My favourite things… aka how I survived training for the Singletrack 6!
In 24 hrs of writing this, I will be starting the first of seven (six timed) days of riding my bike approximately 50kms a day through Kananaskis Country and BC Rockies singletrack. To be honest, I havenâ€™t yet gotten sentimental like so many of my friends did when starting the BCBR a month prior. But this could be because today is the first time Iâ€™ve had a chance to slow down and think about it (Check FB updates for any changes to this).
However, I have thought about how much work it took to get ready for this event. How many boring trainer rides. How many rides in absolute crap weather. Rides spent slogging up forest service roads in 33 degree heat. Rides spent with an 11lb pack (and a sore back) because I was slow to adopt a less is more racer mentality. Rides spent suffering because my legs wouldnâ€™t STFU for various reasons.
As I sit here and write this in Calgary, AB, I know that it took a lot of work and dedication to get to this point. Work from me and work from friends. But also work from the material objects I acquired along the way that made my life better, more comfortable or simply made me happy enough to keep going. As a mid (to back) pack rider, I donâ€™t seem to have the mental capacity (desire?) to suffer like I see real racers do. And sometimes itâ€™s the little things that can make or break a ride for me. Below are the main stage material items that got me through the months of training for the ST6.
These are a few of MY FAVORITE THINGS (sung as per Julie Andrewsâ€¦or something sorta kinda like it) in no particular order:
Bike seat bag and bento box: Want to get that pack off your back? Maybe have easier access to things you use on the trail often (food/phone/Ipod)? Do the new fanny packs seem just like a backpack without straps to you? Then (wo)man up and get yourself a seat bag and bento box, aka top tube bag. They have both been game changers for me. But be warned, not all are made alike. The seat bag I have is a full on dry bag that rolls closed. Mud grit and zippers donâ€™t get along so go for something without. Same goes for the bento box. The magnet closure works just fine and Iâ€™ve ridden with it numerous times through various terrain. Even when loaded on my NS rack, it doesnâ€™t come open and I don’t unpack it for the drive. Will you be ridiculed? Probably. Will it still be awesome? Yes.
Chamois with pockets: Since weâ€™re on the topic of taking some weight off of your back/shoulders, Iâ€™d like to introduce you to the Specialized SWAT Bib Liner. They are a bib chamois with pockets both along the lower back similar to a road/xc jersey and on the thighs. Water bottles, etc. will fit in the pockets along the back securely to allow you to forget about it and just enjoy your ride. Iâ€™m a fan for 2 reasons. One â€“ a water bottle, or anything for that matter, is very secure and doesnâ€™t move around, more so than in a typical road/xc jersey. Two â€“ I can wear my preferred t-shirt style jersey that usually come sans pockets rather than donning a zip-up road/xc jersey just so I have pockets. That said, this is a short ride chamois. I have worn it on longer rides, and honestly will probably continue to do so, but it is far from ideal. You will notice â€“ be warned!
Science Food: Unless you are my hero, you will be eating at least some science on long rides. There was one standout in my arsenal that I could go to time and time again when over tired/soaked/ cold/scared/ feeling sorry for myself/ generally in a shite mood and it would actually make me feel better. Have you tried the flavour of Salted Caramel by Gu? You should. They are glorious. I always have one with me now. Not necessarily to have every ride but I always have one. You never know what you will find or face while in the woods. Tears? No problem, caramel can help that! See â€“ they are glorious!
Gore-tex socks: I had the best winter of riding this year! Why? Because my feet were generally much warmer and drier. Gore-tex socks. Not much else to say about them other then get some. The <$60 investment is well worth it. No more frozen toes!
Sports Bra: Generally sports bras havenâ€™t been something Iâ€™ve thought much about until I started riding many sweaty hours a week. A drenched and damp bra is one of the worst feelings. Personally, I will sit in a chamois if I have to, but the bra, its coming off the second the ride is over. But this year I discovered a light weight wool sports bra! The Ibex Balance Bra is easy to get on and off, is super soft and comfortable against skin and will actually dry remarkably fast if its not raining and you ditch the jersey for a few minutes. As its a light weight bra it doesnâ€™t provide a lot of support so maybe not great for running. But for riding, it works very well. They are unlined so if you are cold (nipply) often, you may want to look into a liner. I do realize that there will be many (anyone who enjoys ladies with breasts riding bikes) who will not agree with this statement though. 🙂
Wool Gloves: When my hands are cold, they hurt more. Putting on a bike glove when my hands are cold hurts! Am I delicate? Probably. But maybe you are too and if so, this is for you. I picked up a thin pair of wool gloves last year. They are Smartwoolâ€™s phD glove and are so light they are more like a liner but work amazing for riding bikes when the weather is dry but cold which we had a surprising amount of last year. They kept me warm, but not sweaty and are really soft and comfortable next to the skin. Sometimes itâ€™s the smallest things that keep one happy on a training ride. And these are one of them.
Eyewear: I am the queen of getting crap in my eye. When I ride with others I always marvel at how they can ride without eyewear. I also wonder if they just havenâ€™t found the Ryderâ€™s Photochromic line. My first ride in these babies was love at first sight. Really. Because I could see for the entire ride. Sun, shade, forest, fire road, rain, sun, snow â€“ during it all I can see! And I can ride without worrying about getting sticks, mud, bugs or otherwise in my eye. They will fog during really damp days on the climbs but will also clear fast when you get moving downhill (and breathing less out of your eyeballs).
Chamois cream: I donâ€™t believe I need to talk about the virtues of using a good chamois cream. The Hoo Ha Ride Glide is a fan favourite for good reason. Get it, use it, be nice to your bits.
Baggies: I love baggie shorts and will be wearing them for the duration of ST6 so I needed some that are basically like not wearing baggies. I love baggie shorts that fall to my knee. Not an inch above, not a centimetre above. I want them at least touching my knee. Any shorter and Iâ€™m not interested. Which is an interesting predicament since more and more riding shorts seem to be, well, short. If they are short on me when standing, they will be hot pants once I try to pedal in them. There are very few options out there for us long short lovers (and I know Iâ€™m not the only one!) but I found a pair that has both surprised and impressed the heck out of me. The women’s Pearl Izumi 2014 Versa short is a great option. A proper 14â€ inseam, a light-weight material with stretch suitable for summer and no Velcro to ruin other items in the laundry. Who knew Pearl Izumi? Who knew.
Inspiration Quotes: Oh boy â€“ I had a major love affair with inspirational words in 2014! Some of my favourites that I thought of when riding, hurting or just feeling down.
“Be more committed to your desires, than to the feeling of overwhelm”
“Happiness is seeing your boundaries and pushing past them”
“I can do this”
What are some of your favourite things that help you on the bike? We want to hear, let us know!
Disclaimer: All of these are products I have purchased on my own accord, no freebies or sponsor products.