Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Tour Divide Gear Preview - Clothing

This is the second in my series of gear posts for my 2015 Tour Divide attempt. Today, the exciting world of clothing.

Everyday riding gear

All of this gear was basically chosen after a lot of riding, testing and personal decision making. The jersey and shorts are what the Rasmussen Mountain Bike Team decided on for the team kit. Fortunately, talking people into buying the better bibs and chamois has been an easy sell and it makes my seat happier. :) The jersey is a touch thinner than I would like, but I can make up for that with the merino tshirt as a base layer. The Twin Six shorts will provide a couple of extra pockets and some extra protection against cold, brush, water etc. In addition, many people are uncomfortable having someone sitting/walking around in lycra. The shorts will make me a bit more "normal" looking whenever I'm in a business (whatever normal means). The merino T will give me a little bit of extra insulation and help wick water away. It's another thin layer to sleep in if it's not too cold and it will dry out quickly.

I've tried two or three different pairs of shoes before settling on this pair of X-Projects. My normal Specialized shoes aren't super hiking friendly. I tried a pair of X-Alp 1.0 shoes during my July GDMBR trip. They were super comfortable hiking, but a little too flexible in the sole, and I was afraid that extended use would result in achilles issues. The X-Project shoes have plenty of grip on the bottom, but are a little stiffer in the cleat area. I have them running about a 1/2 size larger than normal so my feet will still have circulation when swollen and/or when I have waterproof socks on.

Optional riding gear
  • Cloth neck buff
  • Goretex beanie
  • Regular cycling hat
  • Arm warmers
  • Knee warmers
  • Spare wool socks (mid calf)
  • Summer weight riding gloves (full finger)
  • Heavier riding gloves (full finger)
  • Sleeveless wind vest
This section is all stuff to help regulate temperature and protect the skin while riding. Nothing super special here. The arm/leg warmers are currently some Specialized ones that I've had for a few years with some fleece lining in them. There's a possibility that I'll swap them out for some wool ones before the race. The neck buff will be used to keep the sun off my neck and dust out of my mouth and nose. Dipping it in a stream or pond can provide some much needed cooling. Spare socks will hopefully help keep the funk away from my feet. The wind vest will be useful to keep my core warm, when my rain/windshell will be too much and can be unzipped/zipped as needed on climbs and descents. 

Rain Gear
I bought the coat and pants via I had read about Luke's Ultralight doing raingear research. His stuff is seam sealed and fairly light. The coat and pants also pack down fairly compact. The raincoat also makes a great insulating layer when the temps dip below freezing in the early mornings. The waterproof socks are still completely up in the air at this point. I used my current socks as a windproof/insulating layer during TransIowa V10, as well as during a couple of shallow creek crossings on training rides. They don't go too far up my calves, so they won't be useful in deep water crossings. I have a couple of brands of calf high socks that my friend Dennis has clued me into (Dexshell and SealSkinz) that are under consideration. Gloves from those manufacturers are also on the table. In the end, I'll probably end up wet no matter what I use. It will just be the difference between warm and wet vs cold and wet.

Sleeping/Off bike clothes
This gear will mainly be used for sleeping, but all of it will be a useful insulating pieces if it's cold and I'm stopped somewhere for an extended period. The Q-Shield down in the coat is supposed to help resist moisture. Not enough for rain, but enough to help with the touch of moisture you generate while sleeping in a bivy. The 260 weight shirt is a touch heavy for sleeping, but it can also serve as an additional insulating layer when riding. If necessary I can take off my jersey, toss this on and look a bit less "bikey". I may swap out for a 200 or 150 weight if the temps look like they will be warm. The merino boxers will let me air my seat area out at night without requiring me to go full commando.

All of my clothing is being stored in my Mr. Fusion seat bag system, so I can undo two straps and get it off the bike and where I am quickly. The sleeping clothes are stored in a waterproof compression sack to make sure they stay dry and take up minimal room. The optional riding gear plus the waterproof socks & gloves are stored in a standard drybag so I can have quicker access to them throughout the day. The raincoat and pants are just shoved in by themselves.

If any veterans are reading this, they are probably thinking that this is way too much clothing, and they are probably right. :) I'm packing for my fears a bit, as I don't like to be cold, either on or off of the bike. Some of the warmer pieces will likely be mailed home as I get further south on the course. 

As always, if you have any questions, feel free to ask them in the comments and I'll do my best to answer them. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Quick training update and Tour Divide Gear Preview - Bike and Bags

Things have been less than active here lately. Apologies, there's plenty to write about but not a lot of time to write about it. Getting prepared for the 2015 Tour Divide is taking up most of my time outside of work, which has left me a bit of time for my family and even less time to write. Honestly, reading about the prep would bore most people. Figure 18 - 25 hours on the bike per week, with some weeks being more. I started adding in 24 - 48 hour riding/camping trips last fall and this spring as long as the temps were in the upper 20s or higher. Winter involved a lot of trainer time doing intervals of various intensities and lengths, with an eye on strength and endurance. This meant a lot of big ring, high power/low RPM stuff on a road bike to simulate climbs or riding into headwinds. If you want the boring details, friend me on Strava and you can see every workout/ride I've been doing for the last 18 months. I'd be happy to discuss if anyone is really interested.

I am going to write up a series of short posts describing my bike and equipment over the remaining few weeks before the race. Everything is pretty much sorted now, other than some minor things. Today I'm going to start off with my bike and bags.

Bike - 2014 Salsa Fargo (size L) w following modifications

This is pretty much a classic Tour Divide rig any more. I had a lot of miles on both a Gen 1 and a Gen 2 steel Fargo and found it to be a really comfortable, stable bike. TD was a good excuse to upgrade to the Ti model. A week riding the GDMBR in late July led me to adjust the rings down from the stock 40/28 pairing. It will force me to spin and give me a lower low, which I wanted at the end of the week. The Stages crank arm was bought mainly for training purposes, but being able to glance down at my power on occasion will help me more accurately regulate my pedaling effort during the race. The larger rotors are a bit of insurance for descents, with both them and the pads being utilized for less fade and better wear in bad conditions. 

The Regulator post and Brooks saddle are there for additional comfort and because they can take a beating. I love the independent adjustments for the seat angle and fore/aft on the Regulator. It's made getting the seat dialed in a lot easier. The Cambium is the 4th saddle I've had on this bike and it's finally one that doesn't cause any chafing or other issues on my backside. I went with it over a traditional leather Brooks for durability in wet/muddy conditions. 

I've had the Roval rims for well over 2 years now, but they were purchased with the race in mind. The Race King tires roll fairly fast and set up tubeless easily. I went with the Black Chili Compound and ProTection casing options. The SP hub is one of only two thru-axle dyno hubs on the market right now. It's almost half the price of the Schmidt and has proven itself to be mostly durable. The first hub I purchased was sent back for replacement under warranty after it quit putting out the appropriate amount of power. I was told that some of the first hubs had some issues, which is what I hope was the cause of the issue. The Profile aero bars are a must for any distance event IMO. They allow me to stretch my back, get some weight off of my hands, as well as give me a few more places to mount lights, etc. 

I've been buying bags from Scott at Porcelain Rocket since I first started getting into the bikepacking thing a few years ago. He will do fully custom bags and has taken a lot of cool trips himself, so he has good ideas on what works and what doesn't. I went with cuben to save a few ounces and because I like the way it looks. The frame bag has a vertical pocket along the seat tube that was originally going to hold a bladder. After living with it for a week on the GDMBR in July, I decided to move the bladder to the main pocket and use the vertical pocket to hold tubes, rags, my water filter, and other smaller, less frequently accessed items. The full length slender pocket on the right hand side holds anything small or flat (maps, pump, wallet/phone, etc)

I upgraded from my stock PR Booster Rocket seatpack to the Mr. Fusion so that I could quickly remove my gear from the bike and put it back again in the morning. My seat bag has most of my on and off bike clothing in it. Being able to quickly throw the entire bag into the bivy in case of bad weather was important to me. Being able to put it back on the bike without fighting seat mounting straps was just as important. I've been super happy with this decision as it has taken a decent amount of frustration out of camp prep and packing.

I had been using an older Revelate sling for quite a while, and while it worked, there were a number of things about it that made it a pain to use on my setup, mostly having to do with the strap locations and their stability. I sent Scott some photos of my cockpit area, marked up with some measurements and he custom sewed a MCA system just for me. The straps are a lot easier to tighten down since they don't interfere with the aero bars, and they don't slip. The front pocket has some extra loops on the outside and a divider on the inside, so I can quickly find my spot tracker or some pop tarts among all of the cliff bars and other food I keep in there. The MCA is home to an Outdoor Research 13L Event compression drybag that holds my sleeping system. I've been really happy with the MCA thus far. Everything sits solidly in place and the straps don't slip.

With the feedbags, one is currently tasked with holding charger cables, an external cache battery, my charging circuit and spare batteries. I'll go into the whole electronics/lighting thing in another post. The second bag is currently empty but has been used to hold a bluetooth speaker, food, trash, bottles of soda, and beer. The small mesh pockets on the outside hold bug spray, sunscreen, electrolyte drops, etc.

The Jerry Can is a good portion of my tool box. It holds a lot more stuff than I originally thought it would. Some of that is due to design and some of it is due to good packing skills. The Blackburn Outpost bag was purchased as a replacement for my Revelate Gas Can. It has a mesh pocket on top, and a couple of extra pockets on the outside. I haven't had any ride time with it yet, but that will be taken care of soon. Right now, this bag is mainly home to my camera. I'm not sure what I will put in the smaller side pockets, but I'm sure I will find something. The map case will be home to my cue sheets (if I decide to use them), along with some note sheets regarding resupply points, etc. The Aloksaks will be used to keep my phone, wallet, passport, and some other items dry when they are being stored. 

Feel free to ask questions in the comments section and I'll do my best to reply.