tour then).

However, the good thing about the tour is that you can load your belongings onto a truck that will meet you at your next destination.We obviously used the truck for big items like the tent and clothing bags, but we still needed to bring along our water, snacks and tools for the ride.

When you ride BRAG, you’ll have the opportunity to shower either at a public gym space in a shower truck. Bring flip-flops so that you don’t have to stand on the floor of the stall in your bare feet.

Also, bring your own soap and shampoo. My friend and I brought castile soap (Dr. Bronner’s was our favorite) so that we could use it on both our bodies and our hair without lugging around soap and shampoo separately.

As for making it through the night, I recommend a flashlight or headlamp for finding the bathroom in the dark (I’d recommend the Black Diamond Storm), earplugs for drowning out the snorers at the campsite, and toilet paper for bathroom emergencies. Luckily, the family I travelled with learned these things the hard way before I got there.

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Lodging and Food

BRAG is excellent because you don’t have to carry around cash or even a credit card on your person (though it’s always good to have at least one person in your group with money in case there is an emergency).

Before we left for the tour, we bought meal plans. At a low cost, we received meal tickets for each stop so that breakfast lunch and dinner was always supplied. On the fourth night, we actually decided to take the shuttle into the town of Baxley for dinner. Since the meals are so cheap, families often pick a night to eat out, and not much money is wasted.

You’ll have the option to sleep in a hallway or gymnasium at every destination, but the group I was with brought tents and sleeping bags to camp out (here’s our advice on buying a tent for your bicycle tour). After all, enjoying the great outdoors is part of the fun! As a city-dweller, there’s nothing more exciting than feeling the fresh warm grass underneath you as you sleep. That was actually one of my favorite parts.

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Tour Tips

For a more in-depth list of tips for the training portion your bike tour, check out my article “Four Training Tips you Didn’t Think Of“.

For BRAG specifically, remember the following:

  • Beat the heat. The tour takes place in June, and midday until late afternoon can be brutally hot. You can start your daily ride at whatever time you choose, and our best days were the ones we started before 8:00am. That way, you’ll reach your destination just as the sun starts to really bear down.
  • Expect humidity. As I mentioned, I had never felt humidity like I did in Savannah, GA for the first time. No matter what, you will sweat, so plan accordingly. Bring extra clothes for when yours soak through, wear a sweatband to keep it out of your eyes, and never, ever forget to apply deodorant.
  • Drink more water. No, even more than that. You can’t drink enough, especially when you’re sweating like crazy in the southern heat. Refill as much as possible. Luckily, the rest stops on BRAG are always stocked up and ready to meet your hydration needs.
  • Train in the heat. This was one thing I couldn’t do, considering I started my training in frigid Boston. The campus gym was always cool and comfortable, so I had no way of getting sweaty on the bike until I was already in Savannah. If possible, ride in the heat as much as possible so that you get used to the sweat.

My favorite part of BRAG is hard to pinpoint, but the sense of community was definitely unforgettable. It’s a unique experience, and I believe the feeling of family that everyone starts to feel is the reason me and the friend with whom I toured are still very close today.

I highly recommend BRAG for first time bike tours because it is easy to be prepared. The staff on the tour is extremely helpful, and even if you ride it without friends, you’re sure to leave with a companion or two.

Here is BRAG’s official site. Check them out if you’re considering a bike tour across Georgia.

About Leanne

Leanne is a writer and musician living in Boston. Her interest in cycling was born when she realized how convenient biking in the city was, and it has evolved from there. Whether biking down the street for dinner or across the city for band practice with a bass on her back, Leanne has become an avid urban biker.


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