eastern divide trail
The Eastern Divide Trail; (screen capture/bikepacking.com)

Bikepacker Attempts First-Ever ‘Eastern Divide’ 5,900-Mile Thru-Ride

How far is it from the easternmost point of Newfoundland to the last pebble on Key West? One cyclist wants to find out firsthand.

When Eddie O’Dea first thought about riding the entire Eastern Divide bikepacking route in the mid-2010s, he didn’t sound optimistic — despite, as is now clear, heavily underestimating it.

“I don’t know about racing the whole Eastern,” he told Singletracks. “It sounds absolutely brutal. I don’t know what total mileage on that is gonna be. It’s probably like 3,500 miles and 400,000 feet of climbing.”

 

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If everything goes according to plan, he’ll soon become the first person to find out the exact stats via primary experience.

O’Dea set out from Cape Spear, Newfoundland, on Aug. 1, intent on completing the first thru-ride of the Eastern Divide Trail.

Eastern Divide Bike Route

Now estimated at 5,000-plus miles, or as long as 5,900, according to Singletracks, O’Dea’s previous assessment of the trail as “brutal” appears to check out.

The route meanders from Cape Spear, all the way at Newfoundland’s eastern extreme, all the way as far west as Montgomery, Alabama. Along the way, it negotiates everything from the southern reaches of New York’s Adirondack Mountains to segments of the Appalachian Trail near the Blue Ridge Parkway.

 

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Conjecture over the extensively planned route first began among bikepacking luminaries around 2014, per Singletracks. It now exists as a complex ribbon of dirt roads, pavement, and singletrack that no one’s ever tried to ride in one go.

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That seems understandable; it looks punishing. Altitude seesaws back and forth between zero and almost 6,000 feet (estimates now place the total elevation change at around 60 miles).

On top of that, we’d be surprised if O’Dea doesn’t get away without pumping at least a few strokes on or near highways. The route strays right alongside I-10 in the Florida Panhandle and passes right through the urban sprawl of Tallahassee.

Eddie O’Dea Does the (Other) Divide

But O’Dea’s demonstrated experience accustoms him to the particular gnar he’s likely to encounter along the way. He’s a seasoned bikepacker who has set course records on various long routes over the years.

 

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That capacity should come in handy in his de facto position as the line leader on the Eastern Divide.

For instance, O’Dea initially told Singletracks he thought he’d ride 125 miles a day. That would mean he’d finish the route in 40 days. But that was when he thought it was only 5,000 miles long.

Now, he says he’s projecting a 50-day finish.

He did indicate that he thinks the southern part of the route will go down easier

“Once I get there, it’ll be a bit of a relief, just because mentally I won’t have to spend nearly as much energy, you know, navigating, thinking about where the resources are, you know, pulling my phone out to check, ‘Which way do I go here for food’ or whatever,” he told Singletracks. “I can do it all from memory. All of Georgia and probably half of Alabama.”

O’Dea on Course

So far, he looks a little slow: 1,177 miles in as of this writing, he’s on pace for more like 60 days than 50. However, the route’s northern reaches have not proven friendly.

Live track O’Dea’s progress here.

Struggling to stay on schedule for a ferry departure, he detailed one frantic passage on Instagram (warning: extremely rattly first-person gravel footage).

As part of the effort, O’Dea aims to raise money for the Georgia Cycling Association, which facilitates youth cycling outreach in the state. As a board member, Singletracks reported O’Dea has raised about $18,000 for the group with his Eastern Divide tour so far.

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Sam Anderson
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Sam has roamed the American continent to follow adventures, explore natural wonders, and find good stories. After going to college to be a writer, he got distracted (or saved) by rock climbing and spent most of the next decade on the road, supporting himself with trade work. He's had addresses in the Adirondack Mountains, Las Vegas, and somehow Kansas, but his heart belongs in the Texas hill country.