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Anybody done the TransAm Trail lately?

Discussion in 'Americas' started by chillidog, Sep 21, 2007.

  1. chillidog

    chillidog Adventurer

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    My son and I are planning an assault on the the TransAm Trail from Tennessee to Oregon for the summer of '09. Any advice would be appreciated. We're looking for advice on things such as what types of bikes would be suitable, how to configure them, types of GPSs that we should consider, what to take along, what not to take along, etc. Thanks.
    #1
  2. bmast

    bmast Adventurer

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  3. JimC

    JimC Long timer

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    I think quite a few ADV Riders were on the TAT this year so hopefully they will respond as well.

    Some quick thoughts:

    The TAT East (TN to CO), is quite a different animal than the TAT West (CO to OR). I only rode the TAT West and found it a technically challenging ride that I would not attempt on any bike bigger than a 650, the lighter the better. The least aggressive tires I would use are TKC 80's. Dunlop 606's or Pirelli MT 21's are good choices. You are always balancing longevity vs. traction.

    Realize that many of the rider reports you see on the Western TAT are not a true portrayal of the full route. Due to weather, personal decisions, mechanical issues or time constraints many of the riders skipped significant sections of the actual trail, usually the more difficult sections. The TAT West is a difficult ride on anything larger than a 250cc dirt bike. It can and has been ridden using large dual sport bikes in good weather conditions by skilled riders, but I’m sure they had a lot of scary moments.

    Decide if you are going to camp or motel it. Camping creates 2 issues, carrying all the camping gear and the time spent setting up and tearing down each day. Weight is your enemy on this ride, the less you carry the happier you will be. We moteled the entire trip, but carried bivy bags and air pads in case we got stuck out at night, we never needed them. You spend a lot of days in dry, dusty condtions. A hot shower and a good meal at the end of the day was really appreciated.

    Spend all your time preparing for the trip by creating GPS tracks (not routes!) from Sam’s maps and roll charts. This is a time consuming process, but you will be very happy you did so once on the trail. Navigation is a big challenge on the TAT West, having a good set of GPS tracks is invaluable when you come across a trail closure or private property. That said Oregon is a nightmare and you will spend most of your time lost, confused and frustrated even with a good set of tracks. I think the Garmin Map 60Cx, Map 76Cx of the new Etrex Legend HCx with City Navigator and/or Roads and Recreation Maps are perfect GPS’s for the ride.

    Practice riding your fully loaded bike in deep sand, silt and loose rocky hill climbs, you will be happy you did. It is a great ride and you will see a lot of territory that few people do. It is an Adventure.

    Jim in Sacramento
    #3
  4. larryboy

    larryboy Stable genius.

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    I agree, Jim has it right. I spent half a day on the TAT trying to ride the Oregon section. If this is Sam's best work I wouldn't even attempt the rest of the trail without a good set of gps tracks from somebody that knows what they're doing. The roll charts and maps are a complete waste of money IMHO. Well..the maps were useful..they'd be great in a Jeep with a navigator.

    I used my Zumo on the Oregon Backcountry Disco..great little machine. I'm impressed with it's abilities. It was my first time out navigating by gps, so there may be better choices and I just don't know it?
    #4
  5. Lone Rider

    Lone Rider Registered User

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    A good post, Jim. :thumb
    #5
  6. gaspipe

    gaspipe Wandering Soul

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    JimC gave you a great synopsis.

    I rode it last year on my XR650R - in June from Oklahoma to Oregon. I'd happily ride the TAT on my 950, but there would be some heartburn getting through some sections. I was glad I had the XR650R, but a 400/450 class bike would have been a welcome thing from time to time.

    There are a few things I'd like to supplement Jim's info with:

    1) The camp vs. motel it thing is a big decision you need to make. I didn't haul anything except an aluminized tarp/emergency blanket. I've slept in them before, and wasn't afraid of doing it again, but the plan was to find a fleabag each day. I was able to haul about 6 ot 8 lbs less crap along with me, which was good.

    2) Diversions/Navigation - taking the time to program the route will work, but you need to break the route into state by state parts. You cannot set it up to autoroute. I used a 276C with City Select and Roads/Rec. Snow will be the diversion instigator. Having a good working knowledge of how to use your GPS will be a blessing if or when this happens.

    3) You need to be fairly proficient on technical terrain and in sand.

    4) You'll be in the back of beyond each day. Be aware of that, and think ahead on fuel, water and food. If you get into the rhythm and timing works, you'll hit a town of some sort each day. Get gas, water and food and keep a reserve just in case. You'll be in places where there probably isn't another human being for 50+ miles in any direction.

    5) Know your bike and be somewhat proficient troubleshooting it. Know how to fix flats, have a spare clutch cable, tubes, tools, epoxy, cable ties, wire, etc. Look your bike over carefully when you're in town - you might not make it to the next one.

    6) Rain is a killer. I love riding in the rain, but unimproved roads don't like rain. Much of the TAT west is on unmiproved roads, and they can easily become impassible due to mud and flash floods in the rain. Be aware of that.

    7) Colorado is a great place to swap to the next set of tires. Jim's tire recommendations are good. A few more are the Maxxis Desert IT, Michelin Desert, Dunlop 908RR, Bridgestone ED77/78, etc., are all good, long wearing compromise knobbies.

    8) Run a steel rear sprocket, and new chain & CS sprocket when you leave. Have a spare air filter - it can get super dusty, and you'll have a spare to wash and reoil to keep your air clean.

    9) The most important part - have fun. It's an epic ride, and to get to share that time with your son will be something you'll never forget.
    #6
  7. wheatwhacker

    wheatwhacker It's raining here

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    While on the subject, has anybody thought about a TAT for the big ADV bikes like the KTM and GS. I just got back from a 5000 mile trip to MT and down to KS back through UT and NV and was able to gravel and dirt it most of the way. This took a lot of maps and planning but now I can give good info on varioud roads I took.
    To me, this was a great way to see the country, meet country folk and still cover some decent miles per day. I did this fully loaded on my 950, the KLR would have been ideal as, to be honest as you really don't need a big pig on dirt. It sure is nice when you have to slab it for a while though.
    If anydoby is interested I can compile maps and cordinates for your next destination anywhere west of the rockies and give a decent road review.
    #7
  8. chillidog

    chillidog Adventurer

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    Thanks, all. That's exactly what I was looking for. Wheatwacker, I see that you've got a DRZ400. We were thinking of getting a pair of them for our ride. Do you think that would be a mistake or a wise choice. We're both about 5'10"-11" and 175-185 lbs.
    #8
  9. pencipa

    pencipa Life, is chance...

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    As a returning dirt-rider (grew up w/dirt-bikes, rode daily 30 years ago, "B-Enduro" and novice MX'er) I'm now age-60, a NooB actually. I was going to get a 650 DS, stumbled into a KDX-200 (30-hp and 230-lbs!). My discovery here (as I discussed with Gadget Boy) is that in all my recent dirt-travels I have discovered I can do much better with a light bike than I can with a powerful bike.

    Personally, I think your DRZ-400 idea is super. And the benefits of 2-guys on a ride with identical-bikes is significant.

    Here's a point-of-comparison...

    I went through the trouble/expense of street-legalizing a KLX-450R. An awesome machine for the TAT (although it would need an aftermarket bigger gas tank).

    Here's the story Delivery day! KLX-450R

    But here's a data-point...

    My buddy, who was riding with me in the Uinta NF last week, was on a 250 MX bike (KX-250). It was new, a rental from Heber Motorsports. My buddy, a daily street-rider, had not been on a dirt-bike in 30 years. On jeep-trail, single-track, rocky-sections he blew me away!

    Again, "light/nimble" really counts for a lot, and the longer the ride (TAT) the more important light/nimble will be.

    A side benefit of the DRZ's is the availability of a Corbin seat.
    http://www.corbin.com/suzuki/drz400.shtml
    Personally, I would not attempt a TAT-like ride with a stock seat (on any bike).

    All-the-best. This will be an awesome adventure...





    #9
  10. wheatwhacker

    wheatwhacker It's raining here

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    Great bike, very well built with quality parts. rugged, dependable and smooth. The only fault with the bike is fuel capacity, easly solved with an aftermarket tank. Great for up to 70mph, even on full out knobbies. Stock gearing is a little high, a smaller front sprocket is recommended and some decent lever protectors. I rode a KTM 4** a few weeks ago and honestly feel the DRZ was every bit as good. I took the bike on the sheetiron, the difficult section and had no trouble at all. Great bang for the buck.
    #10
  11. murgatroid42

    murgatroid42 Great Adventurer

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    Some riders are making a movie out of their TAT ride. They have a travelogue here. One of the camera riders gave a presentation in CO, and what I learned mostly from this is that bike preparation is critical. Replace everything you can (chain, sprockets, tires, tubes, cables, battery etc.), make sure the bike is in good condition, wear ATGATT, keep up the pace, don't ride at night, and plan ahead for gas and water. There will be problems, just make sure your schedule is flexible and you know how to repair your bike in the middle of nowhere.
    #11
  12. Staxrider

    Staxrider dirt dauber

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    The DRZ will need a larger tank, in stock form it's too small, you need at least a 150 mile range. The camping/motel question is a weight vs comfort issue. Less weight is always better. I camped the whole way but I love camping. When I was in Denio, NV there was no vacancy. The comments about Oregon are spot on, you would be better off plotting your own route as private land closures and logging has altered Sam's route. Bridgestone ED 78's lasted the whole way for me, really great tires. I would also recommend renting a satellite phone for the time you will be gone, cheap insurance and keeps the home front updated as they will be worried sick about you. Good luck, you will have the trip of a lifetime.
    #12
  13. chillidog

    chillidog Adventurer

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    Gaspipe,

    Your trip repot is awesome. It's as inspirational as informational. It's very well written and the pictures are amazing. Thanks.

    We're still in the initial stages of our trip planning. My son is only home in the summers from college and next summer he's not available as he'll be the "body man" for a senatorial candidate so we're looking at the summer of '09. I do have some concerns as to whether we're up to it. I'm 50 years old, have ridden dirt and street since I was 16, never competitively. My son is 18 and has ridden only dirt since he was 7, including competitive MX. We're both physically fit, he's a football player and I'm a runner of sorts. I run the occasional marathon, I'm just not very fast.

    Our plan is to do as many training rides as we can in the mountains of NC before tackling the TAT.
    .
    We're serious about the DRZ. It seems like they would provide a good balance of weight and power, provide the handling performance that we'll need, and the dealer support is about as good as it gets. Hopefully we won't need that because the bikes are supposed to be tough and reliable machines. They'll require some aftermarket stuff, like larger gas tanks and sturdy panniers and... who knows what else?

    Wearing ATGATT is a given. I've crashed multiple times but have never been seriously hurt due to wearing the gear. My son broke his neck while doing a MX training ride a couple of years ago. His injury, while serious, would have been much worse if he hadn't been wearing all the gear. We thank God he didn't end up with any permanent disability and he still loves to ride, but the allure of MX is gone for him.

    Thanks again, Dave.
    #13
  14. ridenagain

    ridenagain Adventurer

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    You guys report some good, useful information here.

    Any similar condensed observations and info available for the Continental Devide Trail (maybe this has been discussed on another post?)

    No hurry, just thought I'd ask.
    #14
  15. murgatroid42

    murgatroid42 Great Adventurer

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    Now that you asked, I rode the northern half of the Continental Divide Trail this summer (shameless plug for my ride report, here). Another thread asking about the CDT is here.

    There are also several ride reports on the CDT this year.
    #15
  16. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Administrator Super Moderator

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    There are a lot of photos/info in this thread that might give you a good picture of the TN thru NM part of the trail. Hope it helps.
    #16
  17. psychsurf

    psychsurf Been here awhile

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    Hopefully this isn't a repost, but there's a great TAT writeup with pics and everything on the SVrider.com site. http://forum.svrider.com/showthread.php?t=54706

    Interestingly enough, it was after expressing my admiration for that trip and writeup that someone suggested I come over to ADVrider to read the trip reports here. So, there you go!
    #17