Author Topic: Northern Tier / TransAm Start Date Question (E to W travel)  (Read 11635 times)

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Offline JustinB

Northern Tier / TransAm Start Date Question (E to W travel)
« on: September 12, 2012, 07:28:33 pm »
Hi all, I've done some searching but haven't found an answer to my question, so here goes...

I'm interested in a Northern Tier or TransAm (or a combination) going from East to West. When do people typically start a West-bound ride?

I currently live in Colorado and am aware of snow in the mountains making roads impassable until May or even June (and the Going to the Sun Rd in Glacier NP sometimes doesn't open until July...). Obviously starting in the Northeast means you can start earlier and you really shouldn't hit any high elevation roads until Colorado or Montana (depending on the route).

So, when is a reasonable time to start, with an emphasis on earlier is better (within reason)?



Offline John Nelson

Re: Northern Tier / TransAm Start Date Question (E to W travel)
« Reply #1 on: September 12, 2012, 07:40:29 pm »
If you have no schedule constraints, the best time to start an E-to-W TransAm is the first half of May. This somewhat depends, however, on how long you intend to take. The typical trip takes 10 to 13 weeks. If this is your first cross-country ride, I recommend the TransAm over the Northern Tier (I've done both). The TransAm has more support for the bicycle tourist.

Offline AnnieBikes

Re: Northern Tier / TransAm Start Date Question (E to W travel)
« Reply #2 on: October 01, 2012, 06:11:07 pm »
My good friend who did the TransAM this year with an organized Adventure Cycling group started in Yorktown on May 5th.  They did not have any trouble with extremes of weather, whereas if you started a Northern Tier in Maie in May, you might have some very cold weather! Good luck.

Offline BikeFreak

Re: Northern Tier / TransAm Start Date Question (E to W travel)
« Reply #3 on: October 07, 2012, 09:30:01 am »
Hi Justin,

Summer 2000 I did the Northern Tier E-W. Departure date was July 1st.
Summer 2012 I did the Transam+Western Express E-W. Departure date was June 1st.

Please bear in mind, the below is based on what happened those two years very far apart.

At any time I would take the Northern Tier: Climate is much better and I didn't have the awful Kansas winds. Departing July 1st was absolutely perfect.

Temperature differences Northern Tier vs Transam: On the Northern Tier you need a sleeping bag every night - not so on the Transam. On the Transam you can readily start at 6am with shorts and t-shirt (on many mornings at least) - not so on the Northern Tier. However, the temperature becomes very nice during the day and you don't have the humidity problems as on the Transam. Traficwise the Transam is more hazardous as compared to the Northern Tier. I guess I reached the going to the sun around late july and it was open, the days were warm and everything was perfect.

I do not know what is meant by "more support on the Transam". I agree that the Transam has some free bike hostels and free city parks, but the Northern Tier has free city parks too. The Transam being the most popular cross country route, I was amazed how few people I met along the route.



  • Guest
Re: Northern Tier / TransAm Start Date Question (E to W travel)
« Reply #4 on: October 07, 2012, 01:16:40 pm »
I was on the Trans Am heading east for a few days last year. Left from Missoula on June 29th and rode to the eastern base of Big Hole Pass. On July 4th we spent the night in Twin Bridges, which is also on the Trans Am. We met several western-bound people who had started early to mid-May.

As noted, conditions can vary from year to year. When we arrived in MSO is was rather chilly and the weather had been not so nice all spring and summer up until then. The week before our trip, snow showers were forecast in some of the areas we were to ride to. Fortunately, we hit the first extended stretch of dry, warm weather.

Having done the the entire Nothern Tier, the western section to Glacier a second time and much of the OR section of the Trans Am to Florence, I can recommend taking the Trans Am to MSO and then jumping on the Great Parks to Whitefish. Form there, head to Glacier, make camp and ride up and back down the west side of Going to the Sun. Then head back west and finish on the Northern Tier. Sort of the best of both worlds. You would miss McKenzie Pass in OR, but GTS more than makes up for it IMO. Plus, I wasn't a big fan of the high desert of eastern and central OR. The WA mountains were more interesting to me.  From near the end of the Northern Tier you can pretty easily get to Seattle, which offers plenty of transportation options home.

Offline 1869Freddy

Re: Northern Tier / TransAm Start Date Question (E to W travel)
« Reply #5 on: January 11, 2013, 01:01:15 pm »
Hey guys,

I tried to find a similar post to my question and remembered seeing it somewhere, but couldn't find it and therefore I just want to use this thread to ask my question since it is kind of similar.

I'm planning on doing a E-W trip from NYC to SF this summer/fall. It's supposed to go to Cedar City via the TransAm, then down the Grand Canyon Connector towards the Southern Tier. Then to the Pacific and up the coast to SF.

I can start earliest end of July (around 25th) and with my calculation (based on my previous touring experience) I would probably be around Pueblo (or in the Rockies) around late September/early October. I know the TransAm can be ridden "until September" according to the website, but I just wanted to ask if anyone has any experience in riding the part until Cedar City around late September/early October?

I know it differs from year to year, but how are my chances of  being able to pass the Rockies around that time (open passes/weather is the problem I am guessing?).

I think the weather conditions would probably be perfect for the rest of the route (late summer in the midwest, fall in the west/pacific), but it's the Rockies that I'm worried about.

Thanks a lot for your help already :)


Offline jamawani

Re: Northern Tier / TransAm Start Date Question (E to W travel)
« Reply #6 on: January 11, 2013, 01:09:53 pm »
The advantage of starting in the east is that you have the longest daylight hours.
A 10-week trip starting on May 15 will included 35 days before and 35 after the summer solstice on June 21.
I love autumn touring, but it's hard to get a lot of sightseeing AND riding in with the short days.

And there's no reason you can't combine the Trans Am and Northern Tier -
That way you don't have to ride thru Kansas in 100-degree heat or tornados.
Using just ACA routes, you could do Trans Am, Lewis & Clark, Northern Tier.

Better still - consider your own routing.
Perhaps cut out into the Nebraska Sandhills and the Black Hills of S.D.
Then take in the Bighorn Mtns and Yellowstone before riding up to Glacier National Park.

Offline maydayman

Re: Northern Tier / TransAm Start Date Question (E to W travel)
« Reply #7 on: August 09, 2019, 06:05:08 pm »
I rode solo, unsupported, Boston to Anacortes, 14 April-28 July 2018
4267mls. My blog may help :

Offline mbattisti

Re: Northern Tier / TransAm Start Date Question (E to W travel)
« Reply #8 on: August 10, 2019, 07:09:06 am »
The year i did the TA (E to W, 2010) , we had such great tail winds in kansas we didn't want to stop! And met lots of other riders along the way. Started in late may. Did have to deal with humidity until we hit the plains.
It's a crap shoot.

Offline Buddy_Hall

Re: Northern Tier / TransAm Start Date Question (E to W travel)
« Reply #9 on: September 25, 2019, 07:16:26 am »
Most folks start the Transam around the first of May if going E - W.  In 2015 I rode E-W and started on May 7.  I would recommend starting a couple of weeks earlier than that, because it was hot already on May 7 and global warming is just making it even hotter sooner.  I plan to do it again in 2020, and this time I will start April 20.   See for my 2015 ride, complete with lots of suggestions for bike tourists. Best of luck, you will have a great time!