N. Tier vs. Transam - CycleBlaze

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N. Tier vs. Transam

George Hall

The plan was that in 1 month 3 of us would commence eastbound on the Transam.  Well, things just changed - a family emergency means my sister can't go and there will only be 2 of us now.  It's not even certain there will be 2 of us, but likely that's the case - otherwise I go solo.  I have ridden the Transam before, and I loved it - it's a great route and all the established "infrastructure" (hostels and cyclist-friendly businesses) was the reason I suggested it to my 2 (now just 1) riding companions - and using my experience from 2015 I had planned out what I thought would be a good 12.5 week experience for my companions.  Due to my previous "both ends to the middle" approach, more than half of the route would be different to me this time as I would be riding it in the opposite direction - and since I've only ridden it once it's not like I'm intimately familiar with it anyway.

At this late point, that will probably still be what happens - BUT, now that my sister isn't going, I'm not as concerned about riding a more "friendly" route as I was, and I'm considering riding the Northern Tier instead.  We would have last-minute transportation issues and other challenges if we change our plans now, so it's the more stressful option for sure - and while I know the Transam would be a great route and experience, I'm not as certain about the Northern Tier.

So, I'm looking for comments from those of you who have ridden part or all of the N Tier - especially if you have also ridden the Transam.  I'm aware of John Meiner's excellent comparison of the 2 routes on that "other" site - and honestly, at this point, it's going to be hard to change plans anyway.  Still, I would really appreciate any input you have.   Thanks,

Buddy

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2 weeks ago
Gregory GarceauTo George Hall

Hi Buddy, 

I haven't ridden the Trans-am, but I'm familiar with the route.  I have ridden almost all of the Northern Tier except when I went on a few off-route excursions.  (Like to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.)   I may be a little biased, but the main reason I'd go with the Northern Tier is because the best part of the Great Plains runs through Montana and North Dakota.  And I really liked the large cities of Cleveland, Buffalo and Rochester.  Niagara Falls was pretty cool too. 

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2 weeks ago
George HallTo Gregory Garceau

Thanks Gregory.  I'll consider that - and also pass it on to my riding partner.  On the Transam there are about 3 weeks worth of hostels where one can stay for free (I usually left a small donation though).  Were there many hostels on the Northern Tier?    

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2 weeks ago
Gregory GarceauTo George Hall

I only remember about four or five hostels along the way.  I only stayed at one.  Camping opportunities were plentyful though.

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2 weeks ago
John PickettTo George Hall

In 2o18 I rode cross country on parts of the NYC to Chicago, Northern Tier, Great Rivers, Lewis and Clark, and Pacific Coast Routes. In 2019 I rode Route 66 to the Trans Am to the Western Express. 

The three biggest differences I could tell between the Trans Am and the Northern Tier are free accommodations, elevation, and familiarity. The free accommodations on the Trans Am are unlike any other ACA route I've ridden. Many more than the Northern Tier. The Northern Tier, to my knowledge, doesn't get above 7,000 feet in elevation. The Trans Am does several times. (And don't get me started about the Western Express! Oy!) The Trans Am is so well established that people who live along the route aren't all that surprised to see bicyclists riding thousands of miles across the country. I didn't get that sense on the other routes. 

Whatever you do, good luck. 

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2 weeks ago
Karen CookTo George Hall

Buddy,

You need to start thinking outside the box. 

How about do both? 

Ride the Trans-Am east to west then ride back on the Northern Tier.

Do I need to think of everything? 🙄

😬

Karen 😂

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2 weeks ago
George HallTo John Pickett

thanks John. That’s a good comparison. I’m gonna leave a lot of the decision to my riding partner - I’ll show him this discussion thread -  it will be his first Continental crossing - I’m good either way, but if I do end up riding it solo I’m definitely gonna ride the northern tier for a new experience. I too have ridden the western express, and I loved it, but it’s definitely challenging in places. 

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2 weeks ago
George HallTo Karen Cook

Karen,

That’s an excellent idea! Unfortunately, my wife is not a cyclist. My lovely bride of 44 years would not tolerate that long of an absence. She-who-must-be-obeyed would probably have sold all my possessions and moved away before I returned from such a trip. But I really do like the idea!

Buddy

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2 weeks ago
Leo WoodlandTo George Hall

Hi George

  I've ridden all the Northern Tier and most of the Transam. Both have their shortcomings but I'd put the Transam first. The Northern Tier would be better if it went through the pretty part of Montana; instead it goes through the north and, especially the east. There's not a lot there, just a dying town at every interval at which steam trains had to stop for water.

I think the route has been changed but  it used to ride through towns going through an oil boom, with all the traffic and trucks. I don't remember a happy ride.

On the Transam, you go through eastern Colorado, which is far from being the glory of the ski resorts, but I preferred that to never-ending Montana.

The important thing is to ride. You'll enjoy either of them, I promise.

happy days

léo

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2 weeks ago
George HallTo Leo Woodland

Thanks Leo - good input.  It's really a tough decision, for many reasons.   And, unfortunately, we aren't where I was hoping we would be in terms of the country's COVID recovery yet.  That point kind of argues for choosing the N Tier since it traverses more desolate country with less people contact.   Must pin this thing down soon - you really can't go on a tour without knowing where you are going to start and more or less where you are going to go!   Less than a month from the planned departure date and I don't know where I'm departing to...

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2 weeks ago