I have really appreciated reading the Trans Iowa race reports over the years, and especially appreciated the descriptions of the gear and bikes, so here is the gear that I used. Hopefully someone will find it helpful. The race story will follow in another post, as it was quite an adventure and deserves it’s own space. I had done exactly zero gravel riding until August of last year, and hadn’t ridden more than 50 miles on gravel prior to entering Trans Iowa. TIV10 was my first gravel road cycling event, so take my entire experience with a grain of salt, as my experience is minimal! My gear was pretty typical, with just a few things that I chose to do differently that worked out well for me. Some stuff is missing from the photos, as I only took pictures as I was unloading after the event and some things were used or lost.
used Specialized Crux, SRAM red components, SRAM XO rear derailleur, gearing 46/36, 11/32 cassette. Crank brothers candy pedals. Profile Design T2 clip on aerobars. Cobb Vflow saddle. Hed Ardennes+ wheels. 35mm Clement X’PLOR USH tires. All purchased at Kyle’s Bikes. Lightweight Power Reflectors. Revelate Designs Tangle frame bag, Pika rear seat bag, Gas Tank on the top tube. No name cheapie bag mounted between the aerobars
I needed a light bike to get through this event. I had knee issues last year, and messed up my ankle after Sebring 24 hour in February, so there was no way I was getting through 336 miles of hilly gravel with 10 potentially hike-a-bike B roads on a heavy ride. I paid the price for riding this geometry versus something better suited to long hours of rough gravel. But with Trans Iowa you’re going to hurt no matter what. It’s really just a matter of deciding which issues you can live with and still make it through the event. I’m used to that frame (it’s essentially the same as my Tarmac), I had ridden a similar position for Sebring 24 hours, and I decided to go with the devils I knew versus a whole different set of potential problems, and limited time to address them.
I found that the four bags spread over the bike with the objects that weighed the most loaded in the gas tank worked the best at balancing the weight evenly, and made for the best bike handling. I was limited to two bottle cages on the frame, so I used a 3 liter camelbak bladder in the frame bag to carry enough fluids to get me to each Cstore. The absolute worst training day I ever had was when I loaded the seat bag with my tools and tubes and then put clothes on top of it and went out on a 30mph wind day. The second worst training day was when I tried carrying a lightweight back pack. Having all of the weight on the back end of the bike made the rear end squirrelly on steep descents with a cross wind (think ditch magnet), and the back pack forced too much weight on my hands and changed the pressure points on my seat. I longed to rip that back pack off and launch it victoriously into a cornfield. Try everything in training, and nothing new on race day. I’ve been told that many times, and it is TRUTH.
My charger and light batteries were in the cheapie stem bag, cue sheets clipped to the bag in a ziplock. A USB cable reached from the bag to my Garmin. I mount my Garmin on the aerobars, which meant that I had to mount it sideways while it was charging. I had a second Garmin mount to accommodate that.
Two tubes, CO2 and inflator, tire lever, caffeine tablets, salt, tums, Kinesio tape, fingernail clippers, sample size Aquaphor, 4 chain links, rear der hanger, Lezyne multi tool with chain breaker, small roll of electrical tape were in the gas tank. Frame bag had the camelbak, Leyzyne mini pump, park tools brush with scraper, hand and foot warmers, nutrition, sample sized waterproof lube and rag. Clothing only in the seat bag. I also had a spoke attached to the top tube with double sided velcro. This set up worked really well for me, and everything I needed was easily accessible.
I had one flat tire, front wheel, easily fixed. In my rush to get rolling again, I stuffed my tire lever into my pocket instead of stowing it in the bag. It must have fallen out of my pocket as I removed food I had stowed there as well. I would have been screwed had I had a second flat, so I should have stowed it back in the bag after I used it.
I brought along a few strips of Kinesio tape to use as a bandage. It stays on when wet, and does a good job holding small wounds closed better than a bandaid would. It also makes a decent tire boot if you leave the backing on. It came in handy, as I managed to cut my finger opening packages the night before the event. I wore a piece of yellow KT tape on my left first finger and it lasted the entire event. The fingernail clippers were substitute scissors, to cut zip ties or electrical tape.
Garmin Edge 510. I had previously used an Edge 800, but it shut down spontaneously during a training ride two weeks before TI. It wouldn’t accept a charge, and I couldn’t get it to reset. I replaced it with a 510, which has a longer battery life. I also bought a cheapie bike computer as a back up.
Jackery 5600mAh Charger: charged my garmin twice
Lights:Serfas True 500, one on the bars and one on my helmet. I had gotten a crazy good deal on the second, and couldn’t pass it up. I was very happy with this set up. I had plenty of light, and it didn’t feel heavy on my helmet. I broke the helmet mount prior to the race, and gorilla taped it to my helmet. The gorilla tape was solid though the rain, and was a good choice despite being a little Fred. Since both lights were the same, I only had to worry about one type of battery. Each battery was good for four hours on the lowest setting. I carried a quarter because it fit easily into the slot to remove or tighten the battery, and made the changing process quick and easy. The biggest concern I had was getting the batteries changed before it started raining.
Clothing: I tried not to be cranky with people about their comments about race day weather. Who could be cranky about a sunny day with a high near 70? Someone who has to carry clothing for four seasons, that’s who. I was hoping to pack for only winter and spring, but needed to be prepared for winter, spring, summer, and mud.
I started wear my Rev Endurance Cycling waterproof windbreaker coat, short sleeve jersey, sun sleeves, beat up old running tights, cheapie merino socks, my oldest pair of of cycling gloves with merino glove liners, one pair of cheapie throw away $1 gloves, Scott Newbury’s Bluff Creek Triathlon hat (for good luck) and Remington clear $8 shooting glasses. In my pocket were Oakley sunglasses and Louis Garneau lightweight wind blocking shoe covers. I also wear a bandana to pull over my face to block dust when cars go by, and frighten Cstore employees. It was a nice mixture of quality cycling kit and walmart fashion.
Packed in my seat bag was my long sleeve heavy weight jersey, North Face balaclava, 200 weight merino base layer shirt, rain pants and waterproof gloves, latex exam gloves, Blue Seventy wetsuit socks. The Blue Seventy socks were a purchase I made years ago for cold water triathlon training. They are really useless for swimming in a race setting, but probably saved my race at Trans Iowa. My feet were not dry, but they were warm even when wet in 30 degree temps. The latex gloves were a back up in case my waterproof gloves failed, which they eventually did. I ended up wearing the two sets of gloves that I started the race with, put hand warmers inside, and the latex gloves over the top.
Nutrition: I’m gluten intolerant, so having to survive on Cstore food posed a challenge for me. I got by on candy bars, potato chips, coke, and purple gatorade and enjoyed trying all that in training probably far more than was good for me or necessary. I packed 8 gluten free pancakes. They are flat and fit well in my pocket. I packed enough Cliff shot blocks and gel to get me through 150 miles, and one coconut bar that ended up getting fed to an angry dog. By the end of the event, I was longing to have a piece of pizza like everyone else, but this worked out ok.
I feel pretty happy with how my set up worked out. I’d never done any distance quite this long totally unsupported. I feel like I lost a lot of gear testing time to the Polar Vortex and then my injury, but managed to get enough time in with various gear options and was fairly comfortable with everything prior to race day.
Thank you to Steve Fuller, Mike Johnson, Mark Stevenson, and all past Trans Iowa finishers and participants who participated in the Trans Iowa clinic or have shared their stories in person and online. Having so much useful information available to me made it possible to put together a decent combination of bike and gear and be successful in my rookie attempt.