Kit

Here’s a list of the kit that I took with me on the TCR. For a TCR rookie, I’m pleased to say that I packed well and pretty much used everything that I took, except for a few emergency spares. My fully-packed rig (minus food) weighed in at just under 19 kilos and included the following…

Bike: Kinesis Racelight TK3 with an 11-speed Ultegra compact groupset (11-32 cassette).
I love this bike and it didn’t let me down on the TCR – no major aches and pains and no neck or shoulder trouble. I double-taped the handlebars with Specialized Roubaix bar tape which really helped to relieve the pressure on my hands and, along with my awesome Assos S7 mitts, prevented me from getting the nerve damage I suffered with on the PBP .
In terms of gearing, I usually ride with a semi-compact chainset, but fitting a compact was definitely a good move. That two-tooth difference on the little ring helped me to cope with the extra weight I was carrying on the steeper hills.

Saddle: Fizik Luce (alloy regular).
I’ve been riding with the Luce fitted since early June. I struggled with it initially (read my initial review here) and I was a little worried about using it on the TCR but I have to say that it all came good in the end. Apart from a few chafing issues caused by the extreme heat I didn’t develop any major saddle sores in 19 days of continuous riding. I think the Luce took a little more bedding in than I was expecting it to. The wing tips that were giving me a bit of trouble when I first fitted it now feel like they’re flexing  much more and overall I’m really happy with the way that it performed – so much so that I’ve decided to order a couple more to fit to my other bikes.

Wheels: H Plus Son Archetype rims (28h); Exposure Revo dynamo front hub; Hope Mono RS Road rear hub – handbuilt by me.
No problems here, stayed true for the duration and the dynamo hub kept me lit up all the way.

Tyres: Schwalbe Durano 25mm.
Ridden on some of the worst roads imaginable and numerous gravel tracks. Not a single puncture in 19 days so I think that speaks for itself. Might be temped to go for 28mm next time time though. After the race on the way home I did eventually get a puncture in Thessaloniki due to a huge thorn, so I guess you could say that the Duranos are good for 4200km (it was a monster thorn though).

Bikepacking bags: Apidura – regular seatpost bag; 9 litre handlebar drybag with clip-on accessory pocket; small frame bag; extended top tube bag; regular food pouch.
Overall I was happy with my Apidura bag set-up as it distributed the weight fairly evenly across the bike and kept my sleep set-up bone dry. The small frame bag was initially too deep for my frame and I couldn’t fit my water bottles in their cages so a friend of mine who’s brilliant at sewing chopped around 2cm from the base of the bag and restitched it for me. It was still a little too wide and chafed my thighs which meant that I had to ride the entire distance with my knee warmers on but it was still a really useful space to store tools, chargers and leads in. In the crazy 40 degree heat I ended up using the food pouch as a much-needed extra water bottle holder.

Sleep set-up: Rab Neutrino 200 sleeping bag, Rab ascent bivvy and Rab silk liner; Thermarest NeoAir.
Most nights it was too hot to sleep in my sleeping bag so I started out in the silk liner, however the temperature always dropped at around 3am so I had the sleeping bag open inside my bivvy to pull around me when required. On the nights that I slept with the net zipped up on the bivvy I found that there was some condensation inside the bag which made the sleeping bag feel a bit damp. I only once felt very cold, one night in Slovakia when there was a very heavy dew and temperature dropped considerably.
I tried the Thermarest both inside and outside the bivvy and even though having it inside was more restrictive, I preferred it to having it outside as I found that with it on the outside I just kept slipping off of it in the night! It is light and not too bulky to pack but it does rustle like a giant crisp packet all night if you’re a fidgeter like me.

Clothing: Rapha Brevet bibs x 2; Twin Six race bibshorts; Rapha Flyweight jersey;  Rapha Classic Gilet; Howies long-sleeve seamless jersey; Rapha Lines Pro Team arm screens; Castelli Nanoflex arm warmers; Mavic knee warmers; Endura FS260 Pro Adrenaline race cape; Quecha lightweight down gilet; Assos S7 summer mitts. 
All of this kit had been thoroughly tested before the TCR and all of it got worn at some point during the trip. My two pairs of  Rapha Brevet bibshorts literally saved my arse. They have a lovely, chunky chamois that is great for long distances and the top half of the bib fits like a zip-up vest so on very hot days I just wore the shorts and nothing else – they look a bit like a sleeveless skinsuit. I cannot recommend these shorts enough to anyone who rides long distance events – at £180 they’re quite an investment but I think that they are definitely worth it. The only downside for multi-day riding (and it is a very minor downside) is that the chamois are so thick that they take a bit longer to dry out after a sink wash. My back-up Twin Six shorts were also very comfortable and it’s quite nice to have a change every few days with different style and thickness of chamois on your pressure points.
My Rapha Flyweight jersey was the perfect thickness in the hot weather and got worn every day – in fact I only washed it out once so I’m sure it smelled pretty bad by the time we got to Greece. Julie had one too in a different colour so we looked like a proper pair!

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Got to give a special mention to my brilliant Assos S7 summer mitts – these were worth every penny and are the only mitts I’ve found that have padding all the way across the base of the palm. I have suffered a lot from nerve damage in the past and, along with an extra layer of bar tape, these mitts have really helped to prevent it returning.

IMG_1009Bits and bobs: Igaro D1 USB dynamo charger; Anker Astro Mini portable charger; Garmin Edge 800 and Edge 510 back-up; Petzl e+LITE headlamp.
My best ‘piece of kit award’ would definitely go to my Igaro D1 USB dynamo charger. It kept my Garmin and my iPhone charged all the way and although I always made use of indoor charging facilities when they were available I reckon that I could have coped without them.
Taking two Garmins was definitely a good move as my 800 stopped taking a charge on day 14 and I had to switch to the 510 for the last five days. As a back-up I had the premium version of the Bikemap app loaded on to my Iphone and used this to navigate when we had to take detours or our own route let us down (this haappened more than I’d like to admit to!).

Tools and spares:

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3 x inner tubes; puncture repair kit; 1 x gear cable; 1 x brake cable; spare mech hanger; Park multi tool; Park mini brute chain tool; mini bottle of lube; mini can of WD40 (bought on route); pepper spray (bought on route); spare Bontrager Flare rear light (left in a field in Slovakia).

During the race the only items to be used were the WD40 and chain lube. I did eventually get a puncture in Thessalokniki (see above) so one inner tube was used. Luckily, despite a second round of dog situations in Greece, thanks to our new-found dog management skills taught to us by Flavius the master dog whisperer,  the pepper spray was never used and was ditched at Thessaloniki airport – although the fact that they actually sell pepper spray in cycle shops in Romania should be enough to indicate how bad the dogs can get.

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