Alaska to LA via the GDMBR

BenGr
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Alaska to LA via the GDMBR

Postby BenGr » Fri May 13, 2016 3:37 pm

Since I got back from my NZ trip 18 months ago I've been wanting to head off on another adventure. I can't remember when I first heard of the Great Divide MTB route, but it immediately caught my attention, so once I figured I could afford it I went and got my visa and flights sorted.

So I head off at the start of June from Anchorage Alaska and start my way down, eventually finishing in LA 4 months later, hopefully without becoming bear food.

The plan is to have a few weeks in Alaska, head into Denali national park and towards the Canadian border along the Denali highway, probably going for a more northern crossing. I'd thought about heading up the Dalton hwy just to reach the Arctic circle, but its a long way and I already have far too much country to see.

I actually have no real plans in Canada except the Icefields Parkway, which I've heard is good, so any other suggestions would be great!

From Banff Alberta (assuming Alberta hasn't burnt to the ground) the real fun begins. For those who haven't heard of the GDMBR its a 4500km mostly unsealed route from Banff Alberta to Antelope Wells New Mexico, criss-crossing the divide. At the start of June there's a bikepacking race that goes along the route, and some nutters manage to do it in ~15 days! Here's the route.

I will be riding my Tricross, and I've been trying out WTB Nano 40c tyres. So far on day rides and one overnighter on gravel I've enjoyed the experience. However comfort is going to be my main issue. I have heard of CX tourers giving up on the route as the gravel is very unforgiving, but how hard can it be?

The altitude is going to be interesting. In NZ the highest pass I cycled was on the Rainbow Rd at 1300m. After the first 600km from Banff I won't go below that altitude until I choose to leave the Rockies, and will exceed 3500m at one point. As if that wasn't enough I've thought about heading up Pikes Peak, which tops out at 4300m! The plan is that I will be moderately acclimatised by that point, and I'll need to be.

I don't plan on reaching Antelope Wells, likely leaving the route at the southern end of Colorado, going to see some hole in the ground and a few other things. That is a looong way away though.

In all I may cover 10,000km, which is fairly ambitious. This ends up adding ~20km to my NZ daily average (including rest days).

That's enough info for now. I could use any info though, any "must see's" or tips.

I credit this guy for giving me the final kick. He's a bit of a nutter, but definitely the right kind.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oa_28YltsuY

dalai47
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Re: Alaska to LA via the GDMBR

Postby dalai47 » Fri May 13, 2016 5:24 pm

Trip sounds great! Would love to race the Tour Divide one year...

You will definitely feel the altitude when you are over 3000m, even being acclimatized by the time you get that far south! Estimated power at 4300m altitude is around 72% of your sea level power...

I have ridden both Mt Evans and Pikes Peak on the road bike. Mt Evans is a few metres higher than Pikes Peak , but is a far more gradual climb at 4% average for the 44.3km. Pikes Peak is shorter @31.5km from the turn off at Cascade, but the 6% average hides the fact of the steeper top half with 10+% gradients towards the summit! Hardest climb I did that trip!

Gradient chart - http://www.brentacol.com/gradient_pics/pikes.png

Image

Bike entry was $12 (opened to bikes in only 2013 after a successful trial the year prior) but well worth it. You will get rock star status being up there on a bicycle! Had a number of photos taken with random people. 8)

Image

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FKS
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Re: Alaska to LA via the GDMBR

Postby FKS » Sun May 15, 2016 8:46 am

The Icefields parkway is outstanding, http://www.hkcrystal.com/cycling, fires will be an issue, as it has apparently been a dry winter with not much snowpack, we dodged fires in both Canada and northern Washington state last year.

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RonK
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Re: Alaska to LA via the GDMBR

Postby RonK » Sun May 15, 2016 11:32 pm

Sounds fantastic Ben. I envy you very much. I've been reading the GDMBR threads over on bikepacking.com for ages and would love to do it myself. But how to find the time (and money).

I thought you might have opted for something a bit lower geared after your NZ experience - after all NZ mountains are mere pimples compared to the Rockies. :lol:

And remember - don't feed the bears... :wink:

Will you be keeping a journal? It will be interesting to follow your progress.
Cycle touring blog and tour journals: whispering wheels...

BenGr
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Re: Alaska to LA via the GDMBR

Postby BenGr » Mon May 16, 2016 2:23 pm

Gearing change is in progress. I'm limited by my front braze on. I believe I can go 28/42, with a 12-36 rear. Significantly lower than what I had in NZ. ~20% lower should

I'll likely be updating http://ausriderabroad.blogspot.com.au/ Hopefully with less terrible autocorrect fails (typing fast on a phone is bad!)

I've decided to go a mix of bikepacking and panniers, mainly to avoid low riders. So I've got a framebag and handlebar roll. Being standard drop bars the volume of the handlebar bag is less than exceptional, but hopefully its enough. I also have the problem of kneeing it whilst standing, so i'll need to make some spacers for it.

I tried the bladder in the frame bag, and found it a bit tough to use, needing a much longer tube. I'm thinking of trying a minimal hydration pack. I only borrowed the bladder so the complete pack is not significantly dearer. The benefit of a backpack will be a location for small valuables, especially whilst away from the bike. If I don't like the backpack I'll try to find some tube and cut the length I need.

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Re: Alaska to LA via the GDMBR

Postby avolve » Mon May 16, 2016 9:28 pm

I rode from Vancouver to Banff (a much much shorter route than yours) a few years back. Of the four mountain passes, thje continential divide (5832 feet) was the highest and Anarchist Pass (4892 feet) is regarded the toughest.

I was an a Cannondale MTB (rigid, with headstock) and towing a BOB Ibex. I had a triple chainring up front, and found some of the climbs getting close to too much. I did not pay too much attention to the weight of my gear (not heavy, but far from light weight). This as also mostly on road.

What was unexpected, and I road this a early August, was going from ~freezing temps a couple nights, then 44ºC in the interior of British Columbia (Osyoos) throughout day, and still 43ºC at 4pm.

Banff is stunning (I had been there before), and the ride in general cross some beautiful scenery — http://bike.veganarky.net/rides/2008/08 ... awkum-park

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RonK
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Re: Alaska to LA via the GDMBR

Postby RonK » Sun May 22, 2016 5:55 pm

BenGr wrote:I will be riding my Tricross, and I've been trying out WTB Nano 40c tyres.

I'll be interested how you get on with these. I was looking at some in the lbs - they look the goods, and I know they are a popular choice, but I've also read that they wear quite quickly.
Cycle touring blog and tour journals: whispering wheels...

BenGr
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Re: Alaska to LA via the GDMBR

Postby BenGr » Sun May 22, 2016 8:00 pm

RonK wrote:
BenGr wrote:I will be riding my Tricross, and I've been trying out WTB Nano 40c tyres.

I'll be interested how you get on with these. I was looking at some in the lbs - they look the goods, and I know they are a popular choice, but I've also read that they wear quite quickly.

Yeah, definitely a concern. I'm thinking of taking my old Marathon Plus 32c's and using them up until I start the divide, as i'll likely be doing mostly sealed roads.

BenGr
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Re: Alaska to LA via the GDMBR

Postby BenGr » Sat Jun 04, 2016 10:52 pm

Well I did an overnight shakedown, with most of my gear. I went to grab my photos from my camera to find that they hadn't been saved for whatever reason. Basically locking and unlocking the card seemed to do the trick. Glad I found out now...

As for the shakedown here's the route I took: https://ridewithgps.com/routes/13934665

My goals for this ride were to take in a bit of gravel, and camp at altitude to test out my cold weather gear. I also wanted to have a bit of time to play around with my new tent, as I'd had problems getting it pitched properly (bit of sagging of the fly)

The first day was fairly easy, some average riding out of Traralgon followed by some awesome quiet roads taking me to Licola. That was where the easy riding ended, as I had a 1000m vertical climb up to Connors Plain. 2 hours and with ~45mins light left I arrived, and managed to get the tent pitched a bit better than last time, but i'm still not 100% happy. The tents a Force 10 Helium 100.

I didn't sleep too well, maybe partly due to going to bed many hours before I'd usually do. It was a good test of my sleep system though, with sub freezing temperatures, and just a slight feeling of cold around my hips.

In the morning I woke to a fair bit of condensation, including a fair bit on the inner, although not enough to cause a serious problem. There was also a decent amount of frost, on and around the tent.

The morning didn't go quite as planned, as I learnt that the fact things go solid when cold meant I couldn't spread anything on my bread... Even around lunch it hadn't changed that much. Luckily I'd gone overboard with snacks.

The ride started off well, cool, but my gear held up well, and riding on frosted gravel is awesome! What isn't so great is sticky mud on Mt Selma Rd. Within the first 10km my wheels had changed to deep section plus sized tyres, with at least 1kg of mud on each wheel. Even worse was the mud clogging my drive train. For the next 100km I had to ride whilst my bike made horrible grinding noises, a hose down at Thompson Dam from one of the workers helped a lot, but I couldn't get it working smoothly. Before the hose down the rear derailleur would refuse to shift out of the biggest cog, unless I was in the big ring.

All up it was a good ride, I'd try to avoid the mud though, and both days were about an hour or so too long, for a winter ride anyway.

1 day of packing to go, just been doing errands and sorting a few things so I still have a lot to do. I'm sorted for the first night in Anchorage though through Warm Showers.

BenGr
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Re: Alaska to LA via the GDMBR

Postby BenGr » Sat Jun 25, 2016 3:12 pm

I'm now 2.5 weeks in and I've been in Canada for the last few days.

In general Alaska seems perfect for someone who likes looming at mountains, but not climbing them. The roads have been made so flat that my average climbing has been extremely low. A 6% grade was steep. It was only as I went towards the Top of the World hwy that I had anything approaching 10%, only actually reaching that point after crossing the border.

The drivers have been great, although with the huge roads and generally very nice shoulders they have no excuse.

I've been a bit disappointed with the camping, most places are fully geared to massive RV's, occasionally there's been proper tent spots, but usually it's just a carpark. Also compared to the facilities in NZ these are severely lacking. In NZ I got used to camp kitchens and often lounge rooms, but here you're lucky if you get a sink.

Scenery in Alaska is great, although very weather dependant. On that note I've had extremely good weather, if a bit hot at times.

Before I came over I was expecting sleeping to be a problem with the long days, but it's been fine, but the lack of dark has taken it's toll as some areas have had no shade, meaning I'm in the sun from the moment I get up to the moment I go to bed.

That's enough for now, I'll eventually do a proper blog post, and link it here.

dalai47
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Re: Alaska to LA via the GDMBR

Postby dalai47 » Sat Jun 25, 2016 11:16 pm

BenGr wrote:That's enough for now, I'll eventually do a proper blog post, and link it here.


Please do. Looking forward to it!

BenGr
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Re: Alaska to LA via the GDMBR

Postby BenGr » Wed Jul 20, 2016 1:13 pm

I finally had a productive rest day so my blog is only 1 week behind. It helped that the mate I was staying with was working, and i had access to a laptop.

You can start here http://ausriderabroad.blogspot.ca/2016/ ... y.html?m=1.

I've had a lot happen since my last post. Negatives were jockey wheel seizing, and in the last few days my big ring bending. No idea how it bent, as when I noticed it I hadn't done anything in particular. It's mostly straight now, might need a few tweaks.

The main positive was meeting a bunch of other cyclists who had similar goals in mind. In one 7 day period we covered 940km. I'm actually still travelling with one, with plans to stick with her for another couple of weeks.

I'm now well away from the quiet of the north, so I'm looking forward to getting on the divide.

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RonK
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Re: Alaska to LA via the GDMBR

Postby RonK » Wed Jul 20, 2016 1:48 pm

Great reading Ben. Keep the posts coming.
Cycle touring blog and tour journals: whispering wheels...

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Leaf T
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Re: Alaska to LA via the GDMBR

Postby Leaf T » Wed Jul 27, 2016 10:24 am

Great read. Helping to kick this lack of motivation and Melbourne winter blues. Must be fun meeting so many tourers on the trip. I rarely see others when I've been touring :(

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Re: Alaska to LA via the GDMBR

Postby BenGr » Thu Aug 11, 2016 9:17 am

Leaf T wrote:Great read. Helping to kick this lack of motivation and Melbourne winter blues. Must be fun meeting so many tourers on the trip. I rarely see others when I've been touring :(

My last trip I met a lot of riders, but spent very little time riding with them, maybe 12 days out of 100. This trip has been very different, with maybe just 2 weeks total without company. Skewed massively due to meeting one particular person though.

2 more posts are up, starting with http://ausriderabroad.blogspot.com/2016 ... e.html?m=1

Here's the segment for the Duffy Lake climb https://www.strava.com/segments/613375?filter=overall

If anyone is interested in the individual days my rides are up on strava. I locked it down due to random requests though so you'll need to add me.
https://www.strava.com/athletes/2314755

I've now had a few days on the divide, which was a rough awakening, I can't imagine what it's like beginning a trip from Banff, it was bad enough with 2 months in the legs.

Recently I took a detour through Glacier national park, on the Going to the Sun rd. Definitely recommend this ride.

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CKinnard
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Re: Alaska to LA via the GDMBR

Postby CKinnard » Thu Aug 11, 2016 10:53 am

I've just come back from 3 months in California, with work.
I became good friends with a Alaskan doctor called Phil who was about to start riding this route on a recumbent. He had bought a $9,000 custom made cross bike to do the route months earlier...but he went and tested it on a section of the route for a week and promptly ended up with a sore bum and lots of other pain. So decided the bike was the issue.

My view that he wasn't training adequately was lost on him. I think he just liked spending money on cycling stuff. Anyway, a top guy. He's in his 60s!

BenGr
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Re: Alaska to LA via the GDMBR

Postby BenGr » Sat Aug 20, 2016 5:16 am

A new post is up! Still ages behind.

Its interesting to see what sort of bikes are being used. I was expecting much more bikepacking, but so far nearly everyone has had touring bikes with 4 panniers. I met 2 guys with bob trailers, one started in Banff with 35lb of dehydrated food!

I met an Aussie from TAS yesterday on fat bike. Apparently he has an electric motor.

Yesterdays ride was rough. The last 2miles of an 800m climb took longer than the rest of the climb. When the cues say steep, rough 4wd track they mean unrideable ruts and rocks with patches of sand mixed in for variety. I'll be in Butte tonight.

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RonK
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Re: Alaska to LA via the GDMBR

Postby RonK » Thu Aug 25, 2016 7:02 pm

Hmmmm, reading between the lines - sounds like you've got a bit of a thang going on there Ben? :)

A little holiday romance? :)
Cycle touring blog and tour journals: whispering wheels...

BenGr
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Re: Alaska to LA via the GDMBR

Postby BenGr » Sun Aug 28, 2016 12:59 am

RonK wrote:Hmmmm, reading between the lines - sounds like you've got a bit of a thang going on there Ben? :)

A little holiday romance? :)


Yep. Parted ways a few days ago. Will see how things go.

I was expecting some time riding alone, but the very next day another cyclist caught up. I'm doomed to always have company I think. Was great timing though as I'd left my pump 2 days back, got it shipped 2 days ahead but it would have been a bit dicey alone.

I'm on a big detour off route due to fires in Yellowstone, and now I find out the next pass has fires near it as well. Should only be smoke that is a concern, so hopefully the wind is kind.

In other news Exped are shipping me a new mat! So only another few days of being pushed off by the broken baffles.

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Re: Alaska to LA via the GDMBR

Postby BenGr » Wed Sep 07, 2016 2:26 am

More posts are up. My touring alone starts again today. Let's see how long it lasts...

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Re: Alaska to LA via the GDMBR

Postby BenGr » Fri Oct 07, 2016 4:37 am

Well I'm done. Made it to LA 2 days ago, flying out tonight.

Because my blog is horribly behind here's a quick summary since my last post.

I made it as far down the divide as Indiana Pass Colorado, the highest pass at 11,900ft. The riding near Salida was amazing.

Made it up Pikes Peak, an incredible, and extremely tough ride. A few days later I also made it up Mt Evans, but I was feeling crap and had some adverse affects to the altitude. I enjoyed Pikes Peak more despite the massive traffic difference.

From Denver I caught a train over to Reno and cycled south and crossed over Yosemite. Having known basically nothing about Yosemite my feelings went from 'this is pretty cool' to 'wow' extremely quickly.

On the way out I met 2 Victorians (epicrides.com.au) heading to Argentina. I spent a few days with them including climbing a massive hill that I didn't need to, especially as I didn't have time to see Kings Canyon which was at the top.

Across the flat valley to the coast. I believe I joined the coast just south of the actual amazing bits, so overall it was very much an anti climax to what has been an amazing trip.

I passed 10,000km a few days ago, what I thought I would manage.

I ended up doing almost everything I planned. The noteable exception is I missed the Grand Canyon. I think I made the right choice as the location is inconvenient, and my time frame and lack of hiking gear would have meant going to the rim and turning around.

I still feel like I'm on a rest day. That will likely change once I get back into a routine.

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