Author Topic: The TransAmerican for a beginner?  (Read 5457 times)

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Offline Cat

The TransAmerican for a beginner?
« on: October 11, 2012, 04:11:07 pm »
It seems to be a lot of experienced bikers here and I have just about 1000 questions!

I´m thinking about riding the Transamerican trail, starting in the beginning of august.
Is it, generally speaking, safe for a woman to ride alone?
Is it possible to ride very light and find hostels/rooms all the way or is it necessary to carry camping gear? (I´ll buy the aca-maps when I´ve made the decision.)
How much does a room cost approx? To camp?
Is august a good month to start?


If you could share some thoughts about these questions, it would be great!

Cat
« Last Edit: October 14, 2012, 07:06:34 am by Cat »

Offline yumadons

Re: The TransAmerican for a beginner?
« Reply #1 on: October 11, 2012, 05:32:32 pm »
Hi Cat. We started the TransAm Aug 1 from Florence, OR & motelled it all the way to Kansas (where my husband fell and broke his collarbone and sagged us in an RV the rest of the way).

So it can be done, but you have to plan VERY carefully unless you're capable of 100+ mile days. You can use my journal as a template, our days averaged 43 miles and the longest one was 80 miles in Kansas. (We combined two 40 mile days because we wanted to get ahead of a storm and keep motel reservations that we already had). Reserving motels in key spots is your biggest challenge, start by figuring out what date you'll be in Grant Village, Yellowstone, and get those reservations online first.
Reserve a few days, then you can cancel 48 hours in adance with no penalty once you've narrowed it
down to the one night you need. Average motel cost was $85 for the first half into Pueblo, CO. I
haven't done the figures past there yet, but motels got cheaper in the midwest.

Other spots on my route that are key for reservations are:
McKenzie Bridge, OR (Caddisfly Resort was booked in Feb, there are other cabins but $$$)
Jeffrey City, WY (Byron has just the one trailer that he *rents* out for donations)

Consider splitting the day from White Bird to Lowell into two days: White Bird to Grangeville, Grangeville to Lowell. The *hill* out of White Bird is a bit€# and even a very strong cyclist we rode with (wisely) stopped in Grangeville.

A lot of western towns have only one lodging but everybody is cool about reservations when you tell them you're bicycling. They're not gonna charge you if something happens and you don't make it as long as you call. My advice would be to make reservations for the western half months in advance like I did. I used the ACA maps, which show where the mountains are, to decide where to stay. A 30 mile day up a mountain pass is more strenuous than 60 miles on the flats, so pay attention to that! I was very careful not to end a long day with a mountain pass either. Better to start the following day with that mountain pass.

Past Pueblo, lodging isn't hard to get. Do call ahead and reserve a day or two in advance so you don't get skunked, but it doesn't have to be months / weeks in advance like some of the western towns.

The western half of the TransAm is safe for a woman. People are used to seeing cyclists. There will be plenty of other cyclists out there and you may be able to cut expenses by sharing motel rooms. There aren't many hostels along the way, you may hit one every 10 days or so. Sometimes you need sleeping bags for hostels so you'd have to decide if you want to carry one just to use a few times.

The standard American motel room is two beds and it's often the same cost for a room for one vs. a room for two people. The first half, I was with my husband, so one bed. Oftentimes, however, the motels gave us a room with two beds because there was more room for the bikes and the cost was the same. The second half, we added my sister, so three people and always rooms with two beds. Some rooms were ~ $10 more for the three of us, but many were the same cost as with two people.

All the prices and contact info for the lodgings is in my journal:

http://bicyclelife.topicwise.com/doc/?o=1&doc_id=9261&v=3Df












Offline Cat

Re: The TransAmerican for a beginner?
« Reply #2 on: October 14, 2012, 07:05:46 am »
Thank you very much for your very useful information, yumadon!

Since spending 85 dollars every night seems a little bit too much I think I will camp as well. I don´t mind camping but biking without luggage seemed so tempting... :)
I guess I have to look for a touring bike and a new nice sleeping pad.
 
« Last Edit: October 14, 2012, 07:23:45 am by Cat »

Offline DaveB

Re: The TransAmerican for a beginner?
« Reply #3 on: October 14, 2012, 10:30:09 am »
Unless you are a very strong rider and expect to complete the trip in 6 weeks or less, I think August is too late in the year to start.  You will most likely take to mid to late October and perhaps into November to complete the trip and that pretty much guarantees cold and bad weather at the end.  If you go East to West, many of the Western mountain roads will have snow by late September.  West to East pretty much assures cold, rain and possibly snow in the Earstern mountains.

Offline staehpj1

Re: The TransAmerican for a beginner?
« Reply #4 on: October 14, 2012, 10:32:35 am »
I don´t mind camping but biking without luggage seemed so tempting... :)
I guess I have to look for a touring bike and a new nice sleeping pad.
Maybe consider going ultralight.  It isn't for everyone, but it does allow going pretty unencumbered.  You can get down to just a smallish dry bag strapped onto a rack if you want and can manage pretty well with a regular road bike (lower gearing is still nice).  I have done a variety of longish trips with 10-15 pounds base weight and could get by with a 7 pound base weight if I wanted.

Check out my article on Ultralight touring and journals if you are interested.
http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/Ultralight
https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/directory/?o=5v&user=staehpj1&v=u

Offline staehpj1

Re: The TransAmerican for a beginner?
« Reply #5 on: October 14, 2012, 10:44:01 am »
Unless you are a very strong rider and expect to complete the trip in 6 weeks or less, I think August is too late in the year to start.  You will most likely take to mid to late October and perhaps into November to complete the trip and that pretty much guarantees cold and bad weather at the end.  If you go East to West, many of the Western mountain roads will have snow by late September.  West to East pretty much assures cold, rain and possibly snow in the Earstern mountains.
Good point, but starting August 1st and taking 10 weeks would usually be OK.  The Appalachians might be cold at night, but the Fall colors would be amazing Oct 1-14 or so.  10 weeks is a fairly normal pace, some take more some less.

Also if time isn't tight waiting out a bit of bad weather in the fall in the Appalachians is usually do able especially if the OP plans to finish in October.  There is a small chance of snow or really bitter weather, but it is likely to change for the better within 48 hours.

Having spent a lot of time in the Appalachians in October, I think it would be a lovely time to ride through if you allow for a possible weather delay.  November gets more iffy.  While it isn't completely out of the question, I'd try to schedule a finish in October.

Offline Cat

Re: The TransAmerican for a beginner?
« Reply #6 on: October 14, 2012, 01:06:03 pm »
Yes, I will try to ride as light as posible even with that camping gear. I will read your journals, thank you!

Oh, I don´t expect to complete the ride in 6 weeks. I think I can get 3 months off of work. I could start a little bit earlier but I understand that if I do - it´ll be too warm in the beginning, right? (I´m a swede and not used to very hot temperatures... :P)

I guess the appalachians have pretty much the same weather as I have at home. And thinking about it, we have already had some snow... A friend mentioned the posibility to end in Savanna. I would then follow the TA to Kansas or so and then go down more to the south east. But when I look at the map of biking routes, I can´t see any at all in that area. I guess there would be a reason for that?

Offline John Nelson

Re: The TransAmerican for a beginner?
« Reply #7 on: October 14, 2012, 07:58:33 pm »
"Too warm" and "too cold" are relative and something each person has to decide for themselves. Furthermore, every year is different, so that July might be oppressively hot in the Midwest one year, and then quite comfortable the next year.

You may tolerate cold well and hot poorly, but I'm more the opposite. I will point out that preparing for hot doesn't require adding any weight, but preparing for cold does.

Good luck.

Offline staehpj1

Re: The TransAmerican for a beginner?
« Reply #8 on: October 15, 2012, 08:39:34 am »
"Too warm" and "too cold" are relative and something each person has to decide for themselves. Furthermore, every year is different, so that July might be oppressively hot in the Midwest one year, and then quite comfortable the next year.

You may tolerate cold well and hot poorly, but I'm more the opposite. I will point out that preparing for hot doesn't require adding any weight, but preparing for cold does.

All of that is quite true.

Still, I find I can manage fairly cold weather with the same gear I use in the summer.  I figure that in the mountains regardless of time of year you need to be prepared for a bit of cold.  At a 15 pound base weight I did fine when I camped on top of a pass and it was 18 F.  Since I have gone lighter yet I have not done anything that makes me less able to deal with cooler temperatures.  Not too many have the same tolerance for the cold that I do though, so most would have to pack more to accommodate the same temperature.

For hot weather there is only so much you can do.  You can always put on a bit more clothing, but can only take off so much.  Staying hydrated helps, but again only so much.  As a result I find that while I can tough out really hot weather (even 110 F), I do find it unpleasant once it is much above 80.

It was kind of funny on my ST.  The guy I rode with much of the way hated the cold.  He grew up in Southern Florida and recently was living in San Diego.  At one point he had a face mask on when it was in the upper 50s.  When it was 50ish and raining he was absolutely miserable.  I was happy.  The last day of the trip the temperature gout well up into the 90s and I commented that it was pretty oppressive.  He said it was the first nice day of the trip and then commented that it was also the first time the whole trip that he heard me complain about the weather.  Some of the difference is just our makeup and some is what we are acclimated to.

I guess the bottom line is that everyone has to figure out what works, for them because we are all different.

Offline Cat

Re: The TransAmerican for a beginner?
« Reply #9 on: October 15, 2012, 09:33:21 am »
If it gets too hot, one could start early in the morning. I suppose it doesn´t stay light all night long, not even up in the north of the US?
I think somewhere between 60 and 80 F is the most pleasant temperature - thats why I thought july would be too early.

Offline staehpj1

Re: The TransAmerican for a beginner?
« Reply #10 on: October 15, 2012, 12:26:19 pm »
If it gets too hot, one could start early in the morning. I suppose it doesn´t stay light all night long, not even up in the north of the US?
I think somewhere between 60 and 80 F is the most pleasant temperature - thats why I thought july would be too early.
Yeah for me starting early is a given.  I do that even in cooler weather.  It has the advantage of minimizing the need to ride in the wind as well.

For me 50-65 F is perfect riding weather, 70 is still nice, but the upper 70s is definitely getting warmer than I would pick if I had a choice.

Offline DaveB

Re: The TransAmerican for a beginner?
« Reply #11 on: October 15, 2012, 07:44:35 pm »
If it gets too hot, one could start early in the morning. I suppose it doesn´t stay light all night long, not even up in the north of the US?
I think somewhere between 60 and 80 F is the most pleasant temperature - thats why I thought july would be too early.
You may consider July too early but I expect October and November will be unpleasantly too late. 

Offline staehpj1

Re: The TransAmerican for a beginner?
« Reply #12 on: October 16, 2012, 07:35:28 am »
You may consider July too early but I expect October and November will be unpleasantly too late.

Yeah, November would be pretty likely to get quite cold.  Most likely you would get by OK, but it might be iffy.

Early to mid October on the other hand is very likely to be absolutely amazing.  The beauty of the Fall colors is likely to be one of the highlights of the whole trip.  I have done a lot of camping in the Appalachians in October and if you can tolerate some chilly weather it just doesn't get any better than most of the times I have been there.  I was just there the 5th - the 7th and the colors were breathtaking at 3000' or so, lower they had not quite hit their peak, but were still nice.  Also I was a bit farther north, so I'd guess the second week of October would be a perfect time to see the Appalachians on the TA at their absolute glorious best.  To me that would be worth having to tough out a bit of cold weather or even an unlikely day of snow.   I have had snow there in October, but even that wasn't that bad it melted quickly and the roads were only bad for half a day and the odds are very good that you wouldn't have to deal with that at all.

For me the heat in the West would be a bigger problem, but I hate hot weather and don't mind a bit of cold weather.  Not everyone shares that predisposition, so YMMV.

Offline Westinghouse

Re: The TransAmerican for a beginner?
« Reply #13 on: October 17, 2012, 04:49:25 am »
I would just go, and make plans as I went along. If you stay in motels most every night, a lightweight tarp is sufficient. I have bike toured 37,000 miles through 19 countries. I have never made reservations anywhere.

Offline misterflask

Re: The TransAmerican for a beginner?
« Reply #14 on: October 31, 2012, 06:09:31 am »
Just finished TA W>E in nine weeks starting Aug 18.  Crossed Rockies the day after the first snow in mid-september.  Woke up to about five frosts, all but one west of Rockies.  Generally wonderful daytime riding weather, but weather in east was getting a little volatile toward the end and it was still warmish in eastern Oregon at the beginning.