Q&A: Lachlan's Tour Divide
Lachlan talks about his twelve-and-a-half-day ride through the North American west
The most amazing part of the Tour Divide is that everyone comes out of it with a million stories to tell.
The stories may be harrowing or they may be hilarious, but every rider on the trail shares that common bond. In that sense, they are all traveling together on this exploration of the North American west.
Lachlan’s Tour Divide was just like everyone else’s, albeit a bit faster. He had high highs and low lows. There was a part of him that didn’t think he could finish. But he did.
It will take some time for Lachlan to process twelve and a half day's worth of experiences, but read on to learn his initial impressions of the Tour Divide.
Where are we and what are we doing?
We're in Tucson, Arizona. It's the day after riding the Tour Divide route and just catching up on sleep and getting some food.
How are you feeling?
I'm a little tired. But, all things considered, not too bad. I had a good sleep and I feel like the body's gonna come back pretty well.
When you do something like the Tour Divide, how does it feel to come back to the real world?
You spend so much time alone in your own head for a few weeks that it's definitely weird.
But, generally, I like the feeling, because all of a sudden, little comforts that you took for granted before feel amazing. Just having a shower, you can properly wash yourself, and not rushing around, and having a fresh set of clothes, all that feels extra special.
What were the main highlights and challenges of your Tour Divide?
I always try to view it as an experience in its entirety. Overwhelmingly, it was a very challenging one.
I don't know if fun's the right word, but I enjoyed exploring Montana. The bottom of Canada, and Idaho, and Wyoming were nice. That was all new terrain to me. So, it was fun to have a route to explore these places. I enjoyed that, even though there were immense challenges.
The storm I experienced in Wyoming was hands down the most terrifying experience I've ever had. And then having to ride that last almost thousand kilometer without a functional derailleur was a challenge to get my head around, but ultimately it was all positive because there were moments when I thought it was going to be incredibly challenging to reach the finish but I managed to work it out and keep pushing.
Ultimately it was an empowering experience.
What will you take with you from this experience, if anything?
I've never spent such a long period of time so singularly focused. It just simplified everything, living a life for a few weeks where you're just riding, getting to the next point, finding food. It strips everything back and makes you realize how complicated we make our lives.
And also, the fact that the US has so many beautiful and wild places. As someone who's not from the States, you don't necessarily think of that as the first thing when you think about the U.S. For me, the single biggest appeal of the country is the fact that there are so many amazing national parks and spaces that you can go and experience and it's just beautiful and wild.
You were so excited about riding through the Great Basin in Wyoming but it ended up being a challenging day due to the cold and the mud. So when the going got tough, were you still able to appreciate each moment?
That's the biggest challenge of doing something like this, especially when you are trying to do it fast. You can easily miss a bunch, purely by trying to go fast so a big goal of mine was to try to be present and aware of what I was doing and appreciative of the opportunity and the places I was in. There were definitely moments I couldn't achieve this, mainly because of extreme weather, but that's part of it. Because you spend three days cold and wet, then that first time the sun pops out, it's amplified by a hundred.
Despite doing it at such an intense pace, I managed to be present the majority of the time, so that was a win.
You went in with that 12:48 rule which you prioritized. How do you think that impacted your overall enjoyment of the route and ability to ride it fast?
That was a game changer for me. In the end, I was able to sleep basically six hours every night – plus or minus an hour here and there. Normally doing an ultra like this, you feel like you should always push more when you're sleeping. You're thinking, ‘oh, should I be moving?’
Whereas, this time I had to stop for six hours so during that time, I was very relaxed in organizing my stuff and trying to be as efficient as I could so I could sleep more.
It changed my mentality a lot. When I was riding, I'd be like, ‘alright, I'm up for it, I can push. I've recovered and I need to get to this next spot and then I'm going to relax again.’
Normally, when I finish an effort like this, I’m still a bit anxious to keep moving, but I don't have any of that this time because I had that sleep every day.
There were only two times when I felt like I was sleep deprived. The first one was before I got to Silverthorne because it was an ambitious push. There was one hour where I was like, ‘alright, I want to sleep but I need to keep riding.’ And just remembering that feeling from previous ultras, I was like, ‘Oh, this sucks. I'm glad I'm not experiencing this every day.’
And then the second one was the other morning when I'd lost probably half an hour of sleep trying to get my derailleur sorted. So instead of getting the full amount of sleep, I was a little bit short. And the next morning I had that wave of tiredness before sunrise so I just stopped and slept for 15 minutes under a bush.
What stands out to you as a particularly good moment on the trail?
There were a few hours when I hit the Tetons and I'd had a pretty tough first six or seven hours of the day riding in the dark and it was really cold and wet. I had kind of resigned to the fact that it was going to be another miserable day. But there were three or four hours where the sun came out and it cleared up and you could see the mountains perfectly and then you rolled from Grand Teton National Park into this amazing valley with these big ranches and it was just like, ‘this is what you dream of.’ My body felt good and there was just this big push of positivity that felt amazing.
And then, probably four or five hours after I left Steamboat, the body finally clicked into that mode of, ‘oh, I can push really hard, and I'm in this amazing spot, I've got everything I need on my bike.' When your body feels good doing such an intense thing, it's just hard to beat.
What's the final wild animal tally?
I saw a lot of moose. I saw a pack of wolves which was terrifying for about 30 seconds when I realized I was rolling up on them and they were all in the middle of the road. And then once they started to run away, I was like, ‘oh wow, how amazing.’ The sun had just come up, it was still foggy, and it was me and all these wolves running around.
I didn't see a grizzly bear, which I was happy about. Lots of signs of them. A few moments where I had that feeling of something being around. It's a tingly feeling but I don't know if there's any validity to that feeling.
After that, lots of snakes. And little critters.
You also saw wild horses, right?
Oh yeah! I saw wild horses in the basin. That was pretty wild. There were two jet black wild horses that ran next to me for probably four or five minutes and then slowly crossed my path. It was pretty surreal.
I also saw the Starlink a few times, which I didn't know what it was at first. I thought it was a UFO the first two times I saw it until someone explained to me that it was a Starlink. I thought I was just going crazy or seeing something super weird.
And lots of shooting stars. There was so much clear sky in the last few nights where you could see the Milky Way and every half an hour I'd be casually looking around and I'd see another shooting star.
What do you hope people will take from this?
There are a lot of wild and amazing places in the States, and a lot of amazing people and towns out in those areas that are free to go and access. They are there for anyone and I think there's value in putting yourself in those places and to sometimes put yourself in uncomfortable situations.
So you gain, first, the experience of being and witnessing those areas but second, you also gain an appreciation of the severity and harshness that nature can bring. I think the majority of us don't get to experience that much.
That's a big part of being human, right? Being out there and realizing that we are not the top of the food chain. We're pretty ill equipped when it comes to surviving in extreme environments. Going out and experiencing those things has a lot of value and I hope that by doing this ride, more people are inspired to go out and experience those things. It was nice to ride it fast, but, I think the people I met who were touring the route and out there experiencing it, they were the real winners of the Tour Divide.