Author Topic: Which Direction TransAm Best -E to W or W to E?  (Read 4425 times)

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Offline FLami

Which Direction TransAm Best -E to W or W to E?
« on: November 17, 2009, 08:48:02 am »
We are doing the TransAm this year, but have gone back and forth as to the problem of freezing weather in the West to headwinds if going E to W.  We can vary our start date and we are going to see sights as we go...so we will not be setting any speed records.  What are the pros and cons of each direction?  East to West or West to East?

Offline staehpj1

Re: Which Direction TransAm Best -E to W or W to E?
« Reply #1 on: November 17, 2009, 12:11:21 pm »
Forget about prevailing westerlies.  The surface winds in the middle of the country will most likely be out of the Southeast by June.  In July we had a headwind the entire way across eastern Colorado and Kansas (the portion of the trip where winds mattered the most because they are open plains).  Look at these graphics to see what i mean.



If going again. I'd be inclined to go east to west if starting in April, May, or June.  That way you avoid some of the heat and humidity in the East and also avoid possible snow in the Rockies.  The later you go the more sense a start in the west makes.

The factors that made a start in the west best for us were
  • The worst climbs are in Virginia.  Strange but true.  There are long climbs in the West, but they are all fairly gradual.  Not only that but Virginia has more total elevation change than any other state on the route.  Since two of us had not had time to train before the trip we wanted to put off the steep climbs.  This made training as we went much more palatable.
  • We liked the idea of having air travel out of the way up front.
  • We liked the idea that it would be harder to back out and quit after a week.
  • It was awesome that family could meet us at the finish, throw us a big picnic, and drive us home.

Offline John Nelson

Re: Which Direction TransAm Best -E to W or W to E?
« Reply #2 on: November 17, 2009, 02:42:46 pm »
Pete has given some good reasons for west to east. I'm choosing east to west for the following reasons:

 - It allows an earlier start, avoiding the worst of the heat in the midwest and the worst of the cold in the high-altitude west.
 - The earlier start affords me longer days (on average), centering the trip around the summer solstice.
 - Since more of my riding is likely to be in the early morning than in the late afternoon, I avoid more of riding into the sun, and avoid more of having the drivers behind me blinded by the sun.
 - I get the worst hills over with earlier, and save the best scenery for last.
 - Donna Ikenberry's book asserts that east-to-west riders have a statistically higher probability of success. I think that might be mentioned somewhere on this ACA site as well.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Which Direction TransAm Best -E to W or W to E?
« Reply #3 on: November 17, 2009, 05:39:51 pm »
Johns reasons are all good ones.  The bottom line is that it can be great either way.   We had fun going W-E and I don't regret it at all, it was a great trip.  I think you have the best shot at good weather and favorable winds E-W, but there are many reasons for either choice. If you have a preference based on more aesthetic reasons, I would go with that preference.

Which ever way you decide, have a great trip.

John, did they credit any particular factor in the statistic about higher success rate going E-W?

Offline FLami

Re: Which Direction TransAm Best -E to W or W to E?
« Reply #4 on: November 17, 2009, 08:18:36 pm »
Thanks staehpj1 and John.  Great information.  The prevailing winds chart is particularly helpful and great points I hadn't even thought of like the sun being in the driver's eyes.  John, you mentioned that you get the worst hills over earlier.  I'm assuming you mean that the eastern hills and mountains have steeper inclines, because they sure aren't as high as the western mountains, correct? 

Offline John Nelson

Re: Which Direction TransAm Best -E to W or W to E?
« Reply #5 on: November 17, 2009, 10:04:51 pm »
I only know what I read. I've never ridden the hills of the Appalachians or Ozarks, but I have ridden extensively in the Rockies. I think it's not just that the eastern hills have steeper gradients, but that there are a hundred of them in a row. Perhaps this is because the TransAm follows the back roads which have not been extensively graded. But there aren't many back roads through the Rockies because there are far fewer roads in total.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Which Direction TransAm Best -E to W or W to E?
« Reply #6 on: November 18, 2009, 06:56:13 am »
I'm assuming you mean that the eastern hills and mountains have steeper inclines, because they sure aren't as high as the western mountains, correct? 
There are long grades in the Rockies, but they are not too often greater than 6% and I don't think we saw anything over 8%.  In the Appalachians we saw close to 20% and as John said they come one after another.  I personally was surprised that the Rockies were much easier than I imagined and the Appalachians were harder that the Rockies and harder than I would have guessed.   This despite the fact that were were pretty road hardened by the time we got to the Appalachians.

Don't get me wrong both are doable, just be sure you have low gearing in the Appalachians.

Offline tonythomson

Re: Which Direction TransAm Best -E to W or W to E?
« Reply #7 on: November 18, 2009, 09:02:35 am »
Staehpj1  great map showing the wind directions for July are similar maps available somewhere as would like one for April/May -

Hey anyone listening from ACA? It would be great if we could have a set of wind direction maps on the web site as there is always someone asking questions about wind direction on the forum (often me) Or have I messed them somewhere.

Thanks and again great info guys.
Just starting to record my trips  www.tonystravels.com

Offline staehpj1

Re: Which Direction TransAm Best -E to W or W to E?
« Reply #8 on: November 18, 2009, 10:19:51 am »
Staehpj1  great map showing the wind directions for July are similar maps available somewhere as would like one for April/May -
I lost track of the source and it was sporadically available to start with.  July was the only one I kept a copy of.  I will say that January was pretty much the opposite.  Months in between were transitional between the two.  June and August were close to July I think.  Same for May and September, but maybe more variable.  April and October I don't know I suspect that are more of a crap shoot.

This is all from my often faulty memory though.

There is local data with wind roses available.  It provides more detail, but it requires more effort to use since each one is for a specific month and one specific location.  A starting point for that might be http://www.wcc.nrcs.usda.gov/climate/windrose.html