Jesse rode a carbon fibre Scott Scale 29er carbon bike with rigid carbon fibre Niner forks. His gear was mounted to his bike using a set of “bike packing” bags – no racks or panniers.
Co-founder and team mate, Jesse Carlsson has finished second in the Tour Divide MTB race in June. For those of you who haven’t heard about the race, the Tour Divide follows a 4,500km course criss-crossing the North American continental divide starting in the Canadian Rockies in Banff, and finishing on the US / Mexico border in New Mexico. The course is a mix of fire trails, forestry roads and dirt tracks with the odd bit of bitumen thrown in too. Jesse finished in 15.5 days, averaging about 290km per day.
While the weather was more favourable than in previous years, riders still encountered short sections of snow early on in the race.
The Tour Divide is a little bit different to mainstream MTB events. Riders race solo and unsupported through dense grizzly bear and mountain lion country, carrying all their touring gear, finding food and water where they can along the way. Riders are not allowed any assistance from a support crew and rely on commercial services available along the way for food, equipment and repairs they can’t carry out themselves.
A typical Tour Divide meal – Three foot long Subway sandwiches. The trick was to eat as much as possible, as fast as possible, before your body realizes that it’s full.
The event is notoriously tough on bikes and componentry for two reasons. Firstly, loaded bikes are heavy – even though riders don’t travel with many comfort items, their loaded bikes often weigh more than 20kg, and that’s without food and water. Jesse’s setup came in at around 17kg. Food and water added another 5 kg at times. Secondly, the terrain is tough – the roads are often corrugated, the descents are rocky and sometimes technical, there’s snow, sand and river crossings to contend with and a lot of miles to cover. Reliability is critical for riders competing in the Tour Divide.
The conditions south of Silver City were extremely hot and dusty. Temperatures climbed into the mid 40’s Celsius.
The Great Basin is a tough section of desert in Wyoming with no resupply points and minimal water for over 130 miles. Strong headwinds forced Jesse to take a few rest stops to hide from the sand.
After a great deal of testing Jesse chose to use Curve Cycling’s carbon fibre wheels for his Tour Divide spin. Part of the testing process involved riding his loaded bike on rough fire trails and single track with spokes missing. The testing process proved the wheels to be reliable, strong and super lightweight – perfect for the Tour Divide. No one wants to carry more weight than necessary over huge mountain passes.
At close to 12,000 feet, Indiana Pass was the highest mountain pass on the route. Jesse had to contend with thick smoke from nearby bush fires for most of the climb. Even though it was mid-afternoon the skies were dark from the heavy smoke.
Jesse’s Tour Divide wheels had the following specifications:
- Rim Width: 30mm external, 23mm internal
- Rim Depth: 20mm
- Rim Weight: 395g
- Spokes: Competition for the front and Champion straight gauge on the rear (we ran out of Competition spokes, otherwise he would have used them on the rear too)
- Spoke Count: 32h/32h
- Front Hub: Shutter Precision PD-8 dynamo hub
- Rear Hub: DT Swiss 240
- Nipple: Brass
The wheels performed flawlessly in the event, but there is a bit of a story to tell, which demonstrates the strength of the rims and also the nature of the event.
Somewhere near Salida, Colorado, a ruined rear tyre left Jesse with a critical decision: hike close to 20km to Salida or ride the rough and rocky descent on the rear rim. The hike was going to take too long, so Jesse chose to ride the descent on the rim, protected only by a flat rear tyre. Sure the rim would be sacrificed but a new wheel could be built quickly at the next town. As it turned out the rim survived the descent – there is no way an aluminum rim of similar weight would have made it to the floor of the valley. Surprisingly the wheel was still true and round, a testament to our wheel builder, Liam’s, skill. From the constant rock impact there were some areas of delamination on the bead hook, and so to be safe, Jesse had another wheel laced up.
Based on our testing and experience so far, wide profile carbon rims are perfect for long-distance off-road touring. Despite being significantly cheaper than competing products, Curve Cycling’s wheels seem to be perfectly adequate for such riding.
Curve Cycling wheels rolling towards the Mexican border!
Get in touch with us if you want to discuss building a set of wheels for your own touring adventures. With Curve Cycling’s wheels you might still be able to afford the airfare!
This is the photo that all Tour Divide contenders dream of – the end of the route at Antelope Wells, New Mexico.
Once again, well done to all the riders that participated in this years Tour Divide event. Maybe next year we can send a few more riders over for a couple of weeks touring in the USA.
Till next story
JC and SV