Inspired by people like Alana Murphy, and the other cyclists we saw on our trip out west, I decided to bike across the country next summer. At first it seemed like a fairly simple undertaking. I knew it would be a lot of work. But, in the end, it is just a bike ride, right?
While we were still on our trip out west last summer, I began to look at the different routes to cycle across the country. I found lots of options:
- TransAmerica Trail. By far, the most common route, and one that takes riders through the heartland of the US, is the TransAmerica Trail. Beginning in 1976, the “trail” has been ridden by thousands of cyclists looking for a route across the country. Today, it represents the classic route to cross the country by bicycle. Traversing from Astoria, Oregon to Yorktown, Virginia, the famous trail takes riders across a wide range of American scenery and topography. From the Grand Tetons down to the plains of Kansas, and then across the Mississippi, the route is Americana at its best. The trail covers 4,223 miles.
- Bicycle Across the South. Bikers also frequently traverse the United States via various routes to the south of the TransAmerica Trail. Cyclists have used various routes starting in towns along the Atlantic ocean such as St. Augustine, Florida and Savannah, Georgia. Most end in San Diego, California. Most routes include about 3,000 miles.
- Bicycle Across the North. There are also a number of options traveling in the northern states. Most begin go from Astoria, Oregon to somewhere around New Hampshire. Most routes end up covering about 4,300 miles.
- Unique Self-Designed Routes. Another option is to design your own route. An infinite number of routes across the country can be used. However, any route that covers significant distances going north or south, will ultimately add mileage to the trip.
- TransAm Bike Race. This self supported race has become a premier event in American cycling. The route covers the famous TransAmerica Trail route. There is a group start in Astoria, Oregon each June, and riders take a little over two weeks to two month complete the trip across the country.
- Race Across America. Then there is RAAM. The Race Across America is a supported competition that bills itself as the “World’s Toughest Bicycle Race.” In its 36th year, the event covers the United States from Oceanside, California to Annapolis, Maryland. Both teams and solo riders compete in the annual event, which spans 3,000 miles. Racers have 9 days to complete the route.
- American Trail Race. In 2017 a new self supported race across the United States emerged. The American Trail Race is based on the Trans America Trail (not to be confused with the TransAmerica Trail above). The route covers mostly gravel roads and mountain biking trails across the country. The race covers 5,000 miles.
- Bike Nonstop US. The founders of the TransAm bike Race have announced a new race for cyclists in 2019. The self supported event will cover 3,400 miles, using mixed terrain. The route will share part of the TransAmerica Trail, the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, the Cowboy Trail, the Wabash Trace Nature Trail, the Katy Trail, US Bike Route 50, the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal Trail. The route was designed to use as many bike-friendly trails and paths across the country. In total it covers about 3,400 miles.
The question is – which option is best for me. Here are my thoughts.
I would like to do a race rather than a solo ride. I think the race will provide some accountability in terms of the start date, will give friends and family an easy way to track me since they traditionally use a gps tracker, and most importantly will force me to condense the trip to as short of a time frame as possible. I also think that there are some safety benefits to the organized races.
That left me with four events to choose from. I am not a supported cyclist. That, coupled with the 9 day cut-off eliminated the Race Across America. Likewise, I am not a mountain bikers and so the American Trail Race doesn’t really suit me either.
Then there were two. This was a close call. The TransAm Bike Race has a short, but, storied history, with Mike Hall winning the first eventin 2014, and Lael Wilcox’s inspiring ride in 2016. But, two factors were the clincher for me. First, one third of the Bike Nonstop US race is on bike paths/trails and gravel roads. I like this aspect of the event. Second, the new race starts a week earlier than the TransAm Bike Race. This will give me enough time to complete it before other commitments I have next summer.
Bike Nonstop US it is.
Part 3 – Biking Across Florida