02/01/2020 - Nat Rainbow Tour Divide

Women of Steel

Lantern Rouge - Tour Divide 2019

Hannah writes: In November 2018 I met Nat, she came into Cotic's office wanting to look at a SolarisMAX and told me all about her plans to ride the Tour Divide. Her attitude was contagious and I had no doubt that she'd complete it, even though she had little bike knowledge! I followed her progress on her tracker and was so pleased to see that she'd finished - and enjoyed - the experience. She's written about her journey below, have a read, get inspired and set yourself a challenge for 2020...

Nat Tour Divide 2019, solarismax, tourdivide, adventure, gravel, tour divide, bikepacking, offroad.cc

We can't all be the best, but we can do our best

Nat writes: The Tour Divide, for those that donít know, is a 2745 mile off road ultra-endurance mountain bike race. It goes from Banff in Canada, all the way down through America to the Mexican border. Itís 200,000 feet of climbing which is the equivalent of climbing seven Everestís from sea level. Itís self-supported. There are many challenges and dangers, the wildlife; bears, mountain lions, rattle snakes and tarantulas. Extreme weather conditions, desert riding, hike a bike sections, wild camping, the tiredness of riding consecutive days and travelling solo in new countries.

What can I say? I like a challenge and as soon as I read about the Tour Divide, I knew I had to do it. I didnít own or ride a bike when I made this decision in November 2018! I just had a strong feeling this would give me the opportunity to improve my Rheumatoid Arthritis whilst facing more fears and becoming braver. My training began and seven months later, this June, I headed out into the wilderness with around 160 other racers.

Nat Tour Divide 2019

What an epic journey it was! The winner, Chris, finished in 15 days. It took me 42 days, 1 hour and 38 minutes, averaging 65 miles a day. I was last! But then in context, less than 50 percent of those that started the race completed it. I reckon the bears helped me out a bit!

This was a huge adventure, physically and mentally. How did I complete it? I decided from the start that the important part was to finish. I knew there would be many challenges along the way, some I could try to prepare for, and some I couldnít - like doing a puncture repair on my backup water bladder the night before I went into the great basin dessert and having 96 miles to ride before the next resupply. To add to the challenge, when leaving in the dark I went the wrong way and added another 10 miles to my ride that day!!

Nat Tour Divide 2019, solarismax, tourdivide, adventure, gravel, tour divide, bikepacking, offroad.ccNat Tour Divide 2019, solarismax, tourdivide, adventure, gravel, tour divide, bikepacking, offroad.cc

The enormity of the challenge sparked and inspired me. I am so thankful to have the mental and physical well-being to be able to take on this wonderful challenge. I find joy in the most challenging circumstances. I am just so grateful to have this new lease of life after successfully managing my Rheumatoid Arthritis through lifestyle. To be able to ride over a mountain, in a thunderstorm, with noise so loud it rattles your bones, the lightening so close you find a fellow rider hiding under a fallen tree, as they were so scared of getting struck. One day, I was wet through as it had rained for hours and I knew I had to keep riding otherwise my body temperature would drop too low. On arriving at Platoro mountain village, in the dark, desperate for a warm shower and bed, the place was closed up! Thankfully a kind individual got myself and the fellow rider Iíd bumped into that day, beds for the night. Had he not then it would have been a cold night in tents, but then that would have just been another equally awesome memory.

Nat Tour Divide 2019, solarismax, tourdivide, adventure, gravel, tour divide, bikepacking, offroad.cc

I loved it all, the highs, the lows, the nature; especially the precious little hummingbirds and bears. The lovely locals, the riders I met and the inner peace I found along the way. When I finished last, it felt like the biggest win, on a personal achievement level but also as a collective: the Tour Divide community had supported and encouraged me via the Facebook group, throughout my journey, following me on my tracker right over that finish line. That final day, after 42 days of consecutive riding, I realised something that has really stuck with me: we can't all be the best, but we can have the best time, and try our best.

Nat Tour Divide 2019, solarismax, tourdivide, adventure, gravel, tour divide, bikepacking, offroad.cc

Firefly was my teammate throughout. She was built around the Cotic SolarisMAX. I didnít know much about frames, Jamie from ĎCycle Inní of Beeston recommended Cotic and I headed up to Hope Valley. Such a lovely bunch and good vibes meant I left very happy. Her vibrant red colour influenced her name and I fell in love with her and riding. Iím no hard-core rider, I was just someone who was sparked by the Tour Divide. I believed beyond doubt I was Ďmeantí to ride and complete the race, I decided I could, and I would. The only reason I gave myself for not finishing was being on the way to hospital in an ambulance.

Nat Tour Divide 2019, solarismax, solaris, cotic, steelisreal, tourdivide, adventure, gravel, tour divide, bikepacking, offroad.cc

Before heading out to Canada my training was partly around learning to ride off road and becoming fitter. More so it was about over coming fears, learning to ride solo, in the dark, in strange places, camping on my own, then gaining the experience and confidence in myself to care for Firefly. There was lot of preparation involved, the bike and equipment took some sussing out, so many options and opinions. As a complete novice coming into this new world it was all very daunting. My advice on this would be to use the Facebook groups to research, reach out to people for advice, then step back, write a list and make your decisions. Once itís all together head out for a mini adventure, this way you figure out what works or needs tweaking.

What would I say to anyone whoís going to ride the Tour Divide? Firstly, enjoy the whole journey, from the moment you decide to ride until the finish line and then back into life after. This ride is life changing. Secondly, go with a positive mentality, make the most of it all, the good, the mud, the pain, the heat, the tears, the laughs and the scary bits. My most challenging times became my strongest memories and had the most profound lasting positive impacts. Finally, approach with flexibility. The Tour Divide is quite a beautiful beast and has no interest in your plans. It likes to throw the unexpected at you, some of the front runners this year were caught up and held back by a severe snowstorm. Flexibility enables an acceptance of going with the flow, facing challenges as they arise and adjusting to accommodate the unexpected.

Nat Tour Divide 2019, solarismax, solaris, cotic, steelisreal, tourdivide, adventure, gravel, tour divide, bikepacking, offroad.cc

The best advice I gave myself and share with others is to be completely present in the experience, every moment. It is such an intense experience, even months after finishing I can close my eyes and be right back there, itís such an energising feeling. Then each day do your best and celebrate all your successes, itís your personal journey and the Tour Divide will send you away with many gifts. It truly is a life changing experience.

Know that you can never be prepared for every eventuality, but you can have the confidence in yourself to resolve the challenges as they arise on route. I learnt so much from the ride, but especially to pack light, then pack lighter and then make sure itís even lighter, I got this about right on the last few days!

This journey, as with life, was about embracing and enjoying it, being grateful for good enough health and to be there, taking part. To have the opportunity and means to be able to take on the challenge. Then to acknowledge that each day is a gift and an opportunity for joy, to smile and spread some happiness.

Nat Tour Divide 2019, solarismax, solaris, cotic, steelisreal, tourdivide, adventure, gravel, tour divide, bikepacking, offroad.cc

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