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.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

WRT ... The Finish.

Waking up on Monday morning was just like waking up on Saturday morning ... only the weather was worse. High winds and rain were still present but as with Saturday, as the morning went on the weather started to improve. With that improvement came a steady trickle of returning riders. By midday that had changed into a flood of riders, all eager to grab a brew and stuff their faces with cake.

It was fantastic to see so many smiling faces. Some might have been smiling due to the relief of being home safe and sound, for others the smiles were proof of their achievements ... all were great to see.

Kevin ... ALL 15 GR and just about to ride 25 miles home!

How much cleaner this had been 2 days earlier.

No shortage of sheep shit on display.

Tea is the best recovery drink known to man.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

More start line pics.

This belongs to Ian from Wildcat Gear ... looks fast stood still. There's a sleeping
bag, down jacket and spare clothes in that front dry bag!

• Roo ... never far from food.

• All smiles but it had stopped raining by then.

• Paul and his singlespeed Niner.

• The exit is actually to the left of the picture.

• The maiden trip for Pete's Singular.

• The one legged pedaling race got off to a fantastic start.

• Slugwash looking proud after his weigh in, not that he won.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

WRT ... The Start.

It's never a good sign when you open your eyes, switch your ears on and all you can hear is wind and rain battering the house ... that's how it was on the morning of the WRT. All morning the rain kept coming, you knew it was windy too as the rain wasn't just falling down but sideways!

The storm before the storm.

I knew a touch of Welsh liquid sunshine wouldn't put anyone off though and by around 10.00 cars started to appear and slither around the field in search of traction. Luckily, as more riders arrived the rain decided to leave ... it was obviously beaten by everyone's enthusiasm.

There's always faffing to be done.

The weigh in (off) started sometime around 11.00, riders had their bikes and kit weighed on the official WRT scales. There was some interesting results, the majority had implements of torture weighing somewhere between 50lb and 60lb all in. There were some that came in considerably lighter, Nick from AlpKit was the only rider to manage a sub 40lb weight but a few others weren't far off ... it must have been the last energy bar that tipped them over the edge. Almost more impressive was the heaviest bike/kit/trailer combination ... a total weight of 129lb!

Built for comfort not speed ... 129lb all in!

We were a little late drawing the raffle but once underway it was a tickets, prizes and shouting fest of the highest order. Some lucky people walked away with some very nice prizes ... £150 Rab and Phd down jackets anyone?

The pole dancing proved popular.

With most riders booted and suited it was time for the off. Some had a harder time than others deciding which way to get out of the field but in the end all were successful ... lets hope they all make it back on Monday!

If I press this button it'll turn on the teleport device.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Well that's it then ...

... this time tomorrow the 2011 WRT will be underway. Riders from all over the UK will be pushing their bikes up big hills, squinting at maps and trying to understand the locals. I'll try and get some pictures up here after the start so you'll be able to see the panic, fear and anxiety in the faces of all those taking part!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Shape the future.

Is there a certain bit of kit you always use? Perhaps you've an idea for something but no one produces it. Maybe you use a product that with a few alterations would be perfect or you might just want a chit chat about the stuff you use and why you use it.

If you nodded your head to any of the above and are riding the WRT then you might like to arrive a little earlier and come and have a natter with Nick and Kenny from AlpKit. They'll be knocking around from around 10.00 onwards and would love to hear your ideas and thoughts with regard to bikepacking kit ... you never know, your ideas might just become the future!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

10 Questions ... Joe Meiser.

For those of you who don't know, Joe Meiser works for Salsa Cycles and has a wealth of bikepacking and ultra racing experience. He's been kind enough to answer a few questions, it makes interesting reading. You can read more of Joe's thoughts and see what he's up to here

1/ Have you noticed much increase in interest in the whole bikepacking and adventure cycling thing in the last couple of years and do you think it's a market that will continue to grow?

Absolutely, in both anecdotal and quantitative measures. The Adventure Cycling Association publishes their fiscal results and is showing significant growth in both on and off-road touring/bikepacking. The Tour Divide race and the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, considered a top adventure for bicycle tourists continues to grow in popularity. This year, much do to the success of the film “Ride The Divide” the start list is over 100 riders long. Here at Salsa we consistently hear stories of individual’s first overnighter/S24O or multi-day bikepacking trip. We could delve into the external factors as to why it’s growing and they are important, but most importantly, we are seeing more folks wanting to experience an adventure using their bicycle as the tool.

2/ Do you think races like the Tour Divide have had a big impact with regard to increasing peoples awareness of bikepacking, etc?

The Tour Divide, or a tour on the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, is clearly seen as the defining event or experience for adventure cycling and bikepacking. The Tour Divide has clearly increased awareness and been a catalyst for other events and for individuals to simply, get out there and try something. I imagine we’ll see many riders trying other events such as Trans Iowa, Dirty Kanza, Colorado Trail Race, Arizona Trail Race, among others as a stepping stone to attempting the Divide. The Divide will continue to be the penultimate event until something bigger and longer comes along.

3/ 29ers aren't as popular in the UK as they are in the US, so any chance of a 26" Enabler fork sometime?

Any chance the UK at large will get on 29ers? They’ve clearly shown their popularity and usefulness in these parts and we are certainly trying to grow their popularity elsewhere. Until then, we’ll consider your request, but I wouldn’t hold your breath.

4/ So, the Ti Fargo ... was it designed to be the ultimate long distance, backcountry bike?

The Fargo in general was originally intended to be the ultimate bike for touring and/or racing the Divide. It has proved itself on the Divide as well as tours elsewhere in the world. Over time we’ve made improvements to the Fargo and applied them to the Fargo Ti that I believe still make it the ultimate bike for riding/racing the Divide even though most others are ultimately still using flat bars. Is it the ultimate long distance, backcountry bike? I guess that depends on terrain. I’d rather be riding our Spearfish when the terrain turns to rocky, bumpy singletrack, like the Arizona Trail, or our Mukluk when it gets sandy or the snow starts to fly. You see, I really think it depends on the terrain and experience. The Fargo is best suited for gravel roads, rocky mountain passes, and less technical singletrack in my opinion. It really is a great “all-arounder”.

5/ Drop bars off road ... a growing trend or only for a small minority?

It’s funny…all things seem to come full circle. I’ve got a post card at my desk with Jacquie Phelan sitting on her drop bar equipped Cunningham, Mike Riemer (Salsa Marketing Manager) has a photo of himself aboard his Bridgestone MB-1 riding drop bars as well. Drop bars off-road will continue to remain niche. That’s my belief anyway. We are seeing growth in our Woodchipper bars, both in riders putting them on our bikes and others. The appeal of the Woodchipper extends beyond off-road riding to touring, gravel racing, and urban riding. I think everyone should have a fat tire(tyre), drop bar bike to keep the local trails interesting and the adventure rides comfortable.

6/ Do you have anymore bikepacking specific products in the pipeline or is it top secret?

Top Secret. In general you’ll see Salsa product continue to focus on multiple facets of Adventure cycling. Our bikes are built for adventure and we have many parts and accessories that support the experience. We’ll continue to add bikes, parts, and accessories built for Adventure. I wish there was something specific I could share…but keep your eyes open mid-late summer for new 2012 product from Salsa Cycles.

7/ Bivvy bag, tarp or tent? ... it's a hot topic in the UK .

I’ve used all three and they all have distinct advantages/disadvantages.

I used a bivy in 2009 when I raced the Divide. I found it to be clammy, and ultimately it didn’t serve me that well. I still use it these days, but mostly in lieu of taking a sleeping bag. I’ve since cut off the stake out points and bug netting. When the nights are warm I just wear a light down sweater and slide into the bivy for wind protection. If there are bugs I wear a simple bug net over my head and slather some DEET on my ears. I find that bivy’s collect too much moisture and are far too constraining so I typically trend towards my tarp. I’m still hoping to find a good use for the bivy though.

Tents are great in groups, for bugs, and in the winter. I’ve used tarp tents in the past and now have a Black Diamond Megalight that I think is great in the winter. I’ve added a woodstove boot to the peak of mine and made a small woodstove to heat it up. While it burns through wood quickly it will warm the tent into the 40’s on a 0F day. It isn’t something I’d race with, but it is definitely a nice luxury on a tour. Aside from that, tents have an enormous footprint to lay out gear in and hide under. I suppose this could be a disadvantage in some terrain, but mostly it is a good thing. In groups, tents can actually be lighter when considering overall gear weight. My BD weighs roughly 2 lbs, where a bivy or tarp weighs 1 lbs. So, for two people the tent can weigh the same per person and provide more useable, comfortable space. I still don’t have a bug net for my tent and so I continue to use DEET and the head net. Some day…

Tarps are my go to most of the time. Currently I have a Mountain Laurel Designs Grace Solo Sil-Nylon. It’s got plenty of footprint for sleeping under. On tours, like our California Central Coast trip, I pair it with a ground cloth (a piece of Tyvek house wrap). During races I use it with just my quilt and a sleeping mat to keep weight and simplicity in check. If the night is dry I’ll just use it as a ground cloth to protect the inflatable air mat. If the night is going to be wet with dew or rain I’ll pitch the tarp with a couple of sticks. I never carry poles with me. There is always some sort of found object than can be used for a support. So far, I’ve yet to be in a situation where the tarp didn’t suit me well.

In the end it comes down to choosing the right shelter for the environment you’ll be in and that is only something that can be determined with planning and experience. Who am I to say what will work in the UK, or anywhere else. I hope my experience helps the debate!

8/ Fat bikes such as the Mukluk are obviously great for riding on snow and sand, do you consider them viable for more 'normal' trail conditions?

I consider the Mukluk a viable option for all kinds of trail conditions, both with and without the fat tires. This summer I plan on riding it with a fat front some days and a fat rear with a 2.4 front others. I’m going to continue to play with our bike and figure out just where the limits are.

Our second Mukluk prototypes came in the heart of our summer riding season. Fortunately, the River Bottoms Trails, two miles from our offices had seen a good amount of flooding that year. It was perfect Fatbike terrain with deep sand and flood debris strewn about. The bikes saw quite a bit of time down on the River Bottoms to and from work on my 25 mile commute before the stinging nettles drove me away.

I’m not sure if you guys have stinging nettles in the UK or not? They are a perennial plant with leaves covered in thousands of microscopic stinging needles. The needles inject several different chemicals that cause a serious amount of itching and pain for some time after they are touched. Sections of the River Bottoms are so densely packed with them that exposure is inevitable. I’ve literally teared up from the pain, riding through them on a hot summer day even wearing full leg and arm covering to ward them off.

There has been chatter in the past from riders considering a Fatbike for the Divide because of the tire clearance and I was curious to see how it would ride with typical MTB tires. For the second half of that summer I rode my Mukluk with Salsa Gordo Rims and Schwalbe 2.4 tires. Now that it is summer here again inMinnesota I’ve put a new set of ‘summer’ wheels on another iteration of Mukluk prototype that I plan on riding through this summer.

Bottom line is that Fatbikes work well for regular mountain terrain, but the wheels weigh a lot more than a standard MTB wheel and tire.

9/ Which frame set do you sell most of?

Salsa used to be a frame and component company, but today we are focused on complete bicycles, frames, part, and accessories. In 2011 we’ve seen strong sales in our core bicycle and frame models. The Salsa Vaya, Fargo, Spearfish, Mukluk, and El Mariachi are very near even in sales this year. They are our core products. It is quite satisfying to see how each of the bikes has been received by our dealers and ultimately the consumers.

10/ If you could only ever take one more ride, where would you go?

Easy. I would go around the world with my family. It would be an epic adventure to travel through dozens of different countries immersing ourselves in different cultures, languages, foods, and beliefs. There are several inspiring adventure riders out there doing just this. It is inspiring to see them ‘leave it all behind’ in pursuit of understanding. I’d start south through Mexico, Central, and South America then fly on to Australia and New Zealand. Asia, China, India, and Africa would be next. I’d wrap it up in Europe, Canada, and parts of the US…as a nice way to ease back into society, or on my way out, depending on the circumstances. I think 10 or so years would be sufficient time period to take on this last trip, but it could last a lifetime. If you know of anyone willing to fund such a thing, please send them my way.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

WRT Weigh Off.

With all the fascination and discussion about kit weight I thought it might be an idea to have a WRT Weigh Off before the start for anyone who fancies it ... The rules and procedure are hopefully very straight forward.

• There will be a stand / balance outside the signing on tipi.
• Bring your loaded bike and any other packs you're riding with to the tipi and weigh them.
• Write your total kit/bike weight on the paper next to the scales.
• Don't cheat, you're only cheating yourself, blah, blah, blah ... and someone might check.
• Someone will win a prize for something.

See, told you it was simple.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

20 Years of the Polaris.

If your longing for 2 wheeled self propelled adventure hasn't been completely destroyed after the WRT, then perhaps you'd be interested in the Polaris Challenge.

The 2011 Polaris Challenge takes place on the weekend of June 25th / 25th in the Dark Peak ... 2011 is also the 20th anniversary of the Polaris Challenge. You'll get to ride your bike, sleep in a field and even get lost, so all the prime ingredients for a great weekend are present. The event is open to solo riders or teams of 2 so you don't even require any mates to take part.

Nip over to the Polaris web site and have a look you'll also be able to pick up an entry form at the WRT.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Midges ... great!

I've received an email asking about midges ... will there be lots and how best to avoid them, so I thought I'd share a few thoughts here.

Firstly, it's fair to say that there's a very good chance you'll run into the odd midge or 2 whilst on the WRT, they do seem to be getting worse year on year. Midges thrive in certain conditions so if you avoid the places they're most happy, you'll greatly increase your chances of returning with less spots than a leopard.

Winged teeth from hell.

The areas to avoid will be anywhere that is:


So setting up camp in a forest, next to a pond when there's no breeze is a sure fire way to get bitten. Instead, a camp on a open hillside, 300m from the nearest water would be a far safer bet. The more you stomp about around camp the more midges will spring into action from the ground, so tread lightly or try levitation. Midges are also attracted to dark colours, so while your black, brown and navy cycling gear may look stealthy to us, the midges will see it as an open invitation to an all you can eat buffet.

It's worth taking something to cover any bare skin in camp, a pair of leg warmers (day glo obviously) will help stop your lower legs turning spotty and won't weigh you down much. Some kind of repellent is always wise, there's far too many on the market for me to comment on but if in doubt just pick the one with the most severe health warnings. If you're going to be sleeping in a bivvy bag then your face will become a delicious target for the midges all night ... a cheap midge head net should ensure that your face will remain all yours.

If you're really bothered by biting things then I'd consider carrying a full net. They don't weigh much, pack up very small and are relatively cheap ... best of all, you'll remain un-bitten all night.

Some are more annoying than others.

Friday, May 13, 2011


If you enjoy reading about other peoples suffering as they go on their self propelled adventures then buy a copy of this. The Cordillera Volume 2 is a series of stories, pictures, etc about the Tour Divide.

I've not read volume 2 yet but volume 1 was a fantastic read with lots of different perspectives on what's often called the worlds hardest bike race. Profits from the sale of volume 2 are going to be donated to the family of Dave Blumenthal was was killed while taking part in last years TD.

You can buy Cordillera in either print format or as a download from the link below ... you won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

So wrong it might be right.

When I ride I don't like trying / having to maintain the same position for long periods ... it's one of the reasons I ride flat pedals and quite enjoy drop bars off road. The idea of adding clip-on bars to a mountain bike is nothing new, a large number of TD bikes run them so the riders can alter their positions throughout long days.

I happened to be on the internet looking for some bits when I came across some cheap clip-on bars and thought I'd give them a whirl ... after all, the orange Inbred seemed like a good candidate.

I must have one arm longer than the other!

The general consensus seems to be that when fitted to a mountain bike, clip-ons need to be raised with some kind of spacer. Rather than start machining / bodging something I thought I'd give them a quick go first ... nothing ventured, etc.

Oddly ... quite comfy.

They still need some fine tuning to get the position right but first impressions are quite promising. Once you get used to the position things aren't bad and the unstable steering sensation soon goes. I certainly wouldn't like to try and ride anything technical when using them but for those tarmac bits you can't avoid or long draggy fireroads I think they might offer a noticeable advantage ... we'll see!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

WRT Exclusive ... Wildcat Gear.

There's been quite a bit of rumour and speculation regarding Wildcat Gear over the last few months. For those who don't know, Wildcat are based In Brecon and make equipment which is specifically aimed at the bikepacking world, with bar harnesses and frame bags being the first items to go into production. Now, there's nothing new about harnesses and frame bags, both have been available from the US for a few years (if you didn't mind the wait and the import duty). What makes Wildcat products different is the attention to detail and the little touches that make life so much easier. An awful amount of prototypes have gone through testing before the final versions were finalised. Take the bar harness for example ... the way the harness fits to the bike is very different from other makes and utilises the fork crown so once fitted there's no sway or swing, your gear stays put even over the roughest trails. Another nice touch is an elastic strap across the top so you'll never be stuck for a place to slip your gloves, map or whatever else you need handy ... see what I mean about detail?

Harnesses ... not just in black.

Wildcat offer a full custom frame bag service for either full bags (Leopard and Snow Leopard) or half bags (Lynx). You can pretty much go as mad as you like here. There's a list on the web site of what I can best describe as 'standard custom options' such as battery lead port, outside map pocket, internal pockets, etc but if you've any specific requirements you might be surprised what's possible.

There'll be a few bikes at the WRT sporting Wildcat gear (Ian will also be riding) so you'll get chance to view it there. In the meantime go and have a look at the web site and get yourself sorted ... you really won't regret it and yes, I have tried it for myself ;o)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

It's Nothing New.

It's easy to think that bikepacking is something pretty new, whether it be the act itself or just the term. There's been a massive surge in interest within the UK over the last couple of years, so the feeling that we've all discovered something new isn't surprising. This book arrived from the US the other day, I've known of it for years but I've never seen a copy until I stumbled across this on Amazon.

It's been around a while.

The information it contains is pretty much as relevant today as it was when it was written. Obviously we've had advances in technology since the book was written which has made our lives easier, lighter and more compact. There's certain aspects missing from the book that today we'd almost take for granted such as frame bags and harnesses but all in all not much has changed. The book was written nearly 30 years ago which is really before mountain bikes as we know them existed ... sleeping under tarps and trying to source the lightest down bag possible is nothing new!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Orange Inbred ... First Outing.

Well, the orange Inbred had its first proper outing this weekend and I'm glad to report everything performed well. The only small problem encountered was the rear wheel slipping in the drop outs under heavy pressure ... easily cured with the application of 'big allen key'.

Ready for the off.

It was the first time I'd ridden it loaded and at first was slightly worried by the front bias weight distribution ... I shouldn't have given it a second thought. The Salsa Minimal rack and Anything cages held everything firmly and didn't seem to have any negative effect on handling. I'm sure the Conti' Race Kings added to the whole easy rolling nature too ... once moving, it just keeps going with very little effort - ideal for those long fire road climbs, of which there were plenty.

Sallys first night out.

On the very high ground (above 500m) the wind was howling, so a retreat to shelter seemed like a sound option. After a mammoth fire road climb we found a flatish pitch on the edge of a forest. The floor cleared of branches and twigs, tarps were strung up, mats inflated and within half an hour we were sorted ... tea in hand.