An Introduction to the Off-Road Wonders of the Trans-America Trail

a man writing a motorcycle on a trail
••• Land Rover MENA/Flikr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Long distance road trips are nothing new to those who are familiar with the culture of travel within the United States, with legendary road trips such as Route 66  being so embedded in the culture that they are iconic. However, those who have a passion for off-road travel, particularly via motorcycle have often had to combine long stretches of driving on roads with brief stretches of off-road trails that really are the memorable parts of their journeys. The Trans-America Trail (TAT) was designed to solve that particular problem, with the aim of making an immersive off-road trail that doesn't require long stretches of road riding, while still having good access to facilities such as gas stations and accommodation.

The History of the TAT

The dream of a long-distance off-road trail is one that many people who enjoy motorcycling off-road had dreamed of for years, but it was passionate motorcyclist Sam Correro who really considered trying to make a cross-country trail that would provide such an epic journey. The magic of this trail is that it isn't really a new trail, but is a series of existing trails that have been linked together to make one long route. After thousands of miles of riding and many hours of researching maps and potential routes, the Trans-America Trail has been growing in popularity and the number of riders enjoying the route in the years since it was launched has increased year on year.

What to Expect When You're Riding the Trail

At nearly five thousand miles in length, there is no one set type of riding that you can expect, but one of the interesting features of the TAT is that every day does have some technical sections of riding and interesting scenery to enjoy. The majority of the days along the route are around two hundred miles in length, so most people will find that the entire route can take around four weeks, although it is perfectly possible to ride shorter sections of the route instead. The trail has been designed to have accommodation and gas stations within easy reach, and at a reasonable distance to allow most motorcycles to travel without needing a support vehicle.

Highlights of the Route

Because the entire route spans almost the whole country, there is a huge variety in the type of scenery and sights that you will encounter, and from rolling hills to prairie and high mountains, the TAT has a little bit of everything. For those who enjoy mountain scenery and the kind of riding you encounter with elevation changes, then the section through the Rocky Mountains in Colorado is particularly dramatic and impressive. Passing through Utah, the route is almost at its most remote, with hours coming between meetings with other riders, with the rocky and dry hills with their steep cliffs being an amazing backdrop to this journey.

Key Features of Your Off-Road Motorcycle for This Trip

There is no doubt that the TAT provides an amazing riding experience, but one of the things that you do need to consider is whether or not your bike will be suitable for the rigors that the trail will place on the bike. A dual-sport bike is essential for this route, and while lighter bikes may be able to complete the trail, they may need support for carrying camping gear and equipment, while larger dual-sport bikes above around 600cc will have the grunt to handle the route unsupported carrying the equipment in panniers.

The range of the fuel tank does need to be over 160 miles, although some gas stations are closer together, while good reliability, suitable dirt tires and good skid-plates are essential.

Preparing to Ride the TAT

It is important to understand that riding a long-distance trail such as this will be more grueling than just a one-day ride, so having a good level of fitness will help you to handle the challenges more effectively. Plenty of research through the maps and GPS is important to plan where you intend to stay, and where you can gain access to fuel, while it is also worth noting that an adaptability about the route may be necessary, particularly through the snowy passes in Colorado and in Oregon, where trails can become blocked by fallen trees.

Making sure that your bike is serviced and in good condition is of course vital, while having good equipment is also important if you intend to complete the route successfully.​