Adventure Cycling Association Forum

Bicycle Travel => Routes => Topic started by: James on August 21, 2017, 11:00:56 pm

Title: TA vs Northern tier
Post by: James on August 21, 2017, 11:00:56 pm
 Sorry to  beat a dead horse, but I am trying to convince a friend or two to ride a C to C summer of 2018.  I know the question has been  posted before, and I know the answer is it depends.  But I have not had much luck finding recent info on the TA vs NT.  In the past it seems like I read a several responses that indicated the NT had more expensive camping, fewer cyclists and maybe was not as cyclist friendly.  Just wondering if anyone with recent experiences has on opinion?
Title: Re: TA vs Northern tier
Post by: jamawani on August 22, 2017, 09:20:46 am
James -

I read some of your earlier to get an idea about your experience.
Looks like you have done a good deal of riding in the Pac NW and camping.
I figure that you must be at least 30+.

About finding companions for a cross-country tour - -
My experience over 30 years has been that many say they want to, but few follow through.
Applies to both people online and esp. friends.
It takes a lot - preparation, saving, getting time off.
Not to mention similar interests in routes, motel/camping, style of riding, etc., etc.

Both the TA and NT are 4200+ miles - that's 10 1/2 weeks at 400 mi per week.
Will people have that much time? Need more time? Can they do 400 miles per?
For most of us, 400 miles in a week is no big deal, but for newbies it seems huge.

I've ridden cross-country a bunch of times - including my most recent last year.
Hadn't ridden back east for a long time - and I realize why, yet again.
Camping is hard to find and pretty darn expensive the further east you go.

So I'll stick with the western half of the US of A for now.
TransAm, Northern Tier, or something else?
You mentioned that you've done the Oregon and Wash parts of the TA and NT.

The NT really has a killer start for inexperienced cyclists with 6 passes in the first week.
Also, it can be pretty chilly - even rain/snow - early in the season.
Of course, the ride over Going to the Sun in Glacier NP is simply the finest out there.
Then there is twenty zillion miles of Great Plains - maybe thirty zillion.

The TA's route across Oregon is quite nice - some moderate climbs, but you have time to acclimate.
It's probably the most bike-friendly section of the most bike-friendly route in a bike-friendly state.
The TA over Lolo Pass is also sweet and drops you into Missoula - the Berkeley of the Rockies.
And few people have grumbled about the TA thru Wyoming or the Colorado mountains.
But then - - you get eastern Colo, Kansas, and all the dogs of Missouri and Kentucky.

(There's also the Lewis & Clark route from Astoria thru Missoula to eastern Montana.)


But, given your level of experience, why not craft your own route?
Do you want to start at ocean's edge or are places like Anacortes and Yorktown o.k.?
How much effort is needed to get to/from endpoints? Westport, WA is a great place, but hard to get to.

I might suggest a combination of the TA and NT - starting with the TA and ending with the NT.
That would require some kind of connector through the Great Plains.
Most likely Nebraska/Iowa. ANd it is hard to go wrong anywhere in Nebraska.
Most little towns in Nebraska have free camping and back roads have light traffic.
Plus the Sandhills are wa-a-ay more scenic than Kansas or North Dakota.

You could take the TA all the way to Walden, CO - then head east thru the Cache la Poudre Canyon.
Or you could cut east on US 20 from Dubois, WY across northern Nebraska - very nice riding.
(You could have caught the eclipse yesterday on this route, but I guess you saw it in Boise.)

Anyhoo - - thems is some ideas.

Title: Re: TA vs Northern tier
Post by: John Nelson on August 22, 2017, 01:07:45 pm
With the exception of Glacier National Park, the TA is better in almost every way. Not to say that the NT is without highlights (Going To The Sun Road is perhaps the best ride in the US), but the TA is unquestionably better for the first timer.
Title: Re: TA vs Northern tier
Post by: Pat Lamb on August 22, 2017, 03:58:41 pm
Depends on what you want to do.  A coast to coast ride is a more concrete goal than "ride around the Rockies for a while and have fun."  It's easier to describe and understand, and gives the rider an extra boost on the hard days when it's too darn hot, windy, and/or rainy.

The TransAm is the original, classic Bikecentennial route.  It's a good mix of flat Kansas/Colorado riding with three or mountain ranges mixed in - Appalachian, Ozark, Rocky, and Cascade if you're inclined to count it separately.  There's enough other riders on the route that you'll meet one or more groups headed the other way most of your way through the heartland.  If you're in to Revolutionary War and War Between the States history, you'll get a fair slice of that through Virginia and into Kentucky.  As far as "expensive" camping in the east, that's two or three days until you hit Mineral, VA.

I did a mixture, and the Northern Tier is pretty spectacular from Glacier to Anacortes.  It would be a tough way to start a tour, four passes (five if you count Rainy) in four long days.  Spectacular scenery along that part of the route, of course.  The NT probably has lower night-time temperatures than the TA through the plains, and (depending on your luck) might have lower day-time temps.

Pick one.  Or both.  Have fun picking your route and more fun riding it!
Title: Re: TA vs Northern tier
Post by: indyfabz on August 23, 2017, 10:05:48 am
Camping in the NE and New England will generally be more expensive and less "rustic." The leader notes for my group NT tour described one place in Maine as "combat camping at its finest." Spot on. Timing can also be an issue as some state facilities may start closing after Labor Day.

To mitigate heading into the western mountains of the NT you can start in Seattle and ride a few days north on the Pacific Coast route to get mileage under your legs. Then take a day off in Winthrop after crossing the Cascades and before taking on the next three passes.

If you want more mountains and dramatic scenery, you will find it on the TA. (I have only done it between Missoula and Fairplay, CO.) if you have already ridden a lot in OR, one option is to start on the NT and ride as far as Glacier N.P. Ride up the west side of Going to the Sun and back down and then double back to the Columbia Falls area and take the Great Parks North route to Missoula to pick up the TA.
Title: Re: TA vs Northern tier
Post by: jamawani on August 23, 2017, 10:42:44 am
Are you planning west-to-east or east-to-west?
Most of us with multiple trips view it as a coin flip - -
But e-w is better with earlier start, w-e better later.
Title: Re: TA vs Northern tier
Post by: James on August 24, 2017, 11:45:59 pm
Thanks for all the ideas.  It got me thinking about Going to the Sun, I think that needs to be part of the trip.  I also like the Canadian Rockies, Icefields Parkway, Jasper etc. although last time I was up there it seemed kind of expensive, not sure if that is still the case.   Maybe a loop that includes some of Western U.S. and Canada.
Title: Re: TA vs Northern tier
Post by: jamawani on August 24, 2017, 11:50:34 pm
Way back int 2005 -

Bay Area - Utah Parks - Grand Canyon - Taos - U.S. Rockies -
Canadian Rockies - Northern BC - Vancouver Island - San Juan Islands
Title: Re: TA vs Northern tier
Post by: adventurepdx on August 25, 2017, 01:08:40 pm
I also like the Canadian Rockies, Icefields Parkway, Jasper etc. although last time I was up there it seemed kind of expensive, not sure if that is still the case. 

It's been a bit (2011) but I do remember the parks/facilities in the Canadian Rockies being significantly more expensive than the US. For example:

However, despite all that, I still LOVED cycling through the Canadian Rockies and want to do it again! There's so many beautiful landscapes there.
Title: Re: TA vs Northern tier
Post by: indyfabz on August 27, 2017, 04:46:22 pm
For example:
  • It cost maybe $15 per bicyclist to enter Glacier NP in Montana. That pass was good for a full week.
  • Glacier had hiker/biker spots for $5 IIRC.

Was just there in June. Those are still the going rates. I was a bit shocked about the $15 because I believe it was $10 when I was there in 2009.[/list]