Back in 2018, Geoff Livingston and Cam MacDougall decided to undertake the enormous challenge of riding the Great Divide mountain bike route. At 4350km long and with around 45,618m of climbing, it's the longest off-road cycling route in the world. If this wasn't hard enough, they decided to try to complete the entire route in just 30 days - where most people will take six to ten weeks to complete. Geoff and Cam with the help of Jess, their support car driver, wanted to use the ride to support the Take a Hike Foundation - a charity that helps at-risk youth. Thanks to everyone involved they completed their crazy mission, though it wasn't exactly plain sailing it would seem! They documented their journey and released the movie Shorten The Divide, which you can watch here. In the mean time, here's some insight from Geoff on what inspired them to take on this adventure and why.
The majority of the Great Divide Trail is on un-paved service type roads.
Q - What inspired you (and Cam) to try to conquer the great divide mtb trail?
Geoff - What inspired me to do the ride was me needing to make a change in my life habits, wanting to get healthy and take a break from entrepreneur life and challenge myself both physically and mentally more than I ever have before. I always feel my best when I am eating healthy, riding my bike and living a healthy lifestyle. Setting a goal this large would force me to do all of those things as often I could fit in to make the ride even possible.
Q - Why the great divide in particular?
Geoff - The original plan was to ride through the Rockies from Banff to the US border. It was a 400km distance which was by far the longest ride I have ever done. Cam being crazy Cam thought it would be better to do the whole thing down to Mexico and things kind of went from there.
The trail crosses three different countries and a ton of different landscapes
Q - Had you ever done anything like this before?
Geoff - I had never done anything like this before. I have always played things fairly safe and kept things close to home. The longest ride I had ever been on was the Gran Fondo back in 2012. As for overnight camping, the most nights I had been away when hiking in somewhere was 1 night, so this was really pushing me out of my comfort zone.
Q - What does the Take a Hike Foundation mean to you/why were they your chosen charity?
Geoff - I had always struggled in school and found focusing on an issue. I had also been diagnosed with ADHD in the fall of 2017 when this whole idea came together. My wife connected me with a colleague who had worked with Take A Hike in the past and when we talked through the program and what they are doing to help kids get outside to promote mental health and alternative forms of education, the connections seemed too perfect to not help raise some money for the foundation.
Cam and Geoff relied on each other (and their support driver, Jess) to give themselves the courage to pull through and get it done
Q - What did you expect from the trip? Were you adequately prepared or did you underestimate how difficult it would be?
Geoff - We underestimated the ride 100%. Trying to fit in training and preparation all while leading a life at home was super difficult. We also calculated the elevation that we would have to climb about 22,000m short of what we actually had to climb each day. You read numbers and look at maps and think, we’re young and fit, we can do that! You forget that you are going to be in the mountains by yourself on rough terrain, dealing with headwinds and rain. Then you throw forest fires into the mix and realize that it isn’t going to be as easy as we thought.
Q - What was your best memory/moment from the trip?
Geoff - The best experience of the ride would have to be riding with 40 wild horses 100km into a 215km day in the middle of the Red Desert in Wyoming.
View after incredible view, it looks like quite the adventure
Q - What was your lowest moment from the trip?
Geoff - Day 2 sucked. So did days 3-37. All kidding aside, there were a ton of highs and lows all the way through the trip. Dealing with forest fires, knee pain and self-doubt in the first few weeks would definitely be some of the toughest things that I personally had to deal with along the way.
Q - What was your biggest lesson/take-away from the trip?
Geoff - The biggest take away from the trip would have to be that it takes a community and friendship to things happen. Taking on a ride of this size or anything in life really by yourself is next to impossible. Building a network and community around yourself to encourage and ask questions to help see things through is everything.
Crossing borders helps to keep morale high!
Q - Do you have any plans for anything else like this?
Geoff - The next big goal for me is BC Bike Race in July. It is going to be a whole new experience for me. Mentally I know I can do the long days. It is now getting the body physically ready again for a ride of that size. The riding is also going to be very different from what we took on. Shorter days with similar elevation on techier trails. It’s going to be awesome!
Q - Anything else you'd like to add?
Geoff - I would like to encourage people to get out and challenge themselves more and see what sort of impact they can have on the community around them as they do it. It not only holds you accountable to do what you say but it really makes a big difference in other people’s lives that may not be as fortunate as yourself. It feels amazing both physically and mentally to push yourself and know you are making the world a better place while doing so.After 38 long and gruelling days, they finally made it down to the mexican border.