Here’s a run down on the kit I’ll be taking out to Banff with me this week.
Bike First up is the frame – The Pivot Les This is probably one of the most talked about hardtails of this year. I’ve only recently got mine so I was tormented by all the pictures and rave review shared by the Pivot Boompods riders when they started their builds and had their first rides. I thought it was all gushy sponsor-pleasing to be perfectly honest but now I’ve spent some quality time on mine in Vietnam I can say it lives up to the hype so far. The head tube – down tube – chainstay path is as stiff as you like for getting the power down yet its not a choppy ride, even on 30cc tyres at 90psi, and the top tube and seatstays make for a forgiving all day ride. I’m looking forward to munching a few thousand miles of dirt road on it now having become familiar with it.
The fork is a Kinesis IX carbon 29er fork which is light and stiff. Its corrected for 120mm forks so there’s miles of clearance. The handlebar is Kinesis’s Strut which is a massive 750mm. I was quite tempted to cut it down but the amount of room for bags and gizmos and different hand positions is very useful, and I can always move the grips in if I need to. I’ve added some micro bar ends into the middle and taped them up. Last time I used some stubby clip on aero bars but I found by the end that I couldn’t get low enough on them for any length of time and it was actually as quick to just hold the bars right by the stem. With the centre of the bars taped I have more hand positions and can rest my elbows against the taped bar ends with my hands on my front bag if I want to get lower, and the whole arrangement is lighter, which is important for the 200,000ft of climbing ahead.
The transmission is 1 x 10 speed XTR. After literally having to throw away almost every part of my last top end groupset from another brand because some small part in expensive components that can’t be rebuilt had failed or worn out, and after having used an Ultegra goup in the World Cycle Race, I was very pleased when Shimano agreed to support me on the Divide too. I consider a top end groupset to be an investment and the cost of ownership shouldn’t be the same as replacing the entire thing every year with £300 price tags on components that have a finite life. XTR is the kind investment I look for in endurance racing and I have good friends who are running it from back in the late 90s. The brakes are also XTR with icetech rotors. The lever feel on these is amazing, ever since I first tried them when the first ones appeared a few years ago I’ve wanted some reports from my riding buddies who use them is that they are ridiculously quick and easy to bleed too.
The wheels are very tidy pieces of kit and after the World Cycle Race I’m sticking with Reynolds here which were just outstanding on that ride. The 29er carbon rim have been drilled with 32 holes for extra strength and laced to the Exposure lights hub dynamo with x-ray spokes. Out the back there is a Kinesis hub with 142×12 through axle. Last time out on the Divide I had a few issues with my freehub so I’m pleased to have such a robust unit with 6 point engagement which is confidence inspiring. One of the coolest things about these wheels is that every single spoke is the same length, so I’ll be carrying just one spare.
On the bars I have a Garmin 705 which has done the Divide before as well as a lap of the planet, without any issues. I also have the ACA Maps and cycle computer as complementary and back-up navigation. The GPS is great for hitting the turns fast but when it comes to planning your calorie and water needs over the up coming dry sections, you can’t beat getting the maps out while chowing down. This time around I’m also more self sufficient in terms of power. I’m using Exposure’s dynamo hub to power their Revo light which is more than adequate for lighting up the trails. I also have a Plug II from Tout Terrain to charge the Garmin and an Exposure Joystick which not only serves as a back up light, but also thanks to the Boost Cable will also serve as a back up battery for Garmin and Phone.
Up front I have a bag modifies from a Bergen side pod which contains my sleeping gear. This clips on and off the handlebars very quickly and is slightly oversize which means I can keep sleeping bag and sleeping mat rolled up in my bivi for quick deployment and I don’t have to worry too much about getting every last bit of air out of things when I roll it all up and stuff it in for a quick pack up. This is going to save me significant time on overnight stops. The bivi is a Rab Ridge Raider which comes in a little heavier than some but as the weights quoted on Rab gear include all the bit, not as much as you think. On my scales Its less than 50g more than the Gogo Elite I used last time. It has a proper pole though which doesn’t need inflating and eVent construction which means I’ll be able to bivi in comfort virtually anywhere. I’ll be using my Rab Infinity SL sleeping bag again which has down on just the top surfaces keeping the weight right down and it has loops attaching it to the Nemo Zor sleeping pad, which has been with me on all my big trips and works well with the Rab bag, staying in place for rolling and un-rolling so I can get in and out no bather. If I need any extra warmth on the bike or in the bivi, I’ll have the Rab Microlight Vest I took around the world with me too.
My default clothing consists of Pivot Boompods race kit, Kask Mojito and Shimano XC50n shoes which combine the benefits of a race shoe with a bit of extra weather protection for walking through snow in Montana etc but still won’t boil my feet in New Mexico’s Gila wilderness. Under my race kit I’ll have a Rab MeCo Cocona baselayer and Chapeau Merino socks - some naturally anti-bacterial fibres as a concession to hygiene and so I don’t smell too bad. I’m quite gutted I couldn’t justify taking my Repack Berino jersey which deserves a special mention as its my favourite jersey and I normally make every excuse I can to wear it but word on the trail is that its going to be a lot warmer than last time I was out there and leaving it at home saves me 200g. For warmth I’ll have Luso arm and leg warmers and for weather protection I have a custom sized eVent jacket from Pace which is made of probably the best waterproof material available without all the extra features and flaps of top end jackets that just add weight and cost. I also have some Gore softshell waterproof trousers cut down to shorts to save weight but save my behind from getting soaked. I also have some waterproof winter gloves from Altura.
Spare clothing will be going in a Revelate Designs Viscacha to the rear along with some spare Foss tubes (rolling out on tubeless and carrying these for their puncture protection and repairability) A Gas Tank top tube bag and Mountain feed bag, also from Revelate designs will contain tools and food respectively. Based on their Carbon 10 multitool with a few swapped in bits I’ve managed to put together a Lezyne tool that weighs 100g and contains everything I need on this bike. Lezyne also covers carbon mini pump, the excellent fast puncture patches, carbon bottle cages and caddy sacks. The caddy sacks are perfect for me, they just fit a passport, cash, phone and cards in a super slim waterproof package that fits neatly into jersey pockets. They are also the perfect size to fit Audax Brevet Cards.
That just leaves a few miscellaneous items like some vitamins to supplement what can be a poor diet at times, water purification tablets and filter tips for cleaning surface water, Pepto Bismol to keep my stomach sweet and a small first aid kit that contains just the essentials.
All up Its a lightweight set up, perhaps not the lightest, but its competitive. I’m not interested in weighing it, just knowing that I can’t make it too much lighter without making compromises is fine. If I’m not fast, its not because my equipment was too heavy.