The Trans American Bike Race (TABR) is the longest annual unsupported bike race in the world. At over 4202 miles / 6763km, it is a real test of physical and mental stamina.
The TABR starts on the Pacific in Astoria, Oregon during the first week of June, to maximize the longest days of the year, and the course ends at the Atlantic in Yorktown, Virginia.
I packed light for the race making sure I only took the bare essentials. This meant only having one set of clothes and very limited spares for the bike.
Long roads that vanish into the distance
One of the most important considerations when selecting your equipment is the wheels and, as with everything, a lot of it comes down to personal choice.
One of the main decisions is whether to use alloy or carbon wheels; I wanted to use alloy wheels because it is easier to fix alloy wheels if you have a problem. If you crash into anything with carbon wheels at least one of them is usually destroyed. One of the other decisions to make is whether to use a dynamo or to take battery lights. Due to the length of the race, I wanted to use a dynamo to generate power for my lights. The dynamo would also allow me to generate energy for recharging equipment during the day if I also used a USB hub to enable me to access that dynamo power.
I was using disc brakes, so I wanted rims that enabled us to build a stiff, but reliable, wheel. One of the biggest problems wheel builders have with 11-speed bikes with disc brakes is using center-drilled rims because the angle the spokes make on the ‘drive side’ is much tighter than on the non-drive side. If the builder tries to tension the spokes to the same tension, then a lot more tension is put on the non-drive side spokes making them more likely to brake at the nipple.
All bike shops should have a beer tap
Because I prized reliability and quality of ride above everything, I chose the new Pacenti Forza rims which are 24mm wide at the tire. The rims are drilled off-center and the design profile is asymmetric, which means the spoke angles on either side of the wheel can be made of equal tension allowing the wheel builder to make a wheel with better structural integrity.
The race was a real adventure and the route took me through small town rural America. I got to meet some incredibly kind and generous people. Once I got up into the Rocky Mountains, I spent almost a week above 2000m/6550ft and began to feel very fit. The big surprise though were the last three major states: Missouri (the crossing of Illinois was very short), Kentucky, and Virginia. These last States were incredibly mountainous and on my second day in Missouri I did more vertical climbing than in the whole of the Rockies. The climbing intensified until I entered eastern Virginia and left the Blue Ridge Mountains behind.
Waiting for the ferry
The humidity also rose dramatically as I came to Kentucky and I found this weather seemed to reduce my energy levels. It was a brilliant feeling arriving in eastern Virginia and making it to the Yorktown monument. I arrived on the anniversary of the battle of Gettysburg on 3rd July and was very happy to stay the night in Yorktown for the 4th July Independence Day celebrations, which seemed to match my feelings of celebration after riding my bike across America.
The euphoria of the finish