It’s been over 8 weeks since I buckled it in Sarajevo and since reading my good pal Tim Pulleyn’s post, TCR Kit List – what worked & what didn’t, I thought I would produce my own list of good shit, bad shit. If not to perhaps help future TCR riders, then at least it’ll remind me what I should and shouldn’t take…next time; I’m already thinking this will definitely be attempted again.
Very little was changed on the RATHAD (as previously featured). Knowing that I was going to the Transcontinental, I held back on chopping my steerer tube down when building the RATHAD. This meant that I’d have a bit of spare steerer tube to convert the racing geometry into a more relaxed racing-randoneurring geometry by raising the stem up a couple of centimeters.
I had a new set of wheels built; Hope Pro RS Rear Hub / Supernova Infinity S Dynamo Front Hub + H Plus Son 28H rims shoed up in 25mm Continental Gatorskins. To save me getting a new compact chainset I embraced the SRAM Force 22 medium cage WiFli derailler and threw on a 11-32 cassette. Never at any point, even on the ascent of the Ventoux, with luggage, did I think this gear was way too hard. I think this was an ideal setup considering the sections of flat riding where a big 53 was needed.
Lastly I added on some bling new 3T S-Bend Extensions Pro. Due to the lack of space now to mount a light and a GPS I bought two 3T computer mounts that bridged between the extension bars. One just beyond the armrests for the GPS and the other towards the end, for the light. The extensions weren’t totally ideal; the fixed width of the computer mounts meant that they were quite narrow. It felt very awkward for the first few days but towards the end my body adapted well to the aerodynamic position. In hindsight I should have looked elsewhere to find bridge mount with adaptable width. I was swithering on whether or not to take TT bars. Really I just wanted to reduce weight of the overall machine though in turned out to be a great decision. In comparison to many of my fellow racers, who didn’t take TT bars, I had very little nerve damage in my hands. Infact I only had a loss of control to a portion of my left hand; simply because I’m right-handed and my left would have been in constant contact with the bars. TT bars really are a must have, though if there is some sort of drop bar – TT bar integrated setup that would be ideal.
In hindsight the RATHAD’s geometry didn’t really lend itself well to this event. Not that the attacking geometry caused me any issues, it was more a case of it’s ability to carry luggage. The front end of the RATHAD has just a 130mm of head tube. Attaching bags off of the handlebars meant that the bottom of the bags where hanging just above the wheels, so close that sometimes the tyre would rub the bag. My front bag is a mess of burnt holes now. Since I raised my stem anyway to be slightly more upright in position this means in theory the head tube could be taller, say 150-160mm. It was simply space adopted by stem spacers anyway. The top tube of the frame is sloping, for a compact style geometry. Unfortunately this meant that I could not use bottles at the same time as carry a frame bag; the frame bag obviously didn’t get taken. So another adjustment would be to adopt traditional horizontal top tube geometry. That paired with a taller head tube would leave a lot more space to carry bottles and a frame bag. On the subject of bottles, I foolishly took out small, 500ml bottles. My thinking was again to save weight; in reality this lost me time for the amount of times I needed to stop and refill. Therefore another adjustment would be to add a further third bottle cage position under the down tube, and perhaps take 750ml bottles! The last thing that I noticed was that I had no space to attach my Exposure TraceR light. Usually this would just attach to the seat post; except this was all taken up by the Apidura Saddle Pack. There was a small space below the seat post clamp but you could only just see the light below the saddle bag. The last option normailly would be to attach to the seat tube and the light shines through the seat stays. With the frames compact geometry this wasn’t an option either as the light could not fit in between the seat tube and seat stays, above the rear brake. Again adopting a traditional geometry would mean that the seat stays would sit higher up the seat tube and therefore allow space for the rear light to be placed between the seat tube and the seat stays. [My fix for this during the race was just a shite load of sparky tape wrapping the mount onto the seat stay.]
The final potential change I might adopt would be to go for a disc brake setup. Disc brakes were very popular at TCR this year, though if I’m honest this would just be a nice to have as I never felt that I didn’t have enough braking power.
On the bike
I had to be on brand for the race, with nearly everything Albannach design. The jerseys were excellent though I generally rode with my jerseys unzipped most of the day. Training in Scotland usually in the low teens meant it was proper tapsaff weather on the continent. I was so happy with how the gilet came out; it worked a treat. The rain jacket only got a bit of use on the first couple of days so perhaps I could have just gone without that and toughed it out. The same could be said for the arm and leg warmers. I don’t really ever wear mitts, I think they look pro but I prefer the feel bare handed. I bought some fancy Rapha ones in an attempt to save my hands, providing a bit of padding to the palms. In reality I bought these way too late; they needed a good few weeks to break in the leather which meant I pretty much did not use them during the race.
To cut things down a bit I could probably have gone just the one jersey and shorts thought to save those anywhere near me I might look into some sort of custom merino jersey next year.
The big change I would make would of to have left my SRA summer bibshorts at home. For 100+km rides around the lanes at home these are perfect. However for two weeks continual riding, 300+km per day my arse was in ribbons. Next time around I’d invest in the finest bibshorts available to humanity. I even had a pair of Endura Equipe Infiniti CB bibshorts (which are the most incredible shorts I’ve had the pleasure of rubbing up against) but I chose to instead be ‘on brand’.
Off the bike
In the hills the jacket was a godsend. I didn’t take a sleeping bag so this also doubled up as a sleeping bag for the cooler alpine bivvy nights. Merino is an amazing material, I wish I had more of it for this trip, lightweight, heat regulating and odour resistant; perfect. Footwear, other than bike shoes, really was essential, trust me. Shoes off for an hour while you get some food is so good.
At the bottom of this I kept my sleeping kit, ‘off the bike’ clothing in the middle and towards the top things I might need to get out during the ride, chamois crème, bike tools etc. I’ve nothing bad to say about this bag, it was stable and the shape is fairly aerodynamic. I only wish I had made use of the patch/loop at the back of it for mounting a rear light. The more the rear lights the better.
Again a good wee piece of kit, I kept all my spare ‘on the bike’ clothing in here. Stable and adaptable. Sadly the clip that attaches the accessory pocket onto it burst off the pack on the second day; cable ties are your friend. Generally the size of the pack was too wide for my bars (42cm). At each end of the pack were roll top (ends) style fastners but to make sure I could hold onto the drops I would roll it up quite a lot. I would probably look to use this bag again but make some adjustments by cutting down it’s overall length and bringing in the roll top fasteners to remove the excess material. However if I reduced the on the bike clothing I could perhaps get away with having this bag.
Normally the handlebar pack sits below the handlebars fastnening on by two straps looping over the top of the bars. The accessory pocket is then meant to then fasten onto the handlebar pack by two straps + clips over the top of the handlebar pack and another underneath it. I soon found that with the weight of the accessory pocket (where I kept electronics, potions, knife, bike lock and cards for life on the road) it would sag and then rub on the front tyre, burning a load of wholes into the bag. To stop this a looped it’s straps over the handlebars too and onto the handlebar pack. This just further reduced hand positions when riding on the tops. With the TT bars on top it also mean that anytime I wanted to get into the bag I had to fully unfasten it from the bike. It wasn’t a totally ideal setup.
This bag was essential. Daily it was filled with snacks to feed on while on the bike, if anything it probably wasn’t big enough. I would consider getting another as a tool bag and attached that onto the seat post facing the opposite direction.
The Electrical Gear
The Plug 3 was a horrible failure. I spoke about this in one of my SRA x TCR – Part 1 post. It failed me within the first few hours of the race. Thankfully Supernova have replaced it free of charge however I’m not willing to take the risk again. It’s probably a perfectly good product, I know a lot of riders used it but I’m not willing to take that chance again. In fairness to Supernova I did not have the intended setup completely correct. The Plug 3 is meant to replace your top cap of your fork steerer. The cable to attach to the Infinity S dynamo hub then threads down through your head tube and fork steerer tube, out the bottom of the fork and then down the leg of the fork. However I had a £300 full carbon 3T rigida fork, it does not have a hole at the fork apex and I was not willing to drill one. Instead I planned to place a the plug in either my top tube bag or my accessory pocket and connect devices via the USB port in there. This seemed a good plan as it also kept electronics away from potential water ingress. I don’t think this setup is to blame however it’s a possible reason.
The remainder of the electronics worked fine. Because I had no means of charging on the bike I had to manage what items go charged when, while I stopped for food/sleep. I came to realise that really, I didn’t need the Garmin. I had loaded all of my planned routes onto Strava and through the Strava app on my iPhone I navigated (in airplane mode). The iPhone can also charge via the dynamo hub. I’d probably just adopt that setup with a waterproof case/mount for the iPhone instead of taking a Garmin.
The lighting worked well, when it had charge. I think I would opt to get a light that ran off the dynamo instead of just the battery one, such as the Exposure Revo. That way I wouldn’t need to rely on charging at either stops or on the bike. I would take the Diablo as back up though. Back up lights are really essential, none of which I had and wish I had taken some, front and rear.
The Sleeping Gear
I decided quite quickly that my Rab microlight was going to double up as a sleeping bag. Generally the evening temperatures where 20+C getting hotter as the race went on. I never felt that I needed a sleeping bag. The Thermarest Prolite was the Regular size, in hindsight I could have gone for the S or XS and brought a thick pair of socks for sleeping.
Nothing wrong here – except the major oversight of not brining insect repellent. Next time, the strongest most vile-to-insects repellent known to man. I ran out of suncream pretty quickly though I’ve since heard of Riemann 20 which I’d probably go for since coming back. I’ll never be cheap on the suncream again, not after skin-gate through Croatia and Bosnia.
Here ends my list of good shit, bad shit.
Any budding TCR riders for the 2016 edition feel free to get in touch if you’d like to know more about the kit that I took that I might not have covered above.