Author Topic: Northern Tier 100+ miles a day  (Read 4090 times)

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Offline dan_t

Northern Tier 100+ miles a day
« 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?

Online jamawani

Re: Northern Tier 100+ miles a day
« Reply #1 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.

Offline John Nettles

Re: Northern Tier 100+ miles a day
« Reply #2 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

Offline driftlessregion

Re: Northern Tier 100+ miles a day
« Reply #3 on: May 10, 2021, 03:27:01 pm »
Why in the world would you want ride at that pace? Enlighten me please.

Offline dan_t

Re: Northern Tier 100+ miles a day
« Reply #4 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.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Northern Tier 100+ miles a day
« Reply #5 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.
« Last Edit: May 10, 2021, 05:16:08 pm by staehpj1 »

Offline hikerjer

Re: Northern Tier 100+ miles a day
« Reply #6 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.

Offline ray b

Re: Northern Tier 100+ miles a day
« Reply #7 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.

“A good man always knows his limitations.”

Offline John Nelson

Re: Northern Tier 100+ miles a day
« Reply #8 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.

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Northern Tier 100+ miles a day
« Reply #9 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).

Offline staehpj1

Re: Northern Tier 100+ miles a day
« Reply #10 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.

Offline BikeliciousBabe

Re: Northern Tier 100+ miles a day
« Reply #11 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.

Offline John Nettles

Re: Northern Tier 100+ miles a day
« Reply #12 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

Offline Iowagriz

Re: Northern Tier 100+ miles a day
« Reply #13 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. 

Offline zzzz

Re: Northern Tier 100+ miles a day
« Reply #14 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.