HuntBikeWheels brand manager Josh Ibbett has recently won the 2600mile TransContinetal race, an unsupported race from Gerradsbergen in Belgium to Istanbul in Turkey. In the following article Josh runs through his equipment choices and the reasons behind them:
I am lucky enough to be supported by Dom at Mason Cycles and have chosen to ride the fantastic Definition Aluminium frame. The frame is disc specific which makes perfect sense to me for this type of race. Last year by the end of the race my pads were particularly worn due to the bad weather and the cable were gritty and hard to pull. When exhaustion is setting in after a week of nonstop riding being able to pull the brakes fast is essential. The other benefit of using disc brakes is that I am able to run 28mm Schwalbe One Tubeless tyres with plenty of clearance and if I do have any wheel issues I will be able to ride easier with a buckle. Tubeless tyres are a huge benefit in terms of comfort and puncture protection especially as there are 40km worth of gravel road to CP2. The geometry is super stable and comfortable which essential for the Paris-Roubaix smooth roads across Albania and Bulgaria towards the end of the race.
The running gear is a Shimano Ultegra Di2 Disc group set. Last year I had issues with snapped gear cables, stiff cables and also sore fingers from all the shifting. I’m hoping that the switch to Di2 will eliminate this but I am carrying the battery charger just in case. I’ve chosen a mid-compact 52/36 chain set and 12-25 cassette, this seems to work for me, I don’t want to make things too easy and slow in the mountains! A small bottle of Juice Lubes Viking Juice keeps things running smoothly in the chain department.
Finishing kit is a stock Mason alloy Deda affair with a carbon post. Alloy is fine for me, carbon would be nice but the reality is that I’m probably going to clatter a few potholes and unceremoniously dumb the bike on the floor when I’m tired so alloy should hold up well.
As Hunt Bike Wheels brand manager it is only right that I use Hunt wheels. Our Mason x Hunt 4 season disc wheels are actually spec’d as standard on Mason bikes and are perfect for long haul journeys. Brass nipples, a disc brake specific rim with a wide rim bed and tubeless readiness means that these wheels tick a lot of boxes in terms of durability and light weight and have proven to be strong, fast and reliable during training.
A comfortable position is important for riding long distance and my setup works for me. When I break down the race in my head a large proportion of the distance is on rolling or flat terrain with the mountains only making up a relatively small percentage. For these reasons I have set my bike up in more of a time trial position. I have fitted Profile carbon clip on aero bars and have a Prologo time trial saddle and am able to hold a nice low aero position in comfort, hopefully this will help keep up my average speed.
The unsupported nature of the Transcontinental race means that I need to be self-sufficient and carry any tools I may need to repair by bike. Lezyne have supplied me with a rather fancy Carbon Road Drive mini pump, M Caddy saddle bag, Carbon 10 mulit tool and the excellent smart tyre patches and tyre boot. In addition to this I will take my trusty pen knife (the same one I used as a boy scout when I was a kid), a section of old milk bottle as a tyre boot, electrical tape (mainly to tape my gps to my bars!), the Di2 charger (just in case), 1 x quicklink, plus assorted zip ties and 2 spare inner tubes.
Lighting, navigation, power and gadgets
Last year I relied on a dynamo hub to power my lighting and gadgets. I had issues which led to my gps running out of power a number of times and being unable to charge my phone and i-pod. This year I am running the trust AA battery Garmin Etrex 30. It’s not as sleek or flashy as the bike specific GPS units but it just works and when it runs out I can just pop in some new batteries. With the GPS issue resolved the Dynamo isn’t as necessary so I have chosen to run a stock Hunt disc hub instead of a dynamo. Lighting is taken care of by Exposure lights in the form of a Toro light mounted under the bars, a Joystick helmet light and a Blaze rear light. Each light is used on the 34hour setting which provided more than enough light for road use and should see me to Istanbul, although I do have the usb charging cable just in case!
I am also carrying my I-pod loaded with some pumping house and drumnbass tunes for a late night biking rave or two and also my phone which doubles up as emergency navigation and camera. Gadget charging is taken care of by two USB wall plugs. I will be stopping for food so will be topping up these gadgets daily. I am also running a cateye cycle computer to record my daily mileage, ride time and average speeds. Finally I am using a set of Lezyne Femton LED lights as back up and safety lights. These run forever and use easily replaceable batteries if they were to run out, I tend to use these on flash at dusk and dawn to save my main lights batteries and keep myself visible.
I use the term hygiene loosely as I probably won’t wash very much! However I will take a toothbrush, toothpaste, P20 waterproof sunscreen and Sudocrem for the more sensitive areas. Some people like to cut down their tooth brush to ‘save weight’. Personally I feel that riding 2500miles with minimal sleep is hard enough without making the more simple tasks difficult by using half a toothbrush! I will also take a small pot of Nuun electrolyte tablets and a few sachets of Dyralite to rehydrate after really hot days and look after my body. Its amazing the difference it can make and I relied on it when touring Asia this winter. I also carry 2 x 750ml Lezyne water bottles and replenish these at shops and petrol stations or even streams if I’m desperate.
I am lucky to be supported by MissGrape, a relatively new Italian company who make excellent bike packing luggage, who have supplies me with an Internode frame bag. I used MissGrape bags in a particular wet and muddy Highland trail 550 race in Scotland earlier in the year without issue. Being rather lanky and riding a bike size which some have referred to as a ‘gate’ does have its benefits. I am able to fit the large size bag inside my frame which carries all my sleeping gear and extra kit. No saddle bag for me this year, just the sleek aero frame bag and a nice centre of gravity. Lezyne Carbon SL side entry bottle cages aid bottle clearance and a top tube bag houses small items that I may need to access on the move. A patent pending croissant holder (some elastic cord) is attached to my tri bars for easily accessible fuel storage.
Part of the ‘charm’ of a self supported race is the sleeping rough aspect. I actually quite enjoy this, maybe it’s some prehistoric caveman instinct in me. In last year’s race I travelled ‘light’ only taking a bivvi bag, sleeping mat and sleeping bag. After 2 nights I was bored of blowing up my airmat and packing away my sleeping bag so didn’t bother using them. Effectively I carried them all the way to Istanbul for nothing! This year I am actually travelling light just taking a bivvi bag and a silk sleeping bag liner. I camped in this way for 2 months in New Zealand and have dialled the most comfortable method of sleeping in what is a very uncomfortable setup. The benefits are that it is very light and quick to setup and put away. My theory is that if you’re trying hard enough and are tired enough you will sleep anywhere anyway! Some riders prefer to sleep in hotels and I will probably spend a night or two in one, but after all this is a race and if you are uncomfortable when you wake up the motivation to stay in bed and snooze is somewhat diminished so you get up and start riding quicker.
The main items I will be wearing are my Hunt Bike Wheels cycling shorts, socks and Jersey by Mobel. If I stop in a hotel I might take them off but if not I’ll be wearing them for around 10 days straight so it’s a good job they are comfortable. I may take an extra pair of socks as the stench can be particularly embarrassing after a while, the old pair will be sacrificed to the TCR gods half way through. I also have a super light mesh base layer, the incredible Defeet Merino arm warmers (my all-time favourite piece of kit), a pair of light weight knee warmers and a super light windbreaker Gillet.
If the weather turns for the worse support from Gore Bike Wear should keep me warm and comfortable. I will be using a GoreBike Wear 30th Aniversery Oxygen Gore-Tex rain Jacket, Gore-Tex cycling cap and Gore-Tex Active shorts. These also double up as my ‘casual’ clothes and sleeping clothes as they keep the heat in and help warm up my muscles when I begin riding before dawn. Gore Bike Wear mitts keep my hands protected and a Giro Synthe helmet provides a good mix between comfort, cooling and aerodynamics plus a set of Oakley Jawbreaker sunglasses satisfy my inner sunglasses snob and ensure some ridiculous facial tan lines. I am using Northwave shoes again, the same model as last year but a half size up to account for swollen feet in the heat and Speedplay zero pedals. Finally I carry a PHD designs down Gillet to sleep in and use as my last resort ‘its really bloody cold’ layer. They key for me is multi use items of clothing for a variety of situations that also fold down small and are light.
Overall I am very happy with my setup. It’s a light fast setup fine tuned during my bike packing experiences over the past couple of years. It could probably be lighter if I really tried but I have chosen reliability and familiarity over ultimate light weight. I know and trust all my equipment and that peace of mind is worth its weight in gold when the going gets tough.