Once people get past the sheer ‘why would anyone want to do that?’ thing of an adventure like the Tour Divide Race, the next series of questions delves into a series of discussions about what sort of gear you need to carry with you in order to do it.
Basically carrying gear on a bicycle is always a tradeoff. Surprisingly, you can carry an enormous amount of stuff on a bike but the more you carry the heavier it gets! The quest of an ultra-racer is to be able to carry enough stuff to get you to the end without ending up with too much weight.
So, there are a couple of strategies to do this.
Firstly, make the process of carrying the gear as light as possible. In practice this usually means things like frame bags etc as they use the basic structure of the bike as a point to carry gear. There’s a few places on the web that sell these but my fav is the Bike Bag Dude – based right here in NSW. My Black Sheep has pannier racks integrated into the bike itself for strapping stuff but the principle is the same – if you’re going to carry weight then it should be useful stuff and not the fixins!
Secondly, get the lightest gear you can! I have spent HOURS on the ‘net looking for light gear! My entire sleep system – sleeping bag, tent, bivy bag and mat weighs less than 1.5kg… including the bag its packed in! Of course there are trade offs… the ‘Light, Durable, Cheap’ equation applies here (you can only pick two) and also the lighter you go the less durable it is. I have heavy Ortlieb drybags for this reason.
Thirdly, only carry what you need. This is where it gets a bit fraught. The best way to save the weight of that jacket is to not carry it in the first place! Of course if you need it then you’re stuffed! I have ended up in trouble (as in used emergency beacons) a couple of times through a combination of underestimating how cold it’s going to get and overestimating how well I can cope with that!
For Tour Divide, I have deliberately gone conservative with my gear. Whilst the weather conditions will vary from freezing snowy passes at the start to 40’C temperatures in New Mexico, most of my gear is aimed at being warm. Getting caught on the Mawson Trail was an eye opening experience for me as I pretty much was carrying most of the (supposedly) warm stuff I owned and still got caught.
The GDP of a small country later spent at the Assos Shop and I’m pretty confident that I have the right equipment but really… how often do you ride for 10 hours in sub zero temperatures in Sydney to test it?
One thing you’re probably picking up on is that there’s a fair amount of trial and error in this process. I have gone through two different types of sleeping bag and a few different options for tents etc. Not to mention the type of gear that I’m carrying and even down to the dry bags I’m packing it in. You really need to try a few things and see what works for you.
Surprisingly the bike front was pretty easy!
The route is not technical (at least 99% of it anyway… ) so suspension isn’t really required and really, reliability and comfort are the main concerns!
My bike is a custom designed by Black Sheep Bikes in Fort Collins, Colorado and was purpose built for this sort of riding – titanium and a truss fork add a surprising amount of comfort along with integrated pannier racks to enable carrying of much stuff!
I thought long and hard about this but I’m also going singlespeed. No, wait there is a reason! With a singlespeed there is just several less things to go wrong and lets face it… I’m a banker and not a bike mechanic (as the guys at City Bike Depot can attest!). Also, there is a certain mindset that accompanies singlespeeding – something about you either get up that hill or you walk which I think works for this sort of riding – its more about being connected to the terrain and the journey that (for me) isn’t there when you add gears into the mix.
Parts wise the bike is pretty standard – Shimano XTR (Trail) takes care of the pedals, crank and brakes. Drivetrain is a Gates Centretrack Belt drive (no chain lube here!) and it runs on ENVE carbon hoops.
I run a Supernova dynamo hub which takes care of my need to see in the dark and also powers a USB charger to keep my GPS, Camera and other do-dads working. All in all it’s a pretty decent setup and provided you keep a track of what you’re charging when it all works pretty well!
|10l Dry Bag – Front||Ortlieb|
|Sleeping Bag||Western Mountineering 2’C|
|Bivy||Borah Designs Cuben Fibre|
|Sleeping Mat||Klymite X-Change|
|Down Jacket||Western Mountineering|
|13l Dry Bag – Rear||Ortlieb|
|Warm Jacket||Assos Bonka|
|Winter Baselayer||Assos Fall|
|Summer Base Layer|
|2 * Warm Socks||Assos Fugu|
|Waterproof Socks||Rocky Sox|
|Basic First Aid Kit|
|Underwear||Rapha (can’t help it!)|
|Chamois Cream||Paw Paw Ointment|
|Spare GPS||Garmin Edge 500|
|Large Framebag||BikeBag Dude|
|4l Water Bladder||MSR Dromlite|
|Rain Jacket||Assos SturmPrinz|
|Rain Pants||Assos SturmPrinz|
|TDR Map Set|
|Small Framebag||BikeBag Dude|
|Winter Gloves||Assos Fugu|
|Insulator Gloves||Assos Insulator|
|Summer Gloves||Rockel Gel|
|Spare Light||Exposure Diablo IV|
So that’s it – I’m sure that there is a bunch of stuff that I need that I don’t have and there’s a bunch of stuff I’m carrying that I will never unpack. But still, being confident in your gear is ½ the battle and thus far I reckon it’ll do!
You can track Arran on our Tour Divide Tracker Page, or follow him on: