Endurance Cross-Country Kit Essentials

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Trial and error (and a bit of grumpy lying on the ground) has seen Amanda find her way to the ideal kit to keep on going, and going, and going…

Words & photography Amanda

Yes, I admit that endurance cross-country race kit is very specific, but whether you’re into it or not, this is all kit that fits the needs of someone wanting to hammer their bike for hours on end, in all weathers, and have it functioning and comfortable for the entire time – so surely that means it would be suitable for the time-crunched cyclist who can’t clean and polish their bike after each ride?

Cross-country is also a fast-track way to wear out components, so finding a good balance of durable yet affordable is key, or at least knowing which bits to spend 90% of the budget on and which items you can put up with for the remaining 10%.

Finally, it needs to be lightweight. As a rule, I tend not to care how much my bike weighs, within reason. I don’t try to cope without tyre inserts for the sake of 100g or ride an uncomfortable saddle because it has carbon rails and no heavy comfort gel in it. But you have to save weight somewhere if you plan to ride for up to 24 hours in one go.

My approach to endurance cross-country racing is that of an amateur. I can plod along for an unlimited amount of time if I keep eating and drinking, but I can’t hold a sporting pace or ride competitively. For this reason, I have compiled a kit list that is suitable for endurance racing but is also perfectly adequate for everyday trail riding.

My out-the-door riding options fall into the cross-country category – I live on the Mary Towneley Loop in the South Pennines, with the Pennine Bridleway’s most extreme peaks and troughs on my doorstep. I like to pedal; I like to stretch out my rides as far as time and terrain will allow me to, and I don’t have the budget to keep multiple bikes in full working order so, therefore, I need a jack-of-a-few trades.

Vitus Rapide FS CRX

  • Price: £3,999.99
  • More info: vitusbikes.com

The Vitus Rapide FS is seriously hard to beat for competitive cross-country racing. It has 100mm of lockable travel front and back, a Reynolds TR carbon wheelset, it’s super light, fast-rolling, and you feel like a stronger rider on every pedal stroke since it really delays the long-distance fatigue.

If, like me, you can’t afford to have a separate bike for racing, the Rapide FS is comfortable and capable enough to see you through regular trail riding. You’ll always find the limit of 100mm travel if you try to ride it like an enduro bike, but I happily take this bike out on local technical terrain and would certainly consider it feasible for trail centre days.

Throw a dropper post on it, tidy up the abundance of cables out front and away you go.

Petrichor Projects PP002 Women’s Bib Short

  • Price: £149.00
  • More info: petrichorprojects.co

A subjective item, but I feel so strongly about this one that I am adamant it is the answer to most women’s bib woes. We generally have to choose a maximum of two of the following: saddle comfort/good fit/ability to wee without getting undressed. I have always had to make a sacrifice, and more often than not it’s the option to have a bib I can pull down without taking my top layer off. In most cases this isn’t a huge inconvenience, usually just incredibly uncomfortable in winter, but if you’re an endurance athlete or you’re taking part in a timed event, you quickly tire of seeing men relieve themselves without even unclipping both feet while you’re bushwacking into tick-riddled gorse. These bibs have a magnetic closure allowing you to quickly pull them down, and there’s a fabric loop that makes it easy to grab the unclipped strap to reattach. The clasp is low profile so it doesn’t affect the fit or comfort, and it functions perfectly. Easy to undo, snaps back shut, and doesn’t pop open on its own.

The fabric is soft with a silky finish and offers incredible support. The shorts aren’t too tight at the cuff, and by some miracle, they don’t give me sausage legs, even 10+ hours into a hot long-distance ride. The crotch area fits perfectly, despite my chunky upper thighs, and the shorts don’t move during use. Sometimes, especially on hot or wet days, even my best-fitting bibs will gradually work their way down and need hoicking back up, but not these.

The chamois pad is exceptional. I rode these bibs for 292km for the first ride, which was a huge risk, but in the name of product testing I did it, and not only did I experience zero discomfort, I actually felt like existing sore areas had a chance to heal. I ride a lot and I always have two tender points on my sit bones, but they’re fading rapidly, thanks to owning a pair of bibs with a pad that gradually transitions from deep to light padding in the right areas.

With over 15 years of industry experience, the designer of these bib shorts has created a size range from XXS to XXXL. I wear a size large, I am 172cm tall, 70kg, waist 71cm, hips 105cm, and I have Thunder Thighs. I cannot fault these bibs, they are in a league of their own and I’ve not even mentioned the pocket…

Specialized S-Works Prevail II Helmet

  • Price: £240.00*
  • More info: specialized.com

Helmets are not somewhere to save money in my opinion. I’ve had a concussion and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. Safety does come at a price, and the Specialized Prevail II has both MIPS and ANGi, and an ultralight micro-dial system to ensure a really secure, yet comfortable fit.

I’m not saying that this level of protection is worth £240… it’s not. You can get good protection for much less money. Here the extra cost comes in the form of a featherlight helmet with ventilation so good that you won’t feel the need to take it off to let your head breathe. I never have the urge to release heat; it is simply breathable enough to keep me extremely comfortable for long hot days.

Back to safety, I feel very strongly about white helmets. White is visible in a range of light and weather conditions, and I like to believe that a visible head makes you look more human to passing traffic, and maybe that will translate to more considerate passes. I wear this helmet for any long-distance, multi-day, or endurance ride, so it’s inevitable that I’ll end up on tarmac somewhere along the way. 

*The Prevail 3 has replaced this model, so you can probably pick the Prevail II up cheaper. The Prevail 3 costs £275.00

Burgtec Bartender Pro Greg Minnaar Grip

  • Price: £21.00
  • More info: burgtec.co.uk

I stumbled upon these grips when I chose them for looks alone. Full disclosure: I really like the Burgtec logo. So despite my initial lack of research, I’ve since found out that these are ideal for endurance riding because they’re designed to offer great vibration dampening. That becomes increasingly more important the longer you spend on your bike, and having developed trigger finger from racing events like 10@Kirroughtree, I can’t afford to neglect my hands.

The grips are 31.5mm in diameter compared to the 30mm non-signature version. Personally, I find a thicker grip offers better shock absorption and less arm pump.

Albion All Road Sleeveless Mesh Base Layer

  • Price: £40.00
  • More info: albioncycling.com

This is an item I took a chance on for my bikepacking trip across Spain. In that instance I needed something below jersey level for my wild wees (I didn’t own Petrichor bibs back then), and had no idea it would help temperature regulation so effectively. Sweat is efficiently and consistently wicked away from my body, which helps with comfort and hygiene.

Since discovering the benefits of wearing a base, I haven’t been on a ride without one. It is a really close fit, almost like a second skin, so it doesn’t affect the fit of any outer layers. It never smells, it dries really quickly thanks to it wicking the sweat out onto my outer layer, and when I get it out of the washing machine (or hostel sink) it is almost immediately dry.

There are a few brands offering mesh base layers, I have tried Pearson, dhb, Albion and Rapha. In terms of temperature control there isn’t a huge difference between them all, but for fit and durability I will always put my money on Albion.

LifeLine Performance MTB Mini Pump

  • Price: £19.99
  • More info: chainreactioncycles.com

If I need to use a pump mid-ride, I do not want to be messing around with a weenie, space-saving option that has a screw-on valve and a super-short body that only allows for short thrusts. This lightweight mini pump is available in mountain bike and road options (max pressure 80psi for this one, 100psi for the road), it has a telescopic extractable hose, and the valve is a push-on with a locking lever. The hose means there’s much less risk of bending the valve in the wheel, and access is much easier.

When it comes to pumping, the barrel extends out to give a decent range and, therefore, more air per pump. The pump comes with a bottle cage mount that sits off to the side, allowing you to still fit a bottle cage, and it has a satisfying clunk into place and a rubber retention strap for extra security.

Squirt Chain Lube

  • Price: £11.99
  • More info: squirtcyclingproducts.com

This is a conditional favourite lube. In order to use Squirt you must start with a sparkling clean drivetrain, apply the wax-based lubricant in enough time for it to dry before your ride, and you can only reapply it to a clean chain. That’s not to say you can’t apply mid-ride when you hear the chain drying out. If you haven’t got caked in mud, you can top it up. A quick rinse with water would also be good enough. This sounds like an inconvenient choice, but the beauty of Squirt is that it doesn’t gather up dust and dirt and require washing off like most lubes. It wears away, much like a waxed chain eventually returns to its pre-waxed state, free of both wax and muck. If you get into the habit of using it and keeping your chain clean, you will never experience a greasy chainring stain on your leg or a build-up of grey gunk on your jockey wheels.

Peaty’s Holeshot Biofibre Tubeless Sealant

  • Price: £29.99 litre, £7.99 120ml
  • More info: peatys.co.uk

I have tried every sealant that has graced the shelves of the Singletrack workshop, and to be honest I think it’s hard to find a bad one these days. That said, there is a long list of reasons as to why I choose Peaty’s. The bottle has a nozzle that you can fill directly into your valve from, which isn’t something I often do but when you know you need a top up and you run inserts, it can be the easiest way. The actual reason for the small nozzle is to refill the handy 120ml pouch, which can be kept in a ride pack and save you from the dreaded tube on a big day out.

The sealing fibres and platelets are all biodegradable, and there’s a really high concentration of them despite the sealant being quite thin. Thin sealant is much easier to set up in the first place, too. And most importantly, the fact it is white means I don’t stain anything when I have a tyre explosion on the trail or in the workshop. It seals fast, seems to last a really long time, and isn’t a pig to clean out if you’re having a deep maintenance night.

Wolf Tooth 8-Bit Pack Pliers

  • Price: 8-bit Pack Pliers £64.00, Magura Trail Tool £20.99
  • More info: wolftoothcomponents.com

There’s no point in carrying tools just for the sake of having them, which I’ll admit is what I used to do. When it came to trailside maintenance, a classic compact multitool with fold out bits would often be too short to reach a bolt, are too bulky to get a good rotation, meaning every small job would be a frustrating one. The Wolftooth 8-Bit Pack Pliers have 17 uses and thanks to the design of interchangeable bits on a long lever, it’s actually great to use.

The functions are: spoke wrench, valve core wrench, flathead and Phillips screwdriver, 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 8mm hex, T10, T25, install and remove master links, clear tyre sealant clogs from valve stem and tighten valve stem lock nut. I’ll admit that in certain conditions it can be a fiddle to get the right bit out, but that’s the trade-off for having a compact tool that fits uniformly in any pocket you choose.

What I really love about this tool is that it now has stackable add-ons that magnetically clip together. I also have the yellow Magura trail tool, which adds an 8mm wrench, rotor thickness gauge, rotor tuning slot, tyre lever and brake disc wear indicator. 

Lifeline Adventure Stash Bag

  • Price: £14.99
  • More info: chainreactioncycles.com

I really love this saddle bag, so much that I would have one on every bike if it weren’t so easy to just transfer it over before a ride. It is totally waterproof, has a super secure fit that prevents it from wobbling, and it fits so much inside it that you’ll probably need to pad it out with a spare buff or packet of Haribo. Regardless of what type of ride you’re on, the most useful place for your tools and spares is somewhere you can immediately access.

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Tested: by Amanda for Singletrack World Magazine Issue 151

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Amanda Wishart

Art Director

Amanda is our resident pedaller, who loves the climbs as much as the descents. No genre of biking is turned down, though she is happiest when at the top of a mountain with a wild descent ahead of her. If you ever want a chat about concussion recovery, dealing with a Womb of Doom or how best to fuel an endurance XC race, she's the one to email.

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Home Forums Endurance Cross-Country Kit Essentials

Viewing 5 posts - 1 through 5 (of 5 total)
  • Endurance Cross-Country Kit Essentials
  • pmurden
    Full Member

    Good article. I keep looking at base layers for summer riding, but my primitive brain keeps saying it makes no sense. I may just try one next summer (if we get one in the UK that is).

    Full Member

    @pmurden dhb have a base like the Albion ones, but the body is much longer, therefore better for mountain biking as you can tuck it in!

    Free Member

    Having a saddle bag has been a nice upgrade for me for endurance racing. It makes it easier to change kit mid race compared to moving equipment from a filthy jersey pocket to a clean one.

    I find thinner grips better – I find my hands don’t like grabbing a fatter thing for a long time and that gives me more pain.

    Full Member

    @amandawishart – Like the look of the Stash Bag, but they are out of stock at CRC/Wiggle and no else seems to sell them.

    Free Member

    Try the large Vel one from Sigmasport. Looks similar. Castelli do one too but it is more expensive. Having seen all 3 they are very similar. 

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