Sunday, January 02, 2011

Trans Iowa Update #9: More On Equipment Choices

Lights, clothing, tires, and more.This Update will focus on some of the other equipment issues you will need to sort out for taking part in Trans Iowa V7 this coming April. The last update on equipment choices can be checked out here, in case you missed it.

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!

Clothing: Due to the nature of the date for Trans Iowa, clothing choices can be a critical factor in your success or failure in the event. Weather will affect this event, like it always does. Be prepared to have rain, snow, wind, sun, and hot and cold temperatures be possibilities for the event. We've seen all of these happen in the last six Trans Iowas.

Everyone has different needs, but I would suggest the following kit as being a "smart" choice for Trans Iowa without being overkill.
  1. A good, high quality pair of cycling shorts/bibs/or knickers.
  2.  A base layer garment for the torso.
  3.  A long sleeved cycling jersey, or a short sleeved one with arm warmers.
  4.  A windbreaker, at a minimum, or a rain jacket that can double as a windbreaker.
  5.  A good pair of cycling gloves, and full fingered ones wouldn't be a bad idea.
  6.  A good pair of wool cycling socks. (Maybe carry an extra pair in a bag for later)
  7.  A comfortable cycling cap that fits under the helmet.
  8.  Some quality eyewear is a must. 
Other items are optional. The above list I would consider as being a minimum for Trans Iowa. Items such as leg warmers or rain pants might be welcomed depending on the forecast for the weekend of T.I.V7. Oh! And don't forget the chamois butter!

Other Equipment: Recently their has been a move to frame bags to carry extra gear, food, and water on these long, ultra-endurance adventures. Under-the-top-tube bags are very common. Models from 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.

Hydration packs are still a viable way to go though, and many packs have really upped the game in terms of design and functionality. Comfort has increased, and bladder/bite valve technology is crazy good now. Get a hydration pack that can carry a modest amount of gear and it could be all you'll need for Trans Iowa.

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.

Tires: Finally, I'll end this post with a short discussion on tires. Basically, besides the obvious that your choice needs to fit your wheel size and frame/fork combination, I will advise the fatter tire, the better. Having a tread design with some small amount of tread usually works much better than slicks. Mud clearing capabilities will most likely be important. Maybe consider tire width in terms of a balance between maximum width and mud clearances. Puncture resistance isn't a big deal for Trans Iowa. We don't have sharp rocks and thorns to deal with, but don't come without at least two tubes and a patch kit. Popular cyclo-cross tires include the Schwalbe Marathon Series, Continental tires, and some other cyclo-cross tires. 29"er tire choices that make excellent gravel road tires include Bontrager XR-1, WTB Nanoraptors, and WTB Vulpines, (shown).

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


Craig said...

I ran a pair of Cygolite Milion 200 lights for Night Nonsense 100, one on the bars and one on the helmet, and I was pretty happy with them. The batteries are small (about the size of a roll of pennies) and easy to change on the fly. The lights themselves are pretty compact as well. I had them on the low setting (150 lumens) and ran them 7 hours before swapping the batteries.

Tom said...

With the availability and ease of use of hub Dynamos these days, I can't see a reason not to use one. Combo of a LightOn! Handlebar mounted Dynamo light and a Princeton Tech helmet mounted LED lamp provides beau coup light up front. A few Planet Bike Super blinkys on the seat stays and you are lit up like a UFO.

MG said...

We have a couple of guys testing dynamo hubs here in Lincoln, and one is offering some encouraging performance, but I've thus far held out and will run a Niterider MiNewt 250 supplimented by two 2w Planet Bike LED lights. For these, I can procure batteries for at a convenience store, if needed (understanding we will have limited opportunities to do so, of course). I'll also have a small Streamlight LED penlight zip tied to my helmet for navigation and emergency needs, as I typically do.

Tom said...

I think it would be different if you knew that the dynamo light would be your one and only, but with some helmet lights rated at over 100 hours on HIGH beam, the dynamos rock. I am using a Handspun wheels built Shimano LX generator hub on a Mavic x317 on my Surly and loving it.

J-No said...

I have trouble at night staying alert unless I have plenty of light. I use a 400 lumen bar mount (Amoeba) and a Princeton Tec EOS on my helmet. I say the more light the better.

If I ever do TI again I will look into a generator.

bmike said...

I've done 24 hour rides and brevets here in the Northeast with a SON dyno and eDeluxe. Plenty of light, even in the rain on dirt going downhill. Supplement with a low power and lite helmet light for navigation.

I used to run dual halogen lights - but the new LED dyno driven lights are far superior... and come on to nearly full brightness at walking pace.

If you commute, tour, and do rando / multi day race / rides - a dyno (IMHO) is a worthwhile investment.