Builder on a Bike

Bobby Smith '89 Rides Tour Divide 

One of the toughest mountain bike experiences in America will be the next challenge for Bobby Smith, a Winfield biking enthusiast.

On June 9, Smith began the Tour Divide, an ultra-cycling event that follows the Continental Divide from Alberta, British Columbia, to the Mexican border in Antelope Wells, N.M. The route is 2,745 miles long—“longer if you get lost,” he says. 


As a 1989 Southwestern College graduate, he is also encouraging alumni and friends to support his efforts by contributing to the college’s Builder Fund. 

A computer specialist at SC, the 51-year-old Smith has been riding since he was a child.

“Having ridden and raced all genres of cycling, I am first and foremost a mountain biker. The Tour Divide is the pinnacle of an off-pavement challenge where a mountain bike and ‘fat tire’ is pretty much required equipment to succeed,” he says.

Smith will be self-supported, carrying 30 to 40 pounds of supplies, sleeping gear, water, and food on his mountain bike. With only a start date and route provided by promoters (no entry fee or official racer meeting is held), racers must rely on their own ingenuity to complete the course. They may resupply food and equipment at commercial shops along the way, but any services must be commercially available to all challengers and not pre-arranged.

This self-reliance is a key component of the Tour Divide. Racers are not allowed to meet family on the friends on the trail because this is considered a form of support. However, they can accept support from total strangers, who are known as “Trail Angels.” An encounter with one of the strangers is called “Trail Magic,” and Smith admits he is looking forward to experiencing this magic.

“Information on the race is purposefully difficult to come by, which is exactly how the promoter wants it,” Smith says. “Luckily for us mere mortals, the more people who take on this challenge, the more information that is available to prepare.”

Smith plans to get up with the sun each day, pack, and ride all day, sometimes finishing before dark and sometimes riding into the night if the weather is good. In order to finish the course in less than a month (the vacation time he has available) he must average at least 100 miles daily, with a goal of 110-120 miles per day.

In addition to the terrain and weather conditions, he’ll also be watching out for additional non-human competitors—“we ride right through grizzly, wolf, and mountain lion country”—so he’ll have bear spray and a bear bell ready.

But the physical challenges will pale compared to the mental challenges, Smith predicts.

“Although the magnitude of the adventure requires utmost preparedness, the unknown aspects will reveal whether or not I am equipped mentally to complete this daunting task,” Smith says. “So why am I taking this challenge? Not only to see if I 'have what it takes', but also for the invaluable experiences, memories, adventure, freedom, pain and laughs; and in many ways to simply see how the story unfolds. Furthermore, I am taking on this challenge to enhance my already blessed life, to empower myself to go beyond my comfort zone, and inspire myself to grow and live a life worth living.”

Bobby Smith on InstagramSee photos from Bobby's adventure at his Instagram account
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Learn more about Tour Divide Ride here.

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