Final post for crossing the USA, summer 2021.
For my final post from my trip, I thought I would do a rundown of all the numbers I found interesting. We’ll start simple. From California to Massachusetts, I would ultimately travel about 4,750 miles. The ride would last 70 days and take me through 18 states.
California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois,
Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania,
Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island,
I would ride the most miles in Colorado at about 1073 miles. This is more than double the miles spent in my second longest state, Kansas, at 473 miles. The state I spent the least miles in was Delaware at only 10 miles.
Unsurprisingly, Colorado is also the state I rode the most dirt in at 235 miles. Again, more than double the mileage of my second highest state of Nevada at 115 miles. By the end of the trip I would ride roughly 488 miles of dirt, or about 10% of my total miles.
For only 10% of my miles to be dirt, do I think it was worth getting a gravel bike for the trip? Absolutely. While the volume of those miles wasn’t especially impressive, within that 10% are many of the most memorable rides of the trip! It’s also worth it to just have the option to go off road or be able to ride a beat up road without much worry. You never know what you might run into. I don’t think I would change anything about the bike should I do something of this scale again.
The highest altitude I would reach was 14,267 feet at the peak of Mt. Evans. That day would also be the most climbing I would do in one ride at 11,148 feet of elevation gain over 107 miles.
By the end of the trip I would climb over 230,000 feet, or the equivalent of climbing up and down to the airplane cruising altitude 6.5 times.
That being said, the flattest day of my trip was, of course, in Kansas. Over 65 miles I would only climb 118 feet. The previous day, I would travel 95 miles without making a single turn the entire ride.
My longest day of riding was also in Kansas. I would ride 210 miles over 16 hours. I would also experience consistent winds in Kansas and for most of the rest of my trip.
To power me on my long days I would eat a lot of baked goods. On average I would visit at least 1.4 bakeries per day. I would spend roughly $800 on baked goods alone on my trip. This was roughly equal to the money I spent on any other type of food. It’s hard to give an exact number because I lost my credit card for 10 days and bakeries are some of the most likely places to only accept cash, but it’s as close an estimation as I can make. By the end of the trip, I visited between 90-100 bakeries easily at a conservative estimate. I would show a picture of baked goods here, but I figure you've seen more than enough of those at this point...
The trip cost me over $3,000 dollars in total before the startup costs of a bike ($2,200 by itself) bike bags, camping gear, photography equipment, etc... I spent about $7,000 dollars in all. Again, at a conservative estimate.
I did make some of that money back on my bike, which I sold for $1,800 once my trip was over. So after going 4,700 miles, that only cost me about $400 in transportation costs. For the experience of a lifetime, I’d say it was absolutely worth every dollar I spent on the trip! You can absolutely spend less, but I think I spent the amount that would make me the most comfortable for the most reasonable price (and allow me to eat all the baked goods I wanted). You can always save on supplies, or on your bike, but you’re sacrificing comfort. For a trip this magnitude, I don’t think it’s worth that sacrifice. It’s better to spend a little more money and ensure you’re happy throughout the journey and truly enjoy it.
For that reason, I would end up spending 9 nights in hotels. I stayed with three people through Couchsurfing, I stayed with 23 people through Warm Showers, and I camped for 12 nights. It doesn’t add to 69 nights because I stayed with some Warm Showers hosts for multiple days. While I didn’t camp for that many nights, I am very thankful I was carrying my tent because it opened the option to go anywhere I wanted and not have to stress about what I would do at night if I didn’t make it to my destination. I would prefer to stay inside, but having my camping fallback definitely saved money and made me feel secure in my route choice wherever I went.
I would only get four significant mechanical issues on my whole trip, three of which happened in my first week of riding. The first mechanical issue was my shifting cable stretching, causing me to be unable to enter my lowest gear as I climbed the Sierra’s. I felt something off on my first day of riding, but I didn’t figure out what was wrong until I was nearly done climbing the Sierras. I got it fixed in Tahoe before continuing. A stretched cable is normal for a brand new bike, so that was to be expected.
My next issue was in the desert in Nevada. My cable stretched more and I was unable to fix it in the desert, so I ended up having to largely walk my bike at the end of the day. One of the few times I was able to ride it, I would break through the dirt crust and into the soft dirt underneath. I would go over the bars. When I cleaned myself up, my front wheel was warped. That was my third mechanical issue.
I would fix the cable that night after two hours of work and some parts from my host in Fallon, NV. I wouldn’t be able to fix the wheel until I had ridden through the entirety of Nevada and into Utah. There were no bike shops on my route until then. After that, I wouldn’t get a single mechanical until I got my flat tire as I crossed into Kentucky. That would remain the last mechanical on my trip and the only flat tire.
As a result of the flat, I got a ride in the back of a cop car to the nearest bike shop. That was one of six times I rode in cars throughout the trip. The first of the other five times was in Colorado where the foreman of a construction site gave me a ride because they were dynamiting the canyon to make it wider and it was too dangerous to ride through because of rock fall.
Three other rides also occurred in Colorado. One as I crossed a highway on the Colorado trail being as close to hypothermic as I have ever been, and one the next day to bring me back to the point where I got picked up so that I could complete the Colorado trail. So while I got help, I didn’t actually make any progress on my trip with those rides.
I did somewhat make progress the day after that when I got a ride to Idaho Springs, again, because the forecast was for rain. That was one circumstance where I felt it was okay to get a ride, especially after nearly freezing on the Colorado Trail. But Idaho Springs was actually backtracking on my progress east, so I didn’t lose any miles across the country with that car ride.
The final instance of getting a ride was in Kansas, when it was dumping rain on me and I was huddling in a shelter and completely soaked. I got a ride from some locals to the nearest hotel before the road flooded. Other than that, I also made progress on two ferries. One from New Jersey to Manhattan and one from Orient Point (at the tip of Long Island) to New London, Connecticut.
Speaking of rain, I experienced only a few issues with weather. There were the circumstances I described above, but in addition I also stayed in Salida, CO for several days waiting for the forecast to improve. I was also more gently rained on in Kansas two times. One where I simply hid under a sign for 30 minutes and the other at night when I was trying to take shelter in a park. Finally, in Maryland, I waited until about 3 PM one day waiting for the rain to die down so I could have a more pleasant ride.
According to my GPS, the hottest weather I would ride through was 124 degrees and this was on my second day of riding as I was climbing the Sierras. The other day that was significant for heat was in Utah, where I rode 125 miles with the high of the day reaching 118. But on average, the temperature of my rides was about 80 degrees, according to my GPS.
I would ultimately cross the Continental Divide five times. The first time was on Monarch Pass, then I crossed it again as I entered the Colorado trail just north of Breckenridge, then when I left the Colorado Trail to bypass the wilderness zone where bikes are prohibited. I would cross it again as I climbed to Winter Park from Idaho Springs. My final time was going from Winter Park over Corona Pass to Boulder. I also crossed the Eastern Continental Divide once in West Virginia.
Looking at the established cycle touring routes on Adventure Cycling Association, I spent about 1/3rd of my miles on cycle touring routes, and the rest of the trip I made my own trails. I spent the most time on established routes in Kansas. There aren’t many ways to go through the state, and with many of the small towns being so desolate, I thought it best to travel where they were more used to seeing cyclists and I would have easier access to water and support. The touring route also took me very close to family in Kansas, which was another major factor in my route choice.
What was surprising to me is that I thought I was on more established routes in the East, but looking at the ACA maps, more of my time was spent on established routes in the West. But I generally had a fantastic time with my routes in the East, so I wouldn’t have changed where I rode at all. There are no established routes in Japan to speak of, so I’ll have to explore on my own here and hopefully create some routes for people to look at online.
With that, I think I am done with my numbers rundown for now. You can see my data in much more detail on the spreadsheet below. Maybe I’ll eventually create some graphs and charts from the data, but right now, you can take a look if you’re curious about any particular day or my budget or anything else dealing with numbers that I could calculate. If you want to know any further data that I didn’t present here, let me know and I’ll see if I can figure it out!
Bike data: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1eI8YqSBHasMJUUp7ABldlu71q8s6j3xYh0af4HT8v-A/edit?usp=sharing