Saturday, January 24, 2015

Val's Tour Divide Bike and Kit - What Worked, What Didn't

After finishing the 2014 Tour Divide, I thought it might help others to go through and review my gear list and post what worked, what didn't and what I thought essential and what I did not use.  The list is from an earlier post and I have put my post-TD updates after each section.


  •  Name:  LaFawnduh, cause all good bikes need a name and when something bad happens you can curse at it.
  •  Frame:  2013 Salsa Fargo Titanium
  •   Fork:  Salsa Fargo V2 steel fork (cause steel is real) Actually I am clumsy and would break carbon.
  • Drivetrain:  Shimano XTR M980 triple crankarms, 24 tooth Blackspire inner ring, XT 32 T middle, XTR 42 T outer ring, XTR M980 front derailleur, XT 9 speed rear derailleur, XTR 12-34 9 speed cassette, Sram PC 991 cross-step chain.  9 is more durable than 10.
  • Pedals: Speedplay Frog Ti
  • Shifter: Sram Attack Betty Gripshift
  • Brakes: Pauls Love Levers (Valentine's Day present from Josh), Avid BB7 Calipers, Avid HS-1 rotors
  • Cables: Custom cut and precisely routed Jagwire Pro
  • Headset: Chris King (it's good to be king)
  • Stem: Salsa Pro Moto Ti
  • Handlebar: Jones Loop H-Bar - wrapped in Salsa Bar tape with Ergon grips
  • Aero Bar: Syntace C3 with extra risers
  • Seatpost: Eriksen Sweetpost (another Valentines day gift from Josh)
  • Seat: Terry Liberator X Gel
  • Seat Collar: Salsa Lip-lock
  • Wheels: (Custom built by Josh) DT 350 Hubs, Sapim CX-Ray spokes, DT alloy nipples, WTB Frequency i19 Rims 32h
  • Tires: Kenda Small Block 8 DTC John Tomac Signature
  • Tubes: (yes some people still use tubes) Schwalbe SV 19A
  • Flat Prophylactics:  Mr. Tuffy Ultralight liners, Flat Attack Sealant (about 50ml per tube and yes we've weighed it all out and it is lighter than a tubeless setup with sealant and proper rim strip and burpy tires.)
  • CycleStuff Stay Wrap
  • Vintage Tektro 102A Chainsuck Device.   Maybe the name depressed sales... but it works!
  • Water bottle cages: Portland Design Works: The Birdcage x3 1 on downtube 2 on fork with Zefal Magnum 33 oz bottles.

Update:  Pretty much loved my bike!  I did weirdly have my fork drop out come loose and so had to replace my front fork in Steamboat.  Nothing is indestructible.  I got the White Brothers Rock Solid fork which was fabulous.  Highly recommended for taking the edge off of the bumps.  

I would not take the aero bars again with the Jones bar.  They made loading my stuff on the bike harder and I really didn't use them enough to make the weight and the hassle worth it.  The Jones Loop Bar is so nice on its own I don't think I need anything extra on it.  

My wheels, built by Josh, held up superbly, but the bearings in the the DT hubs were done by the end.  I heard of several other bearings being shot before week 2 as well.  The continual rain/mud/sandy roads of week one did them in I'm sure.  None the less, they rolled all the way to Mexico.  A touch of lateral slop in the rear bearings and some squeaky noises from the front.

I used a Specialized Renegade Control 2.3 tire on the front and a Specialized Fast Track Control 2.0 on the back.   Both were great.  I got a new tire in Salida for the back,  maybe could have made it without, but it was wearing a bit thin.  

I do recommend the Kent Eriksen Sweetpost and the Terry saddle.  So nice and smooth!  Only a couple small saddle sores in 2700 miles! 

Also my 9 speed drivetrain is still going strong.  I replaced the chain three times and developed a crazy obsession about cleaning my chain and lubing it every day, but they held up and the cogs still have plenty of life in them.  

REAR BAG- Revelate Viscacha
  • Ziplock with TP, baby wipes, mesh bug hat with snazzy spring ring, hydrocortisone, (for the skeeter bites on you know where), A&D ointment + clotrimazole (to make butt paste, fellow RNs will know) also never forget the hand sanitizer
  • Western Mountaineering Hi Lite 35 degree bag inside ultralightweight  OR drybag.
  • Patagonia 900 fill Down Sweater  inside Sea to Summit waterproof stuffsack
  • Patagonia Torrentshell Raincoat, Patagonia Rainshadow Rainpants,  Proline flyfishing neoprene pantleg band X2, Gorewear gortex socks.
  • Spare straps
Update:  I took way too much A&D, a small 3 oz tube would be enough, but my triple butt paste was great and prevented saddle sores.  I also ended up taking a small tube of benzoyl peroxide zit cream to apply to the beginnings of saddle sores and that worked.  

I never used the bug hat.  

I loved the puffy coat, an essential this year.  My Rainshadow pants were great and still held up even though I wore them pretty much all the way to the great basin.  My Torrentshell jacket was great too, although it was a bit bulky and heavy. The Velcro over the zipper opened up a slightly embarrassing hole in the front of my bike shorts that necessitated taping my shorts with electrical tape to prevent frontal nudity.  
Testing Out the Rain Kit During a Tour in Yellowstone

Tool Kit: (inside Viscacha)
  • Xtra tube with slime 
  • Dental floss
  • Darning needles 
  • Xtra cleats (Frog)
  • Brake pads X2 (Avid aluminum/organic)
  • Tire Boot (Park) +Dollar bill for backup
  • Patch kit X 3 (Park Glueless)
  • Rear hub replacement DT Ratchets
  • Zipties
  • elastic hairbands
  • Red Zeplin inflater
  • CO2 Cartridges X 2
  • Electrical tape (enough to replace rim strips + more)
  • Leatherman Squirt PS4 
  • Multi tool:  Crank brothers M 17
  • Torx wrench (Oh why don't they still make everything with allen fittings)
  • Xtra Sram masterlink
  • Safety pins
  • Spare Chainring bolts
  • Spare Derailleur hanger
  • Spare Jockey wheel
  • Lots of Duct tape around my seatpost
  • Xtra batteries AAA X 8 and AA X 8 lithium, CR2032 X 2
Update:  I didn't use all of this stuff, but I would take it all again.  I heard of people needing all of these items.  I just had some better luck, but I think this is a good list.   I ended up taking 2 spare derailleur hangers and it was a good thing cause I used both of them and could have used a third.  I have a bad habit of falling to the right onto the drivetrain and bending the stupid things.   

REVELATE SPROCKET: On outside of Viscacha
  • Spot
  • Titanium Spork (folding, it is my most awesome camping item, I could not leave it; I use it to spoon Nutella directly into my mouth)
Worked well, although the zipper on the Sprocket became clogged with mud and I broke the zipper pull, it kept all my stuff together all the way to Mexico.  Spork is essential for eating gooey gas station leftovers.

 REVELATE FRAMEBAG:  R side large pocket
  • Xtra Tube with slime
  • MSR Dromlite 4L with tubing and camel back bitevalve + flipcap in bag for filtering H20
  • Minipump  Topeak Peakini Master Blaster (Version I from the '90's, baby!)
  • Tent pole
  • Passport + Xtra credit card
Update:  This all was essential.  Would absolutely not do the race without a hand pump and tubes, even if going tubeless.  Many people who went tubeless ended up with tubes by the end of the race.  Stans leaked, dried out, etc.  If you can finish in around 2 weeks time, like Jefe, that might not be a problem.
Also, I started out with ultra-light Schwalbe SV19A inner tubes which are super nice but I'm not sure they are up to a 2700 mile time trial.  I got 2 flats.  Each time it was a rub mark from the rimstrip edge on the inside (rim side) of the tube.  I'd probaly start with slightly heavier/thicker tubes to start with and find a smoother rim strip.

REVELATE FRAME BAG:  L side small pocket
  • Cable lock: kabeltek flexweave
  • Xtra spokes X 5 + nipples in a different color so I know what I had to fix
Update:  Worked great.  I locked my bike at many a stop, I think these are essential items.  The lock was flimsy but would keep anyone from rolling away with my ride.  Never broke a spoke or nipple.

  • Henry Shires Contrail tarp tent in a garbage bag
  • Space blankets X 2 for ground cloths in ziplocks
  • Thermarest Neoair Xlight women's
  • Paracord 25 feet for hanging smellables in bear country + various repairs
  • Med kit in ziplock;  Xtra contacts X 6, magnesium vitamin tabs, fluconazole 150 mg X 3, Claritin 25 tabs, Benadryl 10 tabs, Flonase nasal spray Bactrim 14 tabs, ( meds for allergies, as well as yeast, and urinary tract infections), tampax X 5
  • Sleeping kit in a light weight OR dry sack:  Casio Illuminator PQ 13 Travel clock,  patagonia T-shirt, xtra sports bra, smartwool ski socks, Patagonia expedition weight fleece pants, 1 pair regular undies, lightweight running shorts, Rite in the rain mini note pad +pencil (for recording my misery)
  • Maps + cue cards printed on Rite in the Rain paper
  • Lightweight dry sack with clean bike shorts and xtra riding socks


Tarp tent:  up for debate.  So nice to have a real tent in the rain!  I did have some condensation problems and ended up sleeping most nights with my rain jacket wrapped around the foot of my sleeping bag, but it was really nice to have a place to change and air out my stuff.  Josh took a bivy and was longing for a tent.  If you have a lot of cash I think the Z-packs hexamid solo would be better, just for being a bit lighter, but this one is nice and comfy and probably more durable than the Z-packs.  Also, being in a tent zipped-up, gives a little piece of mind in New Mexico.  Creepy-crawlies down there!

I used the magnesium for muscle cramps and it helped A LOT!  I did not take the flonase.  I did use the fluconazole as a preventative and it worked well.   Never needed the bactrim but I am glad I had it.  

I would not bother again with an extra T shirt, and I did not take an extra sports bra.  By about day three everthing is stinky and wet and there seemed to be no point in taking off one stinky wet shirt and putting on a different one.   

I did not take the regular undies.  Just wore the running shorts that had a liner and that was fine most of the time.  I used the fleece pants in Canada.  I would recommend the shorts as part of my saddle sore prevention.  Keep things aired out and dry!  

Never used the paracord.  Heavy and useless.  I was too tired to worry about bears.  

The space blankets got wet and dirty and I threw them away by day three.  

I highly recommend extra shorts so you can wash one pair and wear the others. 

I did use all three pairs of socks.  So nice to have dry socks to put on at bed time.   Also got sand in my riding socks which rubbed holes in my toes and would not rinse out in various creeks.  So the spare socks were very important.  

I loved the neoair mattress, soooo comfy.

I used the travel clock.  My watch alarm was too quiet to wake me up.  

Maps and cue cards are essential!  my GPS failed me outside of Rawlins and I had to navigate by bike computer until it magically started working again about 75 miles later.

  • Sawyer mini filter + 60 cc syringe flush+ Platypus 1 Liter bag with cap (I ditched the tiny useless non gusseted bag that came with the Sawyer)
  • Food: emergency peanut butter or Nutella and flour tortillas, instant coffee powder
  • Sunscreen
  • Katadyn purification tabs
Update:  Sawyer filter was great!  Probably could have used tabs but it was nice to have instant clean water when I was thirsty.  

Sunscreen goes without saying is a necessity.  I did by some Sugoi Sunsleeves in Steamboat!  They are my new favorite thing.  I burn easily and they saved me hauling a lot of extra sunscreen around.  

Did not take the peanut butter or any of the food listed.  I just bought stuff along the way.  

  • Granola bars
  • Blue Diamond Smokey Almonds
  • Swedish Fish
  • Whatever other delights I can find along the way
Update: I ended up subsisting on beef jerky, gummy bears and protein bars most of the way along with hamburgers.  I normally never eat beef, but beggars can't be choosers and I needed the protein.  

  • Cannon PowerShot A1400 Camera (runs on AA batteries)
  • HotHands handwarmers. 
Update:  Essential items!   I almost got hypothermia in the swan valley and put the handwarmers in my bra.  Warmed up my core and kept me going.  It got a few of the guys riding near me thinking of buying a bra so they could warm up too.

  • Xtra Platypus bag 100 oz + hose (empty)
  • Pearl Izumi Arm warmers
  • Primal Wear leg warmers
  • Giro 100 proof lobster gloves + liners in a ziplock
  • Buff
  • Smartwool beanie
  • Marmot Trailwind Hoody light jacket
  • Garbage bags/ ziplocks
  • Smith Slider sunglasses case with xtra lenses + regular glasses
  • Bear Spray
  • Phone charger
  • iphone
  • ipod mini waterproof + charger
  • Duracell instant USB charger
  • Ziplock with money  and credit card
  • Albuterol inhaler for asthma
  • Blackburn Mars 4.0 rear blinky
  • Princeton Tec Eos light
  • Park tools chain cleaner
  • fleece rag
  • chain lube bottle
Update:  I used most of this stuff.  The arm and leg warmers were essential, as was the beanie, buff, light jacket.   I did not use the USB charger, but it was good to have and light weight.   My lights worked well.  I would use the same ones.  Having a light on my head and one on the handlebars was really nice.  Never needed the bearspray, but I think its a good idea to have.  I was in the middle/back of the pack so the front runners scared away all the grizzlies.  I saw 2 black bears.  The New Mexico dogs are softies at heart.  You just have to stop and talk to them.  They like the chase but I don't think they are in for the kill.    

  • toothpaste/tooth brush
  • more food
  • Helmet Giro Athlon
  • Knog Frog rear blinky on helmet (held on to helmet with a ziptie)
  • Princeton Tec Eos light bracket (on my helmet)
  • 3rd Eye Pro Hemet Mirror
  • Garmin ETrex 30 + Garmin mount and lanyard stolen from another item.
  • VDO MC 1.0 Plus cyclo computer (was so cool they had to stop making it)
  • Fenix LD 22 light + Two Fish Mount
  • Gore wear bike shorts, apparently they don't make my style anymore.
  • Gore wear jersey again out of style must be my style.  
  • Smartwool Saturn casual socks
  • Pearl Izumi X Alp Enduro shoes
  • Timex Women's Ironman Pulse Calculator watch
  • BIG SMILE!! I am going to get to ride my bike for almost a month!!
Update:  All good to have.  My best piece of gear advice is to buy your shoes too big!  My feet swelled and were fine.  Other people ended up with tight shoes and numb feet.   My helmet mirror was dorky but very functional.  My E-trex stopped working at one point and I had a panic attack.  I did navigate with my cycle computer for a while, but I would actually consider getting a spare GPS if you can or making sure you are keeping track of where you are with the cycle computer.  Its a long ride with lots of turns and you don't want to get lost.  

A smile is essential as well.  I had my share of meltdowns, and rough days but in the end it is a privilege to get to go out and try to finish this ride!
All Done!


  1. Well done on the ride. Just finishing last year was certainly a huge challenge!
    Thank you for your insights on what gear worked and what didn't. Glad to hear the Contrail worked well as mine has just arrived in the post. I would have preferred the green that you have pictured though.

  2. Thanks for sharing your list of goodies!


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