Lights: For lights you will need to have three things covered to make your adventure a more enjoyable, safe one. These things are #1: Your lights run time must be figured out, and subsequent battery life needs considered, #2: You must consider a light source for seeing signs, cue sheets, and for making any repairs, or for searching through bags, that might be necessary, and #3: You must have a bright, visible tail light. Let's break this down point by point.
#1: Run Time and Battery Life: Notice that I never mentioned having "powerful lights". For gravel grinding, the lights used for mountain bike single track riding are overkill, and run times not sufficient, (on high power settings). My experience shows that if you can find a light source with approximately 200 lumens and that throws a good beam pattern down the road at least 150 feet ahead of you, you can gravel grind safely and with confidence. Obviously, many more powerful mountain bike lighting systems can be run at lower power settings and achieve longer run times. Keep in mind that you will have to cover 12-13 hours of darkness, depending upon the weather. (Two-three hours right off the bat, the rest through Sat.night/Sun. morning) Battery life will have to get you through that time without access to charging facilities. So, you'll probably have to carry an extra battery, or more, to get through the event. (Unless you run a generator system, then you are good to go).
#2: Secondary Light Source: A handle bar mounted system is good, but you will also need to consider a secondary light source to see the street sign markings, your cue sheets, and for any off bike things. This works best as a helmet mounted light, and it doesn't have to be a huge, powerful light. Usually something with a spot beam and that has long run time that can easily be mounted on the helmet works just fine for this.
#3: Tail light: A bright, easily seen tail light in flashing mode is a requirement to ride in Trans Iowa V7. We won't allow you to start without lights, and the tail light is part of that requirement. One word to the wise: Don't forget to turn off your tail light to preserve battery life in the daytime if the sun is out.
A Final Word On Lights: Make sure your lighting system is securely mounted. Many T.I. competitors have lost their lighting systems on rough gravel roads that vibrated their lights off, or caused mounting brackets to fail. Commuter lighting systems are most likely to suffer from this fate. You've been warned!
Everyone has different needs, but I would suggest the following kit as being a "smart" choice for Trans Iowa without being overkill.
- A good, high quality pair of cycling shorts/bibs/or knickers.
- A base layer garment for the torso.
- A long sleeved cycling jersey, or a short sleeved one with arm warmers.
- A windbreaker, at a minimum, or a rain jacket that can double as a windbreaker.
- A good pair of cycling gloves, and full fingered ones wouldn't be a bad idea.
- A good pair of wool cycling socks. (Maybe carry an extra pair in a bag for later)
- A comfortable cycling cap that fits under the helmet.
- Some quality eyewear is a must.
Revelate Designs, like their Tangle Bag, (shown in the image here) or Jaand Bags who make a popular frame bag are highly recommended. Also, you might want to consider a top tube mounted "bento-bag" like Banjo Brothers Top Tube Bag, (as shown on my Fargo) The aforementioned Revelate Designs makes a killer top tube bag called the Gas Tank which I also highly recommend. Seat bags are another good idea and a bigger bag from Jaand, Revelate Designs, or Topeak will be great additions to your kit.
The Osprey line of packs is really a good one. The Raptor 10 model, (pictured), comes highly recommended from me, and so does the always stellar Ergon line of packs, like the BC-1 which carries more of the load on your hips.
Basically any semi-slick tread design with good volume and maybe some puncture protection. Finally- Make sure your tires are in great condition. The newer the better.
Next Update: Gravel Road Riding Tips For Trans Iowa