5 day shakedown

27 Apr

Last time I brought you a torrent of words, so this time here’s some pictures.

Starting with the new Carbon 29er; fresh out of the box…

To me it is slightly ugly but in a good, functional, way.   Some females I know thought it looked better than my Whippet though so that shows you what I know.  Words like elegant and dangerous were used – all good then.  I do like the understated profile and the big decal on the down tube mind….

Built up with a few borrowed bits and taken out onto Ilkley Moor, it certainly started to grow on me…

…and with a number board on it was looking like a real race weapon, although with the safety catch on at Dalby forest, evidently…


This week then I dropped the rigid forks on and had my first crack at ‘bikepacking’ ready for the Tour Divide  (basically carrying the bare minimum gear for Bivvying out on your bike).  The whole challenge is to come up with as light a set up as possible by taking the very least kit you can get away with and stowing on the bike as such as you can still cover ground at a good rate.  I chose not to go for the usual bags popular with bikepackers, those of Revelate Designs and the like.  Their bags come highly recommended and with good reason, but they are also very expensive.  Economy was one reason to look for an alternative methods, the other is that I’m a designer and so naturally I like to think I can come up with something myself that’s just as good.

Early efforts were based around the idea of Alpkits Airlok dry bags; cheap and very lightweight.  With one strapped behind the seat, one under the bars and a third on aero bar extensions I thought I could get everything I needed squirreled away but they rubbed the back of my legs when pedalling, were a faff to get in and out of and I wasn’t sure about durability.

When I took the side pods off my Bergen, however, things looked more promising…

The great thing about Bergens is they’re squaddie-proof which means they’ll survive just about anything.  These side pouches are also about 15ltrs each so between the two of them they hold pretty much all the gear I need.  That bottom one contains a Rab Storm Bivvy Bag, a cheap (but actually quite good and very light) Quechua sleeping bag, a soon-to-be-replaced-with-silk poly-cotton sleepingbag liner and a full length Thermarest.  I’m yet to decide on my final set up for the divide but I’m liking the idea of a full length sleeping mat and a lighter bag Vs a heavier bag and 3/4 mat because a lot of heat can be lost to the ground and warm feet makes for a good night’s sleep. Plus I can always stick a few extra clothes on.

In the top pod there’s a bunch of other stuff like waterproofs, warmer layers, phone/lights/GPS chargers, food, socks, gloves etc plus some ballast (books) to account for any extra weight as I add things ready for the trip.  I’ll post up a final kit list when I’ve got it all together but hopefully it won’t be any heavier than what I tested with here and it might even be a bit lighter.  Initially I was a little concerned about having all the weight over the bars but actually its not as heavy and clumsy as it looks.  Together the two packs on the bars weigh about 6kg (by the time I reach New Mexico I reckon I’ll have lost at least half of that off my body) and as they zip together and secure around the bars with clips and webbing the whole thing is very stable.  In fact, the extra mass helps damp the front end nicely too.  An extra benefit of the Bergen pods is that they clip off the bars in seconds and can be clipped to a harness allowing me to put 90% of my luggage on my back for extended hike-a-bike sections.  This was particularly useful pushing up Cut Gate at the weekend.  On the seat-tube then there’s a small seatpack with tools and tubes and another tube taped to the post.  On the back there’s a SPOT tracker.  I did activate it for my test but the site was down over the weekend so it wasn’t tracking in the end.  When I left the house, with 2 full water bottles (1.5kg) and about 800g of food the whole package weighed in at 18.8 kg.  Given these wheels were borrowed off my commuter until my lighter ones come I can shed a good bit of that still.

I headed out about half past one on Friday afternoon, way later than planned but it didn’t really matter – I had lights and a Bivvy bag – there was no rush!

I headed up to High Peak Junction on the road before picking up the High Peak Trail.  Along the way I spotted a Revelate Designs frame bag which was attached to the bike under a chap called Steve Wilkinson.  It turned out Steve has completed the Tour Divide and the Great Divide Race as well as the Iditabike and will be heading out to the Colorado Trail Race this summer so has a wealth of experience in this type of thing.  We had a brief chat and he imparted some good advice, mainly about getting out from the end of the race which could take as much as 36hrs itself.

I headed on up the trail to Cheedale, got defeated in the heat by the super-steep climb out of the limestone gorge (above) but pressed on.  By the time I got to Roych Clough I was mad hungry and out of water so in Hayfield I stopped at the Royal Hotel for a steak sandwich.  Knowing I wasn’t going to get much further I began to plan a route that would give me somewhere good to sleep but also some good riding in the morning before heading into Manchester for lunch to see my friend Saskia who is emigrating to New Zealand.  I headed for Jacobs Ladder and by the time I got to the top the sun was setting and having remembered seeing this on Al Humphreys site during the week I decided this would be a great place to bed down for the night.

The night was perfect for sleeping outside and I drifted off staring directly upwards at the big dipper.

…and as if that wasn’t enough, waking to a view like this in the morning is a very good thing…

to be continued…

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4 Responses to “5 day shakedown”

  1. Aidan April 28, 2011 at 7:05 am #

    Nice! If you can get the packing system figured out and some good loaded miles in, you’ll be raring to go by Banff.

    I thought it would be easier having done it before, but I’m nowhere near ready yet!

    • velobang April 28, 2011 at 7:43 am #

      I got in 280 over the weekend with an xc race thrown in, that’ll have to do for now. Resting up for 24hrs of Exposure now, then there’ll be a fair bit if recovery but might get another long one on, we’ll see! Good luck with your prep and see you in Banff!

  2. Alastair Humphreys April 28, 2011 at 4:04 pm #

    Chuffed you slept up there!

  3. Alastair Humphreys August 24, 2011 at 10:53 pm #

    You should enter this story here – http://www.alastairhumphreys.com/2011/08/microadventure-competition-howies/

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