From hot laps on the pavement to slow grinds in the mountains, here are a fifteen lessons that I took home from both the Carson City Off Road race and my bike packing extravaganza around Lake Tahoe.
1. Criteriums are fun, but you should definitely know how to corner. (Not saying I do, just saying it would be helpful...)
2. When competing in an elite back country race, gaining a good position on the first major climb is key.
3. It's probably a good idea to pre-ride the majority of any race course.
4. Volunteers at races are awesome, and they make me smile every time.
5. It's okay to be hard on yourself when you make mistakes in a race, just don't stay up all night tossing and turning about it.
6. Taking off on a bike packing trip immediately after a 50 mile race is doable.
7. Bike packing is awesome.
9. Riding a loaded heavy bike will make you feel a little out of your comfort zone on technical terrain.
10. The Flume Trail outside of Lake Tahoe is an amazing ride in either direction. (Holy Moly ....that water is BLUE).
11. It's extremely important to protect and pay attention to the sensitive area that is in contact with a bike seat day after day after day. (Witch hazel and chamois cream are a must....)
12. Bear bags are essential in the Sierra Nevadas.
13. Stoves are not an essential item on a bike pack trip, although you might begin to long for a cup of warm coffee.
14. Having a good sense and understanding of navigation is essential when you encounter a capricious forest service road closure....
15. Sometimes a campsite under the trees is more restful than a dumpy hotel room in the city.
Here's a list of all the gear I used for both the Epic Rides race, and the bike packing trip.
1. Bike: Scott Spark RC 900 World Cup. I decided to go with the full suspension Scott because I love this bike. It handles exceptionally well both the descents and climbs. With the remote lockout feature, it makes a capable companion for road transfers both in a fast paced race, or a slow paced bike packing adventure.
2. Wheels: Stan's No Tubes Crest MK3. I like the durability of this wheel set. They are light enough for racing, but still a good choice to use on a bike that is loaded down with bike packing gear.
3. Tires: Maxxis Aspen. This is a great XC race tire. I have used it for several months now and find that it preforms well in packed dirt, deep sand, pavement, and more. I was pleasantly surprised to see how these too held up to the heavier set up I had during the bike pack trip. I think it's safe to say that Stan's and Maxxis both make quality products. The fact that I could take the exact same set up used at an elite cross county race to multi-day bike packing trip, and not have ONE issue, is a statement in itself.
4. Helmet: Lazer Z1. I love this helmet, and use it during all my races and training rides. (I have two...) It's breathable, comfortable and I trust it.
5. Clothes: For both the race and the bike packing, I chose my Pearl Izumi spandex. I love the color of this kit, and I love the comfortable feel that Pearl Izumi offers. During the bike packing trip, I would alternate one day in the chamois, the next day in the baggies with good underwear. While wearing the baggies, I sported my Handle Bar Mustache Amy D Foundation t-shirt. I found this system to work well for that delicate area that spends too much time on a bike seat. I also packed a few lightweight clothes for sleeping in, as well as a rain jacket, extra pair of socks, and a flannel shirt for the cool nights.
6. Shoes: Pearl Izumi X-ALP Elevate. These shoes were perfect for the trip. The sole is stiff enough to provide great power transfer, but I could still hike in them, or in this case...push my heavy bike up steep hills in them.
7. Bags on the bike:
a. Frame bag: Oveja Negra Super Wedgie frame bag. Since I have decided to use my full suspension bike, I needed a frame bag that would fit without compromising the suspension. This bag fits perfectly. I like to fill it with some of the most heavy items like food. I also put my rain jacket in the bag as it would be easily accessible in case of a downpour.
b. Handle bar bag: Broadfork Bags. I used an Osprey water proof stuff sack in this harness, with the smaller Broadfork accessory bag attached to the harness on top. I put all my sleep gear and tarp system in the stuff sack, with bathroom and personal items in the accessory bag.
c. Top tube bag: Revelate Designs Mag Tank. I used this bag for snacks that I would eat on the go.
d. Stem Bag: Revelate Design. I also used this bag for extra snack food or other food items I could not fit in the frame bag.
f. Seat Bag: Bedrock Bags. This is a great dry bag that fits under the saddle and around the seat post. I used this bag for extra clothes.
8. Sleep System:
a. Borah Gear Ultra light Bivvy. This bivvy is super light weight and has a nice, large bug netting that I found essential in the Sierra Nevadas. Borah Gear is a small company in Montana that makes custom light weight gear at surprisingly affordable prices. I highly recommend checking them out.
b. Sleeping Bag: Western Mountaineering Highlight. This sleeping bag is amazing, period.
c. Tarp: Borah Gear tarp. I never needed the tarp on this trip, but I set it up every night regardless to gain more experience with such items. I used MSR stakes and cords with the tarp.
9. Osprey Hydration Pack. I used this for all my water with a Sawyer filter that I placed inline with the hose. I did carry water tablets in case the filter broke, but thankfully this was never an issue.