The Quickest Bikes of the Tour Divide Extremely Race (4,400KM Non-Cease)

The Tour Divide is an annual off-road trip traversing the size of the Rocky Mountains, from Canada all the best way to the Mexican border. The course is over 4,418km lengthy (2745mi), and alongside the best way, riders will achieve over 60,000 metres in elevation (200,000ft).

The clock begins on the grand depart and doesn’t cease till riders cross the end line. And by the best way, the trip is strictly self-supported. The quickest riders will full the course in round two weeks, masking roughly 280 kilometres per day (174mi).

It’s secure to say that the Tour Divide is an excessive take a look at of each the physique and thoughts.

It’s additionally very fascinating from a gear optimisation perspective, as just a few small variations in bike setup will enable riders to make their lives a bit simpler. On this video, we can be analysing 121 totally different bike setups from this yr’s Tour Divide to seek out out what makes the absolute best setup.

The statistics I can be drawing upon have been splendidly collected by within the type of two articles (HERE and HERE), the place riders from all world wide focus on their bike, bag and equipment highlights.

As these articles separate bikes based mostly on whether or not they use a drop bar or flat bar, this looks as if an ideal place for us to start out.


Christopher makes use of drop bars on his Tour Divide bike. Picture: Christopher Schmidt

A bit over half of the riders interviewed this yr are utilizing drop bar bikes (55%).

When individuals assume ‘drop bars’, they assume ‘pace’. However pace alone shouldn’t be how most will choose a handlebar for the Tour Divide. This can be a very lengthy occasion, so consolation is the doubtless cause that riders select one handlebar design over one other. Opposite to fashionable perception, the widespread use of the totally different bar varieties demonstrates that many bar designs may be ergonomic and cozy – it’s actually only a case of private desire.

However consolation apart, there may be doubtless an aerodynamic benefit to utilizing drop bars.

With regards to the aerodynamics of biking, you ideally need to make your physique form extra aerodynamic (Cd), your frontal space smaller (A) – or each. Through the use of drop bars, your arms and elbows don’t sit as large, permitting you to cut back your frontal space and optimise your physique form.

A little bit of serviette maths means that drop bars may save two or three hours over the complete Tour Divide course (75kg/165lb rider, 15kg/33lb bike, 140 watts energy output).

You possibly can be taught extra concerning the aerodynamics of touring and bikepacking HERE.

Aero Bars

Bart chooses to make use of aero bars on his Tour Divide rig together with 77% of different riders. Picture: Bart Muylle

Whereas we’re nonetheless on the subject of handlebars, among the finest potential methods to enhance each your pace and luxury is to suit aero bars to your bike. Most Tour Divide riders appear to agree, as 77% of them are utilizing aero bars this yr.

That is partly as a result of you can also make your physique form extra aerodynamic with an aero bar, permitting you to trip sooner with the identical effort. However arguably, it’s the extra consolation that’s probably the most interesting characteristic.

Think about this, Tour Divide riders on the pointy finish of the race spend upwards of 20 hours per day using their bikes. This ends in a number of localised physique fatigue. Aero bars supply your physique a break by offering a special using place that reduces pressure in your arms, wrists, arms and bum, and can assist you to stretch out your again and use totally different muscle tissue.

If you wish to go additional down this rabbit gap, I’ve an in depth article about aero bars HERE.


Nick is utilizing a Brooks saddle together with 20% of different Tour Divide riders. Picture: Nick Marzano

The saddle you select goes to be the distinction between finishing the Tour Divide and having to scratch.

It’s arduous to make saddle suggestions to a broad viewers – you actually need to attempt them first. However there are some developments right here.

Brooks is the preferred saddle model for the Tour Divide with 20% of riders utilizing one, so that they should be doing one thing proper. Ergon saddles have actually taken off not too long ago and now greater than 17% of riders have one fitted. And WTB has constantly been a well-liked model, that includes on 15% of the bikes.

You possibly can be taught extra about saddle consolation for touring HERE.


Nick is utilizing a Cane Creek eeSilk+ suspension submit on his Tour Divide bike. Picture: Nick Patrick

Solely 13% of riders are utilizing a suspension seatpost (together with the carbon leaf-sprung Ergon CF3).

After extensively testing suspension seatposts, I feel that many riders may enhance their TD expertise with certainly one of these. Brief journey posts are 100 or possibly 200 grams heavier (3-6oz) than a inflexible submit. That’s it.

You possibly can learn my detailed suspension seatpost article HERE and carbon flex seatpost article HERE.


Steven is utilizing Vittoria Mezcal tyres together with 36% of different riders. Picture: Steven Sloss

If you’re racing the clock, your tyres are most likely the most essential element you may optimise over a 4,400km trip.

Some tyres that I’m seeing fitted to TD bikes have been examined on easy surfaces to roll with 20-watts additional resistance over different tyre units. A little bit of serviette maths means that sluggish tyres may add greater than 20 hours of pedalling to a TD run!

However that stated, it’s arduous to provide you with an correct time determine because of the mixture of street surfaces, various rider weights, tyre pressures and extra.

The preferred tyre is the Vittoria Mezcal and you will see that it on greater than 1/3 of all bikes.

The Mezcal has change into the go-to tyre for the TD because it does an unimaginable job of balancing rolling resistance, puncture resistance, sturdiness and grip. If you transfer to faster-rolling choices just like the Schwalbe Thunder Burt, you find yourself with considerably much less grip and a contact much less puncture resistance too – which could not hold your thoughts relaxed.

Basically, there’s a trade-off on all tyres, and plainly the Mezcal is the place most individuals find yourself.

Jason makes use of the robust and dependable Maxxis Ikon tyres on his Tour Divide rig. Picture: Jason Reamy

The second hottest tyre is the Maxxis Ikon. These are examined to be slower rolling however are identified for his or her reliability – I do know extremely racers who’ve been utilizing them for years and have actually by no means had a puncture.

I’m unsure why the Continental Race King Safety tyres (7% of bikes) are much less fashionable than in years previous. These tyres are what the late Mike Corridor used to set the present 13-day, 22-hour course report. They’ve been examined to be ultra-fast rolling, they’re protecting of punctures, and a few riders have even raced the TD twice on the identical set (8,800km).

If you understand why these tyres are much less most well-liked these days – let me know.

Wheel Dimension

The three totally different wheel diameters used within the Tour Divide, together with their ‘angle of assault’.

By way of wheel diameter, there are three frequent sizes on bikes tackling the TD: 26-inch, 27.5-inch and 29-inch.

As the most important diameter wheel gives the smallest ‘angle of assault’ over bumps and depressions within the street, it will probably keep the best pace. 88% of riders are actually selecting the massive 29″ wheels, and it drops off to simply 7% of riders utilizing the smaller 27.5″ wheels.

The typical tyre width that’s used is 2.2″/55mm. That is doubtless the candy spot the place riders have the bottom rolling resistance and probably the most trip consolation on the lengthy filth roads.

Body Materials

Carbon fibre is the body materials of selection for about half of all Tour Divide rigs together with Adrian’s bike. Picture: Adrian Barniak

Virtually half of all TD riders (49%) opted for a carbon fibre bike body. That is the plain selection for an occasion with over 60,000 vertical metres (200,000ft) climbing, as a kilogram could make a measurable distinction right here.

A Salsa Cutthroat carbon body weighs a contact underneath 1.5 kilograms (3.3lb). Compared, a equally robust titanium body is usually about 2.2kg/4.9lb, and metal is nearer to three.0kg/6.6lb.

Once more, the serviette comes out and I’ve calculated an additional kilogram for the typical rider to be about 1.5 hours over 4,400km. That’s not large, however it could possibly be the distinction between first and second place.


Jocelyn’s bike makes use of a SRAM AXS wi-fi 1X drivetrain. Picture: Jocelyn de la Rosa

1X drivetrains now make up 82% of all bike setups utilizing derailleurs. This needs to be unsurprising, because the Tour Divide is an off-road route that calls for large tyres and low gear ratios, and nearly all bikes that accommodate these options now include 1X drivetrains.

You’ll discover that there aren’t too many gearbox drivetrains on the Tour Divide this yr (4%). However this occasion has beforehand been received on a Rohloff 14-speed bike (Ollie Whalley, 2012) – so these drivetrains may be a good suggestion.

That stated, gearbox drivetrains are heavier and fewer environment friendly than derailleurs so I think that’s why they aren’t fashionable.

Once more, my serviette is out, and I’d estimate the Rohloff would add 3-4 hours in good situations on account of its decrease drive effectivity, plus you would add one other hour or two because of the heavier weight. And the Pinion gearbox may add a complete of 10 hours once we issue every part in.

Gear Ratios

James’ bike is utilizing an appropriately low gear ratio to deal with the climbs of the Tour Divide. Picture: James Bacon

If you wish to rise up the steep hills with out going into the pink, you’ll need appropriately low gear ratios in your bike. Tour Divide riders appear to know this properly, as the typical low climbing gear throughout all bikes is simply 20 gear inches. That is about proper for the course.

Attaining lower than 20 gear inches is simple on flat bar bikes, however more durable on drop bar bikes as there may be restricted compatibility between drop bar shifters and mountain bike derailleurs. I’m actually impressed with the drivetrain workarounds on the drop bar bikes – a few quarter have been ‘hacked’ in a roundabout way to realize 20 gear inches or much less.

The preferred hack is the Wolftooth RoadLink. This extends the efficient size of your derailleur, permitting you to accommodate a much bigger cassette with decrease gear ratios. One other good hack is the fitment of the Ratio Expertise improve equipment that mates 11-speed SRAM street shifters to 12-speed mountain bike derailleurs.

When you have deep pockets, the SRAM AXS wi-fi street shifters pair with the wi-fi AXS mountain bike derailleurs to suit 10 to 52-tooth cassettes. Evidently few drop bars riders are on a small funds as one-in-three bikes are utilizing this setup!


Paul has certainly one of just a few Tour Divide bikes with flat pedals. Picture: Paul Kuzdas

Virtually all riders are utilizing clip-in pedals (86%).

Many of the efficiency benefits of clip-in pedals are discovered underneath acceleration, so there doubtless isn’t an enormous drawback to those that select flats. I’d guess that clip-in pedals are merely what most individuals are used to once they trip their street or mountain bikes, and in consequence, it’s simply their desire.


Hydraulic disc brakes are additionally most well-liked by nearly all of riders (82%). They’re very dependable lately and infrequently require much less grip energy to tug your bike to a cease. That is significantly essential when your arms are fatigued after a few weeks of using!


Josh’s Tour Divide bike makes use of a suspension fork (and plenty of prototype Tailfin baggage). Picture: Josh Ibbett

Solely 30% of all TD bikes are utilizing suspension forks.

Suspension will undoubtedly scale back rider fatigue on the rougher sections of the route. And given that you could lock out most suspension, the most important drawback is just that it provides weight to your bike – most suspension forks are roughly 1.5kg heavier than carbon forks.

My serviette says that’s a bit over two hours of trip time for the typical rider. So, what do you assume? Is it price it?

Moez rode one of many 37 Salsa Cutthroat bikes within the Tour Divide this yr. Picture: Moez Bhatti

Extremely, Salsa made up a whopping 39% of all Tour Divide bikes this yr. The truth is, there have been 8X extra Salsas than the second-most fashionable bike model (Niner).

Salsa Cycles are the most important journey bike model on the planet proper now, and the Cutthroat mannequin, specifically, was designed particularly to excel on the Tour Divide. This mannequin represents 52% of all drop bar bikes right here, and it’s not arduous to see why – after I check out my Bikepacking Bike Purchaser’s Information, the Cutthroat is the solely carbon drop bar bike that may match large tyres.

And when you’ve ever questioned the place the title Cutthroat comes from, the Cutthroat trout is the state fish for all US states that the Tour Divide passes by. You’re welcome.


Phil’s bike is sort of the typical bike setup of the Tour Divide. The one factor lacking is a Brooks saddle. Picture: Phil Jones

By way of this evaluation, I feel the seatpost and tyres are the one areas the place Tour Divide riders may squeeze out a bit extra efficiency and luxury. However general, these rigs are very well dialled in. Simply lining up for this occasion requires a number of analysis, so I’m not stunned that the majority bikes are completely prepared for the course.

To complete up, right here’s what the typical Tour Divide bike is:

It’s a inflexible carbon bike fitted with 29″ wheels and working Vittoria Mezcal tyres within the 2.2″ width. The bike has drop bars, clip-in pedals, hydraulic brakes, aero bars and a 1X drivetrain. The saddle is most probably made by Brooks.

There’s a excessive likelihood {that a} SRAM wi-fi drivetrain is fitted, which permits for the pairing of drop bar shifters and a mountain bike drivetrain to provide an appropriately low 20 gear inch climbing gear.

Replace: The High-10 Tour Divide Bikes for 2022

Sofiane Sehili Bike Setup
The bike setup Sofiane Sehili used to win the Tour Divide in 2022. Picture: Sofiane Sehili

There may be now a 2022 Tour Divide winner – Sofiane Sehili! He rode a carbon Vitus Rapide to Antelope Wells in 14 days, 16 hours and 36 minutes.

Listed here are the bike statistics from the top-10 finishers this yr:
Handlebar Sort – 70% flat bar, 30% drop bar
Aero Bars – 100% aero bars fitted
Saddles – 20% Brooks, 20% Ergon, relaxation is blended
Seatposts – 70% inflexible, 30% suspension (together with Ergon leaf-sprung posts)
Tyre Mannequin – 60% Vittoria Mezcal, 20% Rene Herse Fleecer Ridge, 10% Maxxis Rekon, 10% Schwalbe G-One
Tyre Width – 2.19″ large common
Wheel Dimension – 100% 29-inch wheels
Body Materials – 50% carbon, 40% titanium, 10% metal
Drivetrains – 80% 1X drivetrains, 10% 2X drivetrains, 10% singlespeed
Low Climbing Gear – 19.9 gear inches common
Pedals – 100% clip-in
Brakes – 90% hydraulic, 10% mechanical
Suspension – 80% inflexible, 20% suspension
Bike Manufacturers – 20% Salsa, 20% Chiru, relaxation is blended