So this is it. This is where I’ll reside for the next two weeks. If I’m not sat on it I’ll be no more than ten feet away from it. And people say I’m afraid of commitment.
It should be fine, I’ve settled in having spent most of the last 6 months on this bike, it’s the cycling version of that dent in the sofa cushion. Bits have changed over time and stuff has been bolted on but the bones have stayed the same and it’s become an extension of me, it knows what is expected of it and up till now it has performed that task commendably. Faithful hound. It took a while to track down that creak but a bit of copper-slip on the seatpost clamp sorted it. I think that’s been the only problem.
The old Ultegra gears did their job of being covered in a Winter of crap before they were upgraded to the Di2 version when the sun came out, and my, aren’t electronic gears a revelation? Shifting, especially the front is a brainless activity, no need for finesse or that hard-wired old-school technique of backing off and being gentle with the gears, just push the button and pedal. By Day Whatever of the Transcontinental when I may have lost feeling in my fingers and changing gear is an unnecessary mental complication that finger-tip control is going to be a godsend.
The tri-bars are a more recent addition and the probably too few rides I’ve had on them have been pretty ok and the position isn’t too extreme, it’s more a comfort than a marginal gains aero position. I’ve set it up to replicate the hanging onto the sticky-outy 9 speed gear cables hand position that I spent a lot of time doing pretending to be that Dutch Pro on a long solo break back when I thought it was cool (It still is a bit).
The proper last minute addition has been the Praxis wheelset and Exposure lights, delivered at eleven at night with a week to go to the start. No panic then. DT Swiss internals in the rear mean proven longevity and performance and the front wheel has been rebuilt around an Exposure dynamo hub. 32 spokes too, Europe wide reliability, it better be as I’ve only ridden the wheels and checked the dynamo in a midnight ride up and down the seafront to bed things in. Ahem.
The front Wildcat bag holds stuff for the odd moments when we’ll be sleeping; bivvy-bag and silk liner, favourite warm beenie hat (mainly for psychological comfort), long sleeved merino top and Rapha padded gilet. The frame bag contains all the things that might be needed easily on the fly. Tools and random spares, a Busch & Muller USB-Werk cache battery to charge all the electronic devices via the dynamo when the light’s not being used, and the knotted tagliatelle of wires to deal with this. Elastic bands, gaffer tape. Toiletries (chopped in half toothbrush, chopped in half razor, for the legs), pills and potions. Small zip-tie Hiplock so bears don’t steal our bikes.
The Wildcat Tiger out the back carries the clothes, the one spare set of cycling kit and casual shorts and t-shirt for the rare few hours it might be nice to let everything breathe a little bit. Plus arm and knee warmers, long-sleeved jersey, gilet (reflective because of French rules), spare socks, long sleeved base layer (they say you pack your fears, I dislike cold), and Goretex jacket. SPOT Tracker strapped to the top for safety and dot watching. Also Miffy.
Here’s the bike tech rundown…
Frame - Kinesis GF-Ti Disc
Fork - Tracer Disc
Wheels - Praxis RC21 Road Wheelset, custom built with Exposure Dynamo hub
Chainset – Rotor
Chainrings – Praxis Compact 52/36
Bottom Bracket – Hope
Pedals - Shimano A600
Levers – Shimano Ultegra Di2 Hydraulic
Rear Derailleur - Shimano Ultegra Di2, long cage
Front Derailleur – Shimano Ultegra Di2
Cassette – Shimano Ultegra, 11spd, 11-32
Chain – KMC 11spd
Brake Calipers – Shimano RS785
Rotors – RWD (140mm rear, 160mm front)
Saddle – Fabric ALM
Seatpost – Fizik Cyrano
Stem – Fizik Cyrano
Handlebars – Black, shallow drop, from the shed
Tri-Bars – Profile Design T2+ DL
Handlebar Tape – Profile Design
Lights – Exposure Revo front with Red Eye rear
There are so many people to thank for getting me here, without them none of this would be in any way possible. It may be cheesy but I really can’t thank them enough and this is not some “please the sponsors” BS, these are good people, they have pulled all the stops out, they believe in me when sometimes I may not.
Rory at Upgrade for the Kinesis GF-Ti frame and fork and the Praxis Wheels and chainrings.
Madison for the Shimano Ultegra Di2 electronic wizardry.
Exposure Lights for the dynamo hub and lights.
Fabric for the saddle.
Bontrager for the tyres.
Beth at Wildcat for the bike-packing bags and customizing them to make sure the stitching and dry-bags matched my bar-tape.
Gore Bike Wear, I pretty much lived in that jersey for three months of training.
Morvelo for all of the clothing and the special ‘Fuck Cancer’ socks.
Specialized for the shoes and helmet.
And on a personal level, some names you won’t know who have all helped along the way, their quiet contributions have been a godsend and lifted me to crack a smile when spirits might have been flagging; Moose and Jo, Olly and Abby, Vic, Dalia, Alice, Adam, Andy, Rayments Cycles, and finally and especially my sister for all the cat-sitting and surprise food parcels.
Finally, sorry to all the people myself and Gavin (my Transcontinental pairs team-mate) have bored shitless over the last few months about this stupid thing. It’s not over just yet, you’ll have to endure all the stories when we get back, make the most of this couple of weeks of quiet.
All these people have done all they can, it’s up to me now.
Let’s go for a ride.