You will see lots of different bikes on the Deloitte Ride Across Britain although most bikes conform to the drop handle bar type rather than mountain bikes or hybrid bikes. However, on the 2018 ride there was a “Fat Bike” with huge off road tyres probably more suited to sand or snow which still finished (so I’m told) in the top 10 finishers each day – it probably says more about the fitness of the rider than the bike!
I was in a fortunate position to have a selection of bikes to choose from with the choice of a “race” bike and an “endurance” bike. As the Deloitte Ride Across Britain is a succession of nine 100 plus mile days, I decided on the endurance bike – in my case a Trek Domane with disc brakes. The Domane comes with the Trek IsoSpeed decoupler on the seat post and the handle bars (headset) so introduces an element of suspension and removes some of the road “buzz” Other bike manufacturers have their own “suspension” systems – there were plenty of Specialized Roubaix bikes being ridden on the 2018 ride. I certainly notice the difference between the Domane and my race bike. However, even the Domane struggled with the 2 hours of horrible road surface on the A702 next to the M74 towards Edinburgh!
The Domane also has a slightly more relaxed riding position with the rider being more upright than a pure race bike. Again, from my point of view being comfortable on the bike was an important part of being able to enjoy the RAB experience.
There was a lot of discussion the Deloitte RAB Facebook forum about the choice of gearing with some riders claiming that a standard 53-39 front chain ring coupled with a 11-25 rear cassette was all they would need. All I can say to that is “Good Luck!”. My view is why make life difficult for yourself when facing 20% ramps on the Lecht and plenty of 10% hills during the ride. After a few days in the ride, even a 6% slope can be a challenge especially if you are unlucky enough to have a headwind as well!
My Domane came with a compact 50-34 chainring as standard together with a 11-34 rear cassette. I’m a large rider, 188 cm (6’2″) and 85 kg (about 13 1/2 stone) when I started the ride. I never regretted for a minute having the 34 rear cassette and had a few envious comments (when they could speak struggling uphill) from riders with a 11-28 rear cassette. My advice – go for as large a rear cassette as you can fit on your bike, unless you are a super climber or have a brilliant power to weight ratio. You can always fit your race cassette with smaller jumps between gears when you get home after the ride.
Leave the 60 or 80 mm deep section wheels at home if you have a choice. Deloitte RAB is not meant to be a race. The riders with deep section wheels really struggled with the cross winds, especially on the long slog up to Edinburgh where you are exposed on the road alongside the motorway and the gale force winds we had on the last day when even 35 mm deep wheels were “twitchy” at times.
Saddle bags and frame bags
Another bug bear of mine was the size of some saddle bags and the fitting of huge frame bags. I ended up with a standard saddle bag large enough to fit a couple of spare inner tubes, tyre levers and multitool (even though I was running tubeless tyres), mini-pump attached to the frame and a small top tube bag for six energy bars and gels (a visual reminder to keep eating when riding). This left the jersey pockets solely for the waterproof jacket (when it wasn’t doubling up as a wind jacket), mobile phone and winter gloves.
I guess some riders had a spare base layer, socks and jersey in their saddle bag or frame bag. My view was once I got damp, I needed to keep moving and if it was that wet, having a dry base layer for 30 minutes wouldn’t make too much difference in an 8-9 hour ride. I wanted to keep the weight down as much as practicably possible.
Another divisive topic! I didn’t regret having a rear mudguard – it kept me and the rear of my bike relatively mud free. Cyclists following me also appreciated not getting a face full of water and mud on the wet days. I fitted temporary mudguards – the front mudguard decided to come loose at 70kph on the descent from Glenshee – serious wheel wobble and nearly a very nasty crash. My tip, fit proper mudguards if you can and a front mudguard makes little difference !
I had a bike fit for my bike and it did make a difference to the comfort of the ride. Before the fit, I had developed some sore Achilles tendons which were resolved with the fit. My advice, have a bike fit and if possible have a check up after 6 months once you have got fitter and more used to riding longer distances – most reputable fitters will give a discount for a check up.