With 100-plus hours of race time already on the books this yr, GearJunkie experiences on some key gear for its 2022 season.
My fingers are blistered, and some toenails have turned black. I’m a bit weary, but it surely’s been price it. Up to now 2 months, I’ve managed to squeeze in additional time outdoor than some folks see in a yr.
This spring, GearJunkie introduced a partnership with america Journey Racing Affiliation (USARA) and a sponsorship with Toyota Tundra. With the mission, our firm fashioned two race groups and signed up for a season of occasions. We additionally started the method of curating the wanted gear.
It started with regional races within the Midwest, together with a half-day occasion in Minnesota (the place GearJunkie was based) and a tricky course within the bluff nation of Indiana.
We signed up for the most important journey race in America, with 500 individuals, the Rib Mountain Journey Problem. Then, in late June, our two squads — Crew GearJunkie and Crew Toyota Tundra — toed the road on the notoriously robust Cussed Mule race within the wilds of northern Wisconsin.
It will be 30 hours within the woods and on water paddling an countless, winding stream on the Mule course. Checkpoints, double-track trails, deep forests, swamps, and preposterous clouds of mosquitoes had been the obstacles alongside the way in which.
Gear helped get us by. In all, since early April to at present, we’ve raced in eight occasions and seen 100-plus hours on the market on the paths and deep within the woods. Crew Toyota Tundra has been ticking off the wins, and presently, the squad is ranked because the No. 2 group in America by USARA.
The under tools, from mountain bikes to a particular foot lube, has been key to serving to me get from the quite a few begin strains, to tons of of checkpoints, and to the top on wilderness programs that took all I acquired. This can be a cursory look that leans into frequent gear in addition to a number of the extra esoteric gadgets that journey racers make use of.
We’ll proceed to check this and different gear all through the season, main as much as the USARA Nationwide Championships race in September. There, our groups will line up with the very best racers within the U.S. in Bishop, Calif., on the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains for one more 30-hour endurance quest requiring bodily endurance and, after all, all the correct gear.
Mountain Bike: XC Pace Demon
Pace is the first concern on the bike in an journey race. Because of this, I typically default to agile, light-weight hardtails made for XC racing. The Scalpel HT Hello-MOD 1 from Cannondale checks these bins, and this yr on the course I’ve felt sooner, stronger, and extra assured with this experience.
The corporate touts a “entire new breed of XC hardtail” due to the bike’s made-for-speed design. It’s a streamlined mountain bike on the face, together with a carbon body and wheels, and a Lefty Ocho Carbon 110mm fork and it has “flex zones” within the chainstays to lower chatter.
Cannondale was aiming for “higher management and extra pace” with this bike. That sounded good to me. Certainly, its Shimano XTR/XT 12-speed group presents sufficient vary for any kind of path, and likewise (vital for journey racing) the vary is sufficiently big to get into a strong gear on gravel roads the place the group should paceline for miles between checkpoints.
After years of looking for an ideal AR bike, the Scalpel HT Hello-MOD 1 comes very shut. I load it up earlier than a race with two bottles, a saddle bag, and a small field on the highest tube for meals. The bike pops to life with a pedal stroke, its sub-23-pound construct is a rocket for its measurement. Now 500-plus miles into the bike over just a few races, I’m not wanting again.
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Footwear for the Race
I’m a shoe junkie. Over the previous 2 many years, I’ve examined and put many hundreds of miles on path runners, from my dwelling in Minnesota, in marathons and ultras, and all all over the world. My shoe of selection in spite of everything that is one with a grippy, minimal construct, a little bit of drop for pace, and a meshy higher to empty water if my foot will get moist.
Final yr, whereas racing within the USARA Nationwide Championships, I wore the La Sportiva Kaptiva Sneakers. In a evaluation post-race, I raved in regards to the $139 footwear (now $155) being “mild at about 9 ounces per foot, and a match and really feel that’s exact” and that the “shoe flexes and grips on the path and within the woods.”
The Kaptiva footwear got here alongside on just a few races this spring once more, and I recognize the low-to-the-ground really feel and the foot pace that comes from a light-weight shoe.
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Past Sportiva, I piloted a pair of futuristic footwear from startup Speedland of Portland, Ore.
The SL:HSV mannequin (under) are a loopy idea of a shoe that prices $375 per pair. I’ve recognized one of many founders, David Dombrow, for just a few years whereas he labored and constructed footwear for large manufacturers. Speedland is his boutique new effort, and the footwear are gorgeous out of the field.
From the uppers on down, each piece is exact and dialed, together with (most actually) the skinny material higher wrap that’s secured by twin BOA dials. You spin these to customise the slot in lieu of laces. They really feel like bike footwear at first.
Dyneema material wraps the cuff. A carbon plate within the midsole offers propulsion and safety underfoot. The only is a treaded Michelin rubber that chews the mud.
Speedland has constructed a surprising shoe with the SL:HSV. On coaching runs earlier than my races, I liked the match and really feel; few trainers match as exactly, and the design promotes a quick gait the place you may be aggressive over any type of terrain.
For journey racing, nevertheless, this isn’t the correct shoe. I spoke with Dombrow earlier than the check and he gave me the caveat that this shoe was designed for trails (not the off-trail, bushwhacking terrain typically encountered in an journey race).
Certainly, throughout the races, the BOA dials (which pop off if pressured) got here unattached greater than as soon as when in tough, off-trail terrain. It took a second to bend over and reattach.
Journey racing finds you tromping in swamps and heading off-trail. It’s a unusual sport the place trails are most popular on lengthy treks and orienteering legs, however you at all times minimize corners to bushwhack — generally for lengthy distances — by the woods, side-hilling, and post-holing for unlucky brief distances by muck and dust.
For this uneven terrain, the Speedlands weren’t preferrred. These are racecars made for trails, not the mud pits and bushwhacks on an journey racing course.
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Map Luggage & Wrist Compass
Journey racing requires a myriad of bizarre gadgets like packing tape, highlighter pens, and UTM plotters to prep maps and cluesheets for the course. Most occasions start with a map handout, and from there, groups have a set period of time to plot checkpoints and plan their route. It’s crunch time when this begins, groups scrambling to focus on trails, two-tracks, and annotate maps with directionals which can be readable whereas on the transfer.
For every race, we make use of a water-resistant map case and a number of map baggage. These are basically flat plastic baggage that slip over 11×17-inch and different measurement paper maps. No GPS or telephones are allowed within the sport, so preserving the paper maps by hours of bushwhacking, water crossing, and normal hashing on the course requires safety.
I purchased a bulk provide of map baggage from a scrappy e-commerce web site, GoOrienteering.com, which regardless of its arcane design gives a dependable supply for hard-to-find map provides.
Compasses for the game typically lean into the orienteering panorama as properly. For this season, I take advantage of a thumb compass whereas on the run. This esoteric navigation device attaches with a cloth loop to your thumb (as per the identify) and serves as a quickly-readable arrow to information you forward.
I additionally bought a wrist compass from tanZ Navigation. The Moscow Mannequin 3 compass has a fast needle and a clear show for getting a bearing within the woods. I just like the wrist-mounted model for its out-of-the-way (but at all times seeable) nature. On a motorbike, within the boat, or trekking within the woods, a fast look on the wrist and I’ve a studying.
Optics: RX and Sun shades
I used to be comfortable final yr with Tifosi and the Swick frames I rocked to race in 2021. The prescription glasses have a Grilamid body that has stood as much as all of the abuse I might throw and match properly even when sweat pours.
This season, I upgraded to the Swank XL. These Tifosi glasses are available an RX model I want, and the oversize design is each purposeful and enjoyable. They’re a cut price at about $100, prescription included.
The remainder of the group wore rimless biking sun shades, the Tifosi Rail. These Grilamid-frame glasses have shatterproof polycarbonate protect lenses that interchange and are available tints for vivid and low-light eventualities.
Once you race by the night time (frequent on journey races) you want a transparent lens. The Rail lenses swap out simply and supply a stable match with hydrophilic rubber on the ear and nostril.
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Your ft get abused on the market. Blisters are an enemy to many racers. My suggestion is a potent combo of wool and lubricant, particularly Bag Balm, a lanolin-based salve that’s made in Vermont. I rub copious quantities on my ft, starting on the toes (in between every one) after which a dab on my heel.
Pull a sock over the gooey foot and you’re good to go. The Bag Balm stays cheesy and lubricating for hours, letting the pores and skin transfer and keep away from abrasion.
In case your ft get moist, which is frequent within the sport the place you cross streams or swamps, the Bag Balm acts as a waterproofer of types — my pores and skin doesn’t get as pruney with the protecting lanolin layer.
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For socks, I default to merino-wool-based working socks, skinny and both excessive ankle or mid-calf in peak. SmartWool, Darn Powerful, and others make nice choices. This yr, I’m testing the Flite XT Path sock from Swiftwick. It matches shut and tight, but is comfy all day.
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A nylon/merino/olefin/polyester/Spandex materials combine works in these extremely engineered socks, which value a reasonably penny at $27 per pair.
The corporate credit the design to have the ability to preserve ft “blister-free even throughout the longest of treks.” I can say that is true for me this season, although some Bag Balm has aided alongside the way in which.
Smartwool additionally gives socks for the group. Its Athlete Version Run Print Crew Socks are one other premium possibility for path runners and ultra-oriented athletes, together with a $27 price ticket and a merino-blend materials that’s dialed for lengthy distances.
They’ve an athletic match (skinny, tight, non-slipping, non-bunching) and a colourful motif. The corporate’s “Indestructawool” — a merino/nylon materials — is constructed for sturdiness but in addition consolation on the foot. Thus far, these made-in-the-USA socks have confirmed excellent for AR.
This text is sponsored by Toyota. Discover 2022 Toyota Tundra fashions and packages at Toyota.com.