During this year’s Transcontinental Race I was chased by countless packs of dogs and was very traumatized by it all. There is nothing worse than having food poisoning, being exhausted from cycling 24+ h, and trying to dodge dogs. I fantasized about what to do with them but some of my more effective solutions—like taking my rifle with me—are not feasible. Let along legal. So I’ve decided to try a very, very loud horn—at around biting level.
Readers of this blog will know that I consider the Luxos U to be the ultimate dynamo light – at least for road bikes. I have two of them and have relegated my Supernova E3 to my seldom ridden bike. Brilliant light and an integrated USB connection which powers my GPS and other kit. What more does one want? A better bike mount. I did an earlier post on one solution, but I now have two others …
My 2015 ‘A’ race was the Transcontinental Race (TCR) which went from Belgium to Turkey. It took me 16:10:17 to cover the 4,214 km (with 31,515 m of climbing) for 54th place out of the 156 starters (only 76 of us finished).
The key rules of the race are simple:
- It is self supported which means it is just you and your bike with nobody else to help. If something goes wrong, you deal with it. You can’t get/give help to other riders, and only commercial services available to all riders (e.g. bike shops) can be used.
- You must visit four check points on the way to Istanbul. Between these points, you select your own route—which you must navigate on your own.
These races are very challenging not only physically but more so mentally. One plumbs the depths of exhaustion beyond what is imaginable and trying to average 275 km/day and 2,000 m of climbing each day (my target) puts huge demands on the body—hence over half of us not finishing!
Like all bikepacking races it had many highs and a few lows, and overall was a fantastic race which I would highly recommend. Rather than a ‘blow by blow’ account of the experience, I’m going to share some special (and not so special) aspects of the race.
Last year in the Transcontinental Race four of the 78 starters were taken out by cars during the race. A somewhat high attrition rate to say the least … While one cannot control what hits you, one thing you can do is carry appropriate ID so that people are notified of an accident. For many years I’ve used a RoadID ‘dog tag’ with my name and the World Bank’s emergency contact details on it (they have a 24 h manned emergency line), but there is a new system out there called ICEdot which is a marked improvement which I’m now using.
There are two products offered by ICEDot:
- A wrist band Emergency ID and helmet stickers. These contain a code which when an SMS is sent to a number on the band/stickers returns some key data via SMS. You set up a profile on the web which lists the key data that you want sent in response to an SMS being received. Below is what I’ve put in: I’m an asthmatic and they should contact my wife Lis.
- A crash sensor which is affixed to your helmet (my POC is specifically designed for it). In the event of critical forces, the sensor triggers the app over low-energy Bluetooth to sound an alarm and initiate an emergency countdown. Unless the countdown clock is stopped, the app will then notify your emergency contacts and send GPS coordinates of the incident so that appropriate follow up actions can be taken. The sensor recharges via a USB cable and has about 20 h of life before it needs another recharge.
I’m really happy with the wrist band – it’s quite comfortable to wear – and my wife is especially happy with this extra layer of ‘protection’ over my RoadID. Hopefully they won’t be needed, but for a very modest cost, the ICEDot system gives great peace of mind.
My ‘A’ race for 2015 is the Transcontinental which will be a 4,153 km bicycle race starting 24 July with 38,326 m of climbing (assuming I don’t get lost!). This year we start at Geraardsbergen Belgium—just west of Brussels, with check points at the top of Mt. Ventoux in France, the Strada Del Assetia west of Turin, Vukovar Croatia, Mt. Locven in Montenegro, before finishing at the Rumeli in Istanbul. The route below is my ‘optimal’ route, which is pretty well finalized except the last section after Montenegro. May go down through Albania and Greece like last year. Will just see how it goes.
It was one of those ‘Big Hairy Audacious Goals’. Ride my bike the 530 km from Pittsburgh to D.C. along the Great Allegheny and C&O Canal bike paths—in a single 24h stage. If the stars aligned, would be my longest distance yet. Unfortunately, they didn’t and decided to bail after 341 km. But still, it was great ride …
For long distance endurance racing there are two schools of thought when it comes to powering your GPS/lights/etc. I’m a firm proponent of hub dynamos which I’ve used with success for racing the Tour Divide and the Transcontinental races. There are two main suppliers of hub dynamos: Son, which I run on my Tour Divide bike, and Shutter Precision (SP) which I use on my Transcontinental bike. A new company—Velogical—has released a new dynamo which rather than being in a hub is a rim dynamo. This has two main attractions over hub dynamos:
- You don’t need to build a new wheel to use the dynamo; and,
- The dynamo only needs to be activated when you need power so there is no drag the rest of the time (hub dynamos typically have drag of about 2-5 Watts)
I was very intrigued with the Velogical system so I purchased one. This is what it looks like mounted on my bike with the dynamo engaged.
Being an engineer and having three dynamos, I decided to test the Velogical against my Son and SP dynamos to see the relative drag of the different dynamos. While at it, why not test a few wheel/tyre combinations as well? Here’s what I found …