Saturday, July 17, 2010

Tour Divide - Stuff That Worked - Ergonomics

Even though my 2010 Tour Divide ended with a blown freehub in the Great Divide Basin instead of at the Mexican border at Antelope Wells, the trip was wonderful. Including my 850 mile ride to Banff and the 1,358 miles of the Tour Divide that I did complete, I got to spend much of the month of June riding over 2,200 miles of some really pretty country.

I didn't suffer the pains and problems that afflicted some of the other racers. A good part of my luck can be attributed to my slower pace. Riding a fast 150 miles per day is a heck of a lot more stressful than my turtle average of 100 miles per day. But I also spent a year dialing in my bike fit and I've spent decades figuring out what it takes for me to be comfortable on a bike. Some of my equipment choices are a bit unusual, but they work well for me.

My bike is a steel Redline with no suspension. I find I don't need suspension. 29 inch WTB Nanoraptors, the little bit of flex inherent in a steel frame, plus bent elbows and knees give me all the suspension I need.

I am very fussy about fit and the three contact points I have with the bike: my hands, butt and feet. I know exactly where I want my bars and how wide they should be. I know the kind of saddle I need and where it should be in relation to the bars and bottom bracket. And I know what kind of shoes and pedals work well with my feet and knees.

Ergon GC3 grips continue to be an absolute joy. While the Ergon grips and my Ergon pack were key parts of my kit, it wasn't until after I crashed into an unfortunately placed barbed wire barrier that they really proved their worth. In the hours and days after that crash, when the adrenaline wore off, it became obvious that I'd cracked a rib and broken a bone in my hand. It turned out that I was most comfortable when riding, using the Ergon grip as a virtual splint on my hand. The pack's harness system kept the weight off my bad rib.

While some other Divide riders were plagued with saddle sores, my system of padless shorts under suplex pants combined with my faithful WTB Rocket V saddle was trouble free. My saddle did get a bit scuffed up on the trip and I had to fix up the saddle nose with duct tape, but in terms of comfort the saddle was first rate. I used a wear one & wash one strategy with the shorts, but things were so damp on this year's Divide ride that I wound up wearing the same pair of shorts for several days in a row. It is important to keep your lower regions clean on a ride like this and I carry baby wipes in my pack instead of toilet paper.

I have no knee or Achilles issues and I attribute my good fortune on that score to the single most controversial thing I do on a bike. I ride with flat pedals. I know all the arguments in favor of riding clipless. I've ridden clipless. I know about the advantages. And I also know that, for me, flat pedals have more advantages. This year on the Divide, the mud and the snow made for a lot of walking and I was very glad to have my plain old Keen Voyageur shoes.

I ride my bike because I like to ride my bike. By carefully picking my gear and taking the time to find out what works for me, I find I can go pretty far, pretty comfortably. I'm not the fastest guy out there, but I have fun and most of the time I manage to keep rolling.

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah WA USA
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