Thursday, July 26, 2007

Our Plan

We (Jim Y and Amy L) will begin our ride on August 5 in Banff. Our friend Rickson will join us for the first two weeks, after that we will be on our own. We are planning to take about 10 weeks to complete the journey from Banff to Antelope Wells. That's an average 40 miles and 3000' gain per day. A racing pace on this route is 100 miles per day. The record pace is 160+ miles per day - YIKES. We are not trying to go fast. Our goal is to stay healthy, enjoy the riding, see parts of the country we haven't seen, and hopefully make it to Antelope Wells.

In many ways, this will be a new experience for us. We have taken many 4-5 week hikes or overseas birding trips together, but 10 weeks will be a new experience. We both have decades of back-country hiking experience, and we spend many nights per year in the tent, so that aspect of the trip will not be new. I (Amy) have taken four self-supported bike trips, but all when I was a teen-ager several decades ago. Up until a couple months ago, neither of us had done any mountain biking.

We will stop at occasional libraries to check email and post updates to the blog. Stay tuned.

Gear Notes

Bikes. All frame and component decisions are optimized for durability and field-serviceability. Each bike weighs ~32 pounds.
Frames: Steel hard-tails by Sycip brothers in Santa Rosa
Forks: Magura Odur coil spring fork
Drive Train: Rohloff internally geared hubs on Paragon slider drop-outs
Brakes: Avid BB7 mechanical disc brakes
Rims: Mavic XM 719
Tires: Schwalbe Marathon XR
Pedals: platform pedals with Power Grips
Saddles: Amy - Brooks B17S, Jim - Avocet 02 Air 40

Gear. (32 pounds total, 16 each) We are fairly lightweight backpackers (base pack weight of ~10 pounds each), and we tried to apply those techniques to this bike trip. Our base load (not including food, water, the layer of shoes and clothing we will always wear while riding, or the racks and bags used to carry the load) will be about 32 pounds total (16 pounds each). This is significantly higher than our backpacking base load - partly because this is a new kind of trip and we are making some conservative decisions about what to bring. (Great info about lightweight gear can be found at Here's a summary of our load:
10 pounds of tent, pads, sleeping bag
2 pounds of paperwork (maps, instruction sheets, bird book)
12 pounds of clothing (not including the layer we always wear - shorts, shirt, helmet, gloves)
5 pounds of misc ditties (first aid kit, tool kit and spares, toiletries, sunglasses, etc)
3 pounds of binoculars and iPods

Racks and Sacks and Water Bags (14 pounds total, ouch).
Tubus Cargo racks
Ortlieb BackRoller Plus panniers
Ortlieb handlebar bag for Jim
Frame Pack for Amy (beautiful bag from
Black Diamond BBee & Magnum day packs, with 6 litre MSR DromLite hosers

TOTAL WEIGHT (divided between two people):
64 pounds of bikes
32 pounds of gear
14 pounds of racks and bags and bottles to carry that gear
6 pounds of base layer we always wear
270 pounds of flesh

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Intro to Great Divide Route (aka GDR)

Great Divide Route (GDR). This is a fully mapped 90% dirt road bicycle route from Banff, Alberta to the New Mexico / Mexico border at Antelope Wells. It passes through Alberta, MT, ID, WY, CO, and NM. The route was mapped for cyclists by Adventure Cycling about 8 years ago. 2700 miles, ~200,000 feet of elevation gain.

GDR vs Continental Divide Trail. The GDR is not the same as the CDT. The GDR is designed as a cycling route, it is 90% dirt road and 10% paved road. The CDT is a hiking path. Both paths are designed to stay as close to the continental divide as possible.

Life on the road. Most of the trip has access to groceries and/or cafes every day or two. There are a few stretches >100 miles with no access to food. There is also a 100+ mile stretch with no access to water. We will stay in USFS campgrounds, "rough" camping (i.e. just pitch a tent in a nice spot), and motels.

A few good links:
1) Adventure Cycling created the maps:
2) A data-rich trip report from a couple who rode the GDR a couple years ago, including good photos and detailed map data. They rode south to north, so look at their gallery backwards to see what Jim and I will see:
3) Here's another blog with a lot of good data and links. In particular, there's a link to a google-map version of the route.
4) For those of you with a competitive/racing instinct, the GDR race is the non-hyped alternative to the Tour de France. The 2007 GDR race is already over, so we won't see them.
5) A terrific video Jim and I just watched about life on the road. If you have a hankering to go out and walk or bike, take a look at this video. This is what our trip would be like if either of us had the extrovert gene: