We’re always on the lookout for people that embody the Ride Often, Ride Far spirit that we celebrate. When Lee Grieve, a rider from just down the road in Sheffield, contacted us about racing the Transcontinental Race this summer we were eager to help. We’ll let Lee tell you all about that, and his race experience in his own words…
YESSS! GET IN!…
Jess called out down the stairs in panic as she thought I’d hurt myself with all the shouting. When in fact I’d just read the email that guaranteed me a place in one of the hardest self-supported bike races in the world. The Transcontinental Race No.6.
Since I started cycling around 4 years ago, I’d always been on the hunt for ‘the limit’. Each time I found my limit, it got harder and harder to replicate. Almost like a drug, the dose needed to be increased to get my fix. My 100 mile rides turned into 200. My hill reps turned into multiple everesting attempts. Pain, suffering and discomfort has always been my friend. So you can imagine the thought of racing and navigating 2500 miles across Europe, totally alone, against other racers from across the globe while carrying everything I needed to succeed was going to be my idea of a ‘good time’.
I have always believed that Sheffield could cement itself as the UK’s cycling capital. We have the Peak district on our doorstep, scores of pro riders living in the area and some of the best small scale manufacturers around. Being a designer, I appreciate the time and effort that goes into designing, manufacturing and distributing good bike kit. I wanted to showcase these businesses and shout about how great the Sheffield cycling scene really is. The TCR seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to do this.
Colina titanium frames have been carefully engineered, designed and developed by Pete Collins (Sharrow CC). His attention to detail was not only apparent in his frames and custom bike builds, but in the level of service he provided to his customers. Pete worked extremely closely with me for weeks, tweaking and developing the design to give me the ultimate race machine that could take on the world (or at least some of it). The Four DS was an all-rounder. Disc brakes, Mudguard and pannier mounts, internal cabling, Di2 Ultegra and hand built Panceti rims which sat on a Hope rear hub and Exposure dynamo front hub.
Polaris was a no brainer for me. Based on the edge of Sheffield, they have played a big part in developing the local cycling scene. The Ventura Range was a no-fuss bikepacking kit that focused on getting people out there and finding new places. When meeting with the guys, it was obvious they had a solid range of kit beyond the bike bags and were eager to see it all pushed to its limits. Getting the bags home, it was actually quite impressive what they had achieved for the price point. Good quality seams and robust (yet light) materials were the first thing that hit me. A lot of the other cool little features didn’t come into their own until I started to actually test them.
The increase in training was always going to be tough. I had always considered getting some sports massage and this was the perfect excuse to ‘treat’ myself (For those of you who haven’t had one… it isn’t like you see in the movies!) Edge Sports Massage are based in Hathersage in the Alpkit store. Amanda really knows her stuff, a passionate long distance runner and cyclist who knows how to work out any niggles. The best thing about going to these sessions wasn’t the power they unlocked, the flexibility that seemed to appear or the fact they reduced the chance of injury… it was actually that we just chatted about bikes and future adventures together as she worked my rather tight legs.
Being relatively new to bikepacking I wanted to get as many miles in with kit. Commuting 35 miles a day was the perfect test. I’d work through different setups, seeing what worked and what didn’t. The Rear Saddle Bag is a personal favourite of mine, never again will I wear a rucksack on the bike. It’s as big or as small as you need it… perfect when returning home with a lot less food then I went with. My packing technique developed so I literally had no sway on the saddle bag. I’d quite often stick intervals into my commutes, the handling of the bike always feeling planted with any combination of the bags. The risk of water getting into my bags and soaking my fresh shirt for the day was basically eradicated. No matter what I threw at the bags, nothing got in. I also gave the jersey, shorts and base layers a hammering on the commute too. All of them functioning perfectly… actually annoyingly better then some of my other kit that cost twice as much.
I’d stick in a few night rides in the Peaks where I’d take my bivvy bag and see what I could take out of my kit list to decrease the weight. The main memory of this is going an entire night without sleep because I was wearing nothing but shorts in a silk sleeping bag liner with the temperature sat at 7 degrees… I got an hours sleep when the sun came up at 5am before having to get up for the ride to work. Great sleep deprivation training yeah?
Read Part 2 of Lee’s TCR adventure here.