Carrying water - CycleBlaze

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Carrying water

Leo Woodland


Any thoughts about carrying enough water to get through long hot days on the Great Divide? It's just a matter of filling bottles, I know, but what do you use and where do you carry it? All insights valued. Thanks.

happy days

léo   (

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2 months ago
Gregory GarceauTo Leo Woodland

Hi Leo,

I've never ridden the Great Divide but I'm somewhat familiar with the route and its remoteness.  Keeping luxuries to a minimum generally provides enough room in my (two) panniers for at least a half gallon of water.  Plus, I've been known to stuff another four quarts of water in my tent bag when I know I won't find water for a couple of days.  That's in addition to the 20-ounce bottles I always have in each of my two bottle cages and the quart I can bungee on top of my gear on the rear rack.

I think I'd definitely carry my backpacking water filter if I were ever to tackle the Great Divide.  I'm sure it would be worthwhile in the northern half, maybe not so much in the southern half.

I say these things only because you said "all insights valued."  As I said, I haven't ridden that route and maybe I'm naive about how slow the cycling is compared to touring on paved roads (though I have done a fair amount of mountain biking and gravel riding.)  It's entirely possible that I would naive myself right into dehydration on the Great Divide.


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2 months ago
Jeff LeeTo Leo Woodland

When Joy and I did the southern half of the route in 2016, she used attachments on her front fork that allowed her to carry two-liter bottles there. That was in addition to the standard three bottle cages each of us carried. And I believe we sometimes carried additional water bottles in our panniers.

Also, we carried a water filter, and used it.

I found this route to be one of the few things in my experience that was actually harder than advertised. You'd probably be fine, since you enjoy camping, but for someone soft like me, who is basically a credit card tourist at this point, it was very challenging to be out for days, covered with dirt, in such rugged, dry, remote country where ice cream, pizza, soft drinks, and air conditioners are not readily available.


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2 months ago
Leo WoodlandTo Jeff Lee

Hi Jeff


  It sounds as though you carried seven litres, then, four on the forks, three in cages. That sounds reasonable, not least because a friend has come up with a way of attaching a jerrycan to the down tube.

  I worry because I read of people carrying ten and even 12 litres. And, frankly, because I really have no idea of what's needed.

  As for being filthy and ragged, I take comfort from one of your own journals, in which you wrote of exceeding even your own low standards of hygiene. I have adopted that as my mantra: that you can never sink too low.

  It sounds as though it's in the southern states that the problems arise. If it all comes off then I'll ride from south to north, starting in El Paso. That means then either riding 120km west to Antelope Wells or the same distance north-west to join the route further up. The second sounds the better option from what I've heard of the state of the trail in New Mexico and the absence of ferris wheels, ice-cream stands and other diversions in the days north of Antelope Wells.

  And, yes, I am a hardy outdoor type with sunken cheeks, dazzling blue eyes and a wonderful British accent. It was all that that made Joy fall so easily in love with me, I think...

happy days


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2 months ago
Graham SmithTo Leo Woodland

Hi Léo

Cycle touring in the world’s driest habitable continent has taught me that water bladders (I use Platypus brand) are the best way to carry water. Unlike bidons, the bladders compress when not needed, and can be carried in a pannier which keeps water a bit cooler. Using bladders I can carry up to 0-14 litres depending on conditions. 

Regards Graham

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2 months ago
Leo WoodlandTo Graham Smith

Thanks, old friend. You're a beezer geezer!

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1 month ago
Victa CalvoTo Leo Woodland

Hi Leo

Great to read you're riding the Rockies, some of my most favourite country on the planet. Ill be reading your blog with great interest - the Divide ride is on my short list. 

Living in OZ like Graham, I find water bladders are best for carrying large volumes. I use MSR bladders, they give the water an ugly taste but they are indestructible and if you're thirsty enough the taste is fine. 

How much water is enough? Too many variables to give a definitive reply. Riding across the middle of the outback one winter I was carrying up to 20+ litres between water points. I met up with some of the Race to the Rock competitors going the other way. They were doing the same distances with about 5 to 7 litres a piece, carried on bike and in Camelbacks. 

You won't be facing OZ outback conditions and 200+ km between water points, but the same principle applies. With water bladders, a couple of bike mounted bottles for easy access and a small Sawyer water filter you'll be flexible enough to cope with any conditions you find on the ride. 

Have fun...

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1 month ago