Best time of year to bicycle from NYC to SF?
December 19, 2014 10:51 AM   Subscribe

I want to ride from NYC to SF in 2015. I have 8 to 10 weeks (maybe 12) to do it. When would be the best time of the year to do so?

I probably can’t leave before May 15. The longest day of the year is June 20. I definitely know I want to go east to west instead of west to east, though the prevailing wisdom (and winds) suggest the opposite.

I know late spring is probably better than late summer. But by the time I get into the Rockies, perhaps the weather won’t be as much of an issue as in the Midwest or the East. I’d love to hear thoughts from anyone who’s done this, especially on a NYC to SF route.

posted by Borborygmus to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The weather in the Rockies is unpredictable, but I doubt you'll have a blizzard in June that'll stop you in your tracks. The only thing you may want to research is where you'll be staying and if the resources will be available (camping?)

Anytime after May 15th would really be fine, there's really no rules against it. E -> W isn't going to be as popular, but whatever.

Do you have a route in mind?
posted by alex_skazat at 11:31 AM on December 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

I dont know if its possible, but I strongly recommend you try to switch directions and ride with the jetstream instead of into it the whole way.
posted by H. Roark at 12:08 PM on December 19, 2014 [3 favorites]

Do you definitely want to do it solo? A friend joined some of group and did this... maybe it was Ride Across America? I'm not sure, but I could find out more detail if that sounds appealing. I think her group was on the younger side (college age), FWIW.
posted by maryr at 1:26 PM on December 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

For the shortest route. It looks like starting early Jun would give the best chance for nice weather

Assuming you do 6 hour days on average, it should take about 45 days, I would go west to east in that case because the west can be hotter going into summer. I'm no long range cyclist so I don't know if that's reasonable or not. I'm sure you'll want to take some days off.

Hope that helps and good luck!
posted by jonclegg at 1:54 PM on December 19, 2014

A friend of mine did Maine to San Francisco. She timed it with a stop at Burning Man, which means she got into SF in September. That means some very hot riding in and around Nevada. But I that's better than snow!

Once nice thing about going East to West is that by the time you get to serious mountains you'll be significantly stronger than when you started the trip.
posted by aubilenon at 4:08 PM on December 19, 2014

In the summer of 2004 I rode from Brooklyn to San Francisco, by way of Pittsburgh, Chicago, Badlands of SD, Yellowstone, and Oregon, then down the coast. I left Memorial Day and arrived in SF in early August. I took breaks wherever interested, spending a few days here and there, and over a week in Chicago. You can totally do this on your timeline. I also did this trip on a fixed gear because I was a broke/stubborn college student - a touring bike will be easier. After hitting Ohio, I rode over 100 miles a day.

Summertime is the best time to ride, and the weather can change no matter where you are. Dress in layers, wear sunscreen, pack a rain shell. Have a great trip!
posted by stachemaster at 6:58 PM on December 19, 2014 [2 favorites]

The Adventure Cycling Association's self-contained TransAm tour runs East to West, and this year it begins on May 2. It starts in Virginia and ends in Oregon, so it's not quite your route, and it might be worth contacting the ACA to see if they can give you any advice about the timing of your specific route.
posted by crLLC at 5:44 AM on December 20, 2014

Response by poster: alex_skazat - no route in mind, I still need to get it 100% cleared with work, and then I suppose I'll start digging into the Adventure Cycling web site.

H. Roark - I really really want to ride east to west. I know the prevailing wisdom is to go with the jet stream, but I've heard that it's seldom head-on anyway. you'll face wind one way or another. But two more powerful reasons -- (1) it traces the movement of the settlements across the U.S., and (2) nearing home can feel like a drag on a long bike trip at the end, it's all very familiar and you can't wait to get it over with. Plus, what aubilenon says too.

maryr - yes, I had a friend do a similar program through Habitat for Humanity with bike and build. Unfortunately, I'm way past the upper age limit for all of these groups I've seen so far. If you know of any without age limits, please let me know. I'm a little scared of going by myself, but it's too easy to let fear overtake you as you age.

jonclegg - thanks for the gmap! where is that from? Why is it called the Cowboy Trail? I see there's a huge path in Nebraska with that same name…

stachemaster - thanks for the anecdote and the encouragement!

crLLC - thanks for the tip. I'd consider that ride, but it starts far too early and takes up too much time -- more than 13 weeks! Indeed, I'll reach out to see what they say.
posted by Borborygmus at 9:45 AM on December 21, 2014

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