Grand Tour of the Great Divide and a grand bike for it…

This blog was originally published on in 2015. I have reproduced it for my site as an example of some of the adventure sports writing I have done.


Fancy taking a month off to ride one of the greatest mountain bike routes in the world? Need a bike for the job? This blog will look at the challenge and at a machine that’s just been developed specially for it…

The Grand Tour of the Great Divide

This is a 2745 mile cross country mountain biking route from Banff, Alberta in Canada to Antelope Wells in on the border between New Mexico and Mexico. In order to get on the leader board you must do the route within 1.5 times of the course record – in other words, just over 25 days for men and 29 days for women. In short, a bloke needs to do over 100 linear miles a day in the saddle, while a woman would do well to do the same.

You will climb over 200,000 feet during this ride, and don’t expect lovely paved roads as you do it – expect gravel, mud and slog. Even so you will see the Great Continental Divide that splits the US and Canada in two, in all its glory.

Navigation is one of the important parts of this – you won’t be in a peloton with 100 other riders, and again unlike the Tour de France it must be entirely self supported. Since on many days you won’t even see a town, you’ll need to carry enough water and food for the days of solitude. Where the riders of the Tour de France have special chefs and specialist maintenance teams, you will only be allowed to refuel and repair your bike using outlets that all other riders have access to. The same applies to accommodation – yes, you’re allowed to sleep in a hotel but not (as with Team Sky) on a bed designed for you and imported into a team house…

Over such a ride, expect to meet nature face to face. This is mountain lion and grizzly bear country and as you enter the southern US, you may see the odd rattlesnake too. This is a chance to see and feel the America of ancient legend in a way that the settlers saw it in all its glory and hardship.

Why isn’t there a media frenzy over it? One of the mountain biking Race Rules forbids spectators unless they’re resident of one of the towns on the route. Don’t expect a 6 figure sponsorship package or to be modelling clothes as so many road tour riders seem to do these days… This is about you, the bike and the road – there isn’t even a prize for coming first!

Looking at the website describing the challenge, honestly I’m ready to pack my partner and child off to her mother and get preparing for the mother of all midlife crisis adventures…

The Cutthroat bike

The GTGD ride has been running for the last seven years. Mountain bike technology has had a couple of major leaps forward in that time, including the advent of the disc brake and the 29 inch wheeled mountain bike (the ‘29er’).

The Cutthroat is one of the first in a series of ‘adventure mountain bikes’ that is coming onto the market. This is a carbon fibre framed 29er with drop handlebars and a number of refinements for comfort, reliability, refinement and efficiency.

Your ideal mountain bike should be light to get it up those hills, be comfortable enough you’re not walking like John Wayne after a decent ride, and be reliable enough that on the GTGD you’re not having to carry it 50 miles to the nearest bike shop. It needs to be efficient too – getting you up those hills and shaving seconds off the ride every hour could translate to hours and even days shaved off the adventure…

The drop handlebars give you more positions to be comfortable. Loaded up with the gear for this epic, you will need to adjust to a variety of positions to help with the pain of pushing so hard for so long. On this machine there’s a vibration reduction system known as the Class 5 VRS, that smoothes those gravel tracks out.

Finally, the front triangle is as large as possible. This is to give space for the in frame bag you will use for the adventure – more space inside means more volume for what you need.

Ready for the mountain bike trip of a lifetime?

The top spec bike sells in the US for USD $4,000, on which you’d need to pay import duties to bring into the UK – unless of course you bought it in the US, rode the route, and took it back used and abused so no duty would apply…

Honestly? Given the wherewithal and ability just to disappear for a month or two, I’d be tempted. Very tempted…

If this writing appeals to you drop Richard a line via his contact form. He is happy to discuss fees and arrangements to work with you 🙂

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