Northern Tier 2010

July 23, 2010


Filed under: Montana, Section 03 — Henry Scott @ 8:00 pm

I went to bed last night thinking that today would be a rest day — my body was starting to complain a bit. But, Seth, the other eastbound rider camped in the Chester city park last night (far left in the photo), and I decided to try riding together. Our initial plan was to go short and easy, but it turned out to be a perfect day for riding: a slight crosswind in the morning gradually picked up speed and became a very strong tailwind. One can’t overemphasize how good it feels to ride with a tailwind after being stuck at 10 mph with a headwind the day before.

We ended up covering 104 miles at an average speed of 16.8 mph (12 is more typical for me on tour). Our only significant stop was in Havre; we wanted to keep moving as much as possible to take advantage of the wind, but get to camp early enough to get a lot of rest.

We also took a brief break at a bar / grocery store in Hingham around 10:00 a.m., where we cashed in, and split, a free beer thanks to a token given to us by the westbound cyclist with whom we camped last night in Chester (Tim, far right in the photo). Unfortunately, we forgot to take a token to hand off to the next westbound tourists we meet, but it is a nice tradition the proprietor has going for bikers.

We made it to Harlem, MT by 4:30 and made camp in the city park. Apparently it is common for western cities along the Northern Tier to provide free camping and bathroom access — it is much appreciated.

In addition to the wind, we had good fortune with today’s storms as well: one proceeded us, so that we just had wet roads, rather than actually getting rained on, and the other didn’t reach us until right after we made camp.

Highway 2 has turned out to be more enjoyable that I expected. The landscape is mainly flat, but pretty. It basically follows an historical, yet still quite active rail line.

See below for some riding statistics thus far:

I’ve been on the road for 16 days, and I’ve covered 1,148 miles. That’s an average of 72 miles per day with a high of 113 and a low of 25.5 — I’ve had a few short days in the national parks. I’ve been riding for a total of 95 hours, with an average of 5.9 per day. My cumulative average speed (i.e., total distance divided by total time) is 12.1 mph, and the average of each daily average speed is very close at 12.0 mph with a standard deviation of 1.7 — I thought there would be a larger difference to reflect mountainous versus flat days, but now that I think about it, there haven’t been many flat days… yet.



  1. You’re making great time and, if I get the gist of your stats and observations, the average speed (and miles/day) are quite likely to go higher. That wouldn’t be true if you were at the same location but on a westerly trip. As noted by phone, GREAT BLOG! Loved Kevin’s quote of Contador’s statement. Dad

    Comment by Barry Scott — July 24, 2010 @ 11:10 pm

  2. Your experience with speed matches mine — my average across dead flat Kansas was the same as my average over the Rockies and later on in the up’s and downs of Missouri and Kentucky. I’m jealous of your tailwind — I saw only a headwind from central Colorado to central Missouri on my TransAm route in 2007. Keep doing whatever you’re doing!

    Comment by Tony Panero — July 24, 2010 @ 11:14 pm

  3. Thanks so much for all the statistical details. I was just trying to figure some of this out on my own, and of course you have it all in detail. Are you using a Garmin to keep track or a cyclocompluter?

    At some point it would be interesting to know the weight of the bike when it is all loaded (knowing it changed with amount of water etc).

    I am really intrigued by the camaraderie and community of the “Northern Tier” both the riders and the locals who are aware of them passing through. Has any one else written on this that you know of?

    Comment by stevie.g — July 25, 2010 @ 11:48 am

    • I’m using a fairly simple cyclocomputer that I calibrated very carefully after building the bike. It has both a cumulative odometer and a trip odometrer that keeps track of time in motion since the last time the trip odometer was reset. I reset the trip odometer daily after logging the data in a spreadsheet (another handy use of the iPad).

      Unfortunately, I didn’t weigh the gear… That was my intention, but I was packing until the last minute, and didn’t make some final decisions regarding what to bring until the morning I left Anacortes.

      I’m not aware of anyone writing specifically about the social dynamics on tours like this, but many people have done lots of writing on tour, so I wouldn’t be surprised.

      Comment by Henry Scott — July 25, 2010 @ 12:04 pm

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