Sunday, May 31, 2015

Tour Divide Race Info

Tour Divide Race Info (for those interested)

I fly from Des Moines to Calgary on June 8th, arrive in Banff on June 9th, and the race starts at 8 AM CDT on June 12th.

Follow the race progress at  - Trackleaders.com
You will be able to click on any racer's name to follow them, or leave comments on their individual Facebook thread. My track will update every 10 minutes or so. Blue dots for men, pink dots for women. Topographic maps, satellite maps and a bunch more.

Detailed Race Discussion - Bikepacking.net - Tour Divide Race Thread
LOTS of general race chatter going on here and maybe photos as riders pass through certain areas.

Audio Call Ins - MTBCast Tour Divide Page
MTBCast provides a toll free number for racers to dial into and leave recorded messages for friends and loved ones to listen to. More info on their various listening options.

Happy blue dot stalking. :)


Saturday, May 30, 2015

Some adjustments...

Weird weather patterns the past couple of weeks have seen Colorado and New Mexico receive nearly record amounts of rainfall for the month of May. For Colorado, that means 8" and for New Mexico, 4"+. That has meant quite a bit of snow at elevation and mud where the snow has left off. I've been watching Billy Rice's progress and videors from his NoBo ITT, which he aborted due to snow in southern Colorado and northern New Mexico, as well as that of Tiana Tallent, who has started a SoBo ITT. Based on what I've seen, plus the mid-term forecast, I'm opting to bring some slightly more waterproof gloves as well as some taller, waterproof socks. This might end up being a bit of overkill, but I'll certainly be more comfortable with them than without them.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Nutrition and Hydration

The TD route is all over the place when it comes to food and water resources. The northern part of the route has a many mountain streams and lakes to refill from water, and the stretches in between potential food resupply points aren't too large. The southern part of the route becomes a lot more arid and the towns along the way are more spread out, as well as smaller. It's important to know where you will need to carry large amounts of food and water, as well as have a means to carry those supplies.

To cover my hydration needs, I'm leaving Banff with the ability to carry up to 7L of water. I will have a 4L MSR Dromlite bladder in the main compartment of my frame bag, with a hose running out the framebag to drink from. The hose has a couple of quick disconnects inserted inline so I can quickly refill the bladder without removing the hose. I initially used a standard camelback bladder but it wasn't as thick and abrasion proof as the MSR bladder. Since the MSR bladder is a little tougher on the outside, I won't be afraid to mount it somewhere outside of the framebag during the more remote sections of the route if I need more space for food. The remaining capacity will come from three 1L SmartWater bottles. Each fork blade holds one bottle in a Topeak Java cage. The third one is in a King Ti cage on the downtube, and is secured with a toe strap to keep it from contacting the wheel or bouncing out. The SmartWater bottles are a lot lighter than a regular water bottle, and hold a lot more water. These will likely stay empty until the southern sections of the route where surface water becomes more scarce. The ability of these bottles to withstand a healthy impact and remain attached to the bike has been tested in a couple of real world situations since installation.

For treating water, I'm using a Sawyer Mini water filter with a 1L bag. I filtered water from streams and lakes with this for a week in Montana with no health issues. My only complaint was the small bag 16 oz that came with the filter meant refilling took longer than I would have liked. This was easily fixed by ordering a larger bag. If a water source needs pre-filtering, I will use my cloth bandana for that task.

From a nutritional standpoint, most of my rides in Iowa are fueled by convenience store foods and I'm fortunate to have an "iron stomach", so I will be able to eat just about anything along the route. I've been testing out some TD staples such as Sour Patch Kids during training and races the last 18 months just to make sure I know how my body will react to them. I know can ride a long ways on nothing more than nuts, fig newtons, water, simple sugars, and some caffeine. The time honored strategy of stuffing myself at a diner and taking food to go will definitely be employed. If I run into a grocery store or a fruit stand along the way, I won't hesitate to grab some fruit and store it somewhere as an extra source of fiber and potassium. Ice cream and pie will be consumed wherever I can find them. :)

My primary nutrition storage will be the Porcelain Rocket pocket on the front of my sleep roll, along with my jersey pockets. Secondary storage will be wherever I can stuff things - primarily, spare space in the frame bag and spare space in my Mr Fusion bag. I also have a 20L Sea To Summit Ultrasil Daypack in my Mr Fusion seatbag for extra food/drink capacity for the long stretches between resupply points, like the Great Basin. 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Tour Divide Preview - Bike and rider repair

The saying goes "You pack for your fears". This is is never more true than when trying to pack spare parts and tools for the Tour Divide. Your sources for bike parts and repair may range from a hardware store that carries the basics, to a full blown bike shop with top level mechanics, to something in between. Access to healthcare is sporadic. There are large stretches where you'll be on your own to repair your bike, or yourself, in a variety of conditions. While you can't afford to pack for absolutely every problem, you can plan for the things that are most likely to happen. Everything else can hopefully be adapted to or fixed when you get to a town.

Spare parts list
  • In Jerrycan
    • Spare Cleat w bolts
    • Brake cable
    • Shifter cable
    • Fiberfix Spoke
    • Spare length of chain
    • Chainring bolt 
    • Misc bolts (4)
    • Vulcanizing patch kit
    • Tire boots (2)
    • Tubeless valve
    • Quicklinks (2)
    • Zip Ties (multiple)
    • Brake pads (2 sets)
  • In Framebag
    • Stan's sealant
    • Gorilla tape
    • Spare tubes (2)
These parts don't take a huge amount of room and should get me out of the most common situations, and maybe even some less likely ones. I will be running my Race Kings tubeless to start the race. I plan on checking/refreshing the sealant at whatever shops I may stop at along the way. Even if my bike seems to be performing well, I may take advantage of a shop just to have a second set of eyes look the bike over. Since I'm not running suspension, brakes, tires and driveline will be at the top of the list of things that will need constant care and attention.


Tools
  • In Jerrycan
    • Tireiron
    • Presta/Schrader adapter
    • Multitool w chainbreaker
    • Mini lineman's pliers
    • Small pocket knife
    • Old toothbrush
  • In Framebag
    • Small Rag
    • Chain Lube
    • Lezyne high volume bike pump
    • Plastic putty knife
A small number of tools to allow for field repairs of the most common things as well as daily maintenance. I picked the linemans pliers up in a small pack at a local hardware store. A little more bite than a pair of needle nose, plus I wanted a decent pair of cutters to be able to trim cable and zip ties. 


Health / First Aid
  • First Aid Kit (seat bag)
    • Advil
    • Benadryl
    • Imodium
    • Z-pack
    • Curved needle w dental floss
    • Safety pins
    • Super glue
    • Neosporin
    • Butterfly bandages (5)
    • Alcohol pads
    • Tweezers
    • Gauze pads (3 x 3")
    • Gauze pads (3 x 2")
    • Medical tape
    • Rubber gloves
    • Bandaids
    • Moleskin
  • Framebag
    • Wet wipes
  • Mountain Feedbag
    • Deet
    • Sunscreen
    • Toothbrush
    • Toothpaste
This should cover most of the basics. The curved needle and dental floss is actually packed for sewing up sidewall cuts in tires, but in a highly unlikely pinch, it could be used for crudely stitching me together. The wet wipes will be used for a quick wipedown before bed, especially the seat area, and for other cleanup purposes. They pack flat and can be replenished along the route. I'll keep the used ones in a freezer bag until I get to a place to properly dispose of them. Advil for pain management until I get to a c-store and can buy more. Benadryl for allergies or bad bee/wasp stings. Imodium to try and quell diarrhea if it sets in for some reason. The toothbrush and toothpaste are unnecessary, but a quick brush every two or three days will help me feel a bit more human. 

Monday, May 4, 2015

Tour Divide Gear Preview - Electronics

Discussing electronics use during the Tour Divide can border on a religious argument. Early riders and many modern purists keep their electronics use to an absolute minimum - A Spot tracker to verify their route and a phone for use just in case of emergency. Others take a number of devices - Spot tracker, GPS, camera, iPod to name a few. No matter how many devices a rider takes, keeping them running takes some planning. You will either need to buy batteries along the route or figure out some other way way to keep your devices charged.

I will be using a GPS as my primary navigation device during the event, While I plan on keeping my social media use to a minimum during the race,  I will take plenty of photos along the route to share with friends and family after the race. I also want some music to help occupy my mind during some of the less scenic sections of the route, as well as to pick me up when I'm feeling a bit down or despondent. Since all of my devices have their own internal batteries, I will be using a combination of a dyno hub and a standard wall charger to keep my devices running.

For the remainder of this post, I'll be referring to this illustration (save this to your computer and open to follow along).

The heart of my solution is a Shuttle Precision PD-8X dyno hub. As long I'm moving above 6 MPH, I can generate electricity to power a light or charge a device. It's one of two thru-axle dyno hubs on the market. The other is made in Germany by Schmidt. The SP is about 2/3 of the cost of the Schmidt hub, and is nearly as efficient. It's a Ford vs Mercedes scenario. Both get you where you need to go, but one is a premium product. You can't really go wrong with either solution IMO. 

The power from the hub goes to a switch mounted on my stem. The switch allows me to direct the hub power to my light, or to a circuit that converts the hub's AC power DC power which can be used to charge any device that can charge from a computer's USB port.

My light is a kLite Bikepacker Pro w standlight. Klite is a one man operation located in Australia. All of the lights are hand built. Kerry, the owner, 3D prints as many of the accessory pieces as possible out of recycled plastic. The light system is made up of a small light head along with a small box that holds the electronics and a high/low switch. Kerry continually works to improve his products and his is especially good at incorporating feedback from his end users. The light I have now is a lot easier to wire up and a lot less fussy than the early unit I used. The light itself has performed brilliantly (pardon the pun), generates a lot of light at slow speeds, and really lights up the road when you are moving at even a medium pace.

The next piece of the system is the charging circuit. There are a number of these on the market, but since I have a carbon steer tube and fork, some of them are unusable since they will not work with a compression plug. After using a couple of other circuits, I decided to purchase a Sinewave Revolution unit from a local bike shop in Des Moines. The box is the size of a box of matches and the electronics are fully water sealed, allowing it to charge devices even when completely submerged. For now, the circuit, along with a small battery, lives in one of my Revelate feedbags. I am also carrying a small two port wall charger both as a back up and to allow me to recharge devices when stopped at a business for an extended period of time.

Power from the charging circuit then gets fed into a small "cache" battery. This helps protect sensitive devices from current fluctuations that could damage them. Depending on the charging circuit that you are using, you may want to the cache battery as a means to protect your device from fluctuations in current and voltage that may cause harm. (Note 5/5/15: Dave from Sinewave confirmed that their charging circuit provides this protection. Circuits from other vendors may or may not do the same thing. -SF)  The cache battery also allows a reasonable amount of power to be stored for use when I am not moving and not near a wall outlet. My battery has around 6000 mAh of capacity, which will recharge my GPS multiple times. Cables then go from the battery to the device that is being charged. The Sinewave, battery, and spare charging cables will be stored in a Revelate Feedbag hanging from my handlebars.

At this point, I am opting to use a Garmin 800 for navigation.  It's smaller and lighter than some of the etrex or Dakota units, but it is a bit less rugged. I have a Dakota that I might switch to, but I'm currently more comfortable with the 800, what data it records, and how it saves and retrieves data. No matter what GPS I use, they both have detailed street maps loaded on memory cards. The 800 is using Garmin's map card, while the Dakota 20 uses maps from the Open Street Map Project. I will also have a calibrated Cateye wireless computer mounted as an additional navigation safety net.

I will also carry a Gen 3 Spot tracker so that I can be tracked on the Trackleaders web site, let my wife know I'm OK, and call for help if needed.  I will run the Spot primarily from lithium AAA batteries. In my testing a set of batteries has lasted many days worth of use in the Gen 3 Spot units. If I have battery issues and I don't have a spare set, the Gen 3 can run from USB power as well. I'm using the standard 10 minute update cycle as I feel that's more than enough to offer accurate tracking and location for my needs. I did opt to spend the extra $15 or $20 per year to cover helicopter rescue. Call me paranoid, but it does provide some financial peace of mind.

I have a late model iPod Nano and a iPhone 6 that I'm bringing. The iPod will be for music and podcast listening. The iPhone will serve as a backup for my camera, iPod or GPS if one those devices develops an issue.

My main camera with be a Panasonic Lumix LX7 with a couple of large memory cards. It's a high quality, 10 MP point and shoot, with good low light performance. It can also save photos in camera RAW format, which will allow me to make adjustments to photos after the race is over. I can also shoot video with it if necessary. The Lumix uses a proprietary battery, so I have a separate USB battery charger and battery that I am bringing along so I always have the ability to take a photo.


Friday, May 1, 2015

Tour Divide Gear Preview - Sleep System

My sleep system consists of four items, all of which are stored in a 13L Outdoor Research compression drybag on my handlebars.
I chose the Miles Gear Bivy as a starting point in my bivy testing and never really moved on to anything else. I knew that I might not be comfortable sleeping in a true bivy, like a Titanium Goat Ptarmigan and my experience with a Nemo GoGo Bivy I own has been positive, other than some condensation issues. I considered the Nemo Elite Bivy but it had some downsides - the price was high, and it still needed guy lines and stakes to work well. I wanted something that I could set up quickly, in just about any conditions, with a minimal amount of fuss. The Miles Gear Pico Bivy is a hooped bivy, with the bottom made out of Tyvek and the top made out of DWR material. It has a bit of extra room inside, so I can store some gear, as well as me. It also has bug netting and a full rain cover. One change that I did make was to swap out the stock plastic bivy hoop out for an appropriate length of 12 gauge wire. It's only a few grams lighter, but it packs down much better than the plastic hoop does. The bivy weighs about 18 oz and packs down reasonably well. Definitely not as small as the more traditional "bag" style bivvies, but small enough for me.

As a side and stomach sleeper, I need a solid pad to sleep on. The newer frame based pads just won't work for me, and they won't insulate as well when using a quilt. The X-Lite packs down extremely small, and weighs 12 oz w/o the stuff sack. The women's pad is a little bit shorter, and lighter than the men's pad. As a bonus, it has a slightly higher R value. Even though the pad only goes to just below my knees, I haven't had any issues with cold legs/feet when using the quilt. 

The EE quilt is fairly light at right around 19 ounces and has proven to be more than warm enough in my testing. It may end up being too warm, but we will see. I've slept in a merino shorts and a t shirt at just under 40F and been more than warm enough. Using my down coat, merino hat, shorts and leg warmers, I should be good to well under 20F, if necessary. I have an older model of the EE quilt that has square baffles that allow the down to be moved to where you want it. That has proven to be a problem, as the down tends to migrate to the edges over time, and not stay in the middle where it can keep me warm. I'm going to redistribute the down where I want it and sew the baffles shut to fix this issue. The newer models of this quilt use a tube baffle design that makes this issue less likely to occur. I went with a quilt vs a bag to save weight, and also to make the best use of the weight being carried. I'm not laying on half of the down and crushing it, like I would be in a bag, and wasting most of its insulating properties. The quilt actually weighs less than the 40F down bag I was going to use. I have been packing the sleeping bag inside of the bivy to help keep it dry and speed setup. This has worked OK as I haven't had any real issues with condensation on the inside of the bivy. If the bivy gets wet inside, I will move the quilt to the seat bag, and shove the dry bag with my sleeping clothes in the front roll.

I bought the Klymit pillow after some talk with Mike Johnson (a TD 2013 finisher) and others about quality sleep. My original plan was to use clothes inside of a stuff sack as a pillow. However if all of my clothes are hanging up to either air or dry out, I'll have nothing to use as a pillow. The pillow only weighs 2 ounces and blows up with two mouthfulls of air. It has a nice hollow X in the middle to cradle your head and not put a lot of pressure on your ear. Waking up without a sore neck is nice, and it's worth the extra cost and weight in my book.

I have been packing a silk sleeping bag liner with me, in case I needed extra insulation or don't need the warmth of the quilt. It packs down small and might come in handy on the south part of the course, but I may leave it at home. New Mexico would be where it would be the most useful, but I can just sleep in clothes if the quilt is too warm.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Tour Divide Gear Preview - Clothing

This is the second in my series of gear posts for my 2015 Tour Divide attempt. Today, the exciting world of clothing.

Everyday riding gear

All of this gear was basically chosen after a lot of riding, testing and personal decision making. The jersey and shorts are what the Rasmussen Mountain Bike Team decided on for the team kit. Fortunately, talking people into buying the better bibs and chamois has been an easy sell and it makes my seat happier. :) The jersey is a touch thinner than I would like, but I can make up for that with the merino tshirt as a base layer. The Twin Six shorts will provide a couple of extra pockets and some extra protection against cold, brush, water etc. In addition, many people are uncomfortable having someone sitting/walking around in lycra. The shorts will make me a bit more "normal" looking whenever I'm in a business (whatever normal means). The merino T will give me a little bit of extra insulation and help wick water away. It's another thin layer to sleep in if it's not too cold and it will dry out quickly.

I've tried two or three different pairs of shoes before settling on this pair of X-Projects. My normal Specialized shoes aren't super hiking friendly. I tried a pair of X-Alp 1.0 shoes during my July GDMBR trip. They were super comfortable hiking, but a little too flexible in the sole, and I was afraid that extended use would result in achilles issues. The X-Project shoes have plenty of grip on the bottom, but are a little stiffer in the cleat area. I have them running about a 1/2 size larger than normal so my feet will still have circulation when swollen and/or when I have waterproof socks on.


Optional riding gear
  • Cloth neck buff
  • Goretex beanie
  • Regular cycling hat
  • Arm warmers
  • Knee warmers
  • Spare wool socks (mid calf)
  • Summer weight riding gloves (full finger)
  • Heavier riding gloves (full finger)
  • Sleeveless wind vest
This section is all stuff to help regulate temperature and protect the skin while riding. Nothing super special here. The arm/leg warmers are currently some Specialized ones that I've had for a few years with some fleece lining in them. There's a possibility that I'll swap them out for some wool ones before the race. The neck buff will be used to keep the sun off my neck and dust out of my mouth and nose. Dipping it in a stream or pond can provide some much needed cooling. Spare socks will hopefully help keep the funk away from my feet. The wind vest will be useful to keep my core warm, when my rain/windshell will be too much and can be unzipped/zipped as needed on climbs and descents. 

Rain Gear
I bought the coat and pants via Backpackinglight.com. I had read about Luke's Ultralight doing raingear research. His stuff is seam sealed and fairly light. The coat and pants also pack down fairly compact. The raincoat also makes a great insulating layer when the temps dip below freezing in the early mornings. The waterproof socks are still completely up in the air at this point. I used my current socks as a windproof/insulating layer during TransIowa V10, as well as during a couple of shallow creek crossings on training rides. They don't go too far up my calves, so they won't be useful in deep water crossings. I have a couple of brands of calf high socks that my friend Dennis has clued me into (Dexshell and SealSkinz) that are under consideration. Gloves from those manufacturers are also on the table. In the end, I'll probably end up wet no matter what I use. It will just be the difference between warm and wet vs cold and wet.


Sleeping/Off bike clothes
This gear will mainly be used for sleeping, but all of it will be a useful insulating pieces if it's cold and I'm stopped somewhere for an extended period. The Q-Shield down in the coat is supposed to help resist moisture. Not enough for rain, but enough to help with the touch of moisture you generate while sleeping in a bivy. The 260 weight shirt is a touch heavy for sleeping, but it can also serve as an additional insulating layer when riding. If necessary I can take off my jersey, toss this on and look a bit less "bikey". I may swap out for a 200 or 150 weight if the temps look like they will be warm. The merino boxers will let me air my seat area out at night without requiring me to go full commando.

All of my clothing is being stored in my Mr. Fusion seat bag system, so I can undo two straps and get it off the bike and where I am quickly. The sleeping clothes are stored in a waterproof compression sack to make sure they stay dry and take up minimal room. The optional riding gear plus the waterproof socks & gloves are stored in a standard drybag so I can have quicker access to them throughout the day. The raincoat and pants are just shoved in by themselves.

If any veterans are reading this, they are probably thinking that this is way too much clothing, and they are probably right. :) I'm packing for my fears a bit, as I don't like to be cold, either on or off of the bike. Some of the warmer pieces will likely be mailed home as I get further south on the course. 

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments and I'll do my best to answer them.