The good the bad and the ugly: Did I take the right kit on TCR?

A few months on from the TCR, I thought it may be useful to some if I reviewed the items which I carried with me to Greece. Plenty of folk are planning TCRNo7 right now and I certainly found insights from previous racers a goldmine of information in my planning.

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The Bike (Good!)
The bike is described in detail here:
The TCR Bike.
I had no mechanical problems apart from having to recenter the rear brake caliper after CP2 in Slovenia. I carried spare pads but didn’t need to use them.
In summary my bike was almost perfect. Having built the bike from scratch, I was confident I could fix any reasonable problems but need not have worried.
The gearing was fine, a bit of a struggle at CP3 Karkonosze admittedly but I still cleared it without putting a foot down.
The eTap continued to be faultless and I quite often smiled to myself as I used the bar end shifters in my aero tuck position!
The fit of the bike was also confirmed as perfect for me. the training and tweaking had paid off and I suffered no injuries or discomfort. (except toes – see later)

Luggage
Everything worked well. Especially useful was the second feed bag which I fastened to the saddle pack. It was easy access additional storage and certainly save time compared with opening the saddle pack.
My headlight impinged on the front feed bag on the bars. I need to mount the headlamp slightly further forward which would increase the available volume in the bag.

Tyres (Bad)
I did have tyre issues by way of a sidewall tear on the rear 28c GP4000s. Whilst this was probably bad luck, it did suggest an alternative tyre choice could be wise. I carried a tyre boot which enable me to continue for 1,000km to CP3 before a puncture when I swapped to the spare tyre I had bought in Italy.
What would I use next time? Possibly 28c GP 4 Seasons, though they don’t measure up as generously on my rims as do the 4000s. Possibly the GrandPrix GT which is now available in 28c. I would probably consider taking a spare tyre next time as I have decided this is the most common reason for riders to have serious delays.
I bought new inner tubes as I went along to make sure I always had x3 spares as well as patches. I would advise taking brand new patch kits as I find the adhesive becomes less effective with age once opened.

Navigation
The Wahoo Bolt was almost perfect. It froze once in Montenegro. After a soft reset it powered on, recovered the ride and carried on as if it had never happened.
Dynamo – self sufficiency, stress free.
The Etrex 30 (Ugly!) which I took never got used. I now consider this to be dead weight and surplus to requirements. Whilst it remains a solid back-up for many reasons, I have decided the phone represents a good enough contingency and I have sold the Etrex.

Dynamo Charging
Mostly faultless. After CP4 it failed to work, but after fiddling with the connector it sprung back to life. The freedom of being able to charge everything on the go made life easy and less stressful. My iPhone lightning cable gave up the ghost and I needed to buy replacements in Austria and then Bosnia. I’ve since identified the phone socket was the main problem. I presume sweat/corrosion on the cable connector degraded the charging capability of the new cables.

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Equipment
My kit list is here: Equipment
I didn’t use the leg warmers, gilet or neoprene gloves. But I know other riders who did. Lesson? Weather dependent and good insurance. It depends completely on the conditions and I would no doubt take these items again. The waterproof shorts got used once and proved very sweaty off the bike. I’d probably ditch these next time.

Bivi bag. I never slept in it once. It was too warm and even with a heavy dew in a field in Czech I was fine in just my sleeping bag. The dew condensed on my bike but not on my warm sleeping bag. Again it is very weather dependent but given the same conditions I would take an emergency bivvi instead and save 500g in weight. The pillow remains my luxury item and most definitely aided quality sleep.

Medical kit – I used paracetomol twice, sudocreme and Happy Bottom Bum Butter daily.
Suncream was applied once a day. I used the nail scissors to snip the elastic on my cap!
Other items did not get used but I had a very minimal selection I would probably take it all again.

Shoes
This is a puzzle. My shoes were really comfortable throughout and since the race. But I realised after the finish that my toes were very numb. The shoes were not too tight, I wore them quite loose and I even got a few hours hiking without them on!
But 6 months afterwards, they are only 90% better, they still go a little numb if they don’t move for a while. I have found myself kicking off my shoes while driving and in the office! I’ve moved my cleats back very slightly but don’t yet know if that has had any effect.

UPDATE 9 Months later: I’ve discovered my feet naturally want to point toes out whilst pedalling. I noticed this using eggbeater pedals which had a much greater float. I’ve now angled my spd-sl cleats to accommodate this foot position. Initial feeling is that this is helping, using the same shoes. A 900 km event in May will help validate the improvement but I probably won’t know for definite without doing another TCR!

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UPDATE 11 months later: the AllPointsNorth event was completed and my toes weren’t better. I’m now taking advice which is suggesting my metatarsal bridge is collapsed and needs extra support. Since I already use orthotics, I am trying some metatarsal pads stuck onto my existing insoles, hoping this will help!

UPDATE 18 months later: The metatarsal pads have definitely helped but I’ve also diagnosed I have a degree of hammer toe, especially in my left foot and second toe which I may have broken at some time in the past. I’ve been doing some exercises to try and increase flexibility but I’m also using a gel toe support when cycling which has helped reduce the pressure on my toes when pedalling.

Lessons learned
Hydration – take electrolyte tablets, at least for first few days. I got heat exhaustion and this may have helped.

Reduce day 1 effort – Even though it didn’t feel too hard at the time, 475 km must have taken a toll and contributed to my heat exhaustion. Reducing day 1 mileage by taking a siesta and increasing day 2 or 3 would have been just as effective and probably less fatiguing. Of course its easy with hindsight and ultimately I think the body simply needs time to acclimatise to the heat. Turbo sessions follows by a Sauna might be useful in future training?

Cap – I had not used the cap initially as it was too tight and uncomfortable. But after I snipped the elastic, it became a fantastic way to protect my head from the sun and provide cooling by keeping it wet. I should have employed this on day 1.

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And finally, keep enough Euros in your wallet. I found southern Europe did not want to accept payment by card for hotels or via Booking.com, and also were reluctant to take local currency. So a few extra Euros will be extremely useful!

One comment

  1. This is great – thank you for writing this up. I always love to hear the reviews on what worked and what didn’t for the TCR and this one is no exception! All the best, Nick.

    Like

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