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Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Its all about the kit!

Following several mildly disasterous fully loaded outings on my bike I thought Id blog a bit about the kit and my thoughts in set up so far for anyone thats interested. Some less technical posts will follow.

As a general rule... Im not kit crazy (whatever some of my friends may think). I havent actually weighed my kit yet.. yet being the operative word. .. rather going on the feel of it. I have had 3 fully loaded test rides. 2 short and 1 longer... all provided lessons about me and my bike... which is another way of saying they didnt go too well.

My first impression is that the kit bags I have are good... verging on the great BUT whereas they worked with my road bike perfectly ... there are a couple of issues with my mountain bike. Aside from the fact that I am now fully convinced that I need to shed even more weight!

The frame bag doesnt leave enough space for bottles on my bike in the places where there are clamps. I can either get a smaller frame bag (Im looking at the Alpkit possum) and cut down or pack the kit better or mount my bottles elsewhere on the bike. To this end I have tried several different ways of mounting bottle holders... so far none have been great or secure. I tried my frame bag with a side entry bottle holder but its still difficult to get the bottle in and out while riding. So I think the less/better packed kit and a smaller frame bag is the way to go.

My handlebar bag is a success. I have packed my sleep system in such a way that I will just need to roll it out and blow up the air mat and then it is all ready to collapse into. Basically I have just rolled everything up together (video will be available soon) and put it in my handlebar bag.. Bed in a bag!! Simple. It sits under my handlebars well and doesnt effect the handling of the bike at all. With care Im sure I could compress it even more but at the end of a long day on the trail... I know that even badly rolled up ... it still works.

A new sleeping bag was purchased... down to keep me warmer and weighing in at only 650g ... lighter is better. Just hoping its warm enough at high elevations.

Rear pack.... brilliant. Apidura and carries loads. No issues when previously used in NZ and has been great on training runs so far.

Cockpit... i.e handlebars and attachments to make hands hurt less.

I have umm' d and errr'd over whether to go with aerobars or not. They provide extra mount points for camera... lights... etc and will provide a different hand position. But extra weight and a question of how useful they will actually be. I have some I used for NZ and am considering purchasing a cross bar (for mount points). This issue is yet to be decided.

I probably need to add feed bags to the bars to hold snacks that I can easily get to. Again more weight but useful to eat on the go from.

My new mount point for the garmin etrex 30x is proving a good position... its more stable and read more easily whilst going along. It is on an accessory bar out in front of my handlebars.

Kit weight

Yup I know I said I havent weighed my kit... but it feels bloody heavy on the hills. I have paired down my sleep system as much as possible so thats a no go area for shaving weight off.

Tools... always needed in the middle of nowhere. Difficult to cut down on...
Which leaves clothes!
Again im facing wearing the same set of bike clothes for the entirety of the race but need to ensure that I have enough layers to be warm/ward off hypothermia at higher elevations at night.

A new jacket/raincoat is warm and will hopefully enable me to stay dry. Baselayer is a must have. A good pair of socks with maybe a spare pair. A spare pair of bike shorts. 1 jersey. No underwear... no off the bike clothes... no spare jersey.  Question of whether to buy a down jacket to help keep me warm in the cool mornings and nights. Or if im cold... get up and cycle!!
1 pair shoes ... as not using cleats... i have a good pair hiking trainers that work well with my bike.
Short of cycling naked... I have paired it down as much as possible.

Apologies go out now to Louize Evans and her husband Mark. Louize has kindly offered to pick me up at the end (if I get there) and my clothes might be slightly oderous to say the least! 

Other additions are a first aid kit (minimal with lots of brufen and steristrips... you could probably re-attach a severed limb with steristrips!)
Electricals to keep the phone and cameras working to keep everyone updated when signal allows.

So as you can see... there isnt much room for weight improvements but I will go through my kit list with a fine tooth comb to weed out "luxury" items.

My final decision... which will be part sorted friday ... is the type of tyre Im going to use. Converting on Friday to a tubeless set up is one thing... choosing a tyre set could result in a separate blog post... given the amount of research im doing.

The conditions along the Tour Divide will includes ( not necessarily confined to..) mud.. gravel... water... snow... tarmac... more mud... thorns... sandy desert like conditions.. rocks... have I missed anything? Essentially all terrain. Therefore what I need is a protected sidewall... hard wearing compound... with good mud shedding capabilities... grippy in adverse conditions and because its a race... good rolling resistance.. i.e Fast.
No one tyre claims to do all this so its a balance of probability and the result... I will update after Friday!

I will also carry a water bladder for the stretches with little water availability in a rucksack with space for lots of food to keep the legs going round.

All the above is basically a guessing game as to what will work out there on the trail. No doubt I will miss a vital piece of kit or some of my kit may not be used... but I need to cover at least base 1-3 and improv to base 4 if necessary.

No doubt any keen cyclist or friend out there reading this will have suggestions or observations about my kit observations thus far. Please ... feel free to suggest... comment... laugh at or otherwise engage with this post.

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From here to Banff to Antelope Wells... at least thats the plan!