Author Topic: TransAm + Western Express  (Read 1422 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Offline rmain

TransAm + Western Express
« on: September 03, 2013, 02:13:55 pm »
Hello!
Planning a TransAm- Western Express trip with a friend next year. 
When is the best time of year to do this route? How early in the spring? How late in the fall? is July/August too hot?
Is it better east to west, or west to east?
We hope to average about 100 miles a day, and want to ride super light, no camping if possible.
Any advice would be most appreciated!
Thanks!
Rachel and Erik

Offline CMajernik

Re: TransAm + Western Express
« Reply #1 on: September 03, 2013, 03:03:10 pm »
Please go read the web pages about both of these routes (you'll be using TA #7-#12 between Pueblo, CO and Yorktown, VA). I think you'll find some of your answers in the Overview, Terrain and Logistics tabs.

http://www.adventurecycling.org/routes-and-maps/adventure-cycling-route-network/western-express/

http://www.adventurecycling.org/routes-and-maps/adventure-cycling-route-network/transamerica-trail/
Carla Majernik
Routes and Mapping Program Director

Adventure Cycling Association
Inspiring people of all ages to travel by bicycle.
800/755-2453, 406/721-1776 x218, 406/721-8754 fax
www.adventurecycling.org

Follow Routes & Mapping on Twitter: @acaroutes

Offline zzzz

Re: TransAm + Western Express
« Reply #2 on: September 23, 2013, 08:44:09 pm »
Hi Rachel & Eric:

I did this most of this same trip last year and I have some things to offer on the experience.

I left from San Francisco on 9/1, and like you intend, I traveled very light (15 lbs. before water) and ate in restaurants and slept in hotels. I also looked to average a 100 miles a day for the trip.

• Leaving in the beginning of September, going west to east worked out very well for me. No guarantees with the weather but I beat any snow or serious cold through the high mountains and it was never brutally hot. The two disadvantages of west to east in September is that in the early morning you, and the traffic behind you, are going into the morning sun and that the days are getting shorter.

• Counting on averaging a 100 miles a day out west is tough. If you're thinking you'll clear 38 days of vacation for your 3800 mile trip you might want to rethink that. East of Fallon in Nevada for the next 400 miles the towns are 60 or 70 or 80 miles apart. If you're not camping you will have a choice of stopping at the first town in 68 miles or the second town at 142 miles. Southern Utah can also have pretty big spaces between hotels. Once you get to Colorado and beyond it becomes easier logistically to string together a bunch of longer days.

• In a point related to the paragraph above, consider adding a few "off" days. This route will roll you right by the entrance to Zion & Bryce Canyon and I did not stop when I was there. I'm telling myself that some day I will go back and hike them. You may want to consider including day or two to hike the most spectacular scenery in the US while you are already at the gate. Also, there will probably be some day(s) that it's raining all day or the wind is up and against you all day and after 70 miles you'll be thinking to yourself "Enough!".

• Super light/ No camping (aka "Credit Card Touring") has it's advantages. My east/west tour last year was my first touring experience. I just got back yesterday from going from Jasper to Denver and I packed pretty much the same way and on this trip I did average 100/day. But it has it's disadvantages too.... There can be a certain amount of tension with making your hotel by the end of the day. And you may not stop to take a longer look at something cool along the way for the same reason. I intend to continue to travel light but I mention this FYI. Also, I've averaged about $140/day for these trips, food and hotel, though I'm sure it can be done for less.

• I'll speculate from the info you included in your post (not intimidated by long days/ want to travel light) that you two are "roadies" who have decided to do something different. That would describe my background. If that is true, just be aware that this is terrible for your speed. Riding for 7 hours a day at 15 mph makes you real good at riding 7 hours a day at 15 mph and nothing else. My speed was significantly down on all my typical training rides after I got back from my last trip.

That's what I got, I hope it helps.

Pete


Offline jwalden

Re: TransAm + Western Express
« Reply #3 on: December 12, 2013, 03:24:56 pm »
I too did WE+TA last year.  I live near SF and thus started there, July 18 to August 23, 37 days.  I had ~17lbs on a seatpost rack (including backpacker camping gear), plus a hydration pack  (a few pounds with contents, not including up to 200oz water).  I was two panniers lighter than any other touring cyclist I saw, which surprised me (expected to be light, didn't expect that much)

My schedule forced me to travel at high summer and be done by August 24.  It was definitely hot.  The Silver Springs, NV casino marquee said 95°F when I stopped for lunch, and another customer mentioned 103°F as I left.  But the aridity made it a very bearable heat in cycling shorts, a jersey, and Pearl Izumi "sun sleeves" (purported to make perspiration more efficient).  I say that even tho I'm not morning-person enough to be capable of starting early to avoid the worst heat: every day Dayton to Cedar City ended early evening after biking through the worst of the afternoon.  If you're weather-resistant, July and August are totally feasible.  And if you can wake up early, I don't even think that's a requirement.  I'd actually say high summer was an advantage in letting me have just two sets of clothes, with polyester long-sleeve town shirt the warmest thing I had.  I'd probably have carried more in spring or fall.

I had few headwinds that I remember.  The only bad ones were Baker to Milford, UT and a horribly stiff bit from Larned to Seward, KS.  As far as good tail winds, I got some for the straightaway ~30mi before Eureka, NV and for the day into Pittsburg, KS.  I talked to one person who said either way was a crapshoot; my bet is west-east is typically better but the difference isn't huge, and it's easy to get unlucky anyway.

I used sleeping bag/pad/tent around half the time.  I had about seven nights where I had to camp and couldn't stay in a motel.  (I never considered Warm Showers, felt I couldn't give advance notice enough to be polite.)  But most of those you could work around by biking further or planning better.  If you want to not camp at all, it's possible, but you'll probably have to sacrifice to do it (and reserve somewhat in advance in Nevada).

Regarding pace.  100mi/day is doable.  (Although, I didn't aim for it out west, did a comfortable ~93/day average, planning to recoup miles in the east.)  But no days off, or 110-120/day to "buy" a few, really wears.  I enjoyed my trip with no zeroes because I have high tolerance for the mental stress and was at the age/shape to pull it off.  But any extra time for a zero, or even less-ridiculous days a few more times, would have made it a lot better.  As for my regrets because of that, I count Monticello (in Virginia) the strongest.  (I've been to Zion and Bryce before.)

For comparison, my burn rate was ~$105/day not including transportation to/from the trip.  I ate in restaurants fairly often and never tried to minimize spending, so those numbers could be cut easily if it mattered (although I'd start by camping more, if it did).

zzzz's point about speed is spot on.  I returned to around-town cycling a couple miles an hour slower on average, probably from semi-sprinting most of the time around home and almost never pushing myself in those 37 days.

Offline karungguni

Re: TransAm + Western Express
« Reply #4 on: December 12, 2013, 03:52:26 pm »
I too did WE+TA last year.  I live near SF and thus started there, July 18 to August 23, 37 days.  I had ~17lbs on a seatpost rack (including backpacker camping gear), plus a hydration pack  (a few pounds with contents, not including up to 200oz water).  I was two panniers lighter than any other touring cyclist I saw, which surprised me (expected to be light, didn't expect that much)

My schedule forced me to travel at high summer and be done by August 24.  It was definitely hot.  The Silver Springs, NV casino marquee said 95°F when I stopped for lunch, and another customer mentioned 103°F as I left.  But the aridity made it a very bearable heat in cycling shorts, a jersey, and Pearl Izumi "sun sleeves" (purported to make perspiration more efficient).  I say that even tho I'm not morning-person enough to be capable of starting early to avoid the worst heat: every day Dayton to Cedar City ended early evening after biking through the worst of the afternoon.  If you're weather-resistant, July and August are totally feasible.  And if you can wake up early, I don't even think that's a requirement.  I'd actually say high summer was an advantage in letting me have just two sets of clothes, with polyester long-sleeve town shirt the warmest thing I had.  I'd probably have carried more in spring or fall.

I had few headwinds that I remember.  The only bad ones were Baker to Milford, UT and a horribly stiff bit from Larned to Seward, KS.  As far as good tail winds, I got some for the straightaway ~30mi before Eureka, NV and for the day into Pittsburg, KS.  I talked to one person who said either way was a crapshoot; my bet is west-east is typically better but the difference isn't huge, and it's easy to get unlucky anyway.

I used sleeping bag/pad/tent around half the time.  I had about seven nights where I had to camp and couldn't stay in a motel.  (I never considered Warm Showers, felt I couldn't give advance notice enough to be polite.)  But most of those you could work around by biking further or planning better.  If you want to not camp at all, it's possible, but you'll probably have to sacrifice to do it (and reserve somewhat in advance in Nevada).

Regarding pace.  100mi/day is doable.  (Although, I didn't aim for it out west, did a comfortable ~93/day average, planning to recoup miles in the east.)  But no days off, or 110-120/day to "buy" a few, really wears.  I enjoyed my trip with no zeroes because I have high tolerance for the mental stress and was at the age/shape to pull it off.  But any extra time for a zero, or even less-ridiculous days a few more times, would have made it a lot better.  As for my regrets because of that, I count Monticello (in Virginia) the strongest.  (I've been to Zion and Bryce before.)

For comparison, my burn rate was ~$105/day not including transportation to/from the trip.  I ate in restaurants fairly often and never tried to minimize spending, so those numbers could be cut easily if it mattered (although I'd start by camping more, if it did).

zzzz's point about speed is spot on.  I returned to around-town cycling a couple miles an hour slower on average, probably from semi-sprinting most of the time around home and almost never pushing myself in those 37 days.

I am following this topic hoping to do something similar. Do you mind to expand a bit about no zeros in pace. I am really interested in hearing what people say who do try to do this ride at a brisk pace.

Offline John Nelson

Re: TransAm + Western Express
« Reply #5 on: December 12, 2013, 04:43:57 pm »
A "zero day" is hiking lingo for a rest day, i.e., a day you don't make any miles.

Offline zzzz

Re: TransAm + Western Express
« Reply #6 on: December 12, 2013, 10:30:09 pm »
karungguni:

When you say you interested in doing the ride at a brisk pace are you looking to do the ride like your own version of the RAAM but with nicer scenery? or are you looking for it to be a giant training ride? or do you have a personal challenge in mind to average 100+ miles a day & averaging 16 mph+ for the trip?

Or.... do you just not want to feel like you're dawdling?

Answers would also depend on how much capability you have on a bike. If you're a Cat 1 or 2 and you're 25 years old then you could do a lot more than I can at 55 who hasn't ridden competitivly in 30 years.

The thing about maintaining a pace on these trips is you always have to leave at least some gas in the tank, for the end of the day, for the end of the week, for the end of the month, because the days and the miles keep coming.

Even if you're staying in a hotel (far easier), you need to do your laundry, you need to go find someplace to eat, bike maintenance, groceries for the next day. And if you're camping you got to make and break camp and cook your dinner. All much easier to do when you're not blurry w/ exhaustion.

Before my trip I had never ridden a bike with a rack, much less panniers, so I showed some caution as I learned what to expect. If you haven't already done so, you may want to take a  4-7 day ride before hand and see where you are after repeated long days.

btw: If the answer is yes to any one of the 3 questions I posed in the 1st paragraph you probably want to see if you can talk anyone into providing you a personal sag.

Pete


Offline jwalden

Re: TransAm + Western Express
« Reply #7 on: December 13, 2013, 03:17:09 am »
Do you mind to expand a bit about no zeros in pace. I am really interested in hearing what people say who do try to do this ride at a brisk pace.

Context: I was a 26-year-old male biking ~2200mi/year of mostly flat suburban riding in the Bay Area.  Common daily mileage was usually 0-15mi.  Every so often there'd be the spice of a longer day (30, 40, 60, 70, even 100mi), sometimes into the nearby mountains, tackled with no preparation.  I'd return hungry and weary and slightly sore but not really worse for wear.  Before this trip I did no extra riding, planning to ease myself into it as necessary at the start.

In some ways I don't actually consider my pace that brisk.  Distance-wise, sure.  (Although, daily distance varied a lot: 24mi the first day from a last-minute snafu, a few 60mi days scattered around, an 80, a few 90s, a bunch from 100-134, one 140, one 161.5.  I wasn't consistent for a variety of reasons: shelter spacing, the previous day's distance, random lack of energy, flat tires and maintenance stops, &c.)  But I averaged 12-14mi/h a day fairly often.  (Max 17.7 in KS with tail winds, min 10.5 from Folsom to Cooks Station early on, uphill.)  15-16 and such were fairly common after I got past Pueblo.  I did mileage by doing the time, not pushing the pace.  (That longest day was 11.5h riding time.)  The longest distance I could sustain day after day was ~125mi (I think my most consistent stretch was three days of four at 120mi/day, across Kansas).  Past that I dragged the next day ("only" 90-110mi).  I didn't actually catch up to my required overall pace until the last day, although I probably could have pushed and caught up earlier if it'd been necessary.

Health-wise, what I noticed most about averaging 100mi/day was that I always felt on the edge of a cold and cough: slightly out of breath, always a little weary (not in the tired sense) every morning.  I got stronger over the trip, but with never a day to heal, the partial exhaustion never went away.  Look forward to being constantly weary.

The pace also meant I didn't have much time for sightseeing.  I'm mostly pretty happy just going through places and not taking lots of time for stops and attractions -- or just watching the surrounding scenery.  My favorite state was Nevada, of all places.  (The cycling in Utah was probably better, because you got the vast empty stretches and a bit of scenery both.  But I'd rather bike Nevada again than Utah.)  Still, there were exceptions, like Monticello (mostly from having read Bryson's At Home the year before, which discussed Monticello a bit and put it in my mind).  You're not going to explore much off-route.

Eating also broke down a little due to pace.  Early on I ate lunches and often dinners in sit-down diners and the like, because I didn't push as hard on the Western Express.  But after Pueblo, more often I ate out of gas stations, sometimes even grabbing food to go for dinner at my ultimate stopping point.  Prepackaged sandwiches aren't haute cuisine.  But they can work, if you need them to.

All this said: 100mi/day is 7-8h of riding.  If you're not taking too many long breaks, you'll have down time.  If you're eating in restaurants and not having to put effort into preparing food, that's even more down time.  I managed to read a couple thousand pages (on a Kindle) over the trip, even with the pace.  You'll be more weary than tired, generally, but as long as you have food and water in you, you can do the mileage.  For a good cyclist, the challenge of the pace is mental, not physical.
« Last Edit: December 13, 2013, 03:25:20 am by jwalden »

Offline karungguni

Re: TransAm + Western Express
« Reply #8 on: December 13, 2013, 01:50:42 pm »
Thanks for the info. On the week rides I have done, I found that days 3 and 4 hurt a lot but you settle into a rhythm about day 5. Was curious about how long you could probably keep this up both mentally and physically. I am in SF btw.

Offline jwalden

Re: TransAm + Western Express
« Reply #9 on: December 14, 2013, 11:20:24 am »
Yeah, definitely you get stronger after the first few days, and the muscles expect the rigors of the trip each day, even if they're still not fully used to it.  But it's not really the same for exhaustion.  Fundamentally, you need time off (hours, or a day or days) to fix that.

Mentally and physically, I could keep up that pace approximately "forever".  For whatever reason, this sort of mental resilience comes easily for me.  Although if I'm working toward a goal, whenever I know the end is near, I get antsier about being done, even tho I always know I'll finish it.  For me the limitation would be physical: when would my body catch an infection (cold, real cough, etc.) that would force me to stop and give it a day, or a few days?  I can't guess when that would happen.  But the occasional 60-80mi days when my body clamored for a shorter day (a rest day, of sorts) definitely helped.  100mi every day is a bit more difficult than 105mi six days and 70mi on the seventh on an ongoing basis, or all those numbers adjusted up to whatever the person's actual limit is.