Tour Divide: Bike Setup and Bears

Always Riding's good friend Kevin 'Blackhound' Cunniffe is taking part in the epic 'Great Divide' race through America this year, and here, the intrepid adventurer details his bike setup and worries over bear attacks, as realisation hits home about the exact nature of the wildlife he may encounter.

The bike I plan to ride in the Tour Divide is a Voodoo Aizan, a 29er frame. I picked it up ex-demo from Sideways Cycles in Alsager a couple of years ago and spent about a year slowly building it up with second hand, nearly new and sale parts, I guess the cost was about £650 by the time I had finished.

The forks are Rock Shox Reba’s and the wheels are Bontrager Rhythm Comps which I am running tubeless, in 18 months I am yet to have a puncture. New tyres will also be fitted, WTB Nano Race are the preferred TD rubber and when stock eventually reaches the UK I will be purchasing a pair for the race. Brakes are Shimano XT and the stem, seatpost and flat bar happen to be items I had lying around. I have fitted Ergon grips and some old Profile time-trial bars as quite long periods are spent on flat or steady gradients and these bars give an extra position on the bike, though they do take up valuable space on the handlebars. On the bars I need room for a light, computer, GPS and cue sheet in addition to the usual controls and extension bars. The saddle is a Soma model I ‘won’ at SSWC08 in the Napa Valley.

I have recently purchased a new SLX drive train for the Voodoo for the Tour Divide as the chainset I was running is from an old bike of mine and I want it all fresh for the TD. Racers will at the very least change chains during the race but changing chainsets and tyres mid-race is common.

Bears are seen in all 5 states of the Tour Divide but more sightings are in the North of the route. I still need to understand the differences between black, brown and grizzlies, to be fair though I am more likely to just get out of the way pronto as I suspect I will not be able to identify the breed and what I am supposed to do whilst in panic mode. There is a bear map which I will need to copy onto my route map:

Tour Divide Bear Map

I really hope to see a bear though, but from a safe distance in their natural habitat at no risk to myself. Should any reader have 20 minutes to spare this is a wildlife film of the Flathead Valley which I will be travelling through on days 2 and 3 of my adventure.

Flathead Wild from EP Films on Vimeo.

I do have a little bell that I bought at a recent visit to Ben and Jerry’s in Vermont which will be attached to me at all times and a whistle, bears will avoid humans when possible so a bit of noise is a good thing. The final part of my strategy is to be in a small group in bearitory - and make sure I am not the slowest!

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About the Rider: Blackhound
Now retired, Blackhound can get on with the real business - riding! This un-assuming Derbyshire native completed the Tour Divide race in 2011, and in 2013 aims to ride the Highland Trail Race, traverse Spain in a Spanish border tour and, if all that was not enough, roll along for 1,800 miles of the Tour Divide Route.
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