My thoughts on 2015 kit and changes I’d make for 2016



Mavic Ksyrium - I had no problems with these however after the event I had noticed there was a bent spoke and a large ding in the back rim and they’re fairly out of true. The spokes on this bike also pose a problem – they’re bladed and not particularly common, making it hard to true, especially in Albania far from a shop stocking Mavic Ksyrium spokes. Perhaps not the most ideal wheel for a race like this.  The safer wheels to go for would H Plus Son Archetype or perhaps Mavic Open Pro.

When I was getting the handlebars Tim Williams expressed concern at their material - carbon.  They also didn't fit my body that and have to slightly bodge them.  I also wasn't able to attach my tri bars in a particularly good position and they actually scratched the handlebars a lot.  I'm not sure whether it had any structural impact but I was always eternally worried that the bars would snap at that point.  So for 2016 I’ll definitely be getting rid of the carbon and getting a decent set of bars that fit me.  Last year I also just borrowed a random pair of tri-bars from a friend so I will definitely consider these more.

One of the cables snapped - next time fresher cables.  I would have liked a 32 teeth sprocket on the back however if actually did some more training then a 28 would probably suffice for next year too.  So no particular change here except obviously new chain, cassette, gear cables and good clean before I leave.

Selle SMP hybrid.  Absolutely fantastic, so problems what so ever.  Only improvement would be to get a Selle SMP Composite or something to save weight.

No problems with these - only potential improvement would be throwing more money at it i.e. hello Speedplay.

Continental 4season 23c Only two punctures on these over 4000km and only one of them was during the race.  Only I wish I had gone for at least 25c for the Asseta and comfort overall.  Although I didn't find it a problem at all but maybe 25c will be even better.

Now like tubulars a lot of people were raging about disks - I had no problem with caliper brakes at all and didn't have to fuss around with wheels.  Although given some significant money I'd definitely consider it but for next year at the moment just some fresh pads and cables.

Kask Mojito was absolutely great - at no point did I feel I was overheating and in fact I wore my cap the entire time.  An aero road helmet would be able to significantly improvement however I’d get one if this helmet broke.

No problems - just a bit shit.  

Kalas race suit:
No problem here too, will use again.  The Castelli one can't justify the price.

Arm warmers:
Asos.  Would want some slightly warmer ones.

Leg warmers:
Castelli Nanoflex - no problems here.

Castelli.  I didn't really use mine but might be necessary if I started getting hand problems.

Castelli. No problems, just smelt pretty bad by the end.

Waterproof gloves:
Castelli. No problems, just a tad small plus I lost one of them.

Rain coat:
Castelli.  Great that it is reflective but only relatively waterproof like most cycling rain coats – probably could upgrade it but not necessary.

Absolutely fantastic, I got the top of the range one.  Even in Europe in summer it got close to 5 degrees at night.

Luggage system:

I went for the small Apidura saddle bag combined with the top tube bag.  

I absolutely adored the top tube bag - perfect for keeping things in close at hand which is what I least liked about the saddle bag.  Next time I'd go far a cross tube bag and another top tube bag - making sure I can access everything whilst cycling.  In the back I'd keep only my sleeping as I'd only need that when sleeping - duh!  I also broke my saddle bag by not tying it properly onto my bike one day so it hit my bike wheel and got a hole in it.  Otherwise used correctly it's a fantastic bit of a kit.

I also stuffed my jersey full to the brim with food, next time I'd want to avoid this so I need some extra space for food.  Perhaps a feed bag and a small bar bag that I can stuff with food.  I thought if I could tie some sort of semi elastic net to my handlebars that might work.

Water systems: 
I carried 2 800ml bottles and I had no problem.  I'd often whack a couple of extra in my jersey which would cause some back pain.  So definitely next year 1 litre bottles and find some spare space for a third or a platypus in a bag perhaps.

I had two of these and they were pretty heavy although reliable and kept me going for probably 72 hours with no charge.  The thing I'd want to do is save weight on cables and get shorter/less fiddly ones.  Also definitely Dynamo next year with only 1 reserve charger and 1 emergency very small 1 EE power bar type charger.

Back lights:  
The back light had no problem with - didn't change the batteries once.  I would have liked a reserve and a bigger back light saying 'hey, look!  There's a cyclist here'.  But I had zero close calls at night so I can't complain.  

Front light:
The front light was a big issue.  My ideal setup would be a cheap battery powered light to be seen that I can wack on at twilight and then a super powerful eye-of-Sauron type one for when it’s pitch black.  My head torch was great in Western Europe but once the roads turned to shit it was a no go.  It also kept falling off my head. It was useful for setting up camp and off bike stuff but my phone would have sufficed. 

iPhone No problems here.  It would have been great to have 3G but that's just a money issue.  Also would definitely want a fully water proof yet usable case - is that possible?  Also the potential to mount it on my bike would be nice.  iPhone 6 is a big bulky though. Worked well as reserve navigation too and it was actually my primary navigation for a while as Garmin maps are absolutely awful in Turkey, Albania and Macedonia.  However the need for that could have been negated had I actually done some decent route planning.

Carried way too many last year.

Like the phone would've liked it to be waterproof however no problems here except for one day when it didn't record my data except for my distance.

Reserve GPS:
Garmin 500 (reserve).  I brought this as a reserve but didn't bring a cable to charge neither had I uploaded the files to it. 

Power chargers and cables
I had 3X USB cables and 2X iPhone charger which could fit into my 4 socket USB charger and could charge all my 4 electronic devices at once if needed.  Only change I would make is trying to reduce the space and getting the minimum length cable to do the job.

Sleeping system:

Needs some significant reconsideration.  I had huge issues with temperature.  A bivvy is the only essential piece of kit I'm going to boldly say and I didn't have one.  I froze to death every night.  I'd have to search for decent covered places and that would fuck up with my sleeping pattern and wasn't entirely efficient.  It also meant more hotels albeit nice and a definite necessity from time to time but it was costly in both money and time.  The sleeping mat was great.   This is something that needs to be TESTED.  

At the moment I’m considering as a very minimum a super lightweight Rab one which has a pack down size similar to that of tennis ball.

Repair kit:

The only repair I personally did was one tube. I need more spares and a greater knowledge.  I saw about 3 bike shops in my entire journey - if I'd fucked upped badly I'd have been screwed.  Also my pump was pretty shit.  I should have also try and locate some bike shops a long the route.

So next year:
2X quality tubes
Very good service just before
Greater maintenance knowledge
Tried and tested pump
2X tyre levers
Puncture repair kit
Multi-tool + spoke key
Spare spokes
Spare gear and brake cables
Spare link + quick links
Bike oil

Hygiene Stuff:
I'd want some decent strength caffeine pills and painkillers.  Luckily Europe loves pharmacies so getting stuff wasn't too hard but I was lucky and nothing ever struck in the middle of the night.

Could go smaller/chop of a bit

Chamois cream:
I used Asos stuff which I was happy with however it was in a rather bulky container.

It would have also been good to have some mosquito spray and sun cream

Money: need a small strong sealable bag for the coins.
Lock:  ditch, hardly used it in the end