A few years back I met Billy Rice. I was riding northbound on the Great Divide route and he was traveling south. Interesting thing about Billy was that he had already done what I was doing just a few weeks earlier…riding north on the Divide that is. Billy was in the middle of the first Yo-Yo ever to be completed on the divide. In just over 40 days at that.
Around a year later Billy gave me a phone call. ‘I need you to build be a tandem’. Billy was planning on setting out on the Divide with his 14 year old daughter. Totally nuts. I’m in.
I told Billy I was excited about the idea but nervous as I hadn’t built a bike with two seats before. We agreed that the idea was indeed a little crazy. But that is one thing Billy and I have in common, craziness.
Soon after I started work on the tandem Billy called me wanting another single bike for some bikepacking events. I said, ‘ok, pay me.’ …and he did. So not one, but two Mone bikes were brought to life.
Anywho, these are a few questions I had for Billy and his daughter after the race. Thought it might be entertaining for the folks here at DC.
BILLY’S DAUGHTER LINA RICE
What grade are you in?
I’m going into 10th grade
How old are you?
Are you the youngest person you know to be called a Tour Divide veteran?
There was another 16 year old on the divide route this year so I guess we’re both the youngest divide veterans.
You or Billy… Who proposed this idea to whom?
Well I suggested that I wanted to race the route and my dad said we should try a tandem.\
Who agreed to what and when?
We both agreed on a tandem after about a year of brainstorming how to pull this off and then it took another 2 years to get the bike and actually race because we didn’t know anything about tandems beforehand.
Rate every family member you have with an insanity rating from 1-10, including yourself (10 insane, 1 sane).
My dad is for sure a 10 there’s no explanation needed! My mom is probably a 5 just because she lets us do these insane things. My brother is probably a 3 because we all know he will be out on the trans am one day when he’s older but for now he’s pretty normal. I’m probably a 8 simply because what 16 year old girl does something like that, In all honesty I still cant believe it, but I would never yo-yo or anything like my dad did he’s CRAZY.
What were some of your biggest fears about the route before you got on the divide itself?
My biggest fear was quitting. I wanted to finish so bad but I was scared I wouldn’t because its not easy out there.
What were you biggest fears once you were actually riding the route?
Once I was out there I just kind of forgot everything. I never really got scared besides going down Richmond peak. I was almost certain we where going to die because you’re riding down a cliff. It’s scary, I screamed the whole way down.
What advice can you give other young people thinking about his sort of thing?
Believe in yourself don’t let anyone else tell you you can’t do it because you can, be positive and everything will be 10x better.
How bout tandem teams?
Tandem teams are crazy because you have an extra person on your bike and your having to constantly work together. For example, we cant turn the tandem unless we are both looking in the direction we are going.
How was the back of that tandem?
Horrible and awesome at the same time! Horrible because I couldn’t see anything and awesome because there were times I’m glad I couldn’t see.
How did your team improve throughout the race?
We learned how to work together which helped us a lot because at first we where just riding but with a tandem you cant just ride its so much more you truly have to work together to get the bike to go anywhere
Top 3 Divide heros?
My dad for sure! Fixie Dave… that guy is crazy! I could never ride a fixed bike on the divide. I mean, when we had dingle speed on the tandem that was pretty annoying so to not shift all together would drive me crazy. Mike Dion, if it wasn’t for his movie I might never have been out there.
Favorite divide meal.
Oh that’s hard we had a lot of good food, I guess the pasta salad in Pie Town it was pretty great I had 2 orders of it haha.
Favorite divide section?
The Oregon Trail section in Wyoming! It had the best views and it was just fun to ride I loved that section and it was a new section this year but it was amazing.
Once you figured your tires out how did the 29+ perform on the divide for tandem duty?
For a tandem it worked pretty great and my dad says he wouldn’t do it any other way for a tandem.
Tandems are often called divorce machines, you comment on this after some sweet bonding time with your old man…
Haha well I don’t think it’s a divorce machine I think it’s more like a bonding machine. I mean we really got to spend a lot of time together and we had to work together and it was great and an amazing experience I’ll never forget and I wouldn’t trade it for anything
QUESTIONS FOR BILLY
Your life up until Tour Divide in 5 sentences.
Life before the divide???? I’m having a hard time remembering…. I was managing an air medical helicopter and had made a career in EMS. I was working 24 hour shifts as a flight paramedic and living the dream i suppose.
When was your first divide attempt?
2012, rookie year! I had no idea that i was unleashing a monster.
How many times have you ridden the length of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route?
5. Once in 2012, twice in 2013, and twice in 2015. Although, my NOBO 2015 run gets an asterix as I self relegated for snow through New Mexico and Southern Colorado. That was a mess.
Favorite divide beer? Favorite Divide town? Favorite divide meal?
Ummmmmm…. So i have a confession…. I don’t like beer…. Don’t hate me. However, Whisky I can do. I found Montana Whisky in several Montana bars.You guys should try Montana Whisky…
Favorite Town, Salida!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Favorite meal, ANYTHING KIRSTEN MAKES!
Besides whiskey, do you have any vices out there? Caffeine? Bacon? Gummies? Sleep?
So lets take a step back. Over the course of the last year I have adapted what has been come to be known as a ketoadapted lifestyle. Carbs kill ketoadaptation and they (including beer) don’t have place. I now race fasted or only on fat for the most part. This gets really complicated as people see my stacks of french toast on Facebook, but if you breakdown my actual caloric make up, it is mostly fat. Caffeins promotes ketoadaptation and is of huge benefit. I find that a 5 hour energy while racing is worth about one Tour Divide hour :)
You favorite Divide legends and why? Limit to 3
1.) Brian Steel broke his arm on the Galton pass connector. AND FINISHED THE RACE!!!!!
2.) Jefe Branham single speed chasing Kurt Rufsnider to Antelope Wells.
3.) Justin Simoni dragging his bike on an inflatable boat so that he could cross red Meadow pass in the 2011 snow detour. He then apparently got all the way to the Sapia Alternate in New mexico where he crashed and DNF’d… those are some crazy people.
Most hopeless experience on the Divide Route, when progress is so so hopeless..?
Oh this ones easy… 2015, tandem in Pie Town. We had already had a super rough go since southern Colorado. The rain and Mud put a real damper on our progress. We were leaving Pie Town when the sky opened up and made forward motion impossible. Both wheels were stuck in the mud and would not turn. We certainly could not carry the tandem. We decide to camp and let the road dry over night. It rained all night…. We walked the 7 miles back to Pie Town with the intention of relegating as we could not push the bike over Mangus Pass. I emailed Matt and told him our intention. He replied “No”. WE sat there eating pie. I had 10 slices and 20 scoops of ice cream. Not sure what Lina ate. After we finished we decided to go for it. We knew that running out of food going into the Gila was a real problem that we may face. We walked almost 22 miles + the original 7 that day. Our slowest day for sure.
Favorite landscapes on the route?
Huckleberry pass, between Lincoln, MT and Ovando, MT. Try to climb this one in the morning if you can. Lina and I climbed it with Hal Russle in the evening this year. Still spectacular. Lina made fun of me because she said i said every section on the divide was my favorite.
Your most recounted divide tale?
I interviewed some horses for my Facebook fans once. They seemed to enjoy that a lot. I get a lot of requests for interviewing animals. Lamas run quick…
List the bikes you’ve ridden on the divide?
2012-Marin Pine Mountain (Steel)
2013- Marin Carbon Rigid
2015 NOBO – MONE custom steel rigid, SOBO MONE TANDEM steel.
You’ve met me one other time in the middle of the infamous Idaho rails to trails, why would you choose Mone Bikes for not one, but two bikes?
I was sponsored by Marin and they make great stuff but i don’t fit stock bikes. I am super tall and have crazy long legs. Once i rode the MONE that was built for ME i was hooked! I had no idea what it was like to ride a bike that actually fit. I also had a thing for Cjell Mone style. 29+ steel rigid frames have a simplicity that is just at home on the divide.
What parts about bike fit are most important to you? If I am riding a Surly, for example, which places do I want to pay particular attention to in my setup?
I have a few things about my fit that i will never change. 1.) Get the narrowest seat that you can. (I can see all the professional bike fitters freaking out). But here is my theory. You are on the bike 20 hours a day, and with a narrow seat, you have the ability to move around a bit and make sure that you don’t develop pressure points. I have never gotten a saddle sore. I don’t wear rain pants. I don’t use shammy cream and have never had an issue. 2.) Get your seat back! I see far to many people running their seats to far forward which puts pressure on your hands. Then your hands go numb and people change their handle bars only to find it didn’t help…
I am an outspoken proponent of steel and plus tire sizes, no secrets here. From my experiences with you I have seen you go from 29er to 29 plus tires and back to regular 29er. I have seen you use Rohloffs and XTR Di2. Rumor has it that your next bike is Ti. You’ve ridden a lot of carbon great distances with mixed results. Three divides on steel. Snapped aluminum seatposts. In short, all the Gucci dream bikepacking setups you’ve ridden and broken. What’s your favorite? What works where? What’s fastest? What’s most fun? Break us off some of your personal insight..
Oh I have lots of thoughts! 1.) the bike has to fit you. I broke a lot of stuff that i think came down to being on bikes that were too small. At this point, I will probably never use carbon again. No one makes a bike big enough. I broke a carbon bike on the trans am. The steel bikes on the divide were like butter. I honestly know that the 29+ set up on the tandem was ideal. That was one super comfortable ride. The downside to 29+ is of course the weight. It takes more work to turn those wheels. I’m not sure its for me solo. I did several short races 29+ and just worked way harder than people around me. My next road bike is Titanium (based on Mone specs!). As for gearing, I am not a Rholoff fan. I’ll never race with it again. Its heavy and will fail. I hear people say all the time, “Arn’t you glad you had a Rholoff in the mud????”. Here’s the deal… When you are pushing the bike in the mud the Roholff isn’t helpful. Shifting is sloppy and the cables get dirty and break. Lina and I did 200 miles without shifter cables… I ran XTR DI2 with Ultegra Drop Bar shifters NOBO this year. AND I WILL DO IT AGAIN! I ran DI2 on the Trans Am, and both times, ABSOLUTELY NO ISSUES!. DI2 is amazing. It’s light weight, shifts perfectly, and in the world of electrical hubs, is super easy to charge.
Not a fan of rohloff? (Full disclosure; neither am I, too much weight at the rear hub) Does the thing have any redeeming qualities?
Oh I’m not sure…. I just don’t like it. I know some people do and I think it is an amazing piece of machinery. I just never felt like I could trust it.
In 2014 you raced the Trans Am road race… An interesting (roadie) choice. Three sentences on the Trans Am race, go.
The Trans Am was WAY harder than I expected. I came closest to dropping in that race than any other race. I’ll beat Mike next time!
You have made some pretty unorthodox decisions as far as divide is concerned. What compelled you to yo-yo in 2013?..and again in 2015? I think I am not alone is asking, bringing your daughter?! What the hell were you thinking?
The questions of life I suppose. When I raced in 2012 I really had no idea what I was doing. What I did figure out, is that I loved it. There was peace on the bike. I heard a rumor while I was riding that someone was going to YOYO that year I thought that was the coolest thing ever. SO when I was preparing for 2013 I knew I wanted to up the challenge. I didn’t think that I had the proper mental fortitude to be at the top end of the race so i knew i needed a crazy idea to test myself. The YOYO was born! As far as 2015, it really was a crazy series of events. Lina and I had been preparing for the tandem for some time. But in April, I made some crazy job changes and ended up with a bunch of time off. I then realized that I had plenty of time to go YOYO again. So i went for it. The thing about YOYO’ing the divide tho, is that everything must be perfect. If you go to early then you have to much snow, and to late you’ll have to much fire… It takes a good bit of luck and timing to have an official YOYO time. As for taking Lina, my kids think that adventure is normal. Its probably not as crazy of an idea to us that it is to most other folks. She’s a tough girl and we had been mentally preparing for sometime. I wasn’t sure that we would finish but we had an agreement, that no matter what happened, we would be out there for 21 days. After that, we could assess our situation and make a plan.
What were your biggest challenges of riding divide with your 16 year old daughter? What were some ways you learned to coexist inches from each other for three weeks?
1.) Lina and I had never ridden a tandem before April of 2015… Let that soak in… and 2.) MORNINGS!!!!! I’ll just tell you…. teenagers need their sleep. In the beginning i tried to push us into a more typical TD sleep schedule. It failed miserably. 8 hours of sleep a night would be our norm and there was no way around it. As far as the interpersonal relationship part, i must say that it came pretty easy. We had our moments for sure but we also were both fully aware that any lapse in team work meant less progress. So you have to get along to keep moving forward. She was pretty patient with me and I with her. She was able to push through the rain and cold every day. We joked a lot and did everything we could to keep spirits up. I think it worked
You have a son and wife as well, what do they think of all this?
They think we’re crazy. Or normal. I’m not sure. Will is way more competitive than Lina. Lina wanted to chat and help all the racers around us. I just wanted to beat Hal Russel. Will would help me beat Hal. I’m sure you will see him out there with me eventually.
What advice could you give to prospective tandem teams?
NO NEGATIVE THOUGHTS EVER! Tandem is tough. For us it was slow. If you have two super strong people you can probably move pretty quickly. Keep the spirits up! Joke, sing songs, and acknowledge that you will only be as fast as the slowest person. So it is in your best interest to get on the same page, work as a team, and keep moving forward.
The divide is a transformative place for a lot of folks. Big changes have come in both of our lives because of this route. How is Billy Rice of today different than the Billy who set out in 2012?
That’s huge actually. It has been said that endurance athletes are running from something. I think that is even more true for ultra distance athletes. I had a lot going on in my head in 2012. In 2008 my helicopter crashed killing 3 of my friends and a patient. I jumped right back into work to keep the program moving forward. I never really had the chance to heal i guess. I set out in 2012 because i thought is sounded fun, but quickly discovered that it was the most peaceful existence of my life. I had to have more. Now when I go out, I challenge my self more and more. Do I have what it takes to sleep 1.5 hours a night? Can I do 200 miles a day on the divide? I have a lot more room to grow I think.
How has strategy changed for you? Diet? How has training changed from when you started riding divide?
Clearly, the biggest change that i have made is cutting my carbs almost completely. I coach a lot of people through this process and most of my athletes/clients eat this way. It is not a simple transition. Training has also changed. I have found ways to to maximize my physical gains with much less time. Far too many people spend was too much time on their bikes and get diminishing returns.
What is Invictus? What’s it all about?
This is HUGE. There is a girls high school track team in Illinois who is coached by one of the greatest motivators in my own life, named Mike Arenberg. Mike is a TD vet from 2013. We rode together briefly near the Wyoming Colorado boarder and have been amazing friends ever since. He is now my coach and just an amazing motivator. He preaches the Invictus Philosophy with his girls which is all about mental fortitude and the ability to push hard despite your circumstance. To many people today let their circumstance control their actions. The Invictus philosophy is just the opposite. I was so motivated by his commitment that I adapted the Invictus philosophy into my own coaching services. Invictus Cycling and Performance was born. www.invictuscycling.com
What do you think good coaching/training provides for people setting out on these rides?
This is huge. There is very little data on athletes during three week races. Most people that I encounter have serious issues due to how they train. Over training, adrenal suppression, a host of inflammatory issues from lack of recovery and poor diet all contribute to lots of people showing up in Banff just waiting to DNF. I teach a very different style of health, nutrition, and training. Some would call it controversial. But i truly believe that once the masses learn the way, you will see fasted racing in the Tour De France.
As far as I know you aren’t managing a helicopter rescue team any longer… What’s next? Where are you headed from here in your life plans?
Haha, I currently am not managing air medical crews. I miss it a lot though. I am working as an educator in a large hospital system where i specialize in cross department training. ER to ICU, ICU to EMS, that sort of thing. I tend to have pretty large global views of health care not limited by being assigned to a single department. So for now, I teach. Which certainly is my passion. I also coach tho, which is teaching. I work with mostly ultra distance athletes, but i also work with a few traditional racers and some folks who just want to loose weight. My average weight loss client looses 5-7 lbs in the first week and 1-2 lbs every week after that. i have multiple people 30+ lbs down and taking on a new life. I didn’t get into coaching to help people loose weight but by teaching people to ignore everything the USDA and the federal government ever wanted you to know about diet, you get healthy.
What’s next for adventure riding? New routes you have your sights set on?
My best friend Brian Steele and I are actively setting up the Route 66 race for October of 2016. That gives me some time to rest. The last four years have been pretty substantial and my body needs some rest. I am thinking about touring part of the divide next year with my kids (Lina on her own dang bike…). I am also building up a proper mountain bike for some of the shorter (sprint series) races like the TNGA or AZT. We will see how work and recovery goes, but my plan is to come back fast.