I am riding The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route in the summer of 2010. The Great Divide Trail, as it is sometimes referred to, was mapped by Adventure Cycling Association in 1998 as a bicycle equivalent to trails in the National Scenic Trail system (the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail). Unlike those other trails which were conceived of and then largely built, the Great Divide Route (as it is other times referred to) pieces together old Forest Service Roads, jeep tracks, single track, paved roads, and rail-trails (old railroad beds converted to biking and walking trails). In this manner, the GDMBR (as it is yet other times referred to) is, like me, an opportunistic scavenger. Bravo to you, Adventure Cycling Association, for making do with what is there.

Though we would all love the route to be pristine single track blazing along the very crest of the divide, this is impossible for several reasons. One is that there is already such a trail (the Continental Divide Trail), but it is not open to bicycles, for the most part anyway, and the other reason is that several wilderness areas and National Parks straddle the Continental Divide and bicycles and not permitted anywhere in the former and only on paved roads in the latter (and the paved roads are not where the crest of the divide is). So if at times the route seems bizarre to you, I assure you that it probably seems even more bizarre to me as I find out exactly how they managed to negotiate the patchwork of public, restricted, and private lands that is America.

Depending on their own level of comfort with bicycle touring, people ask me questions along the lines of Where will you stay and What will you eat? Natural, I think, to find this mystifying: is it a camping trip? But on a bicycle? Is it supported? Who am I going with?

I am doing the ride unsupported and solo. This means I will be carrying all my own gear for camping and all of my food. The route is fairly remote, though how this is understood depends on context. For backpackers used to wilderness areas, the route is not all that remote, being largely on roads of one kind or another, some of which may have as much as a vehicle a day driving by. However, for the road touring cyclist, accustomed to gas stations whizzing by every hour, and giant supermarkets once a day, the Great Divide Route can indeed be quite secluded. The route passes through towns offering services such as grocery stores, laundromats, post offices, restaurants, and sometimes even bike shops, but less frequently than typical bike touring and more frequently than typical backpacking. I will be mostly camping in the woods, using both campgrounds and other random patches of soft earth. Whenever I pass through a town, I’ll pick up food for the next couple days and cook on my backpacking stove. Most of my water will be surface water that I will pump from streams. So the essence of the trip will be very akin to backpacking, with the notable exception that my mode of travel is by foot and wheel together, not just the feet alone. Some genius somewhere made the apt amalgam to describe this type of trip: bikepacking.

Wikipedia entry about the Great Divide Route.
Adventure Cycling Association on the Great Divide Route.