A Titanium El Mariachi for a Grand Tour
Last year’s grand tour rig was my Salsa Fargo. When I left Banff at the start of the Tour Divide it weighed close to 55 lbs. fully loaded with water, two days food, and kit. Over the course of the ride, as I realized what I didn’t need, the bike started to lose weight. In Sparwood, after the first day, I left a 2oz. bottle of tire sealant and a 2oz. bottle of bug spray. When I reached Helena, MT I shipped home my Revelate Handlebar bag with a pair of dirty shorts, socks, the 3rd bottle cage off of the downtube, and a few other small items. In Lima, I made another shipment including an slashed inflatable air mat and a broken Leatherman tool. My final shipment, including a can of bear spray, was out of Rawlins, Wyoming.
At the end of the race, after shedding all of the non-essentials my rig weighed only 5lbs. less, 50lbs. fully loaded. This was just the stuff on the bike and didn’t include my backpack, camera, backup batteries for electronics, and food/water that I was carrying in the pack. You could say I got it all down to somewhat of a lighter load than a multiple pannier touring mode, but it definitely wasn’t what I would consider ultralight.
Fast forward to one year later and I’ve learned a few things. I’ve got a bit of bikepacking experience behind me and I can thrive with quite a bit less out on the trail with good planning and just a bit of resourcefulness. There are two rules that I have learned when planning my kit for a bikepacking adventure.
The first is letting go of the things I don’t need. Need is dependent on an individual’s level of threshold for comfort and risk. For example, I still need some insulation to sleep under and a tarp overhead in case of rain if I’m traveling in an environment where rain might be possible. Others may want/need more or less. Letting go is hard to do, but working towards mastery on rule #2 creates a circular relationship with rule #1.
The second rule is learning to identify redundancy. I continue to find, and eliminate, redundancy in my kit on every bike packing trip I go on. Sometimes it is in my kit, but more often I realize that I can get something along the route that I end up carrying. During the TransWisconsin I carried my toothbrush and toothpaste for the length of the ride and never used them. You might be thinking that is disgusting, and it is. However, after the event I realized that I can just use small bottles of mouthwash, or the Colgate Wisp toothbrushes that gas stations typically stock. That is one less thing that I don’t have to worry about in my pack…just in my head when preparing for a stop. I would only take an approach like this in a race scenario. If I’m on a tour there is typically time to brush my teeth and a little bit of weight isn’t going to make a difference.
Using my experience bikepacking and knowledge of the course for TransWisconsin I’ve assembled the next iteration of my grand tour bike, A Salsa Ti El Mariachi.
- Frame: Salsa El Mariachi Ti
- Fork: Salsa CroMoto Grande
- Headset & Bottom Bracket: Chris King
- Wheels: White Industries Hubs laced to Salsa Semi Disc Rims with 2.0/1.8 DT spokes and brass nipples
- Tires: WTB Nanoraptors setup with Stan’s Tubeless system (don’t tell our lawyer).
- Brakes: Formula Oro K24 brakes
- Mix of SRAM XO/9.0
- RaceFace Deus crankset
Shimano Ultegra 12-28 cassette.
- Moots Titanium seatpost
- WTB SST Saddle
- Salsa ProMoto Stem & 11° degree handlebar
- Profile Aero bars
- ESI Silicone Grips
- Ergon bar ends (modified for use without the paddle grips)
On the bars:
- Gossamer Gear Thinlight Insulation Pad strapped with simple nylon webbing
- Garmin GPS for route finding/tracking
- Princeton Tec EOS light (Princeton Tec headlamp and taillight strapped to my helmet for additional light and safety)
In the gas tank:
- SPF 45 Sunblock
- SPF 45 Lip Balm
- 6 Starbucks Via coffee packets, enough for 3 days (for use in the .5L bladder)
- Miscellaneous food (Clif Shots gel, Clif Blocks, Gummi Bears, Nature Valley bars, Snickers, Reeses, etc…)
In the Revelate frame bag:
- 4L MSR Dromlite bladder (rarely filled with more than 3L of water)
- .5L Platypus bladder (for coffee or coke)
- Bailout bag (bike and personal ER kit)
- 5 titanium needle stakes
- Personal hygiene kit (toothbrush, paste, enough Handy Wipes and Chamois cream for 3 days)
- Maps for some course sections
- Dumonde Tech chain lube
- 100% DEET in a .5oz. bottle
- Miscellaneous food (nuts, pepperoni, etc…)
In the Revelate seat bag:
- Two Innertubes
- Jacks R’ Better Quilt
- Mountain Laurel Designs Grace Solo Tarp
- Clothes bag with extra socks, wool upper and lower baselayers, bug head net, wool knee warmers, and a wool beanie)
- Rain Jacket
- Rain Knickers
- Spot Unit
I didn’t carry a pack, but I did have jersey pockets to fill with sandwiches, burritos, cookies, pop tarts, and crushed chips. The only other thing carried in my jersey was a plastic bag with my personal ID, cash, credit cards, and extra batteries for my lights and GPS. Getting all of my kit on the bike means no weight on the back or saddle, which means I can be more comfortable and enjoy the trail, of which there was plenty.
Planning, knowing the route and resources are key to mastering the rules of letting go and identifying redundancy. It is a simple approach in principle. It’s the approach I’ve used to reach a sub-45lb. weight with 3L of water and two days food. After TransWisconsin I’ve got quite a few refinements to make to shed even more weight. My goal is a sub-40lb. weight with food and water for a setup that would be suitable for the Tour Divide, should I ever go back…