After making my way back east, I began thinking of some goals that I would like to accomplish on this side of the country. I still wanted to complete a multi-day mountain bike race, but there were not very many options near Richmond. I had heard of the TNGA while I was living in Colorado. It was a relatively new event but the route sounded excellent. Like the CTR, it was a big race that traversed a beautiful mountain range on as much dirt as possible. It quickly moved to the top of my list of things to do on a mountain bike. Unfortunately it would take several years for me to actually make the time to participate.
Life can get busy. For me, starting a new job, getting married, buying a house, etc… had all taken priority over my ambitions of a multi-day mountain bike race. It wasn’t so much the race itself that was hard to make time for, but rather the time investment required to train for such an event. I don’t mean hours on the trainer and hanging out in the gym. For me, training was simply doing the thing you love, riding your mountain bike. However, riding 350 miles while climbing 56,000 feet, would mean spending a bit more time than normal in the saddle.
This past winter, I decided this would be the year of the bike. I had put it all off for long enough. I needed to make time for myself and to accomplish some goals that have been haunting me. My first goal was to do a bikepacking trip in Iceland. The second was the TNGA. I figured the two would go well together as I needed to train and what better way to train than riding 500 miles around Iceland.
To register for the TNGA all one has to do is simply fill out an online form and commit to going. The first is easy, it is the second that is challenging. The cap is set at 75 participants. This years race filled in a few hours. Like many other “races” of its kind, there is no fee, no sponsors, no cash purse and no podium. Every one starts at one side of the state and rides as hard as they can to the other side. Just finishing such an event is an accomplishment. It’s racing the honest way, the way it should be.
Preparation for Georgia was way more haphazard that I had intended. As usual, life had gotten busy and was eating into all of my prep time. Fortunately, I had just returned from Iceland 2 weeks earlier, so I had a pretty good idea of what I was going to pack. I had been thinking about it a lot while I was traveling in the backcountry for 18 days. What did I need and what could I get rid off? I was pretty sure I could drop a lot of what I had been carrying.
The two days before I had planned to leave, I had nothing packed. I had done some planning while I was at work during the week. I registered my SPOT with trackleaders.com and had uploaded the route onto a borrowed Garmin. My food and gear however was little more than an imaginary list in my head. It was time to throw it together.
I will be riding a mid fat 29+ from Chumba Cycles called the Ursa. I was little hesitant to ride such big wheels in a long distance ride like this. After spending nearly 3 weeks in Iceland putting the bike through hell, I was confident that this was what I wanted to ride. Sure it will be slower than a skinnier bike, but it will certainly be more comfortable. Besides, I’m not looking to set a course record. I really just want to ride a best I can and get there when I can.
Wanderlust Gear made all the bags for my bike. Like the bike, these bags have also been put to the test in Iceland and held up better than I could have imagined. Below is a list of what I filled my bags with.
Mostly homemade energy bars and hot pockets. There are a few Clif
shots as well.
- Lezine Multi tool
- Bottle of extreme condition chain lube
- 1 spare tube
- Pedro’s tire lever
- Mini morph bike pump
- 2 quick links and short length of chain
- Spare derailure hanger
- Tire boots
- Patch kit
- Leatherman wave
- Marmot Trails summer bag
- Old Thermarest 3/4 sleeping pad
- Tyvek ground sheet
- Tarptent Contrail (I can’t do a bivy)
- Snow peak titanium 1/2 L pot, and spork
- Light my fire flint & steel (backup)
- Alcohol stove and small bottle of alcohol
- Bandanna for pot grabber/cleaning
- Marmot minimalist rain jacket
- Smartwool mid weight long sleeve top
- Ibex wool cycling cap
- 2 bike socks
- Bike shorts
- Hiking shorts (for camp)
- Giro privateer MTB shoes
- Giro DND gloves
- iPhone and charger
- Gamin Edge 800 and cable
- 1st generation Spot Tracker
- Powermonkey extreme battery pack
- Magicshine light and two batteries
- Petzel Tika head lamp
- 2 nylon dry bags
- 3 Specialized water bottle
- 3L Platypus bladder
- Steripen Adventurer
- Iodine tabs (backup)
- Trails Illustrated maps
- Cue sheets
I’m sure I forgot something, but that’s most of the important stuff. This is considerably lighter than I would normally ride with on a traditional bikepacking trip. I think I am still taking more than I need, but being that I have never done an event like this I think it’s the right call. I feel pretty confident in my packing. There are also several towns and stores along the route where I can resupply should I really need anything.
I’m looking forward to a great ride and can’t thank the organizers, especially Koz, for doing such a great job with it. Hopefully I’ll be in Alabama in a few days!