In the days of old, back before carbon fibre, people used to ride bikes long distances. These rides were unsupported, exploring their own routes, riders fending for themselves, carrying their own gear and occasionally checking in at set points.
This long distance grueling and rewarding activity was called randonneuring and people took parts in events called Brevets or Randonee’s. The base distance for these events was 200km, yet many were much longer over several days. A famous event is the London – Edinburgh – London about 1200km.
The good folks at Rapha held a brilliantly good event and this past weekend was the first 2016 NW Rapha Brevet, an unsupported ride that was covered 360km of Oregon’s loveliness. The Rapha brevet started at Rapha head offices 8am Sat in Portland and headed to Pacific City a fine destination by the seaside then back to Portland with an overnight stop. Not being a bikepacker or bike camper the challenge of carrying stuff on your bike is pretty new for me, I love the feel of an unweighted bike so I had to do a lot of experimentation in the weeks up to the event to make sure I felt comfortable – more on this at the end, first the actual fun part.
First off, the orchestration and events at the start and destinations were really well organized and of the expected high caliber. The rollout from Portland was neutral and in a couple of waves, the atmosphere mellow. The route I had actually ridden a few times in the past, so I knew what to expect, amazing scenery and Oregon splendor. The roads to the seaside are small and not frequented by many cars, the main road is a twisty winding road with some sharp climbs that travels alongside a river called the Upper Nustecca.
The basic route was Portland out to Hillsboro, dropping into Carlton, Nustecca River Rd to Beaver to Hebo to Pacific City. Mainly road but handfuls of gravel thrown in to keep you on your toes.
Agenda: Easy Peasy –
1) Ride to the coast, enjoy
2) Eat amazing food at the beach house at the coast, enjoy
3) Sleep, recover
4) Gear up and ride back the next day, enjoy
5) Eat amazing food at Chris King when back in Portland
The only real stop was a midpoint place called Carlton Bakery in the small town of Carlton, generally in my experience not a cycle friendly town, but the folks at the bakery accommodated a massive crew of cyclist with amazing baked goods and sandwiches.
A few pics from the days.
When all was ridden and we were done, Chris Diminno prepared some amazing food and the good folks at Chris King hosted our return to Portland, with a nice speech by Rapha Communication Manager – Derrick Lewis
Folks, it’s early!
I have been used to riding long distances, when I say “long” I mean in the order of 80-130miles in a day. The trip to the coast was 110 miles each way. So distance wasn’t a problem for me, apart from the fact that it’s pretty early in the year and my cycling fitness isn’t as strong as it would be in July or August.
Pack your stuff, stick it on your bike
One of the challenges was that even though this was only an overnighter and we could stay in hotels, we had to carry stuff that would allow us to go to a Fancy outside dinner on the sat night, that means no slumming it in hotels rooms. And because the seaside is pretty cold it means bringing warm clothes to wear as well as footwear. This immediately adds mass to your luggage
The weight game, the few weeks prior to the ride I experimented carrying by using a ultra light technical rucksack and then going and riding 90miles. Being used to riding with a rucksack from commuting fairly long distances I thought this would be the way to go. I loaded it up with about 5lbs of gear and rode 90miles with a decent amount of elevation gains.I found a couple of things, your back gets sweaty really fast and after 90miles even a 5lbs payload you feel some discomfort in your lower back after the ride. The rucksack I used Cardiel ORP was well designed well and had a nice sternum strap, Maybe sporting a 3lb payload would be ok?
So I experimented with one of those large on the saddle bags you see that all the adventures and bike packers use. I grabbed myself a medium size Apidura pack (review soon to come) loaded it up and rode too and from work, introducing a few hills and longer distances. The Apidura pack is really well designed and the materials and construction are well thought out, being of a design mind I was pretty sensitive to that.
left to right in rows:
– Spare black gloves
– trousers (patagonia light weight)
– bag shown with blinkey light, route sheet and cash
– allergy tablets
– pocket knife and orange multi tool
– lezyne pump
– sandwich, tube, chequered toolroll
– pink stripe rapha insulated gillet
– green oakley frogskins
– red sugoi lightweight wind breaker
– Black patagonia fleece
The Real Packing
I knew there were a couple of things expected of us, one was to attend an outdoor dinner at the seaside on the Saturday night. This added a little complication in terms of what to bring. This time of year it’s a little chilly (55 degrees) at the seaside this time of year and dropping at night, so I needed a good insulation and also I needed a somewhat smart set of clothes, hence a polo shirt and trousers and something to wear on my feet. Normally being a bit of a scrub in a hotel room or tent would have meant a lighter load.
Here’s my carry:
Left to right in rows
– check tool roll, chamois cream, tube, patch kit
– green patagonia nano puff hoody 12oz
– baby blue collared polo shirt (for our dinner event), underneath Nau trousers
– Nike flyknits 18oz
– Pink stripe Rapha insulated Gilet
– Pink Rapha Pro Team Socks, underneath hand massager
– White Rapha rain jacket (it’s oregon folks)
– White arm sleeves and underneath underwear
– Spare spokes, Leatherman Skeletool Multitool
– Lezyne Road pump
– Rapha Pro Team Gloves
This came in at about 6.5lbs with bag.
On bike shot.
– peanut butter sandwiches, held in by the nice bungee cords on the bag.
– Some energy chews
– Leatherman Multitool with bike bits
In Pockets (no photo)
– Small Camera
Since I knew I had a lot of stuff to carry, at one point I became a little obsessed with weighing things, and really it’s not a bad thing to do, gives you an appreciation of the impact of your choices. I weighed different types of T-Shirts, pants, bib shorts, trainers and rain jackets! and there’s huge differences, especially if you are trying to keep a pack to a certain weight. As you can see from my above carry, my load was pretty heavy and I would not suggest more than 5lbs in a saddle bag, especially if your bike route has a lot of elevation.
The things missing from the picture, I call these – essential things that went in the bag too. A few of these things I realized I needed in the weeks up to the Brevet. Zip ties were a good example of something light, small and can solve a lot of problems. Rubber bands the same way.
– Large rubber bands
– Chopped toothbrush, space more than weight.
– Small zip ties
– Leatherman multitool , skeletool is pretty light and good
– Baggie of toiletries
– Baggie of allergy drugs (necessity)
– Spare spokes and nipples can be attached to bike frame as needed
– Chamois creme (see note in learnings below)
– Oatmeal packets
– Large zip ties (white)
– Plastic spoon fork thing
– Spare mudguard clip, if your clip is prone to breaking
– Massager (definitely worth it)
– Spoke tools
Comfort and what you are willing to put up with is personal and we are all different. This game is a balancing act of bare minimalism with the essentials and achieving a level of comfort that only you can determine. Also remember some things you cannot buy at destinations and must take with you. With any long rides there always needs to be some recovery, so some things you have to carry to allow this. For me the small things made a big difference, like Compression tights and a small hand held ball massager, really did not weigh much 1/2oz (14grams)
Don’t put chamois creme in a ziplock bag – it just spreads out into a thin layer and becomes unusable.
Compression gear is light weight and also works as extra layers.
Zip ties – inexpensive insurance and can be purposed in many ways
Not all lightweight puffy jackets are created equal.
Choose wisely and have a great adventure.