Now that everyone is preparing for the 5th edition of the Transcontinental Race, interest in kit lists and packing strategies is rising again.
Against all odds, I was extremely happy with what I packed and how I packed it. There wasn’t anything I took that I didn’t need at some point – except for some of the spare parts, which wouldn’t keep me from taking them again. The setup ended up being efficient and I didn’t lose time packing and unpacking. I always found space for food and usually carried around 2000kcal, sometimes more, sometimes less.
That said, my race did only last ten days, so there’s no way of knowing whether everything would’ve held up for the whole distance.
I’ve posted a kit list before, but here’s the list of what actually ended up in my bags and what it looked like. I’ve added some annotations.
2x (bib) shorts (Gore Xenon and Assos) – LOVE the Gore, will take two of those in the future. Once I got to a hotel, I would take them off, turn them inside out, run hot water in the sink and soak them with a little bit of soap while I took a shower. Rinse, wrap in a towel, squeeze, stand on it, then hang up to dry.
1x Jersey (Ahrberg Monkey)
1x base layer, sleeveless (Ahrberg) – amazing piece of clothing, I washed it out every night (see above) and it was dry in no time. Super comfortable.
1x merino T-Shirt (Kaipara) – by far my favourite shirt to ride in. I washed it once in 10 days and it did not stink! I was most comfortable in this, a lot more comfy than in a jersey. Didn’t get too hot in it in the sun and it kept me warm in the Alps.
1x socks (Falke) – to be honest I simply forgot to pack my second pair. I’d take a second pair next time. My socks were NASTY no matter if I washed them or not.
1x board shorts (cheap Decathlon) – saved the day when I ate at hotel restaurants. Very small and light, and so cheap that I could’ve thrown them away if I ended up not using them.
Down vest (RAB) – some form of insulation is a no-brainer and I’ve used this one for years. Love it.
Rain jacket (Auguste 86) – custom-tailored rain jacket, it didn’t give up in the Alps!
Knee warmers (Gore) – loved those, essential on cold mornings to protect the knees
Sun sleeves (double as arm warmers) – never again will I ride without sun sleeves after the sunburn I got on the Tuscany Trail!
Headband – excellent, cheap Decathlon one, I prefer this over a full hat
Short-finger gloves (Specialized BG Gel) – happy with these as always
Overgloves (Roeckl Malvas) – those actually didn’t last too long when I rode in the rain all day
Shoe covers (Gore) – …but these did! Plus they are high-vis yellow with reflective decals
High-Vis vest (Endura Lumigilet) – this was great, unfortunately I lost it in Switzerland along with the knee warmers 🙁 Will probably re-buy.
1x spare tube (Schwalbe)
Patch kit with tire boot (Lezyne)
Tire lever (crankbrothers)
1x brake cable
1x gear cable
1x SRAM PowerLock 11sp
1x Shimano 11sp pin
4x spare spokes (2 of each length)
Multitool (crankbrothers), includes chain tool and spoke key
Single allen key no. 5
Bike lock (BBB MicroLoop) – have used this one for years, simple and quick
Spare lights, battery powered, with helmet mount
SPOT tracker Gen3
Garmin eTrex 30x
Garmin EDGE 800 (as backup)
two Micro SD-Cards with my route
spare batteries for the eTrex, spare batteries for the SPOT (4 each)
2600mAh PowerBank for pass-through charging from the dynamo to the Garmin
Wall plug with two USB outlets
Cables (Lightning, Micro USB, Mini USB)
Hygiene and meds
Small bottle of Bronner’s Soap – used for everything except my hair. Whenever the hotel had shampoo and soap, I used that for showering. I used the Bronner’s for washing my clothes, face and nether regions. I use this at home too.
Toothbrush & paste
Small amount of moisturiser (Eucerin, SPF20)
Iruxol N cream
a couple of small and large band-aids
Pristine water purification tablets
Wallet (Lezyne CaddySack provided at race registration)
SaltSticks with caffeine (see text below)
BCAA capsules (see text below)
Bivy bag (TiGoat Ptarmigan, 200g) – only really used it once, but I was happy I had it. It’s so small and light that I don’t mind carrying it.
Revelate Designs Terrapin & dry bag
SpoK Werks top tube bag
SpoK Werks handlebar bag “Quickie”
2x Revelate Designs Feedbags
This is everything laid out on the table. The caddy sack is not the one I took. We got a new one at race registration and that’s the one I used – bigger and black.
All my electronics. I would probably not carry the second Garmin next time. As I am from Germany and have data for all of Europe included, I was able to use Google Maps or RideWithGPS whenever I felt like my planned route was sub-par. I had quadruple backups of my route – they were installed on both Garmins, on RideWithGPS on the iPhone, and I carried two additional SD cards (as the Garmins needed different formatting).
I think the batteries were a bit too many as well, though I bet I would have appreciated them if I had been able to keep going!
I used: chain oil, lock, multitool, latex gloves, zip ties (not pictured), single allen key, torx key. Everything else remained unused, including all the tube repair stuff. However, I would take exactly the same setup next time.
I didn’t use all of my medication (luckily), but it’s a tiny package with everything I needed. I did use strong pain killers one night. The creams I used religiously: Neosporin after showering for the entire seat area and Iruxol N for single spots that I always develop. I still have scars down there from the Trans Am Bike Race and a few pimple-like sores always develop, no matter what I do. This keeps them at bay.
I also really liked both the SaltSticks (which I had used before and tested the amount I need during training) and the BCAA capsules. The latter gave me energy even when I hadn’t eaten properly. I took 4 per day (and carried that exact amount calculated to my estimated time). I took around 6 SaltStick capsules per day. Thus the packages got smaller fairly quickly.
I had 1,7l of water between those two water bottles. Rarely did I feel the need for more. Sometimes I’d stick a can of coke or another soft drink in one of my Feedbags for a while.
I love my cockpit! I admit that I do tinker around with my iPhone while riding if I’m going up a long climb. It was also a great spot for the phone to listen to Audiobooks while in France. This was especially helpful during the night when I felt a little lonely on country roads. I ended up not using my headphones much at all, even when I was allowed to. The audio was usually loud enough.
I use a QuadLock mount for the phone, to make it fit ever so slightly above my aerobars I put one of these stickers that you use underneath chairs and other furniture to not scratch the floors on the stem before securing the mount. There’s a cover for the phone that I carried as well, when it was raining really hard I stuck it into one of the feedbags, inside a Zip-Loc bag.
The cockpit was also a good place to temporarily store food like a banana or a sandwich.
Three lights in the rear seemed enough. Two mounted on the seat stays, one on the bag. I was able to turn on the seat stay lights while riding.
If you have any questions, let me know!
Now, for the bike, because I know some people want to know…
Well, the bike itself is the same BMC GranFondo GF02 since 2013 and I don’t intend on changing that (once this one’s retired, I’m buying it again), but I stripped it a few months before the race and re-built it with slightly altered and updated parts.
(still in the process of getting ripped apart, old handlebars are still on)
11sp drivetrain – Ultegra except for the crank, Ultegra brifters
Salsa Woodchipper bars – I love these on my Fargo and they give you a ton of hand positions AND a lot of space to mount stuff, so I decided to give them a try on the BMC. I am VERY happy with the change!
Syntace C3 Aerobars – decided to finally spend a chunk of money on decent aerobars. These are great and they come in different sizes/lengths. They don’t take up a lot of space on the bars either.
Ergon SR3, size L – I’ve ridden this saddle since 2013 and I absolutely love it. I’ve tried a few others and always come back to this one. This is not an update, just sharing my love for Ergon.
I also hand-built my own wheels.
Front Wheel – SP PV-8 dynamo hub, Mavic CXP 33 rim, DT Swiss Competition spokes (32)
Back Wheel – Ultegra hub, Mavic CXP 33 rim, DT Swiss Competition spokes (32)
I rode Continental Grand Prix 4-Season tires in 28mm on both wheels.
I consider it vital to really know your bike and know how to fix your bike. I gives you a lot of confidence. When you know that there isn’t much that can happen that you can’t fix, you stop worrying about it so much. It also means you know what to carry to fix it, so you end up actually taking less stuff. Plus you won’t need to spend much time at bike shops when something happens – and you’ll know when to head to a shop and when to do it yourself.
I’m sure the wheels I built aren’t the best wheels ever, but so far they have run true and nice and I now know how to change a spoke if the need ever arises during a race. I tape a few spare spokes to the frame.
I chose these rims for two reasons: I used them during the Trans Am and have ridden them ever since, they have never given me trouble. I trust them. And secondly, the tires I use are very easy to get on and off on these rims. That’s a huge plus when you’re tired and your hands don’t work well anymore.
I have a pair of awesome road wheels for my Fargo where I shiver with fear just thinking about changing the tire. They ride great and are light and everything, but they are a pain in the ass! I don’t want to worry about something like that during a race. That said I have had one puncture on this bike since 2014. There, I jinxed it!
When you strip your bike to the bare frame, you have the chance to grease important parts (i.e. everything that’s supposed to move or that’s supposed to be able to move, like most screws), you learn how your shifting and brakes really work and how the cables run (plus you can choose higher quality cables than the bike came with), you learn how to put on a chain, adjust your gears, adjust the brakes.
Really, I find this fascinating. I don’t always get it on the first try. I’ve had to throw away brake cables that I cut too short, I watched YouTube videos to figure out how to insert the gear cables into my Ultegra shifters (and how to get them out when you did it wrong and they are stuck), and I sometimes need to undo what I did.
I’ve built a bike from scratch and that helped a lot, but re-building a bike can be even easier: just take good pictures of every detail that you are not sure you’ll be able to remember (like how your cables were organised on the bars etc.) and if you’re lost, look at them.
Have someone help you if you’re too nervous, but don’t just watch, do it yourself. 🙂