The bike and gear

Here’s a quick overview of the bike, gear, and key performance highlights post trip…

The bike: Surly ECR custom build

Posing on the waterfront: Seattle on the left, Mt Rainier just behind the seat

The only thing stock about this bike is the frame: it’s a Surly ECR colored ‘pant suit beige’, size medium. Then the fun starts…

Shout out to Mike & Shannon at Edgar Bikes for a robust and fantastic build that carried me up miles of elevation along 2800 miles to the Mexican border with zero issues. Nada. Bike performed great. Mike spec’d out all the key pieces for a hard trail, as well as built the wheels, all designed to handle this trip.

  • SRAM GX Eagle components – Drive train is 1×12, with a 42 cog on the lower side that I used a lot on inclines. Loved the gear shifting…it always felt confident and reliable.
  • Wheels – Mike built out the 29″ wheels, including SON dyno in the front hub.
  • Vittoria Mezcal 2.6in tires – they lasted the entire trip, no replacement needed. Shannon put these on right before I left, and I didn’t have to add any air until southern Colorado.
  • Jones H bar handlebar – lots of room for baggage, GPS, lights, bell, and different hand positions
  • Brooks C17 Cambria seat – handles rain and sweat with no maintenance, comfy for me.
  • Crampon flat pedals – secure footing in wet and dry conditions. The extended studs did occasionally bite me on the lower leg during a bike off, but I trusted their grip and they rolled nicely.

Additional highlights worth mentioning…

  • Partnering the M-sized frame with 29 wheels also reduced space for a larger seat pack used in many lighter build outs, so I added a Surly rear rack to hold the small panniers as well as sleeping bag. This worked out well for the trip, and the back area also served as a drying rack for wet laundry and straggler clothing.
  • You may have noticed the ECR is a rigid bike riding with mid-sized fat tires…how did the combination perform on the trail? Fantastic on gravel, dirt, and paved roads, and so-so on washboards. I like the speed on pavement and chewing up miles. Washboards are tough going, and I’m conflicted whether I would to swap to hardtail suspension if I were to do it again. YMMV.

Gear list

  • Bike luggage – Revelate Designs along the cockpit and front harness, Rogue Panda on the frame bag, Salsa Anywhere on the front forks, Ortlieb Gravel panniers out back, Sea-To-Summit dry bags for the sleeping bag. Everything held up their promise of being waterproof.
  • Shelter – Preferred system is a Warbonnet Blackbird hammock, which I was able to use about a third of the trip, particularly in the northern sections. The hammock was protected by a 8×10 Hyperlite DCF flat tarp, which I also used when grounded. This tarp is solid and spacious, kept gear and myself dry during drizzles and thunderstorms.
  • Sleeping bag / pad – Feathered Friends Flicker UL20 quilt, which was perfect for the sub-50F nights, supplemented with a Sea-to-Summit bag liner for cover on warmer nights, and to help keep the bag clean from my sweaty and dirty days. Sleeping pad was a Nemo Insulted Tensor sized regular and wide.
  • Cycling shorts – I used a pair of Zoic Ether overshorts, and rotating two cycling liners day to day. Tried to make sure one liner received a wash or at least a rinse each day. Body Glide was primary anti-chafing protection, which lasted longer than various creams.
  • Sun protection – My primary philosophy was to avoid letting the sun hit anything above my knee, which mostly worked. Patagonia Tropic Comfort II and two short sleeve sunshirts covered the torso, combined with a pair of Buff UV arm sleeves. My head was topped by the Tropic Comfort hood or bucket hat, and the overall approach worked well. My nose and ears received some exposure, nothing too severe.
  • GPS/route planning – Garmin Edge Explorer, which I have mixed feelings about. The Explorer is fine on the distance/speed basics, but it has trouble with larger GPX track management. I had to split up the full route in 12 different GPX files, and the unit would sometimes hang unexpectedly, requiring a reboot. Fortunately, it would return to previous state upon return…didn’t lose the day’s mileage or track…but it did make me not fully trust it. I will look elsewhere for GPS alternatives on future trips. I also used the ACA GDMBR maps for route planning, which I generally found to be helpful and informative…very glad to have them onboard.


Lots of different approaches out there, here’s what worked for me…

  • Hip pack – I don’t like wearing a backpack in the heat, so I used a Dakine 5L Hot Laps pack, which carried a 2L bladder, my wallet, phone, and camera for easy access.
  • Smartwater bottle – 1L of clean water mounted on the down tube
  • Feedbag – 750ml bottle here, rotating through electrolyte/flavor supplements.
  • “Dirty” water – 2L CNOC bag used to pick up water from streams and rivers, filtered with Sawyer Micro filter. I also carried a MSR Trail shot as backup filter, which I found to have better filter flow than the Sawyer.
  • Big storage – 4L MSR dromedary to use for dry stretches through the basin and NM stretches. Only clean water in this bladder, to minimize hygiene maintenance.

On a typical day, I would carry 3.75L across the hip bag and both bottles, then use the other bags as needs arise. While I could max out at 9.75L water storage, the most I carried was closer to 7L, with the storage bags tucked in the bike frame bag.

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