For updates on Gaby’s cycling adventures please visit GoFasterGaby.com
The video is finally here…
A mixture of footage and photos we took from our adventure and some studio filming with Alex Rankin at Charge Bikes HQ. Have a watch.
We are so happy seeing these. Brings back so many good memories of a a very tiring but life changing 12 days spent together travelling across Europe.
You can find more details on The Transcontinental website.
Pre season training is key to a summer of riding at your best. Lots of people get this in by heading to the sun somewhere like Majorca on pre season training camp. We were lucky this year and managed to get away to Corsica and Sardinia to get these miles in.
Most cycling events are held in the summer and predominately lined up during July & August. But what do you do post season? This year we got together with a group of friends and arranged a cycle holiday. Its been perfect, everyone is relaxed, no one is training for anything but everyone has a summer full of miles in there legs so a big rides are manageable.
Location? We went for Provence in the south of France, the weather late September early October is still warm enough to lye by the pool but not too hot when your cycling, the riding is fun and varied you have rolling hills, vineyards but then also one of the giants, Ventoux.
This is a hugely impressive ride and I love routes that have been planned by the riders themselves. Take a look, very unfortunate with the weather for this year in the alps on the whole. Warm winter, wet summer, not great.
The weather messed up Nico Roux’s attempt at the Tour de Mont Blanc Record attempt. He slacked off a bit and only did 12 hours something for the 330 km (9000m vert) route… !!!!
Anyway check out Mike in the Mountains
Transcon next year Mike???
Since we have moved back to the UK and being based near London, with our whole summer being focused on road riding and racing, it’s time to get the knobbly tyres out and have some fun over winter.
We are both looking at riding a bit more cyclocross to stay sharp but in the mean time Swinley is just around the corner.
I had always dismissed any riding anywhere south of the Peaks as rubbish (excluding Bristol area) but this video makes it look pretty fun and since we are just after some evening razzing on hardtails it should work well for our needs.
Having no idea the weather we would be encountering during the Transcontinental made packing clothing very difficult. We knew we would be in the alps for two, maybe even three days and having lived in the French mountains for several years, I was very aware how fast the giant storms could roll in and soak you to the core without a minutes notice. We were also going to be traveling through eastern Europe in August possibly dealing with temperatures close to 40°. We were also going to be riding through the night and especially at dawn it can be far cooler than any other time of the day. The other slight spanner in the works, was that days before we were about to leave Westminster Bridge, Hurricane Bertha was due to be sweeping across Europe, almost in the exact direction. Great!
So what to take?
(These photos are post not pre ride, all looking good after a quick wash)
It was decided that only one jersey would be taken…yuk…one jersey for the whole two week trip. That was going to be pretty disgusting by the end of it. Those that know me, know I have a tendency to ‘over heat’ on rides, so even after a few hours, kit usually needs a good wash. I wasn’t sure this was going to be the most hygienic way to travel, but hey, it is a super light ultra distance race…lets try.
Giro make some merino wool jersey which are very understated in design and fit really well. I didn’t fancy riding across Albania looking like a huge billboard for cycling so something plain would work well for me. Colour wise, darker the better, it would show up the ‘effort’ far less. Merino is also renowned for its no odour properties and this would be put fully to the test.
I was a little concerned about the extra heat of merino on the hot days, but to be honest, it was fantastic. It kept me cool and regulated my heat really well, never feeling that it was an issue.
On the cooler/cold/freezing days it was a welcome insulation layer that helped to preserve any body warmth we may have made.
The most impressive feature was quite simply it’s robust build. The jersey is still in great condition even after being ridden for 3600km and being put on and off and jackets, food and maps stuffed in pockets. In contrast to some other ’boutique’ brands the pockets have lasted with no damage to the stitching or stretching. The only damage was when I crashed (I literally fell asleep on my bike and toppled sideways). This ripped up some of the shoulder, but the holes didn’t get any bigger for the rest of the trip. Very strongly recommended and I will be definitely using this jersey again on longer rides.
In addition to this, I took a long sleeved Howies merino thermal. This was to layer up with the Giro one and also to sleep in. No really need to review this; It’s a Howies product so it’s well made, functional and sensible price.
I took a Rapha Waterproof shell with me. I’ve had this jacket for several years now and it has stood up to a lot of abuse, packs down really small and is surprisingly waterproof for such a thin layer. The warm cuffs help keep the cold out and warm in and the ‘originally cream but now brownish’ colour was more visible at night than other darker jackets. There are some reflective trims on arms and hem which help make dozy drivers aware of your existence at 2am. A proper saviour in the mountains.
I took two sets of shorts with me. Not washing a jersey is one thing but the same pair of shorts for two weeks would be another thing all together. The plan was to wear one pair for two days, then wash and swop around, giving the other pair proper chance to dry. In practise, this did not happen. After 3 days, saddle sores were pretty painful so I took to wearing both pairs combined with half a pot of chamois cream and some vitamin I to ease the pain. This did work and after day 6, I had almost forgotten the pain of sitting.
The two pairs were some Rapha Thermal Bibs and Castelli Free Aero Bibs. Basically these were the two best sets of bibs I owned so thought I should take them. Both were brilliant and fitted really well, comfortable and eased the pain of spending 15-18 hours a day in the same spot.
The best kit is the kit you don’t recognise…and I would forget I was wearing this. Giro Atmos. Really comfortable, light, airy, what more do you want in a helmet. Oh yeah, some high vis accents on the back to help being seen….check.
Mounted on the helmet, is an Exposure Joystick. This did stay off most of the time but was really useful for rummaging around in bags and general faffing at night.
The Empire shoes were probably my favourite item of the whole trip. They were simply outstanding. Really comfortable, but stiff and easy to pedal in, yet easy to walk in as well. I think they look amazing too. Clean, classic looks with loads of tech in them and really cool orange heel piece. Brilliant shoes for every sort of road riding possible. The thing that blew me away the most was how new they still look. After the whole event, in rain, dirt, gravel, heat, cold, wet they still look brilliant after a wipe with a soft cloth.
The cleats wore pretty fast but i’m not surprised.
Arm warmers, knee warmers, socks, gloves and underhat. All really useful extras that saved us on a few occasions. Gloves maybe one of the most important parts of my entire kit as I finished with compressed ulnar nerves in both arms which has caused quite a lot of issues. Even simple daily tasks have been a huge issue, pinching, zipping, gripping are all high on the no-go list. With cheaper or no gloves, this issue could have been very serious possibly resulting in some proper rehab rather then just pain and annoyance.
These Giro gloves were super hi vis; great for signalling at night with a suitable amount of padding on the palms. The colour has faded quite considerably after the 2 weeks, but they have been on my hands the entire time, not really surprising and they have protect my hands in my two embarrassing crashes of my life.
I think next time, some thicker arms and legs as the ‘race’ spec lightweight ones that were taken were ok, but heavier warmer ones would have been worth carrying.
A Patagonia merino underhat was superb as were the merino socks…basically merino was the material of the race! If anyone is thinking of doing an event like this, any materials options, choose merino. Fast drying, comfortable and warm, even when wet.
Good sunnies are really important when riding from dawn to dusk. A pair of Oakley Radar Locks with Polarised lenses did the job admirably. Comfy, no fogging and perfect optics meant they were a pleasure to wear and tucked into the giro helmet really snuggly for night riding. They are still in very good condition at the end considering what they have been through.
I purchased a set of waterproof trousers in Davos when the weather was really really bad and that totally saved me. Warm and dry(ish) and made the 2 days in the mountains during a hurricane almost enjoyable.
We did end up living in bin bags for a few days too. thinner ones in shoes and under helmets and thicker ones as gilets. They made a huge difference to our warmth levels and cost next to nothing. Washing up gloves kept out hands free from cold rain…and looked fantastic.
This was everything we had…no other shoes, no extra layers, no downjackets. Just the stuff above.
I think the clothing we took was suitable and not excessive at all, especially for a 2 week race. I used everything I took and felt that nothing was not worth carrying. I was very happy with all my clothing selections. All was packed into the rear saddle bag for ease of access.
An Alpkit bivi bag stayed with us for the whole time. Great bit of kit. It packs down super small and was very comforting crawling into it at any time of day for 30 minute nap.
We went for the cheap and cheerful method for sleeping bags and 1/2 roll matts. Decathlon junior versions to be precise. Small, light and cheap. These were rolled up in order and stored in a dry bag on the front of the bike.
These were thrown after Italy as it was warm enough to do without.
Pillow was a dry bag with clothes in…overall a very comfy sleeping arrangement that I would use again in an instant.
Two weeks focused on one thing …. the road ahead. Its sounds slightly mundane staring at a road but your mind has to stay sharp the whole time; pot holes, debris blowing in the wind and huge lorries skimming the hard shoulder. Over the 12 days we spent riding we were on main roads, dirt tracks, climbing mountain passes and ducking in and out of dark tunnels always with one main goal – keep going, don’t stop for too long and get to Istanbul.
Having never done an ultra distance event before, Ben and I didn’t know what to expect, what were we getting ourselves into? How do you train for something like this, how would the race go and what are the after effects ?
We are now currently in the post race stage on this epic event and again it’s another completely new experience and nothing like how we had anticipated feeling.
Arriving at the finish like in Istanbul was a huge relief – stopping, sitting and for the first time in almost two weeks not rushing. Beer – we had been so excited about having some beers, but two each and then it was like we were hit by a massive wave of exhaustion. Struggling to keep our eyes open we caught a cab to our hotel and headed straight to bed. This was at midnight, we set no alarms and expected to be out for about 15 hours. 6am came round and we were wide awake and starving. We headed up to breakfast which thankfully for us was a buffet, 6 plates later and back to bed for another couple of hours sleep then same again, round two at the buffet and 6 more plates.
During Transcon we had slipped into a weird time zone, living without day, night or routine. We cycled until we couldn’t do anymore would stop where ever, when ever then sleep normally for about 2 hours. We would eat continuously with disregard for meal times. Washing and anything else became a luxury instead of normally. So how do you go from this alien adrenaline style of living back to ordinary life. Its more difficult than it sounds its not like jet lag where you might have to set an extra alarm and have a couple of meals at odd times, your whole body is in a state of confusion both mentally and physically. Over the 12 days our bodies felt strong, we felt mentally sharp but we were being fuelled and stimulated but adrenaline, as soon as we relaxed and there adrenaline levels reduced weakness set in.
Numb, weak hands, seized up muscles, tiredness but maybe the strangest of all our brains felt exhausted to the extent that even the thought of having to make a decision was enough to make you want to have a nap.
We spent a week in Istanbul trying to relax, rest and recover as much as possible. Trying to cope with all the symptoms as best as possible and coax ourselves back to our former selves. Its now been a week of post Transcon rehab and we are back home in the UK. Still not quite there mentally, but feeling more human.
Today I went for a sports massage at a rehabilitaion clinic, after starting to get pain in my neck and headaches. Just for the reassurance it was worth it. The physio worked on my neck trying to release some of the built up stress and tension highlighting that it was actually my sternocleido – mastoid muscles in my neck giving me problems. She also explained to me why I was having so much difficult using my hands its not just the peripheral nervous system which is fatigued and effected its also the central system – your brain. Big tasks for example picking up a football are fine and manageable its all the smaller more intricate task which cause difficulty. Arm, hand and finger movement need to be fast, strong and precise and for these you brain is the control center. Picking up a pen, writing, doing up a zip, unlocking a door all of these things seem near to impossible with a fatigued central nervous system. With rest and nutrition the nervous system should repair its self and bring the body back from being in an over trained state.
So at the moment its going to a bit more rest before slowly introducing exercise back into our routines. Its been recommended to start with some swimming or jogging to avoid putting your body straight back into the cycling position. But if you cant stay off the bike to try and ride a different one from the one used for transcon again to put you in a slightly different position.