Race Across America (RAAM) [Race Profile]

Have you ever visited a restaurant serving the “worlds best burger”, an ice cream shop with the “world’s best milkshake” or a beachside stand claiming the “worlds best fish tacos”?

The whole world title thing is a bit overused.  Usually the burgers are dry, the shakes aren’t creamy, and the fish tacos are, well, fish tacos.  It’s just a bunch of marketing nonsense.

RAAM is known as The World’s Toughest Bike Race.

In this case it’s not an overhyped claim.

It’s a fact.

It all began in 1982 when four people got together at the Santa Monica Pier on the pacific coast near LA, mounted their two-wheelers, and started racing.  The finish line was a little bit further down the road, at the Empire State Building in New York City.

The Race Across America (RAAM) was born.

Worldwide attention is not surprising, due to the sheer insanity of the undertaking, and what these athletes must accomplish to earn the title of “RAAM Finisher.”

Riders have a maximum of 12 days to ride 3000 miles from Oceanside, CA to Annapolis, MD.  It’s an epic coast-to-coast battle of endurance, focus, and sheer will.

RAAM Route

If you are quick at math you may have figured out that a rider must average around 250-300 miles a day to finish in the allotted timeframe.  Try doing that in one day, let alone 10 or 12 in a row.

But that’s not all.

This race has no stages, unlike the Tour de France for example.  At the start line the clock begins, and it never stops.  It keeps on ticking until the athlete gets to the east coast.   RAAM is 30% longer than the Tour de France and must be finished in roughly half the time, with zero rest days.

But when are they supposed to sleep you ask?  Um yeah, apparently there isn’t much slumbering going on.

Frontrunners sleep as little as 90 minutes a day.  To even have a chance of finishing in 12 days a solo racer can’t sleep for more than 4 hours a day.

In the process they will climb some 170,000 vertical feet, while battling the elements as well as their own physical and mental fatigue.

Grueling.  Gutsy.  Insane.

There are a total of four race categories:  Solo, 2-person, 4-person, and 8-person.  Within those are subsets broken down by gender, age, and type of bike used.

The teams are run like a relay.  While one team member is racing the others are catching a snooze.

Solo riders don’t have this option.

Both solo and team riders operate with a mandatory crew, typically consisting of 8-12 people in 2-4 chase vehicles.  Crews are responsible for supporting the racer with any and all logistical pieces including food, bike repair, clothing, and other needs.  Perhaps most importantly they cheer their rider on, making sure to keep spirits high, and the pedals cranking.

This allows the rider to focus on one thing only, the race.

And what a mental battle it must be.  Simply staying up with little sleep for nearly two weeks is enough to push somebody over the edge.  When you add in extreme physical activity and outside forces like desert heat, mountain passes, rain, wind, traffic, and treacherous roads, it becomes clear why this race is so incredibly challenging.

Then there is the looming idea of throwing in the towel, cutting your losses, quitting.

When you push yourself so hard, for so long, with no sleep, this will enter an athlete’s psyche.  It’s another very real obstacle to overcome.

Like all athletes, racers have their own personal reasons to take on such a daunting task.  Many individuals raise money for a cause adding the side benefit of helping out others in the process.  Millions have been donated to charities as a result of RAAM.

Taking a cross continent bike ride is on many a bucket list.  Racing across country is an entirely different animal, especially given these intense parameters.

Do you have what it takes?

RAAM takes place annually, for information on how to qualify to participate visit RAAM’s official site.

The Worlds Toughest Bike Race?  I say hell yes!

What are your thoughts on RAAM?  Leave comments below. Also, if you find out where the world’s best burger is, we’d like to know.

This post is sponsored by U.K. bike shop, bikesnbits — Get Dawes Bikes.


Alan Perlman
Latest posts by Alan Perlman (see all)

One Comment

  1. Chris says:

    Great post! It’s one thing to say RAAM requires riders to cross the US in 12 days, but when you break it down like this (90 of sleep per day, 300 miles per day, elements, etc.) it shows how amazing this race really is. Nicely done, Jason Moore.

Leave a Comment