Blog

2018

This year seems to have passed in a flash and the fantastic summer weather has given way to a beautiful autumn.

Highlight trips with Saddle Skedaddle this year included a week on one of my favourite islands, Corsica.

Two weeks across France on the classic St Malo to Nice trip.

A north eastern adventure from Newcastle to Edinburgh on the Coast and Castles route.

Towards the end of the season, a trip to new destinations for me: Slovenia and Croatia. It was an awesome contrast of terrain, culture and riding from the Julian alps to the Dalmatian coast. This is a part of the world I’d love to visit again.

Giant TCR Advanced beach

Giant TCR Advanced 1 Disc

I took delivery of this bike courtesy of Saddle Skedaddle in April 2017. I had few quick local rides on the hilly back lanes of rural Lancashire before taking it to Spain and riding from San Sebastian to Tarifa, then to France and riding St Malo to Nice and some classic alps passes. It’s covered a few thousand kilometres now, time enough for me to get to know it fairly well.

The truth is that it didn’t take very long at all to feel right at home on this bike. Building up the size large frame, getting the stock stem in the correct position and finally cutting down the steerer tube revealed a bike that felt very stable and composed, happily climbing and descending all manner of roads. The stock bars at 440mm are also my go-to size, so no changes needed there.

The bike is sensibly adorned with a mostly Shimano Ultegra groupset. The finishing kit and wheels are all perfectly functional, but not exciting, Giant branded components. At the end of a summer of lots of riding the wheels are needing a little attention, as to be expected.

The frame itself is lovely, which is exactly what you want. I’m not usually a fan of proprietary standards, but the teardrop profile carbon seatpost on this bike is an exception; apart from looking smart, it means your saddle will always be perfectly in line! Further, the frame is Di-2 compatible, if that’s your thing, and comes with front and rear through-axles with nice tapered skewers. This non-“Pro” model means the fork’s steerer tube is aluminium, but my unrefined lack of perception here means this is no problem for me and meant I was happier to cut it myself too.

Coming from a mountain biking background, I am all in favour of hydraulic disc brakes on road bikes; I have been waiting for them to come to road bikes for some time. They offer a level of performance and consistency unmatched by any other system.

Then there’s the colour, which is extra useful for guiding purposes!

Palaces and Lakes of Rajasthan with Saddle Skedaddle

One of the many great things about my line of work is the travel opportunities it brings. Back in October, only a few days after arriving back from Corsica, I found myself on the long flight to India.

The trip starts in Jaipur, where there is the chance to see the Amer Fort before the tour begins.

Each town that you call in at has a different character. We were there around Diwali and at night the streets light up as the markets bustled.

The majority of the riding was fairly flat, although in the distance the Aravalli hills are often seen.

We stopped over in Jaipur for two nights, one of which was Diwali, a non stop firework display across the Blue City.

A moments peace could be found with a trip out to the desert, swapping our bikes for camels.

Eventually the Aravalli hills were traversed, significantly more climbing than earlier in the trip but also the most beautiful scenery.

The trip finishes in Udaipur, a city on a lake with the backdrop of the Aravalli.

Deuter Trans Alpine 30

The Trans Alpine 30 is Deuter’s ‘favourite all-rounder’. I have been putting this to the test for the last season.

My incumbent go-to bag for mountain bike riding and guiding has been the Evoc FR Trail, which is 20 litres of low profile, extremely well thought out and well made bag. The Trans Alpine 30 is in a different category as far as capacity goes and to pitch the TA30 against the Evoc for general single day riding would be unfair. However, for guiding purposes, I have happily used either.

Guiding

For me, this would be the main purpose of the bag.

The TA30 came in to my hands just in time for guiding Saddle Skedaddle‘s Awesome Ambleside mountain biking weekend. It settled in to this role well, comfortably swallowing all my guiding kit including spare layers and a small group shelter with room to spare. The extra space of the 30 litre bag was well appreciated, yet it still manages to maintain a fairly low profile.

Something I especially like about the TA30 is the main compartment has a (zippered removable) divider towards the bottom, with the lower section being accessible from below. This feature is simple but so very handy in practice; I use this section to store my first aid kit, making it very easy to get at and keeps it separate from everything else in the bag.

I also really appreciate the presence of waist strap pockets, which I use to store a few tools in one side and snacks in the other.

What I found strange was the unusual omission of a whistle integrated in to the sternum strap buckle. Interestingly, this is a feature on other Deuter bags such as the smaller Attack 20, making its omission even more baffling. A small whistle slipped into one of the waist strap pockets alleviates this.

However, possibly most importantly, this bag is stable and comfortable when riding. By distributing weight well, the TA30 is well up to the task of carrying a full mountain bike guiding load all day. The weight is held well through tight corners and there is no ‘swinging’.

General Travel

Part of the ‘all-rounder’ quality that Deuter attaches to the TA30 suggests to me it should be at ease with general travel duties. With the amount of road riding trips I guide, the TA30 was destined to spend quite a lot of time in such a capacity.

A fun video of packing it can be found here!

It’s also seen use lugging some sport climbing gear around between work assignments.

The H x W x D of 54 x 28 x 24 cm means the Trans Alpine 30 should be hand luggage ready. To test this, I took a four night trip to Reykjavik, with this as my only bag. Here it is stowed safely under the seat in front of me:

Comfortably taking a couple of changes of clothes and a few other travel essentials, the TA30 passes this test. It performed well as a day to day bag both around town and on hikes to hot springs, with ample room for food and clothing. Those side pockets came in extra handy for bottles of water, too. None of my other bags have them, and in most other situations I wouldn’t care much for them, but they really complement the all-rounder ethic of this bag. The waist strap pockets were also a very useful place to store hotel keys.

The verdict so far

I have been using the TA30 for a few months now; with useful features and a good size it has quickly become a familiar travel companion and comfortable, capable riding sack. I’ll happily keep testing it out!