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Bike Touring Across the U.S. – Breaking Down The Numbers

Enjoying a sunny day in New Hampshire.

Enjoying a sunny day in New Hampshire.

Ah, numbers. The engineer in me loves this post. For all of you who requested data summing up our bike tour, put your Spock hat on and enjoy. While in no way does a bunch of digits encapsulate the fun, travails, adventure and overall accomplishment of riding 4,000 miles across the States, it is interesting to see it all laid out.

Without further ado, here’s the full route we took and below that is all the data. If you’re not interested, skip the numbers and just look at the pictures or watch the video (Part 1) of our tour. However, I promise there aren’t any graphs or bar charts, so don’t be skerred. 🙂

All the twists and turns from the SE corner of Washington all the way to Portland, Maine.

All the twists and turns from the SE corner of Washington all the way to Portland, Maine. We’re all about the most direct route…

  • Total Miles Ridden: 4,010
  • Total Miles: 4,052 (includes 20 miles on a ferry across Lake Champlain to Burlington and 22 miles late at night in the back of a pickup truck in Illinois on a thunderstorm/faulty tire day)
  • Distance if We’d Taken the Freeway Straight Across: 2,900 (nooooo thanks! So boring.)
  • Total Days: 101 (June 28 – October 6, 2014)
  • Total Days on the Bike: 83 (rest/fun/logistics days = 18 out of the 101 total)
  • Total Hours Pedaling Bikes: 363 for D, 401 for C (I waited at the top of big hills and long passes. Before you report me to the Spouse Abandonment Police: don’t worry, we rode together a lot too!)
  • Average Time Per Day Riding: 4.5 hours for D, 5.1 for C, with about 7.5 hours from start to finish each day including stopping for whatever
  • Elevation Gain: 127,490 (4.75 trips up Everest from sea level and 1,500 feet per day average)
  • Average per Day: 48.1 miles (not including rest days. Our goal at the outset was 50 per day so not bad.)
  • Average Speed: 11.0 for D, 10.0 for C
    Chelsea climbs a pass on a sunny day in the White Mountains.

    Chelsea climbs a pass on a sunny day in the White Mountains.

  • Days Without a Shower: Only 6 days. And 3 of those featured creeks or lakes for a nice dip at the end of the day.
  • Longest Stretch Without Seeing Another Bike Tourist: 61 days (Nebraska all the way to New York…and the guy we saw in NY wasn’t going cross-country)
  • Number of Motorcycle Rallies We Inadvertently Crashed: 2 (Sturgis, SD and Ohio)
  • Number of States We Pedaled In: 15 of them. 16 if insanity is a state… (Plus one Canadian province.)
  • Longest Day: 85 miles (a not-flat day in the cornfields of Nebraska. Honorable mention to 84 miles in 98 degrees in SE Montana where we met a beat-up looking bike tourist who spent the prior night in a ditch after calling it early due to 30 mph wind and killer heat.)
  • Shortest Day: 5 miles (seaplane rides always trump cycling)
  • Longest Continuous Climb: 29.7 miles (4,500’ climb into the Black Hills from Spearfish, SD)
  • Steepest Climb: 23% grade in the Finger Lakes near Ithaca, New York
  • Biggest Elevation Day: 5,600’ (up and down along Lake Koocanusa in NW Montana)
  • Biggest Surprise Elevation Day: 4,000’ in…Iowa?! Dude, WTF.
  • Hottest recorded temperature: 107 degrees in Thompson Falls, MT (and there was the day in SE Montana when it hovered around 100 all day and 97 the next. PLENTY of days in the mid-90s in the Midwest)
  • Swimming-In-Humidity Award : Illinois! August is steamin’ there.
    A great vista at the top of a pass in the White Mountains.

    A great vista at the top of a pass in the White Mountains.

  • Earliest pedaling start time: 6:02 am (Cardston, Alberta back into Montana on a hot, long, windy day)
  • Latest start: Crack of noon a few times on shorter mileage days or if we were enjoying conversation with people hosting us. Our get-after-it-early mentality quickly slid as temps dropped in September in favor of hanging out with cool people as long as possible and still make some progress east.
  • Latest finish: 10:09 pm with the fireflies in the pitch dark to Greenfield, Iowa for a night’s stay at an opera house
  • Days in a Row without a Day Off: 10 (average of 7-9 days in a row pedaling)
  • Most Days Off in a Row: 2
    Dakota climbing in the White Mountains. Roads the way cyclists love them: low traffic and big shoulder under blue skies.

    Dakota climbing in the White Mountains. Roads the way cyclists love them: low traffic and big shoulder under blue skies.

  • Flat tires: 5 for D (4 destructo-bomb blowouts thanks to a rim that was finicky with higher tire pressures, 1 flat with a sharp piece of gravel) and 3 for C
  • Tires replaced: This was an FAQ by people we met: “How many tires have you replaced?” Not many! Zero for D (new set of Schwalbe Marathons easily made it) and 3 for C. Her tires started with a few thousand miles on them already and then there was a faulty new tire that pooped out after only 1,000 miles.
  • Other bike troubles: ZERO. My Salsa Fargo and C’s Surly Cross-Check worked flawlessly. Hoo-ray.
  • Pairs of Cycling Shorts Turned Transparent/Indecent by Sunshine: 1 for D, 2 for C (all our panniers went from bright to very faded red too)
  • Personal Injuries: Zero. Lucky stars counted for this one. We’re both feeling great and strong as can be.
  • Number of Pushups Done to Avoid Turning Into All-I-Do-Is-Bike Upper Body Wimpo:  6,270 (max of 78 in a row). Finished stronger than I started, but still didn’t hit my goal of 100 straight!
  • Number of Vehicles Honking in Anger: Just 1 (an a-hole in a red sports car in Wahoo, Nebraska)
  • Number of Vehicles Honking or Waving to Cheer Us On: Dozens!
  • Number of Days We Expected to Be Flat that Weren’t: Roughly the same number we expected (dreamed?) that we’d have a tailwind and didn’t. Meaning a lot.
  • Chance We’ll Bike Tour Through the Midwest Again in August Heat: 1.3% (never say never)
  • Chance We’ll Do a Long Bike Tour Again in the Future: 100%! Continental Divide perhaps? I didn’t buy a Salsa Fargo just for road riding…

And that’s the data! I could of course crunch more of it, but I’d rather finish this glass of wine and watch a movie here in Bar Harbor, Maine. If you’d like to know a certain stat, let me know and I’d be happy to dig into it.

Ciao for now,

Dakota

P.S. I pulled most of the data from the GPS info I uploaded to Strava during our trip. Then I tapped into a great Strava aggregation tool that made it really easy to parse through.

We didn't count, but here's just a sampling of all the awesome people we met along the way.

We didn’t count, but here’s just a sampling of all the awesome people we met along the way.

Chelsea rips down a mountain pass.

Chelsea rips down a mountain pass.