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  1. In my first post 'For the love of bikepacking adventures' I wrote about my love for bikepacking and the freedom it offers to explore. In that post I mentioned my main bikepacking race for 2019, The Silk Road Mountain Race (SRMR). Like I said then it's no ordinary race. It takes both physical and mental strength to complete it. Preparation includes long saddle time, lots of climbing and even hill repeats off the bike. Yes, the hike-a-bike sections are not trivial. There are tales of competitors scratching (DNF'ing) as a result of 'unexpected' injuries caused in part by extended pushing and pulling heavy ladened bikes for 6-hour stretches. To that end, I've been testing equipment in simulated conditions, like hill reps with a fully ladened bike, and my sleep system in my garden. (more of that in another post) Image: There is a lot of hike-a-bike sections on the SRMR Careful selection and planning of equipment for both on and off the bike is crucial. With so many factors to consider it's both exhausting and fun. In this two-part post, this part focuses on my bike and its components. Part two will focus on other bike equipment, like luggage, spares, and contingent bike clothing. PART ONE Frame and fork My first task was figuring out what type of bike is best suited for this challenge. It wasn't an easy decision, and I went back and forth many times. Last year's SRMR competitors suggested using a hard trail mountain bike, although many did use beefed up gravel bikes. And by beefed up I mean using titanium or steel, big volumous tyres and appropriate gearing. It would be hard to convince me otherwise, my head was set on a titanium frame. I've owned a titanium bike (DeKerf Ti) and I just loved the material. I enjoyed the balance titanium offered - lightness, compliance and raw beauty. Titanium just feels right! I'd seen photos of local brand Calculus bikes; I liked the look of them. And, I liked that they're made to measure, so fully custom. I reached out to Millar, owner of Calculus, for help and to use his experience to build the perfect machine. Convinced, I took my bike fit measurements (done by Jos le Roux's, at Revbikefit) to Millar. We agonized over angles, bolt-ons, sizes, reach, etc. After a couple of weeks we had a design and ready to start building it. As I write this, my Calculus frame is in its final production phase and should be in my hands soon. (pics to follow) Image: My frame measurements We designed the frame to coupe with the SRMR conditions, so for that I decided to use Curve's GXR carbon forks. These work for my frame geometry and can handle big wheels - 650b and 700c - wide wide tyres. Plus, they look great. Image: My new Curve fork - race, ride and seek Wheels, tyres and drive chain For SRMR, I want strong and lightweight 650b wheels to handle the rough conditions. It's tempting to run bigger 700c wheels for speed across the 1700km route, but a large majority of the route is on rocky and technical terrain... I'd rather avoid technical mishaps than be fast. I've gone for a set of Curve carbon wheels with Cure hubs from The Ride Guys. They're beautiful and the rear hub has a beautiful sound too. I'll swap the front hub with a SON28 dynamo hub. The dynamo hub will generate the power I need for my front light and power bank. To help me get over steep climbs I'll be running a 10-42 cassette for gearing. Image: my Curve wheels My current gravel bike (a Giant TCX Pro SL 2) came with a SRAM Rival chainset, and it's been perfect. So with no need to change it I'll transfer it to the new bike. The crank arms are 172.5mm and I'll replace the chainring from the 40 tooth to a 36, again, this should help me get over climbs, especially considering I'm carrying a lot of stuff. That combination will leave me with a 36 x 10-42 one by setup. To keep that turning I'll use an 11 speed chain with breakable link adaptors, and a spare. My tried and tested Shimano XT pedals will give me that safe and reliable contact point. Image: SRAM Rival cranks (172.5mm with a 36 tooth chain ring) I'll be staying with my favorite tyres for the SRMR, the Panaracer GravelKing SK 1.9" tubeless wheels, front and back. They just make sense... they're hardy (tough rubber), easy to get on and off the rim and provide great rolling resistance with reasonable traction. I have to confess I wouldn't mind more traction but happy to trade that off. And, of course my tyres will have the classic tan wall. Nice. Image: Panaracer GravelKing SK - tan walled 27.5 tyres (650b) Bars, brakes/gears, stem and headset Never have I done so much comparing and contrasting as I did here. Apart from wanting good looking, reliable and compatible components, I was also looking for good prices too... ended up being a bit of a game and I had fun. Eventually, I found Chain Reaction Cycles to be my best bet, and used a business trip to the UK to make my purchases. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to keep it all with one brand, I broke the consistency 'code', but I think you'll agree with me it's a good compromise. As a minimum they are all black anodized and look great. For bars, I've gone for Easton EC70 AX 44cm aluminum bars with a 16 degree flare. They look great and have a moderate flare, so not too wild, but has enough width to fit my Apidura backcountry handlebar pack between the hoods, and provide me with better control on the bumpy descents. Connecting the bars to the bike I bought a Easton Haven stem with a 0 degree drop. These stems are super tough and look flippen cool. They're proven themselves over the years and are still one of my favorites. Image: Easton EC70 AX bars I won't say much about my brakes and levers. They are my trusty SRAM Rival 1 x set. They're not complicated and comfortable when on the hoods for extended periods. No need to change what ain't broke. Something previous competitors have mentioned is mechanical brakes, in favor of hydraulic. Hydraulic failures in the middle of nowhere would spell disaster. I'm not going to say much more, just hoping nothing goes wrong there. Navigation and lighting Once we depart from Bishkek, the capital of Kyrgyzstan, access to power outlets is scarce. My goal is to be completely self-sufficient in this area. That means I won't need to rely or worry about batteries going flat and loosing navigation and light for night travel. Other powering options just wont' work. I've researched this area extensively and concluded that the german-made SON28 dynamo hub sets the standard in performance, so should keep me charged. Of course slow moving up climbs probably won't help but I think the flats and downhills should make up for that. As back up I'll be carrying a Anker Powercore 13000 mAh rechargeable power bank. The SON28 has the ability to charge both lights and power bank at the same time and keeping my power bank fully recharged all the time. Image: SON28 dynamo hub for all my power needs Again, research in this area has told me the best dynamo-powered light on the market is the Sinewave Beacon. It's a simple light but pushes out an incredible 750 lumens when powered at speed. The killer feature, in my opinion, is its ability to run a cable directly off the light unit to charge my power bank, Wahoo Bolt head unit or mobile phone. No additional wires needed, it's that simple. Image: Sinewave Beacon dynamo front light Image: A Wahoo Bolt Element will keep me on track Right, that's enough geeking out on equipment for now. I can't wait to show you photos of my complete bike built up and race ready. Stay tuned. Other photos of selected bike kit for SRMR Image: Fabric Scoop titanium saddle Image: Thomson Elite in-line seatpost Part 2 to follow in my next post... Bike specs Frame - Calculus titanium customer gravel monsterForks - Curve GCX carbon 100x12mmWheels - Curve carbon 650b 28Dynamo (front hub) - SON28 28Tyres - Panaracer GravelKing SK 27.5 1.9"Drive chain - SRAM Rival 172.5mm 1x11 (36 x 10-42)Pedals - Shimano XTHeadset - Cane Creek 40-SeriesStem - Easton haven (100mm)Bars - Easton EA70 AX (44cm)Bar tape - Fabric siliconeSeat post - Thomson elite (27.5mm x 350mm)Saddle - Fabric scoop titaniumCages - Titanium x 2 - still need to sourceFork cages - Blackburn outpost cargo x 2Front lights - Sinewave Beacon (dynamo)Front lights - Knog rechargable (DC 2019 issue) GPS - Wahoo element bolt
  2. There's something magical about riding your bike with a planned route and everything you'll need with you. Its simplicity is rich fodder for the soul. Over the last couple of months I've been drawn in more and more to this simplicity, and I've developed an ever growing hunger for biking adventures. I've found myself gravitating to ultra-long distances, and where the riding pushes me hard, not just physically, but mentally too. Maybe it's my age - searching for that personal next level - or the immensely satisfying feeling I get each time I reach my goal totally spent. I just love it! I was looking for a home where I could share my ultra-distance passion so I hope you don't mind me sharing it here? From time to time I'd like to share stories about my goals and races, bike and equipment, training and some general thoughts on my experiences. I want to make it interesting, and perhaps useful for someone enjoying the same sort of riding. First up, my race plans for 2019: (I'll talk more about each race in time) 27 April - Swartberg100 (170km) 15–23 June - The 1000 Miler (1600km) 10 August - TransBaviaans (230km) ... and the big one... 17 August - The Silk Road Mountain Race (Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan ~1670 km) If you're interested in what I'm getting up you can follow me at Twitter (@trailtrax) Instagram (@trailtrax) Cheers for now... -- Rob Check out my latest post on choosing my bike and components.
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