Author Topic: The Great Divide MBR with kids on Hase Pino Tandems  (Read 5638 times)

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Offline baslansdorp

The Great Divide MBR with kids on Hase Pino Tandems
« on: August 15, 2020, 06:49:18 am »
Hi all,

I would like to hear your thoughts on the possibility on doing part of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (GDMBR) on our tandems with kids, especially the suitability of our bikes to drive on the rough terrain of the route. The plan would be to do it in one of the next few years.

My wife and I have done cycling holidays for about 20 years now, the last 4 trips with our kids, who are now 4 and 6 years old. Before we had kids we cycled in Europe, Asia and Australia. With kids, we cycled from our home in the Netherlands to Paris (750 km), from Nantes to Biarritz (900 km), to Prague (1300 km) and we just return from our latest trip from home to Berlin via the German coast (1400km). We ride Hase Pino tandems where the kids sit in a recumbent seat in the front. They can paddle along if they want to. We do between 50-110km per day. Ideally we liked to do 60-80km on the average terrain to Berlin, which was about 30-40% off-road.

I attached a picture of the Hase Pino bikes we use.

The last trip to Berlin had a lot of off-road tracks: coarse and fine gravel, cobblestones, concrete slabs even a few kilometers of loose sand. We really enjoyed the off-road parts which reinvigorated my interest in one day doing the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route with our kids on our Pino bikes.

There are obviously a lot of practical challenges, the biggest challenge might be food and the rough surface - depending on how rough it actually is. The front wheel of the Pino bike is 20", the rear wheel is 26". The front wheel is suspended, but the stroke is limited and it is quite stiff. Driving big cobblestones or very rough gravel / rock roads is quite strenuous.

So my question #1 is: how bumpy is it the GDMBR? Are the gravel roads mostly fine gravel? Or is it more rock roads where you're thrown around all the time? Are there parts of the GDMBR where it is better and parts where it is worse? The current plan is to start in Banff and do about 900-1200km, at 40-60km per day.

Question #2 is on food: what do people eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner on the more remote stretches?  Can you buy porridge and milk powder in the shops underway? Flour to make pancakes? What's for dinner?

If you have any other suggestions about riding the GDMBR with kids, please let me know.

« Last Edit: August 15, 2020, 06:51:39 am by baslansdorp »

Offline jamawani

Re: The Great Divide MBR with kids on Hase Pino Tandems
« Reply #1 on: August 15, 2020, 09:42:05 am »
Goedemorgen Bas -

Welcome to the forum here.
I think it is wonderful that y'all are cycling with your kids.
Children who travel and experience different cultures are given a wonderful gift.
A gift which will last throughout their entire lives.

I have lived in Wyoming for the past 30 years.
I never cycled the GDMBR - per se - but many parts and many similar sections.
I have also cycled the Ardeche in France - the most "remote" part of France.
And Limburg in the Netherlands - the "wild" Netherlands.

The GDMBR is a whole other animal - far beyond anything in western Europe.
Speaking of animals - you will need to use strict bear camping procedures.
The Canadian and Northern Rockies have grizzlies, black bears, wolves, and mountain lions.
I have biked thousands of miles in the region - solo - and have done so without fear.
But I have been rigorously bear aware and have had a few encounters.

I am not sure if you understand the level of remoteness - - being Dutch.
Whether on the Baltic or Brittany coast - you are never more than 10 km from a village.
And you are probably never more than 1 km from a farm house if you need help.
In central Wyoming you can be 100 km from anything - food, shelter, and especially water.

You ask about the condition of the roads.
Many of these roads receive zero maintenance - they are just tracks.
Some years they can be o.k. - other years they may be badly rutted.
If an oil company needs the road, it may be improved.

Otherwise, a road may be brutal - there's no telling.
But there is a designation used by two federal land agencies - the USFS and the BLM -
(United States Forest Service & Bureau of Land Management)
"4-wheel drive required; high clearance" tells you the road is BAD.

The Canadian section is the least remote and best maintained.
I have ridden most parts and that would be my suggestion.
Maybe start in Jasper rather than Banff and ride the Icefields Parkway for starters?
(I would stay on the Icefields Parkway, not the Forest Trunk Road, way better.)

From Banff switch to dirt to Kananaskis and over Elk Pass.
I was the only person in Elk Lakes Park once - definitely camp there.
I would take the Flathead Alternate which runs along the spine of the Rockies.
But not continue to Roosville - instead head south to Akamina-Kishinena Park.
There is a bike trail over the continental divide into Waterton National Park.
Which would be a fine place to end the trip.

The further south you head - the more difficult the GDMBR becomes.
I think it would be pretty hard on young children.
The dust alone in summertime can be choking.
And there are days with no shade to be found anywhere.

It may be impossible to control descents on some sections in Colorado.
Especially with kids in front - steep, rocky, unstable.
And the caliche in New Mexico becomes glue after it rains.
It locks up your chain and gears - it sticks to your shoes.
You can't even walk with 12 cm of glue on your shoes and slide down.

So there.
Bears, thirst, blazing sun, and killer mud.
I hope I have been encouraging.

Tot ziens - John

PS - On one trip, I rode over Elk Pass with a couple on a tandem.
I was able to ride - - they had to push.

Offline baslansdorp

Re: The Great Divide MBR with kids on Hase Pino Tandems
« Reply #2 on: August 15, 2020, 10:21:50 am »
Thanks for the information and suggestions John!
We have cycled in remote locations too, for example in the West of China at up to 4800m altitude, so we are not unfamiliar with remoteness and rough terrain. I believe good preparation is the key to success. Bear preparations would definitely be on the checklist for any camping trip to the USA.
If there are parts that are too tough or rough, we can always take alternative routes that are easier: our goal is not to stick to the official route as much as possible, but to have an awesome cycling holiday. I'm surprised you suggest the Flathead alternative: I had found in some logs that some parts of that are challenging single track paths. Is that not the case in your experience? In any case, we would always be flexible on the route when conditions require.

We'd definitely stick to the part North of Denver, because of the limitations to travel outside of the school holidays with the kids, which are 6 weeks in July and August.

Offline jamawani

Re: The Great Divide MBR with kids on Hase Pino Tandems
« Reply #3 on: August 15, 2020, 02:18:05 pm »
Bas -

Yes, western China is a thing.
But were the kids with you back then?
Still, sounds like you would be fine with much of the GDMBR.
Only thing is that tandems are super on the flats, not so good on steep climbs.
There is no law against pushing in my religion.

I suggest Jasper rather than Banff for two reasons.
1) Jasper is a fabulous town, Banff is a zoo - like Mallorca.
2) There are great fire roads that lead back to remote wilderness campsites.
In the U.S. you cannot bicycle on backcountry trails in the national parks.
This is a unique opportunity in the Canadian Rockies.
One of my favorites is Athabasca Bend in Jasper N.P. - - Pic below.
You are on a horseshoe bend in the river with magical mountain views.

Maybe a third reason - primitive hostels.
There are 6 or 8 basic hostels along the way.
They are usually in lovely locations away from the crowds.
Reservations advised - but you can get then a week beforehand.

(Gawd, I really hate Banff.)
(Also, the Icefields Centre is a rip-off.)

The old highway is available for the northern and southern sections.


South of Sparwood the route is mostly BC forest roads.
Any of the roads on the GDMBR can have washed out bridges or slides.
You should be prepared to ford small streams, if needed.
By July the water levels are down, but early June can be tricky.
I did have to move a few logs to get across a small stream on this section.
I was younger than and could drag and heave them by myself.

You should have forest roads all the way to Akamina.
The portion over to Waterton is a bike trail.
BUT - - -
Akamina is a fairly accessible wilderness park.
Nothing like the crowds at Waterton and Glacier.

Years back there used to be a border crossing on the Flathead.
Even when it was open there were only a dozen or so cars per day.
It was closed after 9-11.

South of Glacier NP there are not many great dirt road routes.
The Bob Marshall Wilderness occupies most of the Divide down towards Helena.
I would skip Helena - from Ovando down towards Phillips & Anaconda.
(Hate to miss Butte, though - - such a historic and hard-hit city.)

The Pioneer Mountains Parkway is sweet.But the real treasure not on the GBMBR
Is the Gravelly Range crest - ride in spectacular meadows on the ridgeline.
May be very windy and you have to be aware of storms.
Camp anywhere you like - - then drop down to the Rodrock Lakes.

Some lovely dirt roads in the Grand Teton area.
(I used to live there when it was less visited.)
then I might suggest ending in Salt Lake rather than Denver.
The Greys River Road is wonderful riding down to the Utah/Wyo line.

The stretch of the GDMBR thru the Red Desert in southern Wyoming is tough, tough.
Very remote, no services, no water, no shade.
It is spectacular country - but in a subtle way - nothing eye-popping.

With adequate time you could hit the Uinta Mountains and then Park City.
Or if you were running tightcut over to Logan, Ogden, of Salt Lake directly.

Just some ideas. - - J

Offline John Nettles

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Re: The Great Divide MBR with kids on Hase Pino Tandems
« Reply #4 on: August 29, 2020, 12:56:19 pm »
I totally second the Gravelly Range Road (I think it is closed before July 1st typically) and also the Greys River Road.  You can ride (mostly) both on a tandem except for a few steep parts, i.e. 8+% grades.  Of the two, I would guess Greys River Road is easier just because the approach to the plateau of Gravelly Range Road is somewhat steep and long versus Greys River Road is more gentle, i.e. follows the river, but much longer to the top and then a long downhill south. 

Here is a pick of the north side of the top of Greys River Road.  The road condition is mostly like this. 

Offline SamuelJohns

Re: The Great Divide MBR with kids on Hase Pino Tandems
« Reply #5 on: May 12, 2023, 06:15:50 am »
The mountain biking route is certainly challenging, but it is doable with the right preparation. As for food, it's worth taking the essentials, such as porridge and powdered milk, for breakfast. You can also find groceries along the way, but availability may vary in remote areas. Remember to plan your daily distances wisely, keeping your children's comfort in mind. One day my wife and I decided to become foster parents at and give our children an unforgettable experience by going on a trip. I thought it would help us get to know each other better, and I was right because we became friends. You and your family will create unforgettable memories after this trip.
« Last Edit: May 15, 2023, 08:29:11 am by SamuelJohns »