Soon the fifth Transcontinental announcement will arrive in your mail, and if you are new and get in, you will ask yourself some questions. What should I take in my kit ? Am I taking some useless things ? Am I forgetting something ? Here is my kit, this is just a list about what I think I need, it is made for me, and maybe it will not suit for you. I just hope it will help you to make some choice. Also, I will not put the exact stuff I took, gear can be really different depending of the brands, it's up to you to find which one would fit better to you.
My kit is dedicated to help me in one goal, ride faster and longer. So, based on my experience I divided in 4 categories:
- Bike stuff
- Cold stuff
- Electronic device
It's the category about keeping me and my bike in good condition. For the bike it's my repair kit
- Inner tube, patch, pump
- Rapid chain link
- Derailleur hanger
- Electric tape
- Water 1.5L
- Food (note: eating a big sandwich on a bike is hard and exhausting, prefer some small portion things)
- Mind entertaining shit (music or other things you like)
Well nothing special there, you could need some chamois cream. Sunscreen is absolutely necessary if you have a fragile skin. Even with Mediterranean origin, riding 3600 from West to East caused burns mostly on my right side skin.
Eating on the bike is something I should train. I think it's the kind of thing who can makes me save 1 hour per day, maybe more. Sometime if you want to improve your final time, it's not necessary about riding faster, but more about saving time every where for more time on a bike.
I have heard this year, the story of Rishi Fox who had problem to stay hydrated. She couldn't found a place in France to buy electrolytes. A lot of people claimed taking tabs for the race. A long time ago I couldn't accommodate to the taste and gave up to use electrolytes. But this year I can affirm sometime I had to stop a lot of time to refuel the 1.5L of water I was drinking in less than 1 hour. I was sweating so much, my black skinsuit became gray because of the salt. I really needed to compensate that lose, I will seriously consider to find some tasty electrolytes solution for my next race.
It is something important, sleepiness confort can't be neglected. The better you sleep the better will be the next day. On my first TCR I used some surviving blanket, and a microfiber towel. Sometime it works, sometime not, when you start to be in altitude, it is not enough to really keep you warm. The cold will wake you up many time, and you will have not many choice than going back on the bike. Once I woke up while freezing a 600m altitude, and it was really hard to stand up and cycle, I stooped at the first boulangerie to warm up my body. The two first things I take now is:
- Sleeping bag
- Bivy bag
Don't hesitate to put some money in these to get some warm and compact stuff, my sleeping bag give me confort at 6°C and is 10x20cm in his bag, my bivy is even smaller. Now I have no problem about sleeping outside, I just have to find a place who protect me from the wind (and the rain). I never tried to sleep on the top of a mountain with my kit, 2 reasons. First, temperature would probably go lower than my sleeping bag could accept, second, starting the day in the cold morning with a descent would make the descent really really really cold. Be sure when you choose a place to sleep, if you would like to start a day at the same place.
Some people may ask if they should take a tent with them or not, you can, but it will not necessary improve your rest. Get used to install your tent. It can take a lot of time, it means less time for ride or sleep. Or maybe you should book a room in a hotel. It will take you some time for the check in, but in the other hand you will be comfy and the best of it, you can take a shower ! It's really appreciable when you didn't got one for days (or weeks !)
What about a mattress ? It's a good things to have, it will improve your confort (you will not have to sleep on rocks) but the main purpose is to keep your body away from the cold floor (yeah again). Most of your body temperature will be absorbed by the ground, the mattress will block that effect.
It is my main problem and I prepare my kit. Being able to ride in the cold is very important, night are cold, mountain are cold too, even during the summer. If you can ride like it would be in winter, you should have no problem on a Transcontinental race. That mean you can ride more hours and better confort. For my first Transcontinental I used my classic arms and legs warmer, a nice winter vest, but I overestimated the temperature in mountain. Waking up at 5°C, all my muscle were cold, even with all my stuff I was shivering, under the waist I was almost unprotected (not gonna draw you something to picture how my d*** felt). It was a really hard things to go back on the bike and pedal, I stopped at the first boulangerie until the sun rose up. Don't forget your body will burn a lot of calories to keep your body warm, calories you could use to ride.
Now I'm using different layer to cover my body:
- Thick windproof shirt
- Sleeveless jacket
- Spring running short
- Winter running short
- Waterproof socks
- Winter glove
- Windproof jacket
Depending of the temperature I put more or less layers, don't forget, the faster you go, the more you get cold. A descent can be very cold, there is no such a thing like going down and having to slow down because you get too cold. Put some layer and things should be good, don't put too much too. Thanks too all these stuff, I could walk in the mountain in the middle of the night and rain at 2300m, I'm glad to be able to do that, that also mean I could have climb on my bike in the same condition. Until now I used to stop before a climb if I wasn't sure to go at the other side before the night. (for exemple I arrived at the beginning of the CP2 around 10pm, I stopped until the morning. Now with more confidence in my stuff I know I could pass the CP2 during the night.)
Even if we ride 1900 race style, we are today equipped of devices who simplifies the ride or improve the safety. Most (if not all) of us are using at least:
- GPS (I once saw a guy cutting a paper map)
- Phone (share your awesome ride bro!)
- Lights (don't ride without)
- Head lights
- Extra power bank
You will need power for your device, especially for your GPS. You have 2 schools, those ou use a dynamo hub, or, external batteries. Both have pros and cons, I choose to use external batteries for some reasons. I don't want to lace a dynamo hub on a pricey rim (or lace it on a cheap rim), it have a lot of parts who can fail (hub, cables, connectors, plug in, ...), some hub doesn't work at low speed (bad for mountain stages), it allow the use of bright lights, lighter than a pack of batteries, when you charge some devices they can't be used at the same time, you loose some Watts.
Well after a long think I made the choice to take 40000mAh of batteries. A little bit heavy, but I could charge any device when I wanted. Also for lights I used AAA powered, when they aren't bright enough I just had to change the batteries and it come back full powered. It reminds me Josh Ibbett also used a GPS on batteries, you can find these in every petrol station. Whatever you are going to choose, make sur you will not need to stop in a cafe to charge your device, there is nothing more annoying than having to stop for charging when you feel great on the bike.
Whatever you take, make sure you are ready to ride in every condition. Not being ready to this can leads you to make really big stop or worse, giving up. Think about your own weakness, (mine are cold weather, that why I take a lot of clothes against it) try things before D day and gain confidence about the possibility to get over those weakness. If you are ready to everything, mentally you will be focused on the race instead to looking for backup solution during the race.
What could you need ?
On a long ride you could need a little bit more, especially if it's something new for you, sometime you may need some extra confort, taking an extra bib is a good things but if you don't, think to wash the salt from your bib or you will gain some painful saddle sore. If you want to stop in a city for a night or a day (or for the finish line but you can buy some there) you may need some civil clothes and shoes (flip flop works).
Hygien is part of the confort, taking a toothbrush and paste, some toilette paper and babywipe would incredibly improve your confort and for some people, the feeling of being clean is important enough to impact their ride. You can also add things like sunglasses and lip balm against the sun.
To deal with small pain, a small first aid kit with ibuprofene, disinfectant, bandage. Be careful with the us of ibuprofene, pain is the only way for the body to tell you something is wrong, if you don't listen to it, you can lead your body to something worst and maybe you will have to scratch from the race. Listen at your body ! Don't ignore it !
Against the rain, some shoes cover should give an extra protection.
As I said previously you can use an air matress (and pillow), taking with you an heat reflective emergency blanket could improve your confort for an unexpected cold night, it's so light/warm that I think it should be a must in my own kit.
In your repair kit, here a quick list about things still good to take with you:
- multi tool
- spare spokes
- chain oil
A camera would be nice to share your awesome ride !
A pen and a paper if you need to write some important information, like, if you need to save batterie on a GPS, write down your route on a paper.
Money from every country you go across.
By the way, wherever you are going to ride, think at all the possibility, get as much information as you can get to know your route. Where are you going to ride ? sleep ? up ? down ? temperature ? rain activity ? distance between towns ? wild life ? It will determine the gear you will need to be prepared, even if it could appear as "too much", it's better to have plan to react at a bad situation than not and not having experience enough to deal with. But now you are ready to think how to pack your needs.