Bailey Newbrey and His Salsa Woodsmoke
In our latest Rider and Rig, we chat with singlespeed Tour Divide crusher Bailey Newbrey, and get the lowdown on his recent headfirst dive into ultra racing, how he packs his 35lb race setup, and his plans to set up a new bike shop in Santa Fe, New Mexico…
If the name Bailey Newbrey is familiar to you, it’s probably because of his 15-day, 2nd place Tour Divide finish in 2018… on a singlespeed, no less. Bailey’s been fully immersed in the bike world since he was 15; whether it’s been riding freestyle BMX, racing cyclocross, co-running Comrade Cycles in Chicago, or relocating to Stillwater, Oklahoma, to work at District Bicycles and train for the Divide.
With his recent move to Santa Fe, New Mexico, I’ve had the chance to share a few rides on our local singletrack and enjoy his company on a recent overnighter. For our two-hour blast around Galisteo Basin Preserve’s trail network, Bailey was out riding with his fully loaded bikepacking rig, to reacquaint himself with how it feels, in the lead-up to the coming race season. The setup you see in these images represents almost everything he’ll be taking on the Italy Divide, the Colorado Trail Race, and others this summer.
Talk us through you cycling background.
Bicycles have always been a part of my life. Like many, I became enthralled with the freedom they provided at an early age. Around my 12th birthday, I got my first real BMX bike and went all in. The bike shop in my home town hired me when I turned 15, and by the end of that first summer I was building custom wheels in the shop and realizing that I’d unintentionally found my career. I continued riding freestyle BMX at a high level until multiple concussions and a minor surgery forced me to reconsider my priorities.
I bought my first road bike, moved to the city (Chicago), and fell in love with the culture around both commuting and touring. I took each opportunity to get out of the hustle and bustle, be it for a quick overnight with friends or larger tours such as a trip down the Mississippi to New Orleans. In 2008, I was convinced to race my first cyclocross race and continued to do that fairly seriously for the next nine years. In 2012, Jesse Hautau, Steve Parkes, and I took a risk and opened a bike shop of our own, Comrade Cycles.
I co-owned and operated Comrade for six years. During this time I became increasingly enamored with touring, bikepacking, and ultra-distance racing. The realization that Chicago was not the easiest place to continue these passions brought me to selling my portion of the shop and moving out of Chicago in early 2018.
The bike shop in my home town hired me when I turned 15, and by the end of that first summer I was building custom wheels in the shop and realizing that I’d unintentionally found my career.”
Once you made the decision to gravitate towards ultra racing in a committed way, it seems like there was no looking back. Am I right in understanding that you had little prior experience riding multi-day events? Have you always been secretly itching to go a little further, a little faster?
Ever since getting my first road bike I had the desire to see just how far I could push. I’d go out with no food, no water, just a pouch of tobacco and some rolling papers and ride 50, 80, 120 miles. I’d go out and bonk hard, roll a smoke, and limp back home, just happy to be out. Slowly, I figured things out, quit smoking, and started participating in the longer distance gravel races. In 2016, I raced the Tour Divide with no multi-day race experience.
My prior touring and gravel racing experiences were all I had to go on, and though they certainly helped, I learned quite a bit. I also realized that I wasn’t half bad at ultra racing and wanted to see what I could do with a bit more knowledge and preparation. The following year I traveled to South Dakota to race the Black Hills Expedition, a 450-mile bikepacking race over technical singletrack and forgotten roads in the Black Hills National Forest. At the time, the race had yet to be completed on either a singlespeed or a rigid bike. Not only did I finish it, but I was also the first to make it back into Spearfish. That was the moment I decided to go all in.
There is something special to climbing a mountain pass with only your legs and lungs to get you to the top.”
Tell us about the mindset required to complete big, multi-day events on a singlespeed. Why do you think it appeals to you?
If I’m entirely honest, I don’t know that it takes much of a different mindset. Once riding singlespeed becomes normalized in one’s mind it’s about the same. I rarely, if ever, consider it in the moment. With people like Chris Plesko and Timon Fish going out and absolutely destroying the Tour Divide and Colorado Trail Race on singlespeeds, I think more folks are realizing that it’s really not a disadvantage over these distances and terrain. I try not to romanticize singlespeed riding too much, as it’s certainly been overdone, but there is something special to climbing a mountain pass with only your legs and lungs to get you to the top.
Looking forward, you’re setting up a bike shop in Santa Fe. Who is it aimed at?
Yes! There is still work to be done, but the goal is to be open in early to mid-March of this year. The shop will be aimed at anyone who wants to experience the peace and freedom in transport one can only achieve on a bicycle. We will specialize in bikes and accessories for commuting/utilitarian cycling, as well as bikepacking and traditional touring, with a tendency toward gear that is built to last and MUSA (Made in the USA) when possible. My main goal is to create a comfortable, inviting, and inspiring place for people to gather and embrace the sense of childlike wonder one can be reverted to while on the bicycle. We’ll be hosting a variety of rides for all types of people, whether they identify as cyclists or not, as well as overnight camping trips, classes, and discussions.
Any future racing plans? Always just the one gear?
I’ve managed to give myself a fairly busy race calendar for the year! I’ll be doing Italy Divide, Colorado Trail Race, Trans North Georgia, and Black Hills Expedition. Should be a lot of fun with a lot of really excellent people! Yes, just one gear for the foreseeable future.
We’d love to find out more about your gear list – for racing the Divide, for instance. Given that your complete bike weighs in at 35lb (trail weight, including water but not food), I don’t suppose it’s very long…
For this past year’s Tour Divide, I was able to pare things down to just the essentials fairly well. My sleep system consisted of a Black Diamond Twilight bivy, Enlightened Equipment 30°F (-1°C) quilt, and a small Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite. For clothing, I brought a Search and State PJ-1 jacket, a Search and State vest, DeFeet wool arm and leg warmers, Rab rain pants, Mountain Laurel Designs rain mitts, Giro gloves and shoes, one pair of light wool socks, one pair of heavier Defeet Woolie Boolie socks, Patagonia down sweater, and SmartWool boxers for sleeping in. Repair kit consisted of a small multi-tool, two tubes, some spare chain links, plugs, boots, patches, zip ties, lube, and a frame pump. Additionally, I brought a small external battery (which I never once used), a Platypus water filter, some charging cables, spare batteries, a phone, toiletries, and some cord to hang my food with when I had the energy. No stove, no utensils, no nothing! Light came by way of a Sinewave Beacon and a Black Diamond Spot on my helmet. All my navigation has been on a Garmin 810, though I’ve recently switched to an eTrex 30 for simplicity’s sake. I’ve never been one to pay much interest in data and numbers, so the straightforward route tracking on the eTrex makes more sense for me.
One of the more important tweaks I’ve made to my bikepacking race setup is to pack my bike in a manner that keeps it riding as near to how it does unloaded, rather than packing it in a fashion that looks “correct.” A primary difference has been to keep as much as possible off the front of the bike (no handlebar bag, roll, Anything Cage bags) so as to normalize the steering and make for easier hike-a-bikes.
Bailey’s Woodsmoke Build Highlights
- Frame and Fork: Salsa Woodsmoke and Salsa Firestarter
- Headset: Cane Creek 110
- Crank Arm Set: SRAM XO
- Chainring: XXX
- Rear cog: Surly 19T
- Chain: Wolftooth 38T
- Handlebars: Whisky Parts Co.
- Stem: Thomson
- Seatpost: Whisky Parts Co.
- Saddle: WTB SL8
- Grips: ESI Chunky
- Pedals: Time XS Carbon
- Shifter: Standing (!)
- Brakes: Avid XO Trail
- Front Hub: Schmidt Son 28 15mm
- Rear Hub: DT 420
- Rims + Tires: Whisky No 9 41w with Vittoria Mezcal 29×2.6 (29×2.25 for the Tour Divide)
- Other: King Cage Iris Cages, Cane Creek Bar Ends, Vision Mini TT Aero Bars
And the bike? Anything we should know about? What drew you to the Woodsmoke in particular?
First and foremost, I should answer the main question I get, which is gearing. It’s 38×19 or 2:1. I change my gearing fairly regularly depending on the type of riding I’m doing and/or the events I’m training for or riding in. Sometimes I get it wrong and other times it’s exactly where I want to be. In my opinion, 2:1 is ideal for the Tour Divide as the riding is generally not the most technical and the climbing not terribly steep. And anything you can’t muscle through is a great opportunity to save your knees and Achilles with some hike-a-bike! I walked far more in this year’s TD than 2016, ended with next to no injury or inflammation, and took four days off my time.
I use the best seatpack system ever, the Porcelain Rocket Mr Fusion. Joe at JPaks made me a phenomenal framebag that I absolutely adore. A Sinewave Beacon lights the way and keeps my devices charged. Cane Creek Ergo bar ends are one of the best simple additions for extra hand positions and multi-day comfort. King Cage Iris cages are the only thing I trust to keep my bottles in place on lumpy descents.
All this on Salsa’s very fun and capable frame, the Woodsmoke. The bike wasn’t my initial choice, as I tend to shy away from carbon frames, but Salsa was helping me out a bit leading up to the 2018 Tour Divide and provided the frame. The massive tire/mud clearance, extra frame bag room, and short chainstays ended up making for one of my favorite bikes I’ve ever owned.
Lastly, with latent multi-day, racing DNA now coursing through your veins, is it still possible to take a leisurely bikepack with friends, without feeling the need to drop the hammer?!
Absolutely! Although races that push my physical and mental limit will always be something important to me, there is not much I enjoy more than the casual bikepacking trip with friends, to truly remind me why I began all this in the first place.
You can follow Bailey via his Instagram. Or, pop into his new shop, scheduled to open in March 2019, if you’re passing through Santa Fe, New Mexico. We’ll add details when we have them.