equipment and tech

Boats

Jill and Rob on Rydal Water

Jill and Rob on Rydal Water

The definition of an Adventure Race varies depending upon who you talk to and what they’re doing at the time. However, most but not all Adventure Races involve paddling, the so-called Expedition Races pretty much always do and in these it is usual that the race organizer provides the boats for the teams.

The ITERA is no exception to this “rule”, and we are to be given a sit-on-top kayak, namely the feelfree Gemini for the 3 long paddle stages (110km in total).

Sit-on-tops are the most common choice for organisers, they’re less demanding and pretty much unsinkable but other options such as sea kayaks and open Canadian canoes can and often are used. Closed kayaks i.e. sea kayaks are less frequently specified as they fundamentally require a high level of skill and certification. The ITERA requires padders to be BCU 2* certified. You can study the BCU grading for England on the Canoe England web site.

Vitus Rapide 275

Bikes

Hardtail or full sus? 600, 275 or 29er? The complexities of modern mountain biking gets ever more, well complex. The choices of wheel and tyre sizes or suspension format are just two of many variations that your budget may allow. Given the fact that you can only guess at the terrain you’ll be asked to cover in an Adventure Race, it’s all down to personal choice and confidence. Oh and budget of course.

After struggling for the past few years of racing the Open5’s with a reasonably spec’d MTB, but one that was way too heavy and rigid, I decided to invest in something a bit better for the ITERA. So what choices did I consider and what did I end up with?

Decision Factors

Weight is obviously the key determinant of the suitability of any bike. Roadies and I would count myself as one, sometimes, seek to shave every single ounce of weight from their machine. Carbon throughout is pretty much the norm for most club riders. We’ll ignore for the moment the temptation of Titanium (Ti) and the Hipster’s passion for retro steel. Countless hours of engineering design time is put into the art of frame building and the goal of ultimate stiffness.

Wheels, they’re the round things that keep the bike off the ground. They’re also the latest trendy thing to argue about when discussing bikes with your cycling friends. Instead of there being one size for roadies and one, smaller and fatter, size for mountain bikes, there’s now at least 3 sizes to consider and all of those in many widths and configurations.

Wheel Sizes

  • 600
  • 27.5″
  • 650
  • 29″
  • 700c

The trend in MTB in general is for bigger wheels and lighter carbon frames, allowing full suspension bikes to be built for going up hill as well as down. The sol called Enduro bikes is where the most innovation is at the moment. But what for AR? The thought of full suspension on a long bike stage, and by long we mean 80km+, may sound attractive. However, with the complexities of suspension comes two things, weight and reliability or rather lack of it.

Weight is all relative but over a 5 day adventure race like the ITERA with over 250km of bike stages, or 400km for the long course any weight is going to take it’s toll on the rider. Similarly such distances will take it out on the bike. The more moving parts the more there is to fail or break. The old adage of KISS works here too.

Wayne Elliott

We’ll ignore the Hipster again because he uses a “Fat Bike” for rough terrain, which is anything outside the city boundary as far as he’s concerned. There’s one exception to that stereotype, Wayne Elliot recently did the C2C In A Day on a Fat Bike! Respect that man, it was difficult enough on a road m/c.

Breakfast

Food

Breakfast

Breakfast

If there’s one thing that Adventure Racers, or indeed any endurance runners, talk about more than anything it’s food and drink, or “hydration” as the marketeers would like you to call it. There’s more bollocks* talked about these two subjects than any other, indeed everything else put together.

Whether its running the Bob Graham Round, cycling the C2C In A Day, the UTLD 100 mile ultra or a multi day expedition race like the ITERA, it’s all about calories. How much, how many and how to eat and drink them without going into deficit or throwing them back up onto the floor, or your sleeping bag.

The award winning outdoor retailer Above & Beyond, based in Morpeth not far from TeamFans, is providing some of the food we’re carrying on the ITERA. The freeze dried rations from Extreme Food should provide tasty, easy to prepare calories when on the move.

Above & Beyond

Above & Beyond

Extreme Food Logo

Extreme Food

* apologies for the language but we did warn you.

Tikka

Lighting II

Petzl - High res

Tikka

Tikka

PETZL came up with the goods today and box of Tikka arrived at the office. The RXP and R+ will be programmed for maximum battery life should last 20 hrs or so. With the spare batteries that should be enough for the whole race. The other Tikka are “aaa” powered but amazingly powerful and will be standbys.

Petzl Tikka RXP

Lighting

Jill, Steve and Rob

Off we go

As you can imagine “kit” is a big topic of discussion and debate amongst all Adventure Racers, and our team is no exception. All of us are experienced to one degree or another with one day events but planning  for a 5 day non stop race where one is likely to be “off-grid” for most if not all of the time is something else. Heather and Jill have the advantage of some experience on the Sting and Terrex so we know what to expect. Lighting is a key issue, even if it is summer and daylight does stretch into the evenings we are going to moving in the dark, both on foot and on the bike, maybe even on the water. A good head torch is therefore a must, along with bike lights. I’d been given a Petzl Tikka RXP for Christmas this year and been extremely impressed with it during our night run over the Yorkshire 3 Peaks. The reactive lighting modes, rather than the gimmick I thought it was at first, turns out to be highly effective. The system takes care of the different levels of light you need under different circumstances. The difference between reading maps close to hand and running along a track for example. The system adapts the light output and the beam to optimise the system for both, and to max the burn time.

Tikka RXP

Tikka RXP

The good news is that Petzl have agreed to sponsor the team for the ITERA and provide the rest of the team with a range of torches and spares for the race. This is fantastic news, budgets are already very tight and this will make a real difference.

The torch need to be programmed to get the best out of it. The interface is a little unusual but once the thing is connected to your PC, in my case a Mac, its a simple process to set the torch characteristic or what Petzl call profiles. Depending on your need the profiles can be set as either constant lighting modes or one of three reactive modes. These reactive modes vary between light output and beam width and predicted burn time. In our case I’ve set them to the simplest mode which should maximise the battery life whilst still giving a good middle distance output for running.

Petzl_tikkaRXP

The Torch Programming App