Riding across Europe requires some tough kit choices in terms of quantity, quality, comfort, speed and risks you want to run. I’ve spent quite a lot of time honing down my choices to take the things I need to cover any realistic eventuality but fingers-crossed nothing more. There are a few luxuries I’ve included to help my sanity too but I guess those count as essentials in my book. So without further ado it’s time for some #kitgrids…
The core of my set up is a Bokeh Ti frame from Mason. It’s a beautiful machine that’s fast and comfortable and hugely adaptable depending on how you set it up – anything from fast road rides through bikepacking and touring to light MTB-ing depending. Here’s what it looks like in Transcontinental set up.
- Large Apidura saddlebag containing things I should only need at the end of the day like toiletries and off the bike clothes.
- Specialized Power saddle which seems to fit me well and the cutout helps relieve pressure on the tribars.
- Profile Designs tribars on 50mm risers for comfort. Getting aero makes a huge difference on long rides.
- TT-shifters to help me stay on the tribars over rolling terrain.
- Apidura food pouch tucked between the tribars provides ready access to snacks and extra carrying capacity on top of my jersey pockets.
- 3T Ergonova handlebars just fit my hands and are super comfy.
- Large Apidura framebag for heavier items and things I may need quickly on the ride like my battery charger or waterproof.
- I’m running the latest Shimano Ultegra Di2 hydraulic groupset. Great shifting and braking and it allows me to run a 34 sprocket at the back…
- …combined with a 30 tooth small front chainring from Absolute Black that gives me a crazy low gear that should get me up anything and if it doesn’t I doubt I’ll be slower walking. The left crank arm has a Stages powermeter so I can judge my effort.
- Pedals are from Speedplay as my knees love the free float.
- Hunt gravel wheels which have served me well on a number of big rides on and off road.
- 30mm Schwalbe G-One Speed tyres roll beautifully and have the volume to be super comfortable. I’m also running them tubeless so I can run them at around 60psi for extra plushness without having to worry about pinch flats.
|Review: Pretty pleased with how the bike performed. Shifting was seemless, the brakes gave me excellent control (though did occassionally make some rubbing noises just riding along without slowing me down), and the whole set up purred over rough roads. Only two downsides. First I got a saddle sores. I don’t know if that was the saddle, the position or my shorts and seeing as most riders were afflicted it was perhaps inevitable. Second the padding wore out on my tribars – brand new, extra thick pads would have been great at the start.|
This is what I’ll be wearing most of the time on the bike and is intended to cover me for a range of conditions from sweltering heat to rain in the mountains. I’m riding in Rapha Cycling Club colours because I’m proud to be a member and a bit of pink should help with visibility.
- RCC Pro Team bibshorts. I’m actually taking two pairs so I can always have a clean set and if my butt gets really tender I can double up.
- Rapha Brevet Gilet to add reflectiveness at night and take the chill off in the morning.
- RCC Pro Team baselayer. Comfy. Quick drying. Pink.
- Reflective pink Rapha Climbers Shoes. Light, comfy and my feet don’t overheat in them. The pink and reflectiveness is brilliant for helping you be seen dah and night because the movement of your feet as your pedals catches the eye. Customs insoles via VeloAtelier and Speedplay cleats on the bottom.
- Rapha merino knee warmers. Are super warm and breathable, pack small and save weight over leg warmers 😬
- Rapha merino arm warmers.
- RCC Pro Team midweight jersey in pink. Highly visible and well-fitting club colours.
- Rapha Brevet gloves in case of cold descents in the mountains
- Kask x Paul Smith Protone helmet fits my head nicely, looks great and is apparently aero without being a complete brain-boiler.
- RCC lightweight cap to keep my head warm and rain off. If the TCR cap with my number on it fits I’ll mostly wear that instead.
- 7Mesh Orro rain jacket packs super small and is meant to be really waterproof and also breathable. Given the drought in the UK I haven’t really been able to test it since it arrived at the start of May so fingers-crossed.
- RCC socks to complete the look. I’m taking a second pair as a bit of luxury.
|Review: A slightly more mixed bag here. I used it all except the leg warmers, second pair of socks and RCC cap (the TCR was generoously sized). The baselayer, gloves and armwarmers were only used once each because it was hot but it was good to have all the kit because the weather could have been very different. As I said I did get saddle sores though which might have been the shorts. I was wearing both pairs the last two days to keep everything comfortable! Pink was good for being seen but ended up filthy by the end.|
Off the bike clothes
All this is maybe unnecessary but my plan is stop properly at the end of each day and I want to have somethings to change into and be “normal” if I go out for food or a drink or just a wander around.
- Furoshiki shoes are lightweight and pack down small. I can wear them off the bike but looking at some of the checkpoint parcours there’s a good chance I’ll need to push the bike and I’d rather do that wearing these than cycling shoes.
- PhD Mountain Software down jacket is my layer of warmth. I splashed a bit of cash on this put it packs down tiny yet as super-insulating. In an emergency I’ll use it to sleep in outside or keep warm on wet descents under my waterproof.
- Board shorts are lightweight and just about acceptable and it’s nice to have the option to go for a dip in a lake or river along the way.
- Merino T-shirt which can act as an emergency layer [STOP PRESS: I’ve swapped this for a lightweight shirt as the merino would be too hot. It can still be pressed into service as a layer in the worst case scenario].
|Review: This stuff was all good and a great bit of luxury for the days I got to hotels early I could change and not sit about in bike kit. The shoes were invalulable for the CP4 parcours and the down jacket made an excellent windblocker on cold descents. Plus I could look pretty decent when I got to Meteora!|
Tools and maintenance
This is a tricky area as I need to be self-reliant but tools are heavy so I’ve made a judgement on what might happen that I can realistically fix. I’ll get punctures and have that covered and can take the bits to fix a spoke without too much weight but for more complex things I’ll be looking for a bike shop.
- Crankalicious chain wipes to keep my chain clean and running smoothly
- Spare derailleur hanger
- Electrical tape for bodying stuff
- Pump. I don’t trust CO2 canisters and want something that is reliable. This Topeak one is a bit bulky but it functions like a mini track pump and has been a trusty companion for nearly a decade.
- Spoke key.
- Chain tool.
- Spare spokes in different lengths
- Inner tubes. Though I’m running tubeless there’s a risk I’ll get a puncture that doesn’t seal at which point a tube goes in.
- Screwdriver for tightening cleat screws and adjusting derailleur limits.
- Tyre lever.
- “Anchovies” for plugging holes in my tubeless tyres.
- A little fork for inserting the anchovies.
- Inner tube patches.
- Valve core remover.
- Leatherman so I have some pliers to tweak things and a knife.
- I don’t use a multi tool because I find the tools not that good and half of them are useless. Instead I’m taking a selection of hex keys (5, 4, 3) and Torx keys (30, 25) that I need for all the bolts on my bike.
- Cable ties.
- Spare powermeter battery.
- More cable ties.
- Spare cleats because I doubt I can easily find some Speedplay ones.
- Spare clear bolts.
- Disc brake spacers.
|Review: I used hardly any of this – I didn’t even get a puncture – so it turned out to be deadweight for my TCR. Lots of other riders suffered mechanical from ruined wheels through bent derailleurs to cracked frames which they fixed with varying levels of success and a fair few had to scratch as a result. On balance this is isn’t an area where I would compromise if I did it again.|
Navigation and communications
The stuff that’ll stop me getting lost and keep me in touch.
- Garmin Edge 1000 is actually my back up navigation option. I want to make sure I have redundancy if the Wahoo goes wrong.
- Wahoo ELEMNT is my primary device. I find it pretty similar to the Garmin in use but the great feature is being able to sync routes from my phone if I need to reroute.
- iPhone – smart phones are so good these days I don’t need to take a camera and I can use it to navigate as well as standard things like messaging and social media (on which note my hashtags are #TCRNo6Cap108, #thedomestiquated animal and #tachecontinental).
|Review: The Wahoo had a wobble on one day when I broke out the Garmin but otherwise was flawless. Still it was good to have a back-up. The ability to reroute on the fly (as long as your phone has an internet connection) saved me on at least one occassion. The phone was invaluable whether navigating, taking photos, communicating with home or listening to music.|
A few things to keep me powered up and riding safely. In the end I opted for batteries and standalone lights over a dynamo because charging a things off a dynamo can be a little temperamental so I’d probably take batteries anyway and the dynamo is heavy and I don’t plan to ride at night if I can avoid it.
- Battery pack – I can charge my phone fully about three times from this.
- Di2 charger.
- USB charger with four outlets.
- Micro USB cable for the Garmin, Wahoo, battery packs and di2.
- Lightning cable for my phone.
- Bluetooth headphones with microphone in case I want to make calls while riding to relieve boredom.
- Another micro USB cable.
- Exposure Blaze rear light.
- Exposure charging cable.
- Exposure Strada 1200 front light which mounts on my fork crown with a remote cable to the handlebars.
|Review: All good, all used. I got into a routine of trying to end the day with my Wahoo fully charged from the battery pack which meant I only had to charge my pack and phone. A few occassions when an extra micro-USB and Exposure cable would have been reassuring to make sure everything was juiced up for the next day.|
The bits and bobs I need to stay clean and healthy.
- Sudocrem is the audaxers choice when it comes to chamois cream. Thick so it lasts, cheap and slightly antibacterial.
- Soap for cleaning clothes especially the pad in my bibshorts. This is special Portuguese azul e branco soap which my buddy Jorge gave me and has a fearsome reputation on the Iberian Peninsular.
- Antibiotics in case of Delhi-belly.
- Shaving cream to keep my legs sharp but I won’t bother with my face. This is probably ridiculous but keeping on top of things like this makes feel good and look like a proper cyclist. Plus it’s much easier to apply sunblock to smooth legs.
- Comb. For the ‘stache.
- Razor. For the legs. Women’s model because the ergonomics are better.
- Spare spectacles because I’m really short-sighted and losing a pair will take me out of the race. I could do contact lenses but I don’t want to risk dry eyes or infections given the length of time I will be riding each day.
- Factor 50 sunblock. I’m using Ultrasun Sports Gel because a little goes a long way and the non-greasy formula is easy to apply.
|Review: The ‘stache looked good, my legs were sharp and I didn’t get sunburnt. I think the saddlesores were a result of the saddle not the Sudocrem but it kept them clean along with the rest of my undercarriage. I could have managed with a smaller pot though. The sunblock was good but only lasted about 10 days.|
One things is missing you will have noticed – to keep my ‘stache pert and aero I’m also taking a tub of Geo. F. Trumper’s finest lavender moustache wax.
Other bits and bobs
Things that don’t fit in any of the categories above.
- Notebook in case I need to write things down like distances or points of interest or just feel moved to sketch or write bad poetry or something.
- Antibacterial hand gel to reduce the risk of stomach bugs.
- Titanium spork. I decided against the danglemug but thought this would be useful in case say I want to eat a whole tub of ice cream.
- Pen. To use with the notebook. Obvs.
- Café lock. It won’t stop anything other than an opportunist but it gives me a bit of peace of mind.
- Three 750ml bidons.
|Review: Doing it again I’d probably forego the lock and hand gel as I didn’t really use either – it felt far safer leaving my bike in all the countries I visited than it does in London. Three bidons were invaluable in the heat though I filled up the one below the downtube in Geraardsbergen and never touched it all the way to Greece – I worked on the basis that as soon as I had got through the first two I would fill up at the next chance and the third was there for emergencies only.|