riding the divide 2015 bloody eventually

For some reason it looks like I’m really high in the rankings when people google for Tour Divide info. So if that’s why you ended up here, then here are some links with actual info:

The main Tour Divide website
Bikepacking.net forums
Tour Divide start list spreadsheet 2017
Form to get your details onto that spreadsheet (just so Christopher B. will have your contact info for the Cordillera)
Tracking page for 2017 Tour Divide

If you actually want to read my ramblings about it, then feel free to read on!

NOTE – I twisted my knee four weeks before TD2015, and I still couldn’t cycle without pain by Grand Depart day. Recovery took a while. I ended up in shape for some shorter races in 2016 (the Hurtn Albertn 550 went well!), and was aiming for the 2017 Tour Divide. Then in Feb/March 2017 I got mono/glandular fever – recovery is taking a long time. By the time 2017 Tour Divide rolled around I still didn’t have the energy to even go on a bike ride, let alone ride to Mexico. Now I’m feeling incredibly superstitious about committing to doing the Tour Divide at any given time, and am inclined to say it’ll happen when it happens, and I’d just like to ride my bike please.

I’ve caught Tour Divide fever. There’s no pretending otherwise now. I’ve known about the race since 2008, when I heard whisperings of crazy folk who ride from Banff to Mexico. I’d moved to Banff in September 2007, and had only just relocated a little further downstream to Canmore. I had started reading a blog by a girl who lived up in Alaska – she rode this crazy race and set a new female record. Then I heard of a movie about this race… I watched it. Then read a book. And then another. Then some blogs. I was following the tracking of the racers every year, looking at the photos of their setups, their adventures. And somewhere along the line the whole thing switched from being ‘admiring the crazy people’ to ‘research’, and a plan was solidified to ride it in 2015.

The Tour Divide is a bike race along the Great Divide Mountain Bike route. It starts in Banff on the second Friday in June, and finishes in Antelope Wells, New Mexico – approximately 4418km and 60,960 metres of climbing later. According to the Adventure Cycling Association “surfaces range from pavement, good gravel roads, four-wheel-drive roads, singletrack, or old railroad beds. There is an excellent opportunity to view wildlife such as bear, deer, wild horses, pronghorn antelope, eagles, osprey, sandhill cranes, and other birds and animals. The route is rich in history, with ghost towns, deserted mines, wagon routes, and old Spanish land grants. The route is near or goes through several national parks such as Glacier, Yellowstone, and Grand Teton.”

It crosses back and forth across the Continental Divide, travelling through Alberta down to the US border, into Montana, through Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and finally New Mexico. The plan is to finish in under 25 days (hopefully with a few days to spare). 200km or so per day on steep muddy gravel roads will be easy right? There shouldn’t be much more than 20km of slogging over snow-bound passes. The wind probably won’t blow in any other direction than the way I want to go, there are unlikely to be any thunderstorms, or weather extremes of any kind, and no parts on my bike could possibly break. Also, within a couple of days from the end, there’s a place called Pie Town. It has pie!

So when I’m not dreaming of the route, and mountain passes, and endless corrugated roads, and mud, and midges, and thinking of rides I should be doing in preparation, or just riding my bike as much as possible, I think about the gear I’ll need. So here’s that part of the plan – trying to come up with a selection of gear that will be nice and light, yet able to keep me warm if I’m riding through freezing cold rain for a week is … challenging:


Triton 29er (with Rohloff internally geared hub, SON Schmidt dynohub, Lauf TR29 fork, running tubeless with some kind of tyres. Ergon grips. Porcelain Rocket, Revelate & Bedrock bags)

Sleeping bag: Zpacks (-12oC medium) OR Mountain Hardwear Phantom Spark (-2oC) (I sleep cold – they weigh about the same but Phantom packs down waaaay smaller)
Sleeping pad: Thermarest NeoAir XLite W
Shelter: OR Helium Bivy
Sinewave Revolution (to charge electronics from dynohub – and a cache battery, maybe Limefuel or Anker, I’ve broken a few)
Exposure Revo bar light
Exposure Diablo helmet light
Exposure red rear light off the Revo
Garmin Etrex30 GPS
Spot Messenger Gen3
Water bottles/bladders (~6L capacity)
Repair & Tools: Tyre levers, Crank Brothers M17 multitool, Leatherman Squirt PS4 tool, 3wrencho 15mm tool, lezyne pump, curved needle & floss, chain link, chain lube & rag, spare brake pads, presta/schraeder converter, tyre boot & patches, zipties, valve stem, 2oz Stans bottle, spare bolts, spare 29″ tube
Phone (plus cable)
Water purification tabs
Basic track cue cards
Passport, credit cards & cash
Bear spray, whistle
Minimal first aid kit (bandaids, bandage roll, lighter, ibuprofen, immodium, antacids, antihistamines, safety pins, vinegar sachet, hand warmers)
Daily toiletries (wipes, sunscreen, antiseptic ointment, chapstick, chamois cream, tooth stuff)
OR dry sacks

Bike shoes (Giro Terraduro)
Wool underpants
Leg warmers (merino)
Icebreaker leggings
Shell pants
Sun knees
Socks x2
Goretex socks
Short-sleeved merino jersey
Crop top
Warm arm sleeves
Sun sleeves
Long-sleeved Patagonia crew top
Arcteryx hooded synth-puffy jacket
Salomon Fastwing wind jacket (super light & packable)
Hooded shell jacket (Ground Effect She Shell)
Basic MTB gloves
Wool gloves
Waterproof mittens (ZPacks)
Latex gloves
Bikepack.ca cap
Thin toque

37 replies on “riding the divide 2015 bloody eventually”

Planning and dreaming of the trip is fun…the ride was even greater. Nice writing of your coming adventure. How will you get back from Antelope Wells? Two gentlemen I contacted, while in a Silver City, gave rides back for just one dollar per mile for many riders .
I completed the Tour in 2013, with many days more than 25, but I did push thru the required Gold Dust Trail and Continental Divide Cutoffs…I was worried in the Gold Dust Trail as it was marked with blue diamonds then changed to some gold colored markers, both were rugged. Used a kids discovery tent every night, even when sleeping in outhouses to keep the bears, bugs, snakes, scorpions out. Wait, not every night, once I did not use the tent and went without it when I just saw a black bear, just after dusk, and slept in a road grader.
Best of luck! Dreaming again of riding Tour in 2015.

Thanks Ralph :) I’m really looking forward to the ride turning into reality.

I’m not sure yet how I’ll get back from Antelope Wells – there’s a possibility I’ll convince my husband to do a roadtrip down to meet me at the end, but I may just be trying to get a ride to a nearby airport. In some ways it would be easier to ride northbound. Getting home at the end would certainly be less complicated at any rate.

I’m very pro-tent, mainly due to a strong anti-creepy-crawly sentiment.

I hope you can join the 2015 crew with me though!

you have a bed in Fernie for you…will you pass through here? are you allowed to sleep at someone’s house? that’s an honest question, sorry if it’s stupid!

Totally reasonable question. But sadly the rules say you’re not allowed to accept outside help that wouldn’t be available to the other racers, so no sleeping at friends houses, or getting friends to drop off a nice tasty pizza for you! But I’m kind of hoping to do the Canmore – Fernie ride at least one more time before June next year, and I would definitely love a bed then :)

Hi Megan,
Great to hear you will be fronting -up for TD2015 . Me too!
2014 started a little wet, cold and snow-covered but the challenges make for some great stories now it’s all behind us:-)

A race as long as the TD will be different for everyone. I had sunshine where others had rain and thunder and lightening on the Gila for instance where others had blue skies. I’m looking forward to going back for 2015 and experiencing what the route throws at me.

Your gear list looks comprehensive and solid. I ride a rohloff with gates belt drive, sp dyno hub/sinewave usb plus cache, fully rigid setup, aerobars, orcelain rocket and revelate setup. Served me well this year. Broke the rohloff (seals went early) but it got me to the end. Collapsed a bottom bracket but I believe it may have been faulty.

I will be riding much the same setup. I did roll the 2700 miles on the same tires without a puncture! Didn’t expect that!
It’s tough out there but if you’re good with that then you will overcome any obstacle!

If I could offer (or you want for that matter;-) any advice….Have fun planning – have even more fun riding – then ride some more!

Heya Rob,

Thanks for your comment, and glad to hear you’ll be back at it again next year! I’ve been slightly gleeful about the lack of snowfalls thus far this winter – most people are moaning, but I’m just dreaming of snow-free passes :)

I’ve found that one thing about being lighter-weight than most riders is that I’m not as hard on bikes as a lot of the guys are, and parts rarely seem to fail. Having said that, my whole bike will probably now explode in the middle of nowhere on the TD trail. I feel like my setup should be pretty solid though – just have to work out what to do with my cockpit setup (it’s hard to come to terms with the aerobars!).

Looking forward to the snow finally melting around here… 4 more months?) so I can get some quality time in on dirt. Meanwhile, it’ll mostly be snowbiking, skiing, and trail running. Plus some indoor spin sessions I guess… you gotta do what you gotta do.

The bear spray is a waste of space and weight.
Has anyone ever used bear spray on the tour dived?
Your noisy and you smell!
With common sense and a whistle you will be safe.

Heya Travis – I know the bear spray will in all likelihood not get used – but I live right on the start of the Tour Divide course, and although chance of a bad run-in with a bear is quite low, I know it can happen. As much as anything, it’s to keep my husband happy – and also added insurance against the more likely two-legged predator.

I would carry bear spray. However, IMO more important than spray are bear bangers. Very light and useful at more than 6′ range. I’ve travelled a lot in bear country and never used my spray. I’ve used the bangers on most trips when faced with a bear on the trail where I wanted to head.

I have on numerous occasions found yelling and a Fox 40 whistle completely ineffective for getting a bear to move. I have yet to need more than 2 bangers on a stubborn bear.

In the unlikely, but unfortunate situation you encounter a dangerous human the spray my come in handy.

The bangers are also useful as a signalling device in a real emergency.

Good luck on TD 2016! :)

Interesting to see the comment from vik on bear bangers. Living on the front side of K-country I see bears while riding and hiking but can usually wait them out or move around them. Same when I lived in the Yukon. Touring part of the GDMBR south of The BC border to Elkford last year I actually had to ride / shout / whistle chase a young grizz about 3 km down the track before he got fed up and turned off into the bush and I had to sprint the laden Pugs uphill past his turn off. He was basically using the trail as an easy access path and reluctant to move off. He tried a few stands and growls before turning off, but I was a couple of hundred meters back just moving as he moved. He definitely was not too fussed about me and I was short of ideas how to shake him except persistent annoyance from a distance. If I’d been racing that could have been a significant time delay. I’ve not thought of carrying bangers on a bike and maybe that is a hassle for racing. But without them you certainly need to wait on the bear moving in his own sweet time. Food for thought as a tourist or racer in bear country. Good luck in 2017. I’m hoping to tour part or all of it 2016 work permitting.

Bear spray is one of those things like a seatbelt; small chance you will need it, but if you DO need it you will feel pretty dumb not having it. With grizzlies you get one good shot – I’d rather it be the spray than my fist.

Is there any info on the 2015 race? I can’t find any literature to verify there’s a race/mass start going on.

My son and I are hoping to do this ride in 2015. Is the second Friday of June start date locked in and guaranteed? I’ve read somewhere that the organizers provide a SPOT device for tracking is that true? Or should I purchase and bring my own? Thanks

Hi John. The Grand Depart is always the second Friday in June, so that’s the date that people are planning around for racing. You can pay Trackleaders to be added to their tracking map, but use your own SPOT device, or you can pay extra to just hire one from them instead. If you’re looking to take part in the race, it’s best to get in touch with Matthew Lee and submit a Letter of Intent at the website here: http://tourdivide.org/ – he’ll keep you updated with all the necessary details.

“spare brake pads?” YES – you may need to put them on in Eureka after you descend Galton Pass!

Solid kit list. My advice, FWIW – don’t get sucked into to riding at someone else’s pace, especially if they’re sacrificing sleep early in the race; I made that mistake. Also – riding with very low tire pressure on rough roads (most of the route) is not actually slower and is much more comfortable. Super fun event!

Hi Philip,

Sorry, just spotted this comment, and you’ve probably figured it out by now, but the best bet is to email Matthew Lee at the main Tour Divide website. You can get most of the info you need at that site too, but it’s just not updated every year.

From Oshawa, Looking for some riding partners; however, That will be determined along the route. Looking for link/gps data link to put the route on my Garmin tour plus. Please and thank u Ian

Thanks Megan. Do u know how to register my spot for the race track leaders . They say they don’t do it for the race, I have emailed Mat lee several times no response.

Finally some newer info on the TD! Thank you! I will be there in 2016. I caught the TD bug last year and had a few life events that anchored my decision to do this. Are there any forums or social pages that TD folks follow, something to help keep the energy going?

Heya Chad – The best place is probably the bikepacking.net forums, followed by the Endurance Rides and Bikepacking group on facebook. Would love to catch up if you make it out in 2016 (I live 20km from the start line in Banff). I’m hoping my knee recovers so I can actually get out there for 2016, but my recovery is taking forever – stupid meniscus damage!

Hi Megan, thanks for the information and enthusiasm! Just starting my journey for a 2016 run, and i’m glad i’m starting early. So much research, acquiring, and training.
I’m going South to North come what may. Maybe we can high-five in passing or I can buy you a twinkie from a gas station ;-)

Have also caught the tour divide bug through similar mechanism as you…. looking at 2017 as am doing New Zealand North to South on road this year. Can I ask why you chose the etrex 30?
Im looking into which gps to buy and the choice is confusing. I have relied on off line and paper mapping for all my challenges up till now but as off road i thought id use both those and gps for TD.
Any thoughts on this appreciated.

Ooh, hopefully I’ll be joining you in 2017 as well! As for the gps, the Etrex 30 is the one I own anyway, and actually we just bought another one after our last one died of old age after many years of hard use. It’s a pretty popular bikepacking option, I’d probably be tempted to go with it even if I didn’t own it already. It’s the most basic unit that provides the best functionality for what I use it for – good battery life, good memory storage, pretty reliable behaviour. I like the lack of touch screen (they always drive me mad when I’m trying to use them in anything other than perfect conditions – some people do prefer them though). For something like Tour Divide, the fact it takes AAs is great – really handy to be able to get batteries anywhere.
Good luck :)

Megan, I stumbled about your site while trying to find how I submit a Letter of Intent to ride TDR2017. I’ve been unsuccessful finding info on the LOI from the TDR website. Maybe you can steer me towards how that’s done? It seems were of similar mindsets re: TDR fever. Thanks for any help that you can provide and I’ll see you at the Grand Depart next June if you’re there.


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