28th July 2020
GBDURO20 | Angus Young's Bike Check Preamble
Previous Page Header Image: HUNT Bike Wheels / Breakaway Digital
As I'm writing this we are currently 5 days out from the start of GBDURO20, an ultracycling event which crosses the UK from Land’s End to John O’Groats following a mixture of paved roads, gravel tracks and single track. In a “normal” year the event takes place over four timed stages each around 500km with the rider with the lowest cumulative time over each stage “winning”. However in the light of COVID-19 the decision was made to change the event from a self supported ride to a self-sufficient ride. In a nutshell this means that the riders cannot use any services, accept help or go into any shops along the way. There will be no contact with anyone along the route. The sting in the tail for this is that all of the riders need to take all of their food and supplies needed for the duration of the event only being able to fill up on water from streams and outside taps. As a result of these changes It has taken me months to hone in on and decide the optimal setup for my bike even now there are some tweaks to be made. Here I will outline my options and reasons behind the decisions that I have made.
My primary decision to make was which frame I would use, being in the lucky position that I am, I had the choice of either using the Bokeh or the InSearchOf. Last year I used a Bokeh and it was the perfect tool for the job and in any other year I would use it again due to the fact that it's a little lighter, more nimble as well as rolls faster on the road. The reason that I finally went for the InSearchOf was due to the extra load carrying ability given by the extra bottle bosses and Condenser front rack, I probably could have fitted all that I needed on a Bokeh however the ISO is designed for the heavier duty when fully loaded as well as being slightly more burly and a little more manageable over rough terrain while loaded up.
The frame was built up with shimano ultegra/xt di2 mix. I went for di2 primarily for the ability to be able to add shifters from the aerobars as well as its ability to shift under load. The downside of an electronic groupset is that I will have to keep it charged up resulting in extra kit that needs to be packed however I feel that it's with it. One alteration that I have made from the stock group is the addition of a Garbaruk 10-50t cassette with matching derailleur cage extender. This paired with the 36t front ring should give me all the gear range I need.
I went for the obvious choice for wheels which were the Mason X HUNT ‘The Search’ Dynamo which I have shod with Vittoria Terreno 29x2.1 inch tyres which are a speedy semi slick cross country tyre. I suspect that this will be wider than most other riders but the increased comfort, control and puncture resistance is well worth the added weight and rolling resistance penalty. The bike is finished off with Ritchey VentureMax bar and stem, Mason Penta carbon seatpost topped with a Brookes B17 saddle (worth its weight in gold).
With around 20kg of kit to carry, hours were spent deciding on the optimum setup. The way I saw it there were three options: trailer, panniers or frame bags. A trailer would provide an enormous capacity; however, they are very heavy and when I have used them before, they don't handle so well in tough off road terrain. Panniers would seem like a smart move and I think that's what the majority of the field will go for. They can have a large capacity as well as being quick and easy to use. The thing that steered me away from this option was my prior experience of riding off road using panniers, not only do they handle awfully off road but they can also be prone to failure without warning. I have had racks and panniers snap on me on the Mongolian steppe where at least If something goes wrong it will only be a two day push to find a town where someone can help you, in GBDURO if something breaks beyond what can be repaired by what you have with you then you have no option than to scratch from the race. This left me with the decision to go for bikepacking bags which do have a smaller capacity and fiddly to pack but do have two main advantages which are that they are durable and ride well on technical off road sections.
When it came to specific bags I decided to go for a mixture of brands which would allow me to pick the best option for each purpose. Most of the bags are off the shelf products from Apidura, Revelate Designs and Salsa however the one custom bag which I have is a made to measure frame bag made by Ross at Straightcut Designs in Edinburgh. This allowed me to eak out every last inch of space in the front triangle. Overall I will have a seatpack, anything cages on the forks, a drybag on the Condenser front rack, feedpouches, top tube pouch and a jerrycan. Fingers crossed that it's enough capacity as I'm yet to pack everything onto the bike at once.
A change I've made from the standard ISO GRX Di2 spec is upgrading the handlebars to the Carbon VentureMax WCS version. It's well noted that Carbon bars can have better vibration absorbtion qualities over alloy ones and I think this will make a difference over a long distance.
One very important consideration Is staying hydrated, only being able to fill up from outside sources means that a large water capacity is required. To this end, I have modified a saddle bag stabilizer to fit an extra two 1L bottles behind the saddle, I will also have a bottle on the aerobars and a 3L soft bladder to keep me going through long stretches between refills such as the South West and North England. I won’t go into too much detail about my food here but its essentially a mixture of freeze dried meals, marzipan and chocolate amounting to around 8000KCal per day. This is one aspect of the event which could well be a deciding feature so its best to air on the side of caution here.
Whilst I have spend a long time thinking about getting everything ready it really is a guessing game for large parts of it and I'm sure that there will be some oversights as well as successes in my gear selection but only time will tell. One of the aspects that I am looking forward to most about the event is seeing all of the different approaches that all of the other riders take to tackle the unique situation of this year's GBDURO.