Words: Chris Shalbot | Photos: Scott Rinckenberger | Video: Justin Olsen
Access to our remote backcountry trails aboard a mountain bike is becoming more and more challenging. Ride along on the Fun/Suffer Divide with Chris Shalbot, Scott Rinckenberger and Justin Olsen as the trio discovers a stretch of the Continental Divide Trail between Montana and Idaho in the hope of shedding some light on this beautiful stretch of country, all while inspiring others to explore too. Rewarded with views, memories and most importantly, a sense of accomplishment that will last a lifetime, the crew proves that a pathway to preservation exists through discovery and use.
THE ADVENTURE When planning this out we wanted to make sure that we did as little to compromise the riding experience as possible. The solution was to stage lockable YETI coolers. We would ride two or three days, hit our cache, leave our garbage and load up with enough food to get us to the next drop without weighing us down. We could stage a lens or a tripod needed for that specific section, batteries to charge our cameras and phones to access GPS. If we had a mechanical on the trail we were equipped to do quick fixes that would last us long enough to get to limp along and then properly replace it at the third drop.
You get into this mode where everything in your world becomes really simple. It comes down to covering the miles you need to cover, making sure there’s enough food and shelter. And all the distractions you’re used to all kind of fade away.—Scott Rinckenberger
THE LANDSCAPE One of the greatest features of mountain bikes is the ability to cover big mileage and the opportunity to move through multiple landscapes and ecosystems in a single adventure. Our trip began in a forest killed by wildfires that were strewn across the trail from countless blowdowns. Eventually, we found ourselves in the alpine making our way along ridges and dropping down to make camp at water sources and resupply. The southern leg of our journey found us transitioning out of alpine terrain, and into long rolling ridge lines with endless views. Watching the show of light and shadow rolling across the landscape with the movement of the clouds was one of the most iconically Montana moments. Trail-surface varied as much as the views with everything from massive boulder fields to rolling single track in well-spaced trees, from old roadbeds to dinner sized plates of shale and everything in between.
The dense trees, blind corners and the nearly excessive use of bells kept wildlife sighting to an unfortunate minimum along the trail save for deer, a fox, coyote, hawks and it was slightly ironic that the grizzly and moose we saw happened while driving to our drop locations.
CAMP LIFE Aside from the backcountry cabin, camp was wherever our legs and daylight dictated. We usually arrived at camp with enough light to make dinner and set up camp. We went to bed each night dirty and tired. We awoke each morning, still dirty, still tired. Our camps varied from our cooler locations to the shore of an unnamed alpine lake to the bottom of a cold, dark gulch with a raging creek. We strategically planned and placed the food, supplies and camera gear needed to get us between each drop in the coolers. Breakfast was a combination of oatmeal, chai seeds, nuts and dried fruit. By day 7 we were sick of oatmeal and began experimenting with anything and everything we had. Highlights included chocolate covered espresso beans and even gummy bears. Lunch was a variety of bars, jerky and summer sausage while dinner was a rotation of freeze-dried dinners we could make in the dark by adding boiling water. What little room remained was filled with random, last-minute snacks packed in haste. The excitement of opening a cooler unable to remember exactly its contents resembled a child on Christmas morning. The occasional coconut water or beer to go with the bag of tortilla chips and a small bottle of salsa were a welcomed moment of moral recharge every couple of days.
On such a large ride, the last thing we wanted was to be weighed down by 11 days of food. Our solution - staging lockable coolers allowing us to resupply and discard our waste as we went along.—Chris Shalbot
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