Atmosphere

One-Track Mind

A Denver man's crazy plan to ride his fixed-gear bicycle across the country.
By
June 2008

Later this month, in Alberta, Canada, a bearded, bespectacled man will pull his beat-up bicycle to the side of a dirt road. He will remove supplies from his backpack: a tarp, bubble wrap, and a Snickers bar. After eating the candy bar and hanging the tarp, he'll ensconce himself in the bubble wrap and bed down before embarking on Day Two of his trip from Canada to Mexico.

You see, David Nice will be riding the brutal Great Divide Race—490 miles, 85 percent on dirt or gravel, more than 200,000 feet of climbing, and 18 Continental Divide crossings. And because that in and of itself doesn't seem challenging enough, Nice—a high-end distiller who crafts award-winning bottles of Stranahan's Colorado Whiskey—will skip the touring or mountain bikes and ride the purest of steeds: the fixed gear (see "Fixin' to Ride"). Nice, however, thinks his dedication will carry him all the way. "My three main passions are booze, food, and bicycles," he says. "And hopefully the bike riding can keep up with the other two."

His race plan is simple: train by riding thousands of miles—he rode 19,000 in 2007—and pack light. Because support crews aren't allowed, Nice will carry about 10 pounds of clothes and camping gear, and scrounge up food en route. Hence, the Snickers—not to mention the convenience-store pizza, hot dogs, donuts, and beef jerky.

Although only 20 people have finished the race in its four years of existence, Nice is optimistic. "Right now I'm feeling a lot more snappy and fit than this time last year," he says. (Last year, his race ended due to exhaustion from Lyme disease; the previous year, his bike was stolen while he was napping.) If all goes well, he'll finish in less than four weeks, riding an average of 12 to 14 hours and 100 to 110 miles a day. Sure, he'll suffer, but even Nice draws the lines between a Spartan trip and an irrational one: Among his limited supplies, he's packing 18 ounces of Stranahan's whiskey—enough for a nip every time he crests the Divide.