The Great Divide route, for the uninitiated, has been mapped by the Adventure Cycling Association, a bicycle group based in Missoula, Montana. Through the years, they’ve mapped
routes down the West Coast and several routes across the U.S. for road bicyclists. Then they
went to work, laying out a fantastic touring route for mountain bikers. What they came up with was
a route that snakes from Antelope Wells, New Mexico, through Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and
Montana to Banff, Canada. It works out to about 2700 miles and follows the Continental Divide
as closely as possible (we crossed the divide over 30 times). About 90 percent of the roads are
either dirt or gravel. During our trip, we encountered more bicyclists than motorcycle riders and
enjoyed talking to them about not only their unbelievable journey, but also the superhuman energy
they were expending while on the trip. One rider told us he estimated his elevation gain to be over
200,000 feet! Unbelievable! The backpackers we met along the way told us they expected their hike
to take about five months to complete.
Once the official route was mapped, it didn’t take long for motorcyclists to start riding as much
of it as possible, bypassing the sections that are off-limits to motorized vehicles. The remote locations, high elevation, sparse population, frequent storms and reoccurring forest fires result in many
revisions, detours and re-routes. But, for the most part, the ACA route follows really nice gravel
roads. Having said that, if it rains, expect to set up camp and wait until the roads dry out. The mud,
particularly in New Mexico, is unrideable on a fully loaded adventure bike. Nothing ruins your ride
like burying a 500-pound bike in mud up to the cases!
Editor’s note: Bob is an adventure rider in the purest sense of the word. He does the trips that
most of us plan and few execute. He just returned from a gigantic loop of the western half of the
U.S. that included the Great Divide from south to north, almost all on dirt. The ride took a year to
plan. Here’s how he did it.
Bob and his trusty KLR.
He’s had more expensive
bikes, newer bikes and
prettier bikes, but the KLR
is the most faithful.
NOVEMBER 2014 / DIRT BIKE 69