July 13, 2019

Tour Divide '19: Gear List & Final Thoughts

It's been two months since I exited the 2019 Tour Divide. I think about some aspect of it every single day. Why is that? Unfinished business? Perhaps. What could I have done differently to change the outcome? Maybe.
One of my favorite pictures on the entire route taken during day 1, the Blackshale Creek suspension bridge.
I think the overriding takeaway for me was the people I met, the friendships I forged and all that glorious terrain that my eyes gazed upon for the first time. Did the Tour Divide meet my expectations? It blew them away.

Here is a full Tour Divide Index from each day on the route.

I've heard it all over the years: It's just a gravel route, it's the easiest of the Big Three, you'll get bored, blah, blah, blah. Newsflash: My tires are only 2.25" wide, they just prefer dirt, any width of dirt will do. Sure, I love singletrack and the feel you get when ripping along a beautifully created section of trail, but so much of the Divide is taking in your surroundings while pedaling along. I really enjoyed that aspect of the ride, pedal, look around, take pics while I ride!! It's more than a race, it's a journey. Easiest of the Big Three you say:
Does that look easy?? Available in poster form here.
Well, I guess that depends on the type of riding you typically do. Arizona is my home, I love chunky trail, I don't shy away from a hearty hike-a-bike session (much to some friends' dismay), I don't do a lot of seated pedaling when I ride, I don't own a road bike - never have. I've been riding a hardtail for 23 of my 25 years mountain biking. Everyone asks, which one is the toughest? The AZTR750, CTR or Tour Divide. Depends. They each have their own set of challenges. For me, I thought the CTR was tougher than the AZTR, the elevation absolutely killed me and it rained. Every. Single. Day. Yet, the Tour Divide was the only one I didn't finish, it knocked me out. Circumstance? Possibly, but I was in a world of hurt before my knee infection. I know I would've finished had that not happened, but man, I would've been wrecked beyond anything I can imagine. Bored, huh? No freakin' way. There was always something to look at, smell, think about, share with a fellow rider. That was one of the biggest appeals to me, all the solo riding. I knew that was not going to be an issue.
What an amazing route. Complete with all the Trackleaders checkpoints.
When the Divide truly entered into my plans some years ago, I couldn't help but think how cool it would be to see the entire Rocky Mountain west under my own power. It's a chance to get intimate with the landscape, soak it all in. I've always loved the mountains, I'll take them over a beach any day. Then the actual planning began last summer. Some of the bigger logistical items were taken care of early: Vacation time from my two jobs - done. Lodging near the start - done. Flights - done. Training - I started early, last September I began working with Kurt Refsnider at UltraMTB. That was the perfect fit for me and I can't thank Kurt enough for getting me in position to finish this ride and learn about structured training as it was the first time I had ever done that. I had all the gear, just tweaked a few items here and there.
My final setup.
The bike. Hmmm. I had two. A steel 29er hardtail, my trusted Voodoo Dambala, now a converted singlespeed, but has in excess of 17,000 miles on the frame already and not a lot of tire clearance. It served me well during the AZTR though. Then my other bike, a Titanium 29er hardtail, a Motobecane that I rode during the CTR, but that bike has even less tire clearance. Enter my buddy, George Harris, founder of Binary Bicycles. I forget now how the conversation went, but I recall it only taking a few exchanges. Just like that I would be riding a Titanium Binary Bicycles Havok with a carbon fork for the Divide!! I was so stoked. This frame was specifically designed for the Divide. Seriously. It had Jones Loop bars, a 2x11 drivetrain, Ergon grips and a couple custom bags including a three-way compartment framebag from Nuclear Sunrise Stitchworks. I rounded out the bike with my parts & bags, but by the time the Divide rolled around, the seat had been switched, grips changed out, bars & stem swapped, Lauf fork added, drivetrain converted to a 1x12...In the end I think all of the changes worked out for the best. The only thing I would do differently next time would be to get more time on the saddle. I'm sure that contributed to my saddle sore issues as I only spent about two months on this one prior to the race.

Speaking of Binary Bicycles, I'd like to take this opportunity to again congratulate fellow Arizonan and Team Binary Ambassador, Chris Seistrup on a perfectly executed race. He was shooting for a Top 10 finish and wouldn't you know he ended up winning the whole darn thing!! Check out Chris's webpage, Lost On A Bike
The Canadian Rockies were phenomenal.
The months were flying by and the calendar flipped to 2019. I had plans to do a series of bikepacking rides leading up to the Divide start, but an unfortunate series of injuries really put a damper on things. It all started over President's Day weekend, a few friends and I were all set to bikepack the full Maricopa Trail here in Phoenix. It's a 330 mile loop around the Valley of the Sun that has recently been completed. My ride lasted a whole 30 miles before my front tire slid out on a slick section of sidewalk. Yeah, flat sidewalk. I thought I broke my wrist, but two x-rays said otherwise. This caused me to miss a full day of my 220 mile Queen's Ransom event that I host annually. By mid-April I still wasn't 100% so I skipped the AZT300. Then in May I was all set to take on the north loop of the inaugural Pinyons & Pines race only to crash out 20 miles into it. I'm lucky I didn't break my leg, instead my cell phone took the brunt force trauma of the boulder I landed on. In spite of the setbacks, I was feeling good.
Ovando, MT photo by Kathy.
One of the biggest challenges for me leading up to the start was finetuning my cue cards. I found a few cue sheets online from over the years, I had a couple of books, the official map set, etc. It was data overload and I didn't know where to start. I kept putting this off and finally dove into it with only 2-3 weeks remaining. In the end I kept it simple. I didn't need to know every possible place to eat, camp, do laundry, etc for the towns. Instead my cue stated: Butte (All services) I knew I'd have cell coverage, so I could look stuff up when I arrived. I mainly wanted to know the distances between resupply and some of the remote water sources. I added a few points of interest and noted all the major climbs in distance & elevation gained such as: Start Galton Pass: 2,486' over 21.1 miles (I found this data on one of the online cuesheets). I noted how many calories I needed at each resupply to maintain a 25 day pace (Thanks to Kurt for this one). I then color coded each category. I had a waterproof pouch by Seal Line, ziptied to my handlebars and formatted each card for double-sided printing. They fit perfectly, 5 cards in total, 10 sides, numbered in the upper right. Here's a sample:
The overall route miles on the far left would become kinda useless early on, but the mileage between cues was spot on the entire way. 

Final Gear Setup:

Screenshot from Bikepacking.com's 2019 Rigs of the Tour Divide. See below for notes.

The other side, looks like a different bike with the multicolored framebag.
A few notes not mentioned: The Lauf fork is a TR29 non-boost, since my SON28 dynamo was also non-boost. Pedals: Xpedo SPRY flats. Shimano XT hydraulic brakes.

Bags: I think only a couple of my bags are rated as being waterproof. I wasn't about to purchase a new set just for the Divide. A compromise was made: I sprayed everything down with two coats of Kiwi fabric protector and it seemed to work well enough. The Wolf Tooth Components B-Rad Pump Bag on the bottom of the downtube was virtually useless. The zipper was far too difficult to use in the field, great idea in theory, poor execution. A different style of zipper or perhaps a side access would have been much better IMO. I also had a small microfiber cloth clipped to the outside of the seatbag.

Gear Highlights: Tent - Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL1 Bikepack (set up a grand total of ONE time before the Divide), Sleeping bag was a Mountain Hardware Phantom 32 down. My backpack was not a Mule, it was a Camelbak Blowfish. Rip cord cargo netting was made by a fellow bikepacking friend, Charlie Kemp.

Clothing, tools, electronics, etc:
 Camp setup: Venture 4th pad, Mountain Hardware Phantom 32 down bag, GooseFeet down booties, Sea to Summit Aeros pillow, kite material ground cover & Big Agnes Flycreek HV UL1 Bikepacking tent.

Showers Pass rain pants, Marmot rain jacket, Sealskinz waterproof socks, beanie, cotton gloves & balaclava.

Clothes: Zoic Ether shorts (No pad), Binary Bicycles cycling cap, lobster mitts, Patagonia down puffy, Salomon X-Ultra hiking shoes w/green Superfeet inserts, Arizona Endurance Series jersey, Garmin heart rate monitor, Woolly Boolly socks, compression socks, Trailforks wool crew socks, POC helmet, Pearl Izumi half finger gloves, Liberty Sports Goggles (prescription/transition lenses), Halo skull cap headband, long sleeve wool base layer, 2 pair Merino wool boxers, Pearl Izumi sun sleeves & knee warmers, bandana, Novara thermal arm warmers & Salomon ankle gaiters.

Camelbak Blowfish w/100oz bladder only for extra dry sections, cell phone pouch clipped to upper buckle on Camelbak for easy access. Not shown: Google Pixel 3A phone (All pics taken with it)

Tools: chain breaker, spoke tool, tire irons, Wolftooth Components master link tool & tire lever, multi-tool with pliers, multi-tool with Allen keys.

Tools: Altoids tin with bubble wrap padding & o-ring closure, rubber bands, 2 valve stems, curved sewing needle, thimble, Schrader/presta adapter, valve core removal tool, tire boots, insertion tool for tire plug, torx for rotor bolts & removable valve cores.

All the above items sealed in a bubble wrap lined container.

Whistle/compass, Katadyn water tablets & butane lighter.

Repair items: Extra curved sewing needles, dental floss for sewing, bikini tweezers, DynaPlug & extra plugs, super glue, tire bacon plugs, tube patches, (1 spare tube not shown), 2 CO2 cartridges & inflator & derailleur hanger.

Electronics: Anker 20000 mAh cache battery, batteries for GPS, SPOT Gen3 (not shown) & headlamp, Petzl Tikka headlamp, Exposure Diablo MK7 helmet light, Bluetooth speaker, Garmin eTrex 20x & Edge705 GPS units, various cables for charging, USB plugs, USB-C adapter, 2000 mAh cache battery & iPod.
I ended up purchasing the small black 2-prong plug w/2 USB ports & another USB to MicroUSB cable during the ride. One of my cables failed and most of my rechargeable electronics have different cables, so I could charge more than two items at a time if I had enough ports. The plan while riding was to keep 100% of the dynamo power going to the 20000 mAh cache battery, then at dusk, switch over to 100% light. I'd then plug in my Garmin Edge705 & phone into the dual port cache battery while I slept. The other items requiring recharge weren't used as frequently: Helmet light was a close third, bluetooth speaker, iPod, 2000 mAh cache battery. Any time I stopped in town for a sit down meal, I made certain to find an outlet and keep everything topped off. This system worked great the entire way, even after my MacGyver fix to the broken switch.

Misc.: Insect repellent, KT tape, bandages, Katadyn BeFree water filter, Nuun electrolyte tablets, wet wipes, deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrush, Dave Wicks butt potion premixed in a squeeze bottle, toilet paper, blister patches, bearspray, ID/Credit Cards, stickers for tagging, bike lock, passport, electrolyte drops, sunblock, Orajel, antibiotic ointment, too many lip balms, Benadryl, Advil, zip ties & more small first aid items/band-aids.

Paint stick for scraping mud, Lezyne pump, spare spokes, all the tools packaged in ziplock bags, 2 2oz bottles of home brew sealant, bottle of Squirt chain lube & rag.

View from the cockpit. Both GPS units had the track loaded & recorded the ride. The eTrex had a full resolution track, but sliced into 3 bits. I had this displayed slightly zoomed out more than the Edge705 which had a full track reduced to 10k points. Yes, three feedbags. L -> R bottle & bearspray (not shown) in outer mesh pocket along with lip balm, Advil & bike lock, center feedbag: small can of Pringles, right feedbag: electronics - mainly keeping my two cache batteries topped off.
How was all that stuff loaded? All the sleep kit items were in the handlebar bag plus a couple small items of clothes like cotton gloves/beanie. Tent was strapped to the outside of the handlebar bag. SPOT & Bluetooth speaker were clipped to the tent straps. Jones bar center bag: Helmet light, mints, stickers, zipties, any old batteries and small misc. items. Front feedbag: Snacks!! Mostly extreme Sour Patch Kids, Paydays, Peanut M&M's & nut butter filled Clif Bars. Rear feedbag: Bars. Various bars that either had chocolate, peanut butter or chocolate & peanut butter!! Framebag: right side top - 100 oz water bladder, right side bottom - all my tools/repair items, left side - paint stick, pump, batteries, Slim Jims and a few overflow bars. Seatbag: Spare tube, all my clothing & outer wear when not in use. Camelbak - Empty 100 oz bladder, water filter, first aid items, bag of cables/charging plugs, bug repellent, KT tape, food. Wolf Tooth B-Rad downtube bag: used once for a large Don Miguel burrito. Passport & currency were kept on my person at all times.
Great in theory, poor executuon.
That's a lot of gear. So, what worked, what didn't? I'll start with the issues and things I would do differently.
  • FAIL: Lauf fork mounted bottle cage holders. Both straps snapped in half. I noticed the first one and was able to rig a fix. The second one broke and I lost my bottle and cage. I like the idea of bottles on the forks, just need a more robust setup on the Lauf fork.
  • FAIL: Stitching on the small pole bag for my tent. I routed the velcro straps through it to mount the tent to the handlebars. Eventually, the stitching gave way. Big Agnes replaced the pole bag under warranty.
  • FAIL: The toggle switch on my K-Lite harness broke. I was able to rig a solution & K-Lite sent me a warranty replacement.
  • FAIL: Wolf Tooth B-Rad Pump Bag. The zipper was extremely difficult to use. Since it mounts to the downtube all the trail dirt & grime collect there. The bag needs added support to aid in zipper operation or relocate the zipper to the side of the bag.
  • Shoe Covers: I'd leave them at home. Didn't use them.
  • Swap out my thick cold weather gloves, not really an issue, but I want something a bit more water resistant.
  • I'd prefer a spray bug repellent over the cream I took for better coverage. 
  • I should've stuck with my regular Osprey 25L Escapist backpack instead of the small older Camelbak Blowfish. My Osprey simply fits better, not that I had any fit issues with the Camelbak. The extra capacity would have made it so much easier to get things in/out of the pack. I didn't need the extra capacity to carry more, I needed it to give relief to the poor zippers on the Camelbak, that thing was stressed to the max!!
  • Redundancies in the small stuff. I ended up with FOUR lip balms. I had two packs of tire bacon.
  • SUCCESS: Salomon ankle gaiters. 1,805 miles and not ONE single rock in my shoe. Easy on, easy off and so lightweight you forget you're wearing them. These will become part of my normal ride gear.
  • SUCCESS: Sealskinz waterproof socks. Kept my feet not only dry, but warm too.
  • SUCCESS: Liberty Sport goggles. I didn't want to take two pair of glasses & I needed better wind protection for my left eye. These goggles are perfect. Prescription transition lenses with removable magnetic eye cups to block the wind.

The Ride

I think I was more anxious in the final days at home getting all the last minute preparations in order. Almost as soon as we landed in Calgary and I knew the bike was fine, I relaxed. It was so nice to spend a couple days with K in Canmore.

I really tried to not worry about things outside of my control, namely the weather. Trust your gear. With that said I was so glad we had a few beautiful days at the start of the ride. The Canadian Rockies were some of my favorite areas.

The entire first day was spent shuffling through the pecking order of riders, no log jams or anything but obviously, this would be the day you'd not only see the most riders, but also see the most riders with the greatest variety of fitness as it took a while for everyone to get sorted out. I met a bunch of great people, some I only met once early on. By the time I reached the USA there was a small group of riders who I would end up leap-frogging all along the way.
Mikki Suvia & Larry Goodman.
Thanks to Larry, unbeknownst to me, I was riding HIS carbon Jones Loop Bars on the Havok!! Small world. I really enjoyed riding with these two when I could keep up!! Larry had such a constant high cadence, I was blown away. Mikki, how wide are those bars?? 850's?? Steer clear of the tight trees.
Mikki taking a few moments to help another rider with a cased rim. That thing was mashed!!
Bonnie Gagnon & K at the start in Banff.
Bonnie and I had become digital friends a few months prior to the race. We had been collaborating on some Tour Divide gear, links are posted below, and it was so nice to meet her in person at the start. She has such an infectious positive vibe, a true champion of & for the Tour Divide. I had no idea I'd bump into her a few times along the way.
I caught up to Bonnie at Orange Peel Bikes in Steamboat Springs, CO.

Her chariot.
A couple months before the Divide it looked like Bonnie would have to sit this one out due to an array of physical ailments. Lo & behold, she got clearance to ride, and ride she did. She said her goal was to ride as far as she could, but knowing what I know about her, she was Antelope Wells bound or bust. She was not only riding, but riding very well. It was awesome to witness, such an inspiration of mind over matter.

These next two guys I spent the most route miles with and cherished each & every one. I'm better off today knowing both Justin Heckman & The TD Legend: Hal Russell.
I first camped with Justin on night three, then we bumped into each other a couple times along way, Ovando & Montana High Country Lodge. Justin caught up to me at the Idaho line and we rode most of that day together and shared in the Rail Trail misery. We then spent a good portion of the following two days riding either together or close by. Justin has a ton of gravel experience and kept a higher pace than me on the flats. He was very easy to talk to and I respected that he was doing his own ride and let me do mine. It was an added bonus that we were similarly paced overall. He made it one checkpoint farther than I did this year, ending his attempt in Del Norte, CO. We've been in touch since and now have plans to meet up next June and finish the route. Can't wait.
Our first few miles in Idaho, Centennial Mtns.

Misery loves company. Idaho Rail Trail.

Dodging storms before entering the Tetons.
If you've been following the Tour Divide the past 7 years or so, then you undoubtedly have heard of Hal Russell. I sure had. Hal was riding in his 6th Divide, finished ALL of them. He took one year off...to rest, right? No way. Hal rode the American Trail Race that year from North Carolina to the Oregon Coast!! That's like a double Tour Divide. Think about it. Oh, and Hal just turned 71. He may downplay it, but there's no denying he's a Divide Legend with a signature smile.
Day 2 on Harvey Pass.
I was just hoping to meet him and maybe shake his hand at the start. Instead, I crisscrossed with Hal each of the first 9 days. We'd ride a little bit together, chatting along the way and slowly creating a friendship. By the third or fourth day it became a running joke for me to have my daily Hal sighting. I didn't know when or where it would happen, but it almost always came when I least expected it. Like in the dark up on Richmond Peak or at 1a on top of Fleecer Ridge.
At the Montana High Country Lodge. This would be the end of the daily streak as I took a half day to recover. Hal rode on and it took me a few days to catch up!!
Battling the headwinds in the Great Basin.
I camped with Hal south of Wamsutter, WY and admired his consistent routine. He was up each day before light, packed and riding around 5:30a. He had a plan and stuck to it. He somehow resisted the pull of the Brush Mountain Lodge!! Dedication.
Then there was this chance meeting along some deserted road in southern Wyoming.
2015 Tour Divide Winner, Josh Kato, was on his way home to Washington state and happened to cross paths with Hal just as I was catching up from Hal's early morning getaway. Josh is one of the most humble elite cyclists you'll ever meet, constantly cheering each & every rider all the way down to the last across the line. Plus, he was sporting the now infamous unofficial official 2019 TD tee!! Fellow racer and leader of much of the race this year, Sofiane Sehili, had scratched and was holed up at Brush Mountain Lodge. Meanwhile, Josh had scratched in Del Norte. Both were in need of clean clothes and happened to find themselves in Walmart's at opposite ends of the state. Josh had stopped by the Lodge before our meeting and they began talking about trying to find clothes. Simultaneously they unveiled their shirts and to each other's surprise, the NASA TD fashion trend was born!!
Josh & Sofiane modeling.
I picked one up as soon as I got home!!
This was about a week after I was home. Hal had finished TD No. 6 and was flying home from Gateway Airport. That happens to be 2 miles from my home. He remembered I was from the Phoenix area and sent me a text. I had to go shake his hand and buy him a beer.
Meanwhile, Sofiane had been hanging out at the Brush Mountain Lodge for 16 days after his Divide run. I saw a post of his online with a Saguaro cactus in the background and found out he was in town for a few days. I was planning on my first post-Divide ride that Saturday and offered to give him a tour. He agreed and I picked him up for a Brown's Ranch spin.
Chillin' in the desert.

I didn't realize he rode to Phoenix from the Brush Mountain Lodge!!
With over 160 riders at the start there were a bunch of others I shared some miles with: Joey King, Bill Claridge, Mark Carter, Sam & Bryson, Martyn Gibbons, Pat Adrian, Andreas Hitzler, Clinton Channel, Jason Barrett, Austin Turner, Marty Johnson & Eric Morton. It was great meeting each and every one of you.

What were the route highlights for me? Favorite sections?
  • The anticipation at the YWCA in Banff
  • The Canadian Rockies, specifically the High Rockies Trail
  • Red Meadow Lake, MT all the way to Columbia Falls, MT
  • Holland Lake Lodge
  • Richmond Peak, the climb, the singletrack and doing it at night!!
  • Getting a Huckleberry smoothie in Butte
  • Sleeping on the floor of the Wise River Post Office
  • The trail angels of the Divide: Kathy in Ovando, Barbara Nye's Llama Farm, Russ Kipp's Montana High Country Lodge and Kirsten at Brush Mountain Lodge. Fanfreakintastic!!
  • The route from the Montana High Country Lodge to Island Park, ID.
  • Riding through the Grand Teton National Park
  • Brooks Lake Rd.
  • The wide open views between Boulder & Atlantic City
  • The first 40 miles of my Great Basin experience
  • Leaving Wyoming
  • The Clark Store
  • Recharging in Kremmling and the route up Ute Pass
  • The route from Silverthorne to Como - Boreas Pass & Gold Dust Trail
  • The Colorado Basin beyond Hartsel
  • Town of Salida
  • No Death Mud
  • Not much rain
  • Not needing my bear spray
  • Badgers!!
  • Seeing 1,805 miles of the Rocky Mountain West from my bike seat!!
Ten Mile Range near Breckenridge.
How about the things I could have done without? Lowlights?
  • My cardio going up Koko Claims, Koko by itself was fine with me.
  • Bent derailleur
  • Breaking both fork bottle mount straps.
  • Breaking my dynamo toggle switch
  • Galton Pass
  • Lava Mountain Trail
  • Fleecer Ridge DH
  • Union Pass
  • Saddle Sores!!
  • Three straight days of 30mph+ headwinds around the Great Basin
  • The climbs around Radium, CO
  • The final two miles of most passes
  • Hike-a-biking rideable terrain.
  • Broken dairy cooler at the Conoco in Salida
  • Idaho Rail Trail
  • Area around Wamsutter
  • Bonking on the climb before Salida
  • Scratching from the Tour Divide
  • Not reaching Pie Town
  • No Antelope Wells photo...yet.
  • No bear sightings
  • 75 miles of hike-a-bike. Yes, 75. I had my gpx track analyzed using 3.0 as the threshold, I'm a fast hike-a-biker when the terrain allows. Most of the walking was due to simply not being able to sit or continue to stand and pedal. So demoralizing.
Hike-a-bike silhouette.

Future Plans??

I've been asked a ton of times if I plan to head back to Banff for a redemption ride. Short answer: No. However, I plan to be back in Salida next June 20th to resume where I left off and finish the route. There's still about 940 miles left to see and I plan to do just that. I've been in contact with Justin and he's agreed to come along!! How awesome is that?
Like Arnold used to say: 'I'll be back!!'
Right now, I just don't have the burning desire to do the entire ride again for many reasons. First, I'm not so sure K would sign on for a second attempt!! The Tour Divide is the most expensive FREE ride you'll probably ever do. I tallied up what I spent from the time I left the YWCA in Banff until K picked me up in Salida: $1914. A little over $1 per mile, but I'm guessing about $500 of that covered the 2 1/2 days, 3 nights I spent in Salida. So, let's go with $1400 to reach Salida, which is pretty good, but that still would total around $2100 at the same pace to reach Antelope Wells. Time off work again, that would be another year of using ALL my vacation time at once and not spending any of it with K. Training. Again, block out almost a full year to get ready based on my life schedule. Plus, there's so many other bikepacking routes I want to ride. Let's face it, I had pretty darn good weather the whole way. I was only rained on maybe 5 or 6 times for short periods, no downpours, no death mud, hardly any snow. Wind was really the only issue and that's par for the course. What would be the odds of having great weather again? Slim. However, I think and this is solely my opinion, that doing the Divide following an El NiƱo winter was key to having clear passes up north. I think the only thing that would potentially accelerate me wanting to give it another crack would be if I solved my saddle sore issue. Then I know I could ride faster/farther each day and enjoy my time out there a bit more. Retirement goals?? Who knows.

In the meantime, I'm really looking forward to finishing the route next June.

Gratitude Section:

Wow, where to start. This ride is so big and all encompassing it takes a true team effort, at least until the pedaling begins, then it's all on YOU!!

I'll start this off at the top, my No. 1: K. She was there at the start and there at the end. She had been reluctant at first to let me go, but eventually came around to the idea knowing how committed I was to it. I really appreciate that and the opportunity to step away from home life for a few weeks. It's not easy on her end and moreso this year with the passing of our beloved cat, Thebes. I'm forever grateful for her support during these events, no matter how crazy they are!! I love you!!
Enjoying the last day of rest at Moraine Lake.
George & Jalene Harris at Binary Bicycles. Let's face it, without the Havok I wasn't doing this ride. It's really that simple. George & Jalene stepped up and made it happen. Not only did I have a bike designed for the Divide, it proved its worth. It was a flawless ride as far as the bike goes and I truly believe I wouldn't have had any hand numbness if it weren't for my saddle sores compromising my ride posture/position. If you do a lot of long haul off-road touring, give this bike a solid look.
Holland Lake, MT.
Shannon & Beto Villegas. The final couple of weeks of preparation were incredibly stressful as we had a few major financial setbacks on the homefront. So much so, K and I seriously considered that I didn't go to Banff. Unbeknownst to me, Shannon & Beto setup a GoFundMe account that not only allowed me to tackle this adventure, but the outpouring of support really caught me off guard. I couldn't believe how many people chipped in some of their hard earned dollars to help get me there. I can't thank each and every one of you enough.
Beto & Shannon, my kind of people. Our Apache Tears Loop
Kurt Refsnider at UltraMTB for getting me in shape and answering any questions I had about the ride itself. I had never done any sort of structured training and this was very eye opening. When I started training with Kurt I was at an all-time low in physical fitness since participating in these types of events. He started me off easy, then ramped things up as my work schedule allowed. I began to see results immediately and was able to finish the Tally Tango 160 barely a month after training started. I now ride with a heart rate monitor and keep my zones taped to my handlebars.
Kurt rolling through Picketpost TH en route to a record setting ride during the 2018 AZTR750.
Kaolin Cummens purveyor at Flat Tire Bike Shop in Cave Creek. I've been getting bike fits done with him for a few years now and once again he delivered. If you're in the area and need a professional bike fit, he's your man.
They recently moved across the street.
To all my family, friends, co-workers and strangers who followed along online or sent messages: Thank you, thank you, thank you!! The kind words of encouragement and support were overwhelming and meant so much to me. If my ride inspires one person to give it a crack, then it was worth it.


Have you completed the Tour Divide?? If you would like a patch, fill out this form. Patches are 3" round and are $6 ea. (USD) shipping is included. Stickers and other items are on my Redbubble page.

I started selling Bikepacking Ultra Endurance elevation profiles as posters a couple years ago. Unfortunately, there's not one all encompassing website that offers everything. So, I have accounts setup on three separate sites: Payhip, Redbubble & Zazzle under the username: schillingsworth.

I keep a permanent link to these on my Store page.

Here are some direct links to Tour Divide specific collections:

Payhip: High resolution image of the elevation profile. Great for a screensaver.
Redbubble: This is mostly for posters, but they have been adding more product offerings. (t-shirts, mugs, pillows, clock, etc) I also uploaded a couple different TD logos to some products as they format better. Here are a few examples:
Both men's & women's cuts are available, scroll through the list on the site.

Lots of different styles too, including sweatshirts & long sleeve.

Zazzle: This is mostly for t-shirts, but also has mugs, pint & shot glasses, etc. Many of the t-shirt designs here have logos on the front & back, often different, so be sure to check all the preview images. You can also customize each t-shirt at no extra charge. Maybe add '2019 Finisher' or whatever you choose. Here are a few examples:

Many different fabric choices available as well.

two-toned mug.
I turned the 'TD Punch Card' idea into a shirt & stickers.
Both Redbubble & Zazzle often run sales, sometimes it's sitewide, other times it's for specific types of merchandise. Discount codes are posted on the websites and above any product that is on sale. If you sign up for their email, you'll be notified of any current promotions.

Thanks for looking.


This marks the end of my 2019 Tour Divide experience. It was one I will always cherish, no matter the struggles. Each and every day was a new adventure full of unknown and new discoveries. It amazes me each time I go out on one of these multi-day events and cover so much ground by my own power. Bikes sure do take us to incredible places. Enjoy your Public Lands and become a free member of Bikepacking Roots to help keep these lands public!! Go out, explore, ride, it's a big world out there. I can't wait to see where the next ride will take me.

I'll leave with this quote from Theodore Roosevelt, it really struck a chord with me:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Ride on.

If you missed any of the daily recap posts, start the journey here: Divide Prelude OR navigate to each day via the lefthand sidebar under June/July 2019 and June 2021 for the Salida to Del Norte section.


  1. Great wrap up! I'm looking forward to the TD PT2 Ride to the Border next summer. :)

    1. Thanks Vik! I'm looking forward to the final 1/3 of the route too! Last year at this time I had just begun to train, I guess I need to ramp up the miles again.

  2. Great wind-up John. Shame it ended early but the TD is no walk in the park. People who talk it down most likely haven’t done it - or have only done a small section. I’m glad you are going to finish the job next June.
    P.S. I bought some sweet TD and AZTR gear. Thank you!

    1. Dave,
      Thanks for all the comments along the way, great to hear from a fellow Divider. I was always impressed by your ride, even moreso now. I guess I better brush up on your reports for next year.

  3. Thank, it's been fascinating following your race through the blogposts and i've learned so much. Good luck for next years ride of the third.

  4. Hey. Excellent work documenting and narrating your experience! How do you remember so many details?! I recorded a short recap at the end of my first 5 days on my 2016 attempt but they were crap. I found myself today with flashes of places or tings that happen and can't place them in time or in place - I hate that...

    Do you know how did you get that nasty infection? Or can you guess? That's something really out of the left field eh? I'm planning my 2nd attempt for 2021 and your info has been invaluable.

    By the way, I hear you on the saddle pains. I had horrible pains and bleeding blisters the first week and half of my ride. However, I ended up scratching at Pinedale after riding alone for the most part of 3 days. The mental side is what got me (I didn't want to go into the Great Basin). I came back last year to do that to see if I still really wanted to do try again and if I'd enjoy it. Started at Pinedale and it was hard but I did like it. I was struck but saddles sores once more (used new saddle with only a couple of rides in it, duh). I woke up on Lynx pass and couldn't sit on the saddle so decided to ride back to Steamboat and have my son collect me (I live near Denver).

    Finding a good saddle-butt fit is absolute #1 in my list now.

    Anyway, thanks again for sharing your experience!


    1. Thanks, man!! The photos really help jog the memory a bit. On big multi-day rides I'll look at the track on a topo map while doing the report, that also helps to keep things sorted.
      Never did determine the route cause of the MRSA infection. It ended up coming back 6 times over the ensuing months. Required another ER visit and something like 6 different antibiotics to finally put it to rest. I wasn't fully recovered from the TD until the New Year.
      The saddle sore issue I think was really due to lack of saddle time leading into the ride. I've been riding without a chamois ever since and haven't had any flare ups and that's including a few bikepacking rides. I do plan to ride my Brooks B-17 when I return to Salida to wrap up the route, hopefully in '21.