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Old 10-16-12, 12:15 PM   #1
cycle_maven
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West to East or East to West?

This has probably been discussed to death in previous threads, but which is better for transcontinental US journey? What are the pros and cons of each? Have you done it both ways, and what was your experience? Are the prevailing winds all that bad? Thanks...
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Old 10-16-12, 12:16 PM   #2
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Yes.
It has.
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Old 10-16-12, 02:15 PM   #3
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Your decision could be simplified if you have a rigid start date/window. For example, if you must start by May 1, starting out west might not be such a good idea due to pass closures and the chance of snow. Do you have one?

"Pros and cons" is too subjetctive. For example, one person might see getting the higher mountains out of the way early on as a pro. Others, a con.
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Old 10-16-12, 03:06 PM   #4
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I'm still in the early planning stages, more brainstorming-

Another thread got me thinking about my own route, which will probably be from somewhere on the southeastern seaboard, meandering north and west to Minnesota, crossing the mountains in Canada (Kamloops? Calgary? if there is a decent route through there), then southwest through Vancouver to Portland. This will probably happen starting in May and ending in August. But it could work just fine in the other direction starting in July and ending in October. I'm not worried about mountains first or last- they need to be crossed sometime, eh?- but constant headwinds are soul-sucking. Then again, so is cycling in 100 degree weather, IMO. I just would like to know from the people here who have gone both ways, which was better and why they thought so...
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Old 10-16-12, 04:36 PM   #5
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I just would like to know from the people here who have gone both ways, which was better and why they thought so...
With respect to wind direction, the answer to this necessarily will depend on exactly where people went and when. I doubt that the experience of others with respect to wind direction will help you much because it's so localized and depends so much on when you are at a particular place.

If you want wind data and probabilities, look at some windroses (http://www.wcc.nrcs.usda.gov/climate/windrose.html), or sites like http://weatherspark.com/
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Old 10-16-12, 05:25 PM   #6
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A couple of things that I can add from experience of travelling both directions this summer roundtrip from NH to St. Louis is that by travelling east to west you have a better view of oncoming rain/storms. You don't have to keep looking behind you to see how close they are getting. When travelling west to east the storms will pretty much always be coming from your back. You can time the rain and possibly even miss the rain, I did this summer by heading toward the rain. I had stopped to put my pack cover on my backpack and I ended up missing the rain as I saw it was moving pretty much south to north. It was off to the west of me, the direction I was travelling. As I continued on I kept watching the rain shaft moving north and I ended up missing the rain altogether. I got onto the wet pavement after the rain passed through but I missed the rain altogether until several hours later.

The second benefit of travelling east to west is daylight. When you wake up in the morning and end up travelling around 100 miles west during the day you gain roughly 10-15 minutes of daylight by the time sun sets. When you do the same thing travelling west to east you end up having the sun setting earlier and earlier each day. You can lose quite a bit of daylight quite quickly. You may not think it matters much but it does especially if you start late in the day for one reason or another. You may have to end up cutting the day short or end up riding after dark simply because of the direction of travel. I never thought I would see such an amazing difference in sun/time shift as I did so quickly. I was riding on average 113 miles each day of the trip admittedly.
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Old 10-16-12, 05:27 PM   #7
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My recent experience was East to West. I started 1 May. I had four days of headwinds. One of those days was a hefty wind...the rest weren't so tough...one of them was a light headwind day in Wyoming...I rode 128 miles that day. I had far more days of tailwinds...the rest were mild to moderate side winds. Mt travel duration was 78 days. That was my experience, anything can happen.
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Old 10-16-12, 08:18 PM   #8
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For me, it's all about prevailing winds. I've gone both directions. In my experience, the westerlies tend to be stronger, sometimes much stronger, than easterlies, especially west of the Mississippi. You will, of course, experience both. I recently toured Milwaukee to Rochester. Had only two days of light headwinds. Many days of light tailwinds. On a day in Kansas, I enjoyed a 35 mph westerly that lasted nearly all day. No pedaling required.
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Old 10-18-12, 08:17 AM   #9
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I'm not worried about mountains first or last- they need to be crossed sometime, eh?- but constant headwinds are soul-sucking.
Based on your described route, there will mountains in both the east and the west.

Why would you think you might have constant headwinds? Because you are thinking weather generally moves west to east? It doesn't work that way at ground level. Prevailing winds changes by region and time of year. And when you riding from, say, the east coast to the west coast you are not always riding west, especially if you are "meandering." Crossing the country on the ACA's Northern Tier west to east we plenty of days of headwinds, tailwinds and crosswinds, sometimes all in the same day. Same thing on loop tours in parts of MT, AB, BC and ND where we headed both east and west at one point or another.

In sum, I think stretches of headwinds are unavoidable regardless of direction and no matter whch direction you take, you won't have constant headiwnds the entire trip.

BTW...You mention 100 degree heat. Does humidity factor into your decision? 100 degrees in late July or August in the more arid west is one thing. 100 degrees in extremely humid IN is an entirely different ballgame.
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Old 10-18-12, 08:48 AM   #10
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A couple things to consider:
  1. The wind thing will depend to some extent on what route you choose. The AC TA goes SE across the plains while the July winds tend to come out of the SE so I think E-W travel is favored a bit on that route. That said I wouldn't make that too big of a factor. Just plan on starting early in the morning and finishing early in the afternoon and you can minimize the wind's impact on you.
  2. If you live near one end or the other, I think there is a big advantage to getting air travel out of the way up front. That way you can have a flexible end date, nothing worst than a hard deadline or rigid schedule IMO. Also it is really nice if friends or family can meet you at the end.

Last edited by staehpj1; 10-18-12 at 03:58 PM.
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Old 10-18-12, 12:25 PM   #11
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Prevailing winds are a very minor issues when going E-W or W-E... Going N-S or S-N is where the winds play a much bigger deal, especially on the west coast and in the plains. The more north you go in the USA, the more likely the winds will be stronger. I think other factors like topography play a much bigger role. Or stuff like sunset, if you go E to W, that means the sun will be in your eyes later in the day.
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Old 10-18-12, 12:39 PM   #12
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There are some cool surface wind maps available--check them out. They prepared me for southerly winds on my Northern Tier route down from northern Minnesota into Iowa, for instance. I was pleased at the accuracy of the maps.

I agree wind direction is localized when considering a transcontinental ride, and should not be the main factor in your decision. Sure, in parts of the country like the northern Great Plains, I'd really hate to buck the winds that pushed me 1000 effortless eastbound miles in nine days last summer, but lots of cyclists go that west and it's just part of the ride. I had hundreds of miles of headwinds in Minnesota and in New England and you just deal with that.

I hear many westbound US cyclists enjoy going the direction of the pioneers, and that sounds pretty cool. I think there's an ACA Lewis and Clark route, and you'd probably want to go the way they went. Same with the Underground Railroad route.

Another factor to consider is scenery if you're on a coast or a long river or lakeside. Cycling the coastal side gives you safer access to viewpoints.
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Old 10-20-12, 06:57 AM   #13
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Hi all,

Since this has been discussed before, is there a definitive thread to read? My wife and I are trying to make the same decision (Vancouver to NYC or vice-versa).

Eric
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Old 10-20-12, 09:17 AM   #14
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If .. W>E , making early starts, the Cascades and Rockies may be still snow covered.
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