The WRT has moved. If you're looking for info, entries or anything else bikepacking related try Bear Bones Bikepacking, the Bear Bones blog or the Bear Bones forum - ta.

Yea, yea, yea, but what is it?

The WRT is a 3 day and perhaps more importantly 2 night ride through and around mid Wales. You'll be expected to be self sufficient, carrying everything you need and sleeping out in or under whatever you think best. It's not elitist, entry is open to anyone who wants to try it. All the money raised by the WRT goes to the Wales Air Ambulance charity ... an organisation I hope you'll never need.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

T, T, S and S Part 3 ... Force Ten Helium.

If anyone can be bothered to search back through the posts you'll find that sometime last year I wrote something about Gelert Solo tents. The Solo is about the cheapest 'useable' one man tent on the market, if you search around on-line you can pick them up for under £30. As much as it's a 'useable' tent there are a few compromises you have to be willing to accept. It isn't the lightest of tents, pack size isn't the smallest and it's not unknown for the fiberglass poles to break in rough conditions or with rough treatment. The solo also pitches inner first so if it's raining trying to keep the inner dry can be a struggle. Something else I don't like is the fact I can't sit up in it ... and if I can't, there won't be much chance of you doing.

If you've decided that tents are for you and you can't accept the compromises of the Solo then perhaps this is for you ... a Force Ten Helium.

Pitching nose into the wind is a good idea

It still shares the basic concept of the Solo but differs dramatically in most areas. The first thing is the weight and pack size, the Helium weighs just over a Kilo and packs down to the size of a 2/3 man tarp, so you shouldn't have much trouble carrying it. Pitching is either 'as one' inner and outer together or you can just pitch the outer if you wanted to ... even in poor conditions it can be erected in under 5 minutes. Head height at the centre is just under a metre so sitting up is much less of a problem.

It's like a little palace in there

The porch isn't massive but there is enough room to store your gear and shield you while cooking ... I wouldn't recommend cooking in the porch with the door shut, it really is just too small. Now the worst bit, you can buy at least 6 Gelert Solos for the same price as one of these ... perhaps those compromises aren't too bad after all.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

WRT 2011 Start List.

So here it is (in no order whatsoever) the WRT start list for 2011. If you can't see your name, have another look and if it's still not there but you think it ought to be, get in touch. If I've spelt your name wrong then I apologise and you'll be quite welcome to give me a hard time about it at the start ... you may also want to sort your handwriting out too though ;o)

John Talbot-Jamie Talbot- David Everard-Taylor-Peter Bragg- Mark Ward-Jamie Warder- Simon Jones- Sally Harrington-John Wright-Paul Twidell-Andy Chadwick-Jane Chadwick-Paul Dytham-Matt Houlbrook-Paul Faulkner-Joshua Ward-David Ward-Craig Nimmo-Jim Collins-Will Good-Sam Good-Nick Gilling-Aidan Harding-Matthew Cockerham-Amy Baron Hall-Alison Mitchelmore-Dominic Bradley-Scott Manley-Daniel Lee-Patrick Adamson-Gareth Wooffitt-Mark Goldie-Richard Smith-Nicholas Blake-Paul Pomfret-Pete Bartlett-Andy Davidson-Ian Barrington-Kenny Stocker-Matt Harvey-Richard Lowerson-Adam Houlbrook-Steve Morgan-Johnathan Beech-Jason Habberfield-Andrew Adlington-Matthew Alder-Jason Stapleton-Jim Hawans-Nick Smith-Will Kemp-Roger Baker-Keith Pitcher-Philip Wise-Duncan Mellor-Mike Clarke-John Rowlands-Deb Wood-Gaynor Morgan-Mark Landan-Chris Narborough-Nick Robins-James Davenport-Mark Weldon-Graham Everard-Zak Fine-Leigh Waldran-Matt Treanor-Mattphew Robertson-Richard Billyeald-Dave Llewllyn
-Oliver Webb-Anthony Rampley-Stuart Beardow-Neil Parkes-Darren Hartley-Kevin Roderick-Thom Bostock-Sally Smith-Chris Lang-Patrycia Pinkowska-Jakub Jablonowski-Mathew Ellis-Andrew Denton-Stephen Pike-Andrew Nordquist.

If anyone's form is still in the post then don't panic, you'll be added once it arrives.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Rideable at last.

Well the orange Inbred is pretty much ready to go. I'm still waiting for the Salsa Anything cages and minimal rack but I'm told they've been dispatched and will arrive shortly. I think it's turned out pretty well all in all. There wasn't a fixed budget but it also wasn't a money no object, fit what you like affair either. Certain things have fallen by the wayside as cheaper alternatives came along and were too good to miss ... fitting Shimano hydraulic discs rather than Avid BB7s is jut one example.

I've set it up with a 2 x 9 drive train as I don't think I'll be missing a big ring (certainly not when it's loaded off road). I had considered going 2 x 10 so I could use a 36t cassette (I know you can get a 12-36 9spd Deore one but it weighs 500g!) but I still don't fully trust 10spd chains even though I have a Carver set up 1 x 10 and it's given me no cause for concern.

The front wheel is fitted with an 18t SS cog so if disaster strikes my gears I'll hopefully be able to keep rolling ... common sense may dictate this changes to a 20t at some point.

First impressions seems pretty good ... pulling wheelies around the yard would indicate size and fit are pretty much spot on, saying that, I've enough bikes to know what suits and what doesn't suit me. One thing to bear in mind is, it's a 29er and I'm a P.O.R.G (Person Of Restricted Growth) lots of people will tell you that you can't ride a 29er when you're 5' 7" ... obviously they've not tried.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Confessions of a part time swinger.

If you value a good nights sleep when you're out in the hills (or local park) braving the elements and wino's while you connect with nature, then you might like to consider a hammock. I'm not going to pretend that swinging from the trees is for everyone but neither is a bivvy bag ... you pays your money, etc, etc. One thing I do know is that I've had some of my best nights in a hammock, so perhaps you would too.

The hammock in the pictures is a DD Travel Hammock, they cost under £50 and come with everything you need to get going. As you can see, there's a full midge net to keep the teeth with wings at bay, each side has a full length zip so you can access the hammock from either side then zip yourself in, nice and snug. The base of the hammock is a 2 layer affair, this means that you can slip a sleeping mat beneath you (you will need to do this in all but the warmest weather) to insulate you from cold air underneath. The 2 layer design also allows you to climb in between the layers for weather protection if things got really bad and / or use the whole thing as a ground shelter if you find yourself with no trees.

You can do your own caterpillar impressions

Setting the hammock up is about as quick as it gets. Tie each end to a tree then get in ... it really is that simple, however you may want to practice your knot work and experiment with setting the hammock at different angles before you get too carried away ... oddly having your feet higher than your head tends to work best.

Look comfy?

As with everything in life, there's always going to be drawbacks and compromise and using a hammock is no exception ... here's the negatives.

• Weight ... this weighs 1250g (lighter hammocks are available).
• Pack size ... could be an issue depending what you're used to.
• Obviously you need trees or something else to swing from.

And the good bits.

• Comfort ... hammocks are very comfy.
• No spiders crawling into your mouth at night!
• No need for a flat / smooth camping spot.
• It's actually fun ... don't underestimate this one.

I'm sure there's loads of other pros and cons but these are things that spring to (my) mind. I'm not a hammock evangelist by any means, I've only taken a hammock on 2 trips so far this year the rest of the time I've been in a bivvy bag spitting out spiders all night long but sometimes there really is nothing better than swinging about in the trees.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A question of weight.

It's an unfortunate fact that you possibly won't notice the negative effects of riding a loaded bike until you start to go up hill. On the flat it just rolls and on the downs it can be a bonus, so long as you haven't gone mad ... It's the ups that become the concern. Bikepacking just like backpacking is synonymous with weight saving, the lighter your kit the less work you'll have to do on the hills. This should mean you'll get less tired so you should be able to ride faster and/or further.

Getting your lightweight kit together isn't always simple. There are lots of factors you have to consider and compromise is usually the name of the game ... this balancing act has to take into account cost, weight, performance, pack size and practicality amongst other things. It must be said that even if you have bottomless pockets and aren't afraid to use them it won't always mean you'll get the equipment best suited to your requirements ... as an example, the lightest bivvy bag in the world weighs less than 100g, costs more than anything else BUT it's not breathable, so regardless of how super lightweight it is I personally wouldn't even consider it.

When you are trying to select kit and lets be honest there's such a vast choice it can become bewildering, you need a starting point. For many of us this will be cost and everything else will have to fit in around it but another starting point could be weight. I've had a think and compiled a list of what I would consider to be MAXIMUM weights for various items I'd take on a SUMMER over night trip. Obviously there's stuff out there that weighs much less but there's also plenty that's far heavier ... When I see a tent advertised as, ideal for backpacking with a weight of 3.5kg or a sleeping bag described as lightweight even though it weighs 2kg I have to wonder what type of medication certain members of the outdoor retail world are taking.

How much do you want to carry to the top?

• Sleeping bag - 1kg
• Bivvy bag - 500g
• Tarp (inc pegs/guys) - 600g
• Sleeping mat - 500g
• Stove and fuel - 200g
• Mug/cup/pan - 200g
• Groundsheet - 200g
• Evening insulating layer - 500g

Remember those weights are MAX so if I was looking for kit and the item in question weighed more but didn't offer me a significant increase in performance then I'd start to look elsewhere. Your biggest potential weight savings are likely to come from the above list. Also, remember it's not really worth buying that titanium spork if your sleeping bag weighs 2kg and packs to the size of a small country and those ultralight tent pegs won't have much of a noticeable effect if your tarp weighs 1.5kg.

Friday, March 18, 2011

AlpKit Rig7 ... best in test.

Thought some of you might be interested in this, seeing as how we (me) likes tarps. The latest issue of Trail magazine has a tarp test ... 5 different tarps go head to head sort of thing. Anyway our friends at AlpKit have walked away with best value (not surprisingly) and also best in test ... hoora I hear you cry.

Their Rig7 tarp saw off some big names and some big prices to come out on top. The test makes interesting reading in itself, so you might want to pick a copy up, especially as there's a sleeping bag and sleeping mat review in there too. Obviously if you're on the look out for a tarp then make your way over to AlpKit and buy yourself a winner.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

ShellTA update.

I took along a Furtech ShellTA on last weekends trip but unfortunately wasn't able to get any pictures of it erected so I've erected it again and here you go. The ShellTA can be used in many guises, it can be worn as a poncho, zipped up into a bivvy bag, converted into a 2 man storm shelter or as in this case turned into a tarp. I took along 8 pegs and a 115cm foldable alloy pole. The total weight was 570g ... obviously you don't require a pole, instead you could erect it as a ridge between trees or bikes, hang it from a tree or just use a stick.

I tied the 'hood' off with its elasticated drawcord and that gave me a very secure pocket for my pole to sit in. By moving the pole off centre I was able to have one side lower than the other to offer more protection and increase the available floor space. I chose to use 8 guys but 4 or 6 would work fine ... 8 does allow a taughter pitch though. Internal space is very good, the usable floor space is around 7' x 4' and I'm able to sit up without any problems. There was more than enough room for me to sleep, store all my kit and carefully cook underneath the ShellTA.

Saturday night saw persistent rain and a fair amount of wind but I remained dry, as did all my stuff. The pitch also meant no water gathered on the 'roof' which can be a problem ... Taylor was able to collect 4l of water off his tarp on Sunday morning.
I haven't tried the ShellTA out as anything other than a tarp yet but when I do I'll report back as to how I get on but so far I'm impressed.

Monday, March 14, 2011

A bit like, Last of the summer wine!

Friday morning saw me loading the old Inbred up and awaiting the arrival of Taylor. We were setting off into the mountains for a couple of nights for no other reason than because we could ... I may however, have had a sneaky look at a few WRT grid references along the way. I still consider early March in Wales to be winter, so tend to pack accordingly. I was carrying or to be correct, the bike was carrying:

• Deuter Atmosphere 550 down bag.
• Outdoor designs 2 star bivvy bag.
• POE Ether Thermo 6 mat.
• Furtech ShellTA (plus 8 pegs and 115cm alloy pole).
• MYOG Plastic groundsheet.
• Sea to summit Thermo extreme bag liner.
• Rab microlight down jacket.
• Nanok sleep socks (borrowed from Dennis).

• Pop can stove.
• Alloy .9l pan and MYOG foil lid.
• AlpKit Ti Lahoon (now hanging from a tree somewhere, lost).
• MYOG foil windshield.
• Polystyrene cup.
• Disposable plastic bowl (think kids party).
• Disposable lighter.
• Meths.

• Tiny, dinky little knife.
• Phone ... don't know why I bother really.
• Montane featherlite smock.
• Buff type thing.
• First aid kit (bare minimum).
• Maps x 2 (different ones).
• Petzl head torch.
• Rab inner gloves.
• A fiver.

I also had the usual tools and spares you'd carry for most rides and I was obviously fully clothed but nothing exotic. Food was also present ;o)

Packed and ready to go.

Friday night was spend in a small wood. Nice and sheltered with a good water supply. We arrived there around 7.00 so by the time we'd set up and made some food it was pretty near bedtime ... the only noise was the river and the bloody foxes doing their best to keep us awake.

Yes, this is a sign in Wales've been warned.

We had a nice steady start the following morning, we were meeting Steve at 10.00 a few miles away so weren't in any great rush ... so much so that we were late! The first real hurdle of the day was a road pass, the highest road pass in Wales. The picture below really doesn't do it justice.

Riding not compulsory.

Saturday turned into quite a long day with us eventually setting camp in the wettest forest in Wales around 8.30. I won't mention the hour long quest for water, the thigh deep bog, the missing Oakleys, lack of brakes, multiple punctures within 4 yards or the vanishing RUPP ... the owners of those stories can keep them for themselves.

The good weather made a return on Sunday after heavy overnight rain which made the 3 hour ride back all the better ... the very last climb still hurt though!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I've gone all Fanny Cradock.

You know the feeling, legs feel like they're not yours and no matter how much you will them to keep spinning they just don't want to play ... you've run out of energy and you need to do something pretty quickly or sitting on the edge of the trail sobbing may be the result. Flapjack is your saviour, I'm not going to get all scientific and start talking GI and carbo loading, so you'll just have to trust me when I say, flapjack will get you home. Even folk who can't boil water without burning it can make flapjack if they follow the WRT 'almost fool proof' recipe ... where vagueness and near enough rule.

1/ Get yourself a pan.
2/ Put 6oz of marg' + 6oz of brown sugar (normal granulated will do) + 6 tablespoons of syrup in your pan.
3/ Locate the oven and turn the hob on, stick the pan on the hot bit until everything in the pan has melted.
4/ Find some oats (the porridge you bought, promised to eat but never did, will do) pour the oats in to your pan and keep stirring. Add more oats until you've got something that's around the consistency of thick porridge.
5/ Go mad and fling something else in there (not compulsory), dried fruit, nuts, choc chips, belly button fluff ... whatever you fancy.
6/ Now you'll need something to cook it in. A baking tray 1/2" deep and 10" x 8" would be great but whatever you find will more than likely be fine.
7/ IMPORTANT grease your baking tray with marg'. Give the inside a right good rub.
8/ Spoon/tip/fling your mixture in to your tray, level it out a bit and stick it in the oven. 200 degrees for 20 minutes should do the trick.
9/ Get it out and while it's still warm cut it up.

That's it, job done, the trail food of the gods ... told you it was simple.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Stuff sack or Tardis?

The bag I'm holding doesn't look that big does it? So you might be surprised when I tell you that it contains, a bivvy bag, a tarp, a 2 man emergency shelter and a poncho.

Inside the bag is a shellTA, an ingenious bit of kit that can be transformed in to all of the above items. I'm going to take this one out for a couple of nights later this week and see how we get on ... I'll report back next week but in the meantime go and have a look over at to see what's what ... and yes, they've promised it's going to rain!

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Joy of M.Y.O.G

I think there's a certain satisfaction to be had from making stuff. Perhaps whatever it is has cost you less than it would to buy one or maybe what you've made isn't available to buy ... either way it can be a nice feeling.

I've been meaning to sort myself out with a new stove wind shield for a while but didn't get round to it. My present one is alright but I knew it could be better and certainly lighter. I've used tin foil in the past too but it's not exactly the most robust of materials, so on multi day trips it's never really proved that successful. What I needed was something light that was flexible yet strong, cheap to buy and easily sourced ... not that I was asking for much.As luck would have it a shopping expedition turned up just the thing. While begrudgingly pushing a trolley around Morrison's I came across a pack of heavy duty foil serving platters ... 3 in a pack for £1.80. Any bikepacking Ninjas will be glad to hear they're also available in stealthy black but cost twice as much.

The separate pieces are joined by simply folding the doubled up material 3 times then 'rolling' the joints with a piece of wood (rolling pin, broom handle, etc). They're plenty strong enough and still retain enough flexibility. All the edges have been folded twice and rolled ... just to add a little more strength and remove any nasty edges. A slot near each end allows the thing to be joined to form your (almost) circular wind shield.

It rolls up to fit inside my 900ml mug, weighs next to nothing, should last a while and even has what I can best describe as etchings on the surface, so looks a little bit posh. There was enough material left over from 2 platters to knock up a new lid for my mug too, something which saved me over 100g in unnecessary weight ... now I'm proper geeky!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

More Scouting ... dib dib dib

A few pictures from this weekends grid reference scouting. You may or may not find yourself in the location of the pictures, obviously it'll all depend on your individual route. I'm sorry to say I didn't quite break the magic 2000ft barrier today. I think I was short by around 250ft, so it would be slightly unfair to call it mountain biking ;o)

Just needs a few slates and pointing

It was very, very dark in there

The Waltons weren't at home

Believe me ... it's a long pull up from the far valley bottom

Yes, it is all downhill from here

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Bike Buddy ... adjustable cage.

Following on a little from the orange On One build up and in particular the Enabler forks / Anything cage combo. I thought this may be of interest.

This is a Bike Buddy, it's a fully adjustable bottle cage but obviously it can hold other things besides bottles. It can be adjusted (by changing springs) to carry things up to 6" in diameter. The whole thing is made in the UK from lightweight stainless steel and there are a few different versions available depending whether you want to fit it to bottle cage mounts or not.

If you want to get your hands on one or just want a better look, go to and take a look.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

WRT 2010 ... One mans ride.

Thought some of you might find this interesting. It's about one mans 2010 WRT, great words and some lovely pictures. If you were there it might spark some memories. If you weren't but are planning on riding this year, then it might offer a bit of an insight ... whether that be good or bad!

It's over on AlpKits website, so while your there reading pop into the shop and get some supplies. Nice work Paul.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Taking shape ... slowly.

Well, the new very orange bikepacking bike now rolls ... as you can see. I'm still waiting on various bits and pieces but I thought I'd give you a quick run down of what's there at present and the thinking behind the choices.

Lets start with the frame. It's a 16" On One Inbred in 29 inch wheel flavour. I've played around with 29ers for a while and once I found a frame that fitted (it isn't easy being a person of restricted growth) I started to feel and appreciate the benefits big wheels offer. I also find that they can cover ground easier than their 26" counterparts ... especially if the ground in question is non technical, fire road, bridleways and gravel tracks, etc. The Inbred offered me everything I was looking for, other frames came close but not just close enough. I needed / wanted:

*Steel - I like steel frames would be enough here but I also like the fact they're easy to repair should the need arise.

*Rack mounts - Just in case.

*Easy to convert to single speed - Slot drop outs on this, so no worries there.

* Cost - Some of the other stuff I looked at cost nearly 3 times more.

So, the Inbred ticked all the boxes and we now had a frame sorted. Next on the list were the forks. For some folk, rigid forks wouldn't be a consideration but for me, putting suspension forks on never entered my head ... I'd seen the forks I wanted, all I had to do was wait until they came in to the country. The forks in question are Salsa Enablers. There were a number of reasons for choosing them above anything else.


*135mm spacing - This means I run a rear wheel in the front, the front wheel has a single speed specific rear hub. The idea is that if something happened to my rear mech' or freehub I can just switch wheels and we're still rolling (hence the need for a single speedable frame). Another bonus is the ability to fit a Surly Larry or Endomorph 3.8" tyre in the front when the snow returns.

*Carrying - Salsa designed the fork to work with various 'bolt ons'. The first is their Anything cage. Think of it as an oversize waterbottle cage but it's not designed for water bottles ... it's designed to carry Anything (that'll be where the name comes from then), sleeping bag, tarp, food, spare clothes or whatever else you like. Stick it in a dry bag, strap it in the cage and off you go! There's mounts for 2 cages, one on each fork leg. Salsa have also added rack mounts but not just any rack mounts, they've produced a
minimalist rack that isn't designed to carry panniers but dry bags ... a bikepacking dream.

135mm fork spacing ... rear hub in front

That covers what I'd consider to be the 2 most important bits ... I'll stick more bits on as and when they arrive and report back.