This is my bike setup for the Great British Divide, 2300km offroad event. The Travers RUSSTi EVO. Its been through a number of changes, mainly to do with bag arrangement and contents within.
Spec List - Bike
Frame: Large Travers RUSSTi EVO
Forks: Travers XC Prong
Handlebars: Travers H2 Titanium handlebars
Stem: Travers 70mm Titanium Stem
Seatpost: Travers Titanium H2 Inline 31.6
Grips: Ergon CP3
Brakes: Hope Tech 3 X2
Crank: Zwatt Powermeter
Pedals: Shimano XT
Wheels: Nextie NXT27XM41 carbon rims, Hope Tech Pro 4 Boost Rear hub, SON 28 Boost Dynamo front hub both with Sapim CX Ray Spokes and Halo Aluminium Nipples
Tyres: Maxis Icon+ 27 x 2.8 front, 27 x 2.6 rear
Gears: SRAM AXS Eagle
Cassette: Garbaruk 10-52
Chainring: Garbaruk 30t SRAM Direct Mount Boost
Saddle: Ergon SM Pro
Spec List - Kit
I have spent a lot of time on researching frame bags, sleeping bags, GPS etc this is my first long multi day trip so I am no expert although I have done quite a bit of extensive testing on everything and have done long overnight events before. You might notice a few breaks from what is now seen as a traditional bikepacking setup...namely the rack/bag as apposed to a large saddle bag, there are a couple of reasons for the choice: I always found the saddle bag would rub and was a hassle to get perfect each morning (so as not to rub) also the weight seemed to move around more and was higher. The rack bag is really solidly attached to the frame and I cant feel any movement from it, also each night I just unzip the top and pull out my sleeping bag, Bivvy, sleeping mat and pillow (yes they all fit in there) and again in the morning chuck them in and zip up and go, no readjustment. The powermeter is a bit of a luxury and isn't critical but I do find on longer riders it is much easier to control my efforts, I am in no way a slave to it and you need to ride the terrain as you find it.
Starting at the front
kLite Bikepacker Ultra MTB
kLite 'always on" Switch
Travers handlebar Extension
2 x Tioga ADV stem bags
GPS: Garmin 1030 Plus
Top Tube Bag: Alpkit Fuel Pod Slimline
Frame Bag: Bespoke 7Roads bags
Rear Rack: Topeak Tetrarack
Rear Bag: Topeak MTS
Bottle cages: Travers Carbon Cages
Bolts: Travers Titanium
Saddle Bag (with tools): A bag I have used for years and its still going strong from Axiom
Water Filter: Built into bottle from Water To Go
There will be a follow up blog on what is in each bag!
What is it?
On the 31st July 2021 I will be taking part in the Great British Divide, it's a self-supported event (not race, so don't be surprised if my dot is at the back) over 2200km and 35000 metres of climbing starting near Canterbury and finishing in Applecross. Over 70% will be offroad. There is a predefined route supplied which you must follow - you can leave it to visit a shop or get your bike repaired but you must re-enter at the same point. The final checkpoint will close at 18:00 on Saturday the 14th August. You can obviously finish after that date, but there won't be anyone to welcome you and stamp your card.
The basic concept is, you need to carry all the supplies you will need and can only restock at shops that are available to everyone, so no team car, support crew or pre-defined food drops etc... You can use hotels/B&B's but obviously there are not many en route and probably not at the place or time you will need them, so sleeping on the side of the track at night will be predominantly the only option.
How to follow my progress?
I can't believe it isn't being televised! However, you can follow me (and all the other riders) via their GPS tracking in the form of a slow moving dot on a map. Here is a link to mine Michael Travers, you might notice one rider already on course... Paul. He got his holiday dates mixed up and has been allowed to start a week early! From other events I have followed it's surprisingly addictive to keep checking in to see how far people have got, when people are sleeping and for how long.
I have done quite a bit of research into training, components, pacing, food/drink and the route as well as testing all of the above and I am still quite nervous about it. I have done long rides and overnight events before, but nothing this long or extreme. There has to be a first time for everything! I have put in place as much as I can to get me through, but there is always the possibility of a mechanical, crash and of course - the British weather that can't always be planned for.
Training: I am happy with how it's going. I have been doing some 150km+ rides with a fully loaded bike and it's been good and I'm happy with the progress. I have also been mixing that up with shorter, harder rides, also fully kitted up.
Bike and Components: I will obviously be riding my Travers RUSSTi EVO but I will go over the bike and components in more detail in another post.
Pacing: I have done quite a few 100km+ rides to test out different pace scenarios and ways of riding, riding hard up the hill, different power outputs, speed etc... and 14-15 kph seems to be a comfortable day long pace when fully loaded (although this will obviously change in the mountains). I do have a Zwatt Powermeter which might be a little controversial in mountain biking, let alone Bikepacking but I have found it extremely useful as it's very easy to get carried away, especially at the start of an event and it can be quite hard to judge your effort when you have other riders around you and your heart rate is elevated due to nerves/excitement. All this, plus taking into account the bike is about triple its normal weight and your usual metrics go out of the window. Ideally I don't want to go over 200 Watts but obviously in certain situations I will have no choice where it's steep or pushing over the top of a hill might be more beneficial to allow me to keep the momentum up, rather than slow and grind/walk up the hill. 140-180 Watts will be my cruising range. My plan is to do 200 km a day, then see how it unfolds.
Food/Drink: This is a little bit of a grey area as although I can start with the ideal food/drink it's going to run out in the first 24hrs and so I will need to restock wherever I can find it. I have had a chat with Precision Hydration and they were really helpful. I will be taking some of their 1500 Effervescent Electrolyte tablets to help replace my salts. I expect to be burning 7-10,000 calories a day, an amount I will struggle to replace, so I have also spoken to Maurten and will be taking some of their 320 caf mix. As this is quite a heavy and bulky product, I plan to take just enough to get me out of situations where there are big gaps between shops or I run out of energy.
Datalynx Ltd and Parenesis Ltd have sponsored this series of grass roots Mountain Biking events for the past two times of running. The series focus on providing opportunities for riders of vastly different abilities and ages and with separate races being staged for women and men offering complete parity in prizes.
For me, I cycle for fun and to maintain fitness primarily so personal participation in competition is not my main motivation. I did start a cycle team, but that was a vehicle to get more women involved in the sport and at the same time promote the work of some UK charities; Prostate Cancer UK, Breast Cancer Awareness and Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia Support Association. I have known Mike Travers, the owner of Travers bikes and the organiser of this series of events for about 8 years now, and when he explained to me his concept of racing based on ability to encourage people who perhaps wouldn’t ordinarily take part in races, I felt it matched the aims of what I was trying to achieve with the team well. Unfortunately, due to Covid restrictions at the beginning of the series this year, and lack of availability of our team members due to other race commitments, there wasn’t anyone who could regularly help me promote the series by participation for every round. We did have two riders from our team take part in some rounds Sandra Mackay and Barry Macdonald and they are far better riders than me and very focussed on racing. So, I felt that I should put my body where my money and mouth were already, and decided to take part myself. This was extremely daunting for me, I have been training quite hard on an indoor trainer throughout Covid, mostly to stay fit both physically and mentally, but the last time I’d been out on a mountain bike was about 3 years ago (once only) and before that about 8 years ago and never competitively. I would rate my ability on a mountain bike as being very basic, I have/had no technical skills whatsoever. I am self-employed, so can’t afford to be injured and I am basically scared of crashing. Due to Covid, work has dried up for me so the former was less of a concern but I am still basically a ‘scaredy cat’.
The first round was fast approaching and my anxiety levels were sky rocketing, but I took part, got round and didn’t crash. The conditions were pretty much perfect though and it was a race that favoured fitness over technical ability. I placed third in my league and was somewhat dumbstruck. I enjoyed the friendly and supportive nature of the competitors, organisers and helpers of the event, it was totally different from the road cycling racing I’d experienced on the few races I’d done before. What was especially encouraging was the number of parents willing to take the kids to take part and support them in their races. The sponsorship monies that Datalynx and Parenesis gave, was used to give all the under 12s and under 9s free entry to each of the five rounds. What a fabulous way for young riders to experience a competitive event with electronic chip timing and with medals and prizes just like the professionals they’ve seen on TV. To hear them afterwards reliving every turn and pedal stroke was really heart-warming. This reaffirmed my belief, that the availability of any grass roots sport is essential to for the health and wellbeing of our future generations.
So, the series went on, and I took part in each and every one, I had deliberately paid for the whole series up front to give me fewer reasons not to take part. Before every round I felt feelings of anxiety about not wanting to get in other riders’ way, about crashing and about not being good enough, in hindsight I should probably bought shares in Imodium. After each hard hour and a bit of racing, I loved the esprit de corps and the virtual back slapping, and because of the way that Mike Travers had set the series up, it felt like there was something to play for every participant, in every one of the leagues. In reality, my skill level was my main limitation and as we experienced rounds with increasing difficulties and less than perfect weather conditions, that became very evident. I crashed albeit not badly in three rounds which was frustrating and embarrassing and added a bit to my feeling of not being good enough. However, as my rivals were quick to point out, I was new to the sport and they were crashing too, which made me feel a lot better. My lowest point was after round four where I felt I just didn’t have the knowledge or skill to tackle the technical parts and so I sought help. In between rounds four and five, I had two one-hour mountain bike skill lessons with Travers rider and British Cycling coach Kev Darragh, where we went right back to basics. The difference in my confidence in my ability between round four and five was dramatic. I felt better equipped to do some of the more challenging features of the course which by round five was longer and more technically difficult. Although I was happy to finish, I was already working out how I could improve for next year. Even more exciting than the feeling of finishing 5th in my league of about 20 riders, was the fact that there was free ice cream for all of the competitors and helpers and there were sprinkles and a chocolate flake!
It was a superb series of events and I would encourage you to come along next year. If you don’t fancy racing, come along and cheer, it is a lovely venue, a woods on private property, and the bluebells in the early rounds were wondrous, as was the sound of the woodpeckers getting lunch.
HAND BUILT TITANIUM FRAMES.