Notes from the field with Recover Ambassador, Samuel Martin.
My introduction to bikepacking came after I thru hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in 2018. After completing the trail, I picked up mountain biking and quickly saw the potential for combining this new hobby with my love for backcountry camping. It wasn’t long after when I learned about the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route and decided to once again cross the country under human power.
Stretching from Banff, Canada, to the US / Mexican border in New Mexico, the Great Divide route travels 2,700 miles along gravel roads and single track trail along the Continental Divide.
You experience a diverse set of geographical features along this route from alpine elevations of 11,913’, wide-open grasslands, and remote desert in New Mexico.
I got to work planning my ride. I researched the best bike for the terrain I would experience, gear and tools specific to bikepacking, and began studying the maps of the route.
Pointing my wheels south from the Canadian/Montana border I set off on what would be an epic adventure. The northern most states on the route, Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming are an incredible start to this journey. You pass through deep lush forests with winding rivers, wide open grassland valleys, and remote mountain passes.
As the route enters Colorado the landscape shifts from rolling hills to dramatic mountains and alpine forests. You begin crossing multiple passes above 10,000’ and learn to respect the afternoon thunderstorms as they develop and roll over you. My legs felt great throughout this section and with the colder weather my Recover Sport Sun Hoodie was invaluable to help keep me comfortable on the long climbs and descents.
Crossing into New Mexico it was as if the light switched and suddenly the heat was turned to 11. The surface of the gravel roads became harder, the water became more scarce, and the sun beat down with impunity. Fortunately, I met many other riders in this state and was able to experience the wonders of the Gila National Forest with company. The final push to the border is a wildly exposed desert with nothing but dirt devils and headwinds to keep you company.
The Great Divide is a challenging route, you’ll face dangerous weather, long remote water carries, and the possibility of mechanical issues far away from any bike mechanic. The reward, however, is riding your bike and experiencing some of our countries best landscapes and communities that are far off the beaten path.
My path to bikepacking isn’t unique - many people who enjoy the wonders of backpacking and hiking are well prepared to begin bikepacking. All you need to start is a bike, your camping gear, and a willingness to try something new.