Inside Mac McCoy's guidebook Cycling the Great Divide

November 8, 2015

Organizing a 2,774 mile bike ride on dirt backroads is a huge undertaking. The planning portion of riding The Great Divide Mountain Bike route is intimidating enough to make one choose a different adventure. But thanks to Michael “Mac” McCoy and his book Cycling the Great Divide, you can follow a day-by-day plan and travel from Banff, Alberta to Antelope Wells, New Mexico without the headaches of finding a camping spot or grocery store.

McCoy begins with a history of The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route and Adventure Cycling Association. Then he covers some basic gear lists, bikepacking setups, timelines, and a general overview of things to expect on the ride. The introduction is informative, motivating, and makes you want to jump on your bike and head to Alberta!

Cycling the Great Divide has suggestions and plans for people looking to ride all 2,774 miles at once or to tackle the trail in chunks and segments. The book has seven chapters that break the ride into manageable pieces. All 70 days of the ride start by listing the beginning point, ending point, and mileage for the day. Then McCoy highlights features of the day along with interesting cultural, historical, or geographical information. He makes suggestions on water availability, if a rider should stock up on food, and if a long section with no services is about to begin. After the short narrative, there is a cue sheet for the day’s route with distances and turns.

Many people do not have two months to ride all 70 days in one shot. With this in mind, it is possible to combine some of the shorter days into longer ones and to extend days by finding dispersed camping along the way. McCoy wanted each day to start and end at a good camping spot or town. If you are more flexible with your accommodations, it is possible to knock off ride days. If you combine a lot of the days and are really flexible with your accommodations, it’s possible to finish in less than 15 days, like Josh Kato did in 2015.

Cycling the Great Divide is an incredible planning tool, but is limited when it comes to navigation, making the book an excellent supplement to the Adventure Cycling maps of The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. The two complement each other nicely and are available as a "Great Divide Book & Map Set" from Cyclosource.

Photos by Aaron Teasdale.


CYCLO NOTES is brought to you by Adventure Cycling’s Cyclosource team—Teri, Max, and Maxton.

Our Cyclosource store brings you some of the finest bicycling maps and gear available, and all proceeds from Cyclosource support Adventure Cycling’s mission to “inspire and empower people to travel by bicycle.”


Summer November 9, 2015, 2:25 PM

Sounds like a great book! A must read :) Thanks for the information.

Nicomaine November 9, 2015, 7:22 AM

Planning on cycling the Great Divide (South to North). From Banff, however, I am continuing up to Prince George, over to Prince Rupert and down Vancouver Island. This means mostly trail riding for half of the trip and mostly road/asphalt riding for the second half.

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