Great Divide Mountain Bike Route

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The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (GDMBR) is a 3,083.8 mi (4,962.9 km), off-road bicycle touring route between Jasper, Alberta, Canada and Antelope Wells, New Mexico, USA. Completed in 1997, the GDMBR was developed by Adventure Cycling Association, who continue to maintain highly detailed route maps and a guidebook. [1] [2] [3]


Route description

Following the Continental Divide as closely as practicable and crossing it 30 times, about 90% of the GDMBR is on unpaved roads and trails and requires basic off-pavement riding skills to complete. The unpaved portions of the route range from high quality dirt or gravel roads to singletrack mountain bike trails to a few short sections of unmaintained trails which may not be possible to ride at all. The GDMBR has over 200,000 ft (61,000 m) of elevation gain and loss for the rider to contend with. [4] While most of the GDMBR is off the pavement, the route does not require highly technical mountain bike riding skills. The route has been designed to provide a riding experience primarily on very low trafficked roads through mostly undeveloped areas of the Rocky Mountain west.

The GDMBR is routed through a variety of terrain and geographic features. Highlights include the Flathead Valley in British Columbia; Grand Teton National Park and the Great Divide Basin in Wyoming; South Park and Boreas Pass in Colorado; and Polvadera Mesa and the Gila Wilderness in New Mexico. Colorado's Indiana Pass, at 11,913 ft (3,631 m), is the highest point on the route. On route, the rider will encounter isolated river valleys, mountain forests, wide open grasslands, high desert, and, near the end of the ride, a section of the Chihuahuan Desert. The GDMBR passes through some larger towns, including Helena and Butte, Montana; Pinedale and Rawlins, Wyoming; Steamboat Springs, Breckenridge, Salida, and Del Norte, Colorado; and Grants and Silver City, New Mexico. Otherwise, only extremely small towns will be encountered, limiting the variety of goods and services available to riders.

Antelope Wells, New Mexico is the most commonly known starting or finishing point of the Continental Divide trail, but due to its remote location devoid of any lodging or services, Columbus, New Mexico, is an alternate starting or finishing point for those hiking or biking the Continental Divide trail. [5] Located 3 miles from the International Port of Entry at Palomas, Mexico, Columbus is a small border village with such amenities as two modest hotels, a gas station, a handful of small cafes, a post office, bank, mechanics, and groceries.

Riding the GDMBR

Most people ride the route north to south. Southbound riders normally cannot start prior to mid-June nor later than the end of September. Typical times to ride the entire route range from six to ten weeks.

Logistical issues complicate riding the GDMBR. Reliable food and water sources on some portions of the route are over 100 mi (160 km) apart. Unpredictable mountain and desert weather can bring snow, rain, high winds, and temperature extremes at any time of year. It is also not uncommon to encounter large mammals including grizzly and black bears, moose, and occasionally cougars.

Due to the possibility of deep snow in the mountains and monsoon rains in New Mexico, careful attention to weather and climate is required to ensure the rider can complete the route without having to wait out impassable conditions. On portions of the route, rain can turn some sections of dirt roads into quagmires of adhesive mud. The only options for the rider to pass these obstacles are to wait for the roads to dry or to carry their bike.

As much of the route is not signposted, good navigation skills are also necessary. Riders should be self-sufficient and carry camping equipment as commercial lodging is not available for long stretches of the route. [6] It is also helpful to be skilled in bike maintenance and repair.

For all the challenges, properly prepared and equipped riders can expect to have an enjoyable and adventurous experience. In 2009, National Geographic Adventure listed riding the GDMBR as one of its top 100 best American adventures. [7]


The Tour Divide Race is a self-supported, underground race that follows the entirety of the GDMBR. Another race on the GDMBR, the Great Divide Race, used only the U.S. portion of the route and appears to have been defunct since its last race in 2010. [8]

In the Tour Divide, the race clock runs 24 hours a day and the riders are allowed no outside support other than access to public facilities such as stores, motels, and bike shops. The record time to complete the Tour Divide is 13 days, 22 hours, and 51 minutes and was set in 2016 by British endurance racer Mike Hall. [9] The Tour Divide has been raced and completed on both single speed bicycles and tandem bicycles. The race, which has neither entry fees nor prizes, usually starts in the second Friday in June at an event called Grand Départ. [10] The race can also be completed at any time as an individual time trial.

Provinces and States on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route

  1. Alberta
  2. British Columbia
  3. Colorado
  4. Idaho
  5. Montana
  6. New Mexico
  7. Wyoming

See also

Related Research Articles

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Mountain bike Type of bicycle

A mountain bike (MTB) or mountain bicycle is a bicycle designed for off-road cycling. Mountain bikes share some similarities with other bicycles, but incorporate features designed to enhance durability and performance in rough terrain. These typically include a suspension fork, large knobby tires, more durable wheels, more powerful brakes, straight handlebars, lower gear-ratios for climbing steep grades and sometimes rear suspension to really smooth out the trail.

Mountain biking Bicycle sport

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Continental Divide Trail Long-distance scenic trail in the western United States

The Continental Divide National Scenic Trail is a United States National Scenic Trail running 3,100 miles (5,000 km) between Chihuahua and Alberta. It follows the Continental Divide of the Americas along the Rocky Mountains and traverses five U.S. states — Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico. In Montana it crosses Triple Divide Pass The trail is a combination of dedicated trails and small roads and considered 70% complete. Portions designated as uncompleted must be traveled by roadwalking on dirt or paved roads. This trail can be continued north into Alberta and B.C., to Kawkawa Lake, B.C., north of Jasper National Park by the Great Divide Trail.

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Bikecentennial '76 was an event consisting of a series of bicycle tours on the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail across the United States in the summer of 1976 in commemoration of the bicentennial of America's Declaration of Independence. The route crossed ten states, 22 national forests, two national parks, and 112 counties between Astoria, Oregon, and Yorktown, Virginia, a distance of about 4,250 miles (6,840 km). The route was chosen to take cyclists through small towns on mostly rural, low-traffic roads.

Cycling in New Zealand

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Mixed terrain cycle touring, nicknamed "rough riding" in North America and "rough stuff" in Europe, involves cycling over a variety of surfaces and topography on a single route, with a single bicycle. The recent popularity of mixed terrain touring is in part a reaction against the increasing specialization of the bike industry. Focusing on freedom of travel and efficiency over varied surfaces, mixed terrain bicycle travel has a storied past, one closely linked with warfare. By comparison, today’s mixed terrain riders are generally adventure oriented, although many police departments rely on the bicycle’s versatility. In many remote parts of the world with unreliable pavement, the utility bicycle has become a dominant form of mixed terrain transportation. A new style of travel called adventure cycle-touring or expedition touring involves exploring these remote regions of the world on sturdy bicycles designed for the purpose. Off-road adventure cycling with lightweight gear, and often a rackless system, is now known as bikepacking. Bikepacking is not a new phenomenon though, as light weight - soft luggage touring has been in use for well over a century. Early settlers in Australia used bicycles with bags strapped to the handlebars, frame, and under the saddle to carry loads into the Australian outback.

Cycling in Detroit

Detroit is a popular city for cycling. It is flat with an extensive road network with a number of recreational and competitive opportunities and is, according to cycling advocate David Byrne, one of the top eight biking cities in the world. The city has invested in greenways and bike lanes and other bicycle-friendly infrastructure. Bike rental is available from the riverfront and tours of the city's architecture can be booked.

The Tour Divide is an annual mountain biking ride traversing the length of the Rocky Mountains, from Canada to the Mexican border. Following the 2,745-mile (4,418 km) Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, it is an ultra-distance cycling ride that is an extreme test of endurance, self-reliance and mental toughness. The ride format is strictly self-supported, and it is not a stage race - the clock runs continuously from the start until riders cross the finish line, usually more than two weeks later.

Fatbike style of bicycles with oversized tires

A fatbike is an off-road bicycle with oversized tires, typically 3.8 in (97 mm) or larger and rims 2.16 in (55 mm) or wider, designed for low ground pressure to allow riding on soft, unstable terrain, such as snow, sand, bogs and mud. Fatbikes are built around frames with wide forks and stays to accommodate the wide rims required to fit these tires. The wide tires can be used with inflation pressures as low as 340 hPa; 0.34 bar (5 psi) to allow for a smooth ride over rough obstacles. A rating of 550–690 hPa; 0.55–0.69 bar (8–10 psi) is suitable for the majority of riders. Fatbikes were invented for use in snow and sand, but are capable of traversing diverse terrain types including snow, sand, desert, bogs, mud, pavement, or traditional mountain biking trails. The sport is sometimes referred to as fatbiking or fat-tire biking.

Transcontinental Race

The Transcontinental Race (TCR) is an annual, self-supported, ultra-distance cycling race across Europe. It is one of the world's toughest ultra-endurance races. The route and distance varies for each edition between about 3,200 and 4,200 km, with the winners generally taking 7 to 10 days. Interest in the race grew rapidly from 30 people starting the first edition of the race in 2013 to over 1,000 people applying for a place in the fourth edition in 2016, 350 of whom were successful; since then, these numbers have been reasonably stable.

Trans Am Bike Race

The Trans Am Bike Race (TABR) is an annual, self-supported, ultra-distance cycling race across the United States. The route is about 4,200 miles (6,800 km) long and uses the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail that was developed by the Adventure Cycling Association for the Bikecentennial event in 1976. The route runs from the Pacific coast in Astoria, Oregon to the Atlantic coast in Yorktown, Virginia, passing through ten states. The inaugural race was in 2014, which 25 people completed, the fastest of whom took less than 18 days.

The definition of ultra-distance cycling is far more vague than in ultra running or in ultra-triathlon. Any bike race longer than a century ride, which is 100 miles (160 km), is sometimes considered to be ultra-distance cycling. However, such events are relatively common, so using a longer distance to define the category is more useful, such as any race that is longer than 200 kilometres (120 mi), 300 kilometres (190 mi) or even a double century, 200 miles (320 km).

The TransAmerica Bicycle Trail was the first bicycle touring route to cross the U.S. It was developed and mapped by Adventure Cycling Association, and travels between Astoria, Oregon, and Yorktown, Virginia, along mostly rural, two-lane highways.

The Trans America Trail or TAT is a roughly 5,000-mile (8,000 km) cross continent vehicular route, intended to be a way to cross the United States using a minimum of paved roads for leisure, traveled by dual-sport motorcycles, off-road vehicle, or touring bicycle.

Lael Wilcox is an ultra-endurance bicycle racer who won the Trans Am Bike Race in 2016, and set Tour Divide's women's course record on an individual time trial (ITT) in 2015. She was the first American to win the Trans Am. She also set the overall course record with her time on the Baja Divide route.


  1. "Tour Divide: Do you really want to race the GDMBR?". New Eon Media . Retrieved 2012-11-21.
  2. Stedman, Ted Alan (2002-04-30). "Colorado's Fab Four: Great Divide Mountain Bike Route". Archived from the original on 2016-10-13. Retrieved 2012-11-21.
  3. "Great Divide Route Summary". Adventure Cycling Association . Retrieved 11 April 2012.
  4. "Bike the Great Divide Route". National Geographic. Retrieved 2016-03-31.
  5. "Great Divide Mountain Bike Route - Adventure Cycling Route Network". 4 October 2017.
  6. "Great Divide Mountain Bike Route". Adventure Cycling Association. Retrieved 11 April 2012.
  7. Gorman, Jim; Howells, Robert Earle (March–April 2009). "Bike the Continental Divide Trail, Multistate". National Geographic Adventure . Retrieved 11 April 2012.
  8. "Great Divide Race: The Original Divide Race". Archived from the original on 2011-07-11. Retrieved 2012-11-21.
  9. Puzak, Tom (24 June 2016). "Brit Wins, Sets 'Tour Divide' MTB Course Record".
  10. "About Tour Divide". New Eon Media. Retrieved 2012-11-21.

Further reading