Adventure racing is a multidisciplinary sport where racers navigate through backcountry terrain – often without the benefit of trails – using map and compass, and all manner of transport from stand up paddle boards to mountain bikes. In September Austin Parker is tackling the Adventure Xstream Series adventure race in Glenwood Springs, CO to get a taste of this grueling sport. As part of his training, we are documenting the best gear for paddling, running, biking, and recovery, as well as keeping track of all the (mis)adventure along the way.
Riding singletrack is one of the best parts of summer. Whether you’re a downhill charger or mellow cross country rider grinding out the miles, mountain biking is one of the most fun ways to move through the mountains. Of course, that changes a little when you’re training for an adventure race. Rather than enjoying a leisurely Saturday morning ride, every mile, vertical foot, and calorie have to be tracked. We’ve spent more time on our bikes in the dark before work and late into the night than ever before getting ready for the race, and this summer we’ve got our riding kit dialed to the ounce. If you’re on the lookout for some of the best new gear to roll with, read on.
Picking your trusty steed is the most important choice you’ll make, and with prices for a good build approaching what you’ll pay for a cheap car, probably something that will stay with you a few seasons. We turned to Utah brand Fezzari for a custom fit process to find the right bike. If you’re new to biking, or simply want to update aging gear, a proper fit is your ticket to a comfotable ride no matter what style of riding you do. Living close to their factory store, we were able to harness Fezzari’s twenty-point measurement and fit process, but even if you’re across the globe, their handy instructions will help you select your bike. Armed with measurements detailing our inseams, shoulder widths, and reach among others, we sat down with a Fezzari technician to pick a cross country bike. We ended up with the Wiki Peak (all Fezzari bikes are named for big mountains in Utah) as a mid range full suspension bike that can handle all the rigors of trail riding but still be nimble on the steep climbs we’ll ride up in Glenwood Springs next month. If you’re feeling a little more aggressive, we’d recommend the Nebo Peak as an all mountain charger.
We’re lucky enough to live just a few minutes away from dozens of miles of quality singletrack in Salt Lake City. However, for most people getting to the trail involves an investment in a quality rack. We picked the Yakima Holdup due to it’s burly build, trailer hitch mount, and bike attachment points. When we haul bikes around the state for camping trips, we’ve often got a roof box on the rack, so roof mounted bikes weren’t an option. The Holdup bolts into a trailer hitch, providing extremely sturdy connection points. Additionally, the swing arm connection is friendly with bike that have unique geometries – like most full suspension bikes – as well as fat tires, making it a versatile hauler for a garage’s worth of wheels.
We discovered California brand Kitsbow last year at a trail race at Snowbird Ski Resort. Combining attention to details, classic merino wool, and more technical fabrics into each piece, their mountain biking collection is a functional work of art on the trail. We’ve been riding in the Divide Shirt most recently, and the combination of merino and Schoeller softshell is unbeatable. A few cleverly placed pockets store essentials on short post-work rides, and it is light years ahead of the competition for comfort. Combined with the softshell Adjustable All-Mountain Shorts, you’ve got a set of biking apparel that will take you for thousands of miles of trail time. Be prepared for the envious stares you’ll get at the bike shop and bar after your ride.
Mavic’s Fury is far and away the best cross-country riding shoe we’ve ever ridden. Featuring a full length carbon shank, these stiff shoes provide energy transfer with every pedal stroke that is phenomenal. the Contragrip cleats help when the going gets steep (think hike-a-bike style terrain). Ours have been thoroughly punished on long rides and have yet to feel anything but comfortable due to the upper ratchet system and lower velcro closure. When combined with a pair of Crossmax pedals, you’ve got a riding platform that will put you on the podium every race.
On long trail rides you’ve got to haul extra water, tools, and layers with you. Our favorite pack for riding is Camelbak’s M.U.L.E. NV hydration bag. Featuring a three liter bladder, utility organizer for toold and nutrition, and a external expandable slot for a rain jacket when the weather turns sour, the M.U.L.E. is as perfect light weight all day hauler. What really sold us though is the NV back panel. Separate “pods” line the harness providing extra ventilation as well as a flexible load carriage system that centers the weight near your shoulders and hips. It’s easily the best innovation Camelbak has come up with since they invented the hydration bladder back in 1989.
Combining an Aramid fiber skeleton with MIPS impact technology, POC’s Trabec Race MIPS helmet is one of the most comfortable, and safe, on the market. 16 vents keep you cool for summer riding, and the EPS foam shell is built strong around their geometry. Combined with the MIPS (Multi-Directional Impact Protection System) insert that can reduce perceived impacts by 30%, this brain bucket will keep you safe all season long.
Pushing out 850 lumens, the Urban 850 Trail is nearly as powerful as some car headlamps. We love it not only for it’sbrightness, but ultralight package. Mounted on either handlebars or helmet, we hardly notice it when we’ve got lights along for the ride. It charges to capacity in just two and half hours,and will run up to six hours on the low setting (which will still beat any conventional headlamp for brightness) on a charge.