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The World’s Toughest Bike Race…On a Singlespeed

Greenville, South Carolina resident, Ron Babington, just might be the friendliest of the one hundred or so participants to ride the Tour Divide race this June, but it’s going to take more than a smile and a generous demeanor to accomplish his goal, or even finish, the grueling 2,745 mile self-supported mountain bike race.

That’s right . . . over 2,500 miles with no support crew to bring water, food, or aid over the world’s longest non-paved bike route along the western Continental Divide.  Come race start on June 14, Ron will subject himself to over 200,000 feet elevation gain from Banff, Canada to Antelope Wells, New Mexico on the Mexican border.  That’s like summiting Mount Everest from sea level seven times.  The website caveat to any who would take the challenge reads, “ . . . it’s the hardest form of bike racing, period.”

It gets better.  Most cyclists choose a geared bike to accomplish such a feat, but every year there are a few (like maybe ten) hardy souls who seek to tackle the already grueling race sans derailleur.  Ron is one of them.  “Besides finishing the race, my ultimate goal is to win the single speed division and beat the single speed course record,” says Ron.  Eighteen days would be a record ride.  “I fully realize how improbable that sounds and the perfect ride it would require.  Although I’m not a powerhouse, my strength is more mental than physical.  My hope is to push through when others may choose not to.  My biggest fear is leaving something out there.  I’d rather race it and scratch than just tour it and finish.”

There is proof in the peddling when you view Ron’s previous accomplishments in adventure racing and particularly his solo hiking the entire Appalachian Trail in four months, battling through giardia and trench foot, and in the second wettest year on record for AT hikers.  His mental metal will come in handy in order to execute his goal as he will need to log an average of 160 miles per day of rigorous mountain pass plodding.

What will Ron get for his efforts?  Surely the racers win some sort of cash prize, trophy, medallion, years worth of protein powder, or coveted technical tee?  Nope.  Nothing.  Nada.  The satisfaction of having achieved the race is itself the reward.

For the gearheads out there, here is some of what will keep Ron moving day in and day out:

  • Niner Air9 carbon bike, full rigid, singlespeed (32/17)
  • Revelate Designs bags, ultralight bivy + cuben tarp combo for sleeping.
  • Dynamo front hub that generates electricity to power his headlight.
  • Navigation: GPS track of the official route.

To follow Ron on is ride in real time, just follow the blue dots on

Ride on, Ron!  We are behind you . . . albeit a long way.

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