Dales Divide 2020 Bike and Kit

As with my bike for Race Around Rwanda I built up a bike suitable for the Dales Divide on the cheap, fitting parts I had already lying around to a used frame and forks picked up cheap in the classifieds forums.

Bombtrack Hook EXT

I knew I’d need want fatter tyres than any of my bike, save for my mountain bike could run and had picked up a suitable frameset as the basis for a replacement winter bike build I had in mind. The Bombtrack Hook EXT can handle a 27.5 x 2.1 tyre (650b x 53mm in new money), and has all the mounts.
The frameset necessitated a move to thru-axles for the first time, but I found a nice used complete wheelset, tyres, and rotors used at a bargain price and snapped them up: Easton Arc rims, Pillar spokes, Hope RS4 hubs.
I’ve been impressed with Gravel King SK tyres in the past, and the extra clearance available meant I could go for their 27.5 x 1.9 version. No complaints at all on how these performed, rolling nicely and slipping only on a few sections of more clay like mud.
I’d set this bike up with a Sram 1x drivetrain, 40t upfront and 11-42 at back. This had been fine for unloaded and shorter distance riding, but knew I’d want more range to cope with the extra burden and also to help with anticipated fatigue levels. I therefore switched out the chainring for an oval Absolute Black 38t one. This setup worked well. I think there was very little that a greater range would have made ridable that wasn’t hike-a-bike anyway.
I cross-threaded a bleedport on the rear SRAM rival caliper a couple of weeks before the race, so took the opportunity to switch that out for a Hope caliper. This is a massive improvement, and I’ll switch the front out too as soon as I’m able to. The 4 pot design made for far less disk rub at the rear when the front seemed to attract muck at every opportunity. My front lever was being pulled right into the bars by the end of the race due to worn pads.
Previously tried and tested On-One Midge bars gave extra width and hand positions, but I’m not sure they were quite right for this lower front end setup than they’re really meant for, with hoods and drops positioning perhaps both a bit of a compromise over more regular bars: Almost a week on from the race and I’m still experiencing numbness in my hands. This may have been an effect of the terrain more than anything, but I’d like to revisit this component choice. I didn’t fit extensions but there were some road sections where they’d have been a nice option. ‘Phantom Aerobars’ it was though.
Saddle was my old Brooks B17 Narrow. I gave the tensioning bolt a turn the day before the race, and what had previously been a perfect saddle creaked like anything for the first few hundred km until I grabbed a couple of drops of lube from a bike shop to silence it.
I used my old Planet X Podsacs seat and frame/top tube packs. As mentioned in my Race around Rwanda posts these do the job in unspectacular fashion. Up front though I now had the option to add a couple of fork bags so went for Salsa Anything Cage HDs with matching drybags. I also added a Aguille Alpine handlebar bag which is really nice. I may invest in more of their kit. Watch this space …

Bike leant up against fence

Kit and Packing
I used a Snugpak Stratosphere hooped bivvy/one person tent which fitted perfectly into a fork bag, and a Snugpak sleeping bag nicely filled the seatpack with room to carry a full change of clothes. The other fork bag was used mainly for spares, with the frame/handlebar bags used for tools and batteries, plus snacks The move to thru-axles meant that I no longer had a dynohub to use, so took a Hope R4+ light with a 4 and 2 cell battery. I didn’t need to use the 2 cell one, running the light on the lowest settings whenever I could. I drained a powerbank keeping Wahoo GPS and Phone topped up.
Clothing-wise I had a long and short sleeved Kendal Cycle Club jersey and windstopper gillet, OMM waterproof jacket (not cycling specific but a little more substantial that my cycling rain capes), old and comfy Assos bib shorts, then spare Castelli nano-flex ones, together with nano-flex arm and leg warmers. This combo meant I could layer things up if need be. I took a primaloft gillet for if I needed some insulation off the bike. The best clothing investment I made was in some Dexshell Waterproof Ultra Thin socks. These worked a treat keeping my feet warm and dry.
I’m sure I could pack lighter if I really tried (or spent ££) but everything worked ok, and save for essential spares such as tubes and cables, I used everything I was carrying. I will though invest in as small and lightweight a sleeping pad as I can afford at some point as being able to sleep better than I managed on cold ground is vital.

Bombtrack Hook EXT