Transam Route; Statistics and Planning Considerations (page 2) - CycleBlaze

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Transam Route; Statistics and Planning Considerations (page 2)

Jeff LeeTo George Hall

I want to push back on this a little bit, because I believe that it's at least a slight exaggeration, and I think that exaggerating the difficulty of bicycle touring - specifically bike touring on paved roads in the USA - might discourage people from trying it. I know that when I meet local people while bike touring, I frequently hear variations of "I could never do that." I always tell them that when I started riding, I could barely ride seven miles on the shoulder of the highway next to my office. And the next year I rode from coast to coast. Which is true.

When I rode the TransAm east to west in 2006, at age 40, I'd been riding about a year, and I think I'd only ever done three rides that were more than 70 miles. Two of those rides were on flat rail-trails. Until the spring of 2006, I didn't own a pair of bike shorts or a bike jersey. I was riding in jeans. I bought all my my stuff (panniers, bike clothes, etc.) a couple of months before the start of my trip. So I think it's fair to say that I wasn't really "prepared", certainly not prepared compared to people that make detailed plans before their tours.

And I'm a firm believer that you can "ride yourself into shape" on a tour. That's been the case in pretty much all my bike tours, where I usually start out overweight and not having ridden much in the previous weeks. The first couple of days of the tour are, admittedly, a little rough, but it's always worked out.

Finally, lest all this sound like self aggrandizement on my part: I've met people who knew even less than I did at first, and were even less prepared than me, who were doing long self-supported bike tours. For example, the 20-year-old couple from suburban New Jersey who had never ridden AT ALL, and who bought a bikes at REI and started the TransAm from the east. I met them on the Western Express. They'd figured it out and were having a great time.

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7 months ago
George HallTo Jeff Lee

At age 40, you were still a young man!  And the 20 year olds you mentioned can, of course, survive most anything. I was 62 when I rode the Transam - like you, I was relatively inexperienced as well. I got through the Appalachians and the Ozarks, but it was tough. 

There are some tours where you can start and ride yourself into shape. And some folks might be able to get away with that on the Transam.  But showing up in poor condition for an east to west Transam is going to make for a very tough first few weeks, and is more likely to lead to failure than it would on other routes.  Some folks might get through it, some won't.  I do know of inexperienced and relatively unconditioned folks who made it - but I also know of others who failed.  I would encourage any cyclist to ride the Transam route, but in the same breath I would tell them to show up prepared for climbing (especially so if going E to W).

BTW, one of my long-term goals is to ride the Transam again - sometime after I turn 70.  I certainly wouldn't be the only 70+ person to do so, but there aren't  many who have done it.  Maybe that will happen, maybe not...

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7 months ago
Wayne EstesTo George Hall

In my 40s I generally felt stronger at the end of a tour than at the beginning. In my 50's I began to feel gradually weaker as a bike tour progresses. Definitely no more riding into shape for me .

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7 months ago
John EganTo Jeff Lee

Ah, Jeff, you is a mere "yute" as My Cousin Vinny would say.

No question, nearly anybody can do a cross-country ride.
I would say the biggest thing is time and money.
Often, if you have the money, you don't have the time.
And if you have the time, you don't have the money.

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7 months ago
Pete StaehlingTo George Hall

"One thing I should have included in my initial post; you need to be in decent cycle condition at the start of an east to west Transam tour. "

That is a good idea for any tour, but especially so for starting a TA in the east.   I started in the west at age 55 (I turned 56 on the ride) and still had some really hard days in the Ozarks and Appalachians despite being road hardened by then.  I wasn't in doubt of making it, but it was plenty hard.

I plan to do the TA again for Bikecentennial's 25th anniversary in 2026.  I'll be 76 and don't think I'd consider starting in the east unless maybe it was on the Eastern Express alternate.  I'd really like to stick somewhat close to the Bikecentennial route though.

When we did the TA we started June 11th and took 73 days.  We only had a few days with any rain and I only remember being really cold twice.  I do remember relentless heat most of the way.

Like Jeff, I too met and knew lots of folks who started out with little or no riding experience under their belts who did fine on long tours.  Most of them were outdoorsy types, but some weren't even that.  I met folks on the TA that just decided to do it out of the blue.  I think it is helpful if you are already used to camping and doing outdoor stuff, but it isn't mandatory.  My companions on the TA had been getting ready for graduation from college so they did very little preparation. Their longest training ride was 33 miles if I remember correctly and they only did a few rides.  One had done some riding in the past and the other wasn't a cyclist at all.  Neither had toured.  Both had some experience camping and hiking.

We weren't as lucky on the insects.  We had biting insects at various points along the way.

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5 months ago
John ChimahuskyTo George Hall

My slightly younger brother and I plan to ride east to west from DC to Seaside, OR starting early May this year, using the Transam Eastern Express, the traditional Transam and the Lewis and Clark Trail.  Camping will be the primary mode of lodging, but we will take advantage of hostels, WarmShowers, friends and family where possible and motels where necessary or advisable. 

It was going to be the Transam west to east until I discovered the Eastern Express last year. I created Ride With GPS routes for both alternatives and determined that the Eastern Express saves about 40,000' of climbing between the east coast and Walden, CO. I rode west to east across Missouri last summer so I've experienced the Ozarks on a bike, and I won't feel at all left out if I miss some of the big climbs in the Appalachians.

I'll turn 70 a week into the ride.  I've ridden more this winter than I usually do, so I'll have probably 1,200 miles under my belt since January by the time we leave, including some 50-60 mile rides. We'll begin on the C&O tow path and GAP rail trail, so except for the long, low-grade Eastern Continental Divide there won't be any significant climbing the first week or so. I don't believe in "riding myself into shape", but the Eastern Express will allow for a bit of that.

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2 weeks ago
Keith AdamsTo John Chimahusky

John, you're starting in my back yard!  If you're interested in having an escort for the first few miles or days let me know.  If the timing works out I'd enjoy helping see you on your way.

If you'd prefer to keep this a strictly you-and-your-brother affair, no offense taken.

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1 week ago
George HallTo John Chimahusky

John, the route you describe is similar to one I have in mind to ride someday also.  Basically the Chicago to New York City route (but backwards from that) to Indianapolis, then the Eastern Express connecting to the Lewis and Clark,  then jump onto the Parks, Peaks, and Prairies route in SD and take it west into WY, then "bushwhack" north to reconnect to the Lewis and Clark and finish.  

Not this year, cause I have another plan for this year, but some year soon.  FWIW it seems that I am about 6 months older than you.   Someday I hope to ride the Transam again - I'll ride the Appalachians and Ozarks when I do, I just won't set any records while dealing with the harsh climbs!    Best of luck, hopefully you will journal about your ride so we can all follow along. 

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1 week ago
Pete StaehlingTo John Egan

Maybe, but it can be done pretty cheaply so the money doesn't have to be a big issue.  I know that my wife has commented in the past that I spent less on one tour than when I was at home.  That was at a time when I was putting a lot of miles on my truck so the money at the gas pump when not on tour was significant, but still on the TA I know we spent very little for camping (free most of the time) and didn't pay for rooms.  We didn't splurge very much on meals.  Modest meals cooked in camp and diner food aren't that expensive.  Airfare one direction was a few hundred, but I think all in all I only spent $1500 for everything in 2007 and that included some of the gear.

It depends on how tight your budget is and who is dependent on you.  I can imaging that someone early in their career and raising a family will have issues with both time and money.

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6 days ago
Karen CookTo Pete Staehling

"....especially so for starting a TA in the east"

I have always found it interesting (and okay a bit humorous) that, when asked, the people who start in the west usually say it is harder starting west to east and the people that start in the east say its harder starting east to west.  I heard that from most cyclists all the way along the route.

And that jives with my experience.  The climb from Sacramento to Carson pass is one solid 2-3 day climb.  When I got to the eastern mountains, after putting thousands of miles in my legs, it felt like a relative piece of cake.

Now I started on the western express, not the TA (and met the TA in Colorado), but climbing something like Eugene to Mackenzie pass on unfit legs must be unpleasant, even if you have a few days along the Willamette Valley to spin.

I prepared well before starting but that first week was a bitch, even though I loved every minute of it. ;-)

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3 days ago