It’s been a fairly fraught final week getting ready for the race with emotion swinging between complete excitement and total fear. But as usual there comes a point where there’s nothing more to be done and you just have to get on with it.
The TCR starts at midnight on Friday in Geraardsbergen, Belguim and Fraser Waters and myself will be aiming to ride an average of 300kms a day to reach Istanbul in around 14 days.
If you’d like to follow the race you can visit trackleaders.com/transconrace15 and track the dots from the comfort of your armchair. We’re racing under number 179 so you can see how we and other competitors are doing as we progress across the continent. We’ll also be posting progress online to www.twitter.com/shandcycles and www.instagram/shandcycles, depending on fatigue and mobile reception.
I’d also like to say thanks to a few people for helping us get to the start. The guys here at Shand have been great and Matt pulled out the stops last week to put together a new frame at the very last minute. Fraser for some final fettling and Steven and Euan too for putting up with my grumpy Monday morning’s after excessive weekend riding. . .
Endura have also been amazing and kindly provided great kit for training and the race itself. The MTR Emergency Shell has been brilliant through many, many wet and cold days on the road and we’ll be taking them with us on the race. Go get one – you won’t regret it!
Wildcat Gear provided our frame bags and it’s great to be using kit made here in the UK with Beth in charge of proceedings.
Middleburn supply the British made cranks on the Stoater Rohloff and Mathew kindly lent Fraser one of their new super compact chainsets to try out on the race. Fraser also built the wheels we’re using under his wheel building business, The Happy Cog.
Finally I should also thank Lucy for putting up with me for the last 6 months too. It can’t be easy being around somebody out on the bike in all the spare time that there is!
Anyway, time to finish as it’s getting late and there’s still lost of stuff to do before catching the ferry tomorrow. As Fraser say’s, there’s got to be an easier way to get a kebab!
Cowchipper? Yup, you read that right and this is the new bar from Salsa that takes the wider flare of the Woodchiper and combines it with the conventional integrated shifter position of a road/cross bar like the Salsa Cowbell 2 we fit to our Stoater.
We don’t think anyone else has these in the UK yet and are lucky to have a limited number for sale in our shop until we receive our next full delivery.
As the illustration below shows, the Cowchipper comes with 24 degrees of flare compared to 12 degrees on the Cowbell 2, providing equally comfortable and stable alternative to the Cowbell 2 for big miles on rough roads.
We expect the number we have to sell quickly, so if the shop shows ‘sold out’, contact us so we can accommodate you on the next order.
In 2008 there was not the choice of 29ers there is now and this was partly the reason Tom approached Steven to commission a custom 29er – Steven being an early adopter of building big wheel bikes for off-road action.
Fast-forward to May 2015 and Tom is still riding the same singlespeed Shand 29er and racing for the second time in the Highland Trail 550. By anyone’s standards, the race is a brutal 550-mile ride over wild and remote terrain and it’s an astonishing achievement that Tom finished first in this years race, beating his second place position in last year’s race.
Tom’s written an account of his experience on his blog and it’s worth a read to gain an insight into the race and what’s involved in tackling some of the hardest terrain in the UK: Tom Rowntree – highland Trail 550.
I’ve always refer to south of central Scotland as the ‘Borders’ having been brought up there as a kid, but a more accurate term would be the Southern Uplands. This is also the name given to the 400km Audax organized by Matin Foley, and as part of TCR training I decided to find out what a distance event like this would be like.
The answer was ‘tough’. Especially as the weather played its hand with a stiff headwind for the first 200km, including a chunky 5000m of climbing thrown in for good measure. The situation didn’t change much after half way either, with crosswinds causing a distraction heading up the beautiful Glentrool to Maybol. However, at least the climbs were sheltered even if the descents were not!
Teaming up from the halfway point with Doug (who was also training for the TCR), we had time to discuss tactics and were surprised that our pace was not too far off the seasoned randonneurs with the lead guys leaving Abington services around midnight just as we arrived.
Prior to this, the long expected tailwind on the journey east from Maybole failed to materialize and we had to content ourselves with straightforward pedaling as we rolled through the evening and the hills and villages of Ayrshire and South Lanarkshire. Not being sure what to expect, I’d taken some sleep gear in case of a slow pace, but on reaching Abington services with around 60km to go, we knew we’d make it back without stopping.
Refueled with a Starbucks toasted wrap and hot chocolate, we were pleased to discover the wind had increased again and were treated to the first tailwind of the day as we headed into the dark, this time on familiar roads. This final part of the journey was a relative pleasure as we ploughed on through the dark taking only two hours and 20 minutes to cover the final 60km. It was a bit surreal to cruise along deserted roads in the wee small hours, either side of the white lines, dynamo lights leading the way.
Reaching the highpoint above Edinburgh around 3am, a faint glow could be seen above the distant city lights meaning that daybreak was not far away. Heading downhill from this point we arrived at Musselburgh 24 hour Tesco at 3:20am, having left the same spot at 6am the previous morning. We headed into Tesco to obtain proof of our finish and being tired all I could decide on to eat was a packet of crisps. We munched on our snacks and sat and chatted to the store manager as a couple of drunk girls tottered about the store in their party outfits.
In total the ride had taken 21:20 minutes to cover around 250 miles and it was a good test to see how training was going. Some of the climbs were tough towards the end, but I never felt that I was bonking and always had the energy to get over what felt like yet another hill.
The Stoater still working well and I’m falling more in love with it each time I’m on a long ride. The tubeless Schwalbe One tyres have been a revelation too, running fast on the smooth and soaking up the rough with confidence.
Unfortunately I’m still having problems on the Garmin front, but have discovered that it really doesn’t like recording after 300kms and this can cause it to crash and refuse to restart. Not very convenient in the dark and in the middle of nowhere. . . Seems like the solution to stop recording after this distance, then reset and start recording again. You can then ‘stitch’ the files together on computer in a text editor if you needed complete information. I guess another 300km plus ride is needed to see what happens!