Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Previewing the Great Divide Ride

Ever since Will and I came up with the idea to ride the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (GDMBR), it's pretty much all I thought about. I've never been more excited for anything, let alone a bike trip, in my life. Our plan is to fly to Calgary this coming Friday, start the route on Saturday, and then spend the next six weeks riding our bikes through the Rocky Mountains.

Alright, I'll start off with some details about packing. After the packing lists, I'll go into a little more detail about the trip and more of my thoughts.

The bi-sickle:
  • Salsa Cutthroat w/ 2x11 GRX 810
  • Rear wheel is a DT 350 hub with DT EX 511 endurobro rim
  • Front wheel is a SP Dynamo hub laced to a Velocity Blunt 35 rim (mebbe that's laced to hub and not the way I said it, I don't know the right way to use "laced", I just use the word "lace" to sound smart)
Then, I'll just list some basic, everyday ride items.
  • Pearl Izumi Expedition bib shorts
  • 7Mesh Ashlu lightweight merino wool jersey
  • Garmin Edge 530 for navigation
  • Garmin Inreach Mini 2 for tracking and safety
I'll start with the Revelate Spinelock saddle bag, which mainly has camp clothes.
  • Smartwool merino underwear
  • Smartwool merino long underwear
  • Smartwool merino short sleeve shirt
  • Smartwool merino long sleeve shirt
  • Smartwool merino hat
  • Patagonia ultralight puffy jacket
  • Outdoor Research lightweight pants
  • Lightweight athletic shorts
  • (2 pairs) Smartwool merino socks
  • (1 pair) Sealskinz cold weather waterproof socks
  • Ultralight titanium 1100ml pot
  • MSR pocket rocket stove
  • Spare tube
Next up, the fjork bag, a Salsa brand bag:
  • Dronediculous wind jacket
  • Outdoor Research Helium rain jacket
  • Outdoor Research Helium rain pants
  • Leg warmers
  • Arm warmers
  • REI ultralight waterproof glove shells
  • Thermal skull cap
  • Merino wool buff
Now for the handlebar bag, which is a Giant brand:
  • Big Agnes Torchlight UL 30 sleeping bag
  • Big Agnes insulated inflatable sleeping pad
  • Off-brand inflatable pillow
Frame bag, a Salsa bag meant for the Cutthroat:
  • FOOD!
  • Passport
  • Wallet
  • Headlight
  • Water filter
  • (Hopefully) lesser used tools
    • derailleur hanger
    • spare spoke nipples
    • wire replacement spoke
    • other stuff I forgot
  • Spare tube
  • Extra contacts
  • Portable charger/cache battery
  • Charging cords
  • Medical kit
Then, I have two "feed bags" on the handlebars, where I'll put my contacts in, as well as holding things like Advil, sunscreen, and chapstick.

For front top tube bag near the stem holds my small food items for during the day, like Snickers or Oreos.

The rearward top tube bag holds tools that I want more accessible, like a multi-tool, tire plugs, and a CO2 inflator.

Alright, now back to some more words about the route and bikepacking in general. If you've read this far, I'm sorry, but you might as well continue.

Sometimes the terminology and route specifics get confusing with this route, so I'll try to clarify. The original Great Divide route goes from Banff, Alberta, Canada to the Mexican Border in Antelope Wells, New Mexico. It's about 2,700 miles. This is the traditional route (with some variations) that makes up the "Tour Divide" bikepacking race, which is self-supported and held annually in June. In fact, this year's race began just a few days ago.

Then, a couple years ago, the Adventure Cycling Association (ACA) added a new section to the Great Divide route which extends the route up to Jasper, Alberta. Seeing as Will and I are not racing the route (this year...) and we have the time, we wanted to add on the additional part of the route in Canada to truly get the full "Great Divide" experience.

That being so, the plan for our trip is to ride from Calgary (where the airport is) up to Jasper on the Icefields Parkway, a very scenic road past glaciers and through the Canadian Rockies. Then, we'll hop on at the start of the full Great Divide route and follow the route all the way south to the Mexican border. All told, the planned route is 3,350 miles, not counting the many small detours for food.

Someone recently asked me "why" I wanted to do this, and other things like this. I answered fairly quickly, but afterwards, I kept thinking. It's strange because I've never been more excited for something, but yet it's somewhat hard to pinpoint exactly "why". As best I could say, it's the combination of a huge challenge (mental and physical), exploring new areas, and a special feeling you get when you're self-sufficient on a bicycle traveling long distances. Now, that last bit might be circular reasoning, but if you've ever bikepacked, you would know what I mean about the special feeling of being "out there" on your bike. It's hard to explain or compare, but I'd imagine it's very similar to what through-hikers and backpackers experience. Plus, for this specific trip, having a good friend to do it with is also very appealing. It's not lost on me how lucky it is that there are two people in their early 20s in western PA who want to do a trip like this, and who also have the opportunity.

Before I get in to more packing details, I'll just say what I hope to get out of this trip. For one, I want it to be an extremely fun and memorable experience. But also, I really hope and think it will be a catalyst for more large bikepacking trips and races for me. I certainly see myself racing the Tour Divide, and I also see myself exploring on my bike all around the world. After all, if I succeed in becoming a high school teacher, I'll have summers off forever. It's not that I don't like doing NUE races or just after school rides, because I love those too. But to me, bikepacking and ideas for trips like this are what keep me excited the most.

As we were packing, Will tried to teach me to bunny hop. Unsuccessfully, I might add. In this case, though, I blame the student and not the teacher.

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