A couple weeks ago, I rode 212 miles from my house in central Pennsylvania to my in-law’s house in the suburbs outside Philadelphia. If you missed the post about my experience, check that out here. I got a lot of questions about my bike setup, what gear I took, and how I fueled myself throughout the 19-hour journey, so here’s a post about it.
I rode my Raleigh Willard 2 gravel bike with slick Maxxis Re-Fuse 32 mm tires. It’s a bike I’m super comfortable on — I’ve been riding it for 4 years and have done all my centuries and long rides on it. I originally bought that bike because I could get a good deal on it, never thinking it would become such a reliable companion.
I was so glad I swapped to the skinnier, slick tires, but I wouldn’t have wanted much skinnier tires with the poor condition of some of the roads that I was on. Another condition when I purchased the tires was how much I would use them — it’s pretty rare that I do an all-pavement ride so these would allow me to still ride gravel on them and have a more versatile tire. Also, they are still tubeless compatible, which was important to me.
Before the 200-miler, we swapped the drivetrain and brakes from my Penhale Gypsy onto the Willard. They have way fewer miles on them, so I essentially had a new drivetrain and brakes for my ride. While we were doing all that, we also swapped cranks out for a much lighter FSA carbon one versus the Shimano 105 that came stock on the bike.
I’ve been riding the Soma Condor bars for a little over a year now on the Willard, and I love them. That love was cemented even more after this ride. Check out the review of them that I did last spring, and just know that they have continued to be super comfy on long pushes.
Bike + Body Repair:
Luckily, I didn’t need to use any of it.
-2 tire levers, one wrapped with gorilla tape and one wrapped with electrical tape
-Patch kit: glue, patches, sandpaper
-Tire plug kit: bacon strips + tool to poke them in
-Valve core remover
-Gauze: Evan said, “if you need anything besides e-tape and gauze, you’re not finishing the ride anyway.”
I ran 2 different lights on my bars at all times — a Nite-Rider Lumina and a Lupine Piko. I have 2 Luminas, and 2 battery packs for the Piko, and both sets of lights lasted me all night (about 13 hours of use). I kept them both on low for much of the night, but turned the Piko up to high on rougher roads when I actually had to pick a line through Amish buggy ruts.
I also ran 2 Planet Bike Superflash rear blinkys at once the entire night, both mounted on my lefthand seat stay at different heights. I also carried a spare blinky, but didn’t need to use it, as the other two lasted the entire ride (19 hours).
I didn’t have any helmet-mounted light because I found that the extra weight makes my neck hurt on longer rides. For the most part, I didn’t wish I had one. However, if I had to do any bike repairs it would have been really nice. In the future, I think I will keep the same bar-mounted lighting setup and just pack a headlamp to use if necessary.
I did struggle with my clothing choices going into the ride as it was the first ride of the season at temps in the low 40s and into the 30s, but it turns out that I chose perfectly.
Up top, I layered with a polyester base layer, wool long sleeve jersey, and windproof vest for the majority of the ride. I added a packable windproof layer from about 6-7:30 am, when it was the coldest. I only wore a headband to cover my ears and a buff around my neck.
Down below, I wore mid-weight tights — fairly warm but not my warmest — as well as wool socks and 45NRTH Japanther boots.
On my hands, I wore normal riding gloves with a lightweight winter glove on top for most of the ride, and added lobster claw winter gloves during the coldest hours of the morning.
I brought a spare base layer, extra socks, and a wool hat that I never wore.
Clear glasses at night saved my eyeballs from freezing. Even so, my contacts got pretty dried out so if I did it again I might just forgo the contacts and wear my prescription glasses.
The most important thing on a ride this long is to just keep eating and drinking, a little at a time. I started out with enough food for the first 70 or so miles, knowing I’d be stopping at gas stations along the way after the initial push through rural Huntingdon County.
The hardest thing on a ride this long, at least for me, is losing the appetite to eat but knowing you have to. Making sure you have a mix of different foods is helpful to combat this. To start out, I had trail mix with different nuts, seeds and fruit, and some granola bars. By the time I was halfway done with the ride, much of this was pretty unappealing, so I stopped as gas stations and bought whatever I was craving — cheese, chocolate, donuts, a sausage and egg breakfast sandwich.
I took two 16 oz bottles of water with me. I filled them both up twice, if I remember correctly. I also brought a vessel for hot liquids, which was the only piece of gear I was waffling about up until the last minute when I left. The decision to bring it with was a good one. I drank a hot chocolate and two cups of coffee throughout the night, and the ability to drink warm beverages/caffeine without actually needing to stop and sit down was a game-changer.
Bags + Packing:
Frame bag: 2 water bottles, extra snacks, small lock, my wallet, sunglasses and clear glasses, whatever layers I was taking on and off at the moment (vest, shell jacket, warmer gloves) and wanted easy access to without getting into the seat bag.
2 Nittany Mountain Works Anything Bags: One to hold snacks, one to hold either a water bottle or hot beverage mug, depending on what I was drinking at the moment. I wanted to make sure my food and beverages were super easy access so that I would keep eating and drinking continuously throughout the ride.
Revelate Designs Gas Tank: Extra lights and battery packs, charging cords, chapstick, Ibuprofen. Things I wanted easy access to while on the bike, and small things that would easily get lost in a larger space like a frame bag.
Nittany Mountain Works prototype seat bag: Extra clothes, pump, tire, bag of tools, first aid supplies. Basically, anything that I would definitely need to stop to use anyway, because these are the hardest to get out.