Tour Divide FAQ
June 11th I will begin a very long bike race, the Tour Divide.
What is the Tour Divide?
Its a 2780 mile mountain bike race from Banff, Alberta to Antelope Wells, New Mexico, on the Mexican border, following the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route created by the Adventure Cycling Association. The start is June 11th, 9AM. The event is coordinated via the internet. There is no entry fee, no liability waiver, no prizes, and no support. Its just a common time that endurance fanatics can challenge each other and themselves on the longest mountain bike route in the world. Its a route that anyone can ride at any time, and plenty of folks tour the route each year at a more mellow pace.
What is the route like?
The route isn’t marked on the ground like a hiking trail, but there are excellent paper maps and a recently updated .gpx file for GPS navigation. About 80% of the route is Forest Service dirt roads, which vary between excellent and lousy. There are small amounts of singletrack or rough trail that you wouldn’t call a road, and the rest is paved. It generally follows the Continental Divide, though because it uses roads, is lower elevation than a hiking trail. The route crosses the Continental Divide 29 times and has a total elevation gain of over 200,000 feet.
How long will it take?
The course record is currently 17:21:10, held by multiple winner Matthew Lee, sponsored by Cannondale. That means he rode an average of 156 miles a day. Of last year’s 42 starters, 16 finished, so the first challenge is just to finish. Most racers who manage to complete the route finish in under 30 days. I am aiming at 23 days, or 120 miles a day. Perhaps more importantly, I’m aiming to finish, preferably with some kind of maniacal grin. …or at least not seriously injure myself.
Is there support?
No, period. This is a purely self-supported event. No sag wagons, no caches, no friends handing you cold drinks. If you want it along, carry it. Riders are welcome to buy food, motel rooms, bike parts, and gas station burritos whenever they are available. If you get injured, break your bike, or run out of gas, you’re on your own. No care packages.
Where will you sleep?
Much like with thru-hiking, I’ll have lightweight sleeping gear, and intend to bivy most of the time. When weather, circumstance, or the need to literally recharge my batteries dictates, I’ll stay in a motel. However, in my hiking experience, towns are the biggest time-suck to be had, so I’ll do my best to move through them quickly.
What kind of bike will you ride?
A Niner Air9 XL. Its a 29 inch wheel hardtail mountain bike. The 2.1″ wide Nano Raptor tires have a narrow bead of slick, so they roll pretty well on pavement or hardpack, yet have good flotation in soft sand or mud. Low profile knobs on the side help with cornering.
Will you have panniers?
No. My gear without food and water will weigh about 15 pounds, light enough and small enough volume to fit into a homemade handlebar bag, homemade frame bag, a large seat bag made by Carousel Design Works, and an Osprey Talon 22 pack. Details here.
Can we follow along?
YES! I’ll be carrying a SPOT personal tracker, a GPS based device similar to a personal locator beacon. It sends out location signals on a regular basis which will be displayed and tracked on the Tour Divide Leaderboard. Carrying a unit is not required, but most racers will have one, so that on the Leaderboard Google map, you’ll be able to see 24 hours a day where I am in the pack of racer dots. Data for just me will be here. You’ll be able to see where I am, how fast I’m going, and how long I am stopped. Be prepared to find the Leaderboard quite addictive, you may just turn into a “blue dot junkie”.
When I can, I’ll also be leaving voice mail messages with news about my whereabouts and what I’m eating. Those messages, perhaps with text transcription, will be listed in chronological order on the TD Blog. They will probably also be available as a podcast on MTBCast. Once we get rolling, just my call ins will be here.
This FAQ will be updated as I have the time. Feel free to comment on this posting to pose a question.