7 Bikes of the Tour Divide

Jul 15, 2019
by Eddie Clark  



Setting the bar for self-supported racing, the 2745 mile Tour Divide is one of the most rigorous tests of durability a bike can be put through. The route primarily consists of rough dirt road and 4x4 road with a smaller amount of pavement over mountains and through deserts from Canada to Mexico. Along the way, riders deal with nearly every weather and trail condition imaginable from snow, hail, rain, mud of all varieties and plenty of hot dry dust.



Chris Seistrup from Arizona was the first to finish this year's race with a time of 15 days 11 hours and 24 minutes. For his first Tour Divide victory, Chris relied on his titanium Binary Cycles SuperB XC mountain bike with a Lauff suspension fork to provide a reliable and comfortable ride that allowed him to average nearly 180 miles a day.

Chris poses for a quick photo at the Brush Mountain Ranch before heading up Sand Pass.
Chris Seistrup cruising through Colorado.


Typical to most Tour Divide cockpits, Chris' bars were crowded with navigation electronics, lights, feed bags and the occasional route notes or inspirational pictures. Not typical to many is the extra long steerer tube used by Chris to mount aero-bars above his flat bars.

Full Shimano XTR Drivetrain, brakes and trail pedals.





The first woman to finish this year with a time of 18 days 20 hours and 26 minutes was repeat winner Alexandera Houchin from Minessota aboard her Chumba USA Stella Ti mountain bike. Replete with flat pedals and propelled with a 36x19 singlespeed drivetrain, Alexandera was pleased with the new-found freedom of ditching her gears for the simplicity of one gear being all she needed to get the job done. A true convert, Alexandera has proclaimed that singlespeeding has changed her life as a cyclist. Of course, it's worth mentioning this is also her fourth year riding in those hiking boots, which she claims are comfortable and protect her feet from the deep mud encountered along the route far better than any other cycling shoe ever could. No excuses from Alexandera, show up, run what you brung, and let your grit and determination overcome any perceived limitations or popular cycling conventions.






Top 3 finisher Steve Halligan from Hanmer Springs, New Zealand conquered the Tour Divide aboard his Salsa Ti Fargo with drop style road bars. One of the things to have evolved over the years of ultra racing has been the variety of steering options available. In this sort of event, repetitive motion fatigue can become a real enemy to the hands, arms and torso. To stave off discomfort and allow for increased movement on the bike, many different combinations of bars, aero-bars and bar-ends have worked their way onto the bikes based on individual needs. Although, one thing many Tour Divide bikes do share is some sort of aero-bar position for increased aero-dynamics since many of the miles are flat and into the wind. That said, it is a bike race, and sails or devices used to harness the wind for forward motion are expressly prohibited in the rules.




Interestingly, Steve opted for a rare combination of electronic shifting via Shimano Ultegra levers and an XT rear derailleur paired with an Avid mechanical disk brake.




One of the more interesting steeds in this years race was ridden by Josh Ibbett who is no stranger to ultra-distance bikepacking and racing. A previous winner of the prestigious Trans Continental race, Josh is also one of the few people alive to have ridden around the world. Appealing with its elegant curves and designed with the ultra-distance cycling community in mind, his Mason Cycles steel InSearchOf frame utilizes a heap of forward thinking and some of the newest technology available for a do-it-all approach that far surpasses the abilities of any popular gravel grinder or groad bikes being heralded today.




Other notable bikes included are former Tour Divide winner Josh Kato's Salsa Ti Fargo. Josh was on a crusher of a Tour Divide ride, but unfortunately his Fargo proved to be a bit more robust than him as he scratched due to medical issues nearly 2000 miles into the race. Previously, Josh had ridden on the Tour Divide inspired carbon fiber Salsa Cutthroat, but opted for the comfort and durability provided by the titanium Fargo this year. That, and he said he liked the sound made by rocks and gravel pinging off of his frame.




Of course, this report would be incomplete without taking a look at Lael Wilcox's carbon fiber Specialized Epic. Lael scratched midway through the race, but still continued riding all the way to the finish at Antelope Wells, New Mexico. Excepting the Shimano XTR pedals, her bike was fitted head-to-toe with SRAM parts and components featuring RED shifter/levers and hydraulic disc brakes combined with XX1 cranks and an electronic 12-speed AXS derailler. Also used were Roval carbon wheels, RockShox SID fork and a narrow Panaracer Gravelking SK 700x43C rear tire to improve mud clearance and reduce rolling resistance.





Last and certainly not least was 2016 equal third-place finisher Sofiane Sehili from Paris France. Up until the halfway point on a snowy mountain pass north of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, Sofiane had been riding a blistering pace that had him a fair bit ahead of Mike Hall's 2016 record pace. Unfortunately, blizzard conditions that dumped 20 inches of new snow conspired against his plans, and he scratched after hiking back down from a cold, wet, snowy and muddy Sand Pass. Having ridden the 2016 race on a cyclocross bike, Sofiane returned with a more robust and comfortable carbon fiber Niner Air9 mountain bike. Perhaps the most interesting part of his build was that the entire drivetrain and braking system was all a working man's spec Shimano SLX component group.




121 Comments

  • + 117
 Alexandera, single speed and work boots, my gosh, what a ripper........congrats.....just started biking at age 20...unreal
  • + 10
 She was so strong in the race too, geared or singlespeed it was an impressive ride. The fact that it was done OFG is amazing.
  • + 46
 uh, not to mention she rides in cutoffs (no chamois), has a flip phone and no social media, came from a challenging background, and is making a big difference in the world. what a badass!

www.outsideonline.com/2397215/alexandera-houchin-endurance-cycling
  • - 3
 @husstler: not On Fixed Gear, just singlespeed with freewheel
but still way Bad Ass!
  • + 3
 @gumbytex: Thanks for that link, great insight into her badassery!! As a MN native, I approve.
  • + 2
 Those heavy boots must be nice for standing up and smashing flats on the climbs.
  • + 14
 I think another comment about her being a badass is in order.
  • + 12
 @taprider: OFG = "One F-ing Gear" and is commonly used for normal, non-fixed singlespeeds
  • + 10
 @showmethemountains: I hate acroyms ;-(
  • + 2
 @taprider: and looks like she knocked ~5 days off her time from last year, too. congrats!
  • + 49
 That's one hell of a race. Those bikes look like they are ready for the Mad Max Wasteland, and I mean that as a compliment.
  • + 4
 Shiny and chrome!
  • + 10
 after a zombie apocalypse these people would be the actual survivers !!!
  • + 25
 This is the coolest thing I've read here, PB should cover more of this type of off-road biking. These riders show true grit, my hat's off to them. What riding background do riders typically have - cross/road/mtb? Where/when are the events? How many riders participate? Aside from reliability, what do riders look for in their choice of bike/wheel size, etc?
  • + 10
 If you're looking for this type of content, bikepacking.com has a ton of it. Here's a sample bikepacking.com/plog/2019-tour-divide-recap-1 and they have much more.
  • + 1
 Man I start thinking these bike look nice and a 2 days ride would be cool.
  • + 21
 As a bike shop owner in the first civilized part of the route after Banff, Fernie, it's interesting to see which bikes finished the race and the set ups because the number of dejected souls camped at the store entrance the first few mornings after the start of TD is depressing. If anyone needs a list of things they don't want on this ride we can help.
  • + 11
 what are at least the top 10 to humour us?
  • + 3
 What were some of the most common points of failure? Was it usually soft goods (bikepacking bags etc) or the bike itself? What kinds of components failed most often?
  • + 11
 This is an article I'd love to read.
  • + 10
 Maybe PB could do a followup on this?
  • + 1
 That list might be very useful... I'm setting off on the gdmr in a couple of weeks and i bet i will cover most of that list
  • + 1
 i suppose there is a lot of sram stuff on this list
  • + 6
 in no particular order
-Rohloff hubs, not because they're bad but because no one will know how to service the system (the route carries you through beautiful country but you are not in metropolitan areas at all stick to SRAM or Shimano)
-shimmed anything, meaning seatposts and handlebars shimmed to make them fit
-5000 waterbottles held on with hose clamps, including around for stanchions which then leads to "my suspension doesn't work"
-racks, geezus please get real racks that aren't held on with Meccano strapping, buy the bike that comes with all the rack attachments points you need
-carbon fiber anything, again it may not break, if you're lucky but the things we see broken are carbon. If you HAVE to have carbon don't overload it (modifying an xc bike with 200lbs of baggage is not going to end well)
-don't work on your own bike at night, especially if you have never worked on your bike or any bike before, ever
-we get that you're in a "race", so are the other 10 guys sleeping in the doorway, smiles are free
-your electronics are going to fail, know how to back them up, or have current maps in the first place, we live in the valley for a reason, it's the best trail riding in the country we don't want to leave and can't tell you what happens when you are in the USA so make sure it all works
-the chosen fuel fro the stopover here seems to be Hickory Sticks for whatever reason?
  • + 1
 @waxman: wait, you’re saying someone actually put hose clamps on their fork stanchions to mount water bottles?

????
  • + 1
 @sdurant12: yes a crazy number of bikepackers do that and even use "Everything" and "Anything" cages to mount even heavier objects such as tents and large nalgene bottles
bikepacking.com/index/cargo-cages-anything-bags
  • + 12
 150-170 miles a day every day for 15-18 days!? Jesus Christ.
It would take me two months to ride that.
Absolutely stunning.

But scratching? Wtf
  • + 12
 There was one pass that became impassable due to snow and mud. A few riders made it through before the storm, while the rest got stuck on the wrong side. Sofiane actually tried to cross but he turned around when he couldn't see the road at night and was at risk of hypothermia. He scratched once he realized winning was out of reach because he'd already done the race before and his goal was to win and possibly break the record. Lael scratched for a similar reason but kept going because she was the main subject of a movie about the race.
  • + 20
 @axcooper: Please don't say before the storm, that is just not accurate. It also greatly underscores the incredible effort by the four racers and two tourers who did in fact get over the Pass because they were prepared to take on the conditions and to carry their bikes. I was there, it stormed for two days on both sides of the pass. Those who stayed could have carried their bikes like the others who did get over the pass, but they chose not to. Also personally talked with Sofiane that morning, and he quit because he hit his own personal limit that night on top of Sand Pass, he was in a deadly situation he'd never encountered that night, and wanted nothing more to do with going on after getting back to Brush Mountain. Lael scratched because she chose to visit with her girlfriend, which was a technical rules violation, she was pretty clear about that.
  • + 1
 @axcooper:

So does scratching means required help and therefor forfeited? ? ?
  • + 3
 Sehili will likely be back, and is a good one to watch for a record breaker.

Seistrup has some hellish determination though. He's a relative newcomer, and does not bring with him the event records of Lael or others, but he (and Alexandera) certainly proved that you don't need a camera crew to be awesome.
  • + 4
 @RkyMtnSrfr: great info Thank you fornthay
  • + 1
 @StraightLineJoe: Withdrawing (or being withdrawn) from a competition for any reason. Literally scratched/crossed off the participant list.
  • + 1
 @StraightLineJoe: More like opted out. If she was disqualified for receiving help that's what it would say.
  • + 4
 @StraightLineJoe: 'Scratcing' is when a racer turns their SPOT Tracker off because they are quiting the race, basically taking a DNF for the results.
  • + 2
 @nosmallplans: She's a pretty big deal in distance racing like this and is stirring up plenty of controversy. It'd be like throwing gasoline on a fire to say she was disqualified for receiving help - but that's exactly what she was accused of - by having her girlfriend following along with a film crew - even before she scratched for whatever reason.

What's the difference between a technical rules violation and being disqualified for cheating? I don't know - maybe ask Richie Rude.
  • + 2
 Lael also got all kinds of bullshit from organizers and past racers because of the camera equipment following her efforts. Basically, some people are sour (me being one of them) that long distance self-supported racing (LDSSR) is being turned into a commodity to be sold to the masses. Lael is a great ambassador for record-setting women in that format of racing, but she definitely represents a new dynamic of influencer marketing in LDSSR. Unfortunately, some jerks got together to make up a bunch of ad-hoc rules just for Lael and her "entourage" that hadn't previously existed for any other rider. That tells you both what Lael represents as a brand within the commercialization of LDSSR, and about the fear surrounding the "spirit" of that format of racing.

It'd be interesting to see a list of who was given free gear, entry fees, reimbursement or payment for the 2019 Tour Divide, and what the total values of that sponsorship amounted to.
  • + 1
 @PHeller: Very very few have any sort of sponsorship, and that is mostly just gear. Lael was the only one racing the TD this year that is making a living by riding/racing bikes. The TD has no entry fee or awards.

Imagine Sam Hill showing up at an EWS and trying to race an E-bike, that's about the equivalent of what Ru (Lael's girlfriend) was doing by being a part of Lael's media crew. The problem wasn't Lael having a media crew, it was Ru being a part of that media crew, which is expressly against the rules. tourdivide.org/the_rules
  • + 1
 @RkyMtnSrfr: Sorry your right. There aren't any fees or winnings. That doesn't mean there can't be commercialization of the race, or damaging of the event's "spirit."

I do not however, believe that Ru's proximity to the event was giving Lael some sort of moral boost. If that's the case, should we prevent coupled team mates from riding together? What if we had two strong, gay, male riders who abide by all the rules but camp near eachother at night. Would that be cheating? I guess I'm not clear, and neither was Lael, on what exactly constitutes impacting the spirit of the race in regards to contact with loved ones. If the organizers had concerns about commercialization via media/content creation, thats one thing, but calling your partner who's just a few miles away, that's cheating? I dunno...if anything, due to the conditions this year, that close proximity did Lael a disservice.
  • + 2
 @PHeller: I didn't make the rules, I just abide by them. It's not my place to make assumptions or presumptions about what if.
  • + 0
 @RkyMtnSrfr: don't think much of your analogy. Ru's side of the story here if anyone wants more details:
theradavist.com/2019/06/tour-divide-race-part-4
  • + 13
 2700 miles on a SS?!?! Gnarly af. That’s legit!!!
  • + 5
 The amount of effort required here is mind boggling. I went out a 2-day gravel ride of around 220 miles and was completely drained when it was over. Huge respect to these men and women who cover that distance every single day for over two weeks!!
  • + 7
 Alexandera Houchin is twice the human I am. I remember seeing her at the roll out of the Smoke and Fire last year. She smoked me. Well done, Alexandra.
  • + 8
 Alexandera Houchin Is my new hero. What an absolute boss!
  • + 5
 Binary Bicycles is the best! Extremely high quality titanium frames! I have one and love it. Congratulations Chris! #TeamBinary
  • + 5
 Interesting that I can only spot one dropper among those bikes and it's on the single speed.

(That's actually my preference too)
  • + 4
 you sure it is not a clamp for the seat bag?
  • + 1
 @taprider: Looks like a dropper on the pics here, but I can't be sure
bikepacking.com/news/alexandera-houchin-2019-tour-divide
  • + 2
 @overconfident: 100% it is a dropper post, but I was not able to see which make/model from the photos and forgot what she told me.
  • + 1
 maybe something like this
www.wolftoothcomponents.com/products/valais-25
also don't see a remote cable anywhere or lever on her bars

But maybe RkyMtnSrfr has seen it or talked to Alexandera in real life
  • + 1
 @taprider: I'm Eddie Clark, wrote the report and took the photos.
  • + 2
 @RkyMtnSrfr: thanks, can't beat someone with real life experience to get the truth.
Also, great story and photos.
Wonder if the seatpost was a matter of "run what you brung" since she probably uses that bike for everything
Hope she tries the AZTR again for 2020 so I can talk to her in real life too
  • + 6
 She has interesting bike shoes :-)
  • + 12
 What about the helmet?
  • + 21
 That gal seems rad af. I wish I was half as cool as her.
  • + 0
 at least the ankle would be less prone to torsion!
  • + 10
 Flat pedals to win medals
  • + 7
 Work boots for sketchy routes.
  • + 1
 No clip-in for the win
  • + 3
 I would love to see more info on how the top finishers simply managed this race. Where they slept, how many calories they consumed daily ( and what food) etc.
Something I'll likely never do but I find it so intriguing.
  • + 6
 Look for the Desolationist podcast. I run through the journey, play by play. I ate 8000 calories a day. Almost all bakery type items from gas stations.
  • + 4
 7-11 enduro
  • + 2
 @BlkMrktIL: Thanks for the heads up, it's a great listen. Congratulations on the win!
  • + 4
 Happy to see this weird article here-what a bunch of bike loving people-do any of these people have daily diaries/blogs of their journey?
  • + 1
 These are racers, so the focus is to keep moving. They will have little time or focus for blogs etc. There is plenty of stuff about the TD out there. Personally, I like to watch Iohan the bike wanderer videos on that well known video sharing site. He covered some of the TD route I think, but mostly he is going where people don't take bikes and finds some fun along the way.
  • + 5
 What's going on with the toothbrush on the Singlespeed bike?
  • + 7
 Is it a handy chain-cleaning device? That was my first thought.
  • + 9
 How else do you carry along a toothbrush on a 2700 mile bike ride?
  • + 5
 www.bikepacking.com
  • + 2
 that slug plug taped to the bars on the first bike is pretty sick lol. i see more than one set of mezcals too. high praise for vittoria toughness.
  • + 2
 yeah I run mezcals on my XC bike now and not surprised to see them used on tour divide, by far the longest wearing tire I've ever used (and one of the fastest rolling also).

A set of Mezcal's last me around 5-6 times longer than Rocket Ron snakeskin which I was using before, and they cost half the price..
  • + 4
 What an event, some interesting bikes there.
  • + 1
 Intreaging compelling to read and quite unique from the usual bikes shown on PB. Bloody amazing! Amazing bikes, amazing people.
  • + 2
 That looks like a miserable time doing one of those races. But to each there own.
  • + 2
 Would be interesting to see what they all had in those bags. Maybe you guys could do a gear overview
  • + 1
 Quelle bandes de solides !

Real warriors here ! :-0

Je suis content de voir un autre français au top ! Bravo Sofiane !
  • + 1
 I love the extra long steerer to mount two sets of bars. Reminds me of the late, great Sheldon. This is truly a race that would make him proud. RIP Sheldon Brown.
  • + 2
 I'm gunna do it on an e bike,Should be pretty easy,not really a challenge at all.
  • - 1
 Until your battery runs out and you're in the middle of nowhere and have no way to charge it.
  • + 1
 Never been an issue. You just clean it off. There’s way worse things to deal with out there.
  • + 3
 It's Chris Seistrup, not Suestrip.
  • + 1
 And Steve Halligan not Halligar!
  • + 1
 @Tiez: Yes, correct on both accounts. Sorry on the typo.
  • + 3
 Lyle Willcough
  • + 5
 Cellophane Swahili
  • + 1
 Why do people not use water bottles with mouthpiece covers when mounting them under down tube? Are they OK with literally eating shit?
  • + 9
 Or maybe they just unscrew the lid...
  • + 4
 Or maybe they have supplies in the bottle.
  • + 4
 Some do, and those who don't are just using it as a storage container and not to drink from (they unscrew the lid to pour into a cleaner-ish bottle). It's a good question. Many actually run a bladder/with drinking hose inside the main triangle bag. Giardia and other water born illnesses are a real thing on the TD as they ride through a lot of cow poop.
  • + 2
 That's the least of their hygiene worries. Seriously, just wipe it off and it's fine.
  • + 4
 Water bottle under the downtube...it’s probiotic
  • + 1
 Never been an issue. You just clean it off. There’s way worse things to deal with out there.
  • + 2
 Am I the only one missing fenders on a long trip like that?
  • + 2
 Mud clearance. The point at with Lael scratched was just before a stretch of Colorado that had just gotten a ton of snow and the roads were ankle deep in mud. Having fenders would've destroyed the bike.
  • + 3
 Right. Some of these folks carry "mud scrapers" - devices designed to quickly and easily removed caked on mud from the bike.

It's part of the reason bigger tires fell out of favor on the route - they just collected more mud. Hence why you usually wont see tires bigger than 2.3", and the most popular sizes are 2.1" or smaller.
  • + 1
 Most amazing bike race/challenge I've ever seen. This is incredible, and those are some incredible athletes.
  • + 1
 I can't help but think there is something very, very wrong with these people.
  • + 2
 Wow epic ride, might have to add this to my list of things to do
  • + 9
 If you get the chance, read Guy Martin: Worms to catch. Gives an amazing insight into what it takes to attempt to complete the Tour Divide. Plus the bloke is a legend!
  • + 1
 @Heywood165: thanks dude, I'll do that!
  • + 1
 @nordland071285: here's a link 4 u!

www.rohloff.de/en/company/news/news/update-guy-martin-completes-the-tour-divide

on the RH side, 3rd pic down, if you click on the pic of magazine article, it will enlarge the article
  • + 2
 Alexandera is a babe.
  • - 3
 Quick race tldr Chris Suestrip from Arizona was the first to finish this year's race with a time of 15 days 11 hours and 24 minutes. Chris relied on his titanium Binary Cycles SuperB XC mountain bike with a Lauff suspension fork. The first woman to finish this year with a time of 18 days 20 hours and 26 minutes was repeat winner Alexandera Houchin from Minessota aboard her Chumba USA Stella Ti mountain bike.
  • + 1
 Alexandera = beast mode x10.
  • + 1
 How long is the arse recovery time?
  • + 1
 Thank you so much for this article PB!
  • + 1
 Alexandera Houchin - true force of nature! I'm loving that Girl Smile
  • + 0
 Is Paris France different from Paris?
  • + 8
 No, it's different from Paris, Texas.
  • + 1
 @DarrellW: or Paris, Arkansas. But yeah, typo, sorry. Thanks.
  • - 3
 Are there any recumbent bikes in the competition? Aren't they more efficient (+ well suited for viewing scenery)?
  • + 4
 There are long stretches of hike-a-bike. Would be impossible with a recumbent.
  • + 5
 I'd not want to ride one off road. Or on road, for that matter.
  • + 5
 I've never seen one. Would be mind boggling difficult. They're just not suited to this sort of route (too much rough dirt road, giant climbs, mud and sometimes pushing through snow), but there's always a first for everything.
  • + 1
 Would be interesting, especially if you could fit the recumbent with some sort of push bar. Would likely also need some sort of ability to wear the recum as a backpack, because lifting such a thing would be extremely difficult. Seems like a record looking to be set.
  • + 1
 @PHeller: just thinking about that makes my back hurt!
  • + 1
 Now I know. Thanks for the replies.
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