13th July 2018
#WOMENDURANCE | Naomi | Me and My Bokeh
I was lucky enough to first ride the much applauded Mason Bokeh last September, on loan from Dom to ride a coast to coast route across Scotland.
The route, which forms part of the Highland Trail 550, a challenging 550 mile ultra mountain bike race, is perhaps more commonly ridden on a hardtail, but I’d seen reports of it having been done on cross bike. And I’d heard the Bokeh was more than capable.
True enough, the bike was a huge success, coping with terrain some might flinch at with full suspension, while equally adept at soaking up the road miles. The perfect bike for bikepacking mixed terrain. And that set my mind to work.
Around the same time I (perhaps naively) decided to enter the Silk Road Mountain Race, a 1700km bikepacking Race across the mountains of Kyrgyzstan. And having spoken at length to friends who have ridden there before about the terrain involved, it seemed fairly obvious that the Bokeh might just be the perfect weapon. I thought I might make a few modifications tho.
In Iceland last year, while competing in the Glacier 360, I met Bergur Benediktsson from Lauf cycling. A mutual friend had just got. Set of Lauf Grits for her gravel bike (and I’d noticed a few others in the Dirty Reiver line-up) and figured they’d be the ideal solution to my slightly arthritic wrists over that distance. Coupled with a set of Ritchey Venturemax flare bars, as recommended by several big hitters in the world of gravel, I tested the Bokeh out again, this time in Skye in the Sligachan pass.
At just over 14 km, what the pass lacks in length it more than makes up for in variety of terrain. Smooth gravel to loose, rocky boulders, gabbro slabs and everything in between. If the Bokeh could handle this I was fairly sure the set up could handle just about anything I could be thrown in Kyrgyzstan. And it did. With aplomb.
For self supported races, charging is almost as important as food and water and so I swapped my Hunt AdventureSport discs for a set of AdventureDynamo disc wheels, as used by the legendary Josh Ibbett. For me, getting reliable kit that has been tested in the field by experts gives me that extra confidence.
How you carry your kit matters enormously. I’m lucky to have sponsorship from Apidura who make brilliant bikepacking bags which keep the weight over the centre of the bike for better aerodynamics and balance. I’ve been practicing my packing on my various trips out and have been speaking with local legend Markus Stitz about how to pack for an epic like this. Each trip out I get a little better!
Now, with nothing remaining but a service and a gearing change (swapping my chainring for something more mountain-friendly and fitting a slightly easier cassette), the next step is kit. And I’ve got Markus Stitz of BikepackingScotland to thanks for the advice here. Cycling round the world unsupported on a singlespeed definitely gives you that ‘expert’ acumen.
But more on that to come. For now, here is the beauty taking on Skye!