5 Things That Might Kill You on the Great Divide

things that might kill you on great divide
Listen - 5 Things That Might Kill You on the Great Divide

“Were you ever scared?” 

I get asked this question a lot when I talk about the Great Divide. The answer is absolutely. I was scared every day on that trip.

Animals lurk around you when you sleep, thunderstorms rock the ground beneath your tent, and at times you’re dozens of miles away from civilization with only the clothes on your back… well bike. 

Don’t get me wrong — I had a lot of fun. The scariest moments ended up being some of the best stories I can remember from this trip. After all, it’s not an adventure unless you have a little thrill to go along with it.

So to answer the burning question everyone wants to know, here are the top 5 dangers to watch out for on the Great Divide.

5 Things That Might Kill You on the Great Divide

1. Bears

On the Great Divide, you’re always carrying food. You’re snacking while you ride, cheffing up meals in the Jetboil, and stopping at every restaurant you see. Food is a commodity, and it’s hard to get too much of it.

But the golden rule when camping is that you don’t bring food into your tent. In fact, it should be stored in a protected space far away from your campsite. Why? Food attracts bears, and now you're putting the whole campsite in jeopardy.

I saw one bear on my trip. It was brown cub that scurried across the road before I could get a good look at him. I definitely wasn't disappointed, though. Brown bears are known to be a bit more aggressive, especially when around their cubs, and I wasn't too interested in meeting its mama. 

2. Weather

Whether you believe it or not (cringe), I stayed updated on the weather every day on this trip. You're climbing thousands of feet on dirt roads offering little protection from the elements. Whether it was the thunderstorms in Montana or the hail in New Mexico, the weather played a huge factor in how far I got each day.

In some cases, you don't even have to get caught up in a storm to be set back by a rainy day. In Colorado, they have what's called "peanut butter mud" which is mud that is so thick it's like creamy peanut butter that sticks to everything. My bike got caught up in this once, and I came screeching to a halt. Luckily I was near a town because I had to carry my bike for miles before the wheels started spinning again.

peanut butter mud

My advice: bring a weather GPS. Mine could tell me the forecast even if I didn't have cell service. I would also ask the locals for advice whenever I knew a storm was coming. This saved my butt in Pie Town when a flash flood wiped out the trail and I had to go around. 

3. Accidents & Injury

It's hard to go fast when you're trucking a 100-pound bike. With all that gear, I spent more time keeping my balance than worrying about how fast I could go.

At camp, I would strip the bike down and take it for rides without any gear. This was when I could feed my need for speed. 

Except for that one day when I was flying down a hill, wind in my hair, flowing like a mane on a majestic lion. That's not a brag, though. I'm pointing out that my pea brain was fully exposed to the blunder that would happen next.

I banked a turn, and before I knew it, my head was upside down, and I watched my bike run me over as I pole-vaulted over the handlebars. I didn't hit my head, fortunately, but my knee definitely took a hit. I was lucky it wasn't a lot worse. 

I learned my lesson after that. I took it slow and always wore a helmet. It was a not-so-friendly reminder that this trip could turn sour at any given moment.

4. Bike Repairs

I had a hunch I would have to repair my bike on this trip. I mostly thought I would change a few flat tires and maybe clean up the chain a bit. I bought a bunch of other tools and supplies just in case, but I never really thought I would have to use them in the field. 

I think you see where this is going. In the Great Basin, 50 miles away from civilization in all directions, I broke 3 spokes on my back tire. The bike still worked, but I spent a day worrying if and when it would break down. Eventually, I had to haul it via a moving truck to Steamboat Springs, where the technician who worked on my bike was impressed that I hadn't damaged the wheel more.

great divide bike route

There are some things you just can't plan for on a trip like this. But one of my biggest regrets was not practicing using the tools and making simple repairs on my own. Even if I couldn't have fixed my bike, at least I would have known what was wrong and how severe the damage was.

5. Cows

Yes. Cows. Vicious, blood-thirsty creatures like this one. 

cow - great divide tour

I joke, but these guys are literally everywhere. They block the roads, stomp around your campsites, and stumble about clumsily everywhere they turn. And, they travel in packs. So, it's like a horde of fuzzy refrigerators that will start a stampede if you sneeze in their direction.

Overall, they're one of the lesser dangers on the trail, and usually, they'll run off when they see you coming. But, every now and then, a lone, bold bovine will stand its ground, stare you straight in the face, and dare you to bike past it. 

What Doesn't Kill You...

I'm not sure the cows made me any stronger -- but they did give me an appreciation for open-range livestock. 

Like any adventure, the Great Divide has plenty of dangers. I mean, you're camping in the woods for two months — what do you expect?

It might not be all peaches and rainbows, but I promise the thrills are worth it. Prepare yourself accordingly, and you probably won't get eaten... probably. 

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