Posts related to Trans Am Bike Race 2021.
- Kinesis RTD. This is a 55.5 cm frame, bigger than the 54 cm I would usually ride, which I chose at the suggestion of a fitter, who was concerned I wouldn’t be able to get enough stack on the smaller size. As I’ve got it set up now, I could probably lower the stem and still be comfortable.
- Just Riding Along “Mahi Mahi” rims (30 mm front/50 mm rear), SON Deluxe front hub, JRA house-brand rear hubs, Sapim X-ray bladed spokes. I felt like this would give me the best balance of aerodynamics and handling in crosswinds.
- mostly Dura Ace.
- Easton EA90. (Bottom bracket is also from Easton.) I got over my pride and decided to use 46/30 chainrings. For the amount of power that I can produce and my style of riding, I don’t need anything bigger (I sometimes see cyclists in bike forums asking about putting bigger chainrings on their bikes and I wonder “can you really push that gear?”). There aren’t a lot of road cranks that will take rings in those sizes (Shimano’s GRX have a wider chainline, which I could imagine causing shifting problems), which is why I went with Easton cranks. Although I don’t have a power meter on this bike now, Easton’s spindle-based power meter would be a relatively easy retrofit.
- Ultegra 11-30. Having small chainrings meant that I could put a relatively close-spaced cassette in back. This still gives a very low low gear, and a top gear that’s higher than the 52×13 that was typical when I started cycling. If I feel like I can pull it off, I’ll use an 11-28 instead.
- Redshift; can toggle between a conventional position and a TT position on the fly. I got this used, along with a set of Redshift aero bars. After only one ride, I’m not convinced that it suits my purposes, but it is a well-made piece of equipment.
- Fabric Race Line Shallow, which seems to work for me.
- Old stock from Zipp. Available cheaply; bought as a placeholder to confirm my positioning; I will probably replace it with a shock-absorbing stem from Redshift
- Old stock from 3T, also available cheaply.
- Speedplays zeros. I would like to use SPDs, but they don’t offer a lot of float, and that has been causing me knee trouble lately, so at the last minute I made this change.
- Continental GP5000 tubeless, 28 mm. I waffled on whether to go tubeless on this rig and ultimately decided that I would. I’d read horror stories about how hard road tubeless tires can be to mount and inflate, and about how tires that are the tiniest bit out of spec with the rims can blow off. In this case, I was able to mount the tires by hand with little trouble, and even inflate them with just my track pump, no air blaster required. Getting the valves set up took a little trial and error, and I misjudged the ideal length for the stems.
- Wipperman Connex. Has a reputation for being especially durable, and the master link uses a clever design that does not require a tool to connect or disconnect.
- Every workout has a training stress score (TSS) calculated for it. This is a single number that represents both the intensity and duration of the workout. The formula for working it out is complicated.
- Cumulative training load (CTL) is a rolling average of the training stress scores for one’s workouts over the previous six weeks. This is also sometimes called “fitness.”
- Acute training load (ATL) is a rolling average of the training stress scores for one’s workouts over the previous week. This is also sometimes called “fatigue.”
- Training stress balance (TSB) is CTL minus ATL. This is also sometimes called “form.” In order to be making progress, this needs to be a negative number, but if it is beyond -30, that indicates overtraining. This also lets one optimize one’s taper for a race: by easing off training immediately before a race, CTL goes down but TSB goes up. However, I’m not sure how applicable TSB is to a multi-day event like the TABR.
- I’ve got mine set fairly firm. I rarely notice any bobbing except on smooth roads when I’m really grinding at low RPM.
- Can’t compensate for big hits, but does take the edge off a lot of bad pavement. I notice the difference most on textured pavement, which it really smooths out.
- As much as my ass hurt in the race (a lot), I cannot imagine how much more it would have hurt without a suspension seatpost.
- Cane Creek makes an elastomer-based suspension seatpost that I’d be interested in comparing with this.
- Beautiful construction, meticulously considered design.
- Rock solid. Doesn’t noticeably affect handling except for the sail effect in strong crosswinds. It really feels like a part of the bike.
- Unless you’ve got a lot of seatpost showing, get the “extended seatpost connector” so that the bag can open clear of your saddle.
- When transferring the seatpost clamp to the extended connector, be careful with the screw post that mounts it, as it is easy to round out the hex-key opening. Ideally this would have a torx head or a steel screw post.
- The rubber bushings that fit in the “fast release” mounts are not retained well. I’ve now seen that Tailfin recommends gluing them in place with some CA glue. Even with that, the smart thing is to keep the mounts shut at all times, whether on or off the bike.
- In addition to its main opening on top, it has a zipped side opening and a small zipped stash pocked on the other side. I’m not sure either of these do much good.
- Really expensive.
- I haven’t found a good way to secure the end of the hose. I wind up tucking it under the shoulder strap. Camelbak makes a magnetic retainer that hooks onto the shoulder strap, but the way it hooks on is so insecure that it’s not usable.
- The mesh surface facing my back tears up my jerseys.
- A lot of people complain about getting a sweaty back with a Camelbak. No argument there. I think this is a bigger problem in cold weather than hot, though. I can deal with the heat. But in cold weather the ability to evaporate sweat is an important aspect of your ability to stay warm and comfortable; with a hydration pack on, I find that the part of my back directly under the pack is sweaty and well-insulated, so it stays warm; there’s a ring on my back around the pack that is sweaty but not insulated, and this gets clammy or downright cold, regardless of how I’m dressed. In practice, this did not wind up being a showstopper, but it did contribute a little bit to discomfort, especially on long descents in cold weather.
- Brilliant. Super comfortable. They basically disappear.
- I was concerned that the lack of leg grippers would let the hems ride up, but that hasn’t been a problem.
- Hem seems to be cut lower in front than in back, which is a little weird.
- Very nice construction.
- Use Northwave’s Boa-like closures, which are slightly less convenient than real Boas (getting out of the shoe is a two-handed process). The dials got hard to loosen after Day 1 of TABR 2021, during which they got liberally spattered with rain and road grit.
- The openings dig in a little bit around the inside of my ankles. So far this has been no worse than slightly annoying. Put pads in that seem to help a bit.
- I would get hotfoot on training rides after about 70 miles in these. They do come with a pretty good footbed with a metatarsal bump; I’ve tried aftermarket footbeds, which maybe help a little, but what really helps is moving my cleats rearward. I also found during the TABR that simply leaving the closures looser, perhaps coupled with the fact that I wasn’t riding as hard, eliminated hotfoot.
Ride Time: 4:53:17
Stopped Time: 27:16
Distance: 75.08 miles
Average: 15.36 mph
I went for a ride yesterday that I can only describe as a bad ride. It was cold and rainy. When I rolled out, I thought I’d be warm enough. I wasn’t. My left knee starting bothering me after about 20 miles. I had planned on riding 85 miles, but got discouraged and turned around early, so I only put in 75.
But you don’t learn anything from a ride that goes perfectly. When things go wrong, you can learn a lot. So what did I learn?
Because my right leg was doing most of the work, I couldn’t ride as hard, so I couldn’t generate as much body heat as usual, so my kit—which might have been warm enough if I were riding harder—wasn’t warm enough. Normally my average heart rate on a ride like this would end up around 125 bpm, and be higher at the end than the beginning; on this ride it was around 123 bpm early in the ride, and by the time the ride ended, it was down to 119 bpm. It’s possible that I wouldn’t have been warm enough anyhow: I’ve worn exactly the same kit to commute to work in the same conditions, but my commute is only about 30 minutes each way, not a continuous five-hour slog. I’m not sure whether to chalk up the difference to riding faster on the commute, or just an ability to tough out the cold for a short period.
I suspect my knee was jacked up because of a combination of the cold tightening my muscles, and my pedals not giving me as much float as I’d like. My natural tendency is to ride in a very toes-out stance. I always used to ride on Bebop pedals, which had 20° free float. Conceptually, they’re a lot like Speedplay pedals, except they are more robust and the cleats fit regular 2-bolt drilling.
Bebop pedals were produced by what I think was a one-man company. Eventually he sold the works to a big Taiwanese company that continued manufacturing them for a few years, but ceased production in 2017. I’ve still got a set, but the cleats are worn out. I’ve got a watchlist set on eBay for these: in four months, I’ve seen two NOS sets listed; in both cases for ridiculous prices, and in both cases they’re snatched up immediately. If there were a Kickstarter to put them back into production, I’d subscribe.
Rather than switching to Speedplay pedals, I’ve been using SPDs. But SPDs only have 4–5° float, and I can’t position them to accommodate my weird stance on the bike. In the warm months, this hasn’t been a problem, but my past two chilly rides have been hard on my left knee, and I’m pretty sure this is why.
So what I’ve learned is that I’ve got to bite the bullet, get warmer cold-weather gear, and get pedals with more float.
Take to the Sky
This is my new bike.
This is the first bike I assembled entirely myself. I had a shop face the brake mounts and bottom-bracket shell, and I bought prebuilt wheels, but the rest I did on my own.
The number of weird, specific bits and pieces I needed came as a surprise. I wound up getting a special socket driver for the bottom bracket and another one for the lockring that holds the chainrings to the cranks. I had bought the levers and brake calipers used, and had to buy barbed fittings and “olives” for the hoses (as it turns out, I should have bought new hoses as well). The rear caliper requires mounting bolts that are sized exactly to the frame, so I had to get those as well, and Shimano’s documentation on this is somewhat lacking, so that took a fair amount of research.
Apart from needing two new tools, getting the bottom bracket and cranks set up was a breeze. Although the preload adjuster didn’t stay locked in place.
Cutting the steerer tube was nerve-racking–do it wrong, and the fork is a total loss. Bleeding the brakes was especially nerve-racking. I’ve tried it before and gotten it wrong. I may still need to re-bleed the rear brake, because the bite-point seems a little late, but they both work.
Routing the cables and hoses was surprisingly fussy and involved a fair amount of trial and error. Although the result is OK, cosmetically it could be better. The frame routes the cables and rear-brake hose through the inside of the downtube, which was a slow and fussy task. I’m guessing that a Di2 setup would be considerably more fussy.
Using Shimano’s documentation to get the derailleurs set up was an exercise in frustration, and I really didn’t feel like I had it right until I took the bike around the block a few times and played with the barrel adjuster. I wound up ignoring Shimano’s documentation on bleeding brakes and went with Park Tools’ instead. As a Japanese translator and technical writer, I’m kind of disappointed with Shimano’s documentation–both the translation and the overall approach.
So far I’ve only gone on a couple of neighborhood shakedown rides and one real ride. I’m still getting my position dialed in.
On my one full-length ride I had the tires over-inflated and wound up letting some air out at the turnaround point; I could probably still let more air out. The frame is reputed to be especially smooth-riding, but I was feeling slightly beat up. I may change the seatpost for one with a little give (something my Felt VR30 has), or perhaps a suspended seatpost. I was buffeted by a stiff crosswind the whole way, which was a good test for those aero wheels (these the first aero wheels I’ve had). They definitely took a little extra wrangling, but not more than I expected. My average speed for the ride wound up being about 1 mph faster than I would have expected on the Felt I’ve mostly been riding lately.
Trans Am Bike Race 2021
When I was a kid, my father told me about a friend of his, Rudy, who had ridden his bike coast-to-coast. I think this planted a seed.
In the late 90s, I decided to do my own cross-country ride, and resolved to ride the Southern Tier. I was preparing for that in a desultory way, but my life kind of turned upside down in 2000, and I forgot about that goal. At the very beginning of 2010, something reminded me of it and I realized that I still wanted to do it. I mentioned this to Gwen, who gave me a look and said “you’re not getting any younger.” That was all I needed to hear. I started preparing immediately, and in September 2010, I did it.
Although riding the Southern Tier wasn’t exactly easy, it also wasn’t quite the challenge that I was looking for. For some time, I’ve wanted to do another cross-country ride, but one that would be more of a test. I had the idea of doing this in 2020, ten years after the first one. I’d heard of the Transcontinental Race before, and it fascinated me, but the logistics would be so daunting that it just seemed off-limits. In January of 2020, I learned of the existence of the Trans Am Bike Race and I knew instantly that I would do it. This was before the pandemic reached the USA, but I felt that my commitments to Flipside would make it unrealistic to attempt it in 2020, so I set 2021 as my goal. Of course, then the pandemic struck and everything was cancelled. But I was still able to start preparing for the TABR, and I did. This has been the thing that organized my time during a period when time has gotten fuzzy.
The race starts June 6. The course is 4200 miles, give or take. I’m aiming to complete it in 20 days. Registration has opened for it and I’ve signed up.
TABR training notes
I mentally committed to riding TABR 2021 at the end of January 2020, and started training in earnest in March. I didn’t know what I was doing at first—I was still figuring out structured training, but by June, I had the rudiments of a training plan. I’ve been refining and tinkering with it since then.
That should have been plenty of time for me to get in shape for the TABR, but now I am 11 weeks away, and I feel like it wasn’t.
I can attribute part of this to some health issues (some related to my training, some not) that started cropping up in October and weren’t resolved until February. My fitness didn’t deteriorate during that time, but it didn’t improve either.
But part of it is simply being too complacent with my training plan. I could have pushed myself harder during the four months October—February. And I definitely could have started pushing myself harder immediately after that.
I saw a comment from a coach who has worked with at least a couple of successful TABR racers that one should get one’s cumulative training load up to 120 before the race. I don’t see a good way for me to do that right now.
There are a few concepts to understand here:
In any case, there’s no way for me to ramp up from where I’m at right now (CTL of 82 as of this writing) to a CTL of 120 without my TSB going deeply negative. In fact, there’s no way for me to ramp up my mileage to where I want it without spending some time in the TSB red zone.
My current training plan has me doing two 60(ish)-minute interval workouts, two 90-minute recovery rides, and a long weekend ride each week; I am using a mesocycle of three weeks, where I ramp up my long-ride distance by 10% for each cycle, and in the third week of each cycle, give myself an easy week with a relatively short weekend ride.
In order to build this plan, I’ve had to estimate the TSS for all my workouts. For the weekday workouts, this is a non-issue. I build the workout in Training Peaks and then I ride it on my stationary bike, so apart from the smart trainer having minor tracking issues, the result is nearly identical to the plan. There are no confounding factors like hills or weather. For the weekend road rides, I alternate hilly rides with flat rides; I worked out an average TSS/mile for both categories based on past rides, and use that when estimating the TSS of upcoming rides. I don’t have a power meter on my bike, so TSS for past rides is calculated based on heart rate (which I know is less accurate).
For my most recent weekend ride, this didn’t work. I had estimated a TSS of 355. Due to steep hills and strong headwinds, it turned out to be 465. It’s three days later and I barely feel recovered from it.
My current plan gets me up to a CTL of 105 before the event, and that is after a recent retooling to give me a more aggressive ramp rate. But now I’m wondering if even that is too aggressive. Especially since I’ll intentionally be hitting TSSs of 465 on some of my weekend rides as I ramp up, and I know how much that took out of me. I am worried that I’ll be both overtrained in terms of my health and undertrained for the event.
With my current training plan, I am cramming most of my TSS ramp-up into my weekend ride. In theory, I could change my training plan so that instead of comparatively light weekday rides and a very heavy weekend ride, I would ride at more consistent TSS levels throughout the week. This would avoid blowing myself out on one weekend ride, but would be harder to fit into weekdays, and in any case, I feel like I need to have the experience of long, uninterrupted hours in the saddle to prepare.
Stopped for lunch, first long stop of the day. It’s been rainy and cold all day. I was almost late fir the start and didn’t have time to get all my kit on, so I’m soaked and shivering. Not an auspicious start. I’ve been maintaining a decent speed and feel ok otherwise.
Stopping for pizza. Will probably stop for the night in Corvallis.
Done for the day in Corvallis
Done for the day in Corvallis
Ride report: Corvallis, OR
My goal in the TABR is to average 210 miles per day. Today I managed 185, considerably short of this goal. But I did ride the longest distance I’ve ever ridden, under very poor conditions, in mountainous terrain (and let me just say: mountains are different than hills). So I feel ok about today’s performance.
I’m going to sleep until I’m done sleeping and then see if I can do it again.
Ready for day 2
Stopping for breakfast
Yesterday took a hell of a toll on me. After I stopped for pizza, I found my Achilles’ tendons were extremely tight. I stretched when I got to my hotel, which helped some, but they’re still very tight, which limits the power I can put down. I found a huge swelling around my right sit bone, and my nether regions are pretty raw in general. Road grit on my right thigh got rubbed on my frame bag, so that’s raw too. I woke at 2 AM with a headache, and tossed and turned after that. The headache has mostly dissipated. I didn’t have an appetite at all, which is a real problem. I forced myself to eat some trail mix, which helped.
I’ve also got a few minor equipment problems I’ll need to deal with.
I’ll admit I’m feeling pretty down right now. I know a race like this will have highs and lows, and after yesterday, it would be a miracle if I weren’t low. And I am.
At the foot of the climb to McKenzie Pass.
Stopping for dinner in Sisters
Will probably push on to Redmond
Ride report: Redmond, OR
It’s showtime, folks
Ready for day 3.
Looking at the map, there’s a long stretch between good stopping points, so this will either be a relatively short day or a long one. Meaning it’ll be a short one.
The chest band for my heart-rate monitor is already loose.
They bike shop in town opens in half an hour, so I’m having second breakfast in the meantime.
Stopping for lunch at Spoke’n Hostel
Ride report: John Day, OR
I had hoped to make it to Prairie City today, but the hotel there was full, so I stopped a little early.
Stopped in Prineville to visit the bike shop, in order to replace a missing bar plug. Seems like a minor problem, but their absence has caused some vicious injuries.
Today has its ups and downs, literally. There were two passes, closely spaced, flanking the town of Mitchell. The first climb was long and gradual. The descent was seven miles long and a screamer —it was nerve-racking, mostly due to the buffeting winds. At one point, the wake from a semi going the other way almost blew me off the road. I was slightly light-headed by the times I reached the bottom.
Mitchell is home to the Spoke’n Hostel, one of the most popular stops on the Trans Am. The folks there pretty much put themselves at the rider’s disposal. The feed me, we chatted, it was really nice. Glad I could be a part of that tradition. I left there feeling much more like a human. I was heartened to see that the two race leaders stopped in to sign the guest book.
The climb out of Mitchell was long, steady, and straight. It led to a descent that must have run at least 20 miles. Like nothing I’ve ever experienced.
These two passes seem like the dividing line between pine forests and high desert. The plant life and geology seem different on the two sides.
My ass is still a lava field, and my Achilles’ tendons are more swollen. If anything knocks me out prematurely, it’ll probably be that. My body’s ability to regulate its temperature seems to be all messed up. But today was the first day where I could enjoy the ride some.
Stopping for breakfast in Prairie City
Ride report: Baker City, OR
I am abandoning the race due to problems with my Achilles’ tendons. I’ll write more later.
More on scratching
Realistically, my race was over before I even finished the first day: I stopped for pizza in Monmouth OR about 20 miles before my intended stopping point, and when I got back on my bike, my Achilles’ tendons were super tight. They got tighter and more swollen with each day. I tried a few things to remedy them, to no apparent avail.
And I know that all racers are dealing with this, but I was not prepared for how much my ass would hurt. And my knees were a little delicate, which made standing to take pressure off my ass a problem.
I called Gwen from my bike and told her “This isn’t fun. This isn’t even type-2 fun.” And I had a moment of clarity later in the day when I realized that I was riding an amazing route through an amazing landscape, and by any reasonable measure, this should be one of them best rides off my lifetime. But all I could think about was pain.
During my training, I had tried to have all my problems before I would have them in the race. And I’m sure there were a bunch of problems I was able to solve in advance. But there were some I could not, and in some cases, I think I was solving the wrong problem.
First of all, there’s no way to train for mountains when you live in the hill country. The experience of a single hour-long climb is just different.
Second, I thought I had more or less inured myself too ass pain through long training rides. Nope.
Third, I was riding harder on my training rides than I did in the race. I thought I had an idea of the aches and pains I’d have in the race based on my training rides. In fact, the pains I was experiencing prevented me from riding as hard in the race as I would on a training ride, so the experiences were pretty different. My average heart rate on a training ride would be in the 120s, which it was for Day 1 of the race. But it went down quite a bit after that, meaning fewer calories burned, less muscle aches.
Fourth, I just don’t know how I could have anticipated or prevented the tendinitis. I’ve never had a problem like that before.
. . .
I don’t regret having tried. I’m disappointed to drop out. But more disappointed to discover that I am not a person who can do this.
Bike gear capsule reviews
I bought a lot of bike stuff preparatory to riding the TABR. Here are my comments on some of it.
The effect this has is more subtle than the seatpost. It’s a little weird watching the handlebars move up and down relative to the bike, but it doesn’t seem to affect handling.
Good price, seem reasonably fast, good customization options (they offer dyno hubs, which was key for me). These are the only wheels I’ve ever had with deep-section carbon rims, so I don’t have any basis for comparison. Didn’t give me any trouble.
Dyno hubs are expensive, but they make a lot of sense for an event like the TABR.
I used Bebop pedals for a very long time. I still would, if they were still in production. These are the nearest equivalents. I’m not thrilled with how fussy they are to set up and maintain, or the fact that they use a unique drilling pattern, but they do give numerous degrees of adjustment and wide ranges of adjustability. In short, I am able to ride comfortably in them, which is what’s important.
The first day of TABR 2021 had very foul weather, which is kryptonite for Speedplays. My right cleat became extremely difficult to disengage. By the time I scratched, the left bearings had almost completely seized up. Both cleats became difficult to engage. Speedplay recommended re-greasing every 2000 miles under ideal conditions—which did not prevail—and I didn’t bring a grease gun. A lot of riders bring spare cleats on the TABR, but the problem with Speedplays is the cleats are left/right-specific, so you need to bring two spares to cover your bases. I brought none.
Now that Wahoo has redesigned them (after I bought mine), they claim that re-greasing is no longer needed. Not sure how effective the new seals are. And they don’t need a 3-hole/4-hole adapter plate or special 4-hole shoes anymore, which is nice.
But my take-away is that if you can ride comfortably in SPDs, those are better for an event like the TABR. Shimano’s pedals are solid, the cleats are robust and spares are easy to carry, and riding in walkable shoes is an advantage.
I had a total of ~27 liters of storage capacity between four bags on my bike. My logic in packing was to make sure that stuff I would need frequently would be easy to get at, and stuff I might need could be shoved away in a less accessible place.
I think years of going to burn events has produced in me a tendency to over-prepare. I think of this in terms of percentages—do you want to be prepared for 90% of situations you might encounter? 95%? 99%? Each step up the preparation scale requires more stuff, sometimes a lot more. So I was carrying spare spokes and a fiberfix spoke for field-expedient repairs. I was carrying a spare derailleur hanger, a bit of extra chain and a master link, a spare derailleur cable, and random nuts and bolts just in case. I was carrying enough clothes to deal with freezing weather.
The Tailfin had by far the most volume, and if there’s a problem with it, it’s not with its workmanship or design, it’s a philosophical problem: it has 20 liters of capacity, which is a lot for a bikepacking race, so it doesn’t force you to edit your gear list as severely as you might otherwise. That said, there’s very little of what I packed that I would have left behind even with the benefit of hindsight, and one or two things that I probably should have brought that I didn’t.
I kept my minimal sleep setup, extra clothes (in stuff sacks), and spare parts in this bag. It doesn’t sound like much, but the bag was pretty full.
Apidura Racing Frame Bag (4 L)
I got this at the last minute when I decided that my Tailfin bag was going to be overstuffed.
It has a main compartment accessed from the right, and a flat stash pocket on the left. I kept my printed cheatsheets on the left (never actually used them–I also had the cheatsheets on my phone as an e-book); on the right I had my first-aid supplies, toiletries, second pair of gloves, and probably a few other things.
The only criticisms I can make against it are that when my legs were covered with road grit on Day 1 and they would sometimes rub against the bag, my skin got really torn up. Also, this bag and the top-tube bag especially are hard on the frame’s paint job. I should have had a layer of helicopter tape on the frame at the contact points.
My intention was to keep stuff that I knew I would need frequently in this bag. In practice, it wasn’t quite big enough for all that. It has a divider across the middle, and two-way zipper, so you have a little bit of compartmentalization with it. It has a shielded pass-through in the front, and that’s where my USB converter and power bank lived. I also kept my pump, chain lube, Dynaplug, and multi-tool in here.
On the advice of a fitter, I got my frame one size larger than I normally would, to get the added stack height. Between that and this bag, I could barely clear the top tube when standing over the bike. This wasn’t a big problem, but it wasn’t ideal.
When I was running a cable from the USB converter (in the bag) to my phone (out of the bag), a little rainwater did intrude because the zipper wasn’t fully zipped, but I can’t criticize the bag for that.
Kaibab Customs custom-made bag
This was a small bag that slung under the aerobars and mostly carried snacks; my satellite tracker was also held in place by the velcro straps that attached the bag to the aerobars, which gave it good exposure to the satellites it communicates with.
In hindsight, it would have been better to have this bag made with a cable pass-through in the back so that my USB converter and power bank could live inside it–the disposition of my gear would have been a little tidier that way.
I know Camelbaks are not popular among roadies, but during the pandemic, I wanted to be able to carry a lot of water so I wouldn’t need to stop, and they excel at that. I found that I prefer using a Camelbak in some ways. This has a tiny pocket on the back. I was riding tubeless tires, and used this to carry a couple of just-in-case innertubes, tire levers, and patches.
This consists of a headlight, USB converter, and pre-assembled wiring harness with a switch, designed to work specifically with the SON Delux hub (which is what my front wheel has). Everything worked without giving me any trouble. The connectors and wires are all very robust, and although I would have been willing to solder up my own wiring harness, I’m pretty sure the prefabricated one is better than anything I would produce, which is reassuring.
The illumination was more than adequate for my needs. I didn’t do a huge amount of night riding in TABR 2021, and didn’t do any high-speed descents. The light head has three emitters, the third of which only comes on at higher speeds (about 18 mph, I think). It would be cool if this third one was targeted farther ahead than the other two; cooler still if the light used shaped reflectors like a B&M light to more effectively target the light on the road. It does include a standlight, and I was impressed at how long that runs for—I saw a little bit of residual light even an hour after stopping.
The USB converter does what it needs to do, and is always on. kLite 3D prints a bunch of its ancillary parts, including the housing for the USB converter, so it is chunkier and heavier than it needs to be, but overall, this doesn’t make a big difference. I do wish kLite outsourced production of those ancillary parts to someone who could fabricate them from aluminum.
The switch controls whether all the dyno output is sent to the USB converter, or is sent preferentially to the headlight, with any excess power going to the converter. Below about 6 mph, it seems, neither one receives power. This could be a problem for mountain climbs at night.
There weren’t as many racers using dynamo-powered lights as I expected. I noticed a few racers with doubled-up battery lights. I did have a Lezyne battery light as a backup myself. It throws enough light and has decent runtime, but the big drawback with it is its charging time. Looking at the nearest current model, it supposedly offers about 4 hours runtime and 4.5 hours charge time (if using a 2-amp USB source). Four hours of runtime is probably OK for a midpack rider. 4.5 hours charge time would also be OK for a midpack rider who’s staying in hotels, but this is faster than I’m actually seeing charging my own light. I think that charging time is the real limiting factor ultra riders will run into with battery lights.
I refuse to close off my ears when I’m on the bike. I know some ear buds, like AirPods Pro, can feed through ambient sound, which might be a reasonable option, but I decided to go with these.
The audio experience with these is almost exactly like having a small speaker hovering near each ear. They can drown out quiet sounds, but other than that, you hear everything around you; they can also be drowned out by loud sounds, such as wind noise. The physical experience is almost nonexistent—I barely notice I have them on. If I turn up the volume loud enough, I can feel a little vibration at my temples. They’re more comfortable to wear for extended periods than my earbuds. Sound quality isn’t bad, but won’t win any awards.
It seems that every wearable Bluetooth audio-playback device has its own set of control gestures, which is annoying. The gestures this uses aren’t bad, but if you use more than one system (I do), it is hard to keep track.
There were a few other riders in TABR 2021 using these, and overall, I think they’re a great benefit if you’re using the spoken turn-by-turn directions in the Ride with GPS app (I was). I didn’t spend a lot of time listening to music, but it was nice to have the option. I did miss a couple of turns when I had the headset turned off or there was a lot of ambient noise, but I resolved those mistakes quickly. On balance, I’m pretty sure they helped me stay on track better than I would have without them.
Finding a good mount has been a challenge. I have used a couple of third-party Garmin handlebar mounts and slapped an adhesive Garmin “knuckle” on the back of an iPhone case. The problem I had, repeatedly, is that the tabs in the Garmin insert in the mount—the part that retains the knuckle—would get shredded on bumpy roads. This may be chintzy plastic, or it may simply be that the iPhone exerts too much torque on the insert. Interestingly, the knuckle never showed any signs of wear. I’m currently using a Quadlock mount, which works well. To be precise, I’m using part of a Quadlock mount intended for motorcycles, and bolting that on to an aerobar bridge that I found on Ali Express. That bridge came with useless P-clamps (although the bridge itself is quite sturdy), and I had some custom clamps fabricated to fit on the aerobars.
Battery life is sometimes cited as a concern when using a smartphone instead of a proper bike computer. I do agree that battery life will be shorter, but it’s not as bad as one might think. For one thing, I keep the screen off most of the time and rely on audible updates—Ride with GPS reads me cues (when I’m following a planned route), and also have it read my stats at regular intervals. On a recent ride where I was out for 7 hours, I had 50% left in the tank when I got home, and this was also playing back a mix of streaming and locally stored music over my aforementioned Aftershokz headset for more than half the ride. I do a couple of things to extend the battery life: turn off wifi and put the phone in low-power mode (which clocks down the processor, but is almost unnoticeable). On the TABR—or anytime you’re riding out of cellular coverage—it makes sense to put the phone in airplane mode. This requires you to have stored the route on the phone, rather than relying on the cloud version of it (RwGPS defaults to the latter).
Using a dyno/USB converter or external power bank, it is in theory possible to keep the phone topped off all the time—except when it’s raining. Modern iPhones are water-resistant, but part of that water resistance depends on detecting water in the Lightning port and disabling it. I found during heavy rain that it would not charge, although once it had a chance to dry out, it would. This could get to be a problem in a multi-day event if the rain persists and you have minimal rest periods when you can charge it off-bike, but that’s true for any battery-powered gadget.
Rain jacket that also provided some additional warmth and windproofing. Packs down to fit in a back pocket: in addition to wearing this in the rain, I would put this on before a long descent following a long climb.
There are other rain jackets that are lighter and fancier, but they’re also much more expensive. This was a good deal.
I’ve given up on short-sleeved jerseys. Riding in Texas, you might think you’d want as little coverage as possible, but I’ve found that a lightweight long-sleeved jersey isn’t really hotter and gives me some sun protection. Such jerseys aren’t exactly common–I’ve found several companies making them, and have tried three.
Stolen Goat Topper Bodyline Jersey
Fits well. I like the raw-cut sleeve edges. Would be nice if it had grippers in the hem, but it seems to sit about right on me even without them. Has a side-zipped security pocket that I don’t really use, but seems like a nice idea. This would be my go-to jersey.
Pactimo Ascent Aero jersey
I’ve got a slightly outdated version of this that I got on closeout. I like the fit. Not thrilled about the abbreviated collar. Don’t like the pockets, which have very high openings that are hard to get into.
These did a good job of keeping my hands warm on pretty chilly days, even on long descents, when the windchill would have been severe. They’re very close fitting all around, which for the most part is good, but they’re very difficult to take off when wet. Generally comfortable to wear and offered good dexterity for things like typing on my phone, although adding a conductive pad to the middle finger would have been nice.
They have minimal padding, and what padding there is may not be optimally placed. I wound up with very slight nerve pain in the “valley” of the palm (which I have learned is called the thenar) from riding on the ramps. Not surprising after riding 550 miles in 3½ days—not sure if I can blame that on the gloves.
Also, one of the gloves started coming unstitched along one seam after less than 1000 miles of use, though as luck would have it, this was on the day that I scratched. If the durability were better, these gloves would be ideal.
I got these in high-vis yellow, and they are shockingly bright.
No complaints. They just work. Minimal padding seems to do its job. When new, there were tiny elastic bands along the outsides of the wrists that quickly fell off, but I haven’t noticed any change in fit or comfort as a result.