Aug 3, 2022
This week we sit down with Nick Marzano to explore his experience during the 2022 Tour Divide. The 2022 Tour Divide began with over 200 riders following the 2,745-mile Great Divide Mountain Bike Route from north to south starting in Banff, Alberta, Canada and finishing at the US/Mexico border in Antelope Wells, New Mexico.
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Automated Transcription, please excuse the typos:
[00:00:00] Craig Dalton: Hello, and welcome to the gravel ride podcast, where we go deep on the sport of gravel cycling through in-depth interviews with product designers, event organizers and athletes. Who are pioneering the sport
I'm your host, Craig Dalton, a lifelong cyclist who discovered gravel cycling back in 2016 and made all the mistakes you don't need to make. I approach each episode as a beginner down, unlock all the knowledge you need to become a great gravel cyclist.
This week on the show, we've got Nick Marzano from Philadelphia. Here to talk to us about the tour divide. Nick recently finished the tour divide routes during the grand depart from Banff, Canada, and made it all the way to the edge of the border of Mexico. If you don't know about the tour divide, it's roughly follows a route called the great divide mountain bike route, and it's recognized as one of the most important off pavement cycling routes in the United States of America. If not the world, the root criss crosses the continental divide from north to south, starting in Banff, Alberta, Canada, and finishing at the U S Mexico border in antelope Wells, New Mexico. I've been following the tour divide for many years. In fact, in some small part, I credit it with getting me excited.
About making the transition from mountain bike, riding to gravel riding. It's an amazing accomplishment. To have achieved this event. It's 2,745 miles, and God knows how much climbing along the way. When Nick picked his head up in the ridership forum and mentioned to the community that he was doing it, I was super stoked to not only follow along.
is.as he completed the route, but hear his stories along the way. It's amazing to get a firsthand account of what the tour divide experience looks like. . It varies every year, as you can imagine, with 2,745 miles. Across the United States. You've got all kinds of things to contend with.
This year, there were some late season snow up in Canada. Which wreaked havoc. On the race and ended a lot of people's tour divides efforts before they even began.
As you'll hear Nick persevered and had an amazing experience out there. It was a real pleasure talking to them. Before we jump into that conversation i need to thank this week sponsor trek travel
You may recall last year when we had Trek on talking about the Jarana gravel bike tour, I was super excited. What you don't know is I've been talking about going on this trip since that moment in time. I'm super excited to go to Jarana this year in November, and I'm inviting you to join me. I'm going on the November 6th trip.
From Trek travel just you're on a bike tour. You know, Jarana is a cycling gym. There's a reason why all the pros call it home with butter, smooth, tarmac, and perfect weather. But the road riding is just the beginning. And after that conversation with you, and I've looked at a number of routes out of Jarana and I'm super excited to get over there and experience the amazing gravel, the quiet mountain passes and the little villages of Spain. I feel like I've had this trip in my mind for.
The entirety of the pandemic, and we're finally pulling it off. Trek wanted me to invite you to join me on this trip. Any of our listeners are going to get a free handlebar bag and a free pair of socks when they joined the trip.
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We've got a small crew that's already signed up for this trip, but I want to invite you the listener. How amazing would it be for us to finally get together? And in Jarana of all places. I'm certainly looking forward to finally getting some dirt under my wheels in Europe, on a gravel bike.
Simply visit truck travel.com. Find that you're on a gravel bike tour and make sure during booking that you mentioned, you're a gravel ride podcast listener, or a member of the ridership to get that free handlebar bag. With that said let's dive right into my conversation with nick Nick welcome to the show.
[00:04:42] Nick Marzano: Hey, thanks for having me, Craig.
[00:04:44] Craig Dalton: You look surprisingly refreshed considering it's not too long ago, you just completed a 2,700 mile off-road bike ride.
[00:04:52] Nick Marzano: Yeah. I mean, I'm gonna rack that up to the, the food monster has been strong. The sleep monster has been strong. I've been, you know, you can indulge in both of those for, for about a solid week. I've been trying to get back to. The sleep has, has rectified itself, the, the nutrition and the food monster. I'm working on getting back to a, a normal diet.
But I, yeah, I'm feeling back to a hundred percent for
[00:05:15] Craig Dalton: Yeah, I gotta imagine. After an event like the tour divide, you're you just want to eat, eat, eat all day long.
[00:05:22] Nick Marzano: You look sort of longingly, like whenever you pass a gas station, like, should I stop and get. 10 Snickers. Should I stop and get some little debes? But, and I typically eat pretty healthy. So it, it is kind of like no holds barred when you're, , when you're only resupplies gas stations for a few days. But yeah, trying to get back to, to some greens in my diet, some fruit
[00:05:45] Craig Dalton: Nice. I've given a little bit of preamble in the intro about what the tour divide is, but it's such, it's something I've been following for, gosh, I feel like a decade and it's such an event that if the listener hasn't heard of it, you're going from Canada to Mexico. On gravel effectively, except it's pretty extreme gravel along the way.
[00:06:06] Nick Marzano: Yeah, that's, that's pretty much, it, it is mostly dirt. There's some paved sections and this year. I think more than prior years, there were more paved sections because of the initially we were all looking at the, at the black fire in, in New Mexico and, and a couple of other fires that cropped up that forced some some reroutes on pavement.
But we made up, we more than made up for that in difficulty with late season snow on the mountain paths in Canada, and then early season monsoons when we hit New Mexico. So it, the route looked a little different this year than it has in years past. Once you hit around New Mexico. But it was still very challenging and a lot of fun.
It was very beautiful.
[00:06:43] Craig Dalton: With a 2,700 mile plus route, we've got a lot of ground to cover, but as you know, I always like to start off by just learning a little bit more about your background. As a cyclist. And when you discovered gravel cycling and then let's get into, like, when did the tour divide creep into your mind as something you wanted to do?
[00:07:01] Nick Marzano: Yeah, it was kind of a rapid progression. So I was a, I'm a, I'm a COVID gravel bike baby around July, 2020. I had, I had wanted to get some kind of, you know, I didn't know the terminology for it until I started researching. I wanted to get something that would, that would allow me to get offroad. I had a hybrid single speed that I had used to try to keep up with people who were doing road rides every now and then if I was on vacation, I used it for commuting almost daily.
It was just like a red line, 20 Niner hybrid kicking around Philadelphia. It was great. Did you know, I would, I did like one alley cat race with it. At some point in Philly just used it for ridiculous purposes, but mostly, mostly commuting. And then around 2020, I wanted to transition into something with maybe a little, a little bit of gearing and got my first gravel bike really started listening to, you know, in the research came, wanted to, to find community and, and find some advice and came across the gravel ride podcast.
Pretty soon after that. And immediately started signing up for, you know, signed up for like a 60 mile race nearby here to see if, if racing was, was something that was into, I don't remember when the concept of bike packing got a hold of me, but it was pretty quick because by the fall of that of 2020.
I was, I, I, I definitely roped a couple of buddies into a 60 mile bike pack trip out to just like an overnight or out to French Creek, state park, which I know you're, I think you're familiar with, from your time out
[00:08:31] Craig Dalton: absolutely.
[00:08:33] Nick Marzano: Yeah. So it ramped up from there. The following year. I, we had a vacation my partner and I had a vacation planned for the finger lakes.
And I said, well, why don't I try to take the long route? I've been reading a lot about bike packing. Let me meet you up at the finger lakes. And I'm gonna take a four day trip and try to link together forest roads and some rail trails that will kind of take me from near Philly up to the New York finger lakes and had fun building that route.
Learned a lot, you know, about gear learned a lot about you know, how to plan resupply, how to plan, how long could I make it? I had, I had not done a, I don't believe a, a century ride at that point or had only done one century ride. So figuring out that I could link together, you know, a hundred mile days was kind of a revelation I had planned for six days.
I did it in three and change.
[00:09:28] Craig Dalton: Yeah, it's kind of hard, like, you know, two things there, one, like it's unusual that you have all day to ride, right? So who knows how long they can ride when they have all day to ride. And two, when you're loaded down on the bike, it's a totally different factor, right? You don't know how long can I ride with a fully loaded bike?
[00:09:48] Nick Marzano: totally. Yeah. So , you know, and I, and I had sort of under I conservatively booked each of those days I had put out a sort of an itinerary for myself for six days and was really conservative and realized the other, the other concept with solo bike packing is you get to camp at the end of A long day.
And if you're not worn out, you really, you don't wanna get to camp at, at six o'clock seven o'clock, there's nothing to do. You know, I'm fine with solo time. But I think I got into one campsite around like four o'clock and was just sort of twiddling my thumbs for the rest of the night. So I knew, you know, I was capable of, of pushing a little bigger and I can go, I can go further, but I kind of went down, you know, from there.
Every couple of months, I would pick an event or design something where I would like add one new challenge to that. And so quickly from 2020, I kind of ramped up in that way. Let me, let me pick a new challenge to sort of add complexity to what I've been doing. Add racing into the mix, add cold weather, camping into the mix.
Add, you know, you add rain and, and riding in the elements pretty quickly when you're linking big days. Yeah. And that, you know, Where are we at two years later? I feel like I've got a, a pretty good amount of experience under my belt and at least, you know, 2,600 more miles from the, the tour of divide,
[00:11:05] Craig Dalton: And had you, had you had an a background with endurance athletics prior to coming to cycling?
[00:11:10] Nick Marzano: Your, you know, your normal running events around Philly, do the broad street run and the Philadelphia marathon a couple of times. But it, it kills my knees. And so I knew. While I still run for just bone health and, and a little cross training that was part of the reason, you know, I wanted to get a bike in 2020 cuz I was I'm.
I was pushing 40 at that point. I'm I'm now over 40 and, and wanted something that I could do much longer than I think I'll be able to do running event.
[00:11:37] Craig Dalton: Yeah. Do you recall when the tour divide first came into your, your head?
[00:11:43] Nick Marzano: Yeah. Yeah, so things ramped up after that finger lakes trip pretty quickly. I reached out to, I reached out to Nelson trees who, who runs the silk road, mountain race and the Atlas mountain race and asked him if I could get a last minute sign up for the Atlas mountain race that. Which is ridiculous and was probably not the right next challenge.
If I'm, you know, I've talked about adding sort of stepwise challenges that would've been probably a little out of my wheelhouse, but he accepted my application and I was set to go and it got, it got canceled at the last minute, which worked out perfectly. Because I ended up going to Virginia for something called the trans Virginia five 50.
Where I met this great community of bike Packers. It was a much more it's about the same length. It's a little shorter than Atlas mountain. The, the elevation really, and the, the difficulty is, you know, we'll see, I'm going to Atlas next February. We'll see if, if this checks out, but it it's a pretty difficult race.
And the elevation is. Not exactly comparable, but it's, it's pretty hefty. So it was a great challenge, nonetheless, and I, you know, more importantly, I met this great community, which gets to, you know, the answer to your question is around December the organizer of the trans Virginia, five 50 Dave Landis reached out to a bunch of us and said, Hey, I'm setting aside the time I'm doing tour divide.
Does anybody want to get a little training group together? Anybody who might wanna put this on their, on their calendar? And I think it was like a week after that I talked to my boss at work and said, I've been here 10 years. Can I link together PTO and, and take a month off. This is really important to me.
And, and he's great. You know, my company's great. They, they said we support you completely take the time. And, and then I was, I was in,
[00:13:31] Craig Dalton: That's amazing. Yeah, I think it's one of the things that as the listener does some research about tour divide and realizes like you really need to have a month long block of time available unless you're one of the elite elite athletes that might be able to do it in half a month. But that that in and of itself is a huge challenge.
Let alone just the logistics of planning, your equipment, your nutrition, your pacing, everything else that goes into it. So you, you sign up for the event you graciously get the time off from your employer. You're ready to go in your mind. What type of preparation did you need to do? Obviously you've been doing some of these bike packing races at that point.
You'd kind of presumably ironed out a lot of the equipment questions you might have had of what works for you. What type of bags, et cetera, but with a 2,700 mile race over the tour divide based out of Philly, what did you feel like you needed to do to prepare for that start?
[00:14:29] Nick Marzano: The one of the very first things I did was get Kurt re Schneider had a, had a sale on his, just like PDF six month training guide. And a lot of people use that for the tour of divide. If you're looking for a place to start, I totally recommend it. I didn't work directly with Kurt, although I got a chance to meet him briefly at, at a.
A training ride in, in April and thank him for, for putting that guide together. It was just great to have a framework. So that training framework started in January. It very quickly and. You know, I got a full swift set up because Philly winters are, are really rough and I couldn't get out early enough to not have ice on the road or, or tons of salt on the road.
So I, and I was also recovering. I was nursing an injury that I, we can gloss over for now, but a, an injury from a fall on a, on a November bike packing trip that I took with the, the Virginia crew. So, yeah, it was, it was trainer straight through February. I, I started researching gear the Virginia crew and actually another guy out of, out of Philly who, who had also done that trans Virginia race.
So I consider him part of that Virginia crew, but we were able to ride together once you know, once we got into late February, March. And that was it. I mean, I, I planned the schedule. I, I did. You know, picking up new equipment. I picked up a, a salsa cutthroat. My first gravel bike was a GT grade and it didn't really have the tire clearance for the sort of mud I knew we would get into or, or for the comfort that I knew I would need.
So, it wasn't cheap and there are a lot of barriers to entry that, you know, I, I feel very privileged to have been able to get a second bike that quickly and and get the time off work. But at that point, nothing was really gonna stop me. It was it, you know, that once we all got very dialed on that goal and,
[00:16:12] Craig Dalton: do feel like that cutthroat it's if, if you don't want to think about it, there's just so many people who have used that bike that it's kind of a no brainer to go down that road route. If you have the option of getting a new bike for it.
[00:16:24] Nick Marzano: totally,
[00:16:26] Craig Dalton: I don't wanna get too much into the specific training plan, but I'm just curious, like, were you encouraged to do a bunch of overnights, a bunch of big back to back days?
How were you fitting this into your normal work life?
[00:16:41] Nick Marzano: Yeah, a lot of it was waking up, you know, 5:00 AM jump on the trainer and it was typically one to two hour rides. Throughout the week, there would be a couple of two hour like high intensity efforts. But it was really just getting that time on the bike and, and doing the base level plan that, that Kurt provides.
Then yeah, he does build in, he starts to build in, you know, back to backs. I looked for events like the one in, in April that I mentioned where I met, you know, I got to meet Kurt himself there which was another Virginia part of the Virginia endurance series, like a 250 mile overnighter called rockstar gravel.
Which is great, but they, yeah. Other than that, you know, worked with my buddy, Tim, who was the, the gentleman in, in Philly, who I was training with and lined up some more overnights to French Creek and just did our best to find as much elevation and as much gravel as we could around here. That was, that was about it.
I mean, the, the timing lined up in life where I, I was able to put a lot of time in the saddle Re it was the, the, the dur during the week rides were really it was really just about jumping on the bike as soon as, as soon as I got up. And, and as long as I did that, it was pretty easy to fit to, to my schedule.
[00:17:55] Craig Dalton: When you were riding outdoors, were you always riding fully loaded?
[00:18:00] Nick Marzano: No there, that really came closer to the like a month before, maybe a month and a half before there were a bunch of fully loaded ride.
[00:18:08] Craig Dalton: Yeah, so to give the listener some perspective and it doesn't have to be precise, but when your bike is not loaded, how much did it weigh? And when you had your full tour divide kit on it, how much did it weigh?
[00:18:21] Nick Marzano: So I know it's it's about 21 pounds with nothing else on it. No water, just dry weight with everything on it. I'm estimating also dry weight. No, not counting water. Based on I use air table to kind of just roll up the extra gear that I'm I'm putting on there. I think it was somewhere in the 45 pound range.
[00:18:41] Craig Dalton: got it. And as you're thinking about the tour divide, and you're starting on the start line in Canada, what type of mentality did you have with respect to sleep? Obviously, like there's all different ways of going about this and, and it may have very well evolved and changed along the way, but I'm curious as you mapped out, like what your experience was gonna look like I imagine you had a number of days goal in mind.
How did that play out? And what was your thought process around. How much you were gonna sleep.
[00:19:12] Nick Marzano: Yeah, I knew early on. So I had, I, I wanted to experience one of the, the, the big things I hadn't done, I'd ridden through the night, I'd ridden into like midnight 1:00 AM on the trans Virginia, five 50, but I'd never gotten through the night to see if I was capable of that. What does that feel like? And I used that training ride that rockstar gravel two 50, you know, one of my goals was I may not be competitive in this sort of way, but I'm gonna ride through the night.
And I, I did it in, you know, a full push. In like a day and a half, which felt, you know, rough. But I it also didn't feel that bad. I knew, I knew that weapon was there if I wanted to use it. But the tort divide, you know, is a very different race than a 250 mile race. So I knew I wouldn't pull that out unless I was feeling awesome in the third week.
And my goal was somewhere between. December before I started training, it was 23 days is what I put in the, the initial sign up. And by the end of that training, I, I was getting a little cocky and had, had posted 19 days as my goal on track leaders. I never, the like the sleep, the sleep thing was always going to be somewhere in the four to six hour mark for the majority of the race.
[00:20:21] Craig Dalton: Okay.
[00:20:22] Nick Marzano: And I can talk, I'm glad to talk about sleep system. I think that's kind of a lesson learned on that if you want, but yeah, that was the expectation was I wasn't going to crush myself on sleep deprivation and then you know, blow up early on and, and not be, I mean, finishing the race was so much more important than finishing the race in 19.
[00:20:40] Craig Dalton: Yep. And so with that mindset around six hours of sleep a day or an evening were you riding that whole time other than resupply and things like that? Or is that sort of saying like, I'm gonna ride, I'm gonna stop and have a lunch. I'm gonna maybe take a nap. I'm gonna ride some more. How did, how did you kind of think about it?
[00:20:58] Nick Marzano: it. So the way that I thought about it, oh, well, see, like there were days where this, this thinking didn't play out, but the way I thought of it was I'm gonna ride when I'm not resupplying and when I'm not sleeping. And it was when I looked back at my my data, it, it was more in the like four to five hours a night sort of range.
Where that sort of, where that changed is I had a, we, I took a knee for a day as a lot of rider did just before getting into seal lake, there was a big peak Richmond peak that already had one to two feet of snow pack on it. And a, as some of your listeners may have read if they were keeping up with the tour divide, the first few days in Canada, they got hit with another major snowstorm.
A lot of riders were airlifted. I came into, into the other side of Richmond peak, a little town called con Montana, soaking wet, and most of my kit was wet. So I took a day because I didn't feel comfortable going up in a snowstorm. So that was a complete day off the bike. Fill out rest. And then there was another day, right around Pinedale, which is about halfway through the race famously where you dump your bear spray, where you're out of grizzly country.
Just before Pinedale, I had kind of, I hit a low point and I talked about that a little bit with that was right around the time I talked to Patrick at bikes or death and considered taking an entire other day off the bike and basically taking myself out of race mode entirely. I didn't, but I took some shorter days.
and then the closer I got to, you know, once I hit Colorado got into New Mexico, I really found my stride again and was hitting some like 1 50, 200 mile days, which was kind of my expectation going in that I was gonna try to pound like one 50 to 200 a day resupply real quick and then, and then head to bed.
So I deviated from that for sure. And it was, it, it was rejuvenating. And I, you know, if I, if I needed to take that time, I needed to take. but that, that was certainly not the plan going into it.
[00:22:52] Craig Dalton: Yeah. So impressive. Stepping back for a second. I mean, we think about registering for an event, you know, like an SBT, gravel, or an Unbound, and there's a lottery and you pay an entrance fee. Why don't you talk about what it's like to, to enter toward divide and what it actually means?
[00:23:10] Nick Marzano: Yeah. It's so, it's if you've never done a grand apart before The concept is, and, and this is how the trans Virginia five 50 is as well. The concept is that there is a course director and they're going to define the rules and they'll give you more or less information. David with the trans Virginia does an incredible job of outlining what a six day, nine day, 12 day touring pace looks like and what resupply looks like.
He's just, he, he, you know, reviews the course each year. He's extremely involved in that the tort divide Is similar in that it's a grand depart where they provide the course, they provide the track leaders link. Matt and Scott I think founded track leaders. And, and so they, they provide the, the tracking, but really, I think I read in the New York times article that Matt Lee calls himself, the chief disorganize or something like that as opposed to the course director they.
They're not there to monitor folks along the route. They're not there's, you know, there's obviously no resupply, it's self supported. And you don't really get any information until we got the course maybe a week before. So you sign up on a Google form you, which is your letter of intent basically.
And then it's radio silence until, until that GPX file drops. In this case a week before, because they had a lot of detouring to, to figure out with those fires.
[00:24:31] Craig Dalton: And is that, is that why you're given the GPS file? Obviously like the root in general is known from. What was it? The the, the mountain bike divide route is the general scope of the route. But that GPX file is, Hey, here's the current up to date thing on what passes are passable, where there's fires, where there's detours.
[00:24:51] Nick Marzano: Yeah. So there is the, and there's a lot of confusion on this, by the way, too. There were some riders who didn't have the, the GPX file that you need to from. It's it's posted on, on a very old forum on bike packing.net. It gets reposted into Facebook and linked. There's not, there's not necessarily an email that goes out to all of the folks who signed up on that Google forum.
So you really have to be engaged in the community on Facebook and the conversation to even find the file. But it's based on the great divide mountain bike. Which was established by the adventure cycling association, you know, decades ago as a touring route and adapted for racing, you know, in the, in the early odds, late nineties.
So even without the Rero for the fires there are a couple of changes that Matt Lee who's the primary course director that he's made over the years to add more challenge. There's. Infamous section early on called Coco claims, which you hit on day one, which is like a six mile section where you are just pushing your bike up boulders at what feels like a 45 degree angle for six miles five miles that is not anywhere on the ACA map.
And there are a couple of changes like that here and there. So it is it's distinct, but certainly inspired by and matches up with a large portion of the GD.
[00:26:15] Craig Dalton: Yeah, and I know there's a lot of information out there on the internet and people have published guides and whatnot. How researched were you in advance about how you were gonna structure your days and is it confusing on where you're gonna resupply? Are there a lot of challenges there? How much of it do you think you had a handle on versus not when you showed.
[00:26:36] Nick Marzano: Man. So there. There are so many more. I can't imagine racing this back when Matt, Matt Lee and, and others were, you know, if you, if you watch the old ride the divide documentary, which I think is on Amazon prime, I, I just, I bought the DVD cuz I, I want to have a hard copy. I can't imagine what that was like these days there are.
Some really good resources online. There's a good community of people who have of veterans who are sharing resupply. So you can start to piece things together. What was still overwhelming. I was knowing what it looks like when, when boots hit the ground. Every time I've tried to put together an itinerary, it falls apart on day one because I either feel stronger or I run into.
You know, I didn't know how long it would take to make it through some of these snowy sections. You can look at the snow pack layer and try to estimate that and set a target for where you want to get to. But when you put boots on the ground all of that can change. So my approach, which I, I would adapt a little bit if I did this again and, and maybe do a little bit more planning and research was to plan in the morning, set a target in the morning, using the tools that I had and, and.
Try to piece together where resupply was going to be day to day, rather than it just felt too overwhelming to try to map the map out. A plan early on that I had had a good feeling I would diverge from immediately.
[00:27:58] Craig Dalton: What were some of those tools at your disposal? Obviously you're looking at a map. What kind of apps were you using and were, were other writers sharing information back saying, oh, it took me eight hours to get up this pass.
[00:28:10] Nick Marzano: Yeah, that, I mean, that's where it gets tricky because you're, you really shouldn't be. But I think it, it happens for sure. And you can watch track one of the, the tools that is sort of available to everyone. So within the rules is you can look at track leaders and see. Oh, this person was moving at 15 miles an hour, and then they were moving at two miles an hour for about three hours over this pass.
So that probably means hike a bike.
[00:28:33] Craig Dalton: So are you looking at that in real time? So say you're approaching a pass. Obviously you're aware that it's a 3000 foot climb or whatever. Are you then taking a moment and saying, gosh, well, I should do a little research to see are people crawling up this thing or are people riding?
[00:28:46] Nick Marzano: yeah, in some cases for sure. Yeah. And that's kind of the, the benefit, one of the benefits of being. Mid pack or, you know, a little bit behind the, the leaders is if, if so Sahi is, is struggling at three miles an hour going across something, you know, it's pretty gnarly and, and probably hike a bike. And so you can zoom in on track leaders to their history and see those dots get closer together.
And that was one tool, the other tools. So the ACA does have a great map. An app that has the map with a lot of resupply information on it. And that was super useful. You just need to be really aware of where that actually lines up with the official race route and not some folks navigated with that app and were relegated because they, they missed some of the, the unique turnoffs that Matthew Lee is built in.
The other tools there's, there's a number of guides from a website called one of. Where they, they list resupply. He actually provided some updates to us like a week before, or a couple of days before, once he got the the updated course from from Matthew Lee. So those resources were great.
And then there, there were some things that writers share on the Facebook community ahead of time, where people have built out elevation profiles that are really useful. You can kind of get a sense Chris Ellison showed up. I think that was his name showed up at the, at, at the Y w C a in BAMF with these laminated elevation profile maps that also had the terrain type, which you, I couldn't find anywhere else.
So you could see when Jeep track was coming up, because that's always going to take you longer than you think it's always gonna be mud or snow. That was really helpful in kind of planning. How fast miles would go? Nothing, nothing really in one place. If this sounds like a hodgepodge, it really was like, let me take a look at the,
[00:30:30] Craig Dalton: Yeah.
[00:30:30] Nick Marzano: The surface type.
Let me take a look at the elevation. Let me take a look at the, you know, whatever the Gaia snow layer looks like. and let me take a look at track leaders and then piecing all of that together. You get a sense for where you could potentially make it that day.
[00:30:43] Craig Dalton: It's unquestionable that you just need to continue to be adaptable along the way. And, and, and read the tea leaves, honestly, as to what's going on, you experience so many dramatic bits of weather in the north part of the country, along the way that you couldn't have expected going in,
[00:30:58] Nick Marzano: Yeah, it was intense.
[00:31:00] Craig Dalton: were you using then sort of a, an iPhone or a mobile phone plus a GPS computer on your bike?
[00:31:06] Nick Marzano: yeah, I was following the purple line on my ere, so just, I used like really simple ere 22 X. For most of the navigation and then I had it loaded on ride with GPS as well. If I just needed more detail or, or wanted to make sure I didn't miss turns that were coming up, I
[00:31:21] Craig Dalton: I've always read that the tour divide riders tend to favor that eTrex battery powered, old style GPS device versus the bike computer kind of style.
[00:31:31] Nick Marzano: Yeah. Some people seemed to get along with the bike computer. No problem. I didn't have. A dynamo hub that it lit my my headlamp really well, but I didn't really trust it to charge anything. It was a little older and had a lot of miles on it and just seemed to I didn't rely on it for, for too much battery management.
So I was glad to have the, even though it's it's wasteful, but I was glad to have a, you know, a bunch of spare double A's that I could just throw in the etre.
[00:31:57] Craig Dalton: Yeah. For those of you who don't know, dynamo hub actually generates. And stores electricity. Right. And can power something like your headlamp?
[00:32:06] Nick Marzano: Yeah, it generates it. I don't think too many of them store it, but it will you know, you can throw power to a headlamp and then, or a a transformer is probably the wrong word converter and use it to charge up a, a cash battery as well. A, a battery bank, power bank. As you go, so during the day you could be charging the bank and then you could flip a switch and have your light on as long as you're going fast enough for that light to be, to be powered.
[00:32:28] Craig Dalton: Yeah, I've heard sometimes going uphill. It doesn't actually generate enough to really shine the way.
[00:32:34] Nick Marzano: Yeah. I have a sine wave beacon, which I love because it has the, the converter right in it. So. On on another bike where I also have a, a dynamo in my gravel bike, it does charge my cash battery really well during the day. And then I can plug the cash battery into the, to the beacon and power it from that.
And it, it SAPs so little energy that I can charge my phone on it as well. So, but yeah, if you're going less than like five miles an hour or so, you're gonna have kind of a strobe light effect until you, until you build up a little.
[00:33:06] Craig Dalton: So let's jump over to that grand depart moment. Where is that? And what was the feeling like at that point? Sounds like you had a couple buddies that were there at the start line with you.
[00:33:17] Nick Marzano: Yeah, that was really beautiful. It was, it was really cool to be there with, I mean, first of all, bam is, you know, you bike packing is a, is a niche sport. And to be in a place where so many people who, you know, are ready to talk gear who have been investing as much time and energy into this Are are all lining up together and you're running into them at dinner was really exciting.
But then to have a group of five, five of us from the east coast who had trained together, been on rides together was really cool. We lined up at the w or Y WCA in BMF, which is the traditional starting point and it was really subdued. There was not. Presentation like Matt Lee doesn't show up.
There's not a course director sendoff. We had instructions to go off in waves of about 15, I think which is different than past years where it's just, it's a grand apart. Everybody heads out at the same time. And the reason for that was that Canada parks was a little, they, they were getting a little They were advising Matt Lee that something needed to happen because of the number of people who were showing up 170 people were, were signed up and, and they were a little nervous about 170 people departing.
So I think we're doing waves for the foreseeable future with tour divide. And it seemed to work really well. Nobody was there flagging us off. It was just sort of, you know, we would check and say, is it, is it time? Is it seven 20? All right. We're going everybody. And everybody. Left and, and that was it. It was the start and finish are.
So anti-climatic that it's, it's you know, it kind of underscores what bike packing is all about. We're all out there to ride our own race and have, you know, an experience that's inevitably gonna be really personal. And I love that about the sort of subdued start and finish of Tor divide, especially, but a lot of, a lot of races you'll finish in the middle of the night and nobody will, nobody will be around to to welcome you in.
And there's something special about that. As fun as, you know, finish lines of at parties at big gravel races can be a lot of fun too.
[00:35:14] Craig Dalton: Did you have an expectation of riding with some of the members of your crew? Or was it clear that you guys were gonna be on different paces?
[00:35:20] Nick Marzano: Yeah, this is where I don't, I don't know if not that I was in any sort of contention. I don't know if I'll relegate myself for this, cuz this rule is kind of unclear you can't draft for sure. And there was no drafting. But you know, we come from the east coast. We don't have Grizzlies out here and none of us were scared out of our, out of our you know, mountain bike shoes.
But we. We're gonna ride. I was gonna ride together with one or two of them through grizzly country and ended up riding with, with David Landis for a large portion of it. And riding together, didn't always look like riding side by side. We would end up at the same place. Often start from the same place.
He, he, for a couple of days was on a middle of the day nap schedule and I I'm not a napper, so he would. Roll off to the side of the road and then catch up with me a little bit later. But yeah, grizzly country, it was nice to have just that conversation prevents you from having to yell hay, bear all the time as you're going through those areas.
[00:36:16] Craig Dalton: Yeah, that makes sense. I gotta imagine it's. Yeah, it's next to impossible to imagine that over that distance, you're gonna feel the same. Throughout the day and nights and wanna ride at the same pace. Even there, like you said, you may end up in the same places.
[00:36:31] Nick Marzano: Yeah. Having like I had explicit conversations with Tim who we started. We, we did sort of our pre ride together and we were we're supposedly, we were like on the same pace we had 19 day, 20 day goals and he, he changed up his pace pretty soon wanted to ride sort of a different race, but we had had an explicit conversation early on.
We're each gonna ride our own race and if it works to ride together, great, if not, we'll yell hay, bear a lot, and we'll, we'll figure it out. David, who is just an incredibly strong rider. And I, I didn't think I was gonna be able to keep up with, I was able to keep up with him. And so that was really cool for me.
It was, it was, it worked out, but we also had an explicit conversation. At breakfast one morning, we were like, Hey, you know, if you need to take off or, or if you're worried about what it looks like for us to be riding next to each other it's probably more of a concern. If you're at the front, it might look like you're drafting on track leaders.
But more importantly for each of our own races, like, you know, I get it. If you need to take off, if you're feeling really good and you need to take off, or you're gonna, you're gonna do an overnight push an overnight. And I can't do that. You ride your race and it just worked out.
[00:37:37] Craig Dalton: Let's paint the picture of what, what happens at night when it's time to lay your head down?
[00:37:43] Nick Marzano: Yeah, well, so it, it involved more motels this year than I than I had planned for, for sure.
[00:37:50] Craig Dalton: I, I mean, I, I can't blame you and a couple long bike trips that I've done, like having a night in a hotel in the middle just meant all the difference in the world. It just felt so refreshed.
[00:38:00] Nick Marzano: Yeah, I knew it would be somewhere on like maybe 40% it's in bear country. If you don't find a pit toilet and there's, you know, some of the motels are pretty affordable. It's refreshing after a 200 mile day to just get four hours in a bed. And I think it did help with saddle sores were not, were not a huge issue.
They, you know, But yeah, I mean the, the night basically looked like rolling in at 11, 12, sometimes two or 3:00 AM to a motel or rolling out my B and. Quick. I mean, it's, it's resupply. It is prep your stuff, and I got better at this. As we went along, hit a resupply cram as many calories as you can try to cram some protein in there as well.
Try to drink as much as you can, so you don't go to bed dehydrated or wake up even more dehydrated. Figure out what your sleep situation is. If it's Bing down or if it's grabbing a motel, do that very quickly and then make a plan for tomorrow. And fall asleep as quickly as you can, so you can maximize that time.
So that is really the tiring part of, I like the riding certainly physically exhausts you and, and makes that part harder. But the time management of making sure, as soon as you're off the bike, you do those sort of things. Is that wears on you after three weeks? For sure. I can't imagine. I mean, it gives me such a greater appreciation for Sophie on and Actually a member of our Virginia sort of crew Abe Kaufman finished fourth overall first American, like these are folks who are doing that at a much higher level than I was even doing that for sure.
And, and it's still exhausting. Like just, you need to be on as soon as you get off the bike and make sure that you're maximizing that time. And then you wake up and throw your stuff on. Try not to Dole too much and, and get right back out.
[00:39:47] Craig Dalton: How concerned were you about your busy situation and in terms of warmth when you're in the Northern part of the country?
[00:39:54] Nick Marzano: Warmth, not at all. It was more about the wet. I would take a tent if I went again and oddly, you know, David had sort of the opposite reflection. He brought a tent and, and would've preferred prefer to bivy. But I think I would've been a little bit bolder camping out in some of the wetter areas.
If I had had something a little more substantial but my B would let water in if it was more than a little sprinkle and then my down sleeping bag would be wet and then I would be cold and, and wet. And that's not a good recipe.
[00:40:23] Craig Dalton: Yeah. Did you have days where you were concerned about where you were gonna lay your head that night?
[00:40:31] Nick Marzano: Not not completely. I mean, the nice, the nice thing about the root is that there are a lot of, there are a couple of, of, of tricky sections, but really if you, if you have a B, I didn't get into a bad spot where I was, I was really worried. And I had an emergency plan. I mean, I had a ground cloth wi with me that if, if I was really caught out in a storm, I could cover myself with that, get into some dry clothes, try to get under a tree.
Or at the very least find, find some sort of awning or overhang. So I never got into a, a tricky situation with that. I think I just think a tent would've been more comfortable.
[00:41:09] Craig Dalton: Yeah. Gotcha. Yeah, it sounds like, I mean, there's so many unknowns yet, so much information out there that you just try to, I imagine you just try to fill your head with as much information as possible. So as we were talking about before each morning, you can say, okay, I'm in this location, kind of think I can get to here.
I kind of know there's a resupply there. I kind of know there's a place where I can get some shelter and then just keep plowing forward.
[00:41:35] Nick Marzano: Right. Yeah. And, and you'll make mistakes on that. I, I certainly did. We picked We both got into Del Norte, Colorado around the same time and David was like, I'm gonna get a motel. And I'm like, all right, well, I heard that there's free camping in the park. And I feel like I'm doing too many motels, so I'm gonna go camp in the park.
He's like, all right, let's go camp in the park. So he was, we were, we were gonna set up a camp there together. He's got a tent so he could have broken the tent out. But I was, I was like, look at, I'm gonna go sleep under this band shell up here. It was threatening to rain. So it was like that, that looks like, you know, we could have slept, I could have rolled out my B in the toilet nearby and probably been fine.
But the band shell looked like plush digs. So we went for it and around one 30 apparently this is like, well known to veterans and we are not the first to get literally hosed by, by this thought process. We the park sprinklers go off at, at one 30 in the morning. And completely. So we were protected from rain from above, but we were not protected from these fire hose, industrial sprinklers that went off at one 30 in the morning, soaking us with what felt like just heavy water
I mean, it was, I don't know if there was fertilizer in it or what it was, but it was not pleasant and we spent a lot of time drying out after that. So yeah, things didn't always, didn't always work out as planned, but they. Most of the time, if you have the right info going in and you've, you've prepared enough and you know, what your, what your limits are, which I think I do.
And also how, you know, how far I can push them. You can get yourself to a, you know, to a good spot to sleep almost every night.
[00:43:10] Craig Dalton: That's an amazing story. How concerning is water supply along the.
[00:43:15] Nick Marzano: There are a couple of sections where it's you should bring more than two liters. Most, most of the root I would be fine with two liters on my fork. Two, one liters on my fork. And then a filter along the way. And a lot of the mountain passes. You would just, it, it would be flush with water. Couple of sections towards.
Especially in New Mexico where resupply and running water are a little rough. The basin is famously the, the Wyoming, the great basin in Wyoming is a nice I forget how long the stretch is, but it's over a hundred miles where you're not gonna find resupply and there's no running water in a, a big geographic basin.
And. So I just had a, I had a bladder, a three liter bladder that I would fill maybe halfway and have a couple of extra liters for those sections.
[00:44:02] Craig Dalton: Is that a bladder that you're going into your frame bag, that, that massive bladder.
[00:44:06] Nick Marzano: Yep. I just threw, just threw it in my frame bag and then would take it out and use it to refill the, the liters on the fork.
[00:44:12] Craig Dalton: Were you generally avoiding carrying anything on your back?
[00:44:17] Nick Marzano: Yeah. Yeah. Some people do the hydration thing. I've just. I wasn't sure how my back would react over three weeks with a couple of extra pounds on it. So, I've avoided it, but I also haven't tried it before, so it's, you know, certainly a solution. I saw a lot of writers using
[00:44:33] Craig Dalton: Yeah. Yeah. I think it would be concerning just putting any extra weight on your back, given how much torture I'll put it, your back may take along the way.
[00:44:41] Nick Marzano: Yeah, for sure.
[00:44:43] Craig Dalton: What are some of the highlights along the way? I don't know what the best way to organize. This is such a long event, but maybe state by state, some of the things you enjoyed and loved about the.
[00:44:53] Nick Marzano: Yeah. Yeah. So, yeah. Thinking about some of the highlights was a lot of fun earlier today where you, you told me you might might throw that one at me. And it was nice going, going back through those memories. I think the snow snowy passes were really challenging. But it was also beautiful. And there were two in particular red Meadows pass.
I hit midday where a couple of the passes early on. I had hit, I mean, I went over the pass just before the American border at, at 1:30 AM. And so that was kind of, that was kind of scary. I was sort of falling asleep on my bars as I was hiking through it. Didn't wanna fall asleep in, in the middle of a, a snowy mountain.
Red Meadows. My breaks had been cashed early that morning. I didn't have replacement breaks. I had to make it, you know, a hundred miles to white fish to get a, get to a bike shop. And so walking over a mountain pass was like, I, I no breaks, no problem. Right. I, nobody needs breaks when you're hiking your bike over.
Six miles of, of snow. And it was midday. It was warm. I was by myself at this point, David was, was behind or ahead I think, and I threw, I threw some like eighties music on and, and just some, some like dance music. And had a party just sort of dancing myself down, down the mountain to music probably expending like way too much energy, but sort of just shuffling my bike down and, and having a blast.
Then Kirsten ended up. So are you, are you familiar with Kirsten at, at brush mountain lodge? And so she is She is famous within the Tor of divide and, and her brush mountain lodge is like the place that you hit after the basin, where you can get, you know, she has a pizza oven, it sort of, pay as you wish.
You can stay there if, if you want. But it becomes sort of this VOR. She calls it the vortex where people it's just so nice to. To hang out and it, it it's sort of like the Bermuda triangle, like racers struggle to get out of it. And she had said a few months before the race started, Hey, you know, we're taking some time.
I'm not gonna be there this year. Really sorry. But my family needs to, we're gonna do some strategic planning and reset where we're at. So I'll have, you know, maybe vending machines there I'll have, I'll have water for you, but you're not gonna get the full treatment this year. And that was kind of a.
You know, a bummer for everyone understanding that she's gotta take time for herself, but is such a you know, she's such a piece of, of, of the tour divide lore, and, and she's a legend. So I showed up there and a bunch of racers were hanging out. It looked like they were eating pizza. I was like, what is happening here?
This looks, if I step back in time and Kirsten was there because. For whatever. There, there was a a rainbow family gathering nearby that sort of forced her hand, somebody needed to staff this, this lodge just outside of Steamboat. So it was great. I got to chat with her. It was a bit of a vortex.
I hung out for three hours there with a couple of other riders who I hadn't had a chance to catch up with. And then so that was, that was beautiful. The other, do you have time for, for two more highlights? How's
[00:47:49] Craig Dalton: more highlights. Let's do it.
[00:47:51] Nick Marzano: So the, before we hit the, we got, we got doused with those sprinklers in Del Norte.
I had had this is a lowlight highlight. I had had a great day trying to, to breeze into Del Norte after I think 153 miles was the full. And right around right around the one 40 mark it always seemed like the last 10 to 14 miles of the day would be the hardest and they would sneak up on you.
I hit Jeep track. That was Sandy. It was dark. And I didn't think I was gonna make the gas station resupply and was like outta food. I was outta water. I was done. There was nothing else open in Del Norte apart from this gas station. Pushed through all of that you know, slogged through that hit gravel was just burning at 17, 18 miles an hour down this, this gravel path to get into Del Norte in the last couple of miles, look at at Google maps and it's closed early.
It, you know, according to the resupply, it should be open an hour later. Google says it's closed. So I kind of, you know, the wind goes outta my sales. That was gonna make it with like half an hour spare. But I keep pushing and come to find it's the lights are still on. It was, the Google was wrong. It was still open.
So that was, that was beautiful. The, the last one I had my first major mechanical right out of, outside of lake abike, which is about 30 miles outside of Santa Fe and the route doesn't go through Santa Fe. Hub froze up and I just couldn't get my hub to grab. It was, it was grabbing every, you know, three or four pedal strokes, but I was just spinning out other than that.
And so I could either try to like limp 150 miles to the next to silver city, which was probably more than 150 at that point. Or I could go off route and take time that I I would just lose trying to get down to Santa Fe. And I, I picked getting down to Santa Fe hitch hiked, which is allowed once you're off route, you can, for a mechanical, you can, you can take motorized support.
Got picked up almost immediately by two incredibly kind, like one after the other hitch hitchhiker or drivers had great conversations with them. Got dropped off at the bike shop bike shop, fixed me up in two hours. I'm usually not this bold, but I went up, I had had, I'd been having good conversation with all of the guys down at mellow Velo bikes in Santa Fe and, and went up to the owner was like, Hey, I have to ask.
I, you know, I wouldn't be this forward usually, but any, any chance you could gimme a ride back an hour north of here to where I left off so I can get some more miles in today. And he looked at me and he was. I was already thinking about it. Let me, you know, he gave one of his employees his, his keys and got me back up there.
And the whole episode start to finish lost me five and a half hours, which is just mind blowing and these, these races. And I'll, I know I can, I can go on for a while, but the, these races can be Self supported. I don't think means self isolating and there can be kind of this mentality that we're all sort of Jeremiah Johnson's out there, but meeting people and having experiences like that along the route which I hope to pay forward in my life after that is just, that is one of the most meaningful parts of it.
And that was probably, you know, went from a mechanical. That was a huge bummer and, and kind of put me into problem solving mode. When I wanted to just be in ride mode. But it turned into one of the best days of the whole trip. Because you know, the, there were, there were five people out there between the, the, the hitchhiker folks and, and mellow Velo who were absolutely like, didn't hesitate to help someone out.
And that was, that was, that was really cool.
[00:51:34] Craig Dalton: Yeah, such a special memory. And it's funny, I I've heard a couple other people mention that just. Leaving the tour divide with that notion that paying it forward in life is important because as you've just described, you had this moment, which could have been really shitty. Like it's not life ending or life threatening, but you could have spent 24 hours trying to get your stuff sorted out.
And the fact that strangers helped you got you to a bike shop. The bike shop realized what you were doing realized, Hey, two hours out of their day out and back to get you back on. It's gonna mean the world to you and, and not much to them. And I'm sure they have the similar alternative side of that memory.
Like I just did someone a solid and it probably felt good to them as well.
[00:52:19] Nick Marzano: For sure.
[00:52:20] Craig Dalton: Yeah. So, I mean, we could go on and on it's it's the tour divide has always been fascinating to me for all the reasons you've described along the way. It just sounds like this epic life adventure. That is gonna unfold as it unfolds.
It's gonna be different every year. I know you guys experienced a lot of rough weather up in the early parts of the race in the north, getting outta Canada and to persevere through that and know that, Hey, you're gonna be on your bike for 21 days or whatever it amounted to, and you're gonna have good days and bad days.
But the important thing is to just keep forward.
[00:52:55] Nick Marzano: Yeah, that is, you know, JP to very repeats that a lot. If you, if you follow him on, on Instagram or Facebook, that's his, his motto. And I don't know if he coined this or it's or got it elsewhere, but yeah, riding forward, just whatever, however, you're feeling, jump on your bike. I think I, it wasn't so much life changing as, as affirming in a lot of ways.
And one of them is, is that, that there is, there is so much mutability in. The weather in your attitude in, and if you can make as a principle that you just jump on your bike and don't wait for the good times to happen, but know that they will be there, deal with, if the train is tough right now, it's tough right now.
It will be good. Later if it's good right now, don't set up an expectation that it will be good at mile at the, you know, the last 14 miles of the day, because oddly, those are always the hardest. It will be tough later. And if you can still jump on your bike and just ride forward regardless. And I didn't, you know, I wasn't perfect at that.
I, like I said, in Pinedale, I took a day where I had to really think whether I wanted to keep riding forward. , but I hope that what you get out of this, what I get out of it hopefully is that I can reflect on that. And in moments where I'm struggling to ride forward in life in, in certain ways that I can, you know, return back from this super selfish, selfish endeavor, right.
Where I'm spending a lot of money and time on myself and come back ready to like ride forward for others, pay it forward for others. And, and. You hope that all that time reflecting over three weeks on, on how you responded to those challenges can translate into something for for your return to society, to normal society.
[00:54:41] Craig Dalton: Nick, I can't think of a better sentiment to end on. Amazing. I appreciate so much you sharing the story with me. As I said, opening up in this conversation offline. I hope this serves as a little archive of your experience and I, I know you got a little bit of joy outta reflecting on what some of those high points were.
So thanks again. It means a lot that you shared their story with me.
[00:55:02] Nick Marzano: Yeah, thank you for the opportunity, Craig. It's been great, great meeting you and getting to talk to you.
[00:55:06] Craig Dalton: Cheers.
Yeah. So that's going to do it for this week's edition of the gravel ride podcast, chapeau to Nick for that amazing accomplishment on the tour divide. I have to say every time I talked to someone about that route, I get more and more excited about dreaming to do it someday and myself. Huge. Thanks to our friends attract travel. I really hope you can join me in Gerona in November on the November six.
Departure of the Jarana gravel bike tour. Simply visit Trek, travel.com. And search for a drone, a gravel bike tour. And remember to mention the podcast as you'll get a free handlebar bag. With your registration. If you're looking to connect with me or have any questions.
Feel free to join the ridership. That's www.theridership.com. Nick is actually an active member of the ridership. So I'm sure if you have any follow-up questions for him on the tour divide, he'd be happy to respond. And if you have any questions about this gravel bike tour that we're doing in November with track, feel free to hit me up directly.
I'm really looking forward to meeting some of you guys and girls out there this year has been far too long since we've gotten together. Until next time here's to finding some dirt under your wheels