Heading for Some Mac n Cheese

Its time to take my new TCR machine on a test ride to my mums for some macaroni cheese. She makes the best. Trick is, she lives 430km away in St. Davids, in South West Wales. You can read all about my trip for Mac n Cheese last year here: TCR Training Ride

This year, I’ll be riding my new bike from Curve Cycling that I bought from G!RO Cycles, a Ti Belgie Spirit built with most of the parts from the old bike. I’ve had a couple of rides so far and I’m seriously impressed. I’ve been riding with a huge grin on my face most of the time.

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I’ll be raising money for Action For Kids charitable trust again in the lead up to, and during the TCR. I reckon this little adventure is a great way to start raising some funds – so don’t be shy, click the link below to donate, it’s a great cause:  http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/matthewfalconer

You can follow my progress through a bit of dot watching as I’ll also be testing my own Spot tracker. After the loaner on the TCR failed and I still don’t know if I’ll get my deposit back, I figured I might as well get my own as the deposit/cost is not much different and will have plenty of other adventures to get the most out of it. I’ll be setting off a little after midnight on Friday morning – you can follow me here.

Also, keep an eye out on http://instagram/b1rdmn for some posts of the journey.

I’ll also be cycling back some of the way on Sunday. Due to work and time constraints (also, have you seen this weekends weather?!), it’ll only be to Bristol but tracking will still be active.

Why am I doing this? A great excuse to get a proper test ride in on the Belgie, a bit of endurance training, see my mum and eat a bucket load of pasta and cheese sauce. I also just really enjoy riding my bike, specifically riding it in Wales.

Happy Saint Davids day!

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TCR No. 4 – Final Preparations & Kit List

The last few weeks of July was all about getting all those final preparations complete. The bike, kit, route and final travel preparations. I spent an awful lot of time tweaking my bike, with some critical last minute adjustments that really made a difference on the race.

Service

With three weeks to go, I put my bike in for a service with Jonny over at Noble Wheels, who also built up my custom wheels. I also handed him a set of ACOR semi-hydraulic disc brakes to fit with the new drive train components. My disc brakes were a last minute switch from TRP Spyres which were woefully inadequate at braking to some rather impressive ACOR Semi Hydraulic disc brakes, cable operated hydraulic pistons. These were an absolute life saver, and must thank Chris Herbert, a fellow TCR entrant for the recommendation. The braking performance and strength are increased significantly. Finally, the week before the race I added some brand new tyres.

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Only used the brakes, already had Shimano Ice Tech rotors

Bag setup

I spent quite a bit of time refining the bag set up. Trimming back the straps to avoid the extra drag, and using a lighter to seal the strap ends to make sure they didn’t fray. On top of this there was a lot of packing and re-packing to find the optimum fit, primarily to avoid my right leg rubbing on the side of the frame bag. The Apidura bags are really quite simple to install, but this last bit of minor adjustment would make a difference over the course of the ride.

Dynamo, lights and charging.

With the dynamo hub, I needed to either be running both lights, or charging a cache battery or device – I wasn’t able to both at the same time. I had originally planned to put a switch in place to allow easy changeover, but never got around to this. I ended up piggy backing the connectors and switching them around manually when required. This didn’t quite work out, but was sufficient in the end. I hadn’t quite envisaged I’d become an electrician in my preparations, but I now own a soldering iron and have become qute adept at burning my fingers with it.

Route Planning

I broke down my route into 19 200km chunks to allow me to schedule and plan day by day in something reasonably ‘manageable’. I’ve definitely learnt a lot about the route, kit and bike that I’ll cover in a later post. But for now, I had a 3,800 km route with 60,000 meters of climbing. I sincerely hoped this was wrong, and thankfully it was but not by much less.

Pre-race Nerves

The stress levels in the month of July were a little off the scale, and for the weeks and days leading up to the race, I wanted nothing more than to just get on my bike and get going. I had some great rides in July with friends, allowing me to take some of the pressure off just by getting out and riding , forgetting about the up and coming journey. I also spent quite a bit of time in the pub after rides, enjoying the sunshine and warm evenings. Not sure this helped!

On top of all the last minute preparations, work was sticking its oar in, causing some unwelcome levels of stress to compete with that from the race. Lots of early starts, late night finishes, all while still trying to sort everything out meant that there was little time to take some down time and relax. Everything seemed to need to be done at the last minute.

Kit List!

Unless you want to geek out over kit, you probably won’t want to read on from here. This is a full list of the gear I took with me, with some reasoning behind it. Maybe interesting, maybe not!

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So much stuff! I sent a few bits back before the start, but somehow it all managed to fit in.

The BIKE!

My selection criteria for a bike was fairly straight forward – it needs to be light, look good and have disc brakes. It was an easy choice to come to ride a Bowman Pilgrims. There were 4 at the start line this year, including mine, so was a popular choice for sure. I’m on a 54″ frame, with some custom Noble Wheels built with Shimano Ice tech discs – 140mm rear, 160mm front, with some Continental 4000IIs 28’s. The rear hub a 350DT Swiss with some sick custom sticker work to match the G!RO kit, with the front hub a Schmidt SON 28 spoke centre lock dynamo hub to power the bikes lights and devices.

The group-set is a Shimano Ultegra 11 speed with 52/36 x 11/32 gearing. I’ve always liked turning a big gear, but also having a much straighter 52×28 makes for much more efficient riding.

Braking by ACOR Semi-hydraulic disc brakes.

My bars & stem are 3T Team ergo alloy, with Profile Design carbon aero bars, all wrapped up (badly) in Lizard skin bar tape.

Lights are Schmidt front and rear dynamo powered lights. I also had a set of front and rear Moon USB lights as backup, and for a head mounted light. Also had a Lezyne rear USB light as a backup-backup, and a large powerful Cateye USB front light.

Around the bike, I strategically positioned reflective tape. There are some great spots for this behind the rear dropouts, as well as on the chainstays and forks for side reflectiveness.

I added both a Garmin Edge 810 on a K-Edge mount, and a Wahoo ELEMNT mounted on the aero bars. The Wahoo was a recent purchase after some flakey moments with the Garmin meant I lost all confidence in it. After the new brakes, this was my second best last minute purchase ahead of the race.

The Bags, and the stuff stuffed inside!

I kitted the bike out with Apidura’s bike packing kit which I purchased in January before I realised there were newer versions due out. In the end, I was more than happy with the bags, going for the medium frame and saddle pack, and the large top tube bag that I used to keep my phone, batteries, cables and other electricals.

I also purchased an Alpkit fuel pod, also before I was aware Apidura were going to produce their own, but other than a slight mismatch in colour, it was ideal for filling with sweets, nuts and other snacks along the way.

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Fully loaded, en-route into London town to catch the Eurostar to Brussels. 

Clothes:

1 set of kit: 1x G!RO Sportful team bib shorts, 1x G!RO short sleeve jersey and a lightweight sportful base layer, 1 pair of socks, 1x G!RO windstopper gilet, 1x Fiandre NoRain long sleeve jersey, 1x Fiandre No Rain arm warmers, 1x Sportful Hotpack lightweight rain cape, 1x Athletic PDX socks (black w/red), Lake CX237 carbon road shoes (white), DeFeet oversocks, 1x cycling glove mitts, 1x full finger gloves, 1x full length sportful base layer, and a snood. No spare kit, just alternatives for almost any weather. A casquette would be provided at the start, so chose not to bring a hat.

For the times off the bike, I had 1x Nike running shorts & 1x Nike running top. Nice and light for those moments when I needed to clean or take a break from the bibs. No footwear.

Sleeping:

1x Alpkit bivvy bag, 1x silk liner, 1x alpkit air mattress and 1x emergency foil blanket. Also packed some Incognito mosquito repellant for bivvying at night.

Spares & Tools

3x spare inner tubes, patch kit, spare 3x spokes, pump, 2x tyre levers, multi spanner (esp for dynamo light bolt), small multi tool, small ratchet with multiple heads, scissors, lighter, cable ties, Rear mech hanger (forgotten to pack!), cleats and bolts, other spare bolts, velcro straps and spoke key (also forgotten), 2x spare disc brake pads.
I chose (forgot) not to include any spare cables. I was fairly fortunate to have not had any problems considering all that I had managed to forget!

Other Stuff…

I packed half a toothbrush, mini toothpaste, Sudocrem, Savlon, anti-bacterial wetwipes, P20 sunscreen, lip sunscreen, antihistamines, ibuprofen,  quarter roll of toilet paper, and 2x melolin gauze pads to help keep me clean, fresh..ish and on the road.

 

I had a selection of USB cables to recharge the Garmin, Wahoo, iPhone, USB lights and 2x cache batteries, as well as a dual port USB EU socket plug.

I brought with me 1x tube of SIS Hydration tablets, but chose not to bring any gels or energy food. I had a handful of various sweet/snack bars, and would casually collect them in the days leading up to the start, filling the bag with more until it started getting full.

 

I ditched my wallet, taking only a waterproof phone case with some cash and credit cards, along with my passport and other essential documents and visas for the trip.