09 January 2014

Gear and Food

While away on holiday I received a couple of emails about the course - specifically, where there are shops and whether or not a cooker is necessary.

The course is almost finalised - the last changes won't have much of a bearing on what gear you take or your strategy for re-fuelling. The crux move as far as food goes, is whatever you decide to do north of Hanmer. For those doing the long course, it's a very long way between Reefton and Arthurs Pass - and depending on your timing, the shops at Ikamatua or Arthurs Pass might be closed. 

Of course, the time you plan to get to a shop and the time you actually get there are two quite different things. A mechanical, strong headwind, navigational blunder, or hitting the wall...all of these might set you back an hour or two. Combine a couple of these and you could be a half day behind schedule before you know it.

It pays to think flexibly on a dirt brevet. Having a cooker (and other camping gear) certainly allows for planning on the fly. When I'm cycle touring, that's the way I like to go - bit like a nomad. In the Kiwi Brevet, however, I prefer to travel light and fast. That means foregoing the cooker, but still carrying extra rations incase things go pear-shaped.

So, first up I'll pack the food and drink I think necessary to make it to the next shop that will be open. That'll usuallly be a large water bottle per hour plus a banana size snack per hour (which might be a large cookie, nuts, peanut M&Ms, or other fruit). If there's an overnight stop, I'll add a One Square Meal, fruit bun, chocolate milk, etc.

Emergency rations are on top of that. They're usually something pretty robust, as they may remain unused for several days. For me this stuff will be something like a PowerBar, sachet of sports drink, carbo lollies, and/or nutbar.

When you do get to a shop or cafe - go for it! Fats, carbs, protein are all good. If it's tasty and easy to eat, shovel it down! Personal favourites for me are chocolate milk, yoghurt, icecream, scrambled eggs, Coke, spaghetti on toast, raisin buns. That said, don't force it. If you have a big climb straight after your meal, try a lighter meal and take something to go as a summit snack.

We'll send out cue sheets next week. These note where there are shops or other services of significance (that we know of).

You might also be getting down to the business end of sorting out your gear. There are loads of good gear reviews out there from other riders at the Kiwi Brevet or similar events. Here's a wee write-up I did for NZMTBer a couple of years ago...

Long and Light – the way of the Dirt Brevet

There's a new style of mountain biking slowly spreading across the globe – call it a dirt brevet, bikepacking, or fat tyre randoneering if you like. It doesn't matter. It's about travelling light and covering big distances. Eighty kilometres a day is good for a starter; 250 kilometres isn't out of the question. When that includes gravel roads and dirt tracks, you can expect to be riding from dawn to dusk.

Sometimes it's an event, like the Tour Divide; usually it's just a bunch of mates out to see as much of the country as they can in a long weekend. Of course, the best way to see the country is from the saddle of a bike. The best way to see a lot of country is to travel light and quick.

New Zealand is well blessed with rough-stuff touring terrain. Where else could you see rainforest, glaciers, alps and grasslands all in the same day? Over 35 000 kilometres of quiet sealed roads, a similar number of unsealed road kilometres, 200+ mountain bike rides, and countless 4WD tracks provide almost endless opportunities. But our young terrain demands good gear choice, as well as good legs. After 25 years of touring, I'm still learning, but here's the set-up I enjoyed at the 500km Te Tawhio o Whanganui:

29er – the big wheels roll a little easier over rocky roads
Stans Crow tyres – minimal tread means low rolling resistance and light weight. At 40 PSI they will absorb most normal road shock.
Front Suspension – comfort, even on 4WD tracks, is a big part enjoying a long day off pavement
Aero bars (with extra padding) – a handy place to hang a bag, rest a map, and a position that gives hammered palms a chance to recover. Useful in a headwind, too.
Front bag – 5 ltr dry bag, for clothes
Seat bag – About 5 ltr, for tools, first aid, food, rear light, etc
Spare tube taped above BB – tucked out of the way

Gear carried:
Sleeveless riding top
Woollen riding top
Long-sleeve top
Lycra shorts x2 (with talc powder)
Pair of baggies
Wool socks x2 pair
Long fingered gloves

Sun block
Lip save
First aid kit
Spoon & can opener
Ear plugs

Spare tube taped to frame

Cell phone
Cash and Cards
Contact details & guidebook notes
Reflective ankle bands

2 large water bottles (1x H2O, 1x Sports drink)

2-4 Bananas
Peanut M&Ms
Raisin biscuits or OSM
Salty Cashews
Fresh fruit
Emergency Powerbar & drink powder

Total bike and gear weight = 15kg
The weight is important when touring hilly parts of New Zealand. The Kiwi Brevet has over 10,000 metres of climbing. On adventurous routes, some bike pushing is often part of the deal - you must be able to carry your loaded bike. If you carry enough gear to be prepared for every possible problem you might encounter, you'll have created a problem that you can be sure you'll encounter (right from the very first pedal stroke).

Extra gear for the Kiwi Brevet:
Small backpack to increase food carrying capacity, and water purification tablets. Depending on your timing, this could come in handy for the stretch between Reefton and Arthurs Pass, and also north of Hanmer.

Small sleeping bag, bivy bag and closed cell foam mat (on a Freeload rack). Not essential due to the accommodation options available, however, being able to camp opens up your riding range and elements a fair bit of stress associated with making it to your lodging by the end of the day. Lightweight summer camping gear needn't increase the load by more than 2 kg, and it opens up a huge array of itinerary options.

If you're not carring a sleeping bag, then a light & cheap emergency blanket might save your life (or the life of a fellow rider).

Gear I wish I'd had:
A couple more maps (1:50,000 topomaps)
Sweet Cheeks chammy cream
Pack towel