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Tour Divide; a few developments so far.

Tour Divide; a few developments so far.

It’s a long road towards cycling down a long road!

Where do I start?
There are so may things to consider when taking on a challenge like The Tour Divide. It’s a veritable minefield of questions, answers, and more questions. I’ve had eureka moments, and a lot of total-confusion-moments!

Bike set-up, luggage set-up, sleeping set-up, food & water storage, clothing, technology, suitable training routes; the list seems to be endless right now. I’m going through the rollercoaster that all previous Divide racers have been through before me.
Some of my answers have come through trial and error, some from personal experience, some from reading about other peoples experiences, in books and on the internet. I still have a lot of riddles to solve, but it’s a fun way to pass the dark winter nights (mostly) 🙂

Let’s start with the bike, it is, after all, the one piece of equipment that will be with me throughout the entire race.
Get ready to geek-out!

After a lot of deliberation I settled, by hook or by crook, on a Pivot LES 29. Mostly on the recommendation of my good friend, and fellow Yak Attack racer, Eric Coomer.
I had looked at all of the options; Titanium, Aluminium, Steel, and Carbon.
The Kinesis Maxlight Sync (Ti), The Pivot LES 29, and the Whyte 29-C (Carbon) were the most favoured. I finally bought the Pivot LES 29 because it came in at the right price at the right time. Nothing more scientific than that. The UK distributor had an ex-demo bike, with a new frame, for sale on their website. Unfortunately when I stripped off the crank to replace the chainring’s I noticed some scoring around the bottom bracket. After a lot of discussion they eventually agreed to send me a replacement frame. So it’s now Solar Orange, it will certainly stand out on the trails!
Carbon framed mountainbikes are also much lighter, and I like them. The LES 29 has TD pedigree too, Mike Hall won it on one in 2013.
Why 29″? It’s a fact, both scientifically and anecdotally,  that 29″ wheels roll faster and climb more efficiently for less energy expenditure. Pretty important during a 2745 miles race with 61000m of climbing! 26″ bikes descend much better on technical terrain, and I prefer them, but it’s not a real issue on The Divide. It’s not always about the bike, a stronger racer will win no matter what they ride, but for someone in the mid-pack looking to do as well as they can it’s all about the marginal gains, and I’ll use whatever tools are available to be more efficient.
At the 2012 Olympics in London the top three riders in the Mens XC event were all on different wheel sizes 26″, 650b, and 29″.

The Pivot LES 29 bought at a very good price, except that it’s now Solar Orange! I’ve fitted a new rear cassette, chain, and chainrings and it’s good to go.

The cockpit is also proving to be a conundrum of sorts. 
I want to run with a wide handlebar – 740mm – to give me plenty of room for all the paraphernalia I need to carry (aerobars, maps, lights, GPS, etc). It should mean I can run a shorter stem too, for better steering precision. In turn this is affected by crank length/seat position! A shorter or longer crankarm (165mm or 170mm) will mean a different fore/aft position of the seat which, again, affects stem length! The smallest of changes can affect the riders position on the bike, and the way in which the bike handles. Confusing isn’t it?!
So I’m off to get a professional bike-fit at my local Retul fitting provider. Hopefully I will come away from that with a bunch of useful stats to work with. I’ll post about that at a later date (if you can maintain the will to live!).

For Aerobars I looked around and ended up purchasing a set of Profile Design T1+ and so far I quite like them. Once I have the cockpit fully dialled I will cut them down to get rid of excess material/weight; I can also store zip-ties etc inside them.
After fitting these, and mounting an Alpkit Airlok Xtra – Dual Ended Drybag (for storing my bivvy/sleeping bag/mat), I noticed that my front light beam was obstructed. So I figured out a solution to that by machining a custom mount from nylon that fits between the Aerobars, and secures with a couple of zip-ties, that was an easy, but satisfying, one.
I’ll be riding with Ergon GS2 grips for comfort, and a different hand position, to help with fatigue.

My home-made light-mount fitted to T1+ Aerobars. 
With the light attached.
Front end of the cockpit, as it stands at the minute.

I’ll be swapping the current suspension fork for a bolt-thru rigid carbon fork; I’m still looking for the right one of those, at the right price.

I’ve already fitted a set of Maxxis Ardent 29″ x 2.25″ LUST Tyres, for a couple of reasons.
First up they are very similar to my prefered Maxxis ADvantage 26″ tyres; they don’t do those in 29″, unfortunately. The Ardent’s are also a little faster rolling, I’ll see how they go.
Secondly I can run them tubeless with Stan’s NoTubes Sealant, and the LUST tyres have a very robust sidewall. I have yet to destroy one despite my best efforts.
In a word: confidence. 

I will be swapping out the stock DT Swiss XR400 wheels for a set of Hope Pro2 EVO/Stan’s Arch EX at a later date. And just prior to the race I will be fitting a new Hope Headset and PF41 Bottom Bracket. It’s that confidence thing again.

Maxxis LUST Tyres – Bombproof!

Luggage wise I’ve opted for Alpkit,  for a number of reasons. It’s very local to me so I can pop over and discuss my requirements easily. Also I like them, they’re nice people, and they have a social and environmental stance that fits with my own ideals. They are things that are important to me as a consumer. Plus the kit they make is very good, and because they only sell direct to the public their prices are extremely competitive, bonus.

For now I have an Airlok Xtra-Dual Dry Bag – 20L to mount on the handlebars. This will store my sleeping kit – Bivvy, Sleeping Bag, and Mat. Hopefully there will be room for an extra water pouch when I need it. It comes with webbing straps, for mounting to the handlebars, already fitted.

Small and medium sized Fuel Pods to mount to the top tube of the frame, these will carry tools, spares, phone, snacks etc.

I’ve had the bike measured up for a Custom Stingray Frame Bag with a surgeon pocket so that I can access kit easily without having to rummage around blindly. This will hold extra water pouches and kit that I need to access quickly; waterproofs, gloves etc. Plus whatever else I need to squeeze in.

And finally a Koala 13L Seat Pack for storing dry/clean clothes and bits that I won’t need on a regular basis.
I had a bit of moment when I fitted the seat pack to my new bike. You’ll see from the pictures below that there was zero tyre clearance. I thought that I’d made a huge mistake buying a 29″ bike, as a small rider; obviously I wasn’t thinking straight. It’s much cheaper to buy a custom bag than it is to buy another bike! Fortunately after pondering the issue for a while I realised that the heavily padded stock WTB saddle was the problem, once I switched it for my preferred Fizik Gobi XM saddle the tyre clearance reappeared! 😀
I’ve also had a couple of extra little webbing straps sewn on so that I can mount a rear light to it for the road sections.

I may add a Stem Cell or two at a later date if I feel I need them, but I would like to keep things at the bare minimum if possible; extra space only encourages you to take stuff you might want just-in-case, and I’ll be racing not touring.

On top of all that lot I’ll be using a few of their Airlok Dry Bags in various sizes. These are super lightweight and surprisingly durable.

For my sleeping quarters I’m working on a modified version of an Alpkit Hunka Bivvy Bag, which should end up as a super-light hooped bivvy if all goes to plan. Thankfully the good folk at Alpkit are helping me out a little with this project. This should save me having to carry an additional tarp. I’m having a few problems sourcing the right poles at the moment so it’s still a work in progress.

Sleeping bag is currently a Rab Neutrino 200 with hydrophobic down. I like Rab products a lot but they are top-end price wise, fortunately for me they are another local brand and they have a factory shop right on my doorstep. I picked up a factory second for half the retail price.

Underneath all that lot sits a small Thermarest Prolite 3/4 Mattress. It’s light enough but not minimalist. If I have to sleep on the floor for three weeks then I’m prepared to sacrifice a few grams in exchange for a small increase in comfort.

This lot all rolls up nicely in one go and fits the Airlok Xtra Dual Dry Bag with a little room to spare

In the next instalment I’m going to look at all the other stuff that I’m considering; clothing, hydration challenges, spares, tools, technology etc.

In the mean time you can follow me on:

Facebook here

Twitter here

and Instagram here

Thank you for looking 🙂

About The Author

Neil Cottam

Neil is the founder of Chase The Rainbow. He has spent a lifetime exploring the outdoors, from a childhood climbing trees and scrambling his bike around old pit heads to hiking in the Himalaya and backpacking around Europe and Asia.


  1. Connor Murphy

    great page, i am looking into using alpkits gear for a 2100 mile tour with my 2015 charge plug gravel bike. This has been a helpful guide of sorts.
    My biggest concern is tire clearance, as of right now i have about 8 1/2 inches from seat rails to tire without my fender mounted.
    what was the fender you had in your second to last picture? I would likely use it on my trip.

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