DOOR 2 DOOR: GEAR REVIEW
Report by Dave Beeche.
Door 2 Door: Cycling 2,000km from Auckland to Arrowtown in 14 days.
The aim: To explore as many remote back country gravel roads as possible, avoid main roads at all costs, keep it ‘light and fast’ but not crazy distances, no tents or sleeping bags, and bed and hot shower every night.
The first thing to note is that every gear decision is a compromise. You need to consider the distances you will travel, the road type, comfort levels you want. I went for a minimalist approach; trying to go as light as possible, while allowing some redundancy for any gear issues or severe weather.
Bike: I rode a Specialized Diverge Expert gravel bike, a purpose-built machine for a trip like this. I loved the 1x set-up, with 12-speed SRAM Eagle wireless with an 11-50 cassette on the back – it had all the gear range I needed. I made sure I charged the battery every night, even though it’s supposed to deliver 30+ hours of riding, I didn’t want to test that. Unbeknown to me at the time, there were two other small flat round batteries in each of the brake lever hoods, both of which needed replacing en route, so it was good to carry spares. It was a 5-minute job and easy to reset the wireless afterwards - a quick Google had all the info we needed.
There are plenty of fixture points on the bike for all the bottle cages and bags. The in-frame storage compartment under one of the bottle cages is awesome and I managed to fit all my tools and spares in there. The Future Shock on the front stem worked really well for the long days and took out a heap of vibrations – watch out for rubbing around the Future Shock from a top tube bag you may have secured with a strap around it.
I only had one day of what would be described as more MTB-style single-track riding on the Bridge to Nowhere track, and the bike was fine on that (noting that it was dry), but I wouldn’t have wanted to do much more than that on the loaded bike, and it would be very tricky in the wet on muddy singletrack.
I did a lot of research on tyres. The bike came with 42mm Pathfinder tyres that have a smooth strip down the middle and some light tread on the sides but I opted for a slightly more treaded WTB Riddler in a 45mm. Even this was light for some of the chunkier gravel and for the next trip, although I never punctured, I would opt for something with more tread like a Vittoria Mezcal which they now do in a 700cc x 44mm (every bike packer I met en route seemed to be riding these and loved them). You definitely want to run tubeless.
Bags: I used a front roll bag, a frame bag, a top tube bag and a saddle bag. The saddle bag was a Revelate, and the rest Apidura. All worked well, I particularly liked the strong pin style fitting of the Revelate bag under the seat that stopped any swaying. The Apidura Expedition bags are light, strong and fully waterproof. For the next trip, I would add an Accessory Pocket that clips onto the front roll bag to put more daily food in.
Finding a way to fix/carry 3 water bottles was critical on a backcountry trip like this – preferably 3 x 900ml, but I managed OK with 1x 900ml and 2x600ml as the bigger bottles wouldn’t fit with the frame bag.
Clothing: Disclaimer: I am a self-confessed Rapha addict, so all my riding gear was Rapha which performed unbelievably well on a trip like this. One luxury I afforded myself was to take 2 x bib shorts – one Brevet pair and a Pro-Team pair which I rotated each day. The Brevet pair was the more comfortable for a trip like this. I used arm warmers every morning, leg warmers once, and had both insulated and lightweight gilets which were both useful. I found the Merino socks too warm on most days, so enjoyed having a lighter Pro-Team pair as the main go-to. Both long and short-fingered gloves were a must, and a cycling cap to keep the sun off the head was critical.
I ended up taking two wet weather jackets – a lightweight Gore-Tex Pro-Team jacket which I used on cold mornings and wet days. As a backup, I took a 3-ply Gore-Tex Arc'teryx jacket with a hood, in case I had a day with sub-zero temperatures or super wet conditions (I didn’t end up using it, but it was good to have).
I washed my ride gear every night and managed to dry it before morning. For off the bike, a pair of shorts, longs, a merino t-shirt, a puffer and light-weight Birkenstocks all worked well.