Tour Divide: Part 3, Gear

Part 1

Part 2

Pack list

I did another post about this right after I got back in July, but it was kind of half-assed and disorganized. Anyway, real techy bike geek stuff follows:

Electronics

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The Sinewave Revolution- a super tiny, bombproof dynamo-powered USB charger

Some people use GPS, and for style reasons, others don’t. My opinion- it doesn’t make much sense to race without one. It’s a race, and being able to check position on a moving map saves time.

I don’t really buy the style argument. Following the Divide route with cues and a bike computer isn’t a great navigational challenge, it’s just kind of a pain in the ass. The whole thing is on public roads- it’s not like trying to hit Tahiti with a sextant.

My iPhone, which I was using to navigate with the Gaia GPS app, died a couple times. In that case cues and a computer were a good backup.

Using the phone simplified things nicely- I used it as my nav system, camera, and music for the really dull sections of gravel. And when I got to town, I was able to read email updates from Matt Lee about detours to the route.

And it’s not like I was out there facebooking and making phone calls the whole time- most of the route doesn’t have cell reception. When I left a town, I turned cellular data off to save battery.

I used a Shutter Precision dynamo hub and Sinewave charger to keep stuff powered up. That system was pretty nearly flawless. The only time I had a problem keeping the GPS running was in the Gilla in New Mexico. The route was a series of steep climbs and descents. On the climbs, I was going under 4mph, which is the minimum to generate power. And the descents were so short that I couldn’t get any meaningful charge out of my stuff.

At that point, my need for music was also pretty high, and all those factors added up to a dead phone. And then it monsooned, lightning struck, and the forest caught fire. Womp.

At night, I unplugged the Sinewave, and plugged in my Exposure Revo headlight. That thing was great. Plenty of light as long as I could turn the pedals. I also carried a little Princeton Tech headlight, which was super important on a few hike a bikes farther north. Hiking, a dynamo light doesn’t make enough light to see.

Clothes

Wool boxers and nylon shorts are the jam. Since we had to ride in rain pants for the entire first week, some butt funk was unavoidable. But at least when the weather cleared I could air stuff out. People with moldy chamois sponges, not as much.

A warm layer like a puffy coat and and full rain gear are necessities (unless you think you’ll be faster when you’re hypothermic).

Only thing I would change- from now on, I’m not wearing anything but wool shirts. My synthetic Club Ride shop shirt was super nasty and sticky after the 10th day in a row of wearing it without washing. By day 15, it was almost unbearable. And now, it’s permanently sweat stained and gummy. But the collar did keep me looking fly- or at least countered the effects of the nasty scumstache I aquired (maybe not).

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One of two selfies that came out of this trip. I tried really hard not to be grossly narcissistic. By posting this picture, I suppose you could argue that I’ve failed.

 

Bike

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I love my Krampus. Back slaps to the guys at Surly who designed a whole new platform, 29+, and made a great bike out of it all in the first shot. The bike was comfortable, stable (I could take my hands off the bars on washboard), and reasonably light.

The only downside were the tires. I have a lot of miles on 27tpi Knards- I’m on my third set. They’re by far the most durable mountain tire that I’ve ever ridden, but the stiff casings are really slow (and they corner terribly, but that doesn’t matter on the GDR).

Fortunately, there are going to be a lot of new 29+ options out soon. It’s the best mountain bike platform out there- more capable and just as fast as normal sized rubber, and way quicker and more maneuverable than a fat bike.

Because my knees blew up, I had to switch to flat pedals 800 miles in. That switch let me keep riding, but man it sucked on the climbs. Before the divide, I hadn’t ridden a bike with flats since about 2007.

Contact points were Jones Loop bars, ESI Extra Chunky grips, and a Chromag Trail Master saddle. The saddle took a lot of trial and error to get right, but eventually I figured it out. I use a 10 mile standard to figure out if a saddle works- if I can sit on it for 10 miles of flat rail trail, without a chamois and without any discomfort, it’ll be comfy to ride all day.

Single speeding was fine. It’s how I like to ride, so it’s how I rode. I really don’t think it was much of an advantage or disadvantage. By the end of the first couple days everybody was spinning along at around 10 miles per hour, gears or not.

In terms of gearing, I rode my usual gear. 36×22 feels equivalent to a 32x18ish on a 29×2.1 tire- the 29×3.0 tires have a diameter of 31″, which gives a higher effective gearing)

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When everything was fresh and clean.

All my bags were by Oveja Negra in Salida. They’re beautifully made bags, but suffered the same fate as every other set of bags that I saw out there- the gritty mud in the first week busted everybody’s zippers, and overloaded, wet seat packs banged into back tires when the road was rough.

The solution to the first problem is to totally ditch zippers on frame bags, and go to a buckle. And for the second, an internal frame seat bag like the Porcelain Rocket Mr. Fusion:

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The way forward for bikepacking seatbags. Can’t bounce around, easy to load, and still free of the problems that come with a rack- durability, weight, and mud clearance. On the test for the Dirt Rag.

Shelter

At the pre-race cookout, checking out people’s set-ups, I noticed that a bunch of people were saving weight by not carrying shelter. On the first night when it was  34 degrees and pouring rain, I bet they regretted that choice. Or they found a motel room.

You’ve gotta carry something- tarp, tent, or bivy. I had a two person Tarptent, which is really light for its size, but bigger than I needed. For another solo trip that long I’d carry a one man Tarptent to save some weight, but still have space to sleep apart from all my wet stuff at night. Bivvies are too claustrophobic for me to actually sleep in, and tarps take too long to pitch.

By the time I made it out of Montana and the rain stopped, the tent became a ground cloth for the rest of the trip.

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Hygiene

Sanitary wipes are a really good idea to use at night to cut down on saddle sores. So is neosporin. Some racers dropped out because their ass skin got infected. Doesn’t sound fun.

Sun screen is good too. I don’t usually use the stuff because I have greasy olive skin (and possibly because I’m young and dumb), but being out there from sun up to sundown started to fry me in Wyoming. And by the time I was fried, there wasn’t any place to buy sunscreen for 300 miles.

I also didn’t have summer gloves, and the tops of my hands were getting crushed. I spend a lot of time switching a bandana back and forth between hands to try to give them some shade.

Route and some last thoughts to follow.

7 thoughts on “Tour Divide: Part 3, Gear

  1. 22 day ride.

    A lifetime lesson of perseverance, grit and character building.

    A great trade-off.

    Proud and humbled. LU ‘Dad’

  2. As usual, some great reading here. Thanks for all the fun info, glad you revisited the race. Also, in my travels I have found the two-legged variety much scarier than the rest. Glad you made it through!

    1. Those would have been perfect- too bad I didn’t come across any when my knees blew. I’m back on XT Trail pedals now, everythings been good for a few months. I’m just making sure I keep the knees covered if it’s cold

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