After completing the bikepacking triple crown, I decided to make this Tour Divide Planning Guide (GDMBR).  The triple crown taught me a lot and I want to share that knowledge with others.  The process of planning a trip of this kind can be time consuming and stressful.

I can’t empathize how important planning is and how greatly it can effect the outcome of your race/tour. The more work you do before hand and information you have available to you during the race, the better off you’ll be. Bottom line, DO YOUR HOMEWORK!

I’ve taken everything I learned on and off the Tour Divide (CTR and AZT), and put it into this 7 Step Planning Guide to racing/touring the Tour Divide (GDMBR).  Hopefully anyone planning a race/tour of the route can get almost all the information they need from this post, accompanying posts, and external links provided below.

I might have done most of the leg work for you, but that shouldn’t stop you from doing your own deeper research to better your chances and improve the outcome of your trip even further.  I am human and might have missed something. If I did let me know and I’ll add it or make a correction. Thanks!

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STEP 1: RACE OR TOUR

RACING PROS:

  • Racing in the company of others (There’s no guarantee others will be racing near you).
  • Chance to test yourself in one of the worlds longest MTB races.
  • Bond with fellow racers in a shared experience.

TOURING PROS:

  • No limitation of start time, route, or direction.
  • Ability to stop without fear of the clock.
  • Physically and mentally less demanding (depending on pace).

RACING CONS:

  • No choice of start time or direction.
  • No flexibility of your route.
  • Very demanding, both mentally and physical.

TOURING CONS:

  • Smaller chance of meeting fellow cyclists.
  • Slightly higher risk (Less people and support if you get injured or have a bike issues).

Pro-Tip

Race or Tour?  GDMBR, Tour Divide, or Tour Divide Max?  You have many options.  Make sure which ever you choose, it’s your choice.  For most of us this is a once in a lifetime event.

STEP 2: PICK A DATE

RACE

The race always starts on the second Friday in June.

  • June 8, 2018, 8 am (Banff, AB – YMCA)

TOUR

If racing is not your thing and you want more flexibility then touring is for you.  The weather window for the Tour Divide (GDMBR) is from June to Mid-October.  Snow can be found or occur at anytime on the route.  Consequently be prepared for anything, no matter when you choose to go.

STEP 3: WHICH DIRECTION TO GO?

NORTH TO SOUTH (Canada to Mexico):

PROS:

  • Starting with others (safety, chance to share knowledge)
  • Flatter finish = easier
  • ACA maps are written in north/south direction

CONS:

  • Harder start.
  • Weather can be unpredictable.

SOUTH TO NORTH (Mexico to Canada)

PROS:

  • Physically easier start.
  • More convenient finish (getting to airport).

CONS:

  • Harder to get to start.
  • Less riders.
  • Harsher environment (heat)

Pro-Tip

Some times Mother Nature has a say in which diction you’ll go.  Checkout the snowpack levels at the Snotel website to find out.

STEP 4: SETTING UP A RESUPPLY / ITINERARY SCHEDULE

The first 3 steps are fairly easy to check off your list.  Steps 4-7 take more thought and work. Put some time into them and don’t simply pass over them.  As mentioned earlier, this is where you do your homework.

A well put together resupply and itinerary are key items, that can effect both the success and ease of your race/tour of the Divide.  Chances are you won’t follow your itinerary once on the route but it still serves as a reminder of what your goal was/is.  On the other hand you’ll reference your resupply list multiple times a day.  This is where you want to put the most detail into.

Checkout my post, Tour Divide Resupply Planner, where I give you everything you need to plan your own resupply/itinerary.

TD the sheet - tour divide guide

STEP 5: GEAR

Gear is another key item you need to really research before you hit the trail.  Depending on your pace you’ll be spending anywhere from two weeks or more on the Divide.  During that time you’ll run into every type of weather you can image.  Combine the weather with countless hours in the saddle and you’re going to want to have the right gear, gear that is reliable, tested and offers comfort.

I put a whole page together that covers the gear I used during my Tour Divide, (and on the Colorado Trail and Arizona Trail).  I show pros/cons, tips, things that didn’t work and did, and what  I would do differently next time.

Bikepacking Gear List / Photo - Tour Divide Planning Guide - Arizona Trail Planning Guide - tour divide guide

STEP 6: TRAINING

Everyone does some sort of training when doing a race/tour of this length.  You have to consider both physical and mental training, when you considering doing the TD.  Like the old adage says, “It’s 90% mental and 10% physical”.

We all train differently, so I won’t pretend to tell you how you should.  Rather, I’ll give you some tips and tell you some of the things that made the TD hard for me.

  • Practice riding back to back long days.
  • Having a strong core will help keep your back happy with the long hours in the saddle.
  • Ride at night, you will do plenty of it on the Divide.
  • I found it mentally hard to ride into the night after already being on the bike for 16+ hours.  Train your brain.
  • Consider your diet and try to learn how much you need to eat for day after day of riding.

STEP 7: Do a Test Ride

Testing your set up is key.  Don’t think you can just slap your gear in your bags, check their tightness and go.  Get out there and ride your bike loaded.  Learn how it handles, listen for what rattles, see what rubs, and most of all, what doesn’t work.

An untested set up will result in unneeded stress during your race/tour.  Take the time to eliminate this by testing.  It will also get you used to a loaded bike.

Consider the following when testing your set up:

  • No one is perfect, as a result no one nails their set up the first time.  Try different ways and see which is the best.
  • Is your load balanced?
  • If you have a question whether something is going to work or not, address it before you go.
  • Test your GPS and electronics thoroughly.
  • Bottles mounted on forks and down tubes fall off and rub.  Make sure you ensure they won’t so you don’t lose water carrying capacity.

More on the TOUR DIVIDE

Read these next.

Chipotle Resupply - Tour Divide Resupply Guide

TOUR DIVIDE RESUPPLY GUIDE

Information is key when planning how to resupply the more you have, the more options you have. 

Colorado Trail Transportation Guide

TD TRANSPORTATION GUIDE

Getting to and from the Tour Divide adds extra adventure to your race/tour.  Find out how to make the process easier.

Tour Divide - Wyoming - tour divide guide

TOUR DIVIDE DISPATCHES

Posts about the Tour Divide (GDMBR) and personal dispatches of my personal experience on the route.

Bikepacking Gear List / Photo - Tour Divide Planning Guide - Arizona Trail Planning Guide - tour divide guide

MY BIKEPACKING GEAR LIST

Full comparison of my gear list from the bikepacking triple crown. Pros/Cons, tips, and what I would do next time.

Bikepacking set up - bikepacking resources

BIKEPACKING RESOURCES

Have questions about the gear you need to go bikepacking?  Checkout my 3 set ups & advice on putting your own together.

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Our Press Releases and coverage of the Project spans from news sources to online blogs and print magazines.

CHECKOUT ALL OUR GUIDES

Arizona Trail Logo - pregnant triangle - One of Seven Project - Arizona Trail Guide - FINISH TIME CONTEST
Tour Divide/Great Divide MTB Route Logo - tour divide guide
Colorado Trail Logo- One of Seven Project - colorado trail guide
Kokopelli Trail Logo - Kokopelli Trail Guide - Bikepacking

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