On completing the TNGA, there were several factors that came into play such as nutrition, training and of course, gear.
For the most part, I would not have changed much for the TNGA but there were a few things that would have made the TNGA a little more pleasant. Weight on the bike was a big concern and it can get super expensive trying to buy “ultra light” and “carbon fiber” things just to shed 3 grams. Nutritionist Kelli Jennings said it best that why should you spend a zillion bucks on a piece of gear when you can drop a few pounds on your person for free? This made perfect sense for me and I dropped right at 30lbs for the TNGA which helped on those really hard climbs.
So all that said, gear was important and it would have been super difficult without some key pieces. A big, big, huge thanks to Cahaba Cycles for helping out with some of the gear. They have been super to work with and most gear I’m going to list below can be purchased from them either in store or over the internet.
Bike: Trek Superfly Aluminum Hardtail (was geared but now converted to a single speed). This bike has been through hell and back with very little of the original parts left on it. I have a very tight emotional tie to it as it was my first official bike I ever owned. I plan to use it for the TourDivide as well.
My bike’s setup is as follows
Sleep: Big Agnes 3 Wire Bivy This item was my biggest regret on the TNGA. I never used it because I rarely slept and when I did, I used the SOL Emergency Bivy to stay warm. Had I dropped it, I’d lost 1.5 lbs (that’s huge) for the ride. I will use it for the TourDivide however as I do plan to sleep at least once or twice over the 2,700 mile trek. The SOL Emergency Bivy did wonderfully and it’s super lightweight although it didn’t really fold well in it’s pouch once used. For a late summer, 350 mile trek, the SOL won hands down on the TNGA.
Tools: I brought several tools on the trip that I thought were necessary. While they did indeed give me peace of mind, I would do this differently if I were to do the TNGA again (however I have modified for the TourDivide already).
The Topeak Rocket Ratchet Lite took kit was fantastic. It’s much studier than your run-of-the-mill multi-tool and I liked that you could interchange out the heads to fix various things while not having to deal with a lot of weight. The Multitool was indeed heavy, even with a carbon fiber body however it was an absolute must as it helped repair various things on my bike when needing addressing.
The zip ties were a god send as I used almost all of them to keep things together when they had rattled loose or came undone. I keep a spare derailleur hanger just in case a rock whacks the back of my bike and bends it up. I cut up a sham-wow towel to a little square and put it in a ziplock bag (for the TourDivide I’m going to use industrial grade ziplock bags) just in case I needed a way to clean off my glasses or address something that needed wicking or dried off. The ziplock and grocery bags helped in a pinch when needed to put some gear somewhere to keep from getting wet while dealing with rain on the TNGA. The patch kit was a rescue item for my tires and tubes should I have ripped or popped something. The patch kit came with superglue, sandpaper and the patches – they were super light.
What I would have dropped: The spoke wrench, the chain break tool, Topeak Rocket Ratchet Lite and the Presta to Schrader valve converter. These were heavy tools that mainly got in the way, weighted me down and honestly I wouldn’t have known what to do with all of them anyway. What I have converted to instead is Pedro’s Tulio Skewer + Multitool , this is a multitool that also is your skewer. It has a chain break tool on it as well as various wrenches to tighten and address things on your bike or gear. It surprisingly holds up very well to rock gardens and rough terrain. I highly recommend this for any type of mountain biking albeit it does take some getting used to.
Inevitably I’ve left something off the list but this was pretty much the bulk of everything I brought. The bike, when fully loaded with nutrition and water weighed around 47lbs. That was a tall order to bike with at times on the TNGA and hurt tremendously. If I were to do the TNGA again, I would certainly lighten my load to gain speed.
I also found myself getting turned on by shiny objects that would “enhance my ride” when ultimately in the end, a few good pieces of gear go a long way and shedding any just in case or luxury item was just silly and I plan to be as ultra light and minimalistic as possible for the TourDivide. However, if I were doing a casual bikepacking trip, I would go as luxurious as possible.
The TNGA is one helluva ride, if you’re going to attempt it make sure that you have the proper gear before venturing out 3-4 days by yourself!