I get these following questions a lot, and was hoping you guys would be able to shed some light: How was riding the Main Route with a cross bike? What tires did you use? Was there any specific point that you felt the Main Route overwhelmed the tires, bikes and pannier setup?
Anyways, I'm Glad you guys had a great ride, and I 2nd breakfast at the Stanley Baking Company and beer at the Galena Lodge!
First off thanks again for creating an awesome route!!!
Overall I thought that the main route was no problem on a cross bike and Christine agrees. She had previous experience on some 100+ gravel races but I literally only had 20 miles of gravel road biking in my life going into this trip. Also I've only used a mountain bike once in my life so all I will say is that if you already own a cross bike then it's not necessary to go buy a mountain bike just to use on the main route.
I actually used my exact same bike set up from my 12 day Pacific Coast tour from Portland OR to San Jose CA back in May of this year: http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/ADPC2014
I stuck with my 32mm Continental Tour Ride Tires which I believe are the same ones that come stock on the Surly Long Haul trucker. Christine also had 32mm tires with similar tread.
With my setup, I did not have to hike on any portions of the climbs but I definitely had to take rests. My rear tire would only start slipping on the real steep parts that were sandy. Christine had to hike with her bike on certain steep parts of the climbs when the dirt road became too crappy. A nice gentleman we met who had completed the Continental Divide last year was hiking in the real steep spots also.
The sections that had the most washboard and sand were probably the most annoying parts of the ride and I assume that wider tires and shocks would provide a smoother ride.
The downhills were probably the sketchest part for our bike setups especially when hitting sandy spots with decent speed. I could feel the front tire losing traction in the sand and wanting to slide left or right if I didn't hold my line straight. For the most part though, this was not an issue on most of the downhills and could easily be avoided by taking it slower on the descents. My arms were definitely tired after the real bumpy downhill parts and shocks would probably help eliminate some of that stress.
Long story short.... We had no problems using our cross bikes with rear panniers and 32mm tires on the main route.
Just stay off the Toll Road