Divide rider: Jon Pettit

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On June 10th, 78 riders will get on their mountain bikes and attempt to ride from Banff, Alberta to Antelope Wells, New Mexico by way of the continental divide. This 2,745 mile stroll through the mountains is referred to at the Tour Divide. I have been mildly obsessed with this route ever since I heard the epic tales of John Stamstad and his solo, self supported time trial of the entire route. His completetion the route in just over 18 days paved the way for what is possible on a mountain bike. Since it’s inception, the divide race has continued to grow. A full length documentary on the race has been making it’s way around the country this year and getting a lot more people excited about the event.

I am fortunate enough to know two guys right here in Phoenix attempting the race this year. John “JP” Pettit and Taylor “Tot” Lideen work at my local shop and were nice enough to sit down with me over a few beers and talk bike set up and strategy for their upcomming race. Over the past six months I have watched them experiment with all kinds of gear and I was curious to see how it all shook out. I also consulted our facebook community to see what questions they would want to ask somebody racing the Divide and this is what we got:


Name: Jon Pettit
Age: 34

Frame and fork: 19″ Specialized Evo aluminum 29er with a Salsa Fargo fork

Drivetrain: x7 cranks with XTR pedals.  Avid Elixer brakes, x9 shifters, xo rear der, xt front der

Wheels and tires: Specialized Roval wheels with a ratchet upgrade. Specialized Fast Track Control Tires, 2.0 front and rear

Cockpit: Specialized Avatar 155 saddle. ESI chunky black grips, Ritchey bar ends, Specialized aluminum bars, FSA 120mm, 6 degree stem, Profile areo bars with rise.

Pack and frame bags: Revelate Designs seat bag, handlebar sling, and frame bag. Carousel Design Works gas tank along with a cheap bento box. Backpack will be a Camelbak Highwire.

Clothing and camping gear: REI Lumen 25 degree synthetic bag with an Outdoor Research bivy. Craft bullet rain pants, Arc’teryx Gore jacket, Jet Boil, a solar charger, ipod, Blackberry, booze, 3 kits (2 specialized rbx bibs, one pearl), 3 shop jerseys and one base layer. Pearl windbreaker, beanie, winter gloves and summer short finger, booties, my trusty Marmot sythentic down coat, complete with burn hole in left arm covered with gorilla tape. All the necessary maps and gps for the route.

-Once we got over the formalities of the gear, we ordered another round and got into some of the questions from you  guys.

DB: First and foremost, why would you want to do such a brutal ride?
JP: A number of reasons, really. A few years ago my truck broke down in Durango, CO and I decided to ride home to Phoenix. From then on I was hooked on this type of riding. It’s just a good way to travel. Also, I have been in the desert for a few years now and it really isn’t my ideal place to ride. I’m really looking forward to getting up into the hills and riding through some trees.  It may be brutal, but I am comfortable knowing that it is going to be uncomfortable.

JP: Whiskey, and probably about 5 pounds of Advil

DB: Are you worried about saddle sores and are you taking any special precautions?
JP: No special precautions, I’m just taking some DZ Nuts chamois cream and some diaper rash cream.

DB: Are you bringing music and what would your number one playlist consist of?
JP: I have been listening to this band out of Seattle a lot called The Head and the Heart, they have been doing it for me on the bike lately. But I will always fall back on some good old Hank Williams Jr. and Senior and Merle Haggard. I also have an AM/FM radio on there to help mix it up and hear local stations.

DB: One reader wants to know if you have altered your diet to get your body ready for all of the gas station food you are going to encounter along the route?
JP: Absolutely! I have been bulking up on CircleK  chili cheese dogs and trying to find food that doesn’t make me poop after five minutes. My alcohol and ice cream consumption has also increased over the past couple of weeks.

DB: You normally race marathon XC and other single day endurance events, how has your training changed to prpare for this event?
JP: The Divide has been on my mind since Thanksgiving and I have still been competing in some 3-4hr marathon events this season. But my training has mostly been centered around saddle time. Doing intervals or going anaerobic just isn’t something I have taken into consideration. My focus was to be able to hold 12mph for 120-130 miles at a time.

DB: A reader wants to know that if you were in a pinch would you drink your own piss like that Bear guy from TV?
JP: Sure. But I would put some Powerade Ion4 in it first.

DB: From what I understand, you and Taylor are going to try and ride the race together. As cute as that sounds don’t you think you will eventually settle into your own pace and seperate?
JP: I want to ride with Taylor as long as he stays positive. We have discussed it at length and we don’t want to reach a situation where we bring each other down. I want to reach those decisive situations with him where we start riding  in the morning and we are beat down and tired. The next real town is 90 miles away. Do we pedal straight to the Greyhound station and bail or do we get some ice cream and a cold beer and just push on through. My 8 years on a comercial fishing boat in Alaska have prepared me mentally for the solitude, we don’t know how he is going to react yet. He is very fit and ready to go, I think we will be able to feed off of each other and use it to our advantage.

DB: How do you feel  your chances are for completing the ride and what are your goals?
JP: Twenty days is my goal. Quitting is not an option, I don’t have enough money to fly home or even to catch a bus. For the past 6 months I have been training and working in the shop, and that’s it. This is a brief 3 week moment in my life and I’m not going to quit. I’m going to enjoy every minute of it. If I make it to Colorado feeling good, I know I will make it. That looks like it is going to be the hardest thing to do. If everybody that starts the race makes it to the CO border, I will give them my last paycheck!

The terrain isn’t the hardest part about this race, its the length that makes it epic.  How long can you deal with the solitude? If everything goes well, I think top 5 is attainable for where I am at in my training. But being a rookie, I really  have no idea. How do you peak for something this big that you have never done before? I would consider this a great success if Taylor and I cross that border in Antelope Wells in the top ten.

DB: Any last thoughts or thank you’s?
JP: A huge thanks to the shop South Mountain Cycles! Mike Melly over at Hub Event Productions for all his help and support.  A big thanks to Powerade who just came on board to support me with their new ION4 drink mix. They have been great to me and this stuff makes a pretty damn good mixer too! Anybody who is interested can check out my blog over at thejonnyp.com. I will try to post updates from along the route, but no promises.

Really, just a huge thanks to all those that have helped along the way, my awesome friends, and my amazing girlfriend. I’m riding this for all of them as well. Last thing is a huge shout out to our good friend Pat Carlson, get well soon buddy!

Tomorrow I will give you my interview with Taylor and see what the young kid has to say about his upcoming journey. I’m sure these guys would love to hear from you in the comments with any more questions about the ride.

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About dirty biker

I am a fan of singletrack, singlespeeds, single women and single malt. Currently in Carbondale, CO Follow on Instagram @dirty_biker

24 Replies to “Divide rider: Jon Pettit”

  1. Killer! Best of luck to you guys. I hope it goes well. I really dig that combo of minimal bike touring combined with Mountain biking. I’m giving this one some thought…
    I dig that band Head and the heart too. Kexp works it.
    Do you know Danny Barnes? he may be up your alley too. Check this vid of with with DMB http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJ6eV5IPCFw&feature=related

  2. JP & Taylor –
    Good luck fellas – even on your worst day you gotta know you are chasing the dreams of many.
    Be safe, have fun…

  3. Pingback: The Pettit Files~My interview with drunk cyclist « theJonnyP

  4. Wow, I know both of this guys… that this fact make me strong? Hell no! But I have ridden with them and they are both great guys. Good luck guys!

  5. There’s snow in them thar hills, and she’s stayed wet and cloudy to-date. Might consider pushing back your start a few weeks or accept the potential for a most epic slog through the northern rockies.
    The amazing thing about Great Divide MTB Race is you can race it starting on any day of the year, going in either direction; you just might not get Joe Polk broadcasting your phone-ins. The traditional start date with all the fan fare is going to make for some rough miles.

  6. Inspiring. Yo Dirty Biker, make sure you do a followup interview with Jon after the race. It will be interesting to hear his thoughts AFTER his rookie ride. Good luck Jon!

  7. I am sure the eight years on a commercial fishing boat also prepared your ass for this ride! BAAHAAA! Good luck my friend!

  8. good luck dude, I can’t stop looking at that rigid fork though. While I can appreciate the weight savings and the simplicity, it seems that spending that much time on a full rigid would put the body though the grinder more so than this trip will otherwise.

  9. …that is some serious-ass cycling you got coming up, amigo…

    …best of luck to you & your partner…

    …i imagine weather could be your biggest opponent, so may you have fair skies…

  10. If you don’t finish, don’t bother coming home.

    Actually, best of luck. I think it’d be awesome to do. I wish I could do a ride like it.

  11. To take it to a classical level..


    Come back with your shield, or on it.

    Have a ball.

  12. Mud and snow. Mud and Snow. MUD AND SNOW until New Mexico. The central Rockies (aka Colorado) are still buried under the white stuff. Which, starting this week will be quickly turning to sticky brown stuff.

  13. If anyone can do this ride it is Jon..he part cockroach :) the best part. Love you dearly friend just come back alive with lots of tales to tell.

  14. Thanks everyone for the replies, I look forward to the post interview and many more beers with the man, thanks to Drunk Cyclist for their time, I’ll be riding this for all of you as well

  15. Hiya, I want to thank you for an interesting site about a subject I have had an interest in for some time now.I have been lurking and looking through the posts avidly so decided to express my thanks for providing me with some very good reading material. I look forward to more, and taking a more active part in the discussions here, whilst learning too!!