Divide stories.- Mtbr.com
Results 1 to 29 of 29

Thread: Divide stories.

  1. #1
    This place needs an enema
    Reputation: mikesee's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Posts
    13,014

    Divide stories.


    I spent a solid chunk of a past life racing bicycles across vast chunks of landscape. One of the more ambitious (given the era) of these was the Great Divide Race on the GDMBR, a ~2400 mile dirt road sufferfest paralleling the continental divide.





    I organized the first race on this route in 2003, but no one else showed up so I ITT'ed it. My frame and rear rack were broken and my psyche considerably bent before I arrived at the halfway point of the route, forcing a DNF and a long year before I could head back to finish what I'd started.





    I've been outspoken in my dislike of this route since forever, primarily because even though it was labeled and sold as a mountain bike route it has nothing in common with mountain biking. 97% of this route could be driven in a low-clearance 2wd sedan. Calling it the Great Divide Gravel Grinding Route would have been more apropos, more honest, and would have pushed me in a different direction from the get-go. I don't know what I would have cooked up instead, but I know that today I'd have a lot less nerve damage in my hands and ankles and would probably still be able to ride a solid mile of gravel before vomiting onto my shoes.








    After finishing the GDR in a virtual photo finish with Pete Basinger in 2004 I pretty much walked away from racing, and never really shared much about that running of the race. Consider this the initial installment of those stories, anecdotes remembered 13 years later with accuracy assistance courtesy of the snapshots I took along the way. I have no plans to give a play-by-play, rather to simply share some of my favorite anecdotes.








    Back with the first of those in a bit. Thanks for checking in.


  2. #2
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Posts
    67
    Cool story can't wait for chapter 2

  3. #3
    This place needs an enema
    Reputation: mikesee's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Posts
    13,014

    Jan Kopka


    Of the 7 that toed the line on the original Great Divide Race, Jan Kopka was the only non-American. A mostly unknown with a reputation as an old-world strongman, Jan was entirely a wildcard for this event.





    Jan flew over from the Czech Republic and with his pro-roadie history I knew he couldn't be counted out. A recently retired-from-racing Pat Norwil fetched Jan from the airport and drove him half a day across Washington, Idaho, and Montana to meet us at the start. Pat would later tell me that on that drive he'd repeatedly instructed Jan to stick with me and do whatever I did, since I was the only one that had seen a good chunk of the route before. Jan 'got it', and never let me out of his sight the first ~24 hours of the race. Thanks Pat...





    Going out hard on a 2400-mile race seems self-defeating, but I sensed that the others were a little more stressed than I so I took it out a bit faster than maybe I should have, hoping to further stretch them beyond their comfort zones. Within an hour it was just Jan and I at the front.





    It was immediately clear that Jan's background and base as a professional road racer gave him a clear advantage over my purely mountain bike/trail riding roots. Jan climbed effortlessly away and then when gravity took over he'd whip out a small camera and bang out snapshots in every direction. Determined to make every second count on this go-round, I was often in the aerobars and ticking over the big ring on the descents, and it was here that I would make back up the time on Jan. I'd usually bottom out before him and start climbing again, and when he caught up, hauling, he'd place his hand on my pack and bring me immediately up to his speed.






    Many hours of this brought us into the town of Whitefish at ~100 miles into the race. There was a gucci-esque quickie mart at the edge of town, right on the route, and I'd spent some time surveilling it the day before. I'd walked through and noted exactly what they had that I'd want at this stage of the ride, how much each item cost, and did a quick calculation to arrive at ~$22. Thus when the race started that morning, I already had $22 in cash set aside in my left jersey pocket. OCD much? When you're as slow on the bike as I am, you have to be OCD in every way, all to the end of saving seconds wherever you can.


    Rolling up to the quickie mart I leaned my bike on the trash can next to the door, shuffled in and grabbed a few gatorades, some twizzlers, some jerky, and a hot plate of roasted chicken and noodles. I paid the kid and sat down beside my bike. Jan was still inside as I finished inhaling the first half of my meal and dumped the gatorade into water bottles. By the time Jan came outside with his haul I'd finished stashing jerky and licorice in my frame bag and settled in to finish my meal. Elapsed time from parking my bike to this moment was less than 6 minutes.


    As Jan dropped his haul of loot on the sidewalk he reached across and placed an open beer next to me, making clear that it was mine. I'd heard stories of Jan's training rides involving pub stops and camelbaks full of suds, so his kind offering wasn't a surprise. The thing is, I don't much care for the taste of beer, and certainly not when riding. So I thanked him but declined the gift, reaching it back his way.





    Jan speaks excellent english with a thick slavic accent, and I wish I could properly imitate both his disbelieving look and the response that accompanied it:


    "But, how are you so good without beer?"


    In one long, deliberate sequence of motions I poured the last of the pasta into my mouth, deposited my trash into the can, zipped closed my frame bag, then executed a running cyclocross-style remount of the bike, still chewing pasta as I sprinted out of the parking lot. Once on the white line I looked over my shoulder to gauge Jan's reaction. He appeared to be casually finishing his (my) beer as I shifted into a harder gear to continue accelerating south through town. A truck passed closely, and after it did I glanced back once more to see an explosion of activity all around Jan as he packed to give chase.





    Jan caught me wordlessly as I wove through Columbia Falls and across the Flathead, and we resumed our climb/descend rhythm into the evening. Sunset was gorgeous but shortly after the skies thickened and began to drizzle, and would continue to do so through the night. It was already obvious that my motor was no match for Jan's -- my motor was never a match for anyone's in any race I ever attempted. As we spun along through a grey bucolic scene on the edge of the mountains, I knew that I couldn't outride him, thus I needed to start working on outstrategizing him. Plan A: Ride into the wee hours, in the rain, on the first night of a 16-day race, and see how he reacted. Easy enough.


    As the hayfields and ranchettes began to thin out I could see Jan's headlamp searching through the drizzle and into every barn and hayloft -- to my eyes it appeared as though he was longing for the shelter that they offered. This solidified my commitment to do without on this evening -- I'd just keep riding until he either peeled off for dry sleep, or I couldn't keep my eyes open any longer.


    Glancing at my cue sheets clued me in to the fact that we were about to leave this "main" road and climb deeper into the mountains, and as the turn approached I heard Jan clear his throat just behind me. "Mike" he said, "Do you plan to sleep in nature tonight?"


    Because he was just behind he couldn't see the smile forming, and I remained facing forward as I responded, "Jan, I have no plans".


    On we went.


    By 2AM, soaking wet and bone tired with Jan still dieseling along next to me, I had to concede the first round to my new friend. As the road tipped upward into a dripping larch forest, I pulled over into a clearing to get some sleep. My bivy routine was simple and quick: snap my car-windsheild-sunshade/sleep pad out to full length, sit down on it and remove my shoes, slip legs into my zipperless sleeping bag, pull chamois shorts down around my knees to let things air out a bit, then wiggle the bag over my shoulders. I could brush teeth in the morning, I told myself most nights.


    As I drifted off I could hear Jan fumbling and fiddling with gear a few meters away, and that commotion quickly became background noise as I faded out. But then I was startled awake and found Jan looming over me. I can't quote him directly as my head was rummy with sleep, but he essentially asked where my food was, because we were in bear country he believed we needed to bag and hang it. Without realizing what I was doing I pointed him toward my frame bag. He quickly removed it from the bike, dropped it into his stuff sack, then strung the whole bundle up into a tree as I drifted back off.


    Hours later, grey dawn as I woke and began stuffing my gear back onto the bike, the lack of a frame bag reminded me of what had transpired, and made me realize what a brilliant strategist Jan was proving to be: No way I was sneaking away without him, since my food was in his bag, strung just above his bivy. Score another for the Czech.





    I finished packing before Jan, and as I exited our bivy spot explained that I like to walk the first ~10 minutes every morning to get a little blood moving before pedaling. "You'll catch me just up the road" I assured him, being careful to seem honest but not earnest.


    As soon as I was out of his sight I poured everything I had into the pedals.


    As it turned out, that was the last I saw of Jan -- not because of anything I did, but because the cue sheets were listed in miles and Jan's cyclometer was calibrated for kilometers, and he missed a few key turns that day that prevented him from latching back on.

  4. #4
    mtbr member
    Reputation: unicrown junkie's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Posts
    858
    Unbelievably great read, thanks for taking the time to do this. I've only done RAAM as a mechanic, always wondered about the Divide. What a race.
    Good friction shifting is getting hard to find nowadays....

  5. #5
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Posts
    345
    YEAH! Can wait to read your next accounts.

  6. #6
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Posts
    121
    Loving it!! 👍🏻👍🏻

  7. #7
    mtbr member
    Reputation: evdog's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Posts
    1,945
    Mike I had no idea you were such a devious bastard.

    Thanks for the post! I would love to ride the divide someday, but in a world of limited free time it is not anywhere near the top of my to do list.

  8. #8
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Posts
    1,825
    Under the conditions I'm reading here, I don't think I'd dislike the Divide. I'd ****ing hate it.

    TFPU Ė carry on!

  9. #9
    mtbr member
    Reputation: dRjOn's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Posts
    2,541
    ha! awesome....! great story!

  10. #10
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Posts
    811
    Mikesee, would you consider taking your bike and packraft, OS ... and taking on Australia's Bicentennial National Trail? The BNT runs along the spine of Australia's Great Divide. You would then have the Great Divide's set.

    Your photography (nowadays) is stunning and you would blow this Forum away, totally.

    Warren.

  11. #11
    This place needs an enema
    Reputation: mikesee's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Posts
    13,014
    Quote Originally Posted by Wild Wassa View Post
    Mikesee, would you consider taking your bike and packraft, OS ... and taking on Australia's Bicentennial National Trail? The BNT runs along the spine of Australia's Great Divide. You would then have the Great Divide's set.

    Your photography (nowadays) is stunning and you would blow this Forum away, totally.

    Warren.

    Got a good link to the route info?

    I live in a desert and am not super keen on traveling to other deserts to ride when there are so many mountainous regions to explore.

    But 'explore' is the key word, so I'm listening...

  12. #12
    mtbr member
    Reputation: WHALENARD's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    Posts
    3,583
    Excellent read! I thought comradery was part of the epic race experience.
    It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.

  13. #13
    mtbr member
    Reputation: dRjOn's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Posts
    2,541
    My friend Damo rode part of it a while ago....

    story here...

  14. #14
    Co Springs
    Reputation: bachman1961's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2013
    Posts
    1,963
    Good stuff.

    Thanks for bringing some of that adventure to us !
    bachman must spread some Reputation around before giving it to himself again.


  15. #15
    This place needs an enema
    Reputation: mikesee's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Posts
    13,014

    One of the most colorful characters that you never hear about from the early days of modern endurance racing is Gary Dye. Then as now, Gary wasn't much for social media or time spent online -- his preference for learning and experiencing was to be outside doing what came naturally.





    One of the early races in this genre was known as the Grand Loop. Gary was the first person I ever heard call this collection of trails by that name, and also the first person I'd ever heard of riding it in one go. While Gary's early traverse of the route (in '98 or '99 IIRC) wasn't what we think of these days as "racing", he did it in less than a week which simply wasn't conceivable to anyone other than Gary way back then.





    Knowing that he was one of the few both up to the task and keen to try, I leaned hard on Gary all through the winter of '03 and spring of '04 to join us for the inaugural divide race. In those days Gary spent most of his time riding a 6 x 6" travel 26" bike -- hardly an ideal sled for the GDR. As the date drew nearer and he seemed more and more likely to participate, I offered the use of my Willits B2 29 incher. After a brief test ride on it he wondered aloud why I wasn't riding it -- so ideal did it seem for the task at hand. 13 years on, and his bulbous rear rack/bag/pack notwithstanding, I still believe it to be an ideal bike for this route.





    Gary and I had raced together only a handful of times, largely because if he gets an idea to go do something he doesn't wait around for someone to organize an event -- he just goes and does it. If memory serves, prior to this GDR the stars had only aligned for us to race together on the Grand Loop in '01, '02 and '03, and the Kokopelli Trail Race in '04.


    Gary was the sole finisher of the '01 GLR . We'd leapfrogged off and on for ~160 miles, until my frame broke near Tabeguache Creek and left him to diesel on solo.


    Then in '02 Gary led Pat Irwin and I out on a brutally hot Grand Loop start. Across the desert west of Grand Junction we toiled through the first night, with a desiccating headwind, uber-sandy trails, and temperatures only bottoming out at 86* before shooting up above 105. I caught Gary a short distance up 'the shandies' (also a term coined by Gary) where he lay in the shade of a creekside cottonwood, moaning, with a moist bandana over his face to keep the flies off. I spent a few minutes there with Gary, trying to assess what ailed him so that, if possible, I might offer some assistance.





    As Gary told it, the night had been so hot that he'd blown through double the water he'd expected to, and when he arrived at the turn for the Cisco boat ramp he detoured over to see if he could somehow beg or borrow more. It was far too early for boater traffic, so he went to plan B and "did some dumpster diving". That effort netted him enough water to continue, but now, writhing in the dirt, he suspected his loot had somehow been contaminated.


    As I ran though my mental rolodex of what we might be able to do about his predicament, he rolled onto his side, grunted, and released an enormous fart. Then he settled back down and uttered a line that will forever bear repeating:


    "I don't know if I'm gonna puke or shit my pants, but I hope it happens soon..."





    The oppressive heat and desert aridity would prove to be the undoing of all of us that year -- there were no GLR finishers.


    That fact had both Gary and I primed, a year later, when we again rolled across the desert and up into the La Sals. Starting in the heat of afternoon and pushing hard all through the first night, Gary was always just a ridge ahead as we crawled across the landscape. Roughly 20 hours in I finally caught him when he halted for a brief break. Determined to take advantage of the gift he'd given in stopping, I pressed on up the shandies, repeatedly looking over my shoulder but never catching sight. Convinced that I'd opened a decent gap, and positively worked from ~23 hours of non-stop movement with at least that much more to go, I laid down for a quick nap.


    The spot I chose was where a writ-large juniper cast enough of a shadow that I could take advantage of it while still remaining in the literal middle of the road. That placement ensured I wouldn't sleep long -- if a vehicle came I'd be awakened by the crunch of gravel, and likewise, I hoped, if it was Gary approaching.


    My sleep was brief but productive -- maybe 20 minutes at most before I was awakened, refreshed, by Gary's voice asking "..the hell are you doing?"


    Concern in his voice turned to annoyance and then acceptance of his role as alarm clock as I hopped on the bike and motored away up the hill.





    Gary wasn't a finisher of the '04 GDR -- he pulled out somewhere in Wyoming or Northern Colorado due to a malady or overuse injury that escapes me at the moment. I just thought it important to mention that he was part of the event, because he'd done so much to lay the groundwork that made it possible for the rest of us to think, and go, further.


    Thanks for checking in.

  16. #16
    Nutrailer
    Reputation: JackWare's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2016
    Posts
    469
    Mike -

    Many thanks for posting these inspirational, entertaining and educational memoirs.

    For those out who haven't seen your (& Jen's) web posts the time taken to create such great stories with stunning photographs is much appreciated and highly recommended.

  17. #17
    seedub
    Reputation: seedub's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Posts
    154
    Great read! More please.
    you may have come before us on no bicycle, but that does not say you know everything.

  18. #18
    sofa king awsm
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Posts
    585
    It's threads like this that make the sewer we all call the internet worthwhile. Thanks and looking forward to more.
    Baby, I want my face to be your quiver killer.

  19. #19
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Posts
    811
    Quote Originally Posted by mikesee View Post
    Got a good link to the route info?

    I live in a desert and am not super keen on traveling to other deserts to ride when there are so many mountainous regions to explore.

    But 'explore' is the key word, so I'm listening...
    mikesee, thanks for waiting for my reply. There aren't any deserts on the BNT. A rider completing the BNT's Main Trail will ascend and descend the equivalent of Mount Everest 10.6 times. The BNT has the same difficulty rating as the Iditarod Trail 10/10.

    Riders start at either Healesville in the Victorian Alps or in the wet tropics at Cooktown in Far North Queensland. A distance of over 5500 kilometres. Riders who don't packraft can extend the distance depending on alternate cycle routes to avoid deep river crossings by 600,700 or even to 800 extra kilometres. The only flat bits are across the high plateaus of the Great Divide through forests and grasslands. There are about 22 towns on or within 25 kilometres of the route. There are weeks when you will see no one.

    The fastest time ridden that I know of is 92 days. The route covers unformed roads of the Travelling Stock Routes, rural back roads, fire trails and assorted dirt tracks through World Heritage listed wilderness, State forests and national Parks. In about 30 years of walking or riding the BNT, (there are 12 linking sections), I've seen less than a dozen people on the trail, all of them with packhorses, except for when in towns and on some rural back roads. The route is remote, very remote.

    The BNT site with the 12 section maps, found in Discover the BNT ... Bicentennial National Trail (BNT) - Adventure awaits you on the BNTBicentennial National Trail (BNT)

    Warren.
    Last edited by Wild Wassa; 07-09-2017 at 11:24 PM.

  20. #20
    This place needs an enema
    Reputation: mikesee's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Posts
    13,014

    Bike evolution.

    My interest in the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route started back in '99, when John Stamstad did the original ITT on the route. My head was still way-too-deep down the 24-hour and 100-miler rabbit hole, thus I didn't yet appreciate what John was doing. I was a part of a few conversations between he and Pat Norwil re: rules to govern the ITT, but it took two more years of racing the Iditarod before I could really wrap my head around an ITT of my own.


    And, when that day finally came, I was both too broke and too tired (from a season of the aforementioned lap races) to do the whole shebang. I decided, with inspiration from Pat Irwin, to attempt a single-state ITT, from the Wyoming border to the New Mexico border, traversing my home state of Colorado.


    The more I looked into the route the more it seemed that any bike I owned at the time was really unsuited to the endeavor. Thus I borrowed a bike from Wes Williams -- his own personal touring machine. He had it built with huge gearing, tiny tires, and drop bars, and although I rode it for a few days that way, I knew that it wasn't going to fly for an all-out TT effort.


    Pictured below, I installed some ubiquitous Nanoraptors, flat (and narrow!) bars, bar ends, lots of grip padding, friendlier gearing, and aero bars. Notably absent was any sort of reasonable frame bag: Back then almost no one had a frame bag, and the days of oversized seat bags had not yet arrived either. Moots used to make a product called the Tailgator, with two oddly shaped bags slung off of a gossamer light titanium frame. When I look back at this setup I remember how impossibly smooth the chassis was ("noodly" or "whippy" would be apt descriptors), how poor my lighting was (two OG Petzl Tikka lights zip-tied under the aero-bars, and that was *it!*), and how much wasted real estate there was in that main triangle.





    For all of my divide attempts I used a "navigation system" similar to the one below, with paper maps and cue sheets inside of a BarMap OTG, at my fingertips on the bars. Spare rubber bands in there, too...





    Note state-of-the-art lighting under the aero bars.








    This setup saw me through CO in what felt like a blazing fast time back then. I liked it but I didn't love it, and knowing that I was going to attempt the whole GDMBR ASAP I asked Willits to create something similar but -- at least for this event -- better.





    And man did he! Below is my Willits B2, with the oh-so-supple Action Tec fork, a Moxey suspension post, Zipp 404's, 3 x 9 gearing, and a whole lotta manipulated tubing intended to give me a comfy ride. This bike was amazing, but a drought that year meant uber sandy trails as well as searing heat and massive forest fires across the west. Thus I (barely) finished an ITT of the Kokopelli on this bike, then DNF'ed the Grand Loop and DNS the GDMBR ITT. Just too hot/smoky/sandy.





    Pat Irwin and I teamed up with Airborne the next year, collaborating with that company to produce an affordable, comfortable, and durable chassis with next-gen (keeping in mind that it was '03, and 29" wheels were still seen as a redheaded stepchild) geometry. Big changes from the Willits were disc brakes, slacker HTA, more upright position, a resurrection of Zoom Brahma bars in a massive ~610mm width, and, for the first and last time, cranks that rotated on an ISIS bottom bracket. This bike was good -- especially given the price. But it didn't really improve on the Willits. That, and on my '03 ITT of the entire GDMBR, I found cracks in the seatstay bridge before I'd made it 1000 miles into the route. Catastrophic failure seemed unlikely so I just kept going, but then my seatpost rack failed coming into Steamboat, and my achilles tendons and psyche cratered not long after. I'd been pushing everything a bit too hard, and paid the price with a DNF at ~halfway.





    Cockpit view of the Airborne during that '03 ITT. Zoom Brahma's wrapped with 3 layers of cork tape were comfy, but still not quite enough padding. Also note the 90* off orientation of my cue sheets. I think I was already unraveling if I couldn't be bothered to stick 'em in there straight.





    Airborne the company cratered in '03, leaving lots of dealers high and dry. I liked that chassis but with no support behind it I moved on -- to Moots. Kent Eriksen was still there and was interested in working with me to build a ne plus ultra bike for my return to the GDR. Pictured below with YBB suspension, Zipp 404's, a not-nearly-big-enough frame bag, a custom rear rack, and my Kenda Klaw training tires. I remember being super excited about these tires when they came out -- thought they were way too big (they were 1.9"...) but loved having that confidence when riding local trails.





    By now I'd learned that I didn't have the motor to go mano a mano with the fast guys, thus I needed to outthink 'em to have a chance. To that end I had no choice but to shave every last gram from my kit, not waste any time in transitions, and cut sleep. Among the many ways I shaved weight was to use a car sunshade sleep pad (~5oz, warm, not comfy enough to oversleep...) -- note below how I trimmed it to keep my calves from brushing it on every pedal stroke. The lower parts of the rack's forward stays were originally round tubing, but my calves made contact with those, too, so Brad Bingham @ Moots cut the tubing and fabricated the plate variation -- literally while I waited.





    I always opted for a rear rack for the GDR and other bikepack races -- even if we didn't call 'em that yet. Proponents of the uber-sized seatbags tout their lower system weight and lower likelihood of failure. And they're right on both. What they don't factor in is the time spent stuffing/unstuffing them. I liked the rack/bag system because it was so easy to get everything in/out, easy to keep things organized, easy to strap stuff to the top of it (like a rain shell, when I was overheating but could already see the next storm bearing down on me) for quick access or to dry it out.





    This setup was incredible. Were I to head back to race the GDR today (Ha! Not in a million years...) I'd use something very, very similar. I'll give detail on that below. I kept a tube and spare parts (chain links, spare cable, spare cleats/bolts) in a small pack in the seat tube bottle cage. Always had Gatorade or similar in the downtube bottle. The bottle under the downtube had a simple charcoal filter in it -- which I used every few days to purify stream water on long stretches between towns. Inside that tiny frame bag I always had what you see pictured below: A Crank Brothers multi-tool, a pile of jerky, a pile of Twizzlers (usually Pull and Peel...), a few Salted Nut Rolls, and sometimes I'd even cram in some gummy something or other. Pure nutritional bliss...





    Part of my disdain for the GDMBR stems from how much time you spend not just on pavement but in the aerobars. It is emphatically a quality touring route but calling it mountain biking just doesn't fly with me. The shot below was maybe 6 miles from the finish of the '04 race. You can see Pete Basinger just coming into the picture behind me. Stories about Pete and the GDR are coming, including the situation pictured below -- trust me...





    I rode fairly fast in that '04 race but I had so many mishaps -- like melting my sodden gloves when trying to dry them over a campfire, or breaking a pedal spindle and having to ride 30 miles on just one, then having to detour off route and then wait overnight to buy a replacement, or killing two cyclometers just in Montana, plus having a spate of flat tires on that same day, or having my bottom bracket unthread itself, then having to backtrack *downhill* 15 miles to the nearest town, so that I could buy a monkey wrench and some superglue to mickeymouse it back in place, only to turn around and re-climb that 15 miles in a monsoonal downpour -- that I could only look back and think "what if?" As in, what if I took all that I'd learned, all the fitness I possessed, and somehow strung together a mistake-free ride? I figured I could knock at least 36 hours off, and maybe over 40. With more favorable weather I thought I could knock more than 2 days off, but then I started to see the flaws -- or misplaced optimism -- in that sort of thinking. How can you ever plan for ~2 weeks of ideal weather in the mountains? You might just get it, but you certainly can't schedule it.


    It was that line of thinking that had me asking Moots to better my current steed. I even succumbed to the trend of using drop bars for a bit -- as pictured below -- but no amount of padding or positional tweaks could keep me comfortable on them for long. Too much nerve damage had already been done in training for and racing the GDR in '03 and '04. Ultimately I came to just accept that I'd done the best I could with what I had, and pretty much let go of the idea of going back. Zero regrets there. This bike is currently on long-term loan to my friend Brian. Keep it clean, B...





    I build wheels full-time, and get asked about once a week to suggest not just a wheelset but a whole bike build for some aspiring GDMBR racer. Not everyone has the same goal of just scorching the course, thus not every suggestion adheres to a wrote formula. For those that want the end-all-be-all no-compromise get-me-there-as-fast-as-you-can-with-nothing-left-in-the-tank setup, I tell them to put together a frame that fits them perfectly, preferably made from titanium or light gauge steel. Fit is everything when overusing your body in this way -- any tiny blip in the fit and you have an overuse injury. You're courting overuse even with a *perfect* fit.


    To that frame I'd add a Bodyfloat post, a Lauf fork, 29 x 2.2 (or so) low-tread tubeless-ready tires, quality carbon rims laced to DT 240s hubs, and a cockpit that fits you and spreads out the weight on your contact points. Some swear by drop bars but they didn't work -- at all -- for me. Aerobars for sure.


    Some these days swear by dynamo hubs to power their lights and GPS and smartphone and other non-essential devices. I believe in all of that technology but I'm not sure I'd want or need it for a stripped-down race on the divide.


    I'd use a 1x drivetrain for sure -- ditching the front derailleur would be a no-brainer. Precise gearing would have to be figured out by riding the thousands of miles you need in the bank to arrive at the start line ready.


    Plus tires? Comfy as all get out but slower than regular 29". I wouldn't go bigger than 2.2", and would insist on no smaller than 1.9". That air volume matters.


    Ful suspension? Well, I kind of already suggested that with the Lauf and Bodyfloat. Think critically about how those two units work and you might come to understand that the high-frequency/low-amplitude bumps (read: washboard and small chatter) that you'd most want to filter out aren't really removed that well by modern bicycle suspension. Thus, rather than take a complicated bike that weighs more than it has to and doesn't function as well as it should, I'd opt for the ti hardtail with the non-traditional suspension.


    And yeah, I'd probably still take a rear rack. But maybe not. I'd carry all of my water in an easy-access dromedary in my frame pack, with a hose routed up to the bars. I'd keep all of my tube/tools/pump/spares in there too. I'd keep my sleep kit behind the saddle. Since it'd only be needed once a day, and stashed the rest of the time, maybe one of Eric's smaller seat bags would work. I'd have food close at hand in twin top tube bags -- one against the head tube and one tucked up to the seat tube. Rain gear would be easy access in an under-bar bag. I wouldn't wear a pack. I would emphatically not have bags on my fork legs: In addition to being the opposite of aerodynamic, they represent added mass that you just don't need to go fast.


    I'd skip the filter and carry a bit of Aquamira. I'd eat more fat and less sugar. I'd still minimize sleep to 4 hours or less, and I'd still be uncomfortably sprawled on a foil sunshade when doing it.


    So there you have it -- my slightly out-of-touch but utterly authentic and rooted in experience take on what works best for divide racing.


    Don't hesitate with questions.

  21. #21
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Feb 2012
    Posts
    290
    Phenomenal read, mikesee.

    I have a Lauf on my Cutthroat and a BodyFloat on my ElMariachi- I think they are great products.

    Thanks for spending the time to put this together!!!
    2018 Specialized Diverge Expert
    2018 Giant Anthem Pro 29 1

  22. #22
    mtbr member
    Reputation: DeadGrandpa's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2016
    Posts
    239
    Wow. You really have set the standard for ultra light bikepacking. More than that, you tell an awesome tale about your experience, with just the right amount of gear talk. More, please.

  23. #23
    swim-bike-run-bike-bike
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    Oct 2009
    Posts
    200
    Best thread "ever" Award - Subscribed!
    [I]Red Dirt Sky[/I]

  24. #24
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    May 2017
    Posts
    9
    Thanks very much for this read, I dream of riding the GD, one day! I really liked all your shared knowledge. Makes me miss my YBB from 2003 years.

    If you where not racing it, say more of a tour would you ride a 29 plus?

  25. #25
    This place needs an enema
    Reputation: mikesee's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Posts
    13,014
    Quote Originally Posted by Ogdenman View Post
    Thanks very much for this read, I dream of riding the GD, one day! I really liked all your shared knowledge. Makes me miss my YBB from 2003 years.

    If you where not racing it, say more of a tour would you ride a 29 plus?

    If you're taking touring, any bike or tire would work. Run whatever you already own and like.

  26. #26
    It's carbon dontcha know.
    Reputation: 6thElement's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Posts
    4,208
    A great read and brings back some good and not so good memories from 2011 and my time spent racing from Banff.

    Funnily enough I just mounted my final spare Nano that was from that era a few weeks ago to my wifes Ti HT. Your points on fit are key for riding that many miles, my right achilles still aches occasionally from that period.
    Rolling on 29", 650b, 8.3" and 23mm

  27. #27
    This place needs an enema
    Reputation: mikesee's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Posts
    13,014

    Ground beef.

    I'd left Steamboat at sunset. Narrowly avoided rolling right up into the business end of a skunk while still on pavement. Swerved left while she dodged right, and the encounter was over before my heart rate had peaked. Note to self: saving batteries by running lights on low may not always pay dividends. I rolled into the deepening gloam sensing impending rain, hoping it would stay beyond that western ridge. A bit later I forded a small creek, taking great care to link stepping stones to keep feet dry. Red skies at night, sailors delight? Wet shoes at dusk, campers disgust. Resumed riding, noting the glint of frost in grassy meadows, the steam from sensed but not seen rivulets. Relaxed briefly knowing it was more likely to snow than rain. Stiffened back up when considering what would happen to the surface conditions if it were to snow then rain.



    Deep into the evening I arrived at a creek of indeterminate depth. Dropped the bike and walked, poked, prodded to find a way across. None obvious without foot submersion. Paused to appreciate currently dry toes, socks, shoes. Paused longer to consider how they'd look and feel in the wee hours -- once wetted -- as small flakes began to twirl through my headlamp beam. Decided to bivy until daylight.



    Woke in the early gloam, shivering not from uncertainty, anxiety or fear, but from straight up brute cold. Not too cold to have prepared for, but colder than I did prepare for. Travel light, freeze at night. Moments later I splash across that stream -- the one that halted progress. Water warmer than air, shin deep, welcoming. Back to riding, the cold breeze created by said motion chills my feet, literally freezes my shoes. Noting the mini icicles hanging off my Lakes I have the presence of mind to wrench feet loose of pedals before stopping, forestalling an awkward fall, an injury.

    Cues show a climb looming. Legs protest but the rest of me welcomes the exertion: Work equals heat. Rhythm is sought but not found. Saddle sores complain so I shift and squirm to find a position that appeases them. Good. Now hands complain. All will get their chance today - take a number, wait your turn. Dieseling along up the grade a noise approaches. Fluid by any measure compared to my labored breath and arrhythmic jerking. A ranch truck, going my way, barely moving faster than I when the road would allow so much more. Being respectful, maybe. Not wanting to disturb the delicate compromise between painful feet, ass, and hands, I fail to lift a hand to wave as it passes, but exaggerate a nod of the head. No response from within the truck. So loud is the exhaust I can no longer hear my own ragged exhalations.



    Then a new noise - something like sandpaper, perhaps 10 grit. A rope off the bumper of the truck is looped over the neck of a cow, one that appears intact if not healthy, aside from the fact that it seems to be melting into the road as it is dragged along. 1/3 of it has already been consumed by this process. So even is the erosion that the upper 2/3 of the carcass could pass for a live ruminant were you to prop it in a field with the correct aspect turned to. Behind the cow the road is painted green: the color of alpine grasses recently consumed but as yet undigested. The smell that follows is not of grasses, not of beef, not of exhaust. It is unearthly, sickening. Not rot precisely but a cousin perhaps. Between dry heaves, still metronomically ticking over 98rpm, I think my thanks for not yet having eaten this morning, knowing the contents of my gut would quickly join that of the cow's on the now slick road.



    Minutes pass as the truck slowly opens a gap. Never before have I wished that a driver were less respectful, if indeed that is whatís happening. Perhaps it isnít. Perhaps he has no destination in mind, intends to drive until only a sodden end of rope remains, then to get on to his chores before the morning is too far advanced. I glance at my cues and note that my next turn is a mere half mile away. Anyone can do anything for 7 more minutes, even if they donít want to.



    With the otherworldly scent still thick in my nose I begin descending toward the Colorado. Miles of descent, steep and slick with melting frost turning the surface ice-like. Frozen hands, frozen feet ó what I would give to switch the warm blood from my nose to either of those. Bottomed out in fog, soaked head to toe, I quickly cross the bridge and begin climbing out. Knees complain, ankles throb, neck is unwilling to suspend its ponderous load. Another glance at the cues: Something like 56 miles, mostly uphill, to the next burg with promise of a burger, a shake, new hope.

  28. #28
    mtbr member
    Reputation:
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Posts
    404
    Mike, thank you for another chapter! I enjoy your stories, literary style, and the photography you post both here and on your blog. I look forward to the next installment!

  29. #29
    mtbr member
    Reputation: dRjOn's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Posts
    2,541
    blimey! glad I read this pre breakfast! I have to wonder why drag the cow....ugh!

Similar Threads

  1. Tour Divide (The Great Divide Race) 2015
    By Erik_A in forum General Discussion
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 06-26-2015, 02:05 PM
  2. The *Positive* Stories About a LBS Thread
    By Straz85 in forum General Discussion
    Replies: 18
    Last Post: 01-13-2011, 02:00 PM
  3. Rain - photos and stories
    By fc in forum California - Socal
    Replies: 44
    Last Post: 01-10-2011, 10:30 PM
  4. What's your at home watering hole?pics..stories
    By Dwreck in forum Beer Forum
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 01-05-2011, 01:25 PM
  5. Best Frozen parts (bike) stories
    By urmb in forum Fat bikes
    Replies: 8
    Last Post: 12-30-2010, 10:34 PM

Members who have read this thread: 72

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  

THE SITE

ABOUT MTBR

VISIT US AT

© Copyright 2019 VerticalScope Inc. All rights reserved.