What Is The Trans America Bike Race?
I decided a few months ago that I would do the 2017 Trans America Bike race, a 6,800 kilometer (4,233 mile) self supported bike race across America. At the time of writing it is just under 9 months until the race and as I am off the bike for a week recovering from minor surgery. I thought I’d dedicate this blog post to researching and getting to know the race a bit better.
UPDATE: 3rd March, 2023. I completed the race in 2017, came back with a little more experience under the belt in 2021 to see if I could beat my 2017 time but DNF’d 400 miles from the finish in Yorktown. You can read all about both experiences in this blog via my 2017 Trans America Bike Race Report and my 2021 Trans America Bike Race Report.
The Trans Am bike race follows the TransAmerica Trail by the Adventure Cycling Association, a route put together by a couple of cycling tourists in 1976 to celebrate with like minded cyclists the Bicentenary of the US. The route runs from the Pacific coast in Astoria, Oregon to the Atlantic coast in Yorktown, Virginia, passing through ten states. Alternatively racers can race from Yorktown to Astoria but from what I can see west to east is by far the more popular option.
I aim to break down the route and examine each section in a lot more detail as part of future blog posts but 3 initial high level observations are:
- Its rather long! 🙂
- There is a lot of climbing – the above graph indicates 165,320 feet (over 50,000 meters)
- Unsurprisingly there is a lot of elevation to cover in the first part of the race……the Rockies for one. But surprisingly as indicated by the frenetic activity on the second graph above there is a lot of up and down in the last part of the race through the Appalachians. In fact, researching this further there is in fact 15,000 feet (4,500 meters) more climbing in the last 1,150 miles (1,850 kilometers) through Illinois, Kentucky and Virginia than the first 1,150 miles through Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado. Who would have thought!
Australian Abdullah Zeinab currently holds the record at 16 days, nine hours and fifty six minutes. This averages out to be circa 414 kilometres (258 miles) per day! It literally hurts my head just thinking about the effort required to punch out those kind of numbers. Chapeau Abdullah, Chapeau!
The Trans Am is the brain child of adventure cyclist and Portland bike shop owner Nathan Jones. He was apparently motivated to make a race of the Trans America Trail whilst riding the 2010 Tour Divide, a mountain bike race down the the Continental Divide from Banff in Canada to the Mexican border town of Antelope Wells, New Mexico. During this mad arse race he crossed paths with a road cyclist who was touring west to east and the idea for a west to east race along the roads of the Trans America Trail was subsequently born.
You can access race results since 2014 via the Trans Am website; https://transambikerace.com/results.
The Documentary Inspired to Ride
The Trans Am is definitely getting more popular due to the general increase in popularity of bike packing and also due in no small part to the feature length documentary Inspired to ride which was released in April 2015 and follows the 2014 race. I indeed watched the documentary earlier this year whilst researching “out there” cycling events to conquer and it definitely inspired me to sign up for the 2017 race.
Even just watching the trailer (below) fires me up!
There are not many rules but those that exist can be summed up via this statement from the event website:
“Modus operandi: To complete the Route, a rider may resupply food / equipment, rent a room, launder clothing, even service their bike at commercial shops along the way. The intent is to ride unsupported between towns, and function self-supported when in towns. Any services utilized must always be commercially available to all challengers and not pre-arranged. No private resupply, no private lodging.”