Click here for day 1
In this post I will be talking about my gear, our trip planning, what worked, and what didn't.
I rode a size small Surly Pugsley that I built up from a bare frame set. It was mostly 9 speed Shimano SLX, with Avid BB7 brakes, and Jones H-Bars. The drive train performed flawlessly, but then again it had better because I am a professional bike mechanic! Like many riders doing long distance dirt touring, I LOVE the Jones bars for both their comfort on the bike, and for the options they provide for mounting points and hand positions. I used Ergon GP-1 grips, super comfortable and great at relieving hot spots and hand pressure. My saddle is a Brooks Flyer, really heavy, but the most comfortable saddle I have ever owned, and well worth the extra weight. I used Welgo MG1 cage pedals. The wheels were hand built using Surly Holy Rolling Daryl rims laced to a Hope Fatsno front hub and a SRAM X-7 rear hub. They are still as perfectly true as the day I built them. I rode regular Surly Endomorph tires and had no flats, although I had put Stan's in the tubes. I ran the tires between 16 and 20 PSI, which is much higher than you would run them for sand or snow, but perfect for the conditions we were riding while carrying a full load. I had two Salsa anything cages, one on each fork leg. Unloaded, the bike weighs about 35lbs, which seems heavy, but it rides really nice. I really think a fat bike is the perfect bike for this kind of touring.
I used a full set of Revelate Designs bike bags, including the Pugsley frame bag, Viscacha seat bag, Gas Tank, Jerry Can, 2 Mountain Feed Bags, Harness, and the Large Front Pocket. Eric makes a fantastic line of bags! My only criticism is the zipper on the frame bag, which was super difficult to open and close when the bag was full. I used several Sea to Summit products, including their Big River, eVent and Ultra-Sil compression dry sacks, and a Reactor Thermolite Liner for inside my sleeping bag. I was really happy with all of these products and have no criticisms whatsoever, they worked awesome.
I carried a selection of tools and spare parts in the small compartment of the frame bag, none of which I really needed, but all of which I was very happy to have along. I had a cheap multi-tool, a leatherman, chain tool and spare chain links, low pressure tire gauge, CO2 canisters and inflator, spoke wrench, tire lever, patch kit, needle and thread for repairing sidewall cuts, a spare tube in the Jerry Can with a bottle of chain lube, a spare shift and brake cable, spare brake pads, zip ties, and misc 5mm and 6mm bolts and nylock nuts and washers. I carried a Lezyne Low Volume hand pump in the frame bag's main compartment. This is a fantastic pump, I have been super happy with it. I am sure there are other things in there that I am forgetting!
For cooking I carried a simple Jetboil stove on the fork, which I cannot recommend highly enough! For a backup, and just for fun, in the main frame bag compartment I also carried an Emberlit Ti wood stove, which works awesome. Also in the frame bag I carried a Snowpeak Multi Compact Ti cook kit for eating out of, and a Ti Spork. For washing up I carried an MSR Alpine Dish Brush/Scraper which is small, light weight, and works perfectly. I carried a spare canister of fuel in the cook kit, with the scraper and a bic lighter. For water in camp, I filled an MSR Dromedary bag which I carried in the front pocket with my MSR Miniworks water filter. On the opposite fork leg from the stove, I carried a Nalgene 1 litre bottle filled with water, and wrapped on the outside with a few yards of Gorilla Tape. And lastly, in the frame bag I carried my beloved insulated mug!
My sleeping bag was the much maligned Mountain Hardwear Ultra Lamina 32, carried in a dry bag inside the front harness. I can't really blame the bag since I was unknowingly sleeping well outside of its recommended comfort range. The bag is super light weight, compresses down smaller than any bag I have seen, and works perfectly for a summer bag down to about 40 degrees. I need to find a cold weather bag though if I plan on doing anything like this in the future. My pillow is a simple rubber inflatable thing that I have been dragging around for about 25 years, it still works perfectly. I also used the earlier mentioned Reactor Thermolite Liner inside my sleeping bag, both for extra warmth and to keep the bag clean. My sleeping pad was the diminutive Cascade Designs NeoAir Xlite. So incredibly tiny and light, but very comfortable, and seems to be durable as well. Very noisy though. Some people say it sounds like you are sleeping on a potato chip bag. I never found it to be that bad, but it may annoy your neighbors if they are sleeping too close!
My tent, also carried in a dry bag in the front harness was the wonderful MSR Hubba. I just LOVE this tent! It also packs down incredibly small, is very lightweight, sets up super easily with one pole (which I carried in the frame bag main compartment,) and can be used in 3 different configurations. This is the best tent I have ever used.
Worn while riding- My beloved Tilley T3 hat with a bandana draped under to cover my neck, clear lens riding glasses, a simple synthetic t-shirt, Pearl Izumi short finger gloves, Fox Sergeant shorts with liner, synthetic bike socks, and simple Shimano bike shoes.
In addition, in my seat bag I carried a pair of regular underwear, a pair of swim trunks, an extra t-shirt, extra pair of riding socks, extra liner, mid weight long sleeve synthetic shirt, wool buff, wool watchman's cap, fleece gloves, wool socks, puffy jacket with hood, and windproof winter riding pants.
I also carried a full set of rain gear in a stuff sack strapped to the top of the seat bag, but thankfully never needed to use it!
One of my favorite pieces of gear were my Crocs. I had a major bias against these, but after reading about everyone carrying them for bike packing, I decided to give them a try. They are super light weight, super comfortable, great for wearing in water, dry instantly, and will be the first thing I reach for when packing for any trip in the future. They are a must have!
I also carried a helmet strapped onto the seat bag which I wore for the downhills.
I wore a backpack, partially for the extra capacity, but also to carry a 3 litre water bladder to drink from while riding. The pack was an Arcteryx Chilcotin 20 which I found to be surprisingly comfortable, considering how much weight I was carrying in it.
I carried all my food in the backpack. We had planned on seven days unsupported for the first leg, and since I am vegetarian and knew it would be hard to find things I could eat in small towns I had a full weeks worth of food in my pack. Each meal was individually packed in a ziploc bag. I repacked the freeze-dried dinners in smaller ziploc bags as well.
My daily meal plan was as follows:
Breakfast every morning was 1 cup of granola premixed with powdered soy milk that I just needed to add water to, and either hot chocolate or hot tea. I was really surprised how good the powdered soy milk actually was, it was delicious!
Snacks for morning and afternoon were Peanut Butter Clif Bars. I never get tired of these things! Sometimes I would carry some trail mix as well.
Lunch was 1/2 cup of TVP premixed with spices and rehydrated in 1/2 cup boiling water. TVP has zero fat, is high in iron and protein, and is really filling. I would wrap it in a tortilla shell with some cheddar cheese, and have a delicious and power packed lunch in under ten minutes.
Dinner was almost always Backpackers Pantry Freeze Dried Lasagna, followed by hot chocolate.
On the side of the front pouch I carried a small monocular for bird watching. In the pouch I also carried a line for hanging food at night, an extra bic lighter, and the map I so seldom referred to, as well as my water filtering equipment.
In the feed bags I carried my electronics on one side, and snacks for the day on the other.
Toiletries and medical kit were carried in the outer pocket of the backpack for easy access.
My electronics were really simple, my iPhone synched to a Delorme Inreach, my Kindle Paperwhite (carried in the back pack,) and a Mophie Powerstation Pro for battery backup and charging. Although the Delorme is a pain in the ass to use on its own, when linked to the iPhone it works well, and was a lifesaver when we were out of cell range and I wanted to stay in touch with my wife, or when I had cancelled the ride and I needed to get Lee to come pick us up.
This is a tough one. I know that there is a ton of work that goes into the creation of a route like this, and that things change so quickly that you have to be really flexible and able to adapt to the changes as they come. That being said, I feel like the map, and the descriptions of the route, don't even come close to describing how incredibly difficult this ride actually is. The level of fitness required is way, way above what you would normally expect for a traditional bike tour, even an off pavement tour for mountain bikes. I know incredibly strong, younger, experienced riders who have had to bail on this ride because it was much harder than they expected. It was disappointing to not have accurate mileages listed for the climbs so you could get a better sense of how steep they really are. The elevation profile is just not a reasonable way to accurately represent the steepness of those climbs, they are brutal!
I really overestimated my fitness and preparedness for this ride. I ride my bike to work everyday, year round, and I thought that would make me stronger and more prepared for this ride than it did. I needed to do a lot more long distance riding, and a ton more training climbing hills. I can easily do a ride over Snoqualmie Pass and gain almost 3000' of elevation, but that is over 25 miles, not 8. It's a huge difference, and I just was not prepared for it.
I will continue to add to this list as I remember all the things I have forgotten!
Click here to go to day 1