Meaghan Hackinen Races The Tour Divide

Meaghan Hackinen is a seasoned ultra-distance racer, having completed The Transcontinental Race, TransAm, the North Cape 4000 and a handful of off-road bikepacking races in Canada and US. But 2024 will be her first time racing The Tour Divide, capitalising on her experience to do a race that’s long been a goal of hers. We asked Meaghan to talk us through her setup, preparation and hopes for the race ahead. 

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Megan Hackinen set up for the Tour Divide

 

Tell us about your bike setup for 2024 Tour Divide

I’ll be racing the Tour Divide on a 2018 Salsa Cutthroat Force. The bike features Maxxis Ikon 2.2” tires, a 1×11 drivetrain with a 34T chainring, and Light Bicycle wheels with a SON Dynamo hub up front. I’ve added a Redshift ShockStop Stem to cushion the bumps.

I’m using Apidura Backcountry packs, consisting of a 6L Backcountry Saddle Pack (sleep kit + clothing), 1.8L Backcountry Long Top Tube Pack (electronics + hygiene), 1L Backcountry Downtube Pack (tools + parts), 1.2L Backcountry Food Pouch for snacks, and 4L Backcountry Full Frame Pack (water filter + hydration bladder). I’m also carrying Apidura’s tiny Packable Backpack that expands to 13L for longer stretches between resupply.

My sleep setup combines an SOL emergency bivvy paired with an ultra-light (and very expensive!) Rab Mythic down sleeping bag, plus a homemade DIY sleeping pad for quality dirt naps. I will still need to find shelter when it rains—and definitely plan to score a few motel rooms along the way—but my minimalist sleep kit will ensure that I’m cozy on those colder nights in the mountains. I’ve also mounted a Kermode bear spray holder from Ghostrider Equipment on my front fork.

Meaghan Hackinen

What does doing the Tour Divide mean to you and why have you chosen to race it?

I branched out into off-pavement cycling in 2021 when I purchased a used Salsa Cutthroat Force. Salsa’s Cutthroat is sort of the bike of the Tour Divide, and so as soon as I saw the route mapped on the downtube I knew that I had to race it. The previous owner mentioned how much he enjoyed touring the northern section (Alberta, BC, and Montana) and I promised him that one day, I’d get his bike all the way to the finish line in Antelope Wells.

Aside for a cheesy promise to someone I’ll probably never meet again, the Tour Divide is an epic mountain bikepacking race right outside my backdoor: it’s a six-hour drive from my home in the Okanagan to the start line in Banff, so logistically, it’s easier to get to than 95% of the races out there. After a solid 2023 season of short but gritty bikepacking races, I was craving something bigger. Tour Divide seemed like the obvious choice.

I’ve opted to race instead of tour the route because of time constraints: even as a part-time remote employee I can’t swing more than three to four weeks away from my laptop. I have also found other substantial races, like the Trans Am Bike Race, NorthCape4000, and Transcontinental, to be transformative events—and I guess I just feel like it’s the right time to open myself up to a potentially life changing experience again.

I’m excited to challenge myself while experiencing new terrain and witnessing the mountain landscape at all times of the day (and night). Honestly, I’m just thrilled just to be competing in an event with such a long and storied history!

Have you done any specific training for this event?

In addition to structured interval training over the winter, I made an effort to get out on a few solo multi-day bikepacking trips. Funnily enough, while I’ve toured across the country on pavement—and raced other multi-day events like the Transcontinental—I have limited experience in remote gravel areas, and many of those trips I’ve been accompanied by my partner or friends. So, I felt it was important to get comfortable being on my own, away from cell service and reliable resupply. To practice, I toured the Stagecoach400 loop in Southern California, the first few days of the SoCal Desert Rambler, plus a pretty challenging 900-kilometre shakedown loop in BC’s Interior where I paced myself similar to my goal for the Tour Divide.

What are you most looking forward to?

I’m excited to challenge myself while experiencing new terrain and witnessing the mountain landscape at all times of the day (and night). Honestly, I’m just thrilled just to be competing in an event with such a long and storied history!

Meaghan at the start of her Log Driver's Waltz ITT attempt in 2023
Meaghan Hackinen

Meaghan at the start of her Log Driver's Waltz ITT attempt in 2023

Is there anything you’re apprehensive about?

The weather conditions and snow pack. Here in BC, we still have significant snow on higher passes. With a warm couple of weeks in the forecast, there will certainly be melt—which could mean less postholing through the snow and more sloppy slush puddles to wade through—not my favourite either!

In general, I’m a bit of a scaredy cat when it comes to storms and inclement weather: during TCRNo8, I once hid under a bridge to avoid a thunderstorm in the Swiss Alps. I think my relationship with inclement weather is something that I will inevitably have to address during Tour Divide. The good news is that I’ve packed fairly extensive rain kit, and hopefully the combination of training, gear, and route research will provide the means to make the best decisions possible, and face my fears head on.

The 2024 of the Tour Divide starts on June 14th, follow the race on Trackleaders and Dotwtacher.