It’s a few days since the 2018 edition of the Dirty Reiver. The dust has settled – literally, thank you weather gods! – and even in the finish area I heard conversations about kit for next year. Lighter this, faster rolling that. I was feeling pretty smug about my kit “choices” overall, nothing didn’t work, I used most of what I brought. I caveat my choices slightly, as being Tech Ed means that I often end up using the latest kit to come through the testing turnstiles. This was the case for the Dirty Reiver to an extent, but the ride was going to be challenge enough for me to take too many wild punts – I largely played it safe.
This was the easy decision. The Bombtrack Hook EXT is the latest bike to arrive at the gritcx state-of-the-art, underground bike bunker. We’ve already given a good run down of the bike here, so I won’t go over old ground. Why did I choose it for the Dirty Reiver though? Well, firstly and honestly, Bombtrack sponsored the event and it was nice to be able to ride one of the company’s bikes, as without support from the industry these kind of events either wouldn’t exist at all, or would be prohibitively expensive for many.
I’d also ridden an EXT at the Dirty Boar last year, so knew it would make for a comfortable bike for a long day in the saddle. The high volume tyres definitely help with this. I ran the 2.1in 650b WTB Nanos at around 35psi, set up tubeless. I made two changes from the stock set up. Firstly, I swapped the 120mm for a 100mm version, as I was ever so slightly too stretched out, and knew this was a long day in the saddle. In hindsight, a 110mm is probably the sweet spot, but I was in an otherwise comfortable position. I also whipped off the stock Selle San Marco saddle and replaced it with my trusty Fabric ALM.
I got a few winces from other riders when they saw how little padding the ALM has. It definitely wouldn’t suit everyone, but the shape is absolutely perfect for me. I had no discomfort at all while riding.
How did everything perform? Exactly as expected is the somewhat boringly predictable answer. The bike was comfortable and as everything was pretty much brand new, any failures would have been a surprise. There was no getting around the fact that the EXT is a weighty beast I could feel every gram of it’s 11kg+ build on some of the draggy climbs, especially in the second half of the ride. The trade off was fun handling and a tonne of traction. There was the odd occasion that I seemed stuck between gears on the 11-42 cassette, although the overall range was about right. I used the 42t once to winch up a steep ramp and the 11t gave ample speed on long descents. Overall, it confirmed my preference for one-by and I appreciated the relatively quiet ride the clutch mech gives.
The only issue I had was with a burped rear tyre early on. This was most like due to a combination of a slightly clumsy line change and the not-strictly-tubeless-ready tyres. Either way, I topped up some air with the pump and was able to crack on. Judging by the number of punctures I saw over the course of a long day, tubeless was the only way to go.
The sunshine in my photos doesn’t exactly tell the whole story this year. The temperature was hovering around 0ºc at 6:30am when I made the short pedal from our accommodation to the start line. It reached mid-20sºc by the afternoon. That’s a hell of a swing. I decided to use the Mavic Allroad kit I had recently put to test in the Pyrenees, paired with some arm warmers for first thing.
I was just about warm enough on all but the descents, and my bare hands suffered, but it wasn’t long before temperatures rose and I ditched the insulated gilet and arm warmers by 9:30am. These fitted nicely into the back pockets of the Allroad merino jersey, with just a bit of sag. I stayed comfortable in this, despite getting pretty hot and sweaty – it never felt particularly clammy or heavy like some merino. The salt tide marks at the end were testament to the fact that it had done its job all day.
The compulsory kit list requires a waterproof. Given the good forecast, I wanted something that would pack as small as possible. I chose the Gore One Activeshell – now a couple of years old, but going strong. I know it would have kept me dry had I needed it. As it was, it took up minimal room in my frame bag, leaving more space for snacks.
Julbo provided me with some Aerospeed glasses to test. These have a single large lens and are photochromic – the tint reacts to sunlight, becoming darker in bright conditions. On a day of passing from shaded forest tracks to exposed and bright moor side, they worked superbly. This was their first ride, but I was impressed by how light and unobtrusive they felt.
Breaking every piece of normal advice, I wore a brand spanking set of shoes for my 9:30 in the saddle. Fortunately the Giro Empire VR70 knits were comfortable, from the off. I had a few hotspots in the last kilometres, but it would be unfair to criticise the shoe there. They’ll be in regular use from now on, so hang on for a full review, once they’ve had more ride time.
Event sponsors Lezyne kindly kitted out the bike with everything else I needed to keep me hydrated, able to handle the usual mechanicals, and stay the right side of the kit list. Never ones to shy away from a bit of colour, I popped for some retro 90s purple – teenage me would be proud. I ran two CNC cages, which allowed me to carry the 1.5litres of required fluid capacity. As someone who usually drinks little on a ride, I ended up thankful for the two bottles. I got into most feed stations and finish most of my way through bottle number two. The Lezyne Flow Caddy is held in place by a Flow Cage – chosen because it has a pronounced tab for better security over rough ground.
I stuffed a V10 tool, Control Drive CO2 inflator, a couple of cartridges, Power Lever tyre levers, a Lezyne tyre boot, a couple of patches, a spare chain link and a bit of old rag into the flow caddy.
Happily I didn’t need to open it all ride. I supplemented the quick fix of a CO2 inflator with a Lite Drive pump. It comes with a mount that is designed to fit underneath a bottle cage, but with so many bosses available to me, I decided to have some fun and popped it on my forks.
I only needed to use this to top up my tyre pressure after my burping incident, but it would take a while to fill a 2.1in tyre. There are other higher volume pumps in the Lezyne range if you are going to be likely pumping up big tyres from flat on a regular basis.
Lights are also on the compulsory kit list – I went for Zecto Drive lights front and rear. Should the worst come to the worst, they would light my way as well as being enough to be seen by.
Finally, a GPS wasn’t really necessary for Dirty Reiver. The route is well signposted, but it was handy to keep track of my progress, and nice to record the ride for posterity. The Lezyne Super GPS Enhanced has more features than I can list here, so we’ll do a full First Look in due course, but I liked the customisable menus. I ran a simple dashboard of just Distance, Elapsed Time, Average Speed and Clock. It was all I was interested in, but kept me from getting carried away early on and likewise, was a psychological boost towards the end when the kilometres ticked down. I was also impressed with battery life. I had 40% left after nearly 10 hours of recording.
Oh, and finally finally… absolutely not on the kit list, not remotely necessary, but oh so pretty and fun, the Lezyne Classic Shallow Brass Bell didn’t rattle once, but did give a pleasing ding-ding.
I used a tool roll from Schickemuetze bike shop in Dusseldorf to hold a spare tube – a bit of gaffer tape would have done, but I’d brought the roll with me and it looks a bit nicer. The Restrap small frame bag held my waterproof and food for the ride. I prefer real food where possible, so used Nature Valley bars, a couple of Pepperami and Clif Shot Blocs to fend off any wobbles late on. This, alongside some excellent feed stop supplies – especially the watermelon and cheesy potatoes of the Pannier.cc camp saw me through.
A special hip flask sat in my back pocket all ride – a wee nip of whisky shared at the end with friends. As my top tube note says… #partypacewinstherace
Would I do anything differently next time? I’m happy to say, nothing major. CO2 and a pump was a bit of a luxury, but for the relative weight, it was nice to know I’d be back rolling a little quicker than normal. All other things being equal, a lighter bike is always nice, but it isn’t the be all and end all. The Hook EXT was a pleasure to ride from start to finish, and I felt confident that I could push my speed on the roughest sections – worth more to me than a few grams and/or seconds saved on any climbs. Had the weather been worse, a spare set of brake pads would have been invaluable. I forgot to pack any in my rush to leave the house on Friday, but got lucky with the beautiful weather.
Is there anything fundamental that you think I missed off? What would you have left behind? What’s your never-leave-home-without luxury?