A bike ride we’ve been talking about doing for a number of years. 2,745 miles in distance, it starts in Banff, Canada and zigzags it’s way South along the Continental Divide to Antelope Wells on the Mexican border.
Tom (14) and I got on our Sonder Broken Roads and over 32 days (with none off for good behaviour) rode it all.
I guess you are thinking, “Wow that’s amazing” which of course as an achievement, is just that.So, “How was the ride, the pictures looked amazing?”
Tom and I have ridden a long way together over the last few years. Before we left for Canada, Tom had under his belt around 19,000 miles. Lots of 100 mile days, 24 hour races, a 200 mile ride, several multi day bikepacking trips. We felt ready and suitably experienced for the Tour Divide. In some ways, all those miles we’d previously ridden were training for this, the big one.
We had an aim high goal of completing the route inside 25 days, with a fall back position of 30 days. Whilst I thought 25 days was going to be tough, I thought we’d easily make it inside 30 days presuming nothing much went wrong.
We were ambitious and confident before we started. Getting to the end was going to happen. I say that because Tom and I have always had a pact that if we start a ride, we will finish it. There are rides that we’ve talked about and not started, but the only reasons we’ve not finished rides which we’ve started are due to becoming physically ill. We might be determined, but sometimes our bodies have other plans.
We rocked up to the start in Banff with some nerves though. Would we be struck by lightning, eaten by bears, crash out or get unlucky in some other way? Too many possibilities, most of which would be dictated by luck or chance. Best get on our bikes then and not worry about that which we’ve no way of controlling.
Once on our bikes, we fell into a familiar rhythm of riding our bikes, sourcing and eating food, and of course, sleeping. Business as usual.
It is no exaggeration to say that the landscape that unfolded was amazing. Big mountains, big forests, and so much wildlife. On the first day we saw a black bear, the first of three we saw. There were loads of other birds and animals, and I mean loads. We felt so lucky to see such things.
The way it usually goes on big trips is this. Day one, a sense of awe, elation and a lack of fatigue. Day 2 tiredness and maybe a niggle or two make themselves apparent. Day 3 is often a crux. Not enough food eaten on the preceding days, the makings of an injury maybe, or the most common one, gone out too hard too soon.
We knew these things, we’d done this before. We made it through the first few days OK.
The towns and villages we went through had the friendliest and most helpful people, the food was better than we’d hoped for.
I recall posting a picture on Instagram around the 700 mile mark. Tom looked happy and strong if a little dirty.
Happy days. Truly living the dream.
Ride, eat, sleep, repeat. We’d got this.
“I’m done with this. My feet hurt, my hands hurt and I am tired” Tom had stopped at the side of the trail and was sat down unlacing his shoes.
“No problem Tom, let's have a look at your shoes, maybe it’s your cleat position. Are your laces too tight? Let’s get you some gloves at the next town. If you are tired, let's have an early night and maybe a lie in tomorrow.”
Rapid fire answers which I’d hoped would staunch Tom’s sudden flood of negativity. Answers that would normally tick the boxes to get Tom back on his bike and riding again.
Instead, I received a look that truly said Tom was done.
There have been a number of people who have said “Enjoy your time cycling with your son as one day it will be over. Tom will grow up and become a man who makes his own decisions. Decisions that have to be respected.”
Tom's a strong rider, there were never complaints, he was always the one who was happy to ride that bit further, but now he was the one who wanted to stop riding.
I was shocked and confused. I guess if we were in a town, then that could have been the end of it. Home time.
Many years ago, on a ride, we were in the middle of nowhere and Tom wanted to bail, the only problem was there was no easy way out other than to continue our journey. I said the same words I said back then, “Tom get on your bike. We can't stay here.” That was a fact. He definitely wasn’t happy, but we both knew that we needed to ride somewhere other than a clearing in a forest.
I talk about various things as we start riding again. All I want to do is draw Tom from the darkness which I hoped had only temporarily ensnared him.
The conversation ebbed and flowed before settling on guitars. Tom tells me of his dream guitar, blue starburst maple, humbucker pickups and many other details. Tom’s eyes have regained their usual sparkle and he can see some good in the world again.