What’s it Like to Ride the Tour Divide?


Have you ever thought about taking the challenge of competing in the Tour Divide?  This is an “underground” cycling race that has become increasingly more popular over the years, and my friend Vance McMurry knows exactly what it’s all about because he gave it a shot last year.

Known as the world’s toughest mountain bike race, the Tour Divide starts off in Banff, Alberta and rolls along the Continental Divide for 2700 miles before finishing up in Antelope Wells, New Mexico.  On June 8th, the 2012 version of the Divide begins and although there may not be enough time for you to take part this year….I’m hoping that this video below will help inspire you to take it on next year if it’s something you’ve always wanted to do.

Vance McMurry is an endurance athlete from Austin and last year he took on the beast known as the Tour Divide.  Unfortunately he didn’t finish (and he talks about the gruesome details in this video interview), but he does know all about it and has some very encouraging words for anyone thinking of rising to this challenge.

Vance is the Founding Chair and Executive Director of the Texas High School Mountain Bike League and is helping to do amazing things for the sport here in Texas.  He believes that mountain biking brings families together, and gives high school students the self-confidence and strength to take on anything that lies before them.

Please have a look at what Vance has to say about the Tour Divide and get an insiders look at what it’s really all about.


If you have any questions for Vance or would like to know more about the Tour Divide, please leave a comment below and I’ll pass it off to him for a response.

Enjoy Your Ride

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20 Responses to “ What’s it Like to Ride the Tour Divide? ”

  1. Inspiringrider on May 1, 2012 at 8:20 pm

    Hi Vance.  What lights did you bring with you?  How many night hours did you ride? Helmet and handlebar lights?  Did your lights have a batery pack you charged or replacables?  inpiring riders want to know!

    • Vance on May 1, 2012 at 9:25 pm

      Princeton Tec Eos2 both on my aero bars and on my helmet.  However, I usually only used one or the other.  On a dirt road, I generally used the one on the aero bars and on single track, I used the one on my helmet.  They run on AAA batteries.  Any lights with rechargeable batteries just isn’t feasible to finish in under 19 to 20 days.  The added weight of the batteries and then the time to recharge them is too much of a burden.  Keep in mind, that the pace at night is rather slow, so there isn’t a big need for 1000 watt lights.   Heck, one night coming off of Fleecer Ridge I was chased by a pack of 4 wolves with just my Eos’ on medium, so like 50 watts.  After I made it into Wise River, MT, I saw on my gps that I hit 44 mph downhill at midnight one night and the temp was in the low 30’s.  

      The amount of night riding depends on your mileage goals.  Most mornings, I was up in the dark for about 3 hours and rode for about 3 hours into the night each night.  Keep in mind that in Canada and Montana, it doesn’t get dark in the summer time until almost 10 PM.  Once you get into Wyoming, dark falls around 9 PM.   Colorado it is around 8 PM and stays about that into New Mexico.  

      If you haven’t done much night riding and you are thinking about riding the TD, you need to do a lot of it.  Riding at night is like riding in the rain.  Everything is harder.  Everything takes longer.  It takes getting use to.  

      For last year, we were in a good moon phase, so on clear nights, I would turn the lights off and just cruise in the dark.  It  was really nice.  I miss it.  

      • Greasyrider on May 7, 2012 at 4:53 am

        Err…got chased by a pack of wolves? What would you have done if you’d been bivvying?

  2. Vance on April 30, 2012 at 5:38 pm

    I just realized that I misquoted the climb on the TD.  In the video, I said 20,000+ feet of climb, when it is over 220,000 feet of climb.  Sorry about that.

  3. Dutton Cycles on April 27, 2012 at 3:22 pm

    We’ve heard a lot about the divide race and it’s nice to see it spoken about from the rider’s perspective.  We need something like that here in Australia.

    • chrisd on May 8, 2012 at 9:06 am

      how about a Burke and Wills tour? yikes

  4. Eric on April 27, 2012 at 2:40 pm

    I think the spiritual part of this journey would be the best part for me.  Having all that alone time would be a good way to do some thinking.

    • Vance on April 30, 2012 at 5:33 pm

      Eric, yea, that is what I thought too.  Unless one has done something like the TD, one doesn’t know what being alone is.  Being deep in the back country with no one else and no sign of civilization other than the road you are on is challenging.  It does sound romantic, but one needs to learn how to appreciate this.  

  5. Jeremy on April 27, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    I have a questoin for Vance.  What happens if you’re out on the divide and something happens to you or your bike which prevents you from moving on.  How do you communicate with the organizers and is there a way for them to come find you if you can’t move foreward?  How does this work?  Do they track you by gps?  Interested in this part of things.

    • Vance on April 30, 2012 at 5:28 pm

      Jeremy, you fix it or walk to somewhere that can fix it.  If you chose to get in a motor vehicle, then you can move backwards on the route to a place to fix it, just not forwards.  

  6. Mclgreenville on April 27, 2012 at 1:37 pm

    Love that movie

    • Reveal The Path on April 27, 2012 at 5:17 pm

      Thanks! Hoping you’ll like the new one as well. revealthepath.com

  7. Ben B on April 27, 2012 at 10:36 am

    I watched the ride the divide movie a few months ago and found it very inspiring.  It’s nice to see a first hand perspective from someone like Vance and get his honest opinions.  I’m not sure that I’ll ever take part in it, but it sure is great to watch and learn more about.

    • Reveal The Path on April 27, 2012 at 5:19 pm

      Right on Ben. Glad you enjoyed the film! Vance does have a great perspective of the adventure.

  8. Mike Neifert on April 27, 2012 at 9:30 am

    Did you know they did a movie about this race? 

    • Darryl is Loving the Bike on April 27, 2012 at 9:33 am

      I sure do, Mike.  We actually did a review of it a while back and gave away a few copies: https://lovingthebike.com/reviews/bikeschool-ride-the-divide-movie-review

      • Mike Neifert on April 27, 2012 at 10:14 am

        Bummer. I missed that giveaway. I haven’t had a chance to watch it yet.

        • Reveal The Path on April 27, 2012 at 5:20 pm

          Maybe Darryl will do something similar with the new film revealthepath.com

  9. Roger on April 27, 2012 at 9:29 am

    I have been tossing around the idea of doing the divide for a couple years now.  Hearing you say that a person doesn’t have to commit to the full race was the advice I was looking for.  Starting off with a piece of it helps me get my head around it and that is my plan for next year.

    • Darryl is Loving the Bike on April 27, 2012 at 9:34 am

      Hi Roger, it’s great to hear that this helped give you the nudge.  If you have any other questions for Vance just let me know and I can pass them along.  Keep us updated on your Ride Divide plans.


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