A cross-country bike tour is no easy feat, but for the new breed of self-supported bikepacking racers, they’re starting to make it look that way.
On June 22, Lael Wilcox became the first American and first woman to win the TransAm bike race from Oregon to Virginia, while on June 24 Briton Mike Hall completed the Tour Divide route from Banff, Alberta, to the U.S.-Mexico border. In both events the riders must carry everything they need for the entire trip, and receive no outside assistance. Riding 200 miles a day is commonplace and a good night’s sleep is not.
Photo by Nicholas Carman
Now in its third year, the TransAm has already become one of the world’s top endurance races, stretching 4,400 miles across the TransAmerica trail from Astoria, Oregon, to Yorktown, Virginia. After smashing the women’s record at the Tour Divide in 2015, Wilcox was the first to Yorktown this week with a finishing time of 18 days and 10 minutes, the second faster time ever. Unbelievably it came down to an almost sprint finish with Wilcox edging out second place finisher Steffen Streich of Greece by just 2 hours.
You can read our interview with Wilcox about how she has zero fear of riding alone in the current issue of Bicycle Times.
Photo courtesy of Pivot Cycles
Former TransAm winner Mike Hall instead returned to the Rocky Mountains this year to settle some unfinished business. Despite taking the overall win at the 2014 Tour Divide race, he was forced to detour around forest fires and his then-record time was deemed unofficial. Two years later he smashed the 2,700 mile course again for an official finish time of 13 days, 22 hours and 51 minutes, a staggering 12 hours faster than the previous record. In addition to wins at the Tour Divide and TransAm, Hall has won the World Cycle Race and is one of the principal organizers behind the Transcontinental from London to Istanbul.
Congrats to all the finishers of both these epic events.Tweet Print
Hannah Maia is a filmmaker and adventurer, no naturally when she and her partner Patrick embarked on a very special adventure together—marriage and a honeymoon—she captured all the fun and adventure. Now she has chronicled the journey along the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route in a short film called Megamoon.
You can see the complete film when it debuts on Thursday, July 9, as well as more photos, diaries and videos from the journey at Hannah’s website, Maia Media.
The Tour Divide may have the highest profile to participant ratio of any cycling event in the world. This year about 100 riders started the 2,745 mile long self-supported race down the Great Divide bicycle route. Considering how few riders that is compared to the bicycle market in general, makes it all the more amazing that Salsa greenlighted a project like this new carbon Cutthroat.
While the idea of a bike designed for bikepacking is far from new, Salsa is entering new territory with a carbon-frame, dropbar, suspension-corrected race bike. While at first glance it looks like a carbon version of the well-loved Salsa Fargo, it shares much of the design and technology of the recently released Warbird gravel racing bike.
The Class 5 VRS™ (Vibration Reduction System) provides some measure of suspension with engineered flex built into the bridgeless seat and chainstays. The rear triangle is tied together with a thru-axle to keep that flex going the right direction. Unlike many seatstays that are flattened in a horizontal plane, the Cutthroat’s (and the Warbird’s) are flattened vertically. Salsa’s engineers discovered that when the rear triangle absorbs impacts, they flex outwards rather than vertically, and this bow shape enhances this motion.
The front triangle is designed with a framepack in mind, and includes mounts for a strapless Salsa-branded top tube bag that is still in development. The main tubes are flattened to increase frame bag volume, and have up to four bottle cage mounts, depending on size. The fork, which is also carbon, gets a Three-Pack mount on each leg, as well as a 15×100 mm thru-axle.
Salsa sponsored rider Jay Petervary is racing the Cutthroat in the 2015 Tour Divide. “With the nature of Tour Divide one needs equipment that is reliable, practical and useful while paying attention to bulk and weight. In the case of the bike itself, it needs to be comfortable in terms of ride quality and body position, but also needs to be very responsive in energy return. It needs to be stable for carrying a load and high speed descents. The Cutthroat to me has the important traits a Tour Divide race bike should have,” he says. “In my opinion it’s the best tool for the job.”
As for that name: “The Cutthroat trout, or a variation of Cutthroat trout, is the state fish for all the U.S. states that the Tour Divide (or Great Divide Mountain Bike Route) passes through,” says Salsa marketing manager Mike ‘Kid’ Riemer. “It was almost too good to be true when we learned that fact and the Cutthroat name became a keeper (pun intended).”
Cutthroat will be available in two complete bike spec’s and one frameset offering, sometime late in 2015.
Cutthroat Carbon Rival 1 Complete Bike – U.S. MSRP $3,999
Cutthroat Carbon X9 Complete Bike – U.S. MSRP $2,999
Cutthroat Carbon Frameset – U.S. MSRP $1,999
Details and specs below:
The stuff. All the things that I’m carrying. When it’s all laid out, it doesn’t look like much for a few weeks of living off the bike. But when I’m pushing it up a mountain road, it feels like a ton.
I’ve never cared about how much my race bike weighed. I’ve always felt that the main difference between a 20 pound mountain bike and a 27 pound mountain bike is about $2,000, and the fact that a heavier bike won’t break when you hit a rock the wrong way.
But this is different. When the dry weight (no food or water) of the whole setup is pushing 50 pounds, I’ve been doing everything I can to save weight. I even bought a kitchen scale to weigh crap. And I’ve been debating the little things: do I need a wool hat if I have a jacket with a hood? Probably not. Saved 150 grams.
Editor’s note: Montana is a former intern at Bicycle Times and longtime friend-of-the-mag, so we were especially proud when he completed the 2,700-mile Tour Divide this summer in his first attempt. Read his epic account of the trip here. You can also follow along with all his adventures on his blog, The Skrumble.Tweet Print
I haven’t been able to sleep. Every night I wake up, thinking that I still have more miles to ride to the border.
“No, Colleen already picked you up, it’s over,” I tell myself. Then the sun comes up and my legs are rubbery.
Tour Divide was monstrously hard. I thought that I understood how difficult it was going to be, but based on my past experience, that just wasn’t possible.
I always thought “Yeah it’s a long ride, but there’s hardly any singletrack. It’s all dirt road. So it’s probably not that bad.”
I was so far off.
Editor’s note: Montana is a former intern at Bicycle Times and longtime friend-of-the-mag, so we were especially proud when he completed the 2,700-mile Tour Divide this summer in his first attempt. No stranger to big rides and crazy adventures, Montana ultimately finished ninth overall on his singlespeed Surly Krampus in 22 days, four hours and 21 minutes. You can follow along with all his adventures on his blog, The Skrumble.Tweet Print
From 1995 to 1997, Adventure Cycling Association mapped the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, the longest off-pavement mountain-bike route in the world spanning 2,774 miles from Canada to Mexico along the spine of the Rocky Mountains. Now, Adventure Cycling and Co-Motion Cycles, in association with Revelate Designs, present highlights from the route and gear suggestions for cyclists wishing to tackle the entire Great Divide, or a short section.
Has the Great Divide Route inspired any of your own adventures, either past or planned?