Paula and Scott's 2004 ride along the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route

The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (GDMBR) is a 2490 mile off road cycling route that travels from Canada to Mexico, paralleling and crossing the Continental Divide. It winds through Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico, crossing the Continental Divide 29 times. Most of the route is forest/county dirt road, but a significant percentage is 4x4 roads, trails and pavement. To the right is a map of the route, where the color indicates the elevation. In order the colors are brown (around 2500 feet), yellow, green, purple and white (11,960 feet).

Paula and Scott set out on June 20th, 2004 to ride the GDMBR in its entirety--backwards. Since we live in Tucson, Arizona, it made sense to start in Mexico rather than Canada. We rarely do anything "by the book", so we also liked the idea of going the wrong way. More on riding it backwards can be found on the observations page.

We rode unsupported, carrying all of our gear in a Bob trailer (Scott) and panniers (Paula), and never strayed from the official GDMBR route (took no alternates). We also rode the 2004 addition to the route around the west side of the El Malpais wilderness and were happy that we did.

A further goal of the trip was to GPS the entire route, in high detail. Those tracklogs are available on the GPS page. The data collected was used to correct Adventure Cycling's GPS waypoints and routes, and also to correct the obscenely inaccurate profiles for the printed ACA maps.

Throughout the trip we had two seemingly opposing goals of 1) enjoying ourselves and 2) riding fast. So the trip was a bit schizophrenic. At times we would ride hard, putting in far more miles than a sane person should, and other times we would do things like visit the ice caves/craters or look for crystals off the route. In the end I think we found a happy balance between the two. We could have ridden faster, but perhaps at a cost to our enjoyment of the trip. This was also our summer vacation, and to spend it in complete agony was not our intention. Still, we are two competitive individuals and knew from the beginning that we had to push ourselves throughout the ride.

Scott and Paula
We cannot say enough good words about the route that Adventure Cycling has put together. It was a pleasure to cycle the many beautiful stretches through remote country where cars rarely travel. We saw many incredible things and met many unique people. My favorite parts were the big climbs over high passes--the steeper and more technical the better. But the route was almost entirely a joy to ride (though many stretches of dusty, washboarded road did get old). We highly recommend this route to anyone thinking about it!

This was our first tour, off road or otherwise, so we were surprised at how successful it was. We had only minor mechanical problems and changed only 1 flat tire. I was amazed that I got a GPS tracklog for the entire trip, which is available in various forms on the GPS page. I also kept a daily journal of the ride which is available here. It is written from the perspective a mountain biker with an interest in difficult climbs.

I hope these pages will be of use to those interested in doing the GDMBR in the future as well as those just checking out our trip.

Trip statistics:

2562.77 mi (870.37 mi uphill, 951.49 mi downhill, 735.62 mi flat)
191,525 ft total ascent (191,325 ft descent) - 5.4 % ave uphill grade, 4.9 % ave downhill grade
38 days, 11:59:37 total time (11 days, 1:23:15 moving, 27 days, 10:36:22 stopped)
9.7 mph average speed, 37.1 mph max speed
933.385 TopoFusion difficulty index, 3241.248 effort
Start: 6/20/04 at 9:00 am
Finish: 7/28/04 at 9:00 pm
Average daily mileage: 65.7 (includes 2 days of rest)

These statistics are from the GPS data recorded during the trip. "Flat" means that the grade is less than 1%.

Fast, but not that fast!

Paula set the fastest women's time for the entire route (in either direction) in 2004. In the 2005 Great Divide Race, Trish Stevenson bested her time crossing the Mexico border in 21 days 23 hours 47 min, almost twice as fast!

Scott also returned to the GDMBR in 2005, as part of the Great Divide Race. He dropped out at the 1/4 mark with numb hands and sciatica. His dark writeup from that experience is found here.

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