After fully two decades of almost exclusively riding recumbent bikes and trikes, we've sold off all of our three wheelers--tandem Greenspeed and two single Catrikes. We've decided to attempt the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, over 2,500 miles from Canada to Mexico. Because we are among the filthy unvaccinated to Covid, it looks like starting in Canada will not be an option, which is a shame as the stretch from Banff to Montana looked exceptional. But we've spent a lot of time in the Rockies and pedaled from Jasper to Mexico back in 2012, so it's not like we haven't experienced that country generally. Some of our fondest memories come from climbing those majestic peaks. Even so, starting at the US border will provide more than enough challenge. Also, since we've pedaled the stretch of desert from Silver City, New Mexico, to the border before, we've decided to end our tour in Silver City. The last section is not especially interesting, and Silver City is a fantastic place to finish--camping in town, restaurants, easy access to rental vehicles for the long drive home. But there are many realities between now and then. The struggle is real, and it has only just begun.
Originally, I'd imagined a few years ago that we would attempt this on our trikes, as the route has been done--once--on a trike by the touring powerhouse, Heidi Domeisen (Eat, Sleep, and Ride the Divide). But a crazy cattle dog and years passed and, well, I kind of scrapped the idea. Then a friend sent us a link to Ryan Van Duzer's GDMBR film in which he meets Canadian John Freeman and his dog, Mira. It looked all too good. Shouldn't we at least try--really try--to train our new hound, Patchy, in the ways of touring? He's a bit nuts, no doubt, but he's smart. Let's just try. We have nothing to lose.
Once we decided to ride The Divide, the idea of trikes went out the window. Hauling a dog is no easy chore, and pavement makes the job a lot easier. But hauling a dog on dirt with a trike? I don't think so. While I have a deep and abiding love of all things 'bent, conventional bikes do provide greater hauling power. It's just easier to get some weight on the pedals and crank. Add to that the complexities of loose surfaces and sometimes narrow tracks, and recumbent trikes weren't going to cut it. So mountain bikes it would be. Below is the Surly "Krampus" that I finally procured in a landscape wiped clean of almost all inventory. During this pandemic, the American public suddenly discovered cycling, one of the few industries to see a boom rather than bust. Bike shoppes were formerly the domain of high level risk takers: How do you lose a lot of money? Open a bike shop. These days, however, you'll have to drive off customers with a stick--even if you are scrambling for inventory.
Jo's Karate Monkey with her custom frame bag:
Getting my bike was accelerated by finding a small-framed Surly "Karate Monkey" in great shape at our local bike shop. After much research, Jodi decided that this brand/model would be the most likely to fit her. And there just happened to be one at our tiny local shop. She rode it, we bought it. My search was on. I scoured the internet and finally found the Krampus in the heart of the upper Midwest. The KM sports 27.5 x 3" tires, while the Krampus is a 29'er plus. We wanted fat rubber for float and partial suspension. Right now we're hoping to avoid full suspension forks to save on weight, complexity and cost. The trailer in the photo is the Burley Coho XC, the only American single-wheel suspended trailer that could do the job. I wanted a BOB Ibex, but that company completely stopped manufacturing their bike trailers altogether. The legendary BOB was no more! Rip BOB.
We do own a regular BOB Yak trailer from our previous, mostly paved Great Divide route in 2012, and that became the initial training tool for Patchy. First thing: Get him used to the trailer. We parked it in the living room and started giving him treats and feeding him in the trailer.
This worked wonders, and soon we were towing him on easy terrain. Here's some video of a recent run with the Coho. He's been handling some fairly fast (20 mph) descents with elan. He only complains when Jodi gets ahead, like he needs to catch up or something. He IS a mama's boy after all.
Right now I have two main concerns and challenges: One, training Patchy to trot alongside while leashed because he too often runs to exhaustion. We will have to regulate his output for long climbs. Two, getting my body, especially my butt, hands/shoulders adapted to conventional bikes. Suddenly, we're dealing with pressure points that were essentially non-issues with recumbents. Jodi has landed on a good setup, but I've been struggle a bit with saddles, creams, bar/grip combos. It's, well, a pain in the ass, give or take. I know much of the deal is just putting in miles and toughening up, but fit and kit matter a lot, too, so I'm determined to make it work. I'll post a lot more about gear later. It's an all-consuming enterprise with such an expedition. Fortunately, we have a whole year to train, experiment, and get it right.