There is more information more readily available on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route and how best to approach the race along it, the Tour Divide, than ever before. But something that Jay Petervary told me early on in my education as a bikepacker was to figure it out for myself. You can’t be prescriptive about gear. It’s far too personal for that.
As an example, I generally run a bit warm, not needing thick layers to stay comfortable on cold days. I sleep warm too and use a 30-degree quilt down to 20 degrees without much fuss. I also pedal knees in, toes out. This means that the width of the bags on my bike’s main triangle is important. Too wide and I’ll rub my leg raw. Too narrow the bag’s carrying capacity is drastically reduced.
Because of this struggle, I sought out Greg Wheelwrright of Bolder Bikepacking Bags. He’s been in the bikepacking bag business longer than most (but not quite all he’ll readily admit) and lives in the same town as me. That I hadn’t bumped into him earlier amazes me. Anyway, I knew that for this go at Tour Divide I wanted an oversized top tube bag for carrying food and other frequently used items. I only plan on using a small, partial frame bag and I’m leaving my front pouch behind as well. All of this is to say that I needed extra carrying capacity and I wanted it to be on-the-fly convenient.
I first tried Joe Tonsager’s excellent (and huge) JPaks Farva bag, but it was too wide for me. I’m still happy to have it because it works great for me on mountain bikes, with their longer top tubes and shorter stems (moving the bag farther forward and away from my knees). But after a few long rides, I faced the music. It wasn’t going to work for me on my Mosaic.
Aside from width though, I really like the dimensions of the Farva. So I took it and my “Orange Crush” Mosaic along with me when I went to meet with Greg to discuss a custom bag. Over the course of the next three hours, Greg and I discussed options, made a template, and got to know one another. He’s a wealth of information and some of the stories he shared were amazing. Part of the process even involved sitting on the bike and measuring the width of my knees. We wanted to be sure that this bag was work. Measure twice, cut once.
A few weeks later, Greg emailed me that the bag was ready. I returned and it was better than I could have imagined. A black exterior is lined with a bright orange interior to make finding things easier, and to compliment the bike. We included a divider to keep things organized and as a way to cinch the bag narrower if need be. A couple of elastic loops hold my emergency singlespeed cog and my cache battery. A small port allows charging wires to enter the bag. To keep the taller than usual bag stable, Greg made two straps that go around the steerer tube. Three other straps hold the bag on the top tube and are spaced to fit between the straps of my frame bag. The finish is fantastic and best of all my knees don’t rub!
Originally intended to carry a foot-long sub and additional snacks, the bag is a success. I couldn’t have been happier with the process. I have what I feel is a perfect bag for my run along the Divide. It’ll keep things handy and stable. Best of all, I got to meet and collaborate with Greg Wheelwrright. The bikepacking is an adventurous, passionate lot. I’m happy to be a part of it.