Author Topic: TransAmerica: Which direction?  (Read 4075 times)

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Offline coachcarl

TransAmerica: Which direction?
« on: July 09, 2010, 12:06:29 am »
A friend and I are considering a transamerica journey: SF to DC or DC to SF. Can anyone tell me which direction would be better and why?

Offline staehpj1

Re: TransAmerica: Which direction?
« Reply #1 on: July 09, 2010, 06:49:34 am »
There are lots of reasons why you might choose one or the other direction.  Here are a few.  Some assume the actual Trans America Route, but if your route is substantially different one or more may not apply.
  • Do you want the sun in your eyes in the morning or evening?
  • If you live on one coast or the other, do you want to ride away from or toward home?
  • Do you want to follow the direction US history followed?
  • Winds...  Contrary to popular belief prevailing surface winds favor E to W.  In the Summer prevailing winds in the plains come out of the SE and the TA heads SE in that area.
  • Climbing...  Want to get the worst out of the way early or save it until you are road hardened a bit?  Strangely the hardest climbing IMO was in the Appalachians
  • It is real nice if family and friends can meet you at the end so finishing near home is nice.
  • Do you want air travel out of the way in the beginning?
  • Flying to the farthest point commits you more to the ride and makes bailing less of an option.
« Last Edit: July 09, 2010, 06:52:32 am by staehpj1 »

Offline Bike Across America 2014

Re: TransAmerica: Which direction?
« Reply #2 on: July 09, 2010, 07:19:11 am »
I will personally be doing the trip in 2014. I decided many factors of the way im going. Im gonna do it west to east. Starting in Astoria,OR and finishing in VA. Approx mileage 4,200 miles. 2 of my main reasons i choose west to east was the wind direction for the most part goes west to east or some what that way vs going east to west where you might have the wind in your face more. 2nd being getting the worst of the mountains out of the way towards the beg of your trip. Whatever way you choose hope all is well and good luck :).

Offline staehpj1

Re: TransAmerica: Which direction?
« Reply #3 on: July 09, 2010, 08:08:31 am »
I will personally be doing the trip in 2014. I decided many factors of the way im going. Im gonna do it west to east. Starting in Astoria,OR and finishing in VA. Approx mileage 4,200 miles. 2 of my main reasons i choose west to east was the wind direction for the most part goes west to east or some what that way vs going east to west where you might have the wind in your face more. 2nd being getting the worst of the mountains out of the way towards the beg of your trip. Whatever way you choose hope all is well and good luck :).
I read that all the time and in my experience this bias toward W-E based on wind direction is just not true for the Trans America.  Prevailing westerlies do not necessarily equate to prevailing surface winds in that direction.  It may be true for the Northern Tier and I suspect it might be close to a wash for the ST, but it probably depends on when you go.  I never looked very closely at the wind maps for the ST in different months though so I may be wrong on that.

We went West to East on the TA and did not regret it.  There are many advantages/disadvantages either way you choose.  That said I found that the winds did NOT favor that direction of travel.  The maps below seem to match our experiences for the trip perfectly.  If winds are your primary criteria for the Trans America then going East to West is better.  That said I would not make the decision based exclusively on wind direction. 

If you look at these maps you will see that in the parts of the country where the winds really matter (the plains) the summer winds favor E-W travel on the TA.



We chose W-E for a number of reasons, but if surface winds are your primary concern and you will be on the AC Trans America Route I would go E-W.

Offline rvklassen

Re: TransAmerica: Which direction?
« Reply #4 on: July 09, 2010, 08:48:47 am »
One other consideration is that the mountain passes in the west have a narrower window of rideability.  So schedule may affect your choice.  If you want to start early start in the east; by the time you get to the Rockies you should be able to ride over the passes.  If you want to start late, start in the west, and get over the mountains before the weather makes it difficult.

Offline indyfabz

Re: TransAmerica: Which direction?
« Reply #5 on: July 09, 2010, 09:42:39 am »
There are lots of reasons why you might choose one or the other direction.  Here are a few.  Some assume the actual Trans America Route, but if your route is substantially different one or more may not apply.
  • Do you want the sun in your eyes in the morning or evening?
  • If you live on one coast or the other, do you want to ride away from or toward home?
  • Do you want to follow the direction US history followed?
  • Winds...  Contrary to popular belief prevailing surface winds favor E to W.  In the Summer prevailing winds in the plains come out of the SE and the TA heads SE in that area.
  • Climbing...  Want to get the worst out of the way early or save it until you are road hardened a bit?  Strangely the hardest climbing IMO was in the Appalachians
  • It is real nice if family and friends can meet you at the end so finishing near home is nice.
  • Do you want air travel out of the way in the beginning?
  • Flying to the farthest point commits you more to the ride and makes bailing less of an option.

Did the Northern Tier west to east and then rode home down the Atlantic coast.  +1 on all applicable points.

Don't discount the hills in the east.  The only climb I thought I might have to walk part of was in Vermont.  Crossing the Adirondaks wasn't a piece of cake either.

It was nice to get the travel out of the way at the start and a blast to ride directly to my front door.

We had some nasty headwinds in ND, MN, IA, IN and IL due to flows out of the southeast.

Starting in late May meant some cold, wet days in the west.  Even had to contend with snow on two days.  On a trip the following year using part of the TransAm route, Yellowstone was very cold at night even in late June.

Offline coachcarl

Re: TransAmerica: Which direction?
« Reply #6 on: July 09, 2010, 09:50:09 am »
 :) :) Wow, Great stuff. I especially like the wind maps. I had not considered that Apalachians may be our toughest climbing. We are going to start out in May, this leads to the East to West based on best time to cross the mountains in the West. All in all great information. I will keep reading.

Offline staehpj1

Re: TransAmerica: Which direction?
« Reply #7 on: July 09, 2010, 10:18:22 am »
:) :) Wow, Great stuff. I especially like the wind maps. I had not considered that Apalachians may be our toughest climbing. We are going to start out in May, this leads to the East to West based on best time to cross the mountains in the West. All in all great information. I will keep reading.
Yes I think I read that Virginia had the most elevation change of any state on the Trans America and the climbs were definitely steeper in the East than the West.

I agree that for a May start, starting in the East makes sense.

I see you list SF and an end point.  Does that mean you will be riding the Western Express?  If so I personally would consider either riding the whole TA and then riding the coast to SF or just using the train or a plane to get to SF.  It looks to me as if the Western Express misses most of my favorite parts of the TA.

Offline CastAStone

Re: TransAmerica: Which direction?
« Reply #8 on: July 09, 2010, 01:31:09 pm »
:) :) Wow, Great stuff. I especially like the wind maps. I had not considered that Apalachians may be our toughest climbing. We are going to start out in May, this leads to the East to West based on best time to cross the mountains in the West. All in all great information. I will keep reading.

The roads in the Appalachians were built long before we had the technology to blow holes in mountains or helicopter over a mountain to find the flattest route. The grades on roads in the Appalachians routinely reach the high teens, and there will be long climbs in the low teens. The roads in the Rockies were built mostly this past century. AC was able to easily pick out roads following 6-8% grades up the mountains instead of 10-19% like out east. That said, the mountains in the West are noticeably taller, and the shorter grades mean you have to ride twice as far to gain the same elevation, but I know for me personally, I'd much rather ride a few hours on a 7% than a few minutes on a 19%.

Offline rvklassen

Re: TransAmerica: Which direction?
« Reply #9 on: July 09, 2010, 03:35:08 pm »
The roads in the Appalachians were built long before we had the technology to blow holes in mountains or helicopter over a mountain to find the flattest route. The grades on roads in the Appalachians routinely reach the high teens, and there will be long climbs in the low teens. The roads in the Rockies were built mostly this past century. AC was able to easily pick out roads following 6-8% grades up the mountains instead of 10-19% like out east. That said, the mountains in the West are noticeably taller, and the shorter grades mean you have to ride twice as far to gain the same elevation, but I know for me personally, I'd much rather ride a few hours on a 7% than a few minutes on a 19%.
My theory is that the roads in the west were built after the railroads.  To get the railroad over you had to survey it well enough (without a helicopter, or aerial photography) to get a route where 4% is considered steep.  Once it was proven that you could do it with reasonable grades, it was hard to do otherwise.  The ones in the east were built before the railroads.  If you could get a horse up it, it wasn't too steep.   :o

Offline habanero

Re: TransAmerica: Which direction?
« Reply #10 on: July 09, 2010, 05:13:22 pm »
I can verify that crossing the Appalachians is the hardest part of the TransAm.  They took a toll on my bottom that I had to quit 30 miles before Kansas.  My saddle sores got infected and were absessed.  I'm in St. Claire hospital right now after getting surgery.  The absess had to be drained.  Its still very painfull.  But, I'm hoping to heal in 2 weeks and rejoin my group somewhere in Colorado.

My journal is at crazyguyonabike.com/doc/ted2010tour, if your interested.


Offline staehpj1

Re: TransAmerica: Which direction?
« Reply #11 on: July 09, 2010, 06:18:10 pm »
I can verify that crossing the Appalachians is the hardest part of the TransAm.  They took a toll on my bottom that I had to quit 30 miles before Kansas.  My saddle sores got infected and were absessed.  I'm in St. Claire hospital right now after getting surgery.  The absess had to be drained.  Its still very painfull.  But, I'm hoping to heal in 2 weeks and rejoin my group somewhere in Colorado.

My journal is at crazyguyonabike.com/doc/ted2010tour, if your interested.



Heal quickly and well!

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: TransAmerica: Which direction?
« Reply #12 on: July 11, 2010, 01:41:03 pm »
Kansas winds were mostly out of the south, SW to SE, so no advantage either way there.

(We went west.)

We had one hell of a day in Wyoming when the headwinds picked up -- 50 mph by one local's estimate.  No other significant advantage in winds either way.

By the way, I was asked "Why did you go west?" at a local club meeting, and I asked, "Did any of you lose any tree limbs with the 94 mph winds last night?"  Everybody looked blank.  I pointed out that the jet stream is at 30,000 feet, and if they didn't notice that blast, they wouldn't have noticed the wind blowing west to east in Kansas, either.

I thought the western mountains were easier than the Appalachians.  From that standpoint, go east.  The climbs were a lot longer, though!

A group that caught up with us had long night-time discussions, and came up with a significant advantage for going west.  In Kansas in particular, leaving early in the morning to beat the heat is popular.  If you're riding west, traffic passing you at dawn is not looking into the rising sun, and doesn't have the glare it might if you were riding east.  That hour or two of safety is big plus for west-bounders.

Have fun!

Offline indyfabz

Re: TransAmerica: Which direction?
« Reply #13 on: July 12, 2010, 09:15:52 am »
We had one hell of a day in Wyoming when the headwinds picked up -- 50 mph by one local's estimate.

Forgot about Wyoming.  When I was on part of the TranAm heading east I met a local cycling east to his job at the Sinclair plant outside of Rawlins.  He said it took him something like him 20 min. to get to work and 45 min. to get home.  Two days before I stayed in Jeffrey City at the in(famous) J.C. Motel.  I had to lean into the wind wealking west to the cafe in town.

Offline John Nelson

Re: TransAmerica: Which direction?
« Reply #14 on: July 13, 2010, 03:27:46 am »
If you had had a 50 MPH headwind, you'd have been going backwards.