New Zealand Part 4 - The Gear Reviewed
Every adventure starts with an idea. Once that idea begins to take shape it becomes time to start planning the adventure. And, making sure you have the correct gear for your adventure is a critical part of the planning. Choosing the correct gear is about the only part of the planning that we actually put a great deal of effort into for our cycling adventure to the south island of New Zealand. Our plan was to not really have a plan, and the only reason that we were able to pull it off successfully was because we had the right gear for the trip.
The first and most important part of the gear selection was choosing the best bike for the job at hand. We both opted for steel cross bikes, the Planet Cross, from Independent Fabrication (IF). Because IF builds every bike to meet each rider’s personal preferences and riding style, we had every chance to customize our bikes to fit our travel needs. Rack and fender mounts are a given. We also added disc brakes to give more breaking assurance and S&S couplers, easier and cheaper travel options. Both of these features add a bit of weight, but durability takes precedence over the weight savings in this situation. Heavier gauge seat and chain stays were also used to provide more support for the extra weight we were carrying. Capping off the custom design was the assurance of a perfect fit. The frame dimensions were designed around our body measurements and riding style, and Colin, our fitter and business partner, dialed in the final fit specs while running us through a ReTul™ fitting session. There is nothing better than a bike that fits you perfectly and rides just how you want it to. That is exactly what you get with a custom bike built from IF. No back pain, no numbness, just pure cycling joy.
Selecting the proper parts to hang on the bike was another critical part of our preparations. Knowing that there are very few flat roads in New Zealand, we opted to run low gearing which we achieved using a compact crank and 11-36 10spd XTR cassette. That sounds like awfully low gearing, but we both spent our fair share of time turning over our lowest while pedaling up some super steep fire roads covered in loose gravel. Our next big concern: the correct wheels. Again we opted for durability over light-weight. We laced Chris King hubs to Mavic Open Pro rims, and clad them in 28mm Continental Gatorskin Hardshell tires. The tires were a compromise to something that would roll very well on the paved roads (ie. pure road tires 700x23) but also protect our rims on the fire roads. The Conti’s were the obvious choice. Selecting the correct saddle is another important decision, and we both elected to ride the WTB Devo, a “mountain” saddle that has served us well on several other bikes for many, many miles.
The last critical piece of gear for the bikes themselves was the rack selection. Because we opted for disc brakes, our selection of compatible, durable racks was limited. That being said, Old Man Mountain make the perfect racks for our riding adventure, performing flawlessly under some pretty rough conditions (did you read in our previous posts that we rode many 100km section of dirt roads?).
The proper clothing selection came the easiest, as we --Studio Velo – are privileged to carry the best selection of performance apparel in the industry, from Capo to Rapha to Lazer and Sidi, to name a few of our brand partners. January might be mid summer in New Zealand, but that doesn’t guarantee sunshine and warm weather. Much like Northern California, there are many micro-climates where weather changes quickly, and there are some areas that will always get rain (ie. the Kiwi’s measure rainfall in meters on the South West coast). Layering is crucial and always a good decision to accommodate quick changes in weather. It also gave us a chance to really test out some of our favorite gear as well as to try out some new pieces.
The Key Items we Tested:
Our Capo, custom made shop kits were the primary choice for the long days in the saddle. Scott brought the traditional kit, thinking the dirt and mud might leave its trail, but I choose the high-performance fabrics of our LE SC kits. Having a good chamois between you and the saddle is essential, and having the right technical clothing to wick moisture makes a big difference. Having our new Capo vests to thwart the wind and keep our cores warm was much appreciated, and having the Capo Corsa gloves kept my hands protected on the rough roads (including many corrugated fire roads) and comfortable in the varying climates
Beneath the jerseys we both wore Rapha short sleeve and sleeveless base layers. Perfect for regulating temperature (we were in temps ranging from 7-41 degrees Celsius) and wicking moisture. And beneath our shorts we used Rapha’s new chamois cream. Rain protection couldn’t have been more important and for that, we found our new love in cycling apparel: the Rapha rain jacket. It’s a tough task to keep a cyclist dry for 120k in soaking rains and stormy winds, but Rapha’s rain jacket does the trick, not to mention it dries off quick and packs up amazingly small. This trip also gave me the opportunity to test our Rapha’s touring short. It fits and performs perfectly on the bike, and doubled as a piece I could wear around the campsite, in town or even in a river for a swim. It also packs up small and dries off quickly. My only complaint is that it could benefit from a side pocket.
We found additional superb rain protection with our Gore ALP shorts. These have been a favorite outer layer for mountain biking of ours, and they get our endorsement for wet weather touring as well.
Sidi’s were our selection for footwear on this adventure. Scott went with the Dragons while I brought my Dominators. We knew going in that there were no concerns here, but this trip really let us put a lot of good miles in with our new Comform’able™ insoles. As a major contact point on the bike, and a key in your pedaling mechanics, a comfortable and perfectly supported foot is invaluable. The custom Comform’able™ insoles made a huge difference all day long.
Our heads were protected with helmets from Lazer. Scott wore the Helium and I brought my trusty Genesis. The fit was perfect, the adjustments to accommodate a cycling cap couldn’t have been easier and they just looked good. Another key component that offered both performance and fashion were our Rudy Project glasses. I sported the Exowinds with a red photochromic lens, and Scott brought his Ekynox SX (with photochromic prescription lenses). Rudy makes the best glasses on the planet, so we never had a need for anything else.
Then we chose panniers from Deuter to carry our supplies. Having been riding with their hydration packs for years, we had high expectations for quality and performance. We were not let down. The construction was great as they were both light and durable, and they provided enough protection from the rain to keep our possessions dry. If I were touring around just the south and west part of the South Island, I would have opted for something fully waterproof.
Our entire cycling trip was captured on our Garmin Edge 500’s. Every kilometer that we traveled and every meter that we climbed was measured and recorded by our Garmin’s. This was of course important for 2 reasons. First, we can show Grant our numbers, and secondly, our elevation totals will be counted towards the KOM Challenge. we are sponsoring in conjunction with Strava. A great screen and lots of display options make this an easy computer to read, and simple navigation and useful data to display make this a must have for cyclists of all levels.
Having assembled the right mix of gear as part of our preparation, we were able to ride through any conditions, on all kinds of roads, over many mountain passes, through many mountain streams, and many open valleys for many, many hours. Having the right gear made our trip easier and much more enjoyable. It made it possible for us to be spontaneous in our daily travel decisions and helped weather the many variables in bike touring. It helped us define our journey….without a plan, but with just some really good gear.