The Transcontinental Race is back after a two-year absence – and so are the bikes.
What’s often described as the world’s hardest self-supported, ultra-distance race runs more than 4,000km across Europe.
Riders pick their own course between this year’s start in Geraardsbergen, Belgium and the finish in Burgas on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast.
Along the way, they have to go through control points. Their crafty positioning places terrain varying from the Passo di Gavia to rocky Romanian mountain tracks on route.
Therefore, the bikepacking rigs the competitors have chosen are as diverse and hardy as what lies ahead of them.
Fifty brave souls took to the start and here’s a selection of what they’re riding.
Ben Davis – Giant TCR
Nominative determinism was strong at the start of the Transcontinental Race (TCR) as 2019 runner-up Ben Davis set off on a Giant TCR.
The Tailfin-sponsored athlete is using the brand’s rear rack and what appear to be unreleased bikepacking bags.
A rim-brake mechanical Ultegra R8000 groupset is the Bristol rider’s drivetrain of choice on a sparsely laden bike.
The front Hunt wheel carries a Son front dynamo hub, which powers the Edelux II front light and looks to be a charging point too.
A deeper-section Hunt wheel is at the back and both rims are shod with Schwalbe Pro One tubeless tyres.
Fiona Kolbinger – Canyon Endurace
In 2019, Fiona Kolbinger became the first woman to win the TCR, finishing 10 hours clear of Ben Davis.
The German also rides an appropriately named bike: a Canyon Endurace.
The bike has an Ultegra disc groupset and is lightly loaded with Apidura bags.
Front and rear lighting and charging comes from another Son dymano hub.
The 27-year-old doctor opts for Shimano TT extension bars, but, as far as we can tell, without a photo of a pet on the stem.
Pawel Pulawski – ‘Kajak Custom’ steel
Pawel Pulwaski, from Wroclaw, Poland, puts his faith in a very special-looking Columbus steel frame fitted with numerous carbon parts.
He runs Shimano Ultegra Di2, pairing a 50/34t crankset with an 11-34t cassette. No doubt those small gear ratios will be a godsend in the monstrous mountains to come.
Again, a SON Deluxe Dynamo hub provides front and rear illumination and a charging point.
Pulwaski also packs pretty light with three slim Apidura bags.
Nominative determinism plays its part in the Polish rider’s tyre choice too: the question is will the Continental GP5000S TR tyres last the race’s 4,000km?
At 45mm, the carbon rims are quite deep compared to those used by other competitors.
Meaghan Hackinen – Cannondale Synapse
Meaghan Hackinen is a riding a Cannondale Synapse also carrying Apidura bags.
But it’s a much more traditional-looking endurance bike than our 2022 Bike of the Year winner, having rim brakes and narrow-looking tyres.
The build includes Ultegra shifters and Cannondale’s Hollowgram Si crankset.
Amid the bird’s nest of wires and cables on the handlebars perch TT bar extensions, a Wahoo bike computer and rechargable lights.
James Kirk – J. Laverack GRiT
James Kirk fits three bottle cages on to his stunning titanium J.Laverack GRiT.
These are shod with what appear to be Continental GP5000 tubeless tyres.
In the cockpit, there are Deda aero bars and a Garmin Edge for navigation.
Kirsten Cluley – Rose Reveal
Like most other starters, she fits three Apidura bags around two bottle cages.
A SON hub dynamo runs up the fork to the Edelux II front light and tucks into the frame bag to charge devices.
DT Swiss hoops are wrapped in the ever-present Continental GP5000 S TR tubeless tyres.