Whenever I read through the Bikepacking.net forums, I realize I am painfully behind schedule on planning my Tour Divide ride. I’ve especially been procrastinating when it comes to my tour divide navigation plan.
It’s overwhelming. The route is mapped, cue sheets provide detailed turn-by-turn directions, and the availability of essential services like camping, restaurants, and grocery stores are all clearly marked. It feels like the entire navigation issue is a non-issue.
Yet everyone keeps talking about their tour divide navigation and race strategy. And I really don’t have one.
I finally conceded that I have to put a little more energy into figuring out how I am going to stay on route. I am very deft at using maps, so I have that working in my favor, plus my recently ordered Garmin eTrex20 should arrive soon.
My Tour Divide Navigation Plan
Scott Morris has a free GDMBR gpx file on his topofusion.com website that takes most of the difficulty out of route planning. Last updated in 2012, it includes the most recent rerouting on Colorado’s gold dust trail and the three alternate routes allowed in New Mexico.
Paraphrasing for one Tour Divide Rider, using this file makes route finding as easy as following the pink line to Antelope Wells.
This is pretty essential, as I am sure it’s easy to make a mistake reading a map after a 12th consecutive 16-hour day in the saddle.
Maps and Cue Sheets Second
I am currently pouring over the paper maps, updating each with addenda and simply familiarizing myself with the route.
It seems the GPS is a no-brainer for navigation, but the ACA maps and cue sheets provide critical information for upcoming food, lodging, and water services. Once I am done marking the addenda, I have two options: carry the maps or make customized cue sheets
I am leaning towards carrying the maps. Having the maps on the handlebars would help plan upcoming food and water stops easier, not to mention finding suggested camp options. For the long, tedious sections, the maps would provide some form of distraction, too, allowing me to mentally tick of the distance ridden.
Of course, the downside to carrying the maps is they do add weight.
The alternative is to build my own cue sheets, using both the ACA cues and required service information. These cues could be printed or stored digitally on my iPhone and referred to as needed. If I choose this option, I would also likely print a 1-page cue sheet with just the food/water stops on route, and only boot up the phone if I had more detailed concerns.