2022 Coast to Coast Cycling Adventure – Planning and Training
This post is part of a series detailing my 2022 coast to coast cycling adventure. This one details how I planned and trained. I also wrote a one on why I am doing it. For people who hope to do the same, this is probably very useful. For people who are just casually following, feel free to skip this one.
Q: Why not just join an existing commercial tour?
A: I thought about it. And my wife Sue wanted me to. There was something very alluring about being able to just “show up” and have everything taken care of. But I also like the control and the process of planning my own trip. At Sue’s behest, I tried to make a preexisting tour work. But for one reason or another, every one I looked at did not work out. Among the candidates:
- America by Bicycle: Scaled back and seemed financially shaky due to COVID and the owner passing away
- Trek Travel: Too expensive ($25K) plus they supply the bike and I want to ride my own. That being said, seemed like a really DE-luxe way to go.
- Cycle America: Longer route than I was planning (1,000 more miles, two additional weeks), less daily milage than I wanted (25 less per day), and camping (on this trip, I wanted hotels)
- Others: Incompatible schedule, camping, daily milage too low, route I didn’t like, etc.
Q: Why not solo? Or go self-supported?
A: I decided I could do this. I’ve done week-long self-supported rides with small groups. But this would have been six weeks, and without the security of other riders — a much different story. The logical path was to try to find one or more riding partners with friends and/or family who would help SAG (support and gear). Not easy but great if I can put the pieces together, which I was able to do.
Q: How did you find a riding partner?
A: I posted on the Adventure Cycling “companions wanted” page and got a few responses from exactly the people I was looking for — folks who wanted to ride cross-country with SAG support but needing to find additional riders and SAG drivers. It turns out that one, Dave, who I’m sure will show up throughout my journal, was a perfect match. And all it really took was one. Dave and I will be riding the entire route (knock on wood), his wife Dee will SAG the first half (Oregon to Denver), and Sue the second half (Denver to Georgia). I can’t overstate my gratitude to Dee and Sue for making this possible.
Q: How did you decide upon and plan your route?
A: I started with the TransAmerica Trail as my baseline but modified it to suit my needs (shorter route, better hotel options, sites I wanted to see). I was also inspired by the book Riding with the Blue Moth, especially picking the end point at Tybee Island, GA.
My basic approach was to ride over the Cascades, the Boise range, the Tetons, and the Rockies, and then take the shortest route to the Atlantic Ocean.
I also used Google Maps (in bicycle mode) to map out the overall plan. Then for the details I used Strava’s route planning tool, augmented by Google street view to help avoid unpaved roads. I was pretty much ready to go when I learned about Komoot, which was just too cool to ignore. Had I known about Komoot from the start I would have probably used that instead of Strava. It has more features for visualizing the best routes, reliably flagging dirt or gravel surfaces, and also provides better navigation tools for our SAG drivers. Now I have both Strava and Komoot GPS maps, loaded into my Garmin Edge 530, and will likely experiment with both.
Also, adventurecycling.org has a great series of blog posts on this topic. Unfortunately for me, they were not published until last week, long after my planning was finished. Plus it is more geared to dirt / gravel riding, not pure road biking as I was planning.
Q: How are you navigating?
A: I plan to use a combination of the Garmin 530 and the Komoot iPhone app. The latter has spoken turn-by-turn directions, which I have found very helpful during training. Komoot seems better at rerouting after a route deviation (e.g., a closed road) than Garmin. Our SAG drivers will also use Komoot.
Q: What are you doing about a SAG vehicle?
A: Dave and I are driving his car out to Oregon (from New York and Ohio) and it will be the SAG vehicle all the way to Georgia.
Q: What is SAG again?
A: Our SAG drivers will provide Support And Gear. That means they carry luggage, spare parts, food, water, ice, first aid, etc. They will typically see us off, meet up with us once or twice during the day, bring us food, water, and ice in less populated areas, and help us get checked out of an into accomodations. They will also be on call in case of emergency. We will be highly dependent on cell service but will prearrange meeting spots when it is not available. (talking to you, Wyoming!)
Q: What is your daily milage and how did you decide that?
A: I aimed for 100 miles per day (ending up at 94) for a few reasons:
- I felt it was a high number but doable. I noted that several of the group tours out there do between 80 and 100.
- It is high enough that it makes this a real accomplishment if we can pull it off
- I have done multiple days in a row of 100 or so miles — this is just… more days in a row
- It lets us keep the trip under 40 days
- It is a nice, round number
A couple of notable challenges are a two-day stretch with 265 miles and a seven-day one with 730 miles. 🚴♂️💪🏽😮💨
Q: Are you taking rest days?
A: Yes, in Jackson, WY, Estes Park, CO, Springfield, MO, and Centre, AL. We also have a very short day (20 miles) from Sisters to Bend, OR.
Q: How did you decide where to stay? And make arrangements?
A: We are staying at a combination of hotels and AirBNBs. I used Expedia to keep all of the hotel reservations in one place, but I’m sure any decent aggregator will do. I generally looked for a sweet spot of cost and decent ratings. I went to AirBNBs when there was a dearth of hotels in town where we wanted to stop, we were staying some place really cool (like Jackson, WY), or we wanted a place to hang out and rest on a layover day.
Q: How much is this trip costing?
A: In rough terms:
- Gas: $500 per rider (20 tanks x $50 per tank split two ways)
- Vehicle wear and tear: $1,500 per rider
- Meals: $4,500 per rider (including feeding our amazing SAG team)
- Hotels: $5,000 per rider
So, about $12K per rider. Organized trips of a similar style are typically to $15K (or more).
Q: How are you going to deal with maintenance and repairs?
A: Having a SAG vehicle lets us bring a full complement of bike tools and spare parts. I am a reasonably competent bike mechanic so I should be able to handle most repairs. We’ll also be relying on luck in the form of bad things happening near a competent bike shop, to fix issues or undo the wrong thing that I did. Or better yet, bad things not happening at all.
Q: How did you decide what to bring?
A: I have a whole spreadsheet for this. If you want a copy, hit me through a comment, email, or twitter.
Q: How did you train?
Q: Again I have a whole spreadsheet for this and I’d be happy to share. The tl,dr; is that it was a 12-week program of riding, starting at 150 miles per week (on top of a good winter baseline) and going up to 450. Each week had one day of intervals, one day of rest, and the rest long rides. My longest ride was 120 miles. I probably should have done some lifting and cross training but I’d rather just ride. I did do a good regimen of daily stretching. I feel ready, but we’ll see…