Gear for long bike rides
A summary of the gear I used to ride my bike 675k in three days
This summer I rode from Portland, Oregon to Boise, Idaho (around 675 kilometers or 420 miles) in three days. This is a run through some of the gear that I used. The way I did this ride, and the way that I always do long bike rides, I model after the way most people, myself included, do short rides in the 20-50 mile range.
I ride 200 miles with the same setup as I ride 20 miles.
I do this because it allows me to review gear in the way that people generally use it but taken to an extreme. It’s also something I do because I’m not opposed to letting style take the lead. Even if there might be an easier way to do things. That means I don’t carry any bags on the bike, I don’t use aero bars, and I don’t adjust my fitment.
No luggage on the bike.
Every time I leave my house on a bike I carry a Silca pocket impero. This ride was no different. It fits in my jersey pocket and is no worse for wear despite three years of heavy use. I also carry a small Rapha essentials case. This is a piece I’ve been using for a few years. It’s my favorite way to carry what would otherwise be in a frame bag.
My Rapha essentials case carries everything I need.
In it, you’ll find tire levers, a multi tool, a tube, latex gloves, batteries for my power pedals, some cash, tube patches, pieces of a product called Dynaderm which I use for saddle sores if I have them, my identification, credit card, and on longer rides I usually have some GU electrolyte capsules.
My approach to food on the bike might not work for everyone but it works well for me.
For food I have found that I can’t handle real food on long rides. After a while, my digestion shuts down, and my stomach can only tolerate things that are easily digested. I carry a combination of stroopwaffles and gels, and I eat one thing per hour. I’ve used a variety of gels but only stroopwaffles from Honeystinger and GU, with my preference, for both, being GU. Some people complain about how thick GU brand gels are. I actually prefer this. If you prefer different then I would definitely check Science in Sport brand products.
I do make slight changes to the food I bring depending on the type of riding I am doing.
SiS have a thin consistency that’s easy to eat while riding, and they do not require water to accompany them. For long endurance rides, the stroopwafels actually have a nutritional profile that makes more sense. They include more fat, but I tend to still carry more gels since they are smaller.
If I am hammering then it’s SiS gels but long distance means stroopwaffles and GU brand gels.
I use plain water in my bottles, but I will occasionally stop for a Red Bull if I’m needing something different. In the US, you are almost guaranteed to find Red Bull and I find the mix of sugar and caffeine without much carbonation to be perfect.
The most important thing you can do, related to clothing, is plan well.
For clothing, the most important thing I did was plan for a time that I was almost guaranteed good weather. Carrying clothing to cover a wide range of temperature would make things more difficult. That makes it important to know what to expect. This trip was early summer, and I expected hot, but not sweltering, weather. As it turns out, when I left my house in Portland, I did encounter some light rain.
The only extra piece of gear I carry is the Sportful Hotpack ultralight jacket and it was perfect for the brief rain. It’s also great for long, cold, descents. I did not end up needing it for the rest of the trip, but it packs so small that it was well worth it in case. The kit I wore consisted of the Castelli Aero Race 4 bibs, the Assos Equip RS Aero jersey, and the Skinfoil SS Summer base layer. You can check my review of this years Assos summer bibs, jersey, and base layer but you’ll find me saying nothing but good things. The same is true of the Castelli gear which I’ve already reviewed. So why the mix and match?
The bibs from Castelli and Assos have some different approaches, and for me, the Castelli bibs work a bit better. I would have then paired the Castelli jersey with the bibs, but the Assos jersey has bigger pockets. In both cases, there were things from the other brand I would have appreciated.
Each brand offered things I would have liked but I had to make choices.
The longer sleeves of the Castelli Aero Race 6 jersey would have been nice for sun protection, and the Assos S9 Equip RS bibs do a better job in their handling of seams on the upper thigh, but I made the choices that work best for me. Socks came from Handlebar Mustache as I strongly believe in sock doping, and they are some of the best out there.
#sockdoping brings a bit of fun and style to every ride.
The shoes I used were the Giro Prolight techlace. They continue to be, far and away, my favorite cycling shoe for both long and short distances. They are more than stiff enough while still being exceptionally comfortable.
For my helmet, I had to think hard, but I went for aero with the Smith Ignite. Trying to decide if I wanted the lightest helmet or the most aero was a tough decision. In the end, I decided I could handle a bit of extra weight if it meant less time on the bike.
Despite hitting the pavement at 20mph the glasses held up.
The last piece of kit I carried were my glasses, and for those, it was the Adidas Zonyk Aero Pro with LST Vario Lenses. They represent one of only two cycling glasses on the market that have both photochromic and mirrored lenses. No matter if it’s full sun or a cloudy day, I can carry one set of glasses with one lens.
My glasses did have the distinction of being the only piece of gear worse for wear after the trip, but it’s actually a testament to how well they built they are. Near the end of the second day, a bee hit the lens, and as I brushed it off, I managed to fling my glasses to the ground. Despite hitting the pavement at over 20 miles per hour, there are only a few small scratches. Given the circumstances they held up exceptionally well.
My bike was an ultralight climbers bike.
I never actually reviewed the frame I used on this ride. The Fuji SL 1.1 is very stiff, ultralight, climbers bike. Shortly before I was going to talk about this frame a new parent company acquired Fuji. That company then went out of business not long after. Once again Fuji is under new ownership and is back to making great frames, but my frame is a 2016 model.
The Fuji frame is paired with Campagnolo Super Record v3. The groupset never missed a shift and only used 15% of its battery over the three days. The wheels I chose for this trip were the Campagnolo Bullet Ultra wheels. Over the long distance I felt like aero wheels were more appropriate than climbers wheels. I spent about 9 hours a day in the saddle and my Berk Lupina saddle without any issue. Upfront, I did rewrap the bars with a new bar tape from Silca called Nastro Fiore. It’s a 2.5mm thick bar tape that feels like a 3.2mm tape.
Honestly, I’m not sure exactly how to evaluate that claim. I’ve ridden around 650 miles on it, without gloves, and I’ve found it to be tacky, and comfortable. Long days with no gloves can mean a fair bit of fatigue in my hands. When I need a break I can move my hands to the flats and let the Silca tape soak up the bumps. The Fuji frame isn’t designed for comfort or shock absorption and the Nastro Fiore bar tape is a welcome bit of comfort.
I also found it forgiving when wrapping. I was able to rewrap the bars multiple times until I got it right. The included brake clamp cover is wider than typical, which again helps it to be forgiving, and the aluminum, expanding, end plugs are a nice touch.
Somehow I always seem to end up rewrapping my bars at least twice per side.
My favorite little touch of class is actually the included finishing tape with a Silca logo pattern. I said earlier that I don’t make changes to my bike setup for these kinds of rides, but for $44, the Silca Nastro Fiore bar tape is a great way to add a bit of comfort, and style, without much effort.
The Bontrager Flare RT was a very important part of my gear.
On top of all the usual stuff, there were a couple of unique additions for this trip. Because I knew I’d be on rural roads, sometimes without a shoulder, I added a Bontrager Flare RT rear light. I never reviewed this piece because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to say much about it. When my wife passed me in the car on day three, I asked her about the light.
She reported she could see the light well before she could see me, and the battery lasted from start to finish each day. That’s as much as I could hope for in a light. I don’t know for sure it helped with other traffic, but it feels safer to me, and sometimes that’s worth a purchase.
My bike had three items which required nightly charging. The Bontrager Flare RT, my Elemnt Bolt, and my phone. I also like to have the option of mid-ride charging on long rides. As an additional complication my phone uses a USB-C connection. I handled this mix of charging needs with an Innens hybrid battery and wall charger.
The last piece of gear I used on this trip is the Castelli Race Rain Bag. Last winter, after racing through heavy rain and mud, and eventually abandoning, I looked around for the right gear bag. I previously wrote about finding bags for travelling, and riding, when not racing. There is a time and a place though for a dedicated gear bag.
Sometimes even when you aren’t racing it’s nice to use a race day bag.
For this trip, I wasn’t racing, but I knew I’d be driving home in a cramped car with a cycling kit I wore for three days straight without washing. I wanted a way to keep the car from smelling as bad as the kit did. For this use the Castelli bag fit the bill perfectly. There’s space for a helmet, a separate—and removable—space for shoes, and mesh pockets perfect for wet— and/or smelly—clothing.
There are also some side pockets that I found worked well for my headunit and everything in my jersey pockets. A bag like this is definitely a bit of luxury, but for $80, it organizes my cycling gear. Keeping the car clean and free of mud, or in this case smelling fresh, is sometimes worth a bit of expenditure.
I was riding fast and minimal on this ride. Part of my ability to pull that off comes from having the right gear, and this is what I used. I’m not opposed to using brand new, untested, gear on long rides. In this case though, most of what I used was well used and tested.
Quality gear and quality training left me feeling like I could have done more.
In retrospect, there’s nothing I would have done differently. I can confidently stand behind the reviews I wrote about everything I brought along. I do my best to cover the best gear and describe it as accurately as possible. Every now and then, there’s something more I have to say after finishing an article but nothing cropped up after this ride. The items I used are well designed and work for 12 hour rides as well as 2 hour rides.