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Etape Preparation – Essential gear

For all you riders doing the Etape, there’s quite a few things you’ll need and changes you could make to your bike to give you a better ride. A lighter bike is obviously going to make a difference, though it’s no substitute for losing weight of the rider, but losing weight of the bike is certainly a whole heap easier. Gearing too is crucial, compact cranks are a good choice, as is cassette with a few extra teeth, read this article about compact cranks.

Dave’s bike – Scapin Karbon S8

Having never attempted anything like the Etape before, I figured the first stop would be to make sure I’ve got a suitable bike. I picked the Scapin Karbon S8 for the 180km ride. It’s a fine choice too, the full carbon frame and full complement of carbon components gets the weight right down to UCI limits. I’ve been settling in with it just fine over the past couple of weeks, doing plenty of road racing (a shortcut to getting fit quick) and longer rides into the hills, and it’s proved so far to be an inspirational ride, it should cope just fine with the cols on the Etape route. When deciding what bike to pick for the ride, I knew I’d need something comfortable, fast and light, and the Scapin excels in all these areas. (My bike is slightly different from the one pictured, the main difference is the Mavic Cosmic Carbone’s and the changes listed below). www.velocebikes.com

Bike price (varies) but this one is around £4K

But to prepare it for the Etape I’ve made a few subtle changes, and listed the essential items I’ll be carrying with me.

Philosophy: A lighter bike is an easier Etape

Michelin tyres – Pro2 Light – £31.95

The Light is, obviously, the lighter version of the Race we tested last year. It’s a no compromise feather-light performance tyre. In 23mm guise it weighs a scant 190g, about 30g lighter than the Race. The low rotating weight should help on the climbs, as does the Silica compound which gives low rolling resistance. Michelin

Planet-X Pro carbon bottle cage – £18

We tested this bargain carbon cage a while ago and it’s still going strong – we’ve used it for mountain biking, battering accross cobbles and long rides with big bottles – no problems. Read the full review here. They are available from the Planet-X website and at 24g, they weigh about the same amount as a set of bottle cage bolts.

Selle San Marco Aspide Carbon – £150

Pulling it out of the box the Aspide Carbon is greeted with long ‘oooooooohs’ from everyone in the office. The all carbon version of the SKN we’ve been very impressed with, weighs a measly 100g, 50g lighter than my perch of choice, the Specialized Toupe. The carbon shell, which has the now common-place channel for pressure relief, has a varying shell thickness, putting more material along the central area, and is supported by Avio Tube titanium rails. There’s a little flex in the rails and a tiny amount of give on the carbon, but it’s drastically less than nearly all other saddles, so we’ll be interested to report on the comfort of it. The flame finish looks very funky, and matches the Scapin beautifully. Just not too sure if it’ll be all that comfy after 6+hours… Ultimate Pursuits

Ultegra pedals – £65

My everyday pedal is the trusty 105. Cheap, indestructible and all the performance of the pedals which sit further up the range. For the Etape though weight is everything and I’ve just put a pair of Ultegra pedals on. The 105’s weigh 330g, if I had opted for the DuraAce models I would have saved 49g, but be lighter in the wallet department to the tune of £125. The Ultegra pedals strike a good compromise of weight, 300g, and price, £65. Ultimate Pursuits

Winching it up

Help?! Once on the mountains there won’t be much help, but there’s a few things I’m doing that might save me. I’ve been stressing over gears and weight widgets for months and the editor has been giving me plenty of help (stick) about what’s worth changing and what isn’t.

Compact drive seems to be the way to go and I’ve been racing happily on one for the past few months, it takes a bit of getting used too but spinning out only happens in the quickest sprints and I’m hardly Mario Cippolini anyway…

FSA K-Force Compact MegaExo cranks – £450

These FSA cranks are expensive at £450, but for that you get crank arms and spider made from a carbon fibre monocoque. The chainrings are CNC’ed from 7075 aluminium, with ramps and pins to improve shifting. The outboard bearings, as is the trend for cranks now, are oversized cartridge bearings to handle the forces put through the cranks better, with a chromoly axle. Weight for the 50/34 configuration (with bottom bracket) is just 780g. They’re the choice of Team CSC too.Full Speed Ahead

Ultegra 12-27t cassette – £44.95

It’s important I’ve got the right gearing, so couple with the 30/54 chainset the 12-27 cassette. It’ll be reassuring I’ve got low enough gearing should I need it, after all you never know how your legs will be on the day. Again I’ve chosen Ultegra as it represents a good balance of light weight and a light price tag. Ultimate Pursuits

Polar C300 HRM – £124.95

I’ve been using this latest model from Polar for a few weeks ( read our preview) and it’ll be strapped to my bars for the Etape. I won’t be relying on it all the time, but it’ll be there to hopefully stop me getting all carried away and trying to race some French dudes. It records all the information I’ll need should I wish to analyse my performance post-ride… or maybe I’ll just head to the nearest bar.Polar

In case of an emergency

As it’s such a long way, you’ll want to carry a few essential items and some spares. The best way to carry this stuff is in a saddle bag, and pack it with things you hope you’ll not need like inner tubes, tyre levers and a mini-tool, preferably with a chain tool. Make sure to mount your mini-pump to your frame or the saddle bag, gas cartridges could be used but a mini-pump is never going to fail you, or run out of puff. This will leave your jersey pockets free for food and arm/knee warmers. We’ve already done an indepth article about what you’ll want to carry with you, read it here.

Agu Yamaska 402 Kf – £14.95

To save stuffing my jersey pockets I’m going to be using this small saddlebag from Agu. It has enough capacity to take a couple of innertubes, mini-tool, mobile phone and other bits and bobs, and means I can keep my jersey pockets free for stuffing with more important things like food. Unladden it won’t add much weight, just 125g, and the easy Klickfix bracket design means it can be taken of in a second. It’s a great bag for the more modest daily commute too, as its made from tough 600D Polyester and includes a bright yellow rain cover to protect the contents, though the saddlebag is coated with a water repellent material for good measure. Ultimate Pursuits

Blackburn Air Stick Carbon pump – £34.95

Yes we love carbon fibre. The Air Stik strives to save weight over the standard model by the main shaft being made from carbon fibre. It saves 5g over the aluminium version which isn’t much, but it sure does look good. Blackburn have been making pumps for a long time and it shows, the finish is excellent, as are the ergonomics: the shaped handle folds out into a more comfortable t-bar, there’s a bit of rubber also on the handle for better grip and the thumb lock lever attaches the pump onto the tube very reassuringly. A bracket mounts the pump onto the frame underneath the waterbottles. Weight: 157g. Ultimate Pursuits

Michelin tubes

You want to carry at least two spare tubes, and the super lightweight 70g Ultra-lights are a good choice. They’re also a good choice to put inside your tyres to save a little more weight. They’re a good partner to the already light Pro2 Light tyres I’ll be riding . Michelin

Park Tool I-Beam Mini Fold-up Hex wrench and screwdriver set – £9.95

A mini-tool is essential. Hopefully you want have any mechanicals but in case anything falls of (fingers crossed they won’t), the I-Beam has just about every tool I’ll need – there’s no chain tool but that aside every possible mishap is covered. Folded away inside the tiny device are 3, 4, 5, 6 and 8mm allen tools, a straight blade screwdriver. Park Tool are reknowned for their quality and durability so it shouldn’t let you down. All that and it costs under a tenner. Bargain. Ultimate Pursuits


Are you riding the Etape? If so, let us know what bike you’re riding and what changes you’ve made recently, in the forum thread below. We’re working on some more Etape tips over the next few days so check back for more…

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