Sitting here writing this I’m still kicking myself for not currently being part of the Tour Divide 2017 mountain bike ride! Then I look down at the swelling and feel the tingling in the fingers on my right hand. Then I stand up and feel the grating along the achilles tendon in my right leg. Then I feel the discomfort in my butt cheek from endless hours in the saddle. At that point I realise why!

The Tour Divide Grand Departure takes off on the second Friday of June from Banff, Alberta on a 2,667 mile journey, call it a race for some, finishing in Antelope Wells in New Mexico. It has been done in as little as 13 days by the late Mike Hall, my goal being a little closer to 27 days, or a hundred miles riding each day.

YWCA in Banff on race morning

YWCA in Banff on race morning

I was soon to discover that riding the 3000km Tour Aotearoa, the length of New Zealand, a couple of months earlier offered very little preparation for this entirely different beast! The Tour Divide has approximately 200,000′ of elevation gain, or slightly under seven ascents of Mount Everest from sea level. To ride this in 3 weeks would take 10,000′ of ascent every single day! I was not deterred.

My flight was booked to Calgary, an onward shuttle to Canmore, and an airbnb reservation for accommodation the couple of nights before the race start. Travel planning was the easy part, bike preparation not so much! Andrea and I were traveling right up until a week prior to my flight to Calgary and I still hand’t decided whether to go fat or tried and trusted mountain bike. I had left it late to have the Specialized Stumpjumpers front fork refurbished and when it wasn’t back at the bike shop five days prior to my departure it was time to panic.

As a precaution, and as they were probably original, I started to replace all the cabling on the fatbike, along with new brake pads and anything else that might lead to failure. This also didn’t go to plan – threading the rear derailleur cable through the frame went in one hole but refused to come out another! To try and remedy this I tried removing the seat-post only to find it seized solid into the frame. Damn, it was now Friday morning and it looked like I could be the first to attempt the Tour Divide on a TT bike. Borealis were ready to ship me a replacement frame, fork and hubs when the phone rang – the guy on the other end was twenty miles away looking at my newly refurbished suspension fork. It was decided, my steed of choice would be a Specialized Stumpjumper S-Works hardtail, complete with new fork, chain, cassette, cabling, brake pads, re-laced rear wheel, and headset.

Bikes awaiting the shuttle to Banff

Bikes awaiting the shuttle to Banff

My airbnb hosts at Banff farmers market

My airbnb hosts at Banff farmers market

I picked up an oversized cardboard bike box from the shop, something that would fit the stripped down bike, frame bag, seat-post bag, handlebar roll, chaff bags, helmet, shoes and a limited supply of my favorite energy bars. Due to this race being point to point it was only possible to take what could be squeezed into the various BikeBagDude bags, meaning that the couple of days spent bumming around in Banff prior to the race I would be wearing my riding gear – guess it’s good to get used to it all before having to spend 12+ hours a day riding in it! The final weigh-in including box was 68lbs, well under the WestJet baggage limit.

A 3am alarm call woke Andrea and I, not ideal, but giving us enough time for me to make a 7am departure via Toronto, and onwards to Calgary. I said my goodbyes once again (that’s all I seem to have done this past 12 months!) and headed to the Delta departure desk, totally unaware of the November 2016 ruling requiring most foreigners flying into Canada to have an eTA, or Electronic Travel Application. Apparently it can take up to 72 hours to get these approved! Thirty minutes spent jumping from one webpage to another and the necessary CAD $7 ‘J’ number appeared in my email – thank goodness for smartphones. All I had to do now was pay the outrageous $150 Delta bicycle fee and get it to the oversized luggage checkin – the fee was far less with WestJet, the airline I booked through, but baggage charges are payable to the originating airline, in my case ripoff Delta!

As in the United States you have to collect all luggage at the point of entry into Canada and recheck for onward flights – this offered me slight reassurance that at least my all important bike had made it partway to Calgary. For once TSA officials did a decent job of closing up the bike box, now I just had to reopen and allow Canadian security to run swabs over the bike and bags. Fortunately I got to see this and repack the box to my standards for its final leg. Still, bringing a bike on a plane stresses me out every single time!

Final test ride before packing

Final test ride before packing

My airbnb hosts at Banff farmers market

My airbnb hosts at Banff farmers market

GRAND DEPARTURE
June 9th 8am: Banff, AB to Elkford, BC
Mileage: 109.75 ● Elevation Gain: 6,580′ ● Ave MPH: 10.4 ● Saddle Time: 10:31:54
Accommodation: Elkford Municipal Campground CAD $5

Thanks to my airbnb hosts I arrived in Banff with ample time to follow the crowd and hit MacDonalds, the only place open for breakfast. Being a rookie I had no idea when I may get to eat hot, if not unhealthy, food this time of day again over the next 3-4 weeks. I did not have to be concerned! The mood at the YWCA start line was jovial, with Crazy Mike bellowing to the almost 200 participants about rider etiquette, and the legendary bikepacking racer Jay Petervary handing out colorful Salsa headset covers – apparently they could be swapped out for free pies in Pie Town, New Mexico.

At a few minutes to 8am we were off, following a vehicle the first few miles before being released into the clutches of the 2,667 mile course. Weather for the day looked as it had for the past two weeks, offering anything from sunshine to guaranteed rain – we were all in the same boat and were either going to stay dry or get wet! As it happened it was a frustrating mixture. I put on rain gear, then the sun came out – I removed rain gear and it would rain harder. These conditions continued most of the day, getting worse riding further south into British Columbia. Luckily it was never cold, even whilst riding with drenched arm warmers and lightweight trail jacket.

After departing Boulton Creek Trading Post, the only place en route that we seemed able to get some level of food, the route took a left turn and headed straight up the first significant climb to 6,250′ Elk Pass, also the first of over thirty times the route would traverse the Continental Divide. Rain had made the dirt climb up between power lines to the pass treacherous with tyre tracks going off in all directions. Where there’s an up there’s usually a down and this one was going to be interesting!

With rain came mud, with mud came a slick surface, and with a slick surface came the chance of a good wreck, the chance of a good wreck increasing whilst heading downhill at speed. Before I knew it my right hand reached out to prevent the fall, slamming into the ground, in the process bending back various fingers – damn that hurt! Surprisingly the bike was unscathed. The next few hours riding was painful, pain that was made worse whilst trying to put up the tent later that night. I wasn’t the only one having mud problems as 15 miles before Elkford I passed a Brit pushing his bike with a busted derailleur, then a few miles later one of the front runners, a Belgian who had aspirations to win the event – apparently that night he got a ride into Fernie, had his bike repaired, then was dropped off to where he was picked up so as not to break the rules. The following day he was seen riding like a demon to make up lost ground!

The Tour Divide usually continues on into Elkford but due to a bridge being rebuilt somewhere around Sparwood a sadistic detour was implemented. As I passed the turnoff for the new route a few riders were milling around deciding on whether to go for it that night or end the first day in relative comfort in Elkford, a minor 4 miles off route. As the sun was shining and my clothes were all dry it was nice to end the day feeling comfortable so I took the Elkford option.

Nick, a fellow rider from Seattle had the same sentiment and we both camped at the Elkford Municipal campground. The 12 hour day had been a nice introduction into the course with nothing too crazy.

Pre-race entertainment from Crazy Mike and Jay Petervary

Pre-race entertainment from Crazy Mike and Jay Petervary

Food stop at Boulton Creek Trading Post

Food stop at Boulton Creek Trading Post

June 10th 6.30am: Elkford, BC to Ram-Wigwam Campground, BC
Mileage: 139.15 ● Elevation Gain: 10,751′ ● Ave MPH: 10.4 ● Saddle Time: 13:23:20
Accommodation: Ram-Wigwam Creek Campground $0

With the relatively late 8am departure yesterday it was now time to start maximizing daylight hours – no bike lights were necessary between 5am and 10.30pm giving us almost 18 hours of natural light. Nick and I hit the road after stopping for coffee and sandwiches at the town’s gas station, beginning with the short four mile warmup ride back to the turnoff to hell. What started out comfortable soon turned ugly, with terrain far too steep to ride even without thirty pounds of baggage.

This killer hike-a-bike section continued on up, and up, and up, and around each bend it went up a little more. After approximately four hours we reached what we hoped was the top – a measly fourteen miles was our distance so far! Everyone we had seen the night before contemplating heading up must have been even slower as we passed them all, a definite motivation booster. As well as the steep loose conditions we had the added luxury of numerous water crossings, some that could be jumped, some that you thought could be ridden, and one that you knew was only going to make the rest of the day miserable if you did anything other than remove shoes and socks to wade through. The trail at some points just provided a path for water to flow down!

Pulling into the town of Fernie, British Columbia couldn’t have been better timed, with lunch and food replenishment at the well stocked supermarket. Not that I normally need an excuse but burning thousands of calories allows for some serious food demolition! Pizza devoured and calories replaced, it was once again climb time, beginning with a decent paved road but soon back on gravel. Due to the continuous ‘off course’ notifications from my Garmin 520 I was lucky to be able to ride with Nick – there was good reason why every other rider has some variation of the Garmin eTrex hiking GPS! I would have wasted so much time loading the Gaia iPhone app to see which of the numerous trails I should be taking, killing the battery in the process. If there’s something to skip out on with this ride a decent GPS is not it – lesson learned!

We were now in the Flathead River Valley, the most populated Grizzly bear region in North America, outside of Alaska. So far we’d seen nothing but bear scat, deer, rabbits and a moose. For this reason I was hoping to stay at Butts Cabin tonight but Nick had other ideas. We got there around 8pm expecting it to be full, surprised to see only one other rider also contemplating heading on. The weather was good to us, it was still light out and we knew that Ram-Wigwam campground was only one more mountain pass away. These conditions were not to last!

No sooner had we left than the heavens opened up and we were stopping to put on warm clothing and rain gear. I was not happy about doing this 30 mile section! We passed a rider that offered some hope, notifying us of a barn that maybe available a couple miles over the pass. The top of the pass came and went but neither us nor the occasional rider we met knew how far the Ram-Wigwam campground was – 10 miles was a likable number that we heard so instead of stopping to camp on the side of the trail we joined a couple of other riders for the fast descent. It was now pitch black, we were slap bang in the middle of Grizzly territory, hauling ass downhill at over 20mph yelling ‘hey bear’ and blowing on whistles. Now that the rain had subsided this was exhilarating fun!

We eventually pulled into the campground at 10.45pm, already populated by a handful of other riders.

There are bears?

There are bears?

...or Sasquatch?

…or Sasquatch?

... and plenty of hike-a-bikes!

… and plenty of hike-a-bikes!

Plenty of mud!

Plenty of mud!

...and snow covered passes!

…and snow covered passes!

June 11th 6.09am: Ram-Wigwam Campground, BC to Whitefish, MT
Mileage: 133.32 ● Elevation Gain: 9,205′ ● Ave MPH: 10.4 ● Saddle Time: 12:59:09
Accommodation: Stumptown Inn, Whitefish $93.50

Being the last into the campground, that’s if you discount the sleepless guy that arrived after midnight and left at 4am, we were allowed to be the last out, still departing only a little after 6am. We had around 30 miles to the Roosville border crossing, consisting mainly of an up, a down and loads of bear scat – surely we were destined to see one of the culprits sooner or later!

The big climb didn’t materialize for some time, instead the narrow jeep trail meandered uphill then meandered back down again – with the miles ticking by and the elevation staying the same we were in for a steep hill. The intensity increased significantly with a surprising right turn into a hellish singletrack section, culminating in a 100 yard hike-a-bike known as ‘The Wall’. With anything other than a lightish setup this would have been almost impassable – I can’t even imagine what it was like for the tandem riders or someone overloaded with panniers.

After what still seemed like a long climb to the top of 6,319′ Galton Pass it was a relief to be greeted with an awesome 3,500′ descent, consisting of loose dirt and few rocks allowing for an adrenaline rush ride to highway 93. By 10.30am we were back in the United States and an hour later sitting at a cafe in Eureka with a full-on breakfast platter.

The day wasn’t anywhere near over and with brunch out of the way it was time to start climbing again, this time up to Whitefish Divide before moving on to Red Meadow Lake – there was still 90 miles before a comfy Whitefish motel bed. Passing along the western perimeter of Glacier National Park the riding was at first mellow, in no way an indication of the snowy conditions at Red Meadow Lake. We hit the snow we had been warned about at dusk and had no idea how far we would be pushing bikes! Although it felt a lot longer it turned out to be no more than an hour. The reward was 30 miles of forest descent to the northern shores of Whitefish Lake, just a pity that the town is an up and down 10 mile ride to the southern shore.

Whilst Nick went off to find a campground me being the slacker decided on a motel. It was great to still find Safeway open for an oversized sushi dinner, stock up on food for the following day and get my dirty clothing into the motel laundry. With the relative luxury of a bed my head still didn’t hit the pillow until almost 1am. The alarm call was scheduled for 5am!

Roosville, MT border crossing

Roosville, MT border crossing

Time for a big Eureka breakfast

Time for a big Eureka breakfast

Nice to see no logging

Nice to see no logging

Thankfully not riding through those mountains

Thankfully not riding through those mountains

Hike-a-bike up to Red Meadow Lake

Hike-a-bike up to Red Meadow Lake

June 12th 6.01am: Whitefish, MT to Holland Lake, MT
Mileage: 121.37 ● Elevation Gain: 6,678′ ● Ave MPH: 11.6 ● Saddle Time: 10:43:24
Accommodation: Owl Creek Parker Campground, Holland Lake $0

My eyes felt like they had barely closed when the phone alarm went off – four hours sleep was not going to cut it too many times! Nick and I were on the paved road towards Columbia Falls by 6am, with enjoyable flat road continuing on for almost 48 miles to just beyond Ferndale. This was the fastest the miles had gone by so far!

Riding with someone had its good and bad points, the good being that I didn’t waste time stopping for a coffee and snacks at every opportunity as I did on the recent Tour Aotearoa, the bad being that I didn’t stop for coffee and snacks at every opportunity.

The payback for the easy flat section was six miles of ascent, topping out at a measly 4,900’ but still managing to kick butt. There were now miles of great forest road meandering and rolling, that’s big rolling, all the way to Holland Lake Lodge. En route we came across a bunch of other riders all having stopped in a crisp river for a wash – I can tell I’m a rookie as I shower in a motel room whereas the hardcore jump in the river! Not long after the river wash came my first bike problem, fortunately only appearing to be a puncture, turning out to be a split sidewall requiring a tyre boot and tube. This is also when I found my pump had given up the ghost. Now I really needed to ride with others, at least until I could lay my hands on a new pump and get a replacement tyre fitted.

By the time we arrived at the campgrounds surrounding Holland Lake it was after 7pm. Knowing that the lodge served dinner made the short detour worthwhile. It was also likely that my riding partner would be heading up and over Richmond Pass towards Seeley Lake tonight whereas after seeing the menu I knew I’d be taking full advantage of a good feed and probably crashing in a campsite. If it wasn’t so expensive the picturesque lodge would have been a great accommodation option, my budget not stretching quite as far as needed. The $70 meal with beer and coffee was more than enough!

Cycling back along the lakeshore to a camping area at the foot of the next days climb was the indecisive decision I made, that’s after cycling a mile or so up the pass, then cycling back down again. The weather was definitely closing in and a drenching somehow didn’t appeal! Being close to water with deep grassy areas guaranteed that mosquitos were rife, causing a killing zone inside the tent and me only wanting to head out under extreme circumstances.

One other cyclist rolled in after me and we planned to head out early in the morning…

June 13th 6.38am: Holland Lake, MT to Lincoln, MT
Mileage: 114.02 ● Elevation Gain: 8,280′ ● Ave MPH: 10 ● Saddle Time: 11:18:31
Accommodation: Seeley Lake Motor Lodge, Seeley Lake $37 & Leepers Motel, Lincoln $25

As the weatherman predicted it rained most of the night justifying my decision to stop early. Somehow, possibly, hopefully the air was now clear allowing for a fun ride over Richmond Pass to Seeley. My new riding partner, New Zealand Nic, and I left camp later than anticipated but found a good rhythm on the grind of a hill. I was lucky to have someone to ride with as at least once I had to stop to re-inflate a tyre!

Our eagerness and good rhythm didn’t last so long as light rain soon became relentless rain turning the ascent from enjoyable to miserable. For the final section to the top of the pass a good sense of balance was necessary, somewhat to avoid the snow but definitely to avoid the pretty big dropoff to our left! Now it was time for another super fast descent, made sketchy by the conditions – funny how you just don’t feel the cold whilst going up, even in rain, but hauling ass downhill generates a lot of misery. The next hour or so was spent first missing the turnoff to Seeley Lake, cycling 6 miles towards the next town of Ovando, changing my mind and heading back towards where the Seeley turn should be, finding out Nic’s derailleur had gone AWOL, watching another rider replacing a broken chain, all the time getting wetter and wetter!

Eventually it became time to stop listening to others and find out where the missing turn was for myself – the only option I had was to load up the Gaia app and hope the phone hadn’t gotten too wet. Soon enough I was sitting at the Filling Station bar with Nic, who incidentally had walked almost 6 miles, and Mike, another rider who had decided to head off route to get dry and eat. It was great to listen to other riders tales as they appeared over the next couple of hours.

Nic, Mike and I decided to check in to a motel for the rest of the afternoon, this would give time for us to get dry, clean and lubricate bikes, and for Nic to convert his bike to single speed. As usual there was a fare amount of food consumption and napping going on too! By 7.45pm we were ready to rejoin the official route and ride into the night, hopefully getting to Lincoln some time later. The weather had improved and with little sign of rain we were optimistic of staying dry for the rest of the night. Ummm.

With some pretty good rolling terrain it took 3 1/2 hours to get to Ovando, a small town that was a hive of activity earlier in the day as the locals took to welcoming every drenched rider that came through. By the time we arrived it was a ghost town offering no such welcome! We had the option of camping at the small museum but decided that 11pm was far too early to be stopping for the night. It had taken us over 3 hours to ride 28 miles so far and with another 38 miles before Lincoln it was going to be a late night. Throw in Huckleberry Pass with almost 2,000′ of climbing and it could even be light. Four very wet hours later we pulled into town!

As you would expect at 3am town was pretty much closed down – motels were displaying neon Vacancies signs but at this hour there was no one waiting for our arrival. Strangely we came across a lady sitting outside the town’s gas station who offered to go and bang on each of the motel’s doors until she found us a room. Strangely turned to luckily and upon her return we were told to head back across town to Leepers Motel where the owner would be waiting with our room key!

A more than acceptable $75 paid for the three of us to have warmth and a roof over our heads, even if two of us would be sharing a bed. It’s amazing how the Tour Divide brings riders from all over the world together – I barely knew my roommates and here we were crammed into a tiny room with 2 beds deciding who would be sleeping with who!

I was not excited about the 7am alarm call.

TD provides plenty of bike carnage

TD provides plenty of bike carnage

3am arrival into Lincoln, MT

3am arrival into Lincoln, MT

June 14th 9.35am: Lincoln, MT to Basin, MT
Mileage: 102.95 ● Elevation Gain: 10,837′ ● Ave MPH: 9.2 ● Saddle Time: 11:09:28
Accommodation: Basin church grounds $0

I knew this ride had the potential for sleep deprivation but thought that only applied to the guys who try it in 14 days! As the days cycling have increased the sleep time has decreased, leading me to believe that I may soon be able to cope with a couple hours a night.

…and so on we go, barely four hours after hitting the sack we were walking out the door in search of a diner. I needed coffee, and lots of it! Another big breakfast with additional side of loaded oatmeal filled the missing void but did nothing for my eagerness to start riding again. Today was going to be a monster day, three crosses of the continental divide would see to that!

The ride to Helena, the Montana state capital, was through amazing scenery with long ascents followed by screaming fast descents. With passes of 6,820′, the second up to 6,565′, and finally Priest Pass at 5,994′, there were lots of hike-a-bike sections! In total we covered 61 miles in a pretty impressive 6 1/2 hours, surprising with over 5,800’ of elevation gain. The sunny weather, or probably the lack of sleep, had worn me out more than usual.

Arriving in Helena the first port of call for all three of us was a bike shop, ideally one that wasn’t already overwhelmed with Tour Divide bike problems. It took a while but the guys at Great Divide Cyclery fixed everything, including fitting a new rear tyre and chain, bleeding brakes, and a derailleur tune-up. Would love to have a local bike shop as clinical as this place.

Meanwhile, Mike and I were sat next door at Bert & Ernie’s filling our faces with dinner and extra sides when a guy from a neighboring table came over to chat about the TD, explaining how he hoped to give it a shot in 2018 – maybe he was impressed at our achievement so far, maybe he felt sorry for the state we must have looked, either way when we went to pay he had footed the bill for our meal and drinks! Great gesture, and one that definitely offset the $165 repair bill waiting for me at the bike shop.

As seems very typical I’m never in a rush to leave a place, it could have been that Helena impressed me but more than likely it was the lack of excitement about the hilly riding that was to come and another sleepless night. The three of us left town around 7pm, knowing through comments from a local rider that there were a couple of demoralizing climbs tonight – fortunately the days good weather continued and it was nice to see the sun set as we began our onward journey. The setting sun was soon followed by ever steepening climbs! It also wasn’t long before Nic and his newly repaired derailleur abandoned us, his rear light fading away in the distance.

By the time we reached the top of the second climb it was still a little early to make the turn into Park Lake campground, apparently a nice location on the edge of a lake. Instead we continued on for a further 3-4 miles of reasonably flat dirt – this did not prepare us for the long unrideable ascent that followed, also something we had been warned about! Every time we came across a flattish section we’d get back in the saddle, turn a corner and be hit by another heavily rutted, steep, hike-a-bike. This seemed to go on and on, guaranteeing we would miss our hard stop time of 1am. Oh well, at least we wouldn’t be suffering through this first thing in the morning!

The 7,300′ elevation was the highest we’d been to so far, not that it felt any different to every other ascent we had made over the past 6 days. The moment you realise you have no more uphill the feelings of frustration and wishing the damn thing would be over subside, even more so when the terrain ahead is downhill all the way to the small town of Basin. The cold descent would have been far more fun in daylight due to the technical rocky sections and fallen trees laying across the trail …leading me on to a moment I should have had a GoPro recording in front of me!

My headlight hasn’t got enough of those lumen things to fully illuminate the trail in front of me, causing me to miss certain holes in the ground and fallen trees. Mike had no such excuse, with a cheapo headlight that was plenty bright enough, giving me reason to remain behind him utilising his beam too. I missed the first horizontal tree, glimpsing it to my right at the last minute and thinking to myself how much of a close call that was. Not more than 5 minutes went by when all I saw in front of me was a split second human flight and bike caught in the branches of a tree suspended three quarters across the trail – Mike had briefly looked down and ploughed straight into it! Surprisingly he and the bike were relatively unscathed, the roll bar attached to the handlebars hadn’t fared so well – the end was torn completely off leaving the contents hanging out.

We pulled in to Basin at 1.30am, over 6 hours after leaving Helena located only 38 miles away. Both exhausted the call to just crash out in the grassy grounds of the local church was easy – I couldn’t even be bothered setting up my tent.

Lessons learned today: wear extra clothing when descending from over 7,000′ in the early morning hours, and don’t look down!

It was great to get out of the trees

It was great to get out of the trees

Lakes and sunshine galore

Lakes and sunshine galore

Most scenic day so far

Most scenic day so far

Leaving Helena for tough climbs

Leaving Helena for tough climbs

June 15th 9am: Basin, MT to Butte, MT
Mileage: 35.65 ● Elevation Gain: 2,544′ ● Ave MPH: 10.2 ● Saddle Time: 3:29:25
Accommodation: Super 8, Butte $73.76

Another frustrating nights sleep – surprising considering Mike and I had just rode over 100 miles with almost 11,000′ of elevation. Four hours of scrappy sleep is not enough; still it was to be expected when camp means no tent and climbing into a sleeping bag with no mat or separation from the hard ground. The hour was 6am and I had eyes that refused to open and a body that was not too keen on packing all my crap away, only the thought of breakfast keeping me in the slightest bit interested in moving!

Time to find food… Luckily Basin is a small mining town with one cafe bar, a pizza joint and not too much else. Two minutes after pulling out of the church yard we were standing outside of the Silver Saddle cafe with an hour to wait until opening. An extremely nice lady, probably the owner, must have taken sympathy on us and no sooner had we arrived than we were sitting at a table drinking coffee, charging electronics, and selecting numerous breakfasts from the menu – I went big with the full breakfast and a serving of french toast, all washed down with copious amounts of coffee. I could feel the swelling in my eyes reduce as I ate and drank!

A couple hours after arriving it was time to begin the relatively easy 35 mile ride to Butte. A short distance in the grand scheme of things but with relentless hills, one being Elk Park Pass, Continental Divide crossing number 6 at 6,368′. It was still going to take well over three hours and should lead nicely into a lunch time arrival. Everything is planned around the next food stop! This was pretty much the first time I’d ridden alone, made possible due to the short distance and the use of the accurate Gaia GPS App on the iPhone. The phone had still ran almost flat by the time I reached Butte.

I remembered Butte from when Andrea and I visited a couple of years earlier, primarily for the Butte 100 mountain bike race as it’s a bit of a grotty city with little to offer. After lunch I moved on to the Super 8 motel, a chain I’d never stayed at before but was pleasantly surprised, still no closer on whether to continue with the Tour Divide or not. If I could get my hands on a better Garmin then the thought was that I’d continue, ignoring the numbness in two of my fingers on each hand. Dinner came, the stores closed, but I still hoped to pick up an overpriced Garmin eTrex 30 the following morning. I would sleep on my options!

Unfortunately sleep did nothing and with Delta showing a 3.05pm departure from Butte, via Salt Lake City, and on to Cincinnati, it was time to call it a day. I had barely prepared physically, skipped out on gear purchases I should have made, and been away from Andrea too many times in the past 12 months! The Outdoorsman store conveniently located across the street from the Super 8 and owned by the brother of American cyclist, Levi Leipheimer, provided a shipping box and tools to dismantle my bike, and with a cab booked for 1.30pm everything had fallen nicely into place.

I was continuously doubting my decision and would do all the way home and for days to follow!

Maybe I should take a nap!

Maybe I should take a nap!

756 miles after it started it ended in Butte, MT

756 miles after it started it ended in Butte, MT

Total Mileage: 756.21 ● Total Elevation Gain: 54,875′ ● Average Accommodation Cost: $33.29

Am I going to have a serious crack at this again? Hell yes, but forget mediocre goals of 100 miles a day. I know it’s possible in under 20 days, or closer to 133 miles per day!!

PACKING LIST
Bike

  • 2011 Specialized Hardtail Stumpjumper S-Works
  • Continental Race King Tyre 29x2.2 ProTection – tubeless setup
  • Syntace C3 Aero Bar medium
  • Ergon GS2 handlebar grips

Handlebars

  • Bear Spray
  • Garmin 520 bike computer
  • iPhone 6 mount
  • Exposure Joystick MK11 front light

BBD Handlebar Roll

  • Terra Nova Laser Competition 1 person tent
  • Terra Nova Elite 350 sleeping bag
  • Sea to Summit silk sleeping bag liner
  • Generic space blanket for groundsheet
  • Big Agnes Air Core sleeping pad
  • Titanium cooking pot, mug, stove and 6 oatmeal sachets (not necessary)
  • Gloves, Outdoor Research Revel shell mitts, Endura arm warmers, leg warmers, Specialized beanie, Smartwool PhD Cycle UL Mini socks, Cold Weather Run Crew socks

BBD Chaff Bag Left

  • Bobo snack bars
  • Tanka jerky bars
  • Clif bars

BBD Chaff Bag Right

  • Butt anti-chafing cream
  • Sunscreen
  • Camera
  • Marmot Trail wind hoody

BBD Toptube Garage Bag

  • Snacks
  • Crankbrothers M17 multi-tool
  • Spare batteries
  • Chargers & cables
  • Lip balm
  • Leatherman Squirt PS4
  • iPod nano

BBD Frame Bag

  • Spare lightweight tubes x2
  • 16gram CO2 cartridges x2
  • CO2 inflator
  • Bike lock
  • Lezyne Micro Floor Drive pump
  • Front shock pump
  • Jar Justin’s All Natural Hazelnut Butter, Chocolate
  • Tent poles
  • Tent pegs
  • Teabags (not necessary)
  • Nutrition powder: 5 days (too much to carry)
  • Hygiene: wetwipes, nappy rash cream, antibiotics

BBD Frame Bag Pocket

  • Maps: Canada & 1-2 (take photos next time)
  • Cue sheets (take photos next time)
  • Spare spokes

Oveja Negra Seatbag

  • Spare Tube
  • Propane cylinder (not necessary)
  • Marmot Goretex paclite jacket
  • REI rain pants
  • SealSkinz MTB Mid Sock with Hydrostop
  • Repair Kit: valve cores, Park tyre boots, patch kit, brake pads x2, cleat screws, SRAM quicklinks, rubber bands, lighter, zip-ties, dental floss, needles, derailleur hanger, Stans sealant

Osprey Syncro 10 backpack

  • Passport
  • Notepad & pen
  • 3 litre water bladder
  • Toothbrush & toothpaste
  • Anker 15600mAh Portable Charger
  • Spare ziploc bags
  • Titanium spork
  • Steripen Adventurer water filter (need different type)
  • Aquatab water purifier tablets
  • Park GSC-1 cleaning brush
  • ProGold Xtreme chain lube
  • Cleaning rag
  • Coffee sachets (not necessary)
  • Princeton Tec headlight
  • SPOT tracker – attached to outside rear
  • Cygolite Hotrod 50 Rear light – attached to outside rear

Wearing

  • Team CoreCo bike jersey
  • Specialized bib
  • Gore bib
  • Endura mountain bike shorts
  • Pearl Izumi sun sleeves
  • Buff
  • Rudy Project helmet
  • Shimano XM7 mountain bike shoes
  • Liner socks
  • Team CoreCo cycling socks
  • DAKINE Cross X gloves
  • Cheap Timex watch

NEW REQUIREMENTS

  • Garmin Etrex 30x GPS for accurate navigation
  • Higher lumen front light for dark forest descents
  • Better rain jacket
  • Waterproof phone case
  • Sawyer mini water filter to replace Steripen
  • Additional spare brake pads
  • Velcro strap for rainpants
  • Bivvy instead of a tent
  • Dynamo for charging electronics
  • Klymit X-Frame sleeping pad for size and easier inflation

June 9th – June 15th 2017

Subscribe To Our Blog

 

So you want to know what we’re getting up to whilst traveling around the world right? Yeah, thought you did. So come on, sign up here right now and we’ll be sending you a new blog whenever we get around to writing one.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Pin It on Pinterest