Meet the rider – Gabriel Mak, Devon, England. June 14 2015
Today will mark day 3 of Tour Divide, a grueling 2745-mile cross-continent self-supported endurance race along the American Adventure Cycling Association’s Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (GDMBR).
The route follows gravel roads, mountain passes, history trading routes, migration routes and some paved roads. Taking you from the jutting mountains of the Canadian Rockies down through Montana, Idaho and into Wyoming, where you cross the Great Basin, a vast expanse of nothing. Following this you enter Colorado and get up to some serious altitude, the highest pass is over 11,000 feet. Then down off the alpine pastures and into the harsh desert of New Mexico. In total covering over 2700 miles, with the equivalent amount of climbing as scaling Mt. Everest from sea level seven times!
On top of that, the route will be unmarked and will entail following dirt paths and backcountry roads, with much of it meandering through wooded areas and national forests where the bikers will be able to camp and rest along their journey.
The unofficial race, begun in 2008 and consisting of entirely self-supporting cyclists, has an almost cult-like following where the truly dedicated, and perhaps slightly crazy, cyclists undertake an immense trek through mountain terrain. The elite racers will try to ride it in less than 16 days, while first timers might take more than a month.
This year one of our good friends, 37-year old Gabriel Mak from Devon, England, will be taking part in the race as a rookie. We caught up with him just before he headed off to hear how preparations had been going, understand why he's decided to undertake this epic race, and learn more about what he’ll be riding and packing for such a unique adventure.
Pedal + Tread: Hey mate, how are you feeling?
Gabriel Mak: I’m feeling good. Had some knee issues, but I think a lot of it is psychosomatic. Should be fine for the race. I fly out Tuesday afternoon! Race starts Friday (12th June) morning.
P+T: What ever possessed you to take on this epic ride/race?
GM: I hate to be clichéd, but life is too short not to. Some big changes in my life over the last 4-5 years made me reevaluate things, and after watching the movie “Ride the Divide” I was hooked on the idea of this. I never thought I’d actually be doing it!
P+T: How have you been preparing for it?
GM: Physically, I’ve been riding my bike, a lot. 3500 miles this year already, and 300,000 feet of climbing. I’ve lost 25kg of body weight in two years. My resting heart rate is down around 40bpm. I’m fit basically. The best bit is I get to eat a lot.
Mentally, when out on the bike, you have to be able to control your thoughts. Learn to live in the moment, not stress about what might happen. Avoid focusing on aches and pains, and worrying they will develop into something crippling. Just switch off and pedal, look around, enjoy the view.
P+T: What will be your greatest challenge in undertaking this?
Not getting blisters on my arse!
P+T: Any fears...after all you’ll be passing through bear country?
GM: Getting blisters on my arse! I’m actually not that worried about bears now. I was though, for a long time.
P+T: What parts of the route are you most looking forward to?
GM: The Canadian Rockies, they just look incredible (check out @tweed_telegraph on instagram) and the Great Basin in Wyoming - the vast nothingness. I want to sleep in the Great Basin and wake up with no people for 80 miles around! Amazing.
P+T: Talk us through the bike you’ll be riding.
GM: It’s a custom titanium frame made by Triton Bikes in Moscow. I had a bike fit done with Tony Corke at The Bicycle Academy. He really knows his shit. No messing about with crappy retül software, he does it properly. The rest of the bike is light, carbon rims, carbon fork, carbon bars. Dynamo front hub for lights and charging GPS, Phone, Camera, etc. 1x10 gearing, no suspension.
P+T: As this race is self-supported, what's in your pack kit?
GM: I’m travelling light. I have a 1ºC rated Vaude sleeping bag, Six Moon Design Lunar Solo tarp/tent, Exped sleeping mat. One spare pair of shorts, spare pair of socks, waterproof jacket and over-mitts. The over-mitts will also stop my fingers falling off on some of the massive descents off snowy mountains early in the morning.
I’m not carrying a stove or any extra stuff. But I am taking a toothbrush. And Sudocrem to stop my butt getting blisters.
I have enough tools to sort most stuff on the bike, including 4 pairs of extra brake pads. Oil, an old sock to clean the chain and lots of gorilla tape to fix stuff. 2 spare tubes, though I’m running tubeless and hope that will last the trip.
P+T: Any pack tips you can share?
GM: Do lots of trips out beforehand, things you don’t use, don’t take again. Use dry bags for everything. Wet kit sucks.
P+T: Have you set yourself a race time?
GM: I’m aiming for 20 days, which is an average of around 140 miles per day.
P+T: How can we track your ride?
GM: I’ll be trackable on: http://trackleaders.com/tourdivide15
And I’ll be posting on Instagram: http://instagram.com/turnpedal
P+T: Good luck mate. Be safe, and enjoy the ride!
For more information about Tour Divide visit here: http://tourdivide.org/