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???

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.

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.

Women’s only events- will they take off ??

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Most cycling events are held as opens, usually dominated by men with a few women in the mix. Making the experience of an event completely different between genders. As a man competing when you cross the start line its full speed from the word go and often the first part of the event will be the most intense as you want to catch a group that is going to be pedaling at your level- if you miss the good groups there is a good chance that you wont be able to catch them. Once you have found your group everything settles down a bit and spreads out. The group will then work together taking it in turns to lead and work there way around the course and finishing with a sprint for the line.

For Women the start is similar you also need to find your group, but once you have you can relax. Often, once you have got in to a group you are looked after by the men you can sit and draft on the flats and aren’t often expected to have your turn up front in the wind. What often separates the level of ladies is the climbs, you have to climb yourself and keep up with the group in order to not be dropped. Don’t get me wrong events for women are still hard, you are still exhausted when you cross the finish but to an extent you feel looked after.

So what happens when there are no men ….
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2 weeks ago at Vercors myself and about 150 other women lined up ready to take on the challenge Vercors, 120km rolling route with one main climb. The start felt quite mellow compared with the larger mixed events but I think this was more to do with a smaller number of participants. We were lead out by a team of motorbikes through the town after about 3km they sped off ahead and we were off. I had pre race nerves on the start line and was now full of adrenalin an ready to give it my all. But nothing happened no one sped up, no one attacked, everyone maintained their pace and started up the first climb. I was completely thrown off having never done an all female event before, tactically I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t make a move and stayed with the front group waiting to see what would happen. For me I found the pace frustrating which meant a few times I started to pedal but that meant leading. I was then worried that I was going to be tiring my self out whilst everyone else sat behind so i tried to pull out to the right to let someone else come through, it didn’t happen no one came through.

So for the first 30km I was on and off the front, tossing a coin in my head trying to decide whether to stay where I was and wait for someone to take control of the race or whether that should be me?

We then headed into a small village down a decent, the course was weaving through the national park so the roads were quite narrow and a bit rough. we all started rolling over a series of speed bumps and grates closely packed together. That was it I felt something touch my back wheel, i jolted forward over my bars, wobbled, tried to get my balance back, didn’t…. I had 2 seconds where I remember thinking Sh*t here I go. Smash down to the left then bounced over onto the right and skidded down the road.

I crawled to the side of the road and up onto the pavement to get out of the way of the cyclists coming through. I laid on the pavement absolutely gutted- not getting to find out how the rest of the event would go, worried that part if not all of my bike would be written off and becoming more and more conscious that I was missing quite a bit of skin.

The medical team came did there initial checks making sure nothing was broken and that my head was ok. Then they picked me up put me inside the ambulance and began cleaning my wounds. Anyone who had ever had road rash will no how much this STINGS, they have to make sure that the area is disinfected and all the gravel is removed before they can get it covered up.

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Thankfully one of my friends who was supporting his wife in the event was in the town and saw me come off. Once I was out of the ambulance they gave me a lift back to the campsite. I wanted to show my support despite not finishing to the other ladies in the events so with the help of Ben I slowly limped down to the finish line to watch everyone come in. The first lady came in at 4hours 07 Minuits. Fast. Around 30kmh. That means the pace must have shot up, most likely someone attacking up the climb and pulling off forming a fast group. Most of the ladies were coming over the line either in small groups, pairs of quite often alone.

Each lady was presented with a rose a glass of fizz for finishing. The atmosphere in the village was buzzing, it was an awesome event to be part of the sense of achievement amount the women was huge. I think events like this are really important in the development of women’s cycling and hope to get the change to take part in something similar again in the future.

I can’t wait for the next one to show what I’ve got.

Cycling in the Ardeche

Our first proper stop on our month long cycle adventure has been the Aredeche, southern France. To put simply, this is a massively underestimated area for riding and I would strongly recommend anyone who loves road riding to visit.

The cols are anywhere between 500m and 1000m making the riding achievable for even beginners to bag a few cols in a day and for more experiences cyclist to create some very challenging routes.

As many of the cols are smaller than in Savoie where we usually ride, it was a great pleasure to be able to link towns together in many different ways allowing loops and additions to pre planned rides taking into account how we felt. Something that isn’t always possible in the high cols of the alps.

The Tarmac is smooth, there are very few cars, many cyclist and for the end of march it’s warm (20degs).

I would strongly recommend a week here. Get a map and go explore everything this stunning area has to offer. The views are worth it alone!

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Next up…mt Ventoux

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