Monday, June 4, 2018

A Triker's Quest for the Great Divide

This is my first post in a series about experimentation and testing in hopes of riding the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (GDMBR) on Catrikes--with our new dog, Patch.  Below is a rough map of the route.  Since back in 2012 we pedaled with trikes from Jasper, Alberta, to the Mexico border, we'll probably start from the US border and likely end the tour in Silver City, New Mexico.  The ride from there to the border is not interesting, and there's an added expense of getting picked up and carted back to Silver City for the U Haul drive home.

The mighty Heidi Domeisen led the way over a dozen years ago and showed us all that it could be done on a trike: Eat, Sleep, and Ride the Divide.  That first step, the first attempt and success are huge.  We know it can be done.  Of course, our plan would be to increase the difficulty.  A long trip without our new dog would never happen, so I need to do  A LOT of experimenting and practice to see what's possible.  Can we pull this off?  I'd be responsible for pulling the trailer.  Over 2,000 miles of dirt and gravel, up and over the Divide multiple times?  Here's the mutt who will add to our challenge:

He's just over a year old and crazy as a loon, just nutz about running and chasing EVERYTHING.  He's got huge energy, so the main problem with Patchy will be holding him back.  The mileage will be no problem for him.  Of course, we'll have to carry food and water to keep him fit and happy, and I'll have to haul him at times--30 lbs. more.  But that will be on flats and downhills.  More stuff to haul.

In 2012, our route was going to be all paved, but we ended up crossing a couple of passes on dirt/gravel roads, one of which is actually on the GDMBR.  These were pretty good surfaces, and we very much enjoyed the experience--quiet, remote, virtually no traffic.

Here's a photo from Montana on the stretch that carried us from Bozeman to the Yellowstone River.  The hound was our beloved Django.  We lost him Feb. 2017.  Oh, did we love that dog:

Would it be possible to do the whole thing with trikes and a pup?  I've already started working on trike modifications to make dirt travel more reasonable.  Here's a pic of the Catrike Expedition with phat tires--2.25" on front, a 1.95" knobby on the rear:

When I add some weight to the rear wheel and keep the PSI on the low side, I can climb and roll with pleasant results.  I've found that--of course--sand is brutal.  Around our new home in Bishop, CA, many of the tracks have lots of granite sand, which makes progress almost impossible without balloon tires.  Here's a typical example:

Progress on this kind of surface can be brutal.  Fortunately, there doesn't seem to be much sand on the GDMBR.  The big risk will be mud on the route through New Mexico, and that can make progress almost impossible for everyone.  Trikes absolutely wouldn't make it, but there are paved workarounds.

Today, I drove to the east side of the valley where I knew there would be some roads without the sand.  I put 20 lbs. of weights in the panniers and set of to see what was what:

I was pleasantly surprised by how comfortable the riding was.  I tried one up hill that was too loose and steep, and it shut me down completely.  Pushing the trike was not appealing, and that is something I need to work on.  On the GDMBR we will no doubt face such moments.  How do I push/pull a loaded trike AND a trailer?  If the sections are short, I could de-couple the rig and handle each one separately.  On longer stretches?  My heart withers at the prospect.  I'm thinking that if we get on this tour, it will be the most difficult adventure of my life, not least because I'll be 57, and my wife, Jodi, will be 66.  It will be a true "sufferfest"--credit to the great Cedar Wright and Alex Honnold.

Patchy found a doggie heaven on the ride--jack rabbits everywhere!  He really worried me because of how hard he was running, sprinting like mad time and again.  We were out for less than an hour, which was plenty.  Get a load of this water break:

So Patchy and I dipped our toes into the dirty, dusty world of off-pavement trike touring today.  He needs to be trained to trot alongside while tethered.  There's no way he can go off leash except in limited doses and in the right locales.  He has little concept of pacing, and we think he's one of those dogs who would run himself to death.  Not on our watch.  Stay tuned for more training runs, gear modifications, and other updates!

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