The Passion never fails to drive us—somewhere. What, regular mountain bike rides don’t assuage that constructive discontent? Maybe going thousands of miles—over weeks—will work.
Slogging roads on a 100-pound divorce horse doesn’t sound much like mountain biking. But I’m sure it’ll foster appreciation of mountain biking as we know it. The Weasel is up for it. Now it’s time to remind myself that I am, too. I am, too.
The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, US/Canada border to US/Mexico border is the objective.
Not in the official race, but we may set a course record for longest-on-route. Or win the Great Wall of Frame Bags Award. To placate the Gods of Discontent for a time is all I truly hope for. We might even have fun in the process.
alpha: I think this thread could be a running report. I more like the idea of free dialog.
The div-horse unladen weighs under 43 pounds, down from 49 set up more for trail riding. It's a MTB Tamdems Tourista; aluminum Rohloff-specific frame manufactured in USA by Sherwood for MTB Tandems. We normally run a double-crown fork and Thudbuster post in back. We got this bike specifically for dirt touring, but we've milked it pretty well for local trail riding.
We've ridden this bike on most of the trails I ride on my single. The uninitiated are often surprised that tech trails get ridden on tandems. Sometimes a rider will be like "hey, mind if I follow?" The big bike hates to endo, and the traction under 270 pounds of rider weight is pretty amazing. (Think tractor pull.) Sharp switchbacks are the nemesis, but one can grab a little extra rear brake and move the rear sideways. Surprisingly, I can loft the front a few inches without any help. None of that's gonna help much on the Divide, tho...
alpha: The best trips always start with a dream. If you want it, it'll happen. Subconscious powers...not to be underestimated.
Kronk: (edit) A classic, for sure
bmf: Many thanks!
bachman: Every successful relationship has it's formula. Glad you've found yours! No misconceptions or false expectations equals smooth sailing.
I had a fiancée who selflessly encouraged me pursue outdoor activities with all the gusto I could muster. The issue was, the more I obliged, the less we saw of each other. I realized I wasn't okay with it. I wanted a partner in crime, someone to get psyched on crazy ideas, the planning, the doing, the basking in the afterglow.
Then there was this fierce little climber I met in the gym. Her intensity on boulder problems was infectious. And she really liked breakfast cereal. And cared little about the mundane trappings of life as we saw it being pursued around us. I fell harder for her than she did for me, but I managed to close the deal (read: she took me on) and we married three months after our first date. This year will be our 13th. (Still noobs, Bachman.)
Our honeymoon, a couple of years after our ceremony, certainly galvanized our union and confirmed that, definitely, she was the right lass for me:
Excellent, JK! Enjoy the falls and give a kiss to the big stone for me. +1 on that great hike C2L mentions (I think they're permitting it now). I love hiking in the Sierra, but I usually end up on some kind of mission when in Yos...like earlier this year, trying not to slow down my bro Kris on Washington Column:
Pardon the digression, but suffice to say there is a certain comfort in being on the ground – anywhere.
We have five caches going out to post offices en route. I'm thinking we should get to each one after ±10 days' riding.
We're really not depending wholly on this stuff; it's mostly comfort food that will likely be tough to find with any consistency on the route. Mountain House dinners, our fave oatmeal, ramen, tea, energy stuff...and consumables like personal items, camping stuff, bike parts (let's hope not too consumable), etc. We'll pilfer what we want and send the rest back to ourselves. My pal Mark will be on standby to mail cache boxes as we approach our pickup points (don't want them sitting in a PO for weeks). He's also the keeper of the Master Parts Box™, which contains all manner of contingency items to keep the QE2 sailing forward.
mhow: Thanks for your perspective. I got a little saturated with the planning and was feeling like it was all a bunch of work. We took a little ride yesterday which seems to have reeled be back into the fun zone. Cheers...
mhop: Great photo! Thanks for all your contributions to the Tandems forum and the Fandango thread. I know you guys have some nice terrain out there, and it seems the SE US is sort of the epicenter for mountain tandem'ing with MTB Tandems in the hood. Glad you're tearing it up!
We had frame bags made by Porcelain Rocket. Scott was fantastic to work with, and we had no issues. I borrowed one of these bags which fit on my FS single bike and used it on the CO Trail, great performance and zero durability issues. The small frame-top bags came from a mfr no longer in the game. The sleeping pads are held by a Revelate Harness Pocket, which provides some easy-access storage (goal being to open the panniers only at bivies). That dinky pocket, surprisingly, will swallow two 2.5L Platypus bottles...that's a lotta water!
My main cargo objectives were to not carry anything on our backs, and to keep the weight positioned low. I used a typical "bikepacking" set up a few times recently and am reacting to those experiences, as well as gearing up specifically for dirt road riding.
I already owned the Ortleib Bike Packer panniers and Old Man Mountain racks, so it was no leap to get to this set up. The panniers, off the shelf, are bomber but heavy due mainly to the fitting and removal features. Since I don't need the bags to be removable or work with various racks, and I objected to the weight, I gutted the bags of extraneous stuff and got them down to half their stock weight. This required patching many holes and creating my own supportive structure from the plastic stiffeners bolstered with some aluminum pieces. Then I mounted them to the racks semi-permanently. Taking the racks off is easy, so NBD. I've added a horizontal compression strap to each pannier to suck it into the rack, and so far it's riding very nicely loaded up.
Not shown in any photos so far is our hydration storage. We will be using our Porcelain Rocket Anything Cage bags for water and riding food, since a 2.5L Platypus and a handful of snacks fit perfectly within one. The front will lie flat on the rack; the rear will attach to captain post and stoker bar. Shower Pass hose reels (those with the French-sounding name I can't remember) will mount on each h-bar and manage the hydration hoses.
Add one Arkel map case. We'll have a couple extra dry bags on board for extreme overflow storage (say, getting beer to a campsite) and hanging or storing food. One of those bags will probably be a REI Flash pack -- basically a stuff sack with shoulder straps.
So it's the usual mashup of off-shelf and custom stuff, bag-wise. Nearly infinite storage capability, since with racks you can simple lash stuff on temporarily as needed. Realistically, we'll be packing, max, five days worth of food on the longer re-supply-less sections.
I'll pop in some photos so you can see how I've hacked, er, crafted a few things to (hopefully) work.
Finally snapped a few details for you, mhop – recent refinements included:
Front (and rear) panniers have comrpession straps. You can see I've wound them around the rack and added a zip tie too keep them loosely in place. Loops sewn to the rack would be nice and clean, but I'd actually like the option of removing and re-purposing these straps as needed. The blue drybag contains my Platypus bottle with lots of room for other stuff.
The massive rear panniers still have capacity left.
Rear rack stays make great handles. I should wind some bar tape around those.
Tidy captain's cockpit including one bell for people, one for bears, and a small light underneath.
Fine work by Scott of Porcelain Rocket.
Stoker's Anything Cage (aka hydration) bag closure finishes over captain's seat rails. Velcro hose keeper.
Where the magic happens. Second oil change for this hub just done. A bit trickier wheel removal than an average bike, and it won't happen unless the tire is deflated or the tensioner removed. I had to remove a small bit of the rack tubing near the lower attachment to enable disconnection of the hub cable interface for wheel removal.
Hey, Paul! Thanks for the tour--and for the Draught Works suggestion!
Gotta give props to a couple of cycling-centric entities:
Adventure Cycling Association
The Great Divide route as we know it would not exist without them. Talk about bike passion! We were treated to a tour of the ACA facilities by our friend Paul. It was great to meet some o the many dedicated cyclists who make ACA what it is. Their headquarters is a beautifully crafted former church that is now a decked out, multi-floor workspace, chock full of interesting bikes and memorabilia. If you're anywhere near Missoula, put their HQ on your radar. If we hadn't stopped in, we might not have learned about...
Whitefish Bike Retreat
Cricket and Emma totally solved all our final logistic issues. We dumped our rental truck in Kalispell in the face of a two-day storm with an initial dead end for Roosville shuttles. Then came Cricket! She picked us up in Kal, took us to the retreat, is lodging us until tomorrow, then taking us to Roosville. See, Cricket has ridden the Divide numerous times, so she knows cyclists' needs. And the grounds? Blown away. Every comfort, convenience and aesthetic detail has been considered. The place is buffed to the hilt, with just a splash of rustic. It's a Converted farm property with tent sites, bunks and rooms, with a fantastic common room and network of buff trails which connects to the Whitefish trail system. Traveling cyclist's dream! Bummed we can't soak up more of this incredible place. If you're anywhere near this area on bike, with bike, or wanting to rent a bike and ride/see some unbelievable ST, get in touch with Emma and Cricket. You're gonna love the bike decor! Google them and learn more.
Next post should be from the trail. Tomorrow's weather looks all-time! Wooot!!!
This is totally awesome! I would love to undertake something like what you are doing. But so far my wife is not ready for this yet. We do have a tandem MTB, but I have yet to entice her to go for a ride with me. Then again we are currently on a tour of sorts ourselves, albeit not by bike. We are officially nomads at the moment, but I wanted to make sure we bring our bikes. Missoula is on our ever changing list of places to go, eventually. Unfortunately we will not be intersecting with the continental divide any time soon, because I would have loved to meet up and check out your setup and share some stories.
Huffster, this report is dedicated to you. There is no envy, only fuel for your next adventure, brother. Power to ya and thanks for the good words!
We have been having a spectacular time getting our butts kicked. We saw this coming...not enough (read: no) training, marginal shakedowns and paying the prize for sea legs.
Day 1 took us from Rooseville to Grave Creek CG, an easy 25 mile spin on pavement (that felt tough after virtually no riding for a month prior). Stellar creekside camping.
Day 2 over Whitefish pass was an eye opener. A dozen or more avalanches, some hundreds of yards wide, were quite taxing. Logs, tree branches, slippery snow left us with only enough gas for a 20-mi day. We stayed at Tuchuck CG and met up with a 73-yr-old gent named Chuck who is doing the Divide solo. What a spirit! And a real gentleman.
Day 3 was a glorious run down from the pass and along the N Fork of the Flathead. We diverted from the Red Meadow Lake Pass, as we'd heard 3 miles was unridable die to snow/avy. Made it to River CG with 40 mi behind us.
Day 4 We backtracked a bit to Whitefish for some expert advice on my front hub which was emitting some odd sounds and feeling drag-y. Great Northern Cyclery saved the day! Open Sunday! Thanks to Willy and Stella who sprang to action while we ate Huckleberry ice cream. Thankfully no major issues but still glad we took the 16 mi detour. We bailed WF in afternoon warmth for points southeast and ended up at Tom and Pat's place. You wanna talk passion? We just toured the shop with many bikes/frames hand built by Tom. They love having riders come by and love taking care of us. Spaghetti with pheasant tomato sauce, cold drinks, great conversation about everything from bikes to native trees...ho, man, we almost blew right by. Big mistake, that'd have been!
I'll try not to be so tight with the photos; we took a few but the upload speed is not enough here (they have wifi, but we were so grateful for all that they did...couldn't bear to ask for the PW! It's 10pm, so better bed down. Which feels bizarre, since it's still light out!
Happy summer solstice to all. Somebody go rip some singletrack for us, eh?! Later!
Headed down a flat river valley, then veered away on a 2k' climb through amazing forests. The wildlife highlights have been many; a pair of bald eagles, a fisher cat, a fox (who dropped his squirrel lunch in the road in his effort to evade us), lots of deer, elk calves.
We ended up off the route slightly at Cedar CG, a wet, primitive spot next to Fatty Creek. Got just under 60 miles, and didn't feel too spent.
Day 6's tour of the Swan River Valley continued to a diversion to Holland Lake, where is, conveniently, CGs and a resort restaurant. Rub shoulders with the resorties then dirtbag it after dinner. The skeets have finally gotten thick the last couple days, head nets and all.
Day 7 We got a late start today waiting for some laundry to dry, but honestly planned a short day into Seely Lake. Just inhaled some awesome grill food and need to supply up.
Stormy weather has slowed us a bit, soft road surface and waiting out squalls.
Days 8/9 took us along the Swan Mtns initially, just south of Grizzly Basin. Mind blowing beauty everywhere. We skipped Huckleberry Pass and detoured around. The road riding is mostly a nice diversion from the forested roads; the views open up and position becomes apparent.
I was hoping to spot a Griz before leaving the area, but no dice by now and diminishing chance. We got the most amazing consolation, however... Rolling into one of a million dips on a forested dirt road past Cottonwood Lakes heading to Ovando, we spooked an adult mountain lion off the road as we rolled into the dip. My bear bell was not ringing loudly due to the soft road surface, so we got pretty close to him coasting at 10-15mph. The tail and muscular hindquarters were obvious as he quicky slinked into the growth roadside. I took a second look and saw his entire side, a big healthy cat. Then I saw in the growth next to him was another lion lying motionless with eyes on us. I got direct eye contact from that lion as we passed within 20 feet, it lowered its head and ears. There was nothing to do except keep pedaling. Wifers took another look back and saw the crouched lion pop it's head up watching as we rode off. It was a spectacular and scary moment, one I'll never forget. I think the cats were in more a defensive mode as we passed, thinking wtf izzat? but the sheer presence of carnivorous power left us stunned.
A short distance later a golden eagle swooped into the road going our direction. The next morning, we spotted a bald eagle nesting in a power substation, atop a pole that was hacked off an a perch added. No doubt there were chicks under the vocal parent...shortly later we rode by again to see her landing home with a fish in talon.
Okay, the burger, pizza and beer are gone. We gonna ride under some ominous clouds into the forest and bivy. Be well and ride like there's no tomorrow. Actually, ther isn't. Go get it!
John, many spend a life in the outdoors and never spot one. Super elusive animals. I'm lucky that I had three sightings before this recent one. Two of those were on MTB, one driving. I wouldn't want another encounter as dramatic as that last one, given the option. Best to you!
Pearldrumdood: Thank you for the good wishes! The movie we liked a lot. What we are doing is pretty different from those riders. Props to the divide racers. They suffered hard this year. I reckon they're already in NM (!!)
Jovian: thanks very much for the stoke!
Richman: hehe, the D-horse feels like quite the big rig. It hurt having to dismount for some chunky DH trailage that we would otherwise eat up. : )
In the last two days we've ridden 90 miles of the most mind-aleringly gorgeous country I could imagine. I fear I've been forever changed. But, fear? Poor word choice.
We saw three young bull moose traversing the road some miles up trail from here in town. Couple miles later, large, gray mammal I guess to be a wolf stood in an open field. He hauled ass outa there once he realized we were watching.
So far we have detoured around a few sections of the official route, skipping Red Meadow Lake, Richmond Peak and Huckleberry Pass. We did find the passes on better shape down here; the first three continental divide crossings (we did yesterday) were clear. It's all great riding to us, in an amazing place we are lucky to spend time in.
Have to say hello to Rob, Ann and Rose (and your sweet doggies): Great to meet you at Moose Creek. You had to have some idea that that cold beer and bratwurst would be the stuff of dreams for me/us. Thanks for your kindness! Great to meet you! Stay psyched on big plans and enjoy your life travel and events.
Cheers to all ya dirt lovers. Love that stuff! We're gonna find a patch and roll around. Cheers!!
How is it going compadre,sounds like you are having a blast, keep it up with the updates, they are very cool. Kids missed on you on their B-day party. they requested you were invited but I told them you are on a journey....cheers to both of you
Zeppy, thanks for helping us celebrate this ridiculousness!
Vino, so sorry we missed it! Say hi to the crew from (still) Montana! Hope you are getting some dawn patrol rides in, bro. Miss you all!
We just hit Dell MT after an amazing foray through scenic byways, both paved and unpaved, through some pretty remote BLM and FS land. The open spaces, scale and visibility are otherworldly. Huge open valleys and snow laced peaks, sagebrush, creeks, endless skies. No cars anywhere out there in the Medicine Lodge area. Just pedaling up the road watching massive thunderheads detour around us. We saw pronghorn antelope lounging in a field, so we did the same. Later I saw something big walk into the trees at a creek. Stopped to gawk and out walked a bull moose a few steps toward us with that Oh Yea? look, so we pedaled ahead a few yards before getting a pic.
We will be sad to leave Montana. It's been a monumental Experience. The people are extremely nice and attitudes toward cyclists are commensurate. A small snippet of Idaho coming up before we bisect WY.
Wishing all riders a ripping good 4th of July, with lots of adrenaline, endorphins, and basking in the glory! Cheers from me and the Weasel!!
Hey, formica, howdy from Idaho and the Squirrel Creek Lodge Cafe. I think it's pretty likely we saw one wolf standing in a field. It was German shepherd size and mostly white/light. When he saw us he bolted hundreds of yards to the forest. I've seen many coyotes, and this behavior wasn't much like any I've seen. And the look was of course not typical of the bigger yotes I've seen. FWIW.
We saw a fifth moose in Red Rock Reservoir area. Many marmots. Bike-stopping bald
Eagle sightings. A few too many skeets...
We're on our 17th day, and have not succumbed to any motels or rest days yet. I'd say our daily mileage average is above what we'd hoped, and everything feels pretty dialed in.
The profile of the Tetons is pulling us southeastward, and conditions are great for riding. We are thankful every day for the incredible country we see, diverse with interesting people with a story to tell. Food is here, so gotta grind! Cheers, all.