Bike and Touring Gear for Great Divide Route
One thing that I learned on my last trip is that each piece of gear is critical. If it is not critical, then you mail it home. Size, weight, comfort, durability are all important factors when packing. Here is what I packed, with emphasis on warm and dry.
- Bike – I rode a Jamis Dragon 29er. Steel frame, hardtail locking front shocks with disc brakes, 29 inch wheels. I upgraded my front disk brake to 185mm rotor. Upgrading the back brake might have been good, too. I only had “hot” brake issues in Montana going down one of the more challenging down sections. I would see no harm in 205 mm brake rotors if you are a heavy brake user. I had hydraulic brakes that worked well but there was not adjustablity and if there was a major failure, repairs would have been a challenge to say the least. Consider mechanical disk brakes. I liked the steel frame and 29 wheels on this ride which had a lot of rough gravel roads.
- Trailer and/or Panniers – I used a B.O.B. Ibex trailer and an Old Man Mountain front rack with Ortlieb panniers. The weight on the front helped stabilize the ride by distributing the load. BOB worked great. If you are running 29 inch wheels on your bike, make sure to order the 28 inch arm for your BOB Ibex. Sometimes I felt the weight penalty (about 4 lbs vs panniers), and I blew out the rear shock going down Indiana Pass on a cold morning in Southern Colorado but was still able to finish the ride. BOB replaced the shock on warranty, no problem. Also, I managed to bend the rear skewer when trying to put my BOB back on after my only flat (on Day 1). In theory you should not put on your BOB on when it’s loaded because the bike and BOB seem to have a mind of their own. I found that it wasn’t always practical to load the trailer after connected to the bike. Ultimately, I found that if I stradle the rear wheel (backward) and basically sit on the wheel so the bike can’t move then I could attach the BOB much easier. After I figured that out, no issues. (This may require a YouTube video to visualize.)The front rack and panniers with the BOB seemed a little over kill at times, especially after I pared my gear down. The extra storage space was nice, like after I hit a grocery store. The front panniers did stabilize the front of the bike. In lieu of the front panniers, I thought that a dry bag on the rack or handlebar bag might also be an alternative in help the weight balance and handling.
- Tires – Stock Kenda Karma Pro tires worked very well. They had a pretty aggressive tread that wasn’t needed a lot of the time but when I needed it, the extra bite was great. Never changed my front tire and only changed my rear in Salida when I replaced my tubes with Slime tubes (Slime really works as I pulled out about 10 thorns south of Salida in NM.) Surprisingly, my only flat was on my first day when the patch that I put on the night before failed. (I managed to pinch the tube when building my bike in the motel before I left.) I saw a lot of Schwalbe Marathon tires which are heavy and the tread doesn’t have much bite but they seemed to work fine. My sense is that a good onroad/offroad tire would have worked great.
- Head light/tail light – Only rode at night a couple times in town situations after dinner.
Used a Nashbar LED head and tail light. Worked fine.
- Odometer – I used a Cateye Enduro that I used when I went Transcontinental. After dialing in my odometer, it worked well. I did not need GPS because the maps and “Cycling the Great Divide” book were very good. Several times the directions were fuzzy and I had to figure things out but I never felt really lost.
- Seatpost suspension – I used a Thudbuster LT and I felt that it took a lot the punishment that I didn’t. On big uphills, it groaned some especially later in the trip. It’s not rear suspension but on this trip, it worked well.
- Terry Fly saddle- I got a sore butt for several days early in trip but I started using chamois cream and that seemed to help. No major issues. What can I say, this saddle fits my buttocks.
- Fenders – I had a lightweight rear fender attached to my seat post that seemed to work in the rain. Give or take. I had a front fender but it fell off somewhere in Canada on Day 2. I didn’t replace it.
- Shimano SPD pedals and touring shoes – No problems. Had sandals for after biking (and fishing). They were a luxury but I liked them.
- Lightweight bike cable/lock – Basically a deterrent. Only used in town. “Keeps honest people honest”
- Topeak Morph Frame Pump – No issues. Good reliable pump.
- REI Quarter Dome Tent – 4 lb, “2 person” tent was very reliable and easy to set up. Calling it a 2 person tent is a stretch. Kept me dry but it seemed to accumulate a lot of moisture inside the fly from my respiration (I guess).
- REI Kilo 20 degree sleeping bag – down fill, small pack weighing about a kilo (2.2 lb). Got damp on several rainy nights but never wet. I had to be real careful to keep my sleeping bag dry since wet down is pretty much worthless. In the Rocky Mountains, it’s going to rain. I had a silk sleeping bag liner to keep my bag relatively clean inside. When I got into town, I just threw it in the washer.
- Thermarest Prolite sleeping pad – very packable and light weight but not padded enough for me. I ended up getting a high density (blue) foam pad and cut it down to size to supplement my Prolite. Subsequent to this trip I purchased a Therma-rest NEO that I found to be very light, very packable and very comfortable. You do have to inflate it every night, though. I recommend the Thermarest NEO over the ProLite
- WhisperLite Stove and fuel bottle – I use this backpacking and it worked well here. Some people prefer butane stoves as easier to operate. I was able to find white gas in most towns (look for the 1 quart bottle). I used unleaded gas for several days but found the white gas cleaner (but more expensive). If you use the cheaper and more readily available unleaded gas, be prepared to break down your stove to clean it.
- H2O Filter – On this trip, my MSR Sweetwater was unreliable in not pumping or pumping at a reduced capacity. I never got sick though. I returned the pump and it was replaced under warranty. I replaced it with the Katadin Hiker Pro – worked fine. I never had any water bourne illness on this trip but I was always careful keep separate clean water and unfiltered water. On this trip, you will have to purify water.
- Collapsible H2O Storage – I had two plastic lightweight Platypus 2 Liter water bladders. I used them in Wyoming and New Mexico when water was scarce.
- Cookware – Teflon coated pot and pot holder, plastic cereal bowl, Swiss Army knife, fork, spoon, lighter/matches, soap/clean up, reuseable coffee filter and lightweight insulated coffee mug.
Post Trip Comments: I used one pan for boiling water and minimal cooking. I relied on freeze dried dinners which actually are not too bad and no clean up. The longest ten minutes in the world was waiting for the freeze dried dinners to “cook”. I used a reuseable copper mesh MSR coffee filter and it worked pretty good as some fines managed to filter through. Real fresh coffee was an appreciated luxury while camping. Much better than some Cafe mud. In a pinch, Starsbucks Via (or similar) work.
- 4 H2O bottles – I carried 4 large water bottles. I ended up breaking the welds on 2 water bottle holders on my BOB. “Fixed” with zip ties.
- Cycling Clothing
2 – shorts (2 mtn bike shorts w/pockets) I like the pockets
3 – jerseys (2 short sleeve, 1 long sleeve) Again, pockets! One of the jerseys was wool which I liked a lot. Doesn’t stink.
2 – wool socks, darker colors preferred for the obvious
2 – 1 cycling gloves, 1 full fingered weather gloves
Raingear – Gortex Pants, jacket, socks.
Arm warmers, leg warmers
Good sun glasses
Easy decision as to what I was going to wear in the morning.
- Apres Cycling Clothing
1 – nylon shorts
1 – long lightweight pants
1 – long johns
1 – cotton t-shirt
1 – warmer shirt
baseball hat – I had some pretty funky helmet hair at the end of the day
wool winter hat
Post Trip Comments: Sent home longjohns/tights since I had leg warmers I sent my cotton shirt home after a week and missed it. So, I bought a t-shirt at a Helena thrift store for $1.50. I took a “Buzz off” Ex Officio long sleeve shirt that was impregnated with mosquito repellant. Worked great in Canada/Montana and it was presentable for dinner in town. I had to make a decision on the road to send home my down jacket or send home my fleece pullover (that has accompanied me on many adventures). I sent the fleece home which was the right decision as it got very cold in Colorado. I brought neoprene socks for fishing in sandals.
- Odds & Ends
Chain Lube and rag
Spare spoke and fiber fix kevlar spoke
Spare tubes, patchkits, spare tire
Blue Locktite – For all bolts
Spare nuts and bolts – Have at least 1 spare nut and bolt for every one on your bike.
First aid kit
Maps – As you can imagine, lots of maps and travel guide books.
Notebook & pen
Ziplocks and garbage bags
Toiletry bag – include sunscreen, earplugs
Compass, signal mirror, whistle
Food – Lots of snacks
Bear Cannister – where there are no trees to hang your food, this works. And it will keep the varmits out.
Bear Spray – not to be applied like Off!
Post Trip Comments: Used the Fiber Fix Kevlar spoke when Patrick broke a spoke in WY. He rode 150 miles with it. Worked surprisingly well. For maps, I used the Adventure Cycling Great Divide Maps, AAA road maps and ?Cycling the Great Divide? tour book. I did not need GPS. Cell phones worked mainly in town however ATT coverage (I had Verizon) in MT and WY was impressive. Coverage is only getting better. Expect WiFi at most motels and private campgrounds. My bear container was heavy at about 2.5 pounds but I knew in bear country that my food would be there in the morning. Also, I didn’t worry about varmits gnawing through my panniers. Also, got a bear bell just in case that it actually might work.
I ate a lot of freeze dried dinners that I purchased at outdoors stores and Walmart (of all places). The instant mashed potatoes also were surprisingly good, and of course, Tuna. When I got into town, I ate at a restaurant.
Lunch typically was peanut butter & jelly on a bagel but 1st day out of town, I would have ham or turkey w/ cheese on a bagel. Pretzels were good with lunch as they travelled better than chips.
Breakfast was 3 packs of instant oatmeal with 2 scoops of dehydrated eggs mixed in. Finished it off with a Poptart and coffee. Breakfast of Champions! Fresh fruit was always a challenge since it’s heavy and doesn’t travel well. I stocked up when I hit town. I ate a lot of Snickers bars on this trip. Half the price of energy bars (it’s just energy). Never pass ice cream, especially banana splits!
- Things that I sent home
Mosquito head protector – thankfully, things never got that bad.
Tights/longjohns – when it got cold, I used my leg warmers or rain pants.
Crazy Creek seat – very lightweight, seemed like a good idea but I sent it home – didn’t want to carry it.
Fleece vs down coat – I didn’t need the down coat until Southern Colorado but I was glad I had it. Some nights I used it on top of my sleeping bag.
Cotton t-shirt – sent it home but missed it so I got another one at a thrift store
Extra gloves – just need one good pair of gloves
2 – spare tubes – After I got Slime tubes, I only carried one spare.
Old maps – It was very satisfying completing a section of GDR and sending the old map home.
Silk turtle neck undershirt – just didn’t need it
Old, heavy Thermarest – got a smaller, lighter ProLite pad in Whitefish (but Thermarest NEO are better, IMO)