Israel – The Holyland MTB Challenge April 2014 – Gear Review

Gear Review

The thermarest mattress takes too long to inflate and is narrow. Its not required and I would certainly consider changing to something that’s perhaps wider, full length but uses less puffs to inflate. I.e. a Klymit air mattress. The sleeping bag was too much. I think I will purchase a synthetic thinner bag but if it is a bigger pack size and heavier then it’ll defeat the purpose. The klymit pillow takes little space and was used so I’ll keep it.

My tarp tent couldn’t always be erected and at times was too much faff. I even couldn’t be bothered to erect it but believing there would be moisture high up in the Biria Forest I snuck into it like a bivvi without pegging it down or using the poles. Pretty uncomfortable. One night I was so tired I half erected it and slept in it curled up. Good if you want to ensure you wake up early as it was another uncomfortable night. I shall probably sell this and get a bivvi simply as there’s not always the ground for pegs and it needs pegs.

What bivvi to get that’s the question? Perhaps the ran bivvi which has a pole and requires only one peg I think. Must be breathable, waterproof and have a mozzie net.

The mug was useful as was the ti spoon , the gas canister stand wasn’t required as I never cooked. Porridge is my favourite breakfast. If in places where its hard to get I’d measure what I’d need for the ride and soak in water overnight . It’d be ready to consume in the morning and fuels me for at least two hours for when there be somewhere to have a proper brekkie. It uses no gas and really gas isn’t needed. Take dry pack food and soak it. Warm food isn’t necessary. Its just nice to have. Different story if there’s snow. Something to heat up the water would be necessary. I also took my home made coffee filter. Wasn’t used and meant I had to carry coffee so not needed on this trip.

The other items were all used. Two pairs of merino boxers. One to wear at night although I did sleep in my cycling gear some nights. Arm warmers, knee warmers and lightweight gilet used only once. So lightweight it was still worth taking. Essential regardless of the weather. Hincapie lycra cycling shorts expanded at the ends. Due to the heat or long period without washing not certain but that was a design flaw and the pad didn’t protect my bum from getting a large blister sore. I bought some skin cream to alleviate the problem but it was too late. The Mavic shorts are fantastic for hot weather though I mostly cycled without them they’re so lightweight and still make a good casual short although the pockets are a bit inconvenient.

My fjallraven trousers and merino base layer make great lightweight casual clothing. Two pairs of merino Woolie boolie socks. Far too hot for this weather. Thinner socks required but no less than two pairs. I lost one sock. The gore tex shimano shoes although versatile on and off bike were too hot. Need more breathable shoes and if these get wet they trap water in anyway so gore TeX isn’t necessary. My feet had swollen up by the end of the ride so when I got to Eilat I bought some flat pedals for less than £3 and fairly hard soled sandals and rode about town with the air between my toes. By the end of the holiday my feet were back to their normal size.

My down gilet was as ever perfect in both weight and convenience. Ideal for the evenings in both race mode and casual mode. May consider getting a long sleeve lightweight jacket but not needed just nicer for coolers conditions.

Need a new camera or a better camera phone. Broke my camera after a hard crash. It took great pics but required a separate charger. It’d be nice to have a camera that can charge via USB. If not available one that takes AA or AAA batteries. The charger was used only once, useful but would like to be able to do without it.

The anker USB adaptor was extremely useful as was my socket adaptor. Israel uses the European sockets and Jordan uses both European and British so it was perfect combination and quick and easy to set up when in a restaurant. Remember to carry as many USB cables as devices so that all can be charged at once if necessary.

My phone did not make for a good navigation device. Mainly as I couldn’t maintain enough speed to supply enough charge. Would have loved to navigate, log strava track and push my location. My aloksak bag didnt react too well to the heat and dust. My screen wasn’t visible and then my phone failed to charge off the dynamo altogether. Probably a loose connection somewhere.

Took two base layers for riding in. Only one was necessary. I threw one away as it’d been overused and wasn’t pleasant. Cycle top was fine. Colour matched my bike much to the locals amusement. Although it is stained from something not sure what. I took two pairs of Woolie boolie gloves for some reason. Only wanted one and used that only once so weight/ space wastage there. Head band necessary to stop sweat getting in the eyes. Didn’t have one but may have deterred the annoying flies to were harassing me in the desert as they were hovering in my vision and one even caused me to crash as I tried to swipe it away.

My ear warmer band wasn’t used but so lightweight and compact it wasn’t an issue.

Rain jacket not taken and never needed. My assumption was I’d keep warm enough even when wet with the gear I had whilst cycling or not. It didn’t rain.

Helmet was fine throughout. My fingerless gloves needed replacing before the ride so I bought the same type in a shop on the way to try and protect my hands from the pounding they were taking on rigid fork. I lost one shortly afterwards. I think whatever gloves are used for this event carbon reinforced long fingered gloves are a must. The thorney bushes always seemed to be handlebar height and the number of painful splinters I was getting was getting unbearable. Especially with wide handlebars.

My watch was great at getting me up with its vibrating alarm. I wouldn’t change this.

The alpkit frame bag was amazing. The fit was perfect. Remember to ensure you provide a close fitting template. Id have liked this returned with the bag though. It held everything in place and the water bottle attachments were simply brilliant. The ladder system added extra flexibility and the two attachment systems compliment each other really well. The bag was rock steady and great for heavier items to keep the centre of gravity low. The zips are durable and held up even when the bag was stuffed full. The lexan sheet perhaps wasn’t necessary and the pockets needed Velcro to close the entry hole for the lexan sheet as when putting the tent in it would catch on the pockets. This would be an easy mod. The pocket for the charger was great. I need to consider charging the power pack from the dynamo and the GPS device connected to the power pack for an uninterrupted charging system. I began to use my phone only for emergencies as the battery was getting caned. As soon as I got a separate GPS device I felt more independent and could make much better progress. My dynamo was actually keeping the GPS unit charged aswell as illuminating the light. Though annoying messages popped up at the hike a bike sections where there wasnt enough charge being supplied so plugging this into the power pack would have been better. The GPS unit was also too bright at night. Not dimming to less than 12% was a flaw. It needs to go dimmer to prevent glare and over power the at times dim dynamo light.

The dynamo light was great bit it needs an on off switch. Essential really. I may add one myself. An internal regulator would be nice bit not essential. Better to keep these items separate. Interested in the stem mounted sinewave one but its pricey and not water tight like my version. I’ll need to improve my version. Separating the clamping system and adding a water tight regulator.

My little pico led was great. Lightweight, durable, used little power and although not as bright as more juicy lights provided enough power for camp and hike a bike, although some sections would have benefitted from a much brighter light.

The jerry can was great for my tools and spares. Just only just the right size. Next time take two no flat inner tubes instead of standard inner tubes and a worm kit with different sizes of worms for the tyres.

Was advised tyre boots might be useless with the sealant as the patches might not stick properly.

Tools were fine and rarely needed. Don’t anticipate any changes here.

Dry lube would have been better than the wet lube I bought out there. But regular brushing to clean the chain necessary so the brush was useful.

Always carry zip ties with a range of sizes. Very useful.

The wing nut bag was fan mastic. I thought the straps would be complicated and annoying to put on but I should have cut these down and resewn them. I still can. Its great for carrying a spot tracker in the net side pockets. These pockets can also hold full 1.5l water bottles securely. The weight is on your waist so is no problem. The bag easily has enough capacity and I wouldn’t want one any larger. Trail Food would be more accessible in a fuel pod but it can hold sandwiches and other bulkier munch. Also good for important documents like passport and money which are accessible in waterproof side pockets. Great bag.

The revelate terrapin system was OK but the waterproof bag developed holes from wear so is no longer water tight. It swings with the bike and isn’t noticeable even on tight twisty bumpy singletrack but I will have to find a way of water sealing those holes now. Perhaps using tyre patches. The bags aren’t cheap either so a little annoyed about this.

The harness was ruined by my own mod. The webbing supplied wasn’t long enough. I bought longer but less durable webbing which eventually snapped. So I had to zip tie the harness. The zip ties eventually cut through the webbing which was sewn on to the harness. This will need to be repaired somehow. I do prefer the versatility of the harness though as you can have different sized dry bags and its secure as well as being ready to attach. However carrying water was a big problem. I was hoping it would hold my 3l platypus. It did for a while but when the dust stuck to the bag it became less tacky and would slip out. This was a bog problem in the desert meaning Id have to offload some water. A full framebag but a smaller sleep system may have been the answer here. All the sleep stuff on the harness and the heavier bulky water in the frame bag. Possible capacity of 6l but I’ll need to check it fits first. Another thought was to have a fuel tank the whole length of the top tube to hold 2x 3l platypus bags side by side with additional packet for tools. May be awkward for lift and carry though.

So now the two biggest issues for me….the saddle and the rigid forks. Ouch and ouch. The saddle was crap. So were the shorts but why I got that saddle is beyond comprehension other than the colour. What a fool. I’ve bought saddles in the past but have never made a mistake like that. That’s will go on the bay as soon as I get home and I’ll buy a better shaped, more forgiving saddle. Stuff the colour. The forks although great and stood up to the abuse of some extreme descents more suitable for downhill rigs, at the cost of my hand nerves, were the wrong choice for this event. I will buy some lightweight carbon forks. I’ve been eyeing up some cannondale lefties but can’t use these with a dynamo so DT swiss could be on the cards. We’ll see. I think a lightweight carbon full suss like a specialized epic would have been more suitable since there were a lot of descents which slowed me down too much. Not aided by the rigid fork but seeing some on on his trance fly downhill and cruise uphill with space for a frame bag got me thinking. I was just losing too much time on the descents and this coupled with the fact I was hanging off the brakes all the time gave me extremely titled and sore hands, ruined not brake pads and was just downright demoralising. I love my descents but everyone was leaving me for dust. At least I made a late decision to change to 2.35 tyres from 2.25 and therefore lower the pressures. Still not enough but dread to think what it would have been like otherwise. On the subject of tyres the racing Ralphs were fantastic. They wore quickly as the rubber is very soft but again I was hanging off the brake on sections where I should have been flowing which meant I was just skidding down descents which ate the rear tyre. The front tyre also wore but not once did I insert a tube, a worm or carried out any other repair to the front. The sealant clearly worked as the trails in Israel have some nasty thorny bushes and there were visible signs. In fact the only punctures I got were on the last day of the ride. One tyre slash where my worms were too narrow to repair so I installed a tube. This then got a snakebite. I installed my second and last tube and pumped the tyre up to a high pressure. This lasted the course thankfully. So next time worms of varying sizes, and 2x no flat tubes. I inserted 3oz of sealant into each tyre which is a lot but for a trip this length I would have put 3.5 oz even to be safe. The sealant was well used. I would still run 2.35 tyres though. I could see no reason not to even with front suspension.

The frame was amazing standing up to abuse way beyond what I had anticipated it would. I’d helitaped all points of contact with framebag straps. I’ll see what condition the paint works in when I get home and was the bike. The wheels builds had held out superbly. So pleased with the bike. The 1 x 11 setup is perfect. 38 tooth at front gives me all the gearing I need with the massive 42 down to the tiny 10 tooth sprockets at the back. I’ll check for chain stretch but the sprockets show no real signs of wear other than paint removal. The system was sharp and precise throughout but I was worried about the wide profile of the rear derailleur. Now I had heard someone mention that to not bring a spare hanger was begging for trouble and very foolish. I swallowed deeply especially after Ilan clipping and breaking not only the hanger but his derailleur. Shortly after some one else had done the same. The Chinese frame has no weak point on the hanger. If something was to clip it it could break the frame and derailleur. So here I was with a hard to get derailleur and a hanger which is unlikely I could replace. I would not recommend this bike for rides like this until the Chinese make the hanger a weak point and the SRAM derailleurs become more ubiquitous. It was a huge risk but then there were many other facets of this trip that were risky.

I might also experiment with changing the handlebar grips to ritchey foam with cane creek bar ends. They may not be an improvement over the ergon grips and I know the problem really lies in the rigid forks.

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