Bikecentennial '76 was a bicycle tour across the United States in the summer of 1976, in commemoration of the bicentennial of America's Declaration of Independence. The route crossed ten states and 112 counties in either direction between Reedsport, OR, and Yorktown, VA, a distance of about 4,250 miles (6,840 km). The route was chosen to include many historic sites, but avoid the Great Basin desert, major highways, high-traffic zones and big cities. This route is still in use as the TransAmerica Trail and U.S. Bicycle Route 76. Astoria, OR, was an alternate western terminus, with four additional counties.
The 4,100 riders who participated represented all fifty states, and ~10% were from foreign countries. Just over 2000 cyclists rode the entire length of the trail. Some rode alone, others rode in groups. The riders were essentially self-contained, i.e., they carried all their gear in panniers on their bicycles. Some riders may have provided their own support vehicles, and some sponsors' vans (including Shimano) patrolled parts of the course.
The riders stayed overnight in motels, campgrounds and even private homes along the way, but also had access to Bike Inns. The Bike Inns were usually school gymnasia, church basements or college dormitories, used for indoor camping. Sheldon High School in Eugene, OR; YMCA in Baker City, OR; Bethel College in Newton, KS; Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, IL; Buford School in Charlottesville, VA; and Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, VA, all served as Bike Inns. In Syringa, ID, the Bike Inn was a cluster of teepees.
A 1976 bicycle tour across the United States was conceived by Greg Siple in California in 1972. Siple, his wife June, and Dan and Lys Burden were riding an 18,000-mile Hemistour from Anchorage, Alaska, to Tierra del Fuego for a National Geographic article at the time. June Siple coined the name Bikecentennial a few months later as the Hemistour progressed through Mexico. Many of the initial contacts made by the Hemistour group to promote their idea came from Greg and Dan's participation in the Tour of the Scioto River Valley (TOSRV) in Ohio, founded by Siple and his father in 1962. Several more people joined the informal organization over the next three years. Lynn Kessler designed the Bikecentennial logo and promotional graphics, including the map above.
The route crosses the Continental Divide nine times, in Colorado, Wyoming and Montana.
The success of the 1976 event led the Adventure Cycling Association to map several additional bicycle routes across the United States and Canada, in addition to the TransAmerica Trail. Among them are:
- Atlantic Coast Bicycle Route, 2,673 miles (4,302 km): Bar Harbor, ME ←→ Key West, FL
- Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, 2,711 miles (4,363 km): Banff, AB ←→ Antelope Wells, NM
- Great Rivers Bicycle Route, 1,327 miles (2,136 km): Muscatine, IA ←→ St. Francisville, LA
- Lewis & Clark Trail Bicycle Route, 3,253 miles (5,235 km): Seaside, OR ←→ Hartford, IL
- Northern Tier Bicycle Route, 4,300 miles (6,900 km): Anacortes, WA ←→ Bar Harbor, ME
- Pacific Coast Bicycle Route, 1,856 miles (2,987 km): Vancouver, BC ←→ Imperial Beach, CA
- Southern Tier Bicycle Route, 3,100 miles (5,000 km): San Diego, CA ←→ St. Augustine, FL
- Underground Railroad Bicycle Route, 2,058 miles (3,312 km): Owen Sound, ON ←→ Mobile, AL
- Western Express Bicycle Route, 1,585 miles (2,551 km): San Francisco, CA ←→ Pueblo, CO
The Great Divide and Lewis & Clark routes intersect or coincide with the Bikecentennial/TransAmerica Trail in several places.
Since 2014, the annual Trans Am Bike Race has used basically the same route as that used for the Bikecentennial.
Many of the bicycle-touring brands, designs and styles that were popular in 1976 are seldom seen in the 21st century, or have disappeared completely. These include:
- Bicycles: Azuki, Crescent, Falcon, Frejus, Gitane, LeJeune, Masi, Mercier, Mondia, Motobécane, Nishiki, Olmo, Peugeot, Windsor, Zeus
- Camping: Alpine Designs, Gerry, Holubar, Frostline
- Clothing: Cool Gear, Detto Pietro, Sergal, Skid-Lid, Weyless
- Components: Atom, Christophe, CLB, Dia-Compe, Everest, Fiamme, Galli Ti, GB, Huret, Ideale, Lyotard, Mafac, Maillard, Milremo, Nervar, Nervex, Normandy, Phil Wood, Pivo, Regina, Sachs, Schwinn-approved, Simplex, SR, Stronglight, Sugino, Suntour, Super Champion, TA, Unica Nitor, Universal, Vitus, Weinmann, Weyless, Zeus
- Designs: center-pull brakes, extension levers for brakes, freewheels, lugged–brazed frames, 10-speeds, toe clips
- Panniers: Bellwether, Cannondale, Frostline, Kirtland, Touring Cyclist, Velocipac
- Tools: Artisan, VAR
- Stephanie Ager Kirz, Bicycling the TransAm Trail: Virginia to Oregon/Washington, 2nd Edition, White Dog Press Ltd., 2003, ISBN 978-0-9741027-1-9.
- Jay Martin Anderson, Two Wheels to America, J.M. Anderson/iTunes, 2012. Author Anderson led a Bikecentennial group of 12 cyclists west to east.
- Dan D'Ambrosio, "Our History," Adventure Cycling Association, 1997.
- Derek L. Jensen, Mad Dogs and an Englishman, Pivo Publishing Corp., 2007, ISBN 1-4120-9415-1. Author Jensen was one of the ~2000 (and 10% foreigners) who rode the entire Bikecentennial Trail in 1976. MD&E includes a detailed account of the event from west to east.
- Ruthie Knox, Ride With Me, Loveswept, 2012, ASIN B0061C1OQ0. A romance novel of bicycle touring on the TransAmerica Trail.
- D. D'Ambrosio, "The Making of Bikecentennial," Adventure Cyclist, V22 #6, July 1996, p 12-19.
- TransAmerica Bicycle Trail (Series of 12 maps), Adventure Cycling Association.
- D. Lamb, Over the Hills, Time Books, 1996, p 109, ISBN 0-8129-2579-3.
- D.L. Jensen, Mad Dogs and an Englishman, Pivo Publishing Corp., 2007, p 31, ISBN 1-4120-9415-1.
- J.J. Siple, "Myrna Koffler and the Sprocket Rockets," Adventure Cyclist, V38 #9, Dec 2011 - Jan 2012, p 26-32.
- D. Burden, "Bikepacking Across Alaska and Canada," National Geographic, V143 #5, May 1973, p 682-695.
- D. D'Ambrosio, "Thirty Years and Counting: A History of Adventure Cycling Association," Adventure Cyclist, V33 #6, July 2006, p 10-19.