So the two guys I talked to on fixies (fixed gear bikes) dropped out of the race. Before they did, though, they set a whole new standard of for what is considered suffering on the Divide.
First, here's what makes a fixie painful, for those who aren't familiar. A normal bike has two important things that distinguish it from a fixie: gears and a freewheel.
The obvious one is the gears, which allow you to stay within your power range through different terrain and get leverage on the big hills. The second is the freewheel, which allows the wheel to spin when the rider stops pedaling. Fixies have neither -- they are a direct drive where the crank turns with the wheel.
On the Divide, this means two things. First, uphills are rough on the legs and knees because the rider doesn't have leverage on the hill. But the most painful thing is the lack of the freewheel. Without it, the rider has to sit on the seat and pedal like crazy on the downhills
, which are usually rough, washboarded, and rocky. So the bum takes a tremendous beating on those stretches.
So here's what happened to the first guy: he got saddle sores from the bumps and a seam in his shorts. But he kept going. The sores got infected, and the pain got so bad he had to keep stopping to throw up. But he kept going. Then finally he had to ditch the bike suddenly to puke, and broke part of his fork off. That finally ended the trip.
The second guy's trip ended with just as much pain, but not in such varied areas. Basically, he rode until it felt like his sit bones were crushed, then finally gave up when he couldn't get back on the bike any more.
I give tremendous credit to those guys for doing what they did. They're tougher than I'll ever be. But I still really don't understand why they do it. The route is tough enough as it is -- riding it on a fixie seems sort of like filling up your tires with water instead of air to say you rode the Divide with 10 pound tires, or shooting yourself in the foot before you ride to say you rode the Divide with a hole in your foot. But I guess cycling is all about self-inflicted pain -- after all, you can get everywhere on the route without your bike. But the fixie thing really is a whole different level.