Trans Am Bike Race 2016 Update: Newton, KS

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Lael pens her name on a sign from the original Bikecentennial Route, featuring the classic “76 cyclist logo.  The Trans Am Trail turns 40 this year.  Join us at the Montana Bicycle Celebration in Missoula, MT from July 14-17 to celebrate bicycle travel and the 40th anniversary of the Adventure Cycling Association.  The Bikecentennial started it all.  This is the third edition of the Trans Am Bike Race.  Photos courtesy Newton Bike Shop webcam.

The top five racers in the Trans Am Bike Race 2016 are all across the halfway point on the route in Eads, CO, and in the next few hours, Sarah and Kai will both arrive at Newton Bike Shop, the self-proclaimed midway point which is actually 2500 miles from Astoria, OR (about 1750 from Yorktown, VA).   Stefan, Lael, and Evan are all through Newton and on their way out of Kansas and into Missouri.  All eastward riders in Kansas seem to be blessed with light tailwinds.  The top three riders will pass into Missouri today, where the terrain will change. Sarah and Kai will likely stop at Newton Bike Shop for a few hours, receiving a full dose of their special service.  

James and his staff at Newton Bike Shop serviced three riders yesterday.  Stefan arrived in the early evening and after a short nap and bike service he was back on the road, at which point Lael and Evan were about 15 miles from Newton.  Upon hearing this, Steffen quickly repacked his bike and rolled out of town.  Steffen is riding a Specialized CruX E5 X1, an aluminum cross bike with hydraulic brakes and 1×11 gearing.  He is from Lesbos, Greece.  

Lael and Evan arrived at the same time around 8PM, “riding side by side down 6th Street”, according to James.  Both riders were quickly ushered into the shop, introduced to the webcam, and sent to the showers.  Lael declined laundry service when asked, although she came out of the shower dressed like a high school basketball player post-game, wearing longs shorts and flip flops, so I assume her grey Hanes t-shirt and technicolor Nike running shorts went to the laundry.  At this point, those shorts have taken a ride down the Baja Divide, and across most of the country from Alaska.  The t-shirt is fresh from a Fred Meyer in Oregon, but is Lael’s new preferred race top.  She wore the same model grey Hanes on her first Tour Divide ride last year and loved it.  I’ve saved that shirt for memory, now threadbare and full of holes.  I also saved the cotton “Alaska Grown” t-shirt she wore on her second Divide ride, a gift from her grandmother.

As planned, James installed a new chain and cassette on Lael’s bike, along with two new Hutchinson Sector 28 tires.  These tires are rated for road tubeless use, meaning that they feature a tight fitting bead and a nearly airtight casing, a system which is completely sealed with the use of a liquid latex-based sealant.  Most road tubeless tires are very difficult to mount by hand, and most would be impossible to remove from the rim on the roadside after a 200 miles day.  This tire is different, and can be installed and removed by hand.  Further, at 28mm wide, it represents a new range of endurance tires now available, including the 26mm Specialized Turbo and the 28mm Schwalbe Pro One, two other tires that I ordered and considered using for this event.  There are also a growing range of tubeless road and “all road” tires ranging from 28mm to 40mm to suit the new breed of adventure road bikes and gravel bikes with larger tire clearances, tubeless ready wheels, and disc brakes  Lael purchased the chain and cassette through Newton Bike Shop, which she communicated several weeks before the race.  She shipped two Hutchinson Sector 28 tires and a bottle of Stan’s Race Sealant to Newton from Oregon before the race.  Lael is riding a Specialized Ruby Pro Disc UDi2 with CLX 64 wheels with an SP Dynamo hub from Intelligent Design Cycles and lighting from K-Lite in Australia.

Both Lael and Evan are using Shimano Di2 electronic shifting systems, and both riders report less range than expected.  Thus, Lael is sure to charge the battery whenever convenient, which partly explains the frequency with which she has taken motels along the route.  Lodging is frequent and convenient along the Trans-Am, which allows racers to recover better, travel lighter, and ride faster.  As always, the procedure takes a little extra time.  But for Lael, for this race, it works.  In the last week, I’ve watched her become an experienced road cyclist, riding at higher average speeds and maintaining a more consistent pace. Lael is carrying an extra seat-tube battery, fully charged, along with a spare tube, patch kit, derailleur hanger, and a few other small repair items..

Evan also had his bike serviced at Newton Bike Shop, receiving new Continental tires, and settled down for a few minutes of massage.  Both riders ate, slept for a few hours, and were back on the bikes around 2:45AM.  

Thanks to James and Heather Barringer and all the staff at Newton Bike Shop for taking care of Lael and the Trans Am racers, and all the cyclists that pass through Newton.  You are certainly curating an #oasisinthegrassdesert.  Donate a few bucks to the Newton Bike Shop to support their expansion project which will provide more space and facilities to serve traveling cyclists.  They are currently partway through the campaign to raise $7000.  We helped them raise their first thousand dollars yesterday, let’s push them toward their goal.  If you haven’t checked out the webcam to see how they support this race, tune in to the James Barringer show in Newton, KS on UStream.  Sarah and Kai will be there later this morning.


Follow the Trans Am Bike Race 2016 on

On the Tour Divide, Mike Hall continues his total dominance out front.  Chris Plesko holds second place, on a singlespeed!  Josh Kato and Seb Dunne have both withdrawn from the race, both suggest they may return in the future.  Follow the Tour Divide 2016 on

The Race Across America (RAAM) started yesterday, a 3000mi supported cross country race, complete with medics and required vehicular support.  Juliana Buhring is riding (Team JuJu), and is the current women’s record holder on the Trans Am Route, from 2014.  Sarah Cooper, an Iowan, is out front racing for the lead in the solo division.  Several teams of riders, where riders rotate the task of riding from a support vehicle, ill make it across the country in 5-6 days.  It is a good summer for women ultra-endurance road racing.  Follow RAAM on

The documentary film “Inspired to Ride”, about the inaugural Trans Am Bike Race in 2014, is now on Netflix and is also available as a digital download from the website.  In his third film, director Mike Dion captures Mike Hall and Juliana Buhring in their record setting rides across the country

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Trans Am Bike Race 2016 Update: middle of Kansas


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Live, from Newton, KS.  James and Heather Barringer curate the Newton Bike Shop experience, complete with bike service, bodywork, burgers, and beer.  Follow Trans Am racers live from Newton via a live webcam. And when there aren’t any racers in the building, expect James to provide non-stop entertainment from the #oasisinthegrassdesert. Photo grab from The Newton Bike Shop webcam.

Lael called yesterday from Eads, CO.  She stopped in town for a brief resupply and was planning to push into the night.  Tornado warnings in the area were cause for concern, although it was the mass of dark clouds to the east which was truly concerning.  Even so, Lael said she would continue into Kansas “if I don’t get caught in a storm”.  Riding over two hundred miles a day in a race across the country, dodging thunderclouds and tornadoes, makes Trans Am racers protagonists in their own Western tale.  I’ve always loved riding into, out of, and away from high energy systems.  And in a race that sometimes seems like a long slow burn, with only a few exciting moments, I now realize that every day has it’s fireworks.  For Lael: Sunday was a cut tire and a 11,542 ft pass, Monday was the threat of tornadoes, today should be the great welcoming at The Newton Bike Shop, also know as the #oasisinthegrassdesert.  

Once across the border into Kansas it appears that the threat of thunder was traded for a light tailwind, with recorded pedaling speeds over 20mph into the night.  Lael and Evan both finished their day in Scott City, KS.  Lael is planning to reach Newton Bike Shop in Newton, KS by the end of the day for planned service and some rest.  Newton Bike Shop is a unique stop on the Trans Am Route, a haven for cycletourists and Trans Am racers, a shining example of middle-American philosophy in the middle of America— Heather and James Barringer aim to provide equal opportunity service to their community, as well as to the community of riders passing through their small town in Kansas.  Trans Am riders are treated to late night bike service, restorative bodywork, a place to sleep, and perhaps even a bite to eat.  The Barringers are a colorful couple, well known in Trans Am circles, and I look forward to watching all the Trans Am racers through Kansas this year.  Connect with Newton Bike shop on Instagram as @newtonbikeshop, Facebook, and via their live webcam this week.  Even before any racers have arrived, James is already in front of the camera waving around bottles of whiskey and reading fan mail from riders all over the country.  If you want to get involved, donate to the “Build the Oasis in the Grass Desert” fund on to help Newton Bike Shop grow their resources to better serve your favorite racers and all cycletourists into the future.

Lael called briefly this morning from somewhere in Kansas.  She sounded great, not even a hint of tiredness in her voice, and was excited about the final miles to the Atlantic.  She already knew that her SPOT batteries had died (Matthew tends to text racers when batteries are low), and she plans to replace them in Newton.  Steffen remains steady out front, 90-100 miles ahead of Lael and Evan, Kai and Sarah are around 100 miles behind.  The top five riders are all within about 200 miles of each other.  Their respective stopped times in Newton may shake things up a bit.

Follow the Trans Am Bike Race 2016 on

In other racing news: The archived pink LW ITT bubble is also fun to watch on the Tour Divide Trackleaders page, although the data reflects Lael’s  “call ins” last year, as she lost her Spot in northern Montana  Later, near Lima, she got stuck in the mud for a period of about 12 hours.  Mike Hall is setting the course on fire, riding well ahead of record pace.  Josh Kato should be in second, although his tracker has been inactive for some time.  Chris Plesko is putting out a really strong effort, vying for 2nd or 3rd place right now, on a singlespeed.  Follow the Tour Divide 2016 on

And for real, give those guys at Newton Bike Shop some money, they’re doing great things out there.  I donated $50 this morning in Lael’s name.  Consider doing the same to help them achieve their mission to help others.