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Monday, June 3, 2013

Commuting the Tour Divide

Nick's tricked-out bike prepared for the race.
On June 14th, I’ll strap on my helmet, check my lights, make sure that my load is secure, then climb onto my bicycle, look around for traffic and pedal off. But instead of leaving the grocery and heading home like I do each week, I’ll be in Banff, Alberta Canada and my destination will be the Mexican border, 2,750 miles away.
The Tour Divide is a single stage, unsupported offroad race along the Continental Divide. We race through whatever weather comes our way, sleep along the side of the road or trail (or hotels found along the way), eat food found at restaurants and gas stations and try to enjoy over 200,000 feet of climbing along the way. It’s a big undertaking to be sure, but small things like bicycle commuting has helped me prepare for the adventure.
Here are ten ways that commuting has helped my Tour Divide preparation:
1. I’m on my bike at all times of the day. Even with my legs tired from training, I try to get myself around town by bicycle. Sucking it up, especially on short trips, and taking my bicycle usually means that my errands are finished more quickly. Parking is never an issue and with great bike paths and bike lanes in Boulder, Colorado, it’s easy to navigate safely. During Tour Divide, I’ll spend up to 18 hours a day on my bike. Early morning and late night rides around town make cycling at that time normal.
2. I save money riding my bike instead of driving my car. Whether it’s gas, car maintenance or parking fees, using my bike is just plain cheaper. The money saved helps fund my cycling adventures and new gear for gravel racing and my Tour Divide endeavor.
3. Groceries make the ultralight camping gear I use seem uber light! With my city bike loaded up with fresh vegetables, juice, milk and other necessities, the ride uphill back home is not only a great mini workout, it also puts the weight of my loaded Tour Divide into perspective. It’s actually pretty light!

Nick's commuter bike packed down with groceries.
4. The ying and yang of urban riding and backcountry or rural riding helps me appreciate both.Bustling around town, on high alert for motorists, potholes, etc. can be a lot of fun. Getting out into the countryside, on back roads or trails, is the cycling antithesis of city life. Embracing both helps me enjoy both.
5. Using a bicycle to get somewhere you have to go, usually gives you the chance to dream of where you’d like to go on a bicycle. That inspires new adventures.
6. Depending on your bike to get to work on time requires preparedness. Like the Boy Scout motto, “Be prepared,” you need to make sure that your bike is reliable. The same goes for bikepacking, where you find yourself even farther from assistance.
7. I get in extra miles commuting around town, often with a load on a heavy bike.
8. On days when it looks dreary outside, a quick errand by bike will prove that it’s not so bad out. It helps me to go outside and train and remember to Harden Up!
9. The attentiveness required to stay safe in traffic is the same sort of thinking (quick problem-solving, anticipation) that helps when I’m out bikepacking. Offroad riding on a loaded bike requires focus on the trail and planning. Both commuting and bikepacking compliment each other extremely well.
10. It’s fun to run around town by bike! With the long training miles required for Tour Divide, a quick jaunt, in street clothes, on my city bike is refreshing. If cycling becomes work, it’s time to rethink it.


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