Primal Quest gear, part II: Biking

NOTE FOR READERS: This is the second in a three-part series of columns chronicling the Gear Junkie’s training, gear preparation and competition in Primal Quest, a 10-day adventure race held in Utah June 25 – July 4, 2006.

Primal Quest is headquartered this year in Moab, Utah, a top mountain-biking destination. As such, the race promises to dish up a lot of epic riding on the area’s famous slickrock formations and desert trails.

To prepare for a long haul, I’ve outfitted my mountain bike with lights, bags and components that will — hopefully — get me through the many saddle-sore days and nights I’ll spend in the desert.

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All members of Team Bulleit, the four-person crew I’m racing with, will ride the Dakar XC Expert, a $2,300 bike made by Jamis Bicycles (www.jamisbikes.com). It’s a dual-suspension model with a Fox F100RL suspension fork and a Fox Float RP3 rear shock. For travel on gravel roads, which are common in adventure racing, the shocks can be locked off to optimize pedaling efficiency. Hydraulic disc brakes from Avid provide abrupt stopping power.

Lighting on the bike is an imperative concern in adventure racing, where much travel is done at night. For my primary light source I will employ the Yukon HL Bike from Princeton Tec ($60; www.princetontec.com), an LED model that runs for about eight hours on three AA batteries in its maximum-brightness mode. Switched to a dimmer secondary mode, the light shines for more than 100 hours.

My big-gun light — the Arc Li-ion Ultra from Light & Motion (www.bikelights.com) — puts out an amazingly bright beam. When the terrain gets tough during the wee hours I’ll switch off the Princeton Tec light and turn on the Light & Motion. The HID light is nearly as bright as headlights on a car, allowing you to cruise through the woods on tough singletrack trails in a virtual window of daylight.

The Arc Li-ion Ultra, which costs a hefty $600, runs on a rechargeable battery that provides six hours of shine time.

Topeak’s MTX BeamRack paired with the MTX TrunkBag EXP provide generous storage capacity for food, water and spare tubes. At $48, the MTX BeamRack is a 20-inch rack that attaches to the bike’s seatpost via a quick-release clamp. Sitting on this rack, the $63 MTX TrunkBag EXP has side panels that expand into panniers. Fully stuffed, the bag can hold about 1,030 cubic inches of gear, according to the company (www.topeak.com).

Snacks will be kept in the Bento Box, a small nylon container that mounts on the top tube behind the handlebars. The $16 product provides quick access to energy bars and other concessions.

For apparel, I’ll wear a mix of new products and comfortable older items, like my well-used and loved shoes, jersey and gloves, all of which are from Answer Products (www.answerproducts.com). My bike shorts — the Castelli YPro Short (www.castelli-us.com) — are new. These $150 shorts are of a road-biking ilk, though a comfy fit makes them appropriate for long races like Primal Quest, too.

On my head is the Bell Sweep XC, a $140 model I’ve been using for the past year or so (www.bellbikehelmets.com). My socks are Smartwool Adrenaline LT Mini Crew, a cushy and durable wool hybrid ($15; www.smartwool.com).

Finally, for hydration, I’ll be relying on Camelbak and its generous 100 ounce Omega reservoir ($30; www.camelbak.com). This hose-equipped water bladder stuffs free inside any backpack. Its big holding capacity will keep me slurping for hours under the hot desert sun.

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