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Gear List & Video | Tour Divide 2010

In 2010, I participated in the Tour Divide mountain bike race. The race started on June 11th in Banff, Canada and ended at the US-Mexican border in Antelope Wells, New Mexico. 48 racers started, but only 24 made it to the border. A 50% attrition rate is typical.

UPDATE: I returned in 2013 and finished 7th out of over 140 racers. See my 2013 Tour Divide gear list here.

Movie about my Tour Divide experience

I shot a decent amount of video during the race, so I cobbled together this movie that chronicles my entire 20 days of riding. Grab some popcorn because it is rather long (1hour 10mins).

Songs in the movie: L.E.S. Artistes | Girl In the War | Young Folks | Banquet | Upward Over the Mountain | The Funeral | Drink ‘Til We’re Gone | 9 Crimes | For Blue Skies | Mr. Brightside | Life In Technicolor | Shadow of the Day

To get another perspective on the race, watch this video that tracks the progress of the leading ten riders over the first 7 days. You’ll notice some people pushing later into the night, while others get on the road earlier in the morning. First 7 days of the Tour Divide

I rode an average of 137 miles per day and, after a grueling 20 days, 9 hours, and 13 minutes, I finished 5th.

It was an unreal experience. The physical challenge was great, but the mental challenge was even greater.

Throughout the race, riders called MTB Cast and left messages about their progress. Here is my final call-in.

I was going to write a daily account of the ride, but I got as far as Day 1 and then gave up. Instead, I just decided to tell my story through the movie (see above). If you are interested, you can read my Day 1 writeup here.

If you plan to participate in the 2011 Tour Divide, or just ride the route, feel free to post questions.

Tour Divide gear

This kind of event forces you to become a paranoid “gear-head”. With so many options to choose from, it was hard to decide on what equipment to buy and how much to bring. In the end, with only a few exceptions, I was very happy with my setup.

My Tour Divide setup

Other relevant Tour Divide info and links

Tour Divide Photos by Eddie Clark – Eddie, a professional photographer, followed the 2010 Tour Divide for an article he published in the Mountain Flyer Magazine. You can see his great photos and read his moving article on his blog.

Ride the Divide Movie – A documentary was made about the 2008 Tour Divide Race. The film does a nice job of giving an overview of the route, the event, and the first-hand experience of three racers.

Bikepacking.net – This bulletin board is the place for people to discuss bikes, gear, routes, and upcoming mountain bike endurance events, like the Tour Divide. From the homepage, go to Forums -> Ultra Racing, to see the latest chatter about the 2011 Tour Divide.

Marshall Bird’s TD 2010 blog – If you want heaps of good advice on how to ride the Tour Divide (daily mileage and bivy strategies, what to bring, etc.), Marshall has done a wonderful job sharing what he learned from his 2010 ride.


34 Responses to Gear List & Video | Tour Divide 2010
  1. novarider
    January 30, 2013 | 7:02 am

    Awesome video. I have been acquiring gear for the past two years in preparation for doing the race in 2014. I currently am running a 1×9 set up with a 32×12-36 (cassette has so much torque I can nearly do a wheelie fully loaded, but weighs a ton). I figure on changing it. Would you recommend going to a 2×9 or a 1×10 setup? Thoughts?

    • fbaker
      January 30, 2013 | 1:16 pm

      It’s tough to say. Most of the climbs are very rideable, but long. So, having a good selection of low gears to settle into during the long pushes is key. On-the-other-hand, there are a lot of sections that have a long, slight down-hill slope to them. I was happy to have some big gears that allowed me to drop into my aerobars and really crank through those miles. If I had to pick, I’d rather have more options on the low end in order to avoid walking some of the climbs and just put up with the fact that I’d spin-out on a lot of downhills. I hope that helps.

  2. J
    January 7, 2013 | 5:46 pm

    Thanks Forest. I discovered cycling about a year ago and have since done four endurance mountain bike races. The tour divide is a long-term goal for me. This helps me get some perspective on how to prepare.

  3. J
    January 4, 2013 | 4:41 pm

    Great video and information! Thanks for taking the time to put this on the Internet. I do have one other question for you. Can you describe what your training schedule was prior to the race? How much cycling experience did you have and what was your general fitness level? I’m trying to determine how one really prepares for the physical demands of this race. Thanks!

    • fbaker
      January 6, 2013 | 11:11 am

      Hi J – I think anyone who is comfortable riding a double century and has spent time hiking and camping has a good shot at finishing the race in less than 25 days.

      I’ve always been a weekend warrior type, participating in a couple of single and double centuries per year. I also love touring, so I’m used to putting in long days in the saddle.

      My friends accused me of employing the laziest, last-minute training program possible.

      Before the TDR, I’d been working a lot and packing on the pounds. I was in pretty bad shape. To make up for my lack of training, I rode my bike from Sunnyvale, CA to the start in Banff in a couple of weeks, doing 90-120 miles a day. I also packed a ton of stuff to put more weight on the bike, making for a better workout. I still wasn’t the fittest/lightest racer, but my body was, once again, used to doing long days in the saddle.

      The mental challenge is probably as big of a factor as the physical part. For example, riding many miles alone and not really speaking to anyone for a day or so at a time, can sap your motivation to keep pushing. This isn’t something that you “train” for, but this shouldn’t be the first time that you’ve spent the night alone, in the woods.

  4. mike
    August 11, 2011 | 5:16 am

    Forest, Any comments on the Tarp Tent? I’m looking at the Contrail
    and Moment for my bikepacking setup. Have ruled out my hammock and
    a bivy setup for various reasons. Any issues with wind in the
    Contrail on the plains or at elevation? I’ve read mixed reviews on
    ease of setup / etc. for both. Thanks much… -Mike

    • fbaker
      August 11, 2011 | 8:43 am

      The Tarptent
      worked well for me on the Tour Divide. It kept me dry
      and comfortable during some big storms and gave me plenty of room.
      In fact, one rider who camped with me a number of times said that
      if he were to do the ride again, he would bring a tent instead of
      his bivy just because he felt cramped and had to always pull his
      sleeping bag out at some point during the day to dry out. Downsides
      – heavier than a bivy sac. But, if you are backpacking, you can use
      a hiking pole instead of the collapsible tent pool I had to carry.
      It takes longer to setup and pack up. I probably needed 5 to 10
      minutes more to pack up compared to riders who had bivy bags. But,
      I could change into clothes a lot more comfortably. Also, because
      there is more room, I think it was a little colder than a bivy sac.
      That is, I had a 30 degree bag, where a lot of people with bivy
      sacs had 40 degree bags. As far as flexibility on where you can set
      it up, it works best on a level surface, but I was able to pitch it
      in a bunch of crazy spots (on top of scrub, between trees and
      roots, etc.). The key is to find ground that you can drive the
      stakes into securely. The more secure the stakes, the more taught
      you can make the tent. It has a tendency to sag a little overnight
      if you don’t set it up securely. It only collapsed on me once
      during a really strong thunderstorm. The wind was howling and the
      ground had become soft due to rain, so some of the stakes came out
      of the ground. I just had to put some rocks on them to keep them in
      the ground.

  5. david toth
    February 20, 2011 | 5:14 am

    Hi Forest
    Just watched your film and thought it was a very moving and insperational account of your epic ride,and has edged me closer to plucking up the courage to grasp life with both hands and work towards my own adventure.I am sure an adventure like this must change your life forever.

    Cheers Dave

    • fbaker
      February 20, 2011 | 8:17 am

      Hey Dave,
      I’m glad you enjoyed the video about my ride. Yes, the intensity of the experience carved emotions and scenes deeply into my memory that I know will not soon fade.
      I don’t claim to know how people should live their lives, but I hope you do get an opportunity to pursue your own adventure. I’ve had to make a lot of hard trade-offs in order to pursue mine, but I’ve never regretted it.

  6. Thom Allen
    February 8, 2011 | 9:17 am


    It’s would be more logical to assume you and Mark had different cell phone providers. I can assure you GPS had nothing whatsoever to do with communications. Users compute a position based on the data being sent from the satellites. The satellites don’t communicate with anyone except the U.S. Air Force Control Segment (in Colorado, I believe). It’s a common misconception about how GPS works.


  7. Mark McPhillips
    January 11, 2011 | 2:01 am

    Hi Forest,

    I’ve just got back from work and sat down and watched your movie, thanks for taking the time and effort to do this. It brought back some fantastic memories as I toured the route this summer with my wife and loved it.

    It was very interesting seeing the contrasting trail and weather conditions compared to our ride. We only had one wet day in Canada and a couple of thunderstorms along the rest of the route leaving the trails very fast.

    I used the GPS on my phone to navigate the route using the Viewranger software. I’m glad I did especially on Lava Mountain, can’t believe you rode that in the dark and did not get lost.

    I’m doing a mini version of this type of trip next summer in the UK. Riding from my door up the Pennines north towards Scotland and see where I end up, looking forward to it and I’ve got all the right equipment now.

    • fbaker
      January 11, 2011 | 12:10 pm

      Hi Mark,
      I’m surprised that your phone worked on Lava Mountain. My blackberry got reception only 2 or 3 times during the entire ride. Your phone must utilize GPS satellites and not cell phone towers, which would be the way to go.
      The weather was so variable. One stretch would be horrible for me, but then great/fast a day or two later. That’s just how it is in the mountains…
      I agree, once you’ve invested in all the gear for this type of trip, your ready to go try new trails. Good luck with blazing a route in the UK.

  8. David Horton
    January 10, 2011 | 10:18 am

    Is the 2011 Tour Divide going to happen or not? How and where do you register?

    • fbaker
      January 10, 2011 | 10:53 am

      The 2011 TD is set to happen. The whole event is pretty informal, so I understand your confusion. If you are interested in racing it this year, I’d suggest the following:
      1) Click around the tourdivide.org website to read the rules and make sure you understand what you are signing up for.
      2) Submit your letter of intent (LOI) through the contact form on the website. This is just your public statement that you plan to race. You’ll get a confirmation and your LOI will be posted to the website. The organizers need your LOI so you can be kept in the loop on logistics. You’ll be invited to a Google group that includes people who plan to race.
      3) Read and post questions to the 2011 TD discussion board. You’ll learn more about the race, packing strategies, and other good info.
      4) Show up to Banff and be ready to race on the designated start (June 10th).

  9. Matthew Kadey
    January 8, 2011 | 9:36 am

    Just finished watching the movie. I can’t imagine how hard at times that must have been. Props to you, man!

  10. Douglas
    January 7, 2011 | 5:06 pm

    What a great movie! I followed you all during the race and was mortified by the death of Dave Blumenthal. I Rode the route last August/September and it was so good to see some familiar sights. It also made me appreciate the awesome amount of commitment and energy required to keep up the 140 miles a day.

    I found after some experimenting that my main food snacks were trailmix and grenolla bars. What were yours?

    Also I ran a Rohloff so no problems of chain suck. Would you be tempted to run a hub gear if you rode this route again?


    • fbaker
      January 8, 2011 | 3:10 am

      Hi Douglas,
      Congrats on riding the route. I actually think that touring the route, in many ways, is harder than racing it.
      My main foods were anything with fat or that looked easy to carry. Ice cream sandwiches, salty chips, sandwiches, trail mix, gummy worms, and granola bars made regular appearances in my diet.
      Yes, I would definitely consider running a Rohloff. I would just make sure that I had a beefy wheel to support the extra weight.

  11. Bob
    January 7, 2011 | 1:12 am

    Learned of your blog from Adventure Cycling’s Bike Bits. I started to watch your movie, but it was so jumpy here on my work computer I just had to stop. I guess it doesn’t like Vimeo. Is there any way to download it? Probably not.
    Anyway, congrats on finishing. I agree with your comments above on GPS, that it shouldn’t be the deciding factor on who wins. Happy trails.

    • fbaker
      January 8, 2011 | 3:04 am

      Hi Bob,
      Try watching the video in a day or so. There should be a lot fewer people watching it by then. When a bunch of people try to view it on Vimeo at the same time, the download speed hits a bottleneck. It’s getting a lot of hits right now because Bike Bits just posted it.

  12. mathieu van rijswick
    January 6, 2011 | 6:01 pm

    I just watched your video, prompted by ACA Bike Bits. Very moving! I liked your lively over-the-shoulder footage much more than the static interview shots in the Divide movie. I met you, Aiden and Dave in the Great Basin, just after you took a spill. We were riding north. Thanks!

    • fbaker
      January 8, 2011 | 3:00 am

      Hi Mathieu,

      I’m glad that you liked the video and I hope that it brought back some great memories about the route.

      Sorry that I wasn’t more chatty when we met in the Basin. I was still reeling in pain from my freshly acquired road rash and knew that I needed to get to a motel that night to wash out my wounds. I did feel sorry for you guys since the wind seemed to be coming mostly from the North.


  13. Bob
    January 6, 2011 | 9:58 am

    I loved it
    Very moving in many ways


  14. Coni Loving
    January 6, 2011 | 9:25 am

    I just watched your video and was really impressed. I learned about it from Adventure Cycling’s Bike Bits. You did a wonderful job. I really felt like I was on the ride too! Well done and thank you. I especially liked the end when you could not suppress your pure happiness at getting to the finish line.

  15. Jefe Branham
    January 3, 2011 | 1:13 am

    Wow, that was great, thanks soo much Forrest for taking the time putting it all together, I would have to say it was more true to the world of bikepacking/TD than the other movie out there…..not that I think that movie is bad, yours is shakey and hard to watch at times, but man it was Real and heart felt, I cried with you. Peace jefe

  16. RQ
    December 8, 2010 | 6:08 am

    Hi Forest,

    I learned about the TD through Outside magazine and have been fascinated ever since! Some day, some day….

    A few questions:

    1. Where did Annie serve while in the Peace Corps? I’m a RPCV and enjoyed my time in Uzbekistan.

    2. From reading your recap and some of the comments posted GPS is the way to go, but I’m curious how much time did you spent navigating your maps?

    3. If you don’t mind sharing, on average, what was you’re daily budget? I’m interested in the day to day while riding. Not necessarily what was spent in total. i.e. Travel to Banff, new equipment, etc. Although, I’d be curious about that as well.

    Good work in completing the TD!



    • fbaker
      December 8, 2010 | 8:23 am

      Hi Rogelio,

      Funny, I just talked to Jon Billman yesterday, the author of the article you read about the Great Divide. He rode the TD in 2010 (2nd time) and is working on another article.

      1. Peace Corps: Mali (00-02)

      2. GPS: I would look at my cue sheet every 15 to 20 minutes. My handlebar case allowed me to do this while riding. I really didn’t want to miss a turn. I would pull a map out only during a long break, at night, or if I hit a turn that was confusing. The GPS won’t save you time in terms of how much you look at it; its saves time in that you avoid missing a turn, which inevitably will happen at least 3-5 times during your ride.

      3. Budget: Camping was always free. Motels ranged from $45 to $95, but most of them were around $65. Plus, I often split a room with one or more riders. Food was the biggest expense. I probably spent at least $14-20 every time I ate at a restaurant (2 entrées) and around $14 at every gas station or grocery store stop (gatorade, ice cream, sandwiches, salty & sweet snacks, coffee drink, chocolate milk, etc.). So, I probably spent $40-50 per day on food. Lastly, I think I spent around to $300 in Steamboat, CO getting a new drive train and tires.

      As far as gear, I pretty much had to buy everything just for the ride (e.g., bike, bags, sleeping kit, etc.) and this cost around $4,000. Ouch!

  17. mike
    November 23, 2010 | 12:31 pm

    Thank you.
    Very tough to watch parts of it… but incredibly inspiring.
    Congrats on a bittersweet ride.

    Mike, in VT

  18. fbaker
    November 19, 2010 | 3:43 pm

    My video raised some comments on the Bikepacking forum and I just wanted to include a comment about the rules and GPS’s.

    Rules – First, I don’t want to see this event get mired in tons of rules and regulations. It’s just not the spirit of this thing. But, I think a little more clarity regarding food and shelter assistance would be good. On one occasion, I was offered food (mentioned in the video) and on another occasion, I was offered shelter (mentioned in a call-in I did during the race). I didn’t partake in either of them because I didn’t think it was legit. However, it wasn’t clear to me what was OK and what wasn’t. On both occasions, I would have been much better off had I accepted the offers.

    I don’t have any thoughts on what the threshold should be, but, whatever it is, I just want it to be clear to everyone. I think providing several common scenarios in which food or shelter is offered and then stating whether it would be OK to accept would really help clarify things.

    GPS – I did the race without a GPS, so I know it can easily be done without one. However, I learned that having a GPS gives you a real advantage in that it minimizes the risk of wasting hours looking for a poorly marked turn. Poorly described or just plain inaccurate cues are not fun and seem unfair in that riders with GPS’s can avoid this hazard. It only happened on 3-4 occasions, but each time it could have cost me (or did cost me) hours of daylight. I’m not a fan of technology being the deciding factor in a contest, but if others are going to ride with them, I believe you are at a disadvantage.

    I should clarify that this issue had nothing to do with an accurate computer. It has to do with poorly described or inaccurate turns. I know other riders got lost at the same places I did. Interestingly, I did have to recalibrate my computer each time I crossed onto a new ACA map. The difference in how long a “mile” was between the maps was surprising. Another reason to use a GPS.

    Lastly, I want to temper all my “complaints” with this: Matt Lee knows that I think he has done an amazing job with this event and I applaud the openness with which he invites feedback. His eagerness to have the event evolve and improve is very palpable.

  19. John Foster
    November 19, 2010 | 3:53 am

    Hey Forest. Really enjoyed your movie. I remember passing you on the pass into Kalispel then you really hammered to catch up. I thought you were following me into town to get some lunch but I looked back and you weren’t there. I rode over to the grocery store, didnt see ya so I figured you gave me the slip. Never saw your speedy butt again. I had some problems that took some time to sort out. (like 800 miles. haha) That rain behind you on the way over to Helena? When you were talking about that on film, I was getting soaking wet comming up outta Lincoln… I had to laugh about that. HaHa. Congrads on your strong performance. I have a pic or two of ya I’ll pass on. All glory to Dave. I shared some very lonely tears with ya out there.

    • fbaker
      November 19, 2010 | 2:54 pm

      Hey John,
      Good to hear from you. Glad you liked the video. Congrats on finishing that crazy beast of a ride.

      Yeah, I was surprised that I didn’t see you after Kalispel. The two times that I ran into you during the race, you were motoring right along. What problems did you run into?

  20. fbaker
    November 19, 2010 | 12:07 am

    As you may have seen in the movie I posted, my bike had a lot of problems with with chain suck. I emailed Salsa after the race. They blame the Race Face crank. I’ve pasted their response below.

    Hi Forest,
    Thanks for the link and the great pics. The like the South Pass sign with the population reading 17! I want to first off let you know that I have come across this before and what we have found is that the problem lies with the crank itself, not the frame. So regardless of a new frame, it would happen again with that crank. We are in the process of speaking with Race Face about it. They have recommended two things. First is to replace the rings and the second is to remove the drive side BB spacer and place it on the non drive side. Thus bringing the whole chain line in towards the frame 2mm. We have spoke with other consumers and dealers who have stated that replacing it with a Shimano crank solved the problem. So my suggestion would be to take it back to your local shop and have them give Race Face a call. If you need help determining the condition of your frame, feel free to email me directly with photo’s. After we get the shop involved we can see what we can do. Even though it isn’t directly our product, I want to work with you and the shop to help out in any way we can. Please let me know if you have any other questions,

    Salsa Cycles

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