Seems like a long time ago up on Spray Lake in BC...
For what it's worth and for anyone planning to ride the Divide, below are few thoughts as it relates to the Divide and my set-up. For a rookie bike-packer, the Divide has been a great place to jump into non-road touring. Challenging, full of great people, paralleling/crossing fantastic stretches of the Continental Divide and remote enough at times to challenge one's resilience, patience and problem solving abilities. Yet, as a mapped route there's also a bit of a safety valve if needed.
The ACA map set combined with a GPS is pretty essential. The maps are pretty solid but do have a few "holes" in them, especially in Montana. I had a tendency use my GPS only when I felt like I was getting lost, which led to some back tracking, but Bill and I would still be up on Fleecer Ridge if not for the GPS.
North to south is full of riders leaving on race date and into the middle of July. If solo riding is one of your key goals, south to north is probably more likely to give you what you're looking for. For me, a big part of the ride was meeting fellow Divider's along the way and sharing time with them.
Buy the best gear you can afford - the Divide is hard on gear and bikes and while you can swap out gear and parts along the way as needed, it's nice to know going in that the limited kit you've allocated to the ride will hold up to the abuse. I'm super happy with all of the kit I got from Scott at Porcelain Rocket. The only piece of kit that didn't fare too well were my Five Ten's.
To Fat or not to Fat:
I had Cycle Monkey build up the bike with South America in mind, wanting a set-up capable of tackling any terrain while being relatively bomb proof. I certainly followed in the footsteps of Joe, Kurt, Cass, Mike and others when it came to the ultimate decision to go with a fat bike. For the Divide, it was definitely overkill at times, but those stretches where I could air down and smooth out the ride or float through the sandy stuff were great. I felt like it's potential shined in New Mexico where the roads are rough for long stretches at a time.
That said, there's a significant weight and slowness penalty in riding a fat bike with a Rohloff so it's not a racing machine by any means. JayP and others are never going to race the Divide on a Fat bike...
Gates Carbon Drive
The Carbon drive has been almost perfect. While others clean and oil chains multiple times over, I hosed the belt off a few times and basically didn't think about it once. I say almost prefect only because the New Mexico mud was the one thing to bring it to its knees. With a chain, the mud has the opportunity to squeeze out as it runs around the chainrings and rear sprockets. When the New Mexican sludge packed into the grooves of the belt there was nowhere for it to go. In the thick of some muddy stretches, the belt jumped the rear sprocket a few times and left me stooped over an upside down bike doing belt drive dental work to get things going again. I suppose, a relatively small price to pay, for the previous 2300 miles of maintenance free bliss.
Dropping the cash on a Rohloff is a significant investment, but one with which I'm extra happy. So much of the Divide dishes up dusty day after dusty day and the New Mexican mud bath is brutal on gearing. To have everything tucked away inside and churning away un-aware was confidence instilling and well worth the extra cash in the long term. Cycle Monkey set up the gearing as low as it could go and I didn't feel like I was missing any gearing on the climbs. It lacked a few at the other end, but since I was touring I didn't really miss it.
I stayed pretty true to my original gear list. I ditched a few redundant things along the way that I've tried to follow up on (see notes) in the Gear section. I would say I fell into the middle weight range of those out there touring. I could have probably ridden without rear panniers if I wasn't carrying a laptop, various other electronic gadgets and had a bigger triangle. And I could have lightened the load considerably with a bivy set-up, a lighter sleeping bag, and nothing more than an IPhone for a camera but my goal from the beginning was not to race.
If I were starting the Divide again I would have set-up my tires as tubeless. New Mexico is really where it comes into play with goat heads that can give you multiple flats in a day if you're unlucky. I opted for the low-budget version of Slime as I got into NM.
I ended up riding with a backpack for the entire trip, something I didn't intend to do from the beginning. I liked the quick access to a few things I used consistently throughout the day. But as I drop down into South America, this is one of the things I'm going to try to minimize or re-tool a bit. A work in progress...