Reflections on the 2022 Tour Divide and my Initial Gear List

bikepacking gravel Jayhawker tour divide tubeless

Ouch! 

Mad respect to those that finished the TD this year, I wasn't one of them. My failure to complete the course, however, had nothing to do with my bike or gear, no mechanical or electrical issues over ~1,000 miles. I was the problem!! I've got some unfinished business out west.

After doing nearly all of my training in the winter and spring in Indiana's cold, wet weather, my body took exception to the no-prep immersion to New Mexico's hot weather and higher-than-I-was-accustomed-to altitude. I had plane tickets to Calgary and hotel reservations in Banff and changed all that to El Paso a few weeks before the departure date when I learned about the 200% - 250% snowpack in the northern sections. I knew that meant 100+ miles of hike-a-bike across most of the Canada and Montana passes and I figured it would be all melted by the time I got there if I left from the south instead. 

So good situational weather awareness on one hand, and terrible situational weather awareness on the other!  In retrospect, it would have been a lot smarter to arrive in the southwest a week before my departure and acclimate to the crazy hot temperatures and get used to the thinner air. But enough about me, let's get to the gear rundown.

Stuff I listed in my initial gear listing but didn't bring:

  • Esbit solid fuel integrated stove and cookset, plus extra Esbit fuel tabs. With the forest fires raging in the Gila National Forest and Wilderness, it was clear that this stuff wasn't going to be allowed anywhere in the south of the route and maybe even the whole route, so I just left it behind. Turns out, freeze dried meals are actually edible if you let normal water just sit in the bag long enough so that it penetrates all the way through the food. I'm sure that's a point that tickles the hearts of the gourmets out there. 
  • Space pen and notebook. Sounded like a good idea at the time, ended up using the "notepad" application on my iPhone.
  • Bikepacking Cargo Net by Original Free Range. This is the super light- weight stretch net that fits over the Tailfin Aeropack. I had intended to use it to stash my overlayers and rain gear but ended up just using my hydration backpack for that stuff.
  • Extended wet gear kit - Showers Pass Crosspoint waterproof knit gloves, REI Minimalist GTX rain mittens, Dexshell waterproof socks, Velotoze stretch rubber outsoles, Trail Toes anti-friction waterproofing foot balm. I sent these along with a few days of food supplies to the post office in Pinedale so that I wouldn't have to carry them through the drier southwest region of the trail, but never got there to add it to my kit, so you could say I didn't use them.
  • Plastic two inch wide putty knife. See "favorite items" below.

Stuff I didn't list but I brought anyway:

  • Vittoria Air Liner tire inserts. I've never used foam tire inserts but put them on the bike a month before the departure to try them out. I had read about a Tour Divide rider who had a front tire blowout on a descent and figured that inserts were the only real protection from that. They were easy to install once the tires had been on the bike for a week or so and had stretched out a bit, and literally impossible to fit on a brand-new tire. I didn't experience any issues with them during the ride, but in retrospect, I'd probably not use them next time. When I took the tires off upon my return, the Airliners had soaked up almost all of the sealant and made a real mess upon removal. They soaked up so much of the sealant that I wondered if any would have made it to a puncture. I hosed them off in the driveway for 10 minutes and hung them in the garage, I sort of doubt I'll be using them again unless i go off-roading in the northeast, where there are tons of rocks and roots that could damage the rim edges.
  • Platypus 3L Hydration Backpack. I bought this for my 2019 tour from Kalispell to Steamboat Springs and have used it periodically on hot days and when I'm riding long distances. The one I have fits really well and I actually don't mind the extra weight on my back. I brought it at the last minute because I figured the extra 3L of water would come in handy in New Mexico. Wow, was I thankful I had this. I found it very useful for drinking on long descents, on climbs, and on technical sections where I didn't want to take my hands off the bars (New Mexico mud, I'm thinking about you now). It was also a great place to stash my rain gear when it was coming on and off frequently. I would consider moving completely away from waterbottles next time - going with the backpack and / or an Adventure Hydration Cranktank.
  • Mead notebook cover fashioned into an extra helmet visor. What's white on the topside, black on the underside, and plasticky-enough to withstand 40mph descents?  The cover from a Mead notebook zip tied to the front of my helmet. This was so great on the trip, it provided just enough shade to keep my lips and chin out of the sunshine and wasn't much of a hassle otherwise. OK, it wasn't especially fashionable but it looked better to me than the circular-all-the-way-around-the-helmet sombrero brims. 
  • ZPACKS dyneema shoulder pouch - mounted to my stem, handlebar, and frameset with zip ties, it's a super lightweight and collapsable chum bucket for snacks, bottles, and wrappers that weighs practically nothing. Looks better on my bike than it does on the shoulder of a backpack.

Stuff I brought but didn't use:

  • Backup Wahoo Navigation GPS (wouldn't bring again)
  • Backup rear thru axle for Tailfin Aeropack (assessing options for Tailfin, but even without a Tailfin, I'd be bringing an extra rear thru axle)
  • Extra spokes for Jayhawker wheelset
  • Dynaplug Deluxe Bikepacking Tire Repair Kit
  • Tubolito tubes, Tubolito patch kit, Park TB-2 Sidewall Repair Kit
  • 120ml Wurstasser Hi-Fibre tire sealant
  • Pedros Tire levers (2)
  • Park Tool presta valve core removal tool, extra valve cores, extra valve
  • Four extra disc brake pads
  • One extra SPD cleat and cleat hardware (the one time I don't bring this, I'll need it for sure)
  • Wolf Tooth 8-bit and four extra chain quick links
  • Small sewing kit, krazy glue, electrical tape, gear patches
  • Philips screwdriver for SRAM brifter batteries, extra brifter batteries
  • Assorted M3/M4/M5 nuts and bolts
  • Ear plugs
  • First aid kit

      Because self-sufficiency is one of my core values, I'd likely take all of this            stuff again - it's always better to carry it than to need it and not have it.

Stuff I wish I had brought:

  • I really could have used an SPF 50 long sleeve cycling shirt with a hood. Right before I left, I got a Specialized long sleeve SPF 50 shirt in off-white that was a real favorite on the hot sections of the trail. I coupled it with a stretch polyester buff that I would pull up under my helmet to protect my neck and face from the sun, but it would sometimes leave a gap near the shirt neckline and I had a few stripe sunburns as a result. Since returning, I've secured a couple of these hooded shirts in white and the continuous fabric across the neck area does wonders for evaporative cooling and no more stripe sunburns. 
  • I also wish I had gotten out to the southwest a week before my planned departure--to get my body acclimated to the heat and elevation.

Favorite items:

  • Bearclawholster bear spray holder. I had one of these mounted to my fork with the Tailfin suspension fork M5 mount kit. Bearspray was at the ready and reachable during the entire ride. The 3D printed side panels protected the can from rock hits and the product squeezed the can tight enough so that there were no unplanned ejections on fast and bumpy descents. This product performed exactly as advertised--get one, they're great.
  • Plastic 2 inch putty knife. I had read some rider notes about the super usefulness of a basic 2" putty knife in combatting the famed "peanut butter" mud that is common on Bannock Road in Montana and in sections of New Mexico. Wow, best thing ever. Not only was it great for slashing the 2 - 5" of mud off the bottom of your shoes every third or fourth step, it was a quick way of ridding the tire of the infernal mud layer as it started to build on some of the downhills. 
  • kLite Gravel Kit with Nitecore 5,000 mAh waterproof battery.  Absolutely perfect combo for this trip, allowed me to keep all of my devices charged up while providing plenty of light for stress-free night riding. I coupled these with a set of Jayhawker Dynamo wheels and had trouble-free service for the entire trip.  I was able to keep all of my electrical devices charged up, including my Wahoo Roam GPS, my Garmin In-Reach Mini2, my iPhone 13, and my AXS derailleur batteries.  
  • BarYak aero bar setup. Super stable, even on those 45 mph descents, and as comfortable as a La-Z-Boy recliner over the long flat stretches. Absolutely worth the weight.
  • Lezyne Micro Floor Drive HV. The flip down foot anchor and the easy to grip handle make on-the-trail tire inflation not a hassle. If you ride with a group, everyone will want to use your pump. Absolutely worth the weight.

 Closing thoughts and ideas for "Next Time":

  • I liked the top-loading utility of the Tailfin Aeropack but hated the fact that I would have to remove it from the thru axle to change a rear flat tire. I think this is a Salsa Fargo specific complaint, however. The Tailfin rack has non-axle mounting methods that work on most other framesets--on the Fargo, the only real Tailfin mounting option is the thru-axle mounting situation. I have a Salsa Fargo-specific rack that mounts to the Alternator rear dropout plates, I may try it again with a different "up high" pannier system this winter and see if it offers any improvements over the Tailfin.
  • I'm probably going to move away from individual water bottles - the ease and safety of drinking from a bladder tube is better (for me) when the surface is bumpy and uneven. I might keep one on the bike for mixing in electrolytes and other additives to the water, I try to keep that stuff out of anything with a tube, it seems to permanently flavor the plastic.
  • Over the winter, I'm going to experiment with the Hammerhead Karoo and see if it makes sense for me to switch over to that from the Wahoo. I like the Wahoo because it's phone-native, unlike a lot of Garmin devices, you don't need a PC to load courses which makes it especially useful out on the trail, That said, the device has a long list of drawbacks and reversing the direction of the TD gpx file this year caused it to glitch more than once.
  • My Fly Creek HV tent performed flawlessly, even in the wind and rain. It's a really nice tent and even after tons of use, remains waterproof and hasn't had any rips or tears. The small interior and poor ventilation on warm nights has been making me think about getting a replacement with a center entry. Altaplex by ZPACKS may be the tent for the next campaign, trading off size and ventilation for a single wall design.

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