Becoming comfortable on tough terrain has been a major goal of mine over the last few years, and last year put my focus on technical singletrack and rough roads. After first racing the Arizona Trail Race on a carbon hardtail, I slowly transitioned to a more comfortable setup. It’s fun to watch the evolution of my bike choices over the last couple of years, and I look forward to continuing the evolution, because as we all know, it’s a revolving door, especially with industry technologies improving nearly every day. 

Here is the breakdown of my rig for the Highland Trail Race 550, which starts on Saturday at 9:00am GMT from Tyndrum, Scotland (track us here). The route is rough with rugged singletrack and roads. That being said there is plenty of good gravel and some pavement from what I hear. Only time will tell if my choices are appropriate, but I do know one thing, it will be comfortable. 

Bike – Salsa Spearfish Large 19″ Frame

Yet again, I decided to go with what I knew was comfortable – the full suspension Salsa Spearfish. This bike is very similar to my Arizona Trail and Colorado Trail rigs. What differs is that I added a Thompson dropper post with the new Wolftooth Light Action lever and Bontrager XR4 tires. I went with the 2.40″ tires up front and the 2.30” in the rear. It’s a more aggressive tire than what I typically use, but I have been getting used to them. I also decided to run a 32 tooth because of my 50 tooth cog on the SRAM XO Eagle. I typically run Shimano XT brakes, and decided to use what I had that could make my handlebars a bit more clean with the matchmaker, where I can attach my shifter and brake on the same clamp. Also on the bars are my GPS unit and bar light.

  • 2017 Salsa Spearfish frame Black and Teal
  • Fox Float Fit Factory 32 Fork
  • Fox Float Performance Elite Shock
  • Sram XO Eagle Driver
  • Sram Guide R Brakes
  • Nox Teocalli Rims
  • Bontrager XR4 Tires
  • Industry Hubs
  • Specialized Phenom Saddle
  • Thompson Elite External Dropper Post
  • Shimano SPD XTR Pedals
  • Garmin Etrex 30
  • Exposure Diablo

Saddle Bag – Bedrock Bags Black Dragon

Because I planned on riding with a Thompson Elite Dropper post, I needed a bag that would be compatible. The dropper post is 100mm, and with the Wolftooth Valais (which takes roughly 25mms of travel) I’m left with 75mm, which is plenty for me. So far I really enjoy this bag, and will report back on it after this race. Inside is a rather lightweight sleeping bag and bivy, my hoodless down jacket, and an extra pair of socks. Sleeping is always tough. I hope to find some places to stay dry inside, but I know I have remained warm with this system through a wicked storm during the 2014 Colorado Trail Race.




Frame Bag – Rockgeist Mudlust Frame Bag

Greg, the man behind Rockgeist, built this bag for me over a year ago, and it has seen a lot of use. So I decided to use what I had and what I can trust. It’s a no-frills bag, one zipper, and one compartment. What I have inside the bag is more complex. For this race, I decided to remove my beloved Tapeats from Bedrock, and put my electronics inside this bag. In additional to my electronics, I also have my full repair kit, tube, pump, some Tailwind Nutrition (not pictured), and water bottle. 



  • 29er tube
  • Tire lever
  • Lighter
  • Lezyne pump
  • Spokes and zip-ties wrapped together
  • Repair Kit
  • Tailwind Nutrition
  • Water bottle
  • Clear replaceable lenses
  • Anker battery pack
  • USB charging cords
  • Batteries for the trip (not all pictured)
  • Helmet light, Fenix UC 35
  • Bug net for the midges

Handlebar Bag – Bedrock Bags Vishnu

The Vishnu is a small ultralight, ultra minimalist bar bag perfect for racing. Like in past races, I have used this for layers. For this race, I’ve filled it up nearly to capacity, mainly because I’m not too sure what to expect with weather. Cold weather layers, waterproof layers, and my leg and arm warmers can be found in my Vishnu. I pack it in a way that items I use more than most are on the outside of the dry bag openings.



  • Adidas Terrex Fastr Gore-Tex jacket
  • Sierra Designs 3/4ths rain pants (I cut them for easy on and off)
  • Pearl Izumi insulated gloves
  • Neck gaiter (my hat or for midges)
  • Vest
  • Gore knee warmers
  • Arm warmers

Top Tube Bag – Salsa EXP 

I decided on a last minute change to the Salsa Cycles Top Tube bag because it was working better with my frame bag. Inside is plenty of calories that I will start with, likely too much, but I’m not too sure what type of food I can expect to get along the way, so I decided to start with a lot of calories. This is what I am starting with (and a wee bit more. I always bring a 5 hour energy for emergencies, but don’t plan on drinking it. I also have plenty of products containing caffeine, which is super important while racing. 
  • Clif Shot Bloks
  • Honey Stinger Waffles and Energy Chews
  • Some random gels
  • Some meat sticks
  • Random snack drawer items
  • Snickers

On Me

For shoes, I’m currently testing the Giro Terraduro, and have really liked them so far. I’ll be using the new Adidas Terrex Bibs, a Salsa Cycles jersey, and maybe most important, my tried and true Camelback lumbar hydration backpack. It’s convenient for me, takes water weight off the bike, and helps me carry a few extra things. Normally, I say no to a backpack, but for rides like the Colorado Trail or Arizona Trail, I think it ok so long as it is small.

  • Giro Terraduro shoes
  • Swiftwick Aspire 7 socks
  • Adidas bibs
  • Pearl Izumi under shirt
  • Salsa Cycles jersey
  • Pearl Izumi cycling cap
  • Rudy Project helmet
  • Rudy Project sunglasses
  • Giro DND gloves
In the Camelbak
  • 2 liter bladder
  • Multi tool
  • Small knife
  • Chapstick
  • Sunscreen
  • Music
  • Spot Device
  • First aid kit
  • Toothbrush and paste
  • Aquamira tabs 
  • Smidge

And that’s my rig, don’t ask me how heavy it is, because it really doesn’t matter, and to be honest I don’t know. I do know it’s heavier than both of my rigs for the Colorado and Arizona Trails last year. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments section below, and I will get back to you with an answer. 

13 Comments

  1. I always love the rig lists. Go get it Neil!

  2. Barry godin

    Brilliant Kit list – Minimal!
    Good luck with the race!

  3. Good stuff! I look forward to watching you on the tracker

  4. Dig the gear lists…good luck and looking forward to hearing about it!

  5. Good luck, and have fun!

  6. What bar are you using? Salsa carbon? If so, what sweep? Thanks and good luck!

  7. Colin Mattson

    Good luck man! I haven’t ridden in the highlands but I’ve hiked there; be ready for lots of cold rain, wind and mud. Coming from CO it’s a very different experience, but it’s absolutely gorgeous!

  8. mikeetheviking

    Love these detailed gear lists!
    Thanks for putting the energy in to this and for sharing!

  9. Have a good un

  10. Great job Neil, race winning rig set up. Congratulations on your win and record!

  11. Congratulations on finishing and for race record. You are really great!
    Please compare HT 550 to other trails you completed. It will be great to hear what do you think.

  12. Anita Scott

    you managed without a sleeping mat??

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