Continental Divide Adventure – Lessons Learned

Aug 21, 2013 View Comments by

Continental Divide Adventure – Lessons LearnedRiding a motorcycle on a route that closely traces the Continental Divide by way of as little pavement as possible, while not unheard of, is definitely an undertaking.

As with most people, work, family, and life in general means having a schedule. Dave and I gave ourselves 12-14 days to complete the journey with one or two days of padding in the event of something unexpected (i.e. mechanical problem, weather, road closures, etc.). While we were fortunate to not have any serious issues, a pre-emptive tire change mid-way through (Salida, CO) did mean a day off the track. By the time we reached Salida we were both ready for a break. We did opt to go explore the area a bit the next morning while we waited for UPS to deliver our tires. It was nice to not have to pack and load up the bike and put in another 10-12 hour day after eight straight days of riding. (Even if relaxing meant a morning running up and down the very rocky Tincup Pass and an afternoon of tire changing.)

Since I returned a few days ago, there have been more than a few emails and most wanted to know essentially the same thing; “Could this be done on my (fill in the blank)”. I am paraphrasing, but several people have asked me about doing the CDR route on a larger “Adventure” bike (1200 GS/Super Ténére/Tiger 800/Tiger Explorer). Before I give my opinion on that, I thought I’d also share some lessons learned and how I would do things a bit differently had I known then what I know now.

-Take more breaks. Plan to spend a day off the bike every three to four days. There were several times I wished I could have parked the bike and explored a little more on foot. Or, used the downtime to just be a “tourist.”  This would mean planning an extra few days on the route.

-Bring along camping gear. While it’s nice to have a bed after a long day’s ride, hotels/motels get old quickly and there were several campgrounds along our path that looked quite inviting. I wouldn’t camp every night, but it would be nice on occasion.

-If you really, really can’t live without something, bring two. I thought I had this covered until I awoke the morning of our 12th day to discover that my camera’s battery charger had died. I brought two batteries but only one charger. Luckily I had a point and shoot as a backup. The pics on the last two days were not as good as I would have liked, however.

-If you are traveling in a group, keep it small. Fortunately this was the case for Dave and I. Spending days on end with someone isn’t always easy. The more personalities and opinions there are to contend with, the greater chance they might ruin the fun for everyone. I would recommend a group of three, possibly four at the most (if everyone has ridden together before).

On the question of what bike to take, much of our route could be done by an experienced rider on a larger Adventure bike (aka Beast). There were, however, some sections that I wouldn’t recommend for even the best riders on a fully loaded beast. Detours around the rougher sections are strongly recommended. Planning and research is the key to enjoying your ride and not getting in over your head. The bottom line is, if this type of riding-adventure intrigues you, make a plan and have fun! It will be an experience you will not soon forget.

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About the author

I've been called a "Free-Spirit", "A Lost Soul", and "A Wanderer" for as long as I can remember. I prefer to think of myself as a Traveler. Most at ease when I am in motion, two of my favorite things are arriving somewhere new, and heading off for somewhere yet unexplored.