Lachlan Morton smashes the Great Divide FKT record but will his new time stand?

Lachlan Morton of EF Education
Lachlan Morton at the end of the Great Divide MTB route (Image credit: EF Pro Cycling)

12 days ago Lachlan Morton set out to attempt a 4,000 km bikepacking record that has stood for 27 years. The route in question was The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, widely recognized as the best bikepacking route in the United States, and possibly the world. Considered the birthplace of modern-day bikepacking it starts in Banff, Alberta, Canada and finishes at the US/Mexico border in Antelope Wells, New Mexico.

Morton had aimed to challenge the FKT (Fastest Known Time) held by the late Mike Hall. Set in 2016, it stood at 13 days, 22 hours and 51 minutes, but under self-imposed rules that meant a minimum of 12 hours rest every 48 hours. He was also fully aware when he set out, that any new time might not even stand as a self-supported record because the course has changed over the years, but also the presence of a film crew is seen as positive impact on the mental element of a self-supported ride, as the boost friendly and familiar faces can give a rider and the question of whether your actually truly alone.

Lachlan Morton at the end of his 4,296km ride

Despite his monumental effort the new time might not even stand as a self-supported record  (Image credit: EF Pro Cycling)

Lachlan unclipped his pedals at the US border with Mexico in Antelope Wells at 9:24 pm in an elapsed time of 12 days, 12 hours and 21 minutes technically smashing the FKT by 1 day, 10 hours and 30 minutes, and achieving his goal to see whether it is possible to deliver fast pace endurance riding without sacrificing too much sleep.

Over the monstrous ride, he has faced many challenges including plenty of wet and cold weather, peanut butter mud, fire diversions, saddle sores, and trench foot. He's crossed two countries, five states and one province, battled four storms and encountered wild horses, wolves, elk, moose, deer, eagles, antelope, chinchillas and coyotes. Consumed unknown amounts of candy bars and gallons of milk to sustain his monumental effort.

Morton's incredible time for him at least shows that it's possible to deliver a fast pace without losing too much sleep. The data on Morton's tracking dot shows his stopped time at 30 percent of his total, which is just over seven hours a day, although not directly equating to total sleep time, the percentage is higher than the tracking data of Hall in 2016 at around 24 percent.

Lachlan Morton stocking up in a road side store

Unknown amounts of candy bars have been consumed over the 12 days  (Image credit: EF Pro Cycling)

Before setting out Morton said, "I am really interested to see with this approach, how fast you can go and if it would be competitive with people who have pushed that sleep element."

Apart from sleep, mechanical issues over such a huge distance are not uncommon. The approximate distance of the route is 4,339km with a mind-boggling 45,618 meters of ascent, and Morton's stats show him as having ridden 4,296km and an incredible 58,521 meters of ascent. Riding a Cannondale Scalpel with a SRAM XX1 Eagle drivetrain, on the 11th day his rear derailleur gave up on him.

Lachlan Morton's rear wheel showing his extreme fix to complete the Great Divide

Morton had to take the extreme measure of shoving a spoke into his derailleur (Image credit: EF Pro Cycling)

“I kicked it as hard as I could and then it started working again,” he said in an EF Education update from the trail, Although it eventually broke down again, he resorted to a more extreme fix, shoving a spoke into the derailleur which limited him to a three-speed setup. Luckily the issue was intermittent, with full shifting returning for the final run into Antelope Wells, and you wonder how much better his time would have been with a full uninterrupted range of gearing.

Morton has also raised funds for Adventure for All, with the total so far at over $20,000.

Paul Brett
Staff writer

Paul Brett is a staff writer for BikePerfect.com. He has been an avid cyclist for as long as he can remember, initially catching the mountain biking bug in the 1990s, and raced mountain bikes for over a decade before injury cut short a glittering career. He’s since developed an obsession for gravel riding and recently has dabbled in the dark art of cyclocross. A fan of the idea of bikepacking he has occasionally got involved and has ridden routes like the North Coast 500, Scotland and the Via Francigena (Pilgrim Route), Italy.

Current rides: Marin Alpine Trail 2, Ribble 725, Cube Stereo 160

Height: 175cm