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  1. #1
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    Continental Divide Trail - Info and Advice?

    I am looking for anyone with info on the CDT scenic trail. I just spent 9 days on the PCT backpacking and could not help thinking about having a bike during the trip. Bikes are not allowed anywhere on the PCT but in the 9 days I spent on Section C of the trail it was 100% fully ridable on a XC bike. Insult to injury as I was hiking around Big Bear Lake area, I saw a ton of mountain bikers.

    Abiding by the law I came across an article saying that many sections of the CDT is mountain bike legal and I was wanted to know if anyone has ever done it.

    I have found tons on info on the Great Divide MTB trail, but call me crazy, I am more stoked about riding technical singletrack rather than the epic of high speed fireroad.

    For the most part I plan to carry the most basic gear.

    Emergency bivy at as I intend to plan to make it to civilization every night. I have done touring trips on road bikes and am hoping to have a similar adventure on a mountain bike.

    I am okay with HAB, but ultimately I would like to know what type a bike to bring to the CDT. My guess would be a 4" full squish.


  2. #2
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    Your title of Continental Divide Trail caught my attention. I live near and have ridden or hiked sections of the Continental Divide Trail in central eastern Idaho, and southwestern Montana. Im not sure which section of the CDT you plan on riding. I noticed you planned to be back to civilization each nite, only carrying bivy gear.

    In this portion of the CDT the access to the CDT can be 20-30 miles from a place with, food/lodging making a long slog of up to 4,000 feet elevation gain on roads or trails just to get to the CDT.

    I have only done day trips or vehicle camped at the trailheads to ride segments of the CDT.

    I have read others blogs or posts about riding the CDT self supported for several days between supply stops. Google is a source of info.

    One thing you can count on is lots of hike a bike due to steep grades or rocky trails, especially carrying a pack. Snow, rain, thuinderstorms, and high winds are also quite common at 8-9,000 feet any day of the summer.

    As for bikes, a good four inch suspension bike would be sufficient in my opinion.

    One other thing to plan around is certain sections of the CDT trail are closed to bikes due to wilderness or proposed wilderness/forest restrictions, or forest fires In other words not all of the trail will be rideable.

    Riding portions of the divide trail is certainly do-able but generally requires good planning and timing. Carrying a water filter is a good idea. The trail gets improved a little each year thanks to a lot of volunteer work. Best of luck on your trip, it is some great country.

  3. #3
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    Considering how remote and tough most of the CDNST is, your concept of only having an emergency bivy and making it to town is not applicable to the trail. You would spend more time detouring to town and getting back to the trail than riding the trail. And you would hike-a-bike more than the Arizona Trail or the Colorado Trail, which are loads of HAB. Without a tarp or tent the fast moving T-storms would put you in danger above treeline many times in Montana/Idaho and Colorado.
    I have mapped the route in a basic sense: 2800 miles with 1200+ miles of singletrack, only a quarter of that being "rideable" trail IMO. It would take at least 60 days for a middle pack bikepack racer, probably 90-120 for a touring pace. That is why no one has done it: It would take a strong rider and even stronger will. The actual window of opportunity is far shorter than the hiking window- about 75 days (July 15th to Oct 1 north to south IMO)

    I suggest you do the Colorado Trail unsupported. You can do it anytime alone or do the race (CTR). The CTR is July 21st. 550 miles with over 300 singletrack- over half of that shared with the CDNST. The sections of Divide trail are some of the best that the trail has to offer. Unless you are super fast (100 miles a day) getting to a town each evening is not practical even on the Colorado Trail.

  4. #4
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    Sounds like I was way off base with the town density. I based that idea off the info I found for the GDT (who are able to make it to town every night) which parallels the CDT. Great information, sounds like at the very least I should treat this as a normal long distance backpacking trip. Bear can food sleep system etc.

    dream4est-

    Sounds like you've done the homework and walked the paces. Can you provide more info on what is ridable and what isnt. Any guidebooks, blogs, maps you can recommend.

    I may be just painfully ignorant, but I figure I can always treat it as a backpacking trip with a bicycle. Either way I can always fall back on backpacking the CDT and ditching the bike idea.

  5. #5
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    Well Rustyenduro I would say that if you are here looking for information, have never been on a bikepacking trip, never been on the CDNST, have not read the 4 Continental Divide Trail guidebooks (which are a bit outdated), studied the GDMBR in detail, never been in a bikepack race, contemplating a super light kit on the worlds hardest MTB trail, not checked out the maps by plumf and trailsource for at least an idea of the hiking route I would say that to be ready for the ride in 2 months and pull it off would be next to impossible. You have not even mapped out a route with wilderness detours, found all your water sources, food stops, bike shops nearby, etc. etc. etc.

    There are so many variables you are not considering and that is why I say do an established route first to get an understanding of whats "rideable" to YOU, how hard singletrack is fully loaded, navigation with no GPS track that is accurate like in the races, trail that is cairn to cairn, mileage that could be as low as 15-20 a day, etc etc etc.

    Scott Morris and Mike Curiak rode 2 multi-day trips in Montana/Idaho on the trail in 2008 or so. They had some 35 mile days. 2 of the fastest bikepackers ever. Ran low on food due to slow travel. No one has even done more of a ride than that except Colorado Trail riders in the shared CT/CDNST corridor. No one has done all the bike legal singletrack in one state in unsupported fashion. Only three racers I know of plus me have ever talked much about riding it border to border. The logistics are beyond what you are considering, like how much more food, clothing and water you will need than a hiker. Hikers dont carry huge loads, sweat, eat like a horse or drink big amounts between sources. So 3000 mile hikes are common in that world, not this one.

    The Arizona Trail Race is only 750 miles, but harder than the Tour Divide basically. Imagine doing AZT750 over and over again for 2.5 months. But slower. That is CDNST.

    You would have to be training and planning this ride, a first in mtbing, for a year to pull it off. I have been planning for 5 plus years. Will it happen for me? Dont know. Way more likely I will pull off more CTR's and AZT750's, which are hard as hell, than the grandaddy of all trails.

    It will even be harder than what I am saying here, that is how hard it would be. I still say you should enjoy the rideable Colorado sections on a CT thru-ride this summer, then decide about the whole enchilada. Winging it as hiker with a bike could kill you in the Great Basin or southern New Mexico due to slow speeds and heat.

  6. #6
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    Posting a link to my recent bikepacking excursion on and around the CDT in western New Mexico. The original lives in the New Mexico forum here on MTBR.

    To echo others, this particular section is also extremely remote. No reliable water sources either so you must carry your own. Closest town is Grants though you could get some provisions El Morro (a small collection of businesses. Real small) or Ramah. Still, all of these places are quite a haul from the actual CDT.

    As you will see from the post, the area is insanely expansive, exposed and rugged and should be undertaken with good planning and sound equipment. To follow the actual trail requires going overland, often just following cairns. Some orienteering may be required as well. This is my second time in this area and both were quite challenging. I feel like I went to the moon and back.

  7. #7
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    It's been awhile, but I ended up doing the Colorado Trail. It was honestly quite the adventure. I needed to start my new job on July 1st so I started the trail early. I'll let you watch the rest. This is Part 1 of 3

    Colorado Trail I - YouTube

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