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Ultimate ‘Tour Divide’ MTB: Bike-Packing Build For 2,745 Miles

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[leadin]The Tour Divide is a 2,745-mile bike race from Banff, Canada, through the Rocky Mountains of the U.S., to the border of Mexico. For riders like David Markman, building up a custom mountain bike is an obsession and requisite task to increase odds of completing the rugged route.[/leadin]

Markman’s bike weighs 46 pounds loaded with travel, repair, and bivy gear

Six lithe frame bags, food pouches, a swooping and esoteric handlebar setup, a GPS unit, and multiple high-power lights: The bike David Markman built for the Tour Divide is one unique rig. And did we mention the USB port on the stem?

To live off your bike and ride 150 to 200 miles a day for weeks in a row requires physical stamina and dialed gear. Markman, 27, of Avon, Minn., took years perfecting a system. He spends weekends training, and his day job at Quality Bicycle Products lets him obsess over every detail of his bike, gear, and race plan.


“I can plug my phone and GPS to charge right here,” Markman said, pointing at the USB port embedded on the stem. Wires lead down the fork, snaking to the front-wheel hub. A power-generating unit milks electricity off the rolling wheel, enough power built up each day to charge gadgets and run his lights.

Ultimate Tour Divide Bike

Markman embarks in mid June on the Tour Divide, an approximately 2,745-mile bicycle tour from Banff to Antelope Wells, New Mexico, along the continental divide through the Rocky Mountains.

It is unsupported, so riders can do it when they choose, and times are compared to determine the year’s fastest rider. (The men’s course record, according to the Tour Divide Facebook Page, is 14 days, 11 hours, and 40 minutes by Josh Kato; the women’s record is 15 days, 11 hours, set by Lael Wilcox, TWICE, in 2015.)

That also means that every detail — food, sleep, repairs, communication, navigation — must be accounted for in the small volume that can be carried aboard the bicycle.

The bike bags, fully packed
The bike bags, fully packed

Riding between 150 and 200 miles a day (he hopes to finish within 18 days) on a 46-pound (full-packed) touring bicycle on a route with around 200,000 feet of vertical, stopping only to sleep, makes Markman a veritable furnace.

“On a rest day, I probably already eat between seven and nine thousand calories, just sitting around,” he said. “On a workout day, it’s hard to quantify because I’m eating constantly.”

His bike, a Salsa Fargo model, was put together piece by piece. Markman owns a bike-bag company on the side called Must Stache, and his custom zippered frame bags hold the majority of his gear.


A full gear list is below. Tour Divide racers lean on ultra-light gear for sleeping and warmth. Bike-repair products are essential on the long ride. Food and water, which are picked up ad hoc and planned along the way, make up additional weight.

Here is his comprehensive list:

The Gear
The bags, unpacked
The bike bags, unpacked

Bike: 2015 Salsa Fargo

  • Whiskey carbon fork
  • Enve seat post
  • Specialized Power saddle 168
  • Salsa Woodchipper Bars (extended two inches)
  • Profile Designs aero bars
  • Enve M60 carbon wheels (front: SP dyno hub; rear: Hope Pro 4 hub)
  • Electricity-genrating hub
  • USB port (on stem; for recharging phone, GPS)
  • Vittoria Mezcal G+ tires, set up tubeless


  • Supernova E3 Triple dyno lights x2 (1600 lumens)
  • Exposure Diablo MK7 helmet light (1300 lumens)


Sleep System

  • Nemo Siren 30 Quilt
  • Black Diamond Twighlight Bivy
  • Thermarest Pro Lite sleeping pad
  • Big Agnes down jacket
  • Lightweight hat

Rain And Cold Riding

  • Patagonia R7 rain jacket and pants
  • Podiumwear wind vest
  • Giro long-finger gloves
  • Louis Garneau knee and arm warmers
  • Swiftwick tall and short socks


  • 2 Schwalbe EVO tubes
  • Power cables for helmet light, phone and GPS
  • Gear brush
  • Park Tool hand pump
  • Tour Divide maps
  • First-aid kit
  • Spare headlamp
  • Multitool
  • Bike lock

Repair Kit

  • Extra brake and derailleur cables
  • Tire levers
  • Sewing kit
  • Patches
  • Tire boot
  • Para cord
  • Mini pliers



  • Baby wipes (“to stay fresh”)
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Toilet paper
  • Eyedrops
  • Chapstick
  • Sunscreen
  • Chamois butter



  •  Shutter Precision PD-8X dynamo hub generator (see photo above). This generator is attached to (and charged by) his front wheel hub. It runs to a switch system Markman designed, and can charge a USB and power his E3s light.



  • Six total: a seat bag, frame bag, two top tube bag, and two feed bags (one for food, one for trash). All six are from Markman’s own company, Must Stache Bike Bags.


  • Pearl Izumi X-Project 1.0


  • Garmin ETREX 30X


  • One 20-ounce bottle
  • One 24-ounce bottle
  • One 100-ounce MSR Drome
  • No filtration system or purification tabs


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