Bike Porn: Getting Ready for Racing London-Istanbul

If all goes according to plan, this time in three months I’ll be somewhere in Italy about a week into the Transcontinental Race. Unless I’m able to get on top of my work better I’ll be in trouble – life is interfering with more important things like training for this monster race – but that’s another story. For now I thought I’d share some details on my ride. Still some refinements to come, but the basics are there.

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The bike is a BMC Granfondo GF01. I was training on my Co-motion, which is a really nice steel frame bike which has an S&S coupling and so fits in a suitcase—will be a lot easier to get back from Istanbul than a regular bike. But I found that after 5h or so on it I just felt too fatigued. Since one can never have too many bikes, time for an addition to the collection. I assuaged my conscience by giving my soft tail mountain bike to Lis so this leaves me with only 15. But they are spread over seven countries so it’s only two per country!

I chose the BMC because it is specifically designed for long distance riding on harsh roads, and it does not disappoint. It is amazing the way in which it absorbs the road noise. Very comfortable bike to ride.

I managed to score a Di2 version on an end of year half price sale in Melbourne. Had it sent to my hotel in Sydney and picked it up when travelling through on business. The concierge was confused when they saw it as they are used to my Cervelo P3 at the hotel (and kindly hold a trainer, spare wheel and other gear for me). Yes, I am an obsessive cyclist.

The Drivetrain

It had my local bike shop pull the Di2 off the bike as recharging a battery is difficult in a 3,200 km race, and if the battery goes on you the bike stays in the gear you were in. Had visions of Stelvio Pass in the wrong gear. Besides, I had bought a triple chain ring crank to fit on my Co-motion so planned to use that.

Yes, I know real cyclists would never condescend to having a triple chain ring. But with 52/39/30 chain rings, I will not be complaining. After all, London-Istanbul is going to be about survival.  For the rear, the BMC comes with a 28 and I’m hoping I can fit a 30. With that I’ll have the lowest possible gearing for a road bike.

I also treated myself to a Stages power meter. This replaces the left crank arm and so only measures the left leg. Very compact, and only adds some 20 g to the bike. I’m big on training with power, even though with my leg imbalance it makes things a bit inaccurate (I’ve had four knee operations and so at best I’m 55/45 for left/right balance; often 60/40 or worse when my pedal stroke fails). I ran some parallel tests using my CompuTrainer and PowerTap power meters so have a good handle on the Stages limitations. It’s a really nice power meter. Highly recommended.

The Cockpit

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I replaced the BMC aluminium handlebars with a 3T Ergonova Team Carbon bar. This is really nice with a large flat area at the top for resting the hands, and unlike most carbon bars is designed to use with aero bars. Under the tape I put some Fizi’k bar gel pads for further dampening.  I also used a 3T ARX alloy stem—needed a 70 mm stem to get the bike fit right I do like the 3T gear!

The aerobars are a combination of the Profile Design Airstryke arm rests—they are spring loaded and go up out of the way so that your hands can rest on the top of the handlebars—and Profile Design T1+ straight aero bars. The Airstryke bars have a funny shape to them which I don’t like and less room for mounting things like computers.

I’m running my Garmin Edge 800 trip computer again. I’ve got myself a copy of the Garmin City Navigator Europe Maps just in case I need it. To the left is my Sony Xperia Active  cell phone. Small and waterproof, it serves as my backup GPS in case the Garmin blows up on me. Also lets me play music through the speaker (and take calls). I modified the Sportpal mount for the Active by epoxying it to a Garmin 800 mount. The Sportypal failed due to vibration on the Tour Divide race. I use two of the Garmin mount rubber bands around the top and bottom of the phone, and wrapped around the bottom of the aero bars for further stability. This will stay on for the race.

In the photo above, just in front of the stem cap there is a small square ‘box’. This is my USB power attachment from the dynamo light system. More on that below.

Lighting

After racing the Tour Divide with a dynamo there was no way I would not do the same for the Transcontinental. I had Tristan from Wheelworks in Wellington build me a wheel with an SP dynamo hub which provides me the power for my light, navigation and phone. Tristan makes the best wheels out there: at the end of the Tour Divide the wheels he built me were as true as the day I got them.

My original plan was to run with a 1000 lumen K-Lite that Kerry had made me especially for the race. It was a lovely and compact unit. I ran the light through a PedalPower+ cache battery unit. The system was great and the cache battery lasted many hours, but I was worried that it would cause me grief by not being street legal in Europe.

I decided to go with Plan B which is a Busch and Muller Lumotec IQ2 Luxos. Unlike the K-Lite, it is very bulky and heavy, but is a very nicely designed light. As you can see from the photo below, it is designed not only to cast light forward but also to the sides (useful so cars can see you). What sets it apart is that it also contains a cache battery so when you go very slow (or stop) you don’t lose the light.

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But the killer feature is the USB connection. The small USB plug shown earlier on the stem is connected to the light and the cache batter. So all you need to do is plug in your Garmin/phone etc. and you have power. Thanks to the cache battery you also don’t get the annoying loss of power messages I got when running my Supernova E3 light with the Plug II for USB conversion on the Tour Divide.

This is by far the most effective lighting/charging system available and I cannot recommend it highly enough. The light is powerful, even at slow speeds, and has a spot light mode for extra power.

I’m still testing it but what I’ve found is that I can ride in the day time with the phone playing music and the Garmin 800 navigating, and both are fully recharged after about 5 hours. With only one of them running it is much faster. At night the Garmin 800 is showing that it is receiving power even when the light is on, but this could be because the cache battery is providing power. I’ll only know for sure on some long mountains but either way the combination of the Lumotec with the SP hub is giving me more than enough power for the ride. Of course I’ll have a small 2AA USB backup in case of emergency, but if all goes well I’ve power to burn…

Wheels

As mentioned earlier, the front wheel is a custom built by Wheelworks with Pacenti SL23 rim, DT Swiss spokes, a 24 x 2 lacing pattern, on the SP dynamo hub. Here is Tristan’s write up.  I have the same with a disc and I’m considering swapping out the front BMC fork and running with that instead. Still deciding. For the rear I’m using the standard BMC Easton  EA70.

I’m running them tubeless with Stan’s sealant. The tyres will currently be Continental 28 mm Four Season—more robust than regular tyres—although my riding buddy Mike is recommending I go with Compass Chinook Pass tyres. Very tempting but I’m such a Continental fan it’s hard to break the habit of a lifetime.  One nice thing about tubeless is I can run them at lower pressures (85 psi) which, with the 28 mm width (compared to the usual 25 mm), is making for a more supple ride. It all helps with long distance races!

Pedals

I’m using Shimano XTR PD-M985 mountain bike platform pedals, the same model as in the Tour Divide. Hopefully they will again keep me from dead spots on the feet. Also using my Specialized Tahoe mountain bike shoes as they are good for walking. While I don’t expect to push my bike through snow, being Europe I’ll want to stretch my legs, and walk on and off some ferries!  I’m using some G8 Archtech 2600 inserts in the shoes which give better arch support and hopefully a wee more efficient power transmission.

Seat

A Specialized Format SL seat—again the same as I used on the Tour Divide. The BMC comes with a nice carbon seat post so I’m currently using that. I have a Thudbuster ST which I may swap over to for the extra damping. Not sure yet.

Hydration

I’ve fitted two side entry Specialized water bottle cages. May put a third on the downtrube in front of the crank. Because of the frame bag had to lower them and couldn’t use the BMC’s water bottle cage bolts. Did this using an aftermarket Elite VIP bottle cage clamps. A bit fiddly to install but work well.

Bags

Revelate Designs of course. When I edited the Cordillera on the 2013 Tour Divide race I did a gear survey and 71% of the riders used Revelate Designs. For good reason. They really are the best.

Eric’s small Tangle half frame bag fits into the BMC frame. That will be for my food during the race. I’ve a Viscacha seat bag which will hold all my clothes, as well as my sleeping bag and bivy. There is a small gas tank bag behind the handlebars for things I need to get at—like my asthma inhaler—and under the aero bars I’ve got one of his small mountain feed bags strapped for an extra bottle or storing my gloves, etc.

To Conclude…

The BMC is the right choice for the race. It’s a very comfortable ride. I think that I’ve got most of the gear right, just down to refinements. I’ll do a separate post later on the clothes and spares I’m taking with me. The key now is to get as much saddle time as possible. With that, time for a 2. 5 h ride (with 2 x 12 minutes at sub-threshold according to my Stages power meter!).

One response to “Bike Porn: Getting Ready for Racing London-Istanbul

  1. Great write-up as always Chris. Interesting notes on the lighting and charging setup. I will be interested to see how it works out:-)

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