By Carson Truesdell
This past June, a friend and I embarked on a 2,000+ mile bike trip from Banff, Canada, to New Mexico. The “Great Divide Mountain Bike Route” is mainly a gravel road trail that crisscrosses the continental divide through mountain passes and desert plains. Traveling through two countries and five states, the trail runs through state capitals as well as some of the most wild and rugged terrain in the Rockies. The bike-packing equivalent to the Appalachian Trail, the Divide is grueling endurance effort that also has a race component. Fortunately, I had my arsenal of JAMBARs packed!
My fitness background has been centered on long distance running, but in the months prior to the trip, I came to love the sport of bike-packing and the thrill of riding dirt roads. Only a short drive from my current hometown, Charlotte, North Carolina, there are world class gravel roads. Never ending climbing tires out the legs and variable terrain keeps the mind active.
One aspect I did not realize when entering the sport of cycling was the importance of nutrition.
Typically, in running races, I could get away with just having a gel or sports drink during races. My stomach is somewhat sensitive so I didn’t want to risk upsetting it. However, in the sport of bike-packing, where you are riding all day (and get up the next day to do it again!), proper nutrition is critical.
The sports gels and other nutrition supplements that taste manufactured or fake eventually become unpalatable when you repeatedly eat them. This is where JAMBAR made all the difference. I enjoyed the wholesome, flavorful nature of the bars, as well as the variety between fruity and nut-based flavors.
JAMBAR became my go-to mid-ride snack on training trips, as well as the on the Great Divide (I even mailed some bars to a post office in Colorado as a mid-trip re-supply)!
Trips like the Great Divide can be transformative – the daily joy of climbing over mountain passes, the relief when a thunderstorm passes, the thrill of a smooth and fast descent. It was an incredible gift to embark on a trip like this, where many sacrifices are made for a dream to be realized.
Some of the lessons I learned from this trip were invaluable:
Keep an open mind and be flexible: We faced a historic snowstorm in southern Canada / northern Montana that covered portions of the route in feet of snow. We determined that the risk of proceeding on the planned route was too dangerous and thus changed our itinerary to avoid treacherous conditions.
Control what you can: While there will always be unexpected events (weather, bike breakdowns, closed roads, angry drivers, etc.), maximize success by controlling what you can. We always carried extra food and water, tried to eat as much “real food” as possible (think JAMBAR with its real food, certified organic ingredients), planned rest days when it made sense (e.g., Day 10 when the forecast showed freezing rain), among other things. This helped us keep a positive perspective on the challenges we faced, as well as diminish potential trip-ending results, like an injury.
Understand your intentions: We embarked on this trip to have an epic endurance adventure that would not only challenge us but would also allow us to have lots of fun. We knew that our more relaxed approach may mean that we would not finish the entirety of the route (which we were at peace with). We did it our way, made route adjustments, occasionally took detours, carried a bit more gear, and stopped to talk to strangers who were curious to learn what we were doing.
- Build and accept community: My bike partner and I received support from so many different people – both near and far. Whether it was the people along the route who generously opened their houses up to us to stay for a night, friends sharing congratulatory messages on our Instagram page or donating money to Trips for Kids (the charity we were raising money for), we were the recipients of an incredible outpouring of support. The trip would have been much harder without the acts of generosity from others.
It doesn’t require a month-long journey across the country to experience the power of exercise and adventure. Even a post-work walk around the neighborhood can open the mind and body to new possibilities. Dream big and chase adventure, but also realize that each day there are opportunities to challenge yourself in profoundly meaningful ways!