Tour Divide Update: Marshall Pass, CO

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Stella presents a banner on the south side of Boreas Pass yesterday.  The banner reads “Go Lael!  You can do it!”.  Stella will attend a week-long mountain bike camp later this summer.  Read all about it and check out the whole photo series on the Big Dummy Daddy blog in a post titled “Go Lael, go!”  Photos courtesy Andy Duvall, aka Big Dummy Daddy.

It is a good morning for sleeping outside.  Josh Kato awoke at 3:30 this morning to put some miles on Neil and Jay, both of whom had camped in Abiquiu (edit: I erroneously reported that they had taken room at the Abiquiu Inn, although it has been clarified that they slept on the porch of a building), a quaint and beautiful corner of New Mexico made famous by artist Georgia O’Keefe.  Neil and Jay spent more than eight hours in Abiquiu, and while they’ve lost their lead to Josh’s early morning push, being well fed and well rested will likely keep them charged for a race to the finish.  Josh has just arrived in Abiquiu at 7AM, as Bode’s General Store opens for the day.  The route out of Abiquiu climbs Polvadera Mesa, one of the hallowed climbs of the Great Divide Route.  Beyond Cuba, NM the route passes a long stretch of pavement on an approved ACA Alternate route through Pueblo Pintado to Grants.  The route continues to Pie Town, then through a narrow slit in the Gila Wilderness to Silver City, and across US I-10 to the border of Mexico.  The ride from Abiquiu to Cuba is the last big climb on the route.  The Gila section tends to be regarded as one of the toughest sections on the route for southbound riders, featuring a relentless series of climbs and descents, a shallow roller coaster compared to the topography of Colorado and Northern New Mexico.  Reaching Silver City marks the end of the mountains, and a race to the border on a mix of paved and unpaved roads.  Virtual spectators have speculated that some of the top riders may ditch some gear for the race to the finish.  Other wonder if the two will cross the line together, or race the final pavement like the bell lap on a track.  Perhaps they plan to ride to the finish without rest?  But whatever arrangements Jay and Neil have conceived in the past 11 days, or in the last 8 hours, may be unsettled by the presence of a third rider.  We have a race!

Lael also made an early move out of Poncha Springs this morning, starting on the bike around 4:30.  I can’t say for sure, but I suspect she poached camp in town somewhere.  She didn’t call, and seemed not to turn on her phone, which is a sign that she is focusing on riding and recovery.  She has not developed any strong daily patterns due to a variety of unexpected circumstances along the way– especially illness– but 4:30 seems to be her regular waking hour to maximize daytime riding.  

Three riders beat her into Salida and Poncha Springs last night; all seemed to take a room indoors.  Another rider, Rob Davidson, arrived later in the evening but has diverted back to Salida.  He is likely in search of bicycle service from one of thee three great shops in town.  Salida is the last place for bike repairs and parts until Silver City, about 700 miles away.  It is one of my favorite towns on the Divide, best enjoyed in the context of a tour.  In fact, we’ve been here twice before.  We first passed in 2011 on the Great Divide, riding a strip of the CDT and CT along the Monarch Crest trail from Monarch Pass to Marshall Pass.  This was Lael’s first day of singletrack mountain biking, at almost 12,000ft on a drop bar Surly Long Haul Trucker.  The next year, we passed through Salida on an abbreviated trip along the Colorado Trail, pushed up Foose’s Creek to the Continental Divide and looped back to town via Silver Creek and the Rainbow Trail, before hitching a ride to Interbike with Anton van Leuken from the Salida Bike Co.  Lael’s been up and over Marshall Pass three times.  Pedaling at a steady rate this morning, with three boys in chase, this will be her fourth.  She is now in 7th place overall, although Seb Dunne is reportedly stuck in the mountains of southern Colorado with a broken fork.  The climb from Poncha Springs is about 3500 ft.

Riding 170 miles yesterday from outside Kremmling, CO to Poncha Springs, CO, Lael continued pace with her group.  My cousin Brent, who lives in Breckenridge and has been following the race, reports “Lael came through town around 11:40AM– she looked good.  Stopped briefly to chat but kept right on pedaling in hopes of catching the guys on the pass.”  It looks like the two riders ahead of her missed the turn for the Gold Rush Trail near the top of the pass and gained a few minutes.  Nearing Como, Lael was surprised by another local fan.  Andy, aka Big Dummy Daddy, and his daughter Stella waited along the roadside with a handmade sign, hoping to exchange high fives and hugs for a few moments.  Andy has graciously accepted us into his home on two occasions, once when we began the Colorado Trail at Waterton Canyon, and another time when we returned from Ukraine and hitched a ride to Loma, CO to begin a ride to Utah and Arizona, late one summer.  Andy reports:

We successfully found Lael, and I’m happy to report that she’s looking good and sounding well, except for the remnants of a crusty cough.  We caught up with her a few miles north of Como, near Little Baldy Mountain.  I put together a post from our experience titled “Go Lael, go!”

Stella is enrolled in a week-long mountain bike camp in Waterton Canyon later this summer.  It makes me so happy to see Lael and Stella together in this context.  It is a good week for girls on bikes.

Follow the Tour Divide 2015 at

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Biking to the trailhead


Slowly pedaling past Pathfinders and Passports, past Colorado Trail signage and past day-riders descending the broad dirt road of Waterton Canyon, we make our way to the rest of Colorado.  I leave behind a wake of states and provinces, mountains and colorfully named highways.  A faint dotted line on a figurative map marks my progress, but we’re not looking back, only forward.  As the present become the past, the journey retains a specific character– the good times are served well by memory and the bad, mostly severed.  The last few miles to the start of the trail from Fort Collins to Boulder, to Denver and south through the suburbs along the Platte River Trail and Chatfield Reservoir are the easiest, but it’s been a long road, a detail which will not soon be forgotten.

Lumbering out of Anchorage on a repurposed “snow bike” into late spring was wet, yet spectacular; the Yukon is expansive and the midnight sun as relentless as the mosquitos and headwinds; the Cassiar Highway is a haul, and a means to lower B.C. and the States; the Icefields Parkway swarms with tourists, encouraging me off-pavement for the remainder of the summer; and the Great Divide Route is heavenly, as always.  All of this has been a means to this end– the Colorado Trail.  I’ve lost sleep over this trail, worrying that it is too steep or too hard, yet dreaming of the alpine scenery and the rewards of sitting atop mountains, and riding down their backsides.  The crux of this journey is this trail, and from my mid-winter vantage in Alaska, biking to the trailhead was the only way to get here.  As the future becomes the present, dreams become reality.  I’m here, finally.

Andy, our suburban host, provides a home for a few days and a convenient jumping off point for the start of the Colorado Trail.  Better known on the internet as Big Dummy Daddy, Andy holds a PhD in public health with a focus on urban bike-sharing; he has also earned an advanced degree in suburban family transport, to the credit of his Surly Big Dummy, the Snap Deck Xtracycle attachment, and a two-wheeled baby trailer.  Scout the dog follows alongside, and Piper keeps watch form behind.

Andy’s new Surly Pugsley is a gift to himself for completing his dissertation, and is blowing minds daily on the local canal trail and outside Whole Foods.  On this morning, our Pugsleys escort Stella’s little pink Kona to school.  This is suburban cycling, summa cum laude.





Andy shows us the way to the trailhead.  Lael is back in the swing of things and her new Giro helmet is supremely photogenic against Colorado skies, and a little reminiscent of 1985 mountain bike culture.  A couple hot dogs and sodas send us off at the trailhead.







Beyond the gates to the Colorado Trail follow six miles of graded access road, gently ascending the South Platte River.  At the dam, the road turns upward and the trail narrows.  The following few miles are supremely rideable singletrack and confirm the allure of the trail.  Soon, hiking through cobblestone rubble up steep grades confirms the challenges.  The rumor of challenges, like bad news and gossip grow with wildfire ferocity.  Tune out the naysayers who say it’s too heavy, too steep, too hard and too far– you can do it.  You can transport yourself!



The list of colorfully named highways is fun: the Yellowhead, Icefields, Cassiar, Klondike, Glenn, Richardson, Top-of-the-World, Denali, Parks, Alaska, Taylor, Diagonale and Peak-to-Peak.

How not to install a headset

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A silky Velo Orange Grand Cru sealed cartridge bearing headset replaces a gritty old Ritchey with worn races.  I know how to install a headset with a Park HHP-2, but I also know how to install the cups when staring at a pile of parts on a back porch, wondering how a bike will ever come of it all.  After removing the old cups with a big flathead screwdriver and a hammer, I applied a light steel wool to the inside of the headtube to smooth imperfections and ease the installation.  Some grease aids the process, but I stacked 2 x 4s until the headtube was evenly supported and applied a blunt force from above, transmitted through a block of wood with medium hardness.  Be sure to apply an even blow to reduce the risk of damaging the cup.  Hit it again if it needs some more help.  Maybe one more solid blow will assure the cup sits entirely in the frame.  Wham.  If the cup doesn’t seat by hand or doesn’t give into the frame with the first blow, consider the aid of the proper tools and expertise.


Three blows to each side was enough to fully seat the cups and copious amounts of grease are applied before the cartridge bearings are installed to limit the intrusion of water and grit.  Happily, the crown race is a split ring design that allows tool free installation, and avoids the hammer.  Below, the Raleigh XXIX now has a Rock Shox Reba fork and a gold On-One Mary handlebar.  To come: a derailleur hanger and used XT derailleur, a lightly used 32 tooth Surly steel chainring, a NOS Suntour XC Expert shifter; new cables, housing and 9-speed chain, as well as Ergon grips from the Hooligan.  Lael’s gold VP platform pedals have ridden to the Knik Glacier on the Pugsley and across Corsica on the Hooligan, but will find their greatest adventure yet in Colorado.  Her grandfather was a gold jeweler and while I can’t afford real gold, she’s easily pleased by gold anodized aluminum.  The bike is shaping up.


The bike was sourced from Craigslist. the stem and Surly chainring are from Boulder Community Cycles, and the Suntour shifter(s) are from Big Dummy Daddy, who has a PhD in sharing bikes.  Or is it bike-sharing?  He can tell you more about bike sharing programs and Denver’s pioneering project than almost anyone.  His dissertation entitled “Public bicycle sharing as a population-scale health intervention for active transportation in Denver, Colorado“, is exhaustive.  Read some of it.