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Biking the Continental Divide

The Great Divide Route (GDR) is one of America’s premiere thru routes starting in Banff, Canada and ending 2753.9 miles later at the US/Mexico border.  This expansive network of off-road trails follows the Continental Divide, and is considered one of the most challenging bike routes in the country.

Biking the Great Divide is no easy feet.  Riders are faced with a multitude of challenges which can include intense elevation gains and losses, ferocious weather, isolation, unreliable water sources, and avoiding Grizzly Bears.  In this post we’re going to focus on a food related challenge; how and where do riders find food when biking the remote sections of the GDR.

The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route

How does one survive a 2753.9 mile bike through some of America’s most remote terrain?  Calories, water, sleep and calories!  When spending 10 hours a day peddling a typical thru biker will burn an average of 8,000 calories.  Many riders rely on gas stations and find sustenance in quick, easy to consume convenience store snacks.

Gas station resupply

Here is an example of how much gas station food an average through biker needs to eat in order to consume 8,000 calories in ONE day:

  • 2 frozen burritos (580 calories)
  • 1 bag of beef jerky (287)
  • 2 cans of tuna (314)
  • 3 bananas (315)
  • 2 ham and cheddar sandwiches (540)
  • 2 protein shakes (340)
  • 3 cups trail mix (2,079)
  • 4 sports drinks (520)
  • 5 string cheese (400)
  • 2 cans of chili (1,295)
  • 4 Cliff Bars (960)
  • 107 Cheez-It crackers (600)

Gas station nutrition

A pressing concern with relying on gas station convenience stores for meals is consuming beneficial calories.  When a rider’s body is working nonstop throughout the day they need calories that support their muscles and provide nutrition.  We met up with GDR though biker and nutrition advocate, Marty Ylitalo, who shared his tips for making healthy meals out of convenience store snacks.

Healthy convenience store foods

Knowing how to choose the right foods when faced with aisles of high salt, low nutrition snacks can be difficult.  Before his trip, Marty studied labels of common foods found in most convenience stores to determine which products are the most nutrient dense options.   These are Marty’s recommendations for gas station shopping, accompanied a recipe for his favorite convenient store meal.

How to eat on the Continental Divide Trail

Gas station snacks

Surprisingly, we found a lot of great gas station foods that Marty was excited see.  Proteins such as tuna, jerky, protein shakes, and deli meats were extremely sought after, and could be paired with crackers, banana and yogurt for a complete meal.  He predicted that when he was starving after a long stretch of riding, he would “down a can of Campbell’s Soup cold while snacking on Cheeze-It crackers.”

Truck Stop Shopping
Staple ingredients that can be found in most convenience stores. These items are packed with calories and nutrients to help nourish and repair your tired body.
Servings: 1 People
  • 1 Banana 105 calories
  • 1 can Tuna 157 calories
  • 1 container Yogurt 100 calories
  • 27 crackers Cheez-It 150 calories
  • 1 stick String Cheese 80 calories
  • 1 Hard Boiled Egg 78 calories
  • 1 Frozen Burrito 290 (bean and cheese)
  • 1 piece (.7 oz) Beef Jerky 82 calories
  • 1 Pre-Made Sandwich 270 calories (ham and cheddar)
  • 1 can Chili w/Meat 259 calories
  • 1 cup Mixed Nuts 813 calories
  • 1 cup Trail Mix 693 calories (average mix)
  • 1 bar Trail Bar 240 calories (Clif Bar Chocolate Chip)
  • 1 bottle Protein Shake 170 calories (small Muscle Milk)
  • 1 bottle Orange Juice 112 calories
  • 1 bottle Sports Drink 130 calories (Gatorade Cool Blue)
  • 1 cup Coconut Water 46 calories
  • 1 bar Ice Cream Bar 171 calories (chocolate covered vanilla)
  1. Find the foods that work best for your diet and your tastes and indulge! The average person biking the Great Divide burns between 6,000 to 10,000 calories per day, so fuel up with food packed with nutrition and calories.

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