Missouri Loves Company: JP's Giant TCR Space Bike Turned Bikepacking Gravel Tourer

"Just found a hole in my cross bike.
Can I bring my road bike? Think it's doable on a road bike?"

Five minutes go by.

"Bringing my road bike. Fuck my life"

I've been there. That moment where you find that one thing that can derail your whole adventure, and you have to scramble to work around it. In JP's case, it was forgoing his suddenly-out-of-commision steel cyclocross bike, with room for wide and knobby tires, for probably the worst bike possible for long-distance, fully-loaded, off-pavement riding: a full carbon fiber crit bike, complete with low-spoke-count racing wheels.

A couple modifications once in Chicago and we had his bike ready- well, given the circumstances as ready as it could be. Arriving with the bike, Revelate Designs seat bag and top tube bag, and a few tie-down straps, with everything else stuffed last minute into a gigantic messenger backpack, I was a little worried for the guy. I dug out my size-huge Jandd framebag and handlebar bag, which served me so well touring in the rain through inland Maine on my road bike, and while they didn't fit quite perfectly with his bike's oversized plastic space tubes and aggressively-low handlebars, we would make due. You gotta give it up for the growing number of bag options available for the bikepacking crowd. Conceptually these bags are made to work with mountain bikes, where the moving suspension bits keep the rack-supported bag systems from being an option, which makes them great for pure-bred race bikes lacking any rack mounts at all. 

JP's cross bike, suffering from the effects of a long, hard New York winter.

JP's cross bike, suffering from the effects of a long, hard New York winter.

The last gamble would be tires. In dry gravel, I was worried the similarly-svelte tires he showed up on would be prone to pinches and punctures. Again, after doing the job in Maine, my Rivendell Ruffy Tuffys ended up on his bike, though the clearance between tire and brake and frame was just a few milimeters.

The tires were a gamble, and honestly the trail conditions forced JP into frequent stops to find sticks for unclogging mud and sand. By the third day he had become so good at it that he was able to find the right sized sticks instantly.

But you make due right? The truth of the matter is his setup was still far lighter than mine, and JP was definitely the stronger rider on the tour, so his mud-clearing stops really just served as an opportunity for me to catch back up only to watch him speed off again.