Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Adventure Racing Gear 101 by Scott Shaw


Since Robert Bart has been getting ready to start Adventure Racing he has asked TeamBOR many good questions that I thought would be good topics for a blog.  He recently asked us what kind of bikes do we prefer, which running shoes do we wear, what kind of pack should he buy and so on. 

So let’s start out with what kind of bike do we prefer for Adventure Racing.  Well Adventure Racing usually requires a mountain bike.  I have never been in a race where road bikes, hybrids, or cyclo-cross was allowed.  So that’s easy; a mountain bike.  However, what kind of mountain bike best fits AR.  That depends on what kind of rider you are, but in my experience I have seen a great deal of racers using aluminum hardtail 29ers with 3x9’s or 3x10’s.  This is also what I prefer.  Why?  Well aluminum vs. carbon or steel; I’ve broken my carbon frame and I truly believe aluminum is more dependable and if I need to shave grams it can come off my fat gut.  Carbon is also at the hands of volunteers loading trailers some times; you may end up with some chips.  Your bike is also going to get wet, super wet, even inside the frame and steel rusts.  Let’s see…hardtail; why; cheaper, simplicity, weight, and hill climbing ability, but if you have a good full rig with a rear lock out go for it, but I personally have had too many technical issues with full suspension.  29er…definitely 29er…it’s faster, rolls over objects better, higher ground clearance, yes you lose some turning ability from a 26er, but the speed you gain is so much more of an advantage; plus the big tires should make your hardtail float if it falls out of the canoe.  Yes, my 29er floats!  You could go with a 650B, but as I own one of each of the 26er, 650B, and a 29er hardtails, I can tell you that all the media hype of the 650B being the best of both (26 & 29) worlds is well media hype.  In my opinion it is a trade-off between the 26er and the 29er; you lose more than you gain.  Now let’s talk gearing.  Here is where it is truly up to your ability.  Man (or Woman) of Steel, get a singlespeed since there is not much to break and is lighter.  Take a step down to a 1x11 or 12, but I wouldn’t pick a 1x9 since I personally have one and think it would kill me in an AR, but if you have the legs then get it!  Next let’s talk about my nemesis 2x10…I kinda want to curse right now because I hate my 2x10.  It always seems to be cross chained no matter which ring I am in.  I want to ride big front ring / big rear ring while climbing and I should be able to, but it is too crossed.  I can do this on my 3x10 in middle front ring and big back ring and it should be about the same gearing, yet I haven’t totally checked yet.  I will check and get back to you all.  That big 3rd ring adds some weight but if you hit pavement you won’t spin out and if you have legs still, you can haul some booty.  The middle front ring is your workhorse, keep her there as long as you can.  That lil ring I love to call “Granny” well she is my best friend long into the race when my legs are thrashed and all I have left is spinning.  Granny always gets me to the finish line if necessary.  After this you can get into all the crazyiness that make up a mountain bike. Brands, Cross-Country vs. Trail vs All Mountain, Shimano vs Sram, bar width, saddle comfort, pedals (refer to pedal blog), tubed or tubeless, and the list goes on and on.  This is where you find out what works for you by trial and error, expensive trial and error, fun, expensive, trial and error.

Running shoes…oh how we hate running shoes! The necessary evil. I am speaking for our team now, but I believe everyone would agree for road running the lighter the shoe the better, as long as your feet don’t hurt.  My Brooks Glycerin 13 have lasted a couple years and just now are starting to hurt.  I would consider them medium weight.  I would definitely get another pair; they are expensive but the quality is there.  You can get Saucony and Asics too that are good road running shoes for cheaper.  However, you won’t be running on pavement much in an AR.  I have tried a few shoes in AR. North Face Gortex Hedgehogs are heavy and the soles tend to crack, but they have good traction and are warm and dry until you step into a deep puddle and then your feet are wet for all eternity.  Just say no to Gortex! Multiple (packed) pairs of good synthetic or wool socks will get you by.  I have two pairs of these Hedgehogs and have retired them to walking the dogs and later grass cutting shoes.  John Naas will appreciate that in this situation North Face has failed the teenage girl.  Asics trail shoes were actually not too shabby, but you have to deal with those pesky laces and the heal backs blew out rather quickly.  Saloman’s don’t have traditional laces. Instead they have “speed laces”, which make transitions super-fast and easy.  So go Saloman!  Now which one?  I have three pair of Saloman’s.  I have two XR Missions that I use to trail run in.  They are light and comfortable and have average grip, but they wear out quick; too quick!  The back of the heal always comes off!  I use my Speed Cross 3’s for AR.  They are narrower, and lower, which I kind of don’t like, but the traction on them in mud while bushwhacking is remarkable.  However, they are slipper than grease on wet rocks and roots, so be careful not to bust your butt.  The Speed Cross are built better than the Missions.  I just wish Saloman would make their shoes with a little better quality so they would last longer, but I think they are the AR shoe for now.

Packs!  You have to have a pack?  Yes!  Have you seen Dora leave on an adventure without her Back Pack?  Make sure your pack holds at least one 100oz or 3 liter bladder.  You should select your pack by the length of the AR.  I have done short sprint 2-5 hour AR’s that my Camelbak Mule was perfect for, but it’s too small for an 8 hour.  Speaking of Camelbak, their quality is excellent and they have all kinds of cool features, except most of their packs lack front food pockets, minus the Octane.  I run an Outthere MS-1.  It is perfect up to a 24 hour race.  I love the light weight, simplicity, and front grab bags.  I think their quality could be better though.  I am thinking of getting an AS-2 for longer races, but I am worried about quality and the AS-1 that I have been shoving gear in on my teammates back confuses the hell out of me.  Too much going on there on that pack.  We actually talked about giving each pocket an address so he can yell out, “put in pocket C4!”  So 8-24 hours equals 18-22 liters of space.  Make sure your pack has exterior attachment points for helmets, shoes, and paddles.  I am keeping my eye on the Osprey 22L that Kevin Minton is running and thinking of it’s big brother instead of an AS-2.  I will let you know what I decide when I cross that bridge.  Furthermore, make sure you pack fits you and has a good chest and belly strap.  The pack needs to ride high on your back for running and riding.  You will hate life if it keeps getting stuck on your saddle.  It also needs to be snug to your belly and chest for running so it doesn’t bounce the life out of you.

So Robert, I hope this helps you out a little.  You can always check out our gear lists on http://www.teambor.com/gear.html and remember if Captain Ahab can’t break it, then it is approved!  Now I have to go and update the gear lists I bet.  – El Capitan Ahab.

So the chain ring update is the 26er 1x9 is a 34 x 11/34, the 650 2x10 is 38 (big)x11/36 and the 29er is 32 (middle)x11/36.  I thought they were only 2 tooth difference, not 6, so that is why it cross chains and makes me feel like I need to drop to granny.

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