Bicycle Travel > Routes

Timing and weather

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Rick.in.AZ:
I am planning a transam crossing next summer and looking for some advice. 

I have been thinking West to East, but could be convinced otherwise if there is good reason to reverse course.

Timing is pretty static at the early end.  I get an 8 week sabbatical for which I am eligible on June 26th, and plan to add 3 weeks of vacation. I can thus start as early as about June 8th.  I can delay the start however much I want, so there is no "latest" start criteria.

Several questions -

1) is there a good reason to switch directions?
2) what is the ideal start date for an 11 week crossing?
3) what should I plan for as to weather?

With 11 weeks, I figure 55 miles / day, 65 if I take 1 day per week as a rest day.  15 years ago I did the 930 miles of Portland to SF at a pace of 62 miles / day - but I am 15 years older now (will turn 57 mid trip)... I do however ride > 100 miles / week.

From what I can gather, with the exception of the first part of the trip, I can expect little cold weather, but may see lows to 40* in the mountains. Part of my query is that my sleeping bag is a 20* Marmot down bag, which may be overkill. It weighs 2 # 12 oz, so not horible, but I have thought a lighter / more warm weather bag might be worth considering if I know I am unlikely to see lows below 40. While this is an added expense, it will be very usable for other things here in the sonoran desert.

Other reason for asking is what to take - many gear lists include arm/leg warmers, as well as long pants....etc.  But if weather is mostly warm, do I need these?  If I do, should I assume that I will mail them home from Colorado?

Thanks,

Rick

staehpj1:
If starting in the west and you have the choice, I might add the vacation on to the end of the trip rather than the beginning.  Check when McKenzie Pass is opening and use that as a deciding factor if you can be flexible with your start date.  Some years it may not open until July.  Ideally I'd try to catch it when it is open to cyclists, but not yet open to cars.  If it isn't open you can take Santiam Pass, but it would be a shame to miss McKenzie.

I think the biggest factor in deciding which way to go is your start date and if starting in June I'd start in the west.  If you were starting much earlier I'd start in the East.

I prefer tights to leg warmers because they are nice to sleep in and can double as long underwear.  Personal preference though.

The sleeping bag choice will depend a lot on how warm you sleep.  I'd take a cooler bag, but I have met folks who were freezing in a bag similar to yours when I was fine in my Mountain hardware Phantom 45 (I have used it in comfort down into the teens with a bit of clothing and a bivy sack or tent).  So you need to decide what YOU need.  You might have a few freezing nights, or not.  As I recall with a similar starting date we only had a few cold nights and I am not sure if it ever hit freezing on our TA.

Pueblo would be the time to consider sending some of your colder weather stuff home.

John Nelson:
I'm going to assume that by "transam", you actually mean the TransAm or TransAmerica Trail, and not just any old generic cross-country route.

Starting on June 8 suggests that W-to-E is fine. In my opinion, the first half of May is the best time to start for E-to-W and the first half of June is the best time to start for W-to-E.

Your plan for distance and time seems just about right. Some do more, some less. Your plan is just about average.

I prefer, and suggest, a lighter sleeping bag. On those nights when it's cold, you can always wear more to bed and/or use a liner. But a 20-degree bag will be way, way too hot for most of the trip. So why carry the extra weight and bulk.

One approach is certainly to mail home your warmer stuff after you get to Pueblo. That's a very reasonable plan. But don't send everything home. Although it will generally be warm after that, you will have some chilly nights in the Appalachians. I have known several people who sent their sleeping bag home after weeks of hot weather where they couldn't imagine it would ever get cold again. Don't go that far. You'll need it again.

I carried, and used, knee warmers. They came in handy on a number of cold and/or rainy days, and they weigh little. You could substitute tights if you prefer, but there is little reason to take both. I took a pair of lightweight zip-off pants, and never zipped off the legs. They were light enough that even on hot days, I appreciated the fact that they kept the sun, wind and mosquitoes off my legs. I took arm warmers too, but these are probably not necessary since you will undoubtedly be taking long-sleeve shirt(s) and a rain jacket as well.

How much clothing you take is largely a personal preference. You obviously need to take enough to stay alive. After that, however, it's a tradeoff between comfort and weight. My own preference is to accept a bit of discomfort occasionally to keep the weight down.

Keep in mind that every year is different. Many people, like me, will tell you how the weather was on the year they did it. It may be very different for you.

indyfabz:
Interesting that you are focussing on weather from a cold perspective. Are you familiar with/acclimated to riding in extreme heat and humidity, which you could very well enounter in the midwest and east based on your timing? Having once done it, riding through the midwest in 90-100+ temps (topping out at 107 in IN, with a low the night before of 85) and oppressive humidity for at least two weeks straight is something I would try to avoid.

Rick.in.AZ:
@John -- Yes, I do mean the TransAmerica Trail. I should have been more clear.

Your input is very helpful.  So how late of a start can I make, and what are the impacts of waiting?
I can start my Sabbatical any time from june 26 on, so there is no constraints as to starting later.

As to how cold I sleep - I have used the bag at 20* in winter, with extra clothing. I wont say I was supper comfy, but I survived. So with a jacket on, I can use a manufacturers comfort ratings as acceptable for me.  You noted the Phantom, the 32* version of which just happens to be on close out at REI now for ~ $250 - Or were you refering to the Phantom 45?  I could likely use that to 40* in a pinch, with a jacket, but wouldn't sleep much below that.

@Indy -- "Are you familiar with/acclimated to riding in extreme heat and humidity" extreme heat definitely; humidity, some, but less so.  I live in Phoenix AZ and commute by bike, and do club rides on Saturday AM. Your note of "topping out at 107 in IN, with a low the night before of 85" sounds like an average July/August day here. Extreme would be a low of 95 and a high of 115.

I have ridden home at temps up to 120. But, the humidity, as high as it gets during our Monsoon season, isn't as bad as the midwest, though the "feels like" temps are similar. But, that is why I asked John (in this responce) about impacts of waiting.

So - Your thoughts?

Thanks

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