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Old 06-16-10, 09:27 AM   #1
OneIsAllYouNeed
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Atlantic to Pacific credit card tour on tandem

My wife and I are planning to ride from the Atlantic to the Pacific later this summer. We only have 4 weeks for the trip (including getting to and from the start). We're planning to stay in motels rather than camp to save time. We're also going to ride our tandem so we can each work as hard as we want, but stay together. We think we'd be comfortable with a daily mileage around 120 if we don't weigh the bike down too much. We'd love to do a PAC tour 30-ish day cross country trip, but it isn't in the budget and the timing usually doesn't work so well for us either. I'm looking for recommendations or experiences in any of the following areas.

Route
We haven't picked a route yet, but we're leaning toward the Adventure Cycling Transamerica route with Western Express for a total mileage around 3,800. Is it possible to ride this route in 28 days and stay in motels every night? Does anyone know another scenic, safe, and well documented route across the country that might be faster? The 3,100 mile Southern Tier route doesn't really appeal to us. Does anyone know a really nice route from Boston to Seattle or Portland (that would be convenient for us)?

Luggage
We're still trying to figure how much storage space we'll need on the bike and how much we'll actually be carrying. How much bag space would you want for a non-camping self-supported tour. We don't currently have a trailer, high quality racks, or high quality panniers, so we aren't committed to either method yet. I'm leaning toward ~30L panniers on a front lowrider rack, ~60L panniers (Axiom Champlain, Jandd Large Mountain, Arkel GT-54, or MEC World Tour) on a Tubus Cargo rack. I don't want to buy panniers, and then discover that we need to tie a bunch of stuff to the top of the rack, however. For brevets, we normally use a rack trunk bag and a medium sized seat bag under the stoker stem.

Bike Gear
We ride a circa 1994 steel Trek T200 road tandem with Dura-Ace barend shifters, XT rear derailleur and cantilever brakes, Thudbuster seatpost for the stoker, clip-on aero bars, alkaline battery-powered lights, 48-spoke wheels, Planet Bike hardcore hybrid fenders, 54-42-30 x 11-34 8-speed gearing. A new Brooks saddle for my wife is on order. I think this setup should be good for the trip. I plan to replace the brake pads, drive chain, and tires before we leave.

Tires
For brevets we usually use 700x32 Pasela TG tires or non-TG Paselas (if we want a little more speed) around 90psi (gross weight is roughly 320lbs). I'm going to get some new 700x35 tires for this trip -- probably Pasela TG or Schwalbe Marathon Supreme. We can't use larger tires with our current fenders.

Camping gear
We're not planning to bring a tent, sleeping bags, mattresses, tarps, towels, stove, plates, or utensils. We will bring headlamps and a first aid kit. Should we reconsider some of these items?

Clothes
2 sets of summer bike clothes, 1 set of winter cycling clothes, 1 set of street clothes... right? I suspect we'll take flip-flops and swim suits as well.

Thanks in advance for your suggestions. If anyone's heading the same way and wants to paceline, drop me a line.
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Old 06-16-10, 11:09 AM   #2
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My only comment is that credit card touring will mean that you have to put a fair bit more planning into your route. Every night needs to end up in a town with a motel with vacancy. I think if you take the shortest route on Google Maps you can go from Boston to Seattle in about 3000 miles. Do you have any flexibility in the start and end dates? 28 days is doable if you guys are already strong riders, but it doesn't leave a lot of time for unexpected delays.
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Old 06-16-10, 11:15 AM   #3
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3800 miles in 28 days? Over 130 miles per day, every day, for a month? If you can do that you're both tougher than me - which may not be saying much, of course. But it leaves no margin for error. Any breakdown, any delay, and your schedule becomes unmanageable.
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Old 06-16-10, 11:33 AM   #4
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The math -
If you only have 28 days - two of which are needed for travel -
(With zero leeway for weather, repair, sickness, etc.?)
26 times 120 miles equals 3120 using "Old Math".
That would be your outside range - with everything else going perfectly.
Including perfectly sited stops every night.

You also mentioned "later" this summer - but you didn't mention exactly when -
nor did you mention the direction.

If it is only 28 days - then it doesn't matter as much which direction when -
but the later it is the better it is to go West to East.
There's another advantage of West to East on your tight schedule.
Flying West will allow you to get to the airport and make connections to the coast all in one day.
It would be more difficult to do that returning East because of the time difference.

If you leave from the east coast - it would be easier getting started -
Friends could drive you to the starting point, for example -
But getting back could be tougher - maybe the red-eye?
Also - there's the issue of non-stop vs connections with the possibility of missed connections.
On your tight schedule you really have to think non-stop.

Also, it sounds like you will be crossing the Great Plains in the Dog Days -
so the further north you are - the cooler - at least by a couple of degrees.

I don't think the Western Express combo with the Eastern TransAm is good for your situation.
There are shorter - more northerly routes - which would make your daily mileage more reasonable.
Also, you simply cannot get motels where you need them with such a rigid mileage schedule -
esp in Nevada and Utah.

<<<>>>

It's possible to do a route from the Oregon Coast to the Jersey Shore in a little over 3000 miles.
But there is only one evening non-stop to PDX - Seattle has more non-stops.

From Tillamook, Oregon to Highlands, New Jersey -

Oregon - 470 mi
Idaho - 400 mi
Wyoming - 450 mi
Nebraska - 430 mi
Iowa - 350 mi
Ill/Ind - 400 mi
Ohio - 250 mi
Penna - 400 mi
New Jersey - 80 mi

Total - 3230 miles

That's about as short as you are going to get it on bikeable roads.

The route is roughly US 20 or US 26 in the West -
(With sections of the TransAm in Oregon and Wyoming)
Then diagonally on state roads across Iowa -
Ten the Northern Tier in Illinois and Indiana -
The Old Lincoln Highway in Ohio -
Bike Route "V" in Penna.

<<<>>>


Still, it looks like you would really be pushing it.
Anything that went slightly wrong would muck up your entire trip.
Not to mention breaking in a new saddle?

Last edited by jamawani; 06-16-10 at 12:37 PM.
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Old 06-16-10, 11:58 AM   #5
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To each his own of course, but that's a race, not a tour. Geez, even at 15 mph avg, that's over 8 hours/day on the bike, and as noted, no room for errors. The odds of encountering very significant headwinds on many days are nearly 100%, not to mention breakdowns, weather delays, exhaustion, and/or illness.

Unrealistic is the word that fits this plan. Do yourselves a favor and cross the country in two stages, this year and next. Be a lot less stressful, and you'll have the fun of prolonging the anticipation.
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Old 06-16-10, 12:49 PM   #6
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Unlike some others, I don't think going fast and/or doing lots of miles on tour is necessarily a bad thing; if y'all like to pile on the miles, go for it.

That said, I still concur that your agenda is almost certainly too aggressive and/or optimistic. 3800 miles over 28 days = 135 miles per day. Self-supported? Carrying luggage? No rest days? First tour? That's a bit much.

Ergo, I suggest....

Do at least one short tour first -- maybe 3-4 days. That way you can get a realistic idea of how far you can really go in one day (and still enjoy it), and see what equipment works and what doesn't.
Pick a shorter route (or extend your duration to 2+ months).
Bring basic camping and cooking gear. You never know when you'll get stuck.
Bring lots of sunscreen.
Make sure you have spare parts and good repair tools. Bring anything that happens to be tandem-specific, is likely to break and is small -- since if something weird breaks, you could be stranded for a few days waiting for the parts to arrive.
Consider using a trailer.

In terms of alternate routes, I'd consider something like La Route Verte in Quebec. In addition to hitting spots like Gaspesie, they have a "Bienvenue Cyclistes" program to ID bike-friendly hotels and campsites along the route.
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Old 06-16-10, 12:56 PM   #7
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not impossible but highly improbable

the west to east idea is a good one, if you come up short time wise you are closer to home and will have an easier way of getting home in time (one way car rental?) if you are out west you could be very far from a city of large enough size to fly out of to make you target date and the cost will be much higher
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Old 06-16-10, 12:58 PM   #8
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Don't forget to look into couchsurfing.org or warmshowers.org to help find places to stay where motels aren't available.

Personally, I think the kind of mileage you are considering is unsustainable, especially for a month on end. Especially, when terrain is figured in. Climbing over the Sierras/Cascades, Rockies, Appalachians, etc. will not be 120 mile days.

Another idea is to have some flexibility as to where you might stop. Thus, you might aim for going cross-country but be willing to stop in, say Montana or Colorado if going all the way just isn't in the cards.

Lastly, why the fascination with going cross-country? There are lots of other fabulous places to bike tour in the time frame you have that would provide a grand bike touring experience. You just have to give up on being able to say you rode your bike across the country.

Ray
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Old 06-16-10, 01:33 PM   #9
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Lastly, why the fascination with going cross-country? There are lots of other fabulous places to bike tour in the time frame you have that would provide a grand bike touring experience. You just have to give up on being able to say you rode your bike across the country.
+1
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Old 06-16-10, 04:34 PM   #10
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Thanks for the replies so far. I especially like the Seattle to Jersey route suggestion.

Does anyone cross the country without camping gear or a sag vehicle? Adventure cycling's description of the TransAm route suggested that it was possible to stay in a motel every night with "careful planning". I haven't bought the maps yet, so I don't know what the longest motel-free stretches are.

To answer a few questions:
-We'll be starting mid-August at the earliest, but probably no later than early September.
-We have 30 days, but might be able to squeeze some time out of the Friday and Monday on either end of the trip.
-If we aren't going to reach our destination in the desired time, we can (a) fly out of the nearest airport or (b) call in sick at work.
-The western half of the country is more exciting to us than the eastern half, but I'm leery about shipping the tandem to the start of the ride. Shipping it back home is less of a concern.
-We'll be doing some weekend tours between now and then to shake down our setup (and break in that new Brooks saddle). The trouble is that our luggage setup currently includes only cheap racks, a trunk bag, and a pair of small panniers, so we can't carry all the clothing we'd want on a longer trip.
-Regarding spares, I plan to carry a multitool, 3 tubes, a patch kit, a spare folding tire, tandem brake cable, tandem derailleur cable, pair of brake pads, a few chain links, Fiber Fix,2 spokes, 2 nipples, rack screws, cleat screws, chain lube, duct tape, and cable ties. I'm considering getting a lightweight cassette lockring tool.
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Old 06-16-10, 05:07 PM   #11
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I'm pretty sure that I've read at least three diaries at CGOAB by people riding one or another of the TransAm routes who stayed in lodgings every night (ie, no camping). One of whom was apparently doing it to save weight and go fast, and two who just weren't into camping. IIRC, the guy who was going fast was doing the Southern Tier (shorter and less mountainous than you plan) and it took him 30 days. Which is still wicked fast. I'm hoping to ride the Southern Tier in September, and it's hard to set aside enough time—if I can manage it in about 30 days, I'll be very pleased.

I'd be more willing to leave behind cookware than a tent and sleeping bag. Don Saito rode the perimeter of the USA, and in his post-mortem mentioned that he hardly ever used his cookware. Then again, he also mentions surviving mostly on packaged junk food found in convenience stores, which I might not be up for. If you're willing to lay out some money, you can get extremely light tents and sleeping bags, so you wouldn't be taking a huge hit on weight.

I see that you're brevet riders, so you're accustomed to long days in the saddle.

You might want to make arrangements with a shop or good friend in advance so that they'll overnight you parts if you need something you can't find en route.

You mention "cheap racks." There's cheap and there's chintzy. One of my personal rules is that in situations where I need to be self-reliant, I'd rather regret spending too much money on good equipment than regret having chintzy equipment fail me (or a complete lack of necessary equipment).

A weight-conscious bike tourist and one of the usual suspects here on Bikeforums has posted his equipment list with weights. Very informative. He's got his total pack weight down to <19 lb, including tent, bag, and cookware.
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Old 06-17-10, 11:34 AM   #12
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+1

+2. While I have crossed the country and then some in one trip, it was at a moderate pace. Even though I really want to cross the country again, if I had 28 uninterrupted days to ride I would do a shorter trip that leaves time to stop and experience things along the way (e.g., a national historic site, pow-wow, county fair) rather than ride past them.
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Old 06-17-10, 12:33 PM   #13
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If I was looking at such mileage I'm guessing your average speeds would be closer to 16mph than 12mph which is starting to get into territory where wind resistance matters. Don't see the need for such huge rear panniers. You might consider a narrow rack like the Axiom streamliner or Tubus Logo and another set of 30l pannniers which can bring that whole mess inboard compared to a wide rack with wide panniers. It's amazing how much clothes you can cram into a couple 5" diameter compression sacks.
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Old 06-17-10, 06:21 PM   #14
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Why not Seattle to San Diego? You would still get to say you crossed the country. There are millions of hotels wherever you need them. There will be good weather and a tail wind the entire time. The total distance is only 2,100 miles so you would even have some extra time to stop and see the sights.
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Old 06-18-10, 07:16 AM   #15
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120 miles a day sounds logical, but if you have to stay in motels, which are not nicely spaced appart, you will be doing 90 mile days and 160 mile days, and even a rare 120 mile day. Just something to keep in mind.
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Old 06-18-10, 12:07 PM   #16
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120 miles a day sounds logical, but if you have to stay in motels, which are not nicely spaced appart, you will be doing 90 mile days and 160 mile days, and even a rare 120 mile day. Just something to keep in mind.
And being that the plan is to travel during peak vacation season, without a reservation they may find themselves in a real pickle.
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Old 06-18-10, 05:33 PM   #17
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Don't forget good rain gear. And with that aggressive schedule and miles per day, line up a good divorce attorney in advance.
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