Lachlan Morton finishes Tour Divide with no brake pads and broken derailleur

Lachlan Morton's gear hack
(Image credit: EF Education Easypost)

Despite not racing on the road for the team any more, 2016 Tour of Utah winner Lachlan Morton is about as synonymous with the EF-Education Easypost as any other member of the squad thanks primarily to his continued alternative racing calendar. 

This year he’s set a new record on the Tour Divide, though the record may not be officially recognised due to the presence of a film crew.

Mechanical disasters aren’t uncommon on races of this duration off-road, but the self-supported nature of the endeavour does throw up some rather ingenious fixes. Morton ran his Cannondale Scalpel with SRAM XX1 Eagle, with a 38t front chainring and a 10-52t cassette at the rear, but it appears that around the start of his 12th day, either his rear derailleur or the shifters gave up on him.

“I kicked it as hard as I could and then it started working again,” Morton said from the trail on the 11th day - the first of the derailleur failures. But the next day his derailleur-defibrillator technique didn't suffice, and so he had to engage in a more resourceful solution.

Lachlan Morton's gear hack

The spoke can be wedged against the outside of the frame, the inside of Morton's Tailfin rack, or the inside of the rear triangle to give him the option of three (hard) gears (Image credit: EF Education Easypost)

As get-you-home bodges go, jamming a spare spoke through the derailleur cage and wedging it against the rear triangle of his bike frame is up there with the most rough and ready solutions, but it apparently gave Morton a three-speed setup.

Presumably, the gear selection depended on where he braced the spoke against, but each of the three options would have been within the smaller sprockets. From the images we have access to it seems like he must have adjusted the lower limit of his derailleur so that it sits at the 11t sprocket, then he could brace against the inside of his Tailfin rear rack a few sprockets up, and finally the frame itself for his lowest possible option.

Fortunately for his knees, it does seem like the issue was an intermittent one, with shifting returning for the final run into Antelope Wells and the Mexican border this morning.

His overall time was 12 days, 12 hours and 21 minutes, meaning that his bodge likely saw him through the lion's share of a 12-hour ride. At his pace that would have been several hundred miles with restricted gears, at a record pace.

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

Morton's derailleur hack

It looks like a precarious solution, but if it works then it works, and it beats walking! (Image credit: EF Education Easypost)

In a further update to the story from Orange Peel Bikes in Steamboat Springs, Colorado—close to where Morton resides when he's not undertaking his various ultra-distance endeavours—we can see the toll the course took on Morton's bike. Assuming the shop didn't release the rear brake bolts, it appears the Australian finished the course with an extremely loose rear brake calliper, and pads that were down to bare metal. Given the front brake normally handles the lion's share of the work it's safe to assume he had to use a fresh set up front at some point during the race.

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Will Jones
Tech Writer

Will joined the Cyclingnews team as a reviews writer in 2022, having previously written for Cyclist, BikeRadar and Advntr. There are very few types of cycling he's not dabbled in, and he has a particular affection for older bikes and long lasting components. Road riding was his first love, before graduating to racing CX in Yorkshire. He's been touring on a vintage tandem all the way through to fixed gear gravel riding and MTB too. When he's not out riding one of his many bikes he can usually be found in the garage tinkering with another of them, or getting obsessive about tyres. Also, as he doesn't use Zwift, he's our go-to guy for bad weather testing... bless him.

Rides: Custom Zetland Audax, Bowman Palace:R, Peugeot Grand Tourisme Tandem, Falcon Explorer Tracklocross, Fairlight Secan & Strael