Billy Rice is a flight paramedic in Bryan, TX and owner of Invictus Cycling and Performance, focusing on the coaching and mental preparation of ultra endurance athletes.  Most of you know Billy as a great human being, but he did something pretty special back in 2013. After completing the Tour Divide in 25 days in 2012, Billy decided to do something no one else had done or maybe even thought about. He embarked on a journey to Yo-Yo the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. He started racing at the Mexico boarder, arrived in Banff, and made his way back down to where he started. The journey took 44 days and 42 minutes. An extremely fast time considering the 5,500 mile challenge. Last year Billy decided to change it up, racing the first annual Trans Am BIke Race. While his race did not go as planned, he endured and finished the 4,200 mile race across the country. Billy Rice This year Billy has planned to to do the unthinkable again. He is starting this Wednesday, May 20th from Antelope Wells and will be heading north. He is adding another element to the challenge this year – once he arrives in Banff he will be heading south with his daughter on a tandem made by Cell Mone. Billy has a true racers spirit, with the most kind attitude you will ever run into. Advice on what to carry? LESS! Always LESS. Now I can explain… You carry your insecurities. I’m not sure who said that but it is totally true when you talk about racing.  So lets start from the beginning. First ask yourself what the goal is. Touring is of course a very different world.  So lets talk about racing. You may be racing yourself, or Mike Hall, but if the goal is SPEED, then you start by assessing yourself, your size, your skill set, and your risk acceptance.  You could of course choose a very light set up, or even leave everything at home, but if something goes wrong or you run out of food, then your out.  You also have to think about what you don’t know. I really believe that the more you know, about camping, improvising, and wilderness travel, the less you need. So many really strong cyclists drop each year from the TD that would have done great with just a little more knowledge about being comfortable in the rain and cold. I also work with a number of clients about racing set ups and I am always careful to say take this and not this, because they may have a very different personal assessment than myself. So lets start with my stuff, specific to me. My lists also are slightly different for road vs mountain, because on a road bike you cover so much more distance, you use the next town more easily. Sleeping – lightest Western Mountaineering sleeping bag they make. No sleeping pad, sometimes a silnylon bivy.  If you sleep smart, you don’t have to take a lot. Don’t sleep at the bottom of a big valley for example. Cold air down there. Sleep up high and out of the wind. Find grass or moss to sleep on to replace your pad. If it’s raining, don’t stop, ride on and find your happy place. Clothes – whatever my favorite kit is with a few items. Typical cycling shorts (not wool). I’m a huge fan of wool for socks, mid layer, and hat.  Wool keeps you warm even if you are wet. I also take a very light weight Arkteryx down jacket and a super light (but tough) Arkteryx Gore-Tex jacket. Make sure you treat that stuff to be waterproof. I like mountain climbing clothes over cycling stuff. Cycling stuff is nice, but you get more features and tougher material frequently if you look at the mountain climbers. Small maintenance kit. If I am on a road bike, then I ALWAYS take a spare tire. I know a lot of people don’t, but I am 205lbs and hard on tires.  Cut a tire and your walking so I sleep better knowing I am self sufficient. Also, chain tool, tubes, derailleur pullies and assortment of tools to make sure that you can fix 90% of the issues you will face. It is self supported racing so borrowing tools because you were unprepared is usually frowned upon. So look at your bike and think about it broken…   Billy Rice Advice on what to eat? This is HUGE.  And I have changed over the years. I did the 2012 TD on gummy Bears… No joke.  However, I have taken a serious look at diet and challenged everything I ever learned in school. DISCLAMER…. I work with a lot of athletes, and no one plan works for them all. I have a few questions I can ask to target in on what will work best for an individual, but everyone is different. So I’m about to talk about some serious cutting edge nutrition, but it takes years to make this work. General guideline, VARIETY. But here’s where it gets complicated. I avoid carbs in large quantity unless I’m going to sleep. I have trained my body to burn fat very efficiently. I am at the point where I can do an all day race on the following which I mix in my bottle and drink about one per hour. 1 Liter bottle per with: 1 scoop (half serving) Hammer Perpetuem 1 tablespoon MCT Oil 5 G BCAA powder (GNC fruit punch flavored usually) (I have a few secret ingredients but I have to beat Mike Hall some day so …) Sit down meals during racing are HIGH FAT. I try to make sure carbs come from potatoes or rice. Lots of eggs, avocados, etc. I try to avoid high fiber foods while racing as they slow gastric emptying. Billy Rice Size, specs and species of your ride? Cjell Mone!!!!!  It’s BIG! Stock bikes don’t fit me.  It’s kind of a 64 with a shorter-ish top tube.  29+, currently Rohloff but will be XTR di2 drop bar when that stuff comes out. Cjell Mone TANDEM! For TD 15, my daughter and I will be tandem. Drop bar, 29+ Rohloff. My road bike is a Salsa Colossal, but it is stock size and way too small… So any road custom guys, call me up, I’m in the market! Thought on essential bike equipment? None! I mean really… Like I said earlier, I work with a lot of athletes, and many get really wrapped up in the equipment. These races really are not about the equipment. Work on your own mental strength.  Learn to stay positive in all environments. Learn how to camp smart and be at peace with the present moment. Don’t let bad weather, mechanicals, or other less than pleasant circumstances determine your mental state.  And make your choices now, while you are fed warm and happy. Far too many people make bad decisions when they are sleep deprived and cold.  I try to tell everyone not to make hard decisions when you are cold, wet or hungry.  Fix the problem, and keep going! So essential equipment? Mental strength Billy Rice (1) Water purification method? Normally just iodine. It pays to be fast, as you will have more options. If you can just ride to the next town fill up there. If your pace is slower or you are in a really remote area, I like the UV light Steripen. You have to worry about batteries but it works great. I have counseled many racers after the TD who were dealing with health issues, such as extreme fatigue, continued weight loss, vomiting, etc, only to discover that they had one or more parasites from bad water sources.  So make sure you have a plan that works for you. If you use filters, be careful not to let them freeze. Billy Rice (1) Stove/fuel strategy? Except for those snow guys, who has time to cook? Thoughts on Essential gear for staying alive? The more you know, the less you need… Mentally strong! Favorite trail/bikepacking recommendations? Anatoli Boukreev said something amazing in his book “Above the Clouds”. Remember, this guy died climbing mountains. “Confronted with the petty concerns of my ordinary life, I feel empty, as if I am wasting a priceless gift, the brief time that is allotted to each human for creativity… Can this longing and restlessness be the price that mortals pay for daring to trespass in the houses of the Gods? Mountains are not stadiums where I satisfy my ambitions to achieve. They are cathedrals, grand and pure, the houses of my religion. I approach them as any human goes to worship. On there alters I strive to perfect myself physically and spiritually. In their presence I attempt to understand my life, to exorcise vanity, greed, and fear. From the vantage of their lofty summits, I view my past, dream of my future, and with unusual acuteness I experience the present moment. I celebrate creation, for on each journey, I am reborn.” I know Anatoli wasn’t a cyclist, and he was villainized in the book about the 96 everest disaster, but this guy gets it. I think had he owned a bike, we would most certainly have found him on the Tour Divide. You are talking to a guy who has YOYO’d it once, and is about to do it again. that is 5-6 weeks on one route. There are many other routes that I think are amazing, and lots on my list to complete, but for me, I was seriously transformed in 2012 on my first run of the divide. That route changes people. Some people for the worst i guess, but I find peace on that route. It has really captivated me and become my place of worship. A place where I can test myself and train myself to be a better person. So for me, the Tour Divide route tops them all.


  1. Hey Billy, guessing you are busy right now, but was wondering why the dislike of woollen shorts?

  2. Pingback: Billy Rice sets off on the Divide, again. - Bikepackers Magazine

  3. Pingback: Tour Divide Advice - Bikepackers Magazine

  4. “derailleur pullies” ??? Really? I don’t think I’ve ever replaced one. Or did you mean derailleur hanger?

    • Dave Stowe

      My lower jockey pulley failed during TD 2014. Bearings and water don’t mix well for long.
      I had a long slog to Pinedale on a (temporary ) single speed with the derailleur hacked to work as a tensioner.

  5. Jolene Carpenter-Cox

    All advice noted. Trans Am Trail is on my list for 2017. I used to be a serioys mountaineering guide. I get it. What I need most now is the courage to quit my job and DO IT!

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