In less than a week I will be out on the open road. I will be attempting to ride my bicycle from coast to coast for the third time in as many years. I’m incredibly anxious and nervous and excited. 2019 has been off to a rather crap start, and while I won’t get into the details, I am certainly looking forward to a month of being alone with my thoughts and the beautiful landscapes of this country.
I’d like to think with my past few years of experience that I have a handle on what to bring with me, and how to load up my bike. I know I’ve spent countless hours researching other person’s kits ranging from professional riders to casual touring cyclist and certainly everything in between. I’ve always enjoyed examining other persons set ups, and I thought I’d share mine. One thing to note is what works for one person might not work for another person. Testing gear over and over is important for anyone who wants to go out and be self sufficient on their bike.
I’ll set the stage by describing the route I will be riding. It’s called the American Trail Race. It started in 2017, and I was fortunate enough to be one of the first people to ever ride the route, along with a handful of other people. The route is about 85% off road and has a distance of 5,041 miles. It traverses the United States starting at Cape Lookout, NC and goes all the way to Port Orford, OR. It passes through 12 states and it has an elevation gain of 350,000 vertical feet. That is the equivalent of climbing Mt. Everest 12 times!!! It is a completely self supported route which means all of the riders are required to carry their own food, water, clothes, bicycle repair gear, and sleep kit. As if that wasn’t enough already, we are also not allowed to have any outside support. Our friends can’t come bring us pop sickles while our brains are melting in the deserts of Utah. It’s truly a ride for the crazies.
The Bike – Leon, a.k.a The Professional:
My bike is a 2017 Salsa Fargo. It features a steel frame with a carbon fiber fork. The Fargo model has been around for a while and has earned a reputation as one of the toughest ‘go anywhere’ style of bikes. There is a slight weight penalty for the steel frame, but like most bikepackers I’m on a limited budget, and this will do just fine. On the bike I have room for 7 liters of water with an additional 2 liters by adding water bottle cages to the seat stays. The bike also has around 100 hundred small reflective stickers to increase visibility during night riding (Lightweights Reflective Stickers). The bike is around 49 pounds fully loaded with all my gear plus 2 liters of water and another 2 ½ pounds of food. Each liter of water weighs 2.2 pounds which means 49 pounds is most likely the lightest my bike will ever be.
Bike Setup: Here’s some information for the bike fanatics out there.
Wheels: Stans Arch MK3, 32 hole. Front Hub Shutter Precision PL-8X. Rear Hub Onyx. The Shutter Precision Hub is a dynamo hub which means it can generate power for my lights, and charge a cache battery too. The Onyx Hub was an impulse buy, and it is unlike any other hub I have ever ridden. It features a sprag clutch design which allows it to be completely silent. The clutch also allows for instant engagement of the rear wheel. Truly a game changer. The wheels have several reflective stickers on them for increased visibility during night riding.
Tires: Continental Race King Protection. 29 inch by 2.2 inches. They roll fast and have a good reputation for being durable (although I did have an issue with bead separation in the past, Continental has assured me this has been fixed on their most recent model).
Brakes: Avid BB7 Mechanical brakes with Sram S600 brake levers. (They are reliable, and easy to fix if needed)
Drivetrain: Shimano XT m785 Crankset with 32t Wolftooth stainless steel chainring and Shimano XT pedals. Shimano XT 11 speed rear derailleur with 11 speed Micro Shift bar end shifter. Garbaruk 11-48 rear cassette with an Sram PC X1 chain. I’ve been running a 1x drivetrain for 2,000 miles now and I have nothing but good things to say about it. It keeps my cadence even, and I don’t have to worry about a front derailleur.
Booty and Hands: Fizik Monte S alloy saddle mounted on a Zipp Course Service SL alloy seat post. Salsa Cowchipper 46cm drop bars (alloy) double wrapped with Lizard Skin bar tape. Profile Design T1+ aero bars (alloy) wrapped with silicon tape and with a 50mm riser. I’ve been through 6 saddles over the last 3 years. I finally found the Fizik Monte S, and it works great for me. It was also $43 so I bought two of them because I love it so much. I love the Cowchipper bars a whole lot more than I ever liked my Woodchipper bars. The woodchipper bars had too much side flare and did not allow me bring my brake levers up to the level I need them. The aero bars have been across the country once already, and I look forward to taking them again. I have risers on there because I have issues with my lower back and flexibility.
Zefel Spy Bicycle Mirror: This mounts on my handlebars. It allows me to see what is coming up behind me as well as letting me direct traffic around corners. It has saved me from potential disasters on several different occasions. I won’t ride without it.
Framebag: Salsa brand specific framebag. Although it is made in China it’s hard to beat the price of a custom fit framebag for the $120 I paid for it. I’m not a fan of the zippers, but everything else checks out pretty good. In the framebag I will carry my tire pump, food, and possible layers that I need / shed during the day. That gives me 7-8 liters of room just for food.
Top Tube Bag: Oveja Negra Snack Pack XL. I don’t know what I love better, the bag or the company. Both are amazing. The bag holds my phone, wallet, mp3 player, and cache battery. I have the charging cables from my dynamo light run directly into the bottom corners of the bag.
Seat Pack: Revelate Designs Terrapin 14L. This one has been across the country once already too. I like that the dry bag is removable. It also has an air purge valve. In the event the drybag needs to be replaced they are only $36. My seat pack will carry my sleep kit and extra clothes.
Handle Bar Pack: Revelate Designs Egress Pocket. This was a last minute addition to my bike setup in 2017 and I would have experienced serious issues had I not brought it. I love that it’s small enough to not be a huge wind sail, and it’s incredibly easy to use. This will carry my spare tubes, chain lube, repair tools, and repair kit. There is extra room for food too. It is connected to an aluminum handlebar extender which can be found on Amazon for $12.
Feed Bags: Gonex Water Bottle Pouch. My friend Mike has used these for 2 years with zero issues. They hold a 1 liter bottle of water, or food, with ease. And the best part is they only cost $13. Hallelujah.
Spot Tracker: I use a Giant Moto Spot Tracker mounted on the down tube to carry my Spot Tracker. It features a double Velcro closure system for added piece of mind.
Shorts: Louis Garneau CB Neo Power Cycling Shorts & Neo Power Motion Shorts. I’m not really excited to be riding cycling shorts because they get real funky, real quick, but after I bruised my sit bones to the extent of not being able to ride for 2 months in 2017, it’s my only option.
Shirt: Patagonia Capiline Lightweight Half Zip Long Sleeve. I’ve tried some high end cycling jerseys and they have all sucked terribly. They fit like crap and they don’t breathe at all. I can’t praise the Patagonia lightweight shirt enough. I like the long sleeves so I don’t have to use sunscreen everywhere. It features an SPF of 50. It is technically a baselayer, but the damn thing works wonders. I know that I’m basically riding across the country in underwear, but who cares.
Rain Jacket: Pearl Izumi Pro Rain Jacket. It’s not the best in terms of rain or wind proof, but it breathes pretty well and it’s lightweight. I sewed some thumb loops on the sleeves for when I’m in the aero bars.
Rain Capris: Marmut Pre-Cip Rain Pants. Okay, these pants suck. They are heavy and cause more sweat on the inside than they have rain on the outside. So I cut them just above the knees to allow air flow and save weight. If they get trashed during the ride, so be it.
Socks: Darn Tough Wool Socks. I love Darn Tough. I will mail these along the route to different post offices and I will use a total of 3 pairs for the race.
Warm Layers: Patagonia Thermal Weight Long Sleeve Half Zip. I have tried down vest and I don’t like them. I prefer this baselayer because it breaths and has sleeves. I am also carrying cheap wool mittens for my hands. I will also carry a half buff for my head.
Leggings: Castelli Leg Sun Sleeves. They do enough to keep my legs warm in the cold, and they block the sun when it’s warm.
Shoes: Specialized XC Expert MTB Shoes. These have 17,000 miles on them. They are rock solid for the price of $200. I replaced the BOA system as preventative maintenance and I also replaced the sole insert.
Glasses: Ji Marti cycling sunglasses. They cost $20 and they rock. I also carry a $3 pair of clear safety glasses for night riding.
Gloves: Pearl Izumi Aero Gloves Half Finger. These have lasted forever, and I expect they will make it across the country one more time. I tried padded gloves and found that they create hot spots on my hands, so I use these.
Helmet: Giro Synthe Mips Helmet. I love the Mips. I crashed 3 times in 2017 and I could feel the helmet rotate on impact, and not my head. I have several reflective stickers on the front and back to increase visibility during night riding.
Extas: I carry an SOL emergency whistle for dogs. I wear a Road ID bracelet in case someone finds me in a ditch. I carry a travel pouch around my neck during supply stops to keep my belongings in order. No one ever wants to drop their phone in a toilet, cough, Janie, cough cough. I carry my late brothers Flynn dog tags. I also carry a bracelet for Flynn, Mike Hall, and my late friend Amanda (It’s always good to have friends out there on the open road). I also have two lucky pennies on my framebag zippers with the year Flynn and Amanda were born for good juju.
Sleeping Bag: Sea To Summit Spark 2. In 2017 I did the race without a sleeping bag and I still have ptsd whenever I get cold. This should keep me plenty warm.
Bivvy Bag: Borah Gear Side Zip Ultra Light Bivvy. It weighs 6 oz. The top part is mesh so it breathes awesome and allows me to enjoy the fresh air.
Pillow: Exped Inflatable Pillow. This might be my favorite piece of kit. I simply could not sleep without it. It has a soft velvet like texture and can be thrown in the wash when I need to clean it.
Ground Tarp: Tyvek Kite Lightweight. This was a last minute addition to keep moisture away from my bivvy bag and to keep it in better shape. It weighs 60 grams.
Sinewave Cycles Beacon: Simply the best light that I have ever used. It is powered by my Shutter Precision Dynamo Hub. It has a charger built into it so I can charge my cache battery from it. It also has a feature that allows it to be run off of the cache battery. That’s neat.
Samsung Galaxy s7: It’s waterproof and durable. It also features a voice activated camera. So if you see me going down the road shouting ‘Capture, Capture’, don’t worry, I’m only taking photos.
10,000 mAh Anker battery. They are cheap and work well enough for me. I can charge it during the day off of my dynamo hub, or plug it in at gas stations.
Light and Motion 1000 Fast Charge. This is my back up light. I have a mount on my helmet so I can use it as a head lamp too.
Garmin eTrex 30. Tough, cheap, reliable. This will be my source of navigation. I will follow a breadcrumb trail for 5,000 miles.
Spot Tracker. This allows all of the riders to be tracked via GPS.
Cateye Omni 5 taillight. It actually runs for 100 hours off of AAA batteries and has been through rain and snowstorms alike. It may be the best $15 light ever.
ScanDisk Sport 16gb MP3 player. I bought this after I saw Mike Hall using one. It’s been on almost every ride with me over the last 3 years. I use it in the rain and in the freezing cold weather. The shuffle function is the only weak point, but it works well enough.
$7 sport headphones from Amazon. I don’t know how, or why, they work so well, and they refuse to give up. In 2017 I went through 4 pairs of headphones.
Standard Bike Tools:
Lezyne Micro Floor Pump HV – Park tool chain breaker – Mineral designs multi tool – Presta to Schrader valve adapter – 1 Pedros bike lever – Dumonde tech chain lube + rag
Back Up Supplies: With almost no bike shops along the route it’s imperative to have some inventory to fix things when they go wrong, which they will.
2 chain quick links – Multiple patch kits – Super glue – Tire plugs – Fiber spoke kit – Extra USB cables – Extra set headphones – Extra set brake pads – 2 Spare tubes – Bike Lock – Spare shifter cable – Leatherman squirt multi tool – Zip ties – Gorrila tape wrapped around bike pump – Wire connectors – 2 Tire boots – Needle and nylon thread
Toothbrush – Toothpaste – Wet Wipes – Baby Powder – Sunscreen
And that my friends will be all I’m taking with me for the next 5,000 miles. I do intend to mail myself some supplies via general delivery to different post offices. I will mail these packages out before the start of the race. This includes a change of shorts, socks, baby powder, food, a spare tire, and a spare chain.
My goal this year is to finish the race in under 30 days. In order to do so I will have to take many calculated risks. This is most prevalent in the Western sections of the route where there are several back to back supply points that are over 100 miles away from each other.
I am super stoked to be co-director of the race this year with Billy Rice. It has allowed me to see a different side of these ultra endurance events and to see all the hard work race directors put into these events to make them successful. We have some great riders coming out this year and I can’t wait for all of them to experience this amazing route.
Ride Far, Ride Safe