Hannah Bingham completes Great Divide Mountain Bike Route
Steamboat Springs resident Hannah Bingham was not ready to complete the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. But, with a planned month off work, she finally had some time to attempt the bucket list item.
“Even though I don’t feel ready, I’m never going to feel ready, but I have the time,” Bingham said. “Nobody really feels ready to do it, but as you get going, you find your rhythm and get in the groove and then feel ready.”
Bingham, 38, began her journey on the Canadian border, since she couldn’t enter Canada and start in Banff, where the route usually begins. She left Eureka, Montana, around 4 p.m. June 10 and concluded the ride at Antelope Wells, New Mexico, on July 10. Fueled by countless salted nut bars, the 2,700-mile journey took Bingham exactly 30 days to complete, including two off days, or zero mile days.
It took about a week for Bingham to feel comfortable being on her bike all day and camping by herself. Montana was full of difficult terrain but was the most scenic part of the trip. The last stretch, New Mexico, was the hardest to push through. Thankfully, Bingham’s husband, Brad, joined her for the final part of the route.
“New Mexico was the hardest,” she said. “I’m glad my husband was with me during that part because it was pretty challenging terrain, and it was really hot.”
Bingham used two items every single day to combat the heat: sun sleeves and a helmet brim that made her appear to be wearing an odd sombrero. She was also glad she brought along flat pedals without a clip-in option for days when her feet needed a break.
Admittedly, she packed too much food and water between fuel ups and needed her Smartwool long sleeve for a total of an hour.
Even without the heat, the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route poses enough challenges. While riding through Wyoming, Bingham’s bike, named the “Hannimal,” got a flat tire. It was a pretty rough flat that seemed to have damaged her tire. Bingham looked at the problem and thought it was irreparable. She considered not fixing it and just calling it.
“I think every day I probably had a moment or two like that,” she said. “That was one of those points where I was just like, ‘I don’t know if I can fix this. I don’t know if I should carry on.’ … You just question, ‘Why am I doing this again?’”
Bingham was able to fix the tire on her custom mountain bike and carried on. Once she reached her destination each day, her mood shifted. She was another day and another step closer to reaching her goal of completing the ride. In moments like that, the “why” was clear.
“When you really get into it, it’s rewarding to challenge yourself and do something really hard and work at it and just feel that sense of accomplishment,” she said.
Bingham encountered her fair share of “trail magic,” which any thru-hiker or bikepacker knows as acts of kindness. After using her only spare tube to repair her tire in Wyoming, she was worried she’d run into trouble in the Great Basin. She encountered a northbound biker named Kyle, who gave her his spare tube.
She also experienced some trail magic in Horca, New Mexico. She met a woman at a gift shop and asked if there were any local campsites she could rest at. The woman said Bingham could stay on her property and eat dinner with her family.
“It was nice to be around a family after so much solo time,” Bingham wrote in an Instagram post.
In another post, Bingham said she’s definitely suffering from “post-Divide depression” and is going through an awkward adjustment period now that she’s back at work at Bingham Built.
“I’ve been back a week, and the transition back to my job and real life has been a little bit difficult,” she said. “It was such a huge adventure and drastic change from my normal daily routine. Then being thrown back into work and daily life, it’s kind of hard to focus, and I keep thinking about the Tour Divide and how I want to do it again.”
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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