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Gear Test — END-AR (part II)

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This is the second part of my gear recap on last weekend’s END-AR, a 12-hour adventure race in North Dakota. (See my Race Report here: https://thegearjunkie.com/12-hour-ar-262-miles.) My team, Covert Loons, took first place, pushing hard for 75 miles and 10+ hours straight on the bikes, feet, and in a canoe. Here’s a summary of some gear that worked, and some that did not. . .

BIKE: Kona Jake the Snake
A ‘cross bike for adventure racing? That’s right, I went with the skinny-but-knobby tires of Kona’s Jake the Snake, a longtime standby bike for me. It’s fast enough on the roads and the trails, though it doesn’t really excel at either. Instead a cyclocross bike—which has no suspension and brakes that are accessible only in the drop-down position—lets you pull off both dirt and asphalt both at a good enough clip. On the road its knobby tires slow you down some. On dirt, the tires are sometimes too skinny, and the lack of suspension can become jolting. In the North Dakota race, which featured about 40 miles of muddy gravel roads. the bike was near perfect. I had been a bit nervous the night prior to race start, as it was so wet and muddy. But riding it on race day I soon realized I’d made the right choice by leaving the heavy mountain bike at home. The Jake weighs about 23 pounds. ($1,099, www.konaworld.com)

BOAT: Old Town Penobscot 16
At 58 pounds and 16 feet 2 inches long, the Penobscot 16 is no racing craft. But the boat, a design suited for flat water as well as fast-moving river, felt fairly quick and nimble in this race. We navigated the north-flowing Red River in Grand Forks, N.D., paddling far downstream to get checkpoints before spinning the craft and going upriver toward the finish. The boat’s hull is made of Oltonar/Royalex, a high-impact and abrasion-resistant material that includes ABS plastic, foam and vinyl in its multi-laminate makeup. The canoe has a straight keel line for tracking but is quick responding and maneuverable on a rocky river. Old Town includes niceties on the Penobscot 16 like anodized aluminum gunwales, nylon web seats and an ash-wood thwart and yoke. Those nylon seats, I can attest, felt nice on the rear after the race’s many miles on the bike. ($1,199, www.oldtowncanoe.com)

Energy gel provides quick calories. Water hydrates. Why not combine the two in a single-serve bottle? That’s what ventureDESIGNworks has done with its Gel-Bot, a new-age water bottle that integrates a gel-dispensing flask with a traditional plastic bike bottle. I filled these up—with water and gel—before the race and stuck them on my bike. Come time to ride and I had my drink and “food” right there ready to go. The bottle holds 24 ounces of water; the separate bottle inside the bottle holds 3.2 ounces of energy gel. ($16, www.gel-bot.com)

FOOD: Bento Box
This is a simple way to keep food—candy, energy gel, nuts—accessible while pedaling. Eseentially, this is a small nylon container that mounts on the top tube behind the handlebars. A mesh flaps closes with Velcro over the top. The food is right there, ready to eat without a pause in your pedaling. Simple and effective. ($16, https://www.trisports.com/benbakis.html)

MAP: Sea to Summit Waterproof Map Cases
The name says it all. This roll-top map case keeps your topos dry even if submerged. Crossing a creek? Throw your compass, race passport, food, whatever, inside, roll it up, and you have ad hoc protection. The case is made of cold-resistant PVC and has an adjustable webbing neck strap. It measures 8” x 12”. ($16, www.seatosummit.com

Go here to see the first part of this blog: https://thegearjunkie.com/gear-test-end-ar-part-i

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