Having decided to take part in the inaugural Trans Am Bike Race last September, it seems hard to believe that the event is less than a week away. It’s been far from an easy road to the start: during the last nine months I’ve been hit by cars twice, torn a calf muscle, and had my race bike stolen while training in Lyon — let’s hope I’ve used up all my bad luck!
Given the difficulties I’ve had I’m unbelievably grateful that I’m going to make the race — I couldn’t have done it without the help of my friends, family, and the general cycling community. Now I’m itching to hit the road and push as hard as I can.
I don’t know what the next few weeks are going to bring, or how fast I’ll be able to go. Races like the Trans Am are almost defined by their unpredictability — if one thing’s for sure it’s that everyone in the race will face trials and difficulties over the 4,200 mile course, it’s how those difficulties are faced that will determine the outcome. I’ll be happy with my race if I can test my limits, learn a lot, and (perhaps most importantly) have fun while I’m doing it.
Trans Am bike
Given that I’ve had under a month to get a new bike and kit together I’m really pleased with the setup I’ve got — I have no doubt that it’ll be more than up to the challenge of getting me across the US.
I’ve used a Pivot Vault frame for my Trans Am build, kitted out with a Shimano Ultegra groupset, TRP HY/RD disc brakes, and a FSA BB386EVO chainset. I’ve used Ultegra components a lot over the years and don’t expect it to let me down during the Trans Am. The TRP brakes incorporate hydraulic master cylinders into each of the calipers and are a huge step up from traditional cable disc brakes, giving excellent power and modulation.
For the wheels I stuck with the same components I used for my Qoroz road disc build — namely HED Belgium + rims, Sapim CX-Ray spokes, a DT Swiss 240 rear hub, and a SON Delux front hub. 32 spokes front and rear should provide enough strength to deal with the worst potholed back roads the US can throw at me.
For the cockpit I’ve used USE carbon bars, a USE Race stem, and Syntace C3 aero bars. It’s a comfy setup and offers a good range of positions — essential if I want to avoid discomfort while putting in the big miles. A USE carbon seatpost and a WTB Volt saddle will keep my rear end happy.
The dynamo hub is wired to Exposure Revo front and rear lights, as well as a Supernova Plug III — this setup should ensure that I won’t have to waste time stopping to charge my electronics. I’ve been particularly impressed with the Plug III during the last few weeks; it manages much faster charge times than the B&M USB-Werk I was using on my Qoroz.
Having finished the build around 10 days ago I’ve managed to put around 800 on the bike, including two double centuries. It’s fast, comfortable, and a lot of fun to ride. I’ll write a full review after the race.
Trans Am Kit
I’ve tried to keep my kit as light as possible while still ensuring that I’ll be relatively comfortable during the race — no easy challenge given that the race route traverses a range of climate zones and spends around 1000 miles at altitude in the Rocky mountains.
For my sleep kit I’m using a PHD Minimus sleeping bag and a Terra Nova Discovery Lite bivy bag. During the Transcontinental I carried a sleeping pad and a Nemo GoGo Elite bivy — it was a seriously comfortable setup, but I didn’t use the pad once or inflate the hoop on the bivy. My camping gear for the Trans Am comes in around 800 grams lighter and should keep me relatively comfortable regardless of the weather.
As far as warm clothing goes, I’m carrying some Assos knee and arm warmers, Defeet wool gloves (full of holes having accompanied me on thousands of miles worth of adventures), and a PHD Ultra down vest. I don’t anticipate it will get that cold and I can always supplement the above with my waterproofs if the weather gets truly apocalyptic.
My waterproof layer consists of a Gore Oxygen jacket in hi-viz yellow, some Extremities tuff bags shell gloves, Rocky Mountain gore-tex socks, and a pair of Montane waterproof trousers.
Cumulatively my kit weighs in at around 3.5kg (7.7lb) — including a full set of Trans Am maps, a set of Apidura bags, and a full repair kit. It may not be the lightest kit out there, but it certainly isn’t going to slow me down.
And so it begins
I fly to the US on the 1st June (exactly four years to the day since I finished the Trans Am route in 2010) and will have nearly a week in Astoria before the race, giving me enough time to acclimatize to the time difference and ensuring that it won’t be too much of a drama if the airline loses my luggage! At the least it’ll be fun to catch up with some of the other racers before the action begins on June 7th.
This will probably be it from me until after the race, but I’ll post updates on Twitter when I can. You can follow the race on trackleaders.com/transam14 and I’ll be calling in to mtbcast.com with audio updates throughout the event.