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Bicycle Travel => General Discussion => Topic started by: dan_t on May 10, 2021, 01:40:39 pm

 
Title: Northern Tier 100+ miles a day
Post by: dan_t on May 10, 2021, 01:40:39 pm
I'm planning to do the Northern Tier in 40 days, which is about 110 a day. I'm a little worried about whether I can do a century a day for six weeks. I've been doing a lot of distance riding for the past few months but undershot my goal of 100 miles a week. I've done loaded rides of 96 miles and 142 miles within the last month and felt pretty good during and after them. I was tired toward the end of the 142 mile one, but walked ten miles the next day and was fine. I have six more weeks to train. I'm training in a hilly area. I've tried to get some time out on windy days. I'm planning three rest days that I'm not counting in my 40 days of riding.

For context, I'm 36, overall good shape, though I'd like to lose 10 pounds in the next six weeks. I've done several tours of 5-7 days but never more than that. Last year I did 400 flat miles in three days, and I've done several one day rides of 140-200 miles in the past few year. I have a decent grasp of my food and hydration needs.

I'll camp half the days and stay in hotels the others. I won't cook. I'm riding a recumbent with 20 lbs of gear.

Does this sound crazy? Do you think I'll start to hate it a few days in?
Title: Re: Northern Tier 100+ miles a day
Post by: jamawani on May 10, 2021, 01:59:27 pm
a) Kinda.
b) Maybe.

What about weather?
What about a bout of Montezuma's?

I've toured for 30+ years.
One year, I did a major fundraiser that required a tight schedule and lots of miles.
Even through it was 32 years ago, I remember resenting the ride after lunch.
YMMV.
Title: Re: Northern Tier 100+ miles a day
Post by: John Nettles on May 10, 2021, 03:04:47 pm
I personally would hate a ride like that.  I can't even call it a tour as you would have hardly anytime to stop and see stuff.

That said, it is doable.  On one of my tours, I met a guy in Grand Rapids as I was heading to Canada from Mexico.  He was on his return portion from riding from Seattle (or Portland) to Portland, ME, and then back to Seattle.  He was not having very much fun he said.  His overall average miles per day at that point was 126 miles per day which included a few rest days.  He looked to be in his early 30s and very strong, but very bored and disappointed.  He had very few "tales" from the road as he said he basically got up at sunrise and road until dinner time.  He was basically riding to try to forget a bad relationship breakup. 

I suggested he slow down and actually start to experience the areas he was riding past but he didn't seem to want to or get why it might change the flavor of the ride. 

Another story.  Back in '82, I did the TransAm.  I had an overall average of 57 miles per day.  In '86, I did a 3/4 perimeter tour of the USA (San Diego to Vancouver to Porland, ME, to Key West, and had an overall average of 68 miles per day.  I was in my early 20s, was quite strong (I did 32 centuries on that tour IIRC).  The tour was nice but I began to resent the extra hour of riding I had to do each day as I started late into the year and had to beat the winter coming down the east coast. Since then I really try not to have a tour exceed 55 miles per day overall (including rest/sight seeing days).  Fifty miles is even better.  I have enjoyed the vast majority of my tours since.

My point is, it is doable but be damn sure you WANT to do 100+ miles per day on average for the correct reason.  Are you doing this "tour" to ride or to tour?  If ride, then I guess the high miles are fine.  If you want to tour/experience the areas, then the high miles might not be the best way to do it unless you can average 17mph each day, day after day.

Just my 2 cents after 45 years of loaded touring.

Tailwinds, John
Title: Re: Northern Tier 100+ miles a day
Post by: driftlessregion on May 10, 2021, 03:27:01 pm
Why in the world would you want ride at that pace? Enlighten me please.
Title: Re: Northern Tier 100+ miles a day
Post by: dan_t on May 10, 2021, 03:43:18 pm
Why in the world would you want ride at that pace? Enlighten me please.

I don't have much time off work, and I get kind of bored off the bike, especially if I'm camping. 110 is 7am to 6pm for me, with eight hours of riding and three hours of breaks.
Title: Re: Northern Tier 100+ miles a day
Post by: staehpj1 on May 10, 2021, 05:02:39 pm
I have known or met a few riders who planned something similar.  They generally wound up averaging less. Usually quite a bit less.  None of them actually managed to average 100 mile days.

It is certainly possible though.  I can't say you will or won't enjoy it.  If you really think you will, give it a go.  If you find the pace unmanageable you can back off on the pace and go home when you run out of time.  Best case you finish in time and enjoy it.  Just don't push to the point of injury.

If you decide early on that it isn't going to work maybe you can work out some alternate goal.

Edit:
I didn't mention one thing I maybe should have.  The route can impact how likely this is to work out.  I'd give a much better chance for success on a cool weather ride on the Southern Tier.  The easier more boring terrain lends itself well to high mileage days.  I haven't done the NT, but suspect it us much like the TA which I have done.  I think doing 100 mile days would be substantially harder than on the ST.  I could almost see a younger version of myself managing it on the ST.  These days no way.  I wouldn't want to and couldn't if I tried.
Title: Re: Northern Tier 100+ miles a day
Post by: hikerjer on May 10, 2021, 05:03:01 pm
Each to his own, of course, but I can't imagine that kind of milage day afer day. I live in Montana and have one word for you concenring crossing the highline (US highway 2) in MT and ND - wind. Regardless, good luck to you.
Title: Re: Northern Tier 100+ miles a day
Post by: ray b on May 10, 2021, 06:46:58 pm
Why in the world would you want ride at that pace? Enlighten me please.
...I get kind of bored off the bike, especially if I'm camping.
I've done tours on that kind of schedule and for the same reasons. I love riding and watching the scenery; if I don't have to stop, I don't.

Those 3 hours of breaks a day are usually sufficient for socialization.

Agree with hikerjer - the wind can play games with you. I recall one eight-hour day in Oklahoma in which I did 32 miles into a stiff wind..., but it was followed by a tail-wind driven 320 mile, 20 hour day.

And I (always) agree with staehpj1 - keep track of your goal. If our primary goal is fun, we should always be ready to change course when the fun disappears from our current route.

Title: Re: Northern Tier 100+ miles a day
Post by: John Nelson on May 10, 2021, 08:20:19 pm
Physically you can do this. The challenge will be mental. At a certain point, you will ask yourself, why the hell am I doing this? It won’t be much fun, so you better be strongly motivated by accomplishment.
Title: Re: Northern Tier 100+ miles a day
Post by: Pat Lamb on May 11, 2021, 09:52:36 am
To average 100 miles per day, I'd expect you'll have to make up some miles in the middle to accommodate shortfalls in the mountains at either side of the country.  Washington Hwy. 20, for instance, there are certain places that are reasonable to stop, with large gaps in between.  So you may need to average 110-125 in the plains to make up for that.

Are you willing to consider backup-plans?  For instance, if you're running out of time and have 14 days to complete 2100 miles (although you'll probably notice earlier), what will you do?  If you're heading east, will you consider stopping in Cleveland and flying home from there?  Although you may not want to plan it now, it may well be a good idea to have a concept in mind in case illness, mechanical, or just bad weather delays you.

Further, have you thought about completing a cross-country/Northern Tier ride in sections?  For instance, there are several Appalachian Trail hikers who've completed the hike over 5-20 years, taking 2 weeks' vacation and hiking another segment each year.  You could comfortably complete 1/2 to 2/3 of the NT this year, and then come back in a year or two and complete the rest.  I'd give you better odds of completion if you were aiming for 75 miles per day (which is a whole lot of miles per month), and planning to recover from a few bad days along the way (Pete's half days, or zero days, whichever is more appropriate).
Title: Re: Northern Tier 100+ miles a day
Post by: staehpj1 on May 11, 2021, 10:49:31 am
Further, have you thought about completing a cross-country/Northern Tier ride in sections?
A few folks I met on the TransAmerica were doing it in two years.  Some had planned it that way from the start and some not.  One got stopped with health issues and came back several years later for the second half after a cancer diagnosis and chemo.

I am not sure that giving it too much thought up front is a great idea if you really want to do it in one go, but there is always that out.

How firm is that 40 day limit?  How bad do you want to do it?  Maybe you can take more time than you have leave.  I did that when I did the TA.  I still had a job when I came back, but there was a risk.  It turns out they actually found out I was missed more than they expected and it was more of a career boost not a career killer like I thought it might be.  Fortunately I had an odd mix of skills uniquely suited to the job and hard to find among the talent pool along with a long time experience with the ins and outs of the organization.
Title: Re: Northern Tier 100+ miles a day
Post by: BikeliciousBabe on May 11, 2021, 11:19:17 am
To average 100 miles per day, I'd expect you'll have to make up some miles in the middle to accommodate shortfalls in the mountains at either side of the country.  Washington Hwy. 20, for instance, there are certain places that are reasonable to stop, with large gaps in between.  So you may need to average 110-125 in the plains to make up for that.

I was going to say the same. In WA, you'd almost certainly have to do two passes in order to average that much/day in that area or find yourself wild camping halfway up a pass. Both times I rode through that area I did Colonial Creek before crossing the N. Cascades Highway. Then to Winthrop. Then Loup Loup Pass to Tonasket. Wauconda Pass to Republic. Sherman Pass to Colville. I don't believe any of those days were close to 100 miles. If I had done two passes in one day the I believe mileage would have been far greater and a tall order.

Personally, if I only had your time I would do part of the route and arrange for transportation home. Note that the route parallels the route of Amtrak's  Empire Builder is many areas. That service now accepts bikes between certain stations without boxing if you make the necessary reservation.  Whether that would be convenient depends on your travel needs.
Title: Re: Northern Tier 100+ miles a day
Post by: John Nettles on May 11, 2021, 11:36:03 am
Dan,
Are you just wanting to cross the country or what is your motivation?  As I said earlier, your 100+ miles per day is doable, but I would like to know what your motivation is.

Tailwinds, John
Title: Re: Northern Tier 100+ miles a day
Post by: Iowagriz on May 11, 2021, 11:44:07 am
Do it!  You are ready. I like back to back to back big day rides. Assuming you are riding in the summer, it is easy to be started by 7am or earlier if camping. Sun is out until 9pm - 14hrs to ride, nothing better to do.  Ride big days, enjoy the scenery, take an afternoon nap under a tree.

Some people like to sit in a town and watch the world pass by while eating ice cream.  I do as well, but get bored after 15min, time to ride again. 
Title: Re: Northern Tier 100+ miles a day
Post by: zzzz on May 11, 2021, 10:03:34 pm
A large component in planning the tours that I’ve taken has been to set them up as a physical challenge. And in the planning stages they were always to average 100/day.

In the end only 2 of my tours averaged 100+ a day for the entire tour. The rest I averaged in the high 80’s/ low 90’s. Sometimes the weather or the wind work against you or a mechanical comes up. And when you’re consistently doing big days it’s very tough to make up the miles from a day where you came up short. That said, you’re 25 years younger then me and if you leave in 6 weeks as planned you’ll have a lot more daylight then I had as my trips have been in September. You are also packing light which helps a lot.

One thing in your post sticks out that’s concerning if it’s not a typo, you wrote that you undershot your training goal of averaging 100 miles a week. That’s not enough for what you’d like to do.. I was averaging 250/week in the 2 months before all of my tours and there were many many long days that I needed every bit of the reserve that gave me.

My advice would be to go for it but don’t be a slave to your goal. If when your time is up and you’re 300 miles from the end, oh well, you still had a great trip.
Title: Re: Northern Tier 100+ miles a day
Post by: staehpj1 on May 12, 2021, 06:38:00 am
One thing in your post sticks out that’s concerning if it’s not a typo, you wrote that you undershot your training goal of averaging 100 miles a week.
I wondered about that as well but decided not to ask.  Since you brought it up, I will say it isn't much mileage for training for the kind of trip he is talking about, where he will need to hit the road doing long mile every day starting the first day and every day even in the mountains.  It sounds more like just normal recreational just for fun level riding or commuting.  That said it could suffice if it is higher intensity training miles, but that isn't necessarily the best substitute for long hours in the saddle.

I always figured that you could train for riding a century by riding 100 mile weeks, but it was a stretch.  Training to ride 40 centuries in a row is a very different proposition, but his other training hopefully is more and better in the upcoming weeks.

The mention of hoping to lose weight leading up to the trip is one other thing I'll comment on.  You say you are overall in good shape, so I assume you aren't obese.  At this point I'd suggest not dieting to lose weight.  Rely on eating sensibly and shedding pounds by burning calories if you do want to drop a few pounds, but don't short yourself on fuel.  Unless you are overweight by much you may actually have trouble maintaining weight at that daily mileage.  For some eating enough can become a chore on a trip like that.  This probably isn't the time to be trying to lose weight.  You probably will lose a bit more than you should without trying.
Title: Re: Northern Tier 100+ miles a day
Post by: HikeBikeCook on May 12, 2021, 10:57:01 am
You body will burn fat in the beginning, but once it figures out the 100 miles a day is the new normal it will begin to conserve the fat and start to shed muscle, most likely upper body muscle first. A cubic inch of muscle weighs twice as much as a cubic inch of fat and it takes twice the calories to maintain the muscle versus the fat.

I prefer to be packing a few extra pounds to start a major endeavor, no more that 10, rather than start lean and have to give up muscle right away.
Title: Re: Northern Tier 100+ miles a day
Post by: dan_t on May 12, 2021, 03:59:48 pm
Thanks for all the comments. Yeah, I've only been doing 100 a week and sometimes less. That's said, I usually do all of it in one day, so I'm regularly doing high mileage rides.

I've given a lot of thought to the wind. I have an app called Predict Wind that seems to work pretty well. If it's looking like I'll have headwinds, I'll get out early to beat the afternoon wind, stop if it gets too bad, and do laundry, sleep, etc. If it's looking like I'll have tailwinds, I'll do 160+ miles. I'm also riding a recumbent, which helps. Sound like a plan?

I'm a little worried about the Cascades. I'm planning to do 70-80 miles each day through there and making up the mileage other days. I rode Hurricane Ridge a few years ago which has about the same elevation gain of Washington Pass but in half the distance. I hadn't ridden much that summer, but I made it ok. Being on a recumbent complicates things because they don't climb as well.

I've been thinking about back up plans. I can cut 500-600 off the trip by riding home to Maryland (via rail trails) rather than to Maine. Or my boss would probably be ok with me taking a few more days, especially if I take a break and work for a while.

I'm mainly doing the tour for the physical challenge, to see some new states and regions, and for solitude.
Title: Re: Northern Tier 100+ miles a day
Post by: BikeliciousBabe on May 12, 2021, 04:31:37 pm
You only cross the Cascades once. The other mountain passes are not part of that range. And again, if you’re planning 70-80 miles in those areas I think that would put you part of the way up some of the passes in areas with no services, but I could be wrong. Check the mileages between towns along the way.
Title: Re: Northern Tier 100+ miles a day
Post by: ray b on May 12, 2021, 09:59:44 pm
I'm mainly doing the tour for the physical challenge, to see some new states and regions, and for solitude.
You body will burn fat in the beginning, but once it figures out the 100 miles a day is the new normal it will begin to conserve the fat and start to shed muscle, most likely upper body muscle first. A cubic inch of muscle weighs twice as much as a cubic inch of fat and it takes twice the calories to maintain the muscle versus the fat..
Sounds like you are tiding with good goals in mind. If you are out for solitude then 100 mile days a not unreasonable.

 HikeBikeCook brings up it good point. Although the biochemistry is quite complex and depends on muscle fiber type, vascularity, neuromuscular training, and other personal factors, the concept that it takes a few days for the muscles and body to add enzymes and aerobic power and improve recovery times Is important.

The excitement and last minute rush to get on tour usually results in long first days. It is tough to pull in the reins and finish days while still feeling relatively good. Patience the first 3 days is critical..  As HikeBikeCook points out it takes 7 to 10 days of training for the body to adapt to a sudden change in physical activity.

I recall one of my favorite tours was one in which I started only a couple weeks into recovery from a broken rib in a training crash. By week 2 I felt stronger than i had in years
(Not recommending you break a rib to start your tour, but you get the concept.)
Title: Re: Northern Tier 100+ miles a day
Post by: dan_t on May 17, 2021, 09:09:49 pm
Thanks for all of the advice. It's helpful to anticipate all of these issues.

I did a fairly hilly 75 mile ride on Saturday, and on Sunday, I did a 50 mile ride that included ten repeats up a 4% grade until I hit 3000 ft, so like a pass through the Cascades. Both days were fully loaded, the latter with some rain. I felt great. I'll have to scale it up 50% on the tour, but it doesn't seem like a problem.
Title: Re: Northern Tier 100+ miles a day
Post by: zzzz on May 18, 2021, 08:49:51 am
Best of luck on your trip. I'm sure you will have a great time.

FWIW: You've brought up Washington Pass a couple of times. I rode it on the second day when I rode the Sierra Cascasdes route. It was in the middle of a 120 mile day (Concrete to Twisp). The climb is moderately difficult at worst. There was one fairly steep pitch by the dam and (it's actually two passes) it's a little mentally tough to go down the big downhill and then have to earn all that elevation again, but overwhelmingly it's just a steady grind for a bunch of miles.

If I was to list the 25 hardest days I've had on a bike tour, that day would not make the list.
Title: Re: Northern Tier 100+ miles a day
Post by: dan_t on September 13, 2021, 12:12:49 am
Hi everyone, just a report back. I did the Northern Tier in 48 days -- 43 days of riding and five days off. I had planned on 40 days of riding and three days off, so not way different than my original plan. My overall average was about 100 miles a day.

I had planned to do 100 miles a day every day through Washington and western Montana, but that turned out to be too much. I could only do one mountain pass a day, and the days that I did do 100 miles out west, it was really tough. I was on a loaded recumbent that climbs pretty slowly. And until North Dakota, every road is chip seal, which slowed me down quite a bit.

It was also super hot. I avoided the worst of the NW heat wave, but it was mid-to-high 90s all the way through Washington, Idaho, and Montana. At least in Montana, that's quite a bit hotter than usual. I had to take off three days in Great Falls to avoid 100+ temps in some remote areas of eastern Montana.

For the ~3000 miles after Great Falls, it was fine. I worked something out with my boss so I could work a little along the way, which made my end date a little more flexible. I did 100-135 most days from Great Falls to Bar Harbor, unless there was heavy rain or I met up with friends/family.

I'll say that doing the trip in 48 days was only possible because I took a recumbent (a well-used second-hand Bacchetta). I didn't have any issues with saddle sores or hand, neck, or back pain. The recumbent is a bit slower (especially climbing), but I was able to do 14 hour days and never really needed any recovery time. I just rode slow and steady all day.

Thanks for all the advice and encouragement. Washington and western Montana really felt like a reality check, and I look back at my original itinerary with some humility. But 100 a day on the Northern Tier is possible! And I really enjoyed it!

Title: Re: Northern Tier 100+ miles a day
Post by: zzzz on September 13, 2021, 06:10:39 am
Hi Dan:

Glad you posted the recap, I wondered how it was going for you.

And congratulations on the big ride. I look back on each of my trips as extraordinary experiences that were among the very best chapters in my life. I suspect you will too.
Title: Re: Northern Tier 100+ miles a day
Post by: John Nelson on September 13, 2021, 09:44:30 am
Congratulations! I’m glad to hear that you had a great time!
Title: Re: Northern Tier 100+ miles a day
Post by: John Nettles on September 13, 2021, 10:14:43 am
Glad you made it; the conditions this year were sort of tough compared to normal. 

Out of curiosity, since your original question is not an uncommon one (is 100 miles per day unreasonable), would you do this tour again like this or would you change something?  Things you regret and were glad about? 

Tailwinds, John
Title: Re: Northern Tier 100+ miles a day
Post by: dan_t on September 13, 2021, 11:17:43 am
Glad you made it; the conditions this year were sort of tough compared to normal. 

Out of curiosity, since your original question is not an uncommon one (is 100 miles per day unreasonable), would you do this tour again like this or would you change something?  Things you regret and were glad about? 

Tailwinds, John

I think I'd mostly do things the same. 100 miles a day on average. Fewer in the west. Unless I did two passes a day in Washington, there had to be some 40 mile days. Then I did high mileage days where it was flatter. The route is pretty far north, so there is enough light to do 14-15 hour days.

I'm glad I took a recumbent. It's a little slower, but it's no problem to sit on it 14 hours a day. It's also better for checking out the vistas. On my road bike, I spend a lot of time looking down at the ground.

Maybe I'd take a somewhat faster recumbent, maybe something that climbs better. But there is often a trade off between climbing speed and speed on flats.

I had some tire trouble. Washington and Montana chip seal tore up my rear tire pretty quickly. I wouldn't get something super heavy, but I ended up needing something more durable than the Panaracer Pasela Tourguard that I started with.

And I'll try to build in some time for unexpected setbacks on my next tour. I didn't expect the heat wave, and I couldn't ride through it. Fortunately I was able to work during those days off and push back my end date.
Title: Re: Northern Tier 100+ miles a day
Post by: j1of1 on September 14, 2021, 10:40:53 am
I wonder what happened....