You know the saying when life knocks you down, the strong get back up again? We’re convinced Jordan Khodabande invented the phrase. Avid trail-runner-turned-biker due to a serious accident back in 2017, Jordan’s endless hunger for adventure took him on a 3,306-mile, 56-day journey this past summer from his home in Seattle to the Great Divide at the Montana-Canada border and ultimately south to New Mexico. Not only that, he wore Walter Sky’s WS-S02 volley short for the duration of the trip. We sat down with Jordan to learn more about his transformative experience on the trail, how our gear held up along the way and just why his greatest takeaway is not the milestones he’s achieved but rather the incredible relationships he’s kept.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into biking?
After being deterred from sports growing up, the first space I had to connect with myself outdoors was through solo trail-running the expansive network of trails adjacent to my childhood home. This love for trails during my most formative years led me to hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in 2017, which came to an abrupt end at mile 1,017. A 30-foot fall down a steep snow slope led to a broken left foot, a fractured right foot, a torn meniscus, sprained ankles and knees, among other injuries. Subsequently, I was forced to put any weight-bearing modes of movement on the shelf for a good while.
What initially began as an alternative form of movement until I could run again, biking has turned into both a tool for exploration and a space to experience with family, friends and strangers-turned friends.
My Trail family whom I shared most of the divide with (Left to right: Me, Wang, Cameron, my mom!)
Tell us about your journey and how you decided on that specific route.
Since human-powered travel took a large hold in my life in 2017, I’ve been inspired by the act of starting from my front door. Is it possible to complete routes that omit the use of motor vehicles? In 2019, I pedaled from my apartment here in Seattle down to where I was medevaced on the PCT (Sonora Pass, CA) and completed the remaining 1,600 miles to Manning Park, British Columbia. Connecting the two of those together from my life here in Seattle helped bridge the gap between my backcountry and frontcountry life to ultimately close that influential chapter.
Since those miles ran out on the PCT, I’ve felt the draw to experience the expanse of a new range. In 2021, another from-the-doorstep route came to fruition. Inspired by that summer fueled by my own power in 2019, I wanted to connect my home in Seattle once again to the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (GDMBR), a 2,700 mile network of dirt roads from Banff, Alberta to the Mexican Border. Since the Canadian border was closed due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, my route began in Seattle and I headed east until hitting the start of the GDMBR at the Canadian Border at Roosville, MT where it turned south to the Mexican border at Antelope Wells, NM.
Red Rock Pass, Idaho/Montana State Line
What did you pack for the entire 3,306 miles?
I packed all the necessary gear in a common bikepacking set up. I brought food, water, a tent and sleeping pad in my roll-top handlebar bag; my daily snacks, toolkit, small miscellaneous items in my frame bag; as well as a lighter and more compressible items in my seat pack.
Which Walter Sky essentials did you wear along the way and how did they hold up?
I wore the WS-S02 shorts in olive green. The design, durability and material are what drew me to choose the WS-S02 shorts as my “everything” short for 55 days on route. The material of the Walter Sky short was quick drying, making it easy to clean along the way in various water sources and in town. The 5.5-inch inseam kept me cool on the long, exposed, hot days that are commonplace on the Divide. Plus, the shorts look and feel great! As my only bottom layer, I knew I needed something that was comfortable for all-day, everyday use. The WS-S02 short met all of these on-trail demands, and excelled on the various highs and lows of the 3,306 miles biked.
How would you say Walter Sky compares to the other gear you wore?
The months leading up to any long-distance trip involve extensive research in finding the perfect piece of gear that I can wear for months on end. As my only bottom layer for day-time, night-time, trail and town, the Walter Sky gear performed in every way I needed it to. The conditions on the Divide are in a constant state of flux; trusting that the only piece of clothing I bring will hold up is crucial, and Walter Sky has earned my trust. I look forward to using the WS-S02 for the many miles and conditions to come.
Boreas Pass, Colorado
What would you say is your biggest takeaway from the experience?
While four years pursuing human-powered travel has shown me that there’s no tangible takeaways, I always return home with a renewed and distilled sense of what’s most important. Above all, relationships with others are the largest shaping force for experiences both on- and off-trail.
The trails have shown me the importance and reward of leaning into vulnerability with others, trusting the kindness of strangers and knowing that there’s safety in numbers in the face of adversity. While a trail like the GDMBR requires a degree of self sustainability, the inevitable codependence on one another is what sets trail relationships apart. Relationships being so pivotal to these experiences on-trail helps ease the transition back to a city, knowing that investment in them isn’t exclusive to being outside.
Rio Grande National Forest, Colorado
I feel grateful for a summer outside to emphasize the important elements of my life, but it’s not lost on me that these spaces don’t feel safe for all. The pressing need for diversity and increased-representation in the world of bikepacking and beyond has never been clearer, and as a community there’s a lot of work to do to make these experiences accessible to all.
Biggest obstacle you encountered?
As expected, the biggest, most intimidating components of this trip were the natural forces at play that seemingly handed the baton off to one another every couple of weeks. To get to the Divide from Seattle, days were planned around avoiding the hottest times of the day, often requiring 2:30am wake-ups and stopping by the afternoon when 100°+ temperatures rolled around.
Upon arrival at the Divide until Pinedale, WY, the risk of grizzly bear encounters kept me wary of any (and every) stick-breaks at night and required caution on windy, wooded roads. Daily afternoon thunderstorms accompanied me to the end, where mental endurance was tested each and every afternoon either by way of the possibility of getting stuck in peanut butter mud or the (ir)rational fear of being struck by lightning on exposed plateaus or passes. Each of these ever-present components were humbling forces every day.
At the top of Richmond Ridge before descending into Seeley Lake, Montana.
Best moment from the trip?
Apart from riding long days and stuffing my face in town with food among other riders, my favorite section of riding was from Del Norte, CO to Abiqiui, NM. Within two days, you climb 4,036 feet to the GDMBR high point at Indiana Pass (11,910 feet), zip through an abandoned mining town, alternate between subalpine basins/aspen groves and juniper trees/sagebrush, cross the last state line into New Mexico, and get your first taste of the Desert Southwest by riding alongside Navajo Yucca and red rock formations.
The 109 miles and 9,528 feet of gain covered in a day ended with a euphoric ride into Abiquiu where I ate Oreos into my best sunset on trail, and ended at a riverside adobe structure equipped with an outdoor shower under a full moon. The elements that all came together after a physically gruelling section make it hard not to romanticize.
To my surprise, the monsoon season in New Mexico led to the most abundant wildflowers all summer.
Most delicious thing you ate?
New Mexico was home to the best trail food. With chiles being a large part of the cultural richness of New Mexico, having it with nearly every meal in town was a real treat. Arriving into Abiquiu marked the point where green chiles became a universal condiment, being offered widely — from local general stores to McDonalds.
The pinnacle of my New Mexico green chile experience was in Abiquiu, where I packed two green chile tamales and a green chile breakfast burrito. Overcoming trail stressors by coping with flavorful town food continues to be my tried and true method of keeping morale high on long trails. In this case, confiding in my tamales and burrito from Bode’s General Store aided me in getting up the 5,187-foot sandy climb out of Abiquiu, deemed to be the toughest on the trail.
After 56 Days and 3,306 Miles, I made it to the end of my ride at Antelope Wells, New Mexico.
What’s next for you?
The Pacific Crest Trail, bike touring and bikepacking the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route were all that they were because of the people I met and the hot weather, smokey days, trail-side mechanical issues, long climbs, and blissful descents I endured. I’m excited to continue investing in my community here in Seattle, just as I’ve done on trail.
Slowly but surely, I’m coming to terms that life isn’t about running away on a long trip every other year from the people I hold dear, but rather about the experiences with one another, whether that be close to home or afar. That being said, I do still daydream of prospective trips that allow me to spend all day on my bike. I plan on completing the remaining 350 miles of the GDMBR route if the Canadian border remains open. Until then, I’m excited to make the most out of the rainy winter exploring steep routes with friends here in Washington state.
Shop Jordan’s go-to WS-S02 short here.