This bicycle named Lil Romeo was chosen for my first attempt at the Tour Divide based on trust built over the years of adventuring together. A Reynolds 853 steel Crust Romanceür that I’ve ridden for 4 years in 4 different United Nations recognized countries. The custom frame bag that held food, 3 liters of water, and often a can of nitro coffee has the Tibetan national flag that is not recognized by the United Nations. I love this flag almost as much as I love this bike. Not for the sake of Nationalism, but for the sake of Beauty. Lots of parts on this bike were selected for beauty, practicality, and nostalgia.
Who doesn’t love the support, comfort, and handling powers of wide drop bar these days? Well, I’m 100% sure those people exist, but I know 0% of that population. The 600mm Crust Towel Rack bars were the perfect size to fit all the essentials without sacrificing any hand positions. I had two bar feed bags that were used for snacks and quick-reach items like a small camera, phone, and battery. I kept the battery bank plugged into the dynamo USB charger mounted on the cockpit stem to always keep the crucial battery bank well charged. Although top tube bags are exceptionally handy, I didn’t want to have small bags in the cockpit that too closely resembled a phallus- an effect created when you nest a narrow top tube bag backed up by two round bar bags. Can you picture it?
Romeo’s forks are blessed with enough mud clearance and can easily fit the 2.3” Ultradynamico (UD) MARSalas on 26” Velocity Blunt 35s with a dynamo hub in the front. The 27.5” rear with the 47.99 UD Rose Race gave me enough clearance to run a 3L Akatanga seat bag that held my poncho, puff jacket, down-alternative booties, and a spare tube. A small Fabio’s Waxed Chest, supported by a pec deck, held my sleep system, clothes, electronics, toiletries, and overflow snacks.
If you were trying to get new Shimano parts in the past year, you know there’s a black hole of offerings in all of the known Galaxies. But not if you love second-hand classics and have a bike mechanic partner-lover who loves to forage the parts bins at every bike co-op every chance they get. Luckily, he had this 8-speed 11-32 Shimano cassette that worked so well with the Deore derailleur. I went with a wide range 26-44 double in the front plus my beloved TA cranks. I was cautiously aware of the risk of having bar end shifters which are so vulnerable in the event of a crash. “Just don’t crash” but you know I did and was vigilant to ride extra carefully knowing that my entire shifting could be jeopardized.
John Watson’s incomparable photos ought to give all the fun details of this vintage-inspired build. I wanted the kind of bike and riding styles I’ve seen from the Rough Stuff Fellowship archives. Those elders knew how to party! What you can’t see in these photos are some crystallized nuggets of wisdom from the northern 1,300 miles of the GDMBR that I rode on Lil Romeo that I wanted to share:
-Frame pumps rule! Further, bike frames that come with built-in pump pegs are usually a great way to tell that the bike is designed to ride for the long haul and not headed to a landfill in 5-10 years
-WAHOO makes a damn good navigation computer. I have the larger size of the Element Roam and was super impressed with how well it worked totally exposed to all sorts of extreme weather. Plus the battery life is great
-PONCHO over everything for these long, multi-weathered, long-distance tours. Mine is a Silnylon one I bought from Mountain Laurel Designs 5 years ago and I still pack it for every single tour
-A water bladder with a hose will let you endlessly sip on your 3L reserve of hydration without compromising your spin rhythm
-A bivvy is a fair-weathered companion. On my next attempt at the Tour Divide, I’ll bring a super lightweight tent so I can actually get the rest needed for weeks of riding back to back daily centuries
-Buckskin gloves keep your hands warm even when fully soaked by snow, rain, and hail. Plus, the grip never quits so it doubles as riding gloves too! I’ll be bringing these again.
-Sweet orange essential oil, subtle eye shimmer stick, and an eyebrow filler is such a good mood booster and takes up no room
–pStyle urination device for peeing in the wild has saved me so much time and toilet paper
It is truly amazing how far and wide a well-built-up simple machine can bring you.
Overall, this fully loaded bike with camping gear, electronics, toiletries, water, repair tools, and food+snacks for 2 days weighed in at 53 lbs. That’s pretty good since the riders in my pace were hovering in the 60-70lbs range. Pretty good if you don’t consider that 53lbs is more than half my weight and that may not have been the case for the other riders who were all riding much larger bikes. Next year, when I race the TD again to reach my goal of finishing, I’ll be doing my very best to go sub 50lbs. Let’s see how that goes…