Disclaimer: I want to describe what my setup was, but gear choices like handlebars differ from person to person. And with bag and packing setups, remember that there's more than one way to skin a cat.
I personally did research and changed a lot up about my cockpit in the two months before the race, which was a bad idea. Ideally, I should've been riding with my race set up for a few months before the race. But I only decided to try the TransAm in late March, so I was limited in time!
- Salsa Cowbell, 42cm
- Profile designs T3
- 3D-printed crossbar c/o Phil
- Brooks leather bar tapeApidura
- Apidura feedbag
- Revelate designs gas tank TT bag
- Sea to Summit eVent compression drybag, 10L
- QuadLock phone mount
Handlebars. I had been riding Salsa Cowchippers for the last six months or so, which I absolutely love, but I got it into my head that I needed bars with less flare to be riding exclusively paved roads. I realized this was the wrong choice after the first few days of the TransAm. I really prefer the angle that flared bars allow my wrists to sit at, and combined with an ill-timed change in gloves, the Cowbell led to major hand numbness issues. After a while, I got frustrated when I tried to shift to a lower gear with my Force groupset during a climb and ended up shifting to a higher gear two or three times before finding the right angle to get my weakened numb hand to shift the entire sweep up to a lower gear. I'll say this, though—that's a matter of my own fit to my bike and my own riding preference, so this is more a disclaimer to be well-fit to your bike than recommending a specific product.
And handlebar tape—I rely on my gloves and a good fit to minimize the need for heavily padded bars (LOL @ then dealing with numbness issues). But I stand by Brooks tape. I've used it for several years on my main whip, it got hit by a car, and has been wrapped around several sets of bars. It's still comfortable, and leather tape is minimally absorbent and still grippy when wet.
I liked riding the Profile T3 bars, but also wish I had more time to ride them before the TransAm. For a less aggressive positioning, I had them spaced out as wide as I could get away with before they tapered to a narrower clamp diameter. It might be an asthma thing but the amount I'd gain being more aero with a narrower posture was canceled out by the amount my ribcage and lungs could expand with the wider stance. A friend printed put a crossbar that I mounted my lights and phone mount to, which kept my cockpit from being too cluttered.
I kept my sleeping kit slung under the aero bars in a Sea to Summit compression drybag. Definitely had no issues with it being waterproof, and was easy to deal with. Again, I was pretty lazy with packing, so having something to stuff my sleeping kit in while groggy in the morning was nice. If I did it again, though, I'd try to be a more efficient packer and keep my sleeping kit in or on my seat bag, which would free up more cockpit space for feedbags.
Feedbags! I should have left more room for these. They're very versatile and many are large enough to put either food or an extra bottle in. The Apidura I used was very minimal and tucked out of the way behind my compression sack, but I also have a larger one with side pockets sewn by Atlanta bagmakers at the Spindle, aptly named the "40 oz crusher" by its carrying capacity. I missed this badly on the TransAm, but left it behind since the compression sack made it sit back far enough to cause knee strike if I was even slightly out of the saddle. These are the bike equivalent to a cup holder and glove box. Just throw whatever crap you need to in here that you may need at a moment's notice.
I also had a Revelate Designs gas tank. These waterproof top tube bags are bombproof. I kept spare charger cords, wallet, inhaler and USB port in here. Bigger than you'd thing and with an optional Velcro divider. It looks like the new version has a magnetic snap instead of a zipper, which would've been handy, especially since I had cables routed in and out of it.