Transcontinental Video From Charge Bikes

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.

Teaser…

 

Main Video…

 

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.

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Mike Cotty’s 1000km Ride

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???

Swinley Forest MTB

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.

Finishing Kit List for Transcontinental 2014 – What worked and what didn’t | Part II – Clothing

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?

Basics

(These photos are post not pre ride, all looking good after a quick wash)

Jersey

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.

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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.

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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.

Jacket

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.

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Shorts

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.

Helmet

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.

Shoes

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.

Extras

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

photo 3In addition to these items. I took a pair of swim shorts. These dry really quick, super light and make a nice change from sleeping in riding shorts. A merino buff for keeping the draughts out.

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.

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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.

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Sleeping

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.

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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.

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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.

Finishing Kit List for Transcontinental 2014 – What worked and what didn’t | Part I – Bike

The feeling in our hands and feet is slowly coming back and the thought of getting back on a bike is looking more appealing, so a review of the kit that got us through Europe to Istanbul seems appropriate…

BIKE

Charge Bikes – Plug 5

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First things first, it got there. That surely has to be the biggest compliment to it. Many other riders and racers had to abandon as their kit failed around them and they were plagued with mundane, avoidable mechanical issues which really should not have occurred, as well as some rather spectacular mechanical failures.

The bike was run as it would straight out of the factory or shop with only a few small changes to allow us to ride further and longer. The stock bike retails for £1599.00

The front hub was swopped out to an Exposure Revo Dynamo system to power the lights and Supernova Plug III usb charger.

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The original rim from the Plug was used and built into a 32h wheel. The only downside to this was that the rim was quite heavy. It did however, make a very strong wheel which was faultless for the entire trip, no need to retrue or tighten any spokes.

IMG_6321The lighting system was incredible and one of the highlights of the kit that we used. 1000 Lumins out front meant that we could see everything we needed with no issues. It projected a wide beam that was powerful enough to see any holes or glass on the road even when descending at around 50km/h.

An Exposure Joystick was used as a headlight for rummaging around in bags at night, once again, brilliant and once charged, lasted for the whole trip.

Strange to say, but we looked forward to night riding, as the temperatures were cooler and the dawn and dusk views were breathtaking. The only downsides were many shops were closed so it was difficult to get food and water if we ran out and the dogs in Eastern Europe were a little more ‘lively’ at night!

The rear ‘red eye‘ light provided enough to be seen and still functioned, albeit dimmed, after 2 hours of inactivity. This meant that we sometimes would sleep and wake up with the lights still on.

The Alpkit luggage worked very well. The frame bag behind the headtube held spare innertubes (2), zip ties, electrical tape, multitool, chain links, spare brake and gear cable and 1 set of brake pads. Of all the kit that we took, this bag was opened the least, thankfully.

The bag above the top tube held essentials, such as chargers, maps, sweets and painkillers, all easily accessible whilst riding. It also held a iPhone well, even when unzipped, so we could listen to music when riding. A great boost when tired or hungry to get to the next target town.

The rear saddle bag held all the bulk of clothing and spares that we needed to access daily. The bag did have a tendency to swing around when very full but it never rubbed on legs or alter the balance of the bike so was no real issue. It wasn’t as waterproof as you may expect, so clothes did get wet inside if riding in the wet. A different material, similar to the front bag would make a big difference. Some reflective trim or more visible material around it would also help be seen by drivers at night.

The front dry bag held our sleeping kit, although after Italy, we ended up binning this as we wanted to shed some weight from the bikes and this was the easiest way. The position of the dry bags also meant that the only hand position available was on the hoods. Not an issue on the first day, but after the aches and pains started, being able to change hand positions would have made a big difference.

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The Supernova PLUG III could be wired into the Exposure hub to charge any usb units. It worked well, although could not be used in conjunction with the lights and would only charge above 15km/h which meant that you had to be on the flat or descending.

One downside to this unit was the Garmin Touring Plus that was used would automatically power down if the item was charging, then power removed. I.e. if the speed dropped below 15km/h. This became very frustrating as even at corners or junctions the unit would power off and sometimes take a long time to power back up and find our route again.

One solution that we found to this was to use a small power pack to charge the Garmin and leave the dynamo to solely charge the lights.

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This did work well and provided around 4 full chargers until the battery was empty. This could only be charged from a power supply though and after day 4 both our wall chargers broke leaving us without any way of topping up battery levels at restaurants or hotels.

The rear wheel was also changed to an Easton EA90 Cyclocross disc wheel. This was far lighter than the stock wheel and was totally faultless during the whole race. Fewer spokes, but they all stayed tight and true, a sign of quality.

The tyres were changed to Continental GP 4 Seasons (25c on front and 28c on back) from the stock Kenda tread. These were faster rolling and lighter. They both had around 1000km of training rides in them before we set off and still have loads of life left. Brilliant tyres and very strongly recommend for this style of event. We were confident in their puncture resistance even when we did stray off the roads at times…

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In Switzerland we ended up on trails and cycle paths like these for around 60km. At the time, these were a nightmare as we felt they weren’t fast enough for us, but looking back, they were a welcome brake from the traffic.

The disc brakes, in my humble opinion, were a necessity on this race and they performed superbly. Descending the Stelvio, at 7am, in -7degrees with cold hands and loaded bikes was no major issue with discs. A real plus point for the bike.

IMG_6323The Fabric Scoop saddle was far more comfortable than it’s racy image would let you believe. Day 4/5 were pretty uncomfortable as we had spent close to 70 hours on the bikes so far, but either my bum start to fit the saddle more or the shape finally ‘broke’ in, but it was totally pain free after than for the following 2000km. Very strongly recommended. There are three shapes available; flat, shallow and radius. I was using the shallow.

My one gripe about the bike was that when tired, the Sram gears felt very heavy to shift due to the doubletap action, especially on the front. A huge effort was often required to change gear and some serious thought was put in if it was necessary. This may have had something to do with achilles tendon issues as I was frequently standing up on the pedals to climb to avoid changing gear.

Two punctures and a worn out bottom bracket. That is all that went wrong on a 12 day, 3600km adventure. Not worrying about the bike is such a huge relief when there are so many other things that need thinking about; navigating, eating, sleeping, drinking, riding, enjoying ourselves….

A brilliant, versatile, reliable, efficient bike…I would happily use it again for this style of event.

We Finished Transcontinental 2014!

Gaby and I completed The Transcontinental 2014 and totally surprised not only ourselves, but seemingly the whole of the rest of the field and everyone we know by finishing in 12days 10hours securing me 18th Place overall and Gabs 2nd Female.

It was the hardest bike race I have ever done but without doubt one of the most memorable.

We are both totally blown away by the support and encouragement that we have received from friends, family, acquaintance and strangers over the past 2 weeks. It has been a truly unforgettable experience and there are many stories and pictures to come out of it over the next few weeks once our hands and fingers have some more feeling back in them.

Charge Bikes, who have been supporting us through this whole adventure have been fantastic and we were so happy to have been working with them and using their bikes.

A full write up of kit and bikes will follow, but surely the biggest praise is that they made it there. Apart from 2 punctures and a worn out bottom bracket the bikes were totally faultless! What more can you ask for?

Alex Rankin has put together a little trailer for the soon to be released video of our adventures…

 

We have also just uploaded around 90% of the race onto Strava. The Garmins would occasionally run out of batteries and would be switched off so a few chunks are missing.

We find it a useful training tool to see how much climbing, we did, pacing and hours in the saddle and are then able to analyse which were strong days and which could have been improved. You can see the rides HERE.

 

More coming soon…

The Amateur World Championship Qualifications – Trento, Italy

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After a summer of racing in the local French events, Ben and I decided to head over to Italy to compete in the qualifier event for the Amateur world champs. The UWCT which is the governing body for amateur road cycling hold a world tour each year made up of events in 12 different countries with the top 25% of athletes going through to compete for rainbow stripes in World Finals. For us living in the French Alps, our nearest qualifiers we either La Look in Nevers France or La Leggendaria Charley Gaul in Trento Italy. The French event is held early in the season – May so we decided to head over the boarder and try our luck in Italy.

The event is awesome and so well organised, spread over 3 days with a Friday evening time trial followed by a rest day then the Road race on the Sunday. When you arrive, there are signpost through the town directing you to a big sports centre where you collect your race numbers and timing chip. You are also given a big bag full of water bottles, pasta, energy bars, jam, fruit and all the information you need about the event. They also run a bike expo from the centre where you can test ride a range of bikes.

Whilst in Trento we camped at a Agrotourism, which is a rural farm which provides cheap accommodation and amazing home-made local food and produce. It was perfect 5km from Trento which meant we could pedal in on the morning of the road race.

The first part of the event – The time trial was held in a town called Cavedine just outside of Trento which is in the lake valley. The course was a 24km loop it started with a small climb before descending down to the lake, climbing back up then finishing on a long open (windy) flat.

Neither Ben or I have ever done a trial trial course like this before, it was longer than anything we had ever done and much more varied. We both just went for it full pelt from the go and I think both suffered a bit on the climb, I didn’t know if it was possible to hit the wall on such a short distance but I think I came pretty close. We still have a lot to learn about time trialing. We rode our normal road bikes in our usual cycling kit, looking around and chatting to people was great we both want to do more time trialing so maybe at some point some more specific kit would be beneficial. Having said that we were both pleased with our results Ben came in 8th and I managed to get up of the second step of the Podium which I was super happy with! You have to wail for an e-mail invitation to the finals but if you get on the podium its a guaranteed qualification so I as through to the next round and we headed in to town for a beer to celebrate.

The next day was a rest day so we used the time to scope out part of the road race course, stretch our legs with a short pedal and go swimming in the lake. We had a chilled evening and cooked some dinner at our Agrotouism then headed to our tent for an early night.

Sunday morning was an early start 5am alarm, breakfast, dressed and pedal into Trento to the main square for the 8am mass start. 2500 people take part in the Charley Gaul. The start feels epic. There are 6 start pens one for pro’s and VIPS, then the elite men’s pen where you need to have some previous good results to get in, this is where Ben started, an all women’s pen which I was in then 3 more depending on when you signed up. There was a host of lead out motorbikes, music blaring and a helicopter hovering overhead. The atmosphere was buzzing, they do a countdown then start opening the pens and you are off – full speed weaving out of the town, the whole event is closed road and everyone is going for it trying to get up front and into the fast groups. People are going round both sides of roundabouts, bunny hopping curbs, over and undertaking. The whole race was fantastic and massively varied with something for everyone. It was 141km with 4000m of vertical assent with flat sections linking the climbs, narrow cobbled roads through small villages and even a section though a series of alleyways. The finish line was at the top of Mt Bandone on the Vason side, with a height of 1.650 meters an the same exact point that Gaul crossed in 1956. Ben made it over the line in 5hours 34 minuets coming 55th in his category and I wasn’t far behind with 5hours 48 coming 6th. It was a tough course with the final climb feeling gruelling to say the least. I was really looking forward to seeing Ben at the top so I think that’s what motivated me to keep on pushing up to the line. When I got there I was able to quickly find Ben, he was in the pasta party tent sitting with a tray packed full of food. We both sat and ate before descending back down the 38 bends which Mt Bandone is famous for and straight into a an ice cream shop.