The Fun Suffer Divide Giveaway
 

 
 


Access to our remote backcountry trails aboard a mountain bike is becoming more and more challenging. Ride along on the Fun/Suffer Divide with Chris Shalbot, Scott Rinckenberger and Justin Olsen as the trio discovers a stretch of the Continental Divide Trail between Montana and Idaho in the hopes of shedding some light on this beautiful stretch of country, all while inspiring others to explore too. Rewarded with views, memories and most importantly, a sense of accomplishment that will last a lifetime, the crew proves that a pathway to pres​ervation exists through discovery and use.

I wanted to put together a trip to show that the simple act of participation can truly be an act of conservation.
Chris Shalbot
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It took only a small amount of persuasion for good friends Scott Rinckenberger and Justin Olsen to come on board, but it wasn’t until we put tires to dirt that we realized the sheer scale of the journey ahead.
Chris Shalbot
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You get into this mode where everything in your world becomes really simple. It comes down to covering the miles you need to cover, making sure there’s enough food and shelter. And all the distractions you’re used to all kind of fade away.
Scott Rinckenberger
Photographer

the landscape


One of the great benefits of covering big mileage is the opportunity to move through multiple landscapes and ecosystems in a single adventure. Our trip began in a forest killed by wildfires, trees strewn across the trail from countless blowdowns. Eventually we found ourselves in the alpine, making our way along ridges and dropping down to re-supply and make camp at water sources. The southern leg of our journey found us transitioning out of alpine terrain, and into long rolling ridge lines with endless views. Watching the show of light and shadow rolling across the landscape with the movement of the clouds was one of the most iconically Montana moments. Trail surfaces varied as much as the views, with everything from massive boulder fields to rolling singletrack through well-spaced trees, to old roadbeds, dinner sized plates of shale and everything in between.

The nearly excessive use of bells to keep bears at bay also kept wildlife sightings to an unfortunate minimum save for a few deer, a fox, a coyote and hawks. It was slightly ironic that the only grizzly and moose sightings were driving to our drop locations.
 
 

The adventure


When planning this trip out we wanted to compromise as little of the riding experience as possible. The solution was to stage lockable YETI coolers. We would ride two or three days, hit our cache, leave our garbage and load up with enough food to get us to the next drop without weighing us down. We could also stage a lens or a tripod needed for that specific section, or batteries to charge our cameras and phones to access GPS. If we had a mechanical on the trail, we were equipped for quick fixes that would last us long enough to limp along and properly take care of the issue at our third drop.

The timing of our trip also lined up with awesome astronomical phenomena - meteor showers to start the trip and finishing with the eclipse. Wildfires to the north filled the sky with smoke early in the trip, but eventually we got into the alpine and a steady breeze helped clear the view. We learned that there is a vast difference between the 99.9% eclipse we saw and true totality that was witnessed roughly 20 miles south.
 

 
The fun/suffer divide – we’re right on it! I like trips like that. If you have a good attitude, you can make it fun while you’re doing it. Then they’re always fun in retrospect.
Scott Rinckenberger
Photographer
I felt like all the planning was going to be done and nothing was going to be a surprise. But everything was a surprise.
Chris Shalbot
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This will be the last indoors we will know for a long time here…
Scott Rinckenberger
Photographer
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Camp life


Aside from the lone backcountry cabin early in the trip, camp was wherever our legs and daylight dictated. We usually arrived at camp with enough light to make dinner and set up camp. We went to bed each night dirty and tired. We awoke still dirty, still tired. Our camps varied from cooler locations, to the shore of an unnamed alpine lake, to the bottom of a cold, dark gulch with a raging creek. Breakfast was a combination of oatmeal, chai seeds, nuts and dried fruit. By day 7 we were sick of oatmeal and began experimenting with anything and everything we had at hand. Highlights included chocolate covered espresso beans and gummy bears. Lunch was a variety of bars, jerky and summer sausage. What little room remained was filled with random, last-minute snacks packed in haste. The excitement of opening a cooler to not only to find coconut water, but beer, tortilla chips and a small bottle of salsa probably resembled a child receiving their first bike. It made for a great mental recharge every couple of days.
 
   

 

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Inspired to go on a similar trip?

We hope this trip inspires you to seek out your own adventure, get creative with the resources at your disposal and explore beyond your backyard. Over the course of our trip, we saw no other mountain bikers on the trail. And while that may seem ideal, the fact of the matter is we stand a greater chance of losing access to trails like this when they don't see respectful use. Ask your local trail advocacy group about a work party on one of the more remote trails in your area, or if you're interested in this particular stretch, support the team at www.ridesalmon.com. They're a small group committed to keeping hundreds of miles of amazing, backcountry trails open to bikes in and around the town of Salmon, Idaho. Hundreds, if not thousands of hours have gone into trail building along our route, but many more are needed!
 
It is through loving use that these remote and incredible places will ultimately be preserved.
Chris Shalbot
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