Banff to Echo Lake

Great Divide Canada

Banff, Alberta to Echo Lake Montana

620 km in 6 days or less :)

The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (GDMBR) is a mix of fireroads, singletrack and pavement from Banff, Alberta to Antelope Wells, New Mexico (on the US/Mexico border). The best mountain bike riders in the world will do these 4400+ kilometers in 3-4 weeks. This full route crosses the Continental Divide 30 times

We plan on riding 14% of this distance (620 km) in less than one week – riding the northernmost section of the route from Banff to Echo Lake (crossing the border in Roosville).


Route Maps are available from Adventure Cycling Association

Dates: July 2 - July 7, 2012

The Tour Divide race along the GDMBR starts June 8, 2012 in Banff and Antelope Wells. Racers will head southbound and northbound along the route, finishing 2.5 to 6 weeks later. By the time we're on the same route, the northbound racers should have all finished. We may run into others riding the divide, but in a non-competitive fashion.

By the start of July, the snowpack shouldn't be an obstacle. (Last year in June, Tour Divide racers packed snowshoes for the first few days…)



Depending on the number of km ridden per day, we've determined various start points to allow arrival after 4 days of riding.

Distance (km/day) 55 80 100 125 140 157 210 (3 Days) 314 (2 Days)
Start Roosville Butts Cabin Hwy 3 "Y" near Elkford Smith Dorien Rd Banff Springs Banff Springs Banff Springs
Pace (km/h) 13.7 13.2 - 19.8 16.8 15.6 14.1-17.7 13.1-15.7-19.6 13.1-15.0-17.5 15.7-17.5-19.6
Time/Day (hours) 4 6 - 4 6 8 10 - 8 12 - 10 - 8 16 - 14 - 12 20 - 18 - 16

If our fitness or preparations are insufficient, we can possibly adjust the starting point. We could also put the hammer down and get there in two long days!!


Most of the GDMBR riders have moved away from panniers and beasts of burden (BOB) and instead follow the principles of bikepacking – off-pavement touring, often with minimal, lightweight gear.

  • Food sufficient only for making it to the next resupply point (town or gas station)
  • Lightweight sleeping bag, bivy sack (or light tent) and sleeping pad
  • Minimal tools and equipment

Check out this great intro to bikepacking article: Self Contained and Ultralight


Though any mountain bike will do, a lightweight hardtail mountain bike (front suspension but not rear suspension) or rigid (no suspension) is recommended. 29ers are pretty trendy these days.

Bikepacking setup


Carry as little as possible on your back and put most of the weight on your bike. It is important to balance the weight around your bike to keep your bike handling nicely in technical terrain.

A handlebar bag, frame bag, top tube bag and seat bag are all options. Relevate Designs is a high quality one-stop shop for bikepacking bags.

  • handlebar bag: shelter, sleeping bag and sleeping pad
  • frame bag: food
  • top tube bag: accessible food
  • seat bag: clothes


We may be riding in the dark - so a proper headlamp is recommended. The Princeton Tech EOS has a good reputation, but there are lots of alternatives and what you have might already be fine.
Note: July 3, 2012 will be a full moon!


Maps, cue sheets and a cycle computer are the minimum. A GPS can be useful but adds weight. We'll also bring a SPOT along so we can keep our families informed of our location and condition. An FRS radio each can allow the leaders and "red lantern" to keep in touch.


The best clothing choices are light weight and packable with high tech synthetic fabric. Wear the same clothes your entire trip to save weight and space in your bags. Good cycling shorts (with synthetic chamois lining) are essential to minimizing chafing, saddle sores and blisters. (Cycling shorts are designed to be worn alone with no undergarments.) Chamois cream might be helpful too.

We'll mostly just be riding, so a few layers and an outer shell are probably all that is needed.

A change of clothes waiting for you in Echo Lake are also needed.


Bladders and bottles in your backpack or frame bag and bottles attached to your bike are the places to store fluid. How much to carry depends on your speed, time to next resupply point and temperatures. We'll probably resupply on the trail as available, so purification tablets or a filter can be used - but filters are heavier!

Sleep System

Light weight and packable are the keys. The basics are a sleeping pad, bivvy bag and sleeping bag. A lighter and riskier option is to take nothing! A heavier and comfier option is to add a tent or tarp.

Equipment Lists (Suggestions)

We'll try to avoid redundant equipment, everyone needs some essentials

(This is more for guidance, you might have individual preferences...)

Clothing Worn

Clothing Carried

  • arm warmers
  • knee warmers/compression tights
  • thermal top (long sleeve wool/polyester crewneck shirt)
  • thermal bottoms
  • wind shell
  • soft shell pants
  • rain jacket and pants (lightweight/optional)
  • down parka/vest (compressible warmth)
  • toque (sleeping)
  • shell gloves/warmer lobster gloves
  • one pair wool socks (heavier wool for around camp)
  • over-shoe booties (keep the water out of your shoes) (optional)
  • bandana (e.g. keep dust out of your mouth/nose)

Sleep System

  • silnylon tarp / poles & fly / bivy sac
  • space blanket
  • ground stakes and accessory cord (as necessary)
  • sleeping bag (stuff sack used for hanging food)
  • sleeping pad (short thermarest - not full length)
  • inflatable pillow


  • small backpack
  • cycle computer (necessary) Filzer dZ2L is cheap.
  • water bottle(s)
  • water bladder
  • food bag
  • headlamp (helmet mounted) and batteries (lithium)
  • digital camera (optional)
  • Bearspray - one can each
  • mini lighter / waterproof matches


  • cycling multitool (or individual hex wrenches and chain break)
  • cycling pump
  • patch box with 2 tubes of glue, 9 small patches, 1 large patch
  • spare derailler hanger (that matches your bike)
  • 2 chain links
  • power link (for repairing broken chain quickly)
  • 3 alloy spoke nipples (if you break a spoke nipple)
  • 4 cable ends
  • chain lube in dropper bottle
  • poly grease in flip top container
  • T-shirt rag for cassette flossing
  • old toothbrush with cut handle
  • 2 plastic tire levers
  • spare tube(s)
  • multitool (small)
  • fire starting kit (e.g. wet fire firestarter cubes)
  • bear bagging kit (cord and carabiner)
  • toothbrush & floss
  • toilet paper and hand sanitizer (necessary!)

Medical Kit

  • 3 non-stick dressings
  • 4 bandaid tough strips
  • 10 wound closure strips
  • 4 neosporin applications
  • 5 Q-Tips
  • Swiss Army knife tweezers
  • 1" roll of Leukotap
  • 2 tincture of Benzoin applications
  • 10 Advil & 4 Benedryl in flip-top container

Repair/Emergency Kit

  • 4 large zip ties
  • 4 small zip ties
  • 4 safety pins
  • 1" roll of gorilla tap / duct tape wrapped around a short pencil
  • 6' of 22 guage bailing wire(?)
  • 1 3/4" male buckle end
  • 1 application of Krazy Glue
  • GoreTex repair tape
  • Kleartape universal repair tape
  • Thermarest repair kit w/one Hot Bond adhesive and 5 patches
  • 2"x3" signal mirror
  • 1" roll orange flagging
  • compass (mini?)
  • 6 micro PUR tablets/ Katadyn chlorine dioxide water-treatment tablets
  • 19"x23.5" oven-roasting bag in baggy (used as pack liner in extended inclement weather)

Sewing Kit (optional)

  • 1 spool 46wt nylon thread
  • 1 spool 69wt nylon thread
  • 1 heavy needle
  • 1 light needle
  • 2 pins
  • (in metal tube with timble cap)

Journal Kit (recommended)

  • Rite in the Rain 24 page pad w/4" pencil in baggy
Other (Highly recommended)
  • 5"x5" square pack towel
  • Dr. Bonner's peppermint soap in micro dropper bottle
  • SPF 30 spray-on sunscreen
  • Brave Soldier Lip Defender SPF15 lip balm
  • Brave Soldier Friction Zone chamois cream
  • 100% DEET insect repellant in micro dropper bottle / insect repellant wipes (5) in baggie

Food (only enough to get to the next town)

  • Pro/Power/Cliff/similar bars
  • Thai curry cashews
  • Yogurt-covered peanut clusters
  • instant oatmeal packets (if you want to carry a stove and cook)
  • freeze dried dinner(s) (if you want to carry a stove and cook)
  • instant soup(?)
  • Elete electrolyte drops (like gatorade but not messy powder)
  • Hammer Recoverite packets (one per night)

Cooking (goal is to eat no-cook food on the trail, so these are all optional)

  • shared stove (alcohol or fuel tablet) and fuel
  • shared(?) titanium pot or titanium cup
  • titanium/polycarbonate spork
  • stove windscreen & heat reflector