Rigs of the 2023 Trans Balkan Race
The 2023 Trans Balkan Race kicked off this morning with more than 130 riders taking on the 1,300-kilometer route across Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Montenegro. With help from the organizers and photographer Andrea Securo, we’ve gathered details on almost 50 loaded race setups. Dig into the rigs of the 2023 Trans Balkan Race here…
The second edition of the Trans Balkan Race took off from the small town of Sežana, Slovenia, earlier this morning. The event follows a 1,300-kilometer off-road route across the Balkans, providing an unforgettable journey across karstic landscapes and thick forests through the history of the former Yugoslavia. The inaugural event saw a huge number of participants, but only 30 solo riders and 12 pairs finished. Last year’s event challenged riders with tons of climbing, limited water and resupply, and heatwaves and thunderstorms. It also offered fantastic scenery that made it all worthwhile. Lael Wilcox finished first in the women’s category with a time of 6 days, 4 hours, and 23 minutes, and the fastest overall time was from Lieven Schroven with a time of 5 days, 6 hours, and 9 minutes. The 2023 event sees a new route that will bring new challenges and surprises for all the riders, and we’re excited to see how the race plays out.
There are more than 130 riders taking on the event this year, and, similar to last year, photographer Andrea Securo—organizer of the Veneto Trail and creator of the Veneto Divide and Asiago Loop—was at the starting line capturing photos of the riders’ setups. Find his gallery mixed in with some user-submitted photos below, featuring details on the bikes, bags, and gear taking on this year’s race. After digging through the rigs, head over to the event page to follow along live.
Age 48 / Vienna (Austria)
BIKE: I will be riding the Trans Balkan on a Ti 2021 Falkenjagd Aristos CR Gravel. The bike features a Rohloff 14 Speedhub and 50/22T belt Gates drive, 27.5″ carbon wheels with a SON Dynamo hub and Rene Herse Umtanum tubeless 2.2″ Tires. The drivetrain translates into 1.33-7 meters of distance travelled per crank revolution, a real game changer going uphill or on fast descents on the road. The Falkenjagd Titan Fork does a really great job in dampening, so far I never missed my front suspension even on rocky passages. The entire bike is specified to carry in total 165kg which makes it extremely durable, albeit at 10.5kg its not particularly light weight. I like the maintenance free setup and yes, the gate drive operates surprisingly well in muddy conditions.
BAGS: Center piece is the Tailfin Aeropack together with their 5L panniers. It’s easy and quick to pack and I can adjust the needed space for any particular ride. Half Frame bag is an Ortlieb rolltop 4L which holds my food and occasional cooking gear. Spare parts and repair kit go into the down tube bottle. Top tube bag from Apidura carries my electronics. Whenever possible I like to have my handlebar free of bags for a more agile and light weight feeling, so just 2 Blackburn food pouches are placed there.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: My sleep system consist of a Katabatic Gear Bristlecone Bivy, Sea To Summit Ether Light XT mattress with a heavenly 7cm thickness, and a DIY 650g Down Quilt based on the youtube tutorial from Dubber Design, in total 1300g. Furthermore, I rely on a number of DIY 3D printed parts for my electronics such as a Garmin GPSMAP/SP-connect and Black Diamond Icon Headlamp/GoPro adapter. Another useful addition is a switch to either charge my 4Smarts 20,000mAh pass-through powerbank or operating the IQ-X front and my back light from Busch+Müller.
Age 32 / Villingen-Schwenningen, Baden Wurttemberg (Germany)
BIKE: Bombtrack Hook EXT 2019, SRAM Rival with RockShox 40mm fork, tailfin bottle mounts, dynamo front with 2.1″ tyres.
BAGS: Mismatch of custom Alpkit framebag, Apidura top tube bag, Topeak tool holder, and Restrap front roll and butt rocket.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: Sawyer water filter to cut bottled water screws nicely into Milkit water bottle which doubles as tubeless tyre inflator so no CO2 canister needed. Busch & Müller converter connected to Panasonic Eneloop USB charger which doubles as cache battery and powers head torch and Garmin eTrex 30x.
Age 50 / United Arab Emirates
BIKE: My bike of choice is the Sunpeed Rock. The bike comes with a standard 1×12 drivetrain and a 34T chainring. I’ve added pedals with both a clipless and platform side giving me the option to clip in or ride trickier sections using the platform side. I initially put a thin carbon fibre seat on but that didn’t withstand riding on rough terrain so moved back to a more solid plastic cast seat. I’ve tired four different options before settling on the right one. Front tubeless tire is the Vittoria Barzo and rear is Mitas Kratos.
BAGS: I’ve gone for the M-Wave frame bag and seat pack (11L). It’s a tight squeeze for everything I’m packing but I’ve managed to get everything in, including a small gas cooker and pot set. Rock Bros top tube bag for my spare tube, chain and tools. On the handlebars I’ve put a basket with a small cooler bag with two compartments. One to keep drinks cold and the other for food. Packing enough liquids is my primary concern, so I’ll be carrying roughly 8L in total spread out between my 3L Camelpac, a custom bottle carrier on the frame, the cooler and frame bag.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: For navigation I’ve gone with the Wahoo Elemnt V2. For power I’ve chosen a light foldable solar panel and power bank. So solar by day and power bank by night. All my other gear is pretty much standard for races like this but I have added a rain poncho as I want to stay as dry as possible and the extra layer over my waterproofs will ensure this. It’s also great to put over my tent (presumably 100% waterproof) or create shade where none can be found. Adding the gas cooker and pot set has been a huge internal debate but it’s being packed in. A warm soup or coffee, or hot meal when I’m cold, wet and out in the middle of nowhere hundreds of kilometres from any resupply will keep me sane.
Age 39 / Victoria, British Columbia (Canada)
BIKE: I’ll be traveling on my Santa Cruz Chameleon. Maxxis Minion DHF 29″x2.5″ WT tires, 3C MaxxGrip, EXO, TR (front) and Maxxis Aggressor 29″x2.5″ WT, EXO, TR (Rear). SRAM GX Eagle, 1×12.
BAGS: Bags are a mix of what I could find and what fit on a smaller frame. I’ll be carrying a hip bag with water. Ortlieb seatbag, Mountain Equipment Co-Op frame bag, 2 Brooks top tube bags, 2 Lezyine cupholders, and my 20L Sea to Summit Big River dry bag secured on the front with Titan strap, which holds my sleeping gear. Two 8-litre Sea to Summit fork bags for rain gear and an extra layer. Mountain Equipment Co-Op Seat bag for tools and first aid.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: Rab 500 sleeping bag and Therm-a-Rest Prolite. I get cold easily so I’m making sure I’m toasty in any sudden storms. Nemo Dragonfly OSMO Bikepack tent. I’ll be using the Garmin Edge 840 solar for navigation, and 2x10k power banks by Logiix Piston Power, Blackburn Dayblazer 1000 front light, Petzl Actik Core 600 headlamp (takes AAA batteries in case you’re far from a USB port).
Age 52 / Hampshire (United Kingdom)
BIKE: Specialized Epic Hard Tail frame built with all the bits I like. MCFK stem and bars, Rotor Kapic cranks and 34T chain ring, Shimano 12-speed XTR 10-51T , S-Works power pro saddle, Cane Creek Hell Bender BB, Duke Crazy Jack Wheels with DTSwiss 350 IS hubs, Hope XR brakeset, RockShox SID forks and Conti RaceKing tyres to front and back which is possibly a leap of faith with trail conditions, time will tell, and my lucky Spurlock bell.
BAGS: Mix of Revelate and Restrap bags and I’ll ride with CamelBak SkyLine with 3L bladder (in addition to 1L on the bike) since managing water will be a challenge on this route
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: Set of SQLabs inner bar ends for a variety on hand positions and I will wear a bit of Buchanan tartan for inspiration.
Age 33 / Amsterdam (The Netherlands)
BIKE: I’ll be riding the Trans Balkan Race 2023 on a 2020 Canyon Grail CF SL 7. The bike features a modified rear derailleur, 11-34T cassette, and a set of WTB Raddler TCS Light Fast 700x40mm tires.
BAGS: My bag setup is a full Expedition set from Apidura, I will use the saddle bag (14L) to carry my clothes, my sleeping materials will fit into the Handlebar Pack (9L), the frame pack will be home for tools, foods, power banks, and finally a 1L Top Tube Pack to fit it my cables and chargers.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: I will go with a Patagonia Lightweight sleeping bag, a Mammut Grevling EMT 195 bivvu bag and a Forclaz Trekking Mattress MT500 Air S. My lighting system is composed of the Neatt front light on the bike and a Petzl Aktic Core headlamp. I’ll be navigating with a Garmin Edge 1030 plus.
Age 63 / Bologna (Italy)
BIKE: I’ll be riding the Trans Balkan Race on a 2015 Trek Procaliber with RockShox fork, rolling on Vittoria Mezcal TNT Graphene 2.0 29 x 2.35″ tires mounted on Mason X Hunt 650B wheels with a SON Dynamo powering the front light and a dual USB charger. SRAM AXS 1×12 (32T x 10-50T) drivetrain Shimano XT 172.5 crank, Shimano XT brake and Shimano XT SPD pedals. Deda Parabolica Uno aerobars mounted on the full 60mm riser kit.
BAGS: The waterproof section is made up of a Tailfin Carbon AeroPack and a Rusjan handlebag. I am also running two Rusjan food pouches, and two Revelate Design top tube bags.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: I’ll be navigating with a Wahoo ELEMNT ROAM and a Garmin Edge 1030 Plus as a backup. For riding at dark I’ll rely on a kLite Ultra V2 Gravel front light, Exposure TraceR and WAG rear lights, and a Petzl Actik Core helmet-mounted headlamp. Sleeping kit: PHD Design Alpine Ultra Half Bag coupled with a Rapha Explore down jacket, Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite sleeping pad, Sea to Summit Aeros Ultra Light Pillow, SOL PRO bivy.
Age 48 / West Sussex (United Kingdom)
BIKE: This is Alice, an Allied BC40 full sus machine. A blend of Shimano and SRAM with a 32T front and 10-51T rear to keep me spinning up the hills, Salt Carbon wheels with Conti RaceKings will be fast, and a Wolftooth dropper post, let’s see how much that gets used!
BAGS: The highlight is my new custom Tailfin R&D frame bag that the team have just put together for me. Tailfin aeropack and the new 1.1L flip top bag for clothing and food. All my sleep kit goes on a bar bag at the front.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: I love my Nordisk Lofoten tent with a Big Agnes Pluton sleeping bag and Neoair short mat for sleep. Lights come from Exposure and navigation from the Garmin 1040 solar. A final addition comes in the form of a JBL mini speaker to keep the bears at bay!
Age 28 / Oak Ridges, Ontario (Canada)
BIKE: A sweet second-hand 2021 Trek Procaliber sitting on 2.1″ Mezcals with SRAM eagle 32T front chainring and 10-50T cassette. The dropper post and SID fork come from the badass teenage girl who raced the bike before me. For comfort, I added aerobars, Ergon grips, and my specialized mimic saddle. Jim talked me through how to swap the front rotor to 180mm, while Luca and co. fixed my mistake with the brake pads before I contaminated the system.
BAGS: I taught myself how to sew with a machine and produced many upcycled bags out of salvaged textiles: two bucket bags with a special piece for one-handed access; a top tube bag with a magnetic lock; and a two-piece frame bag fitted to my smaller gravel bike, which now cradle a fanny pack that was fixed due to a snooping dog chomping a piece out of it. I’ve been pleased with the only purchases I made for bags: the 13L ortlieb seatpack and an evac sea to summit drysack as a handlebar bag.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: Merino wool clothing, 3L water bladder in the frame bag with a tube that Nicola fixed using a hose from his workshop (which probably gives me a benzine boost), solar-rechargeable Garmin gps, and bone conduction headphones to keep me singing, laughing, and talking with loved ones back home.
Age 27 / Berlin (Germany)
BIKE: I’m riding the light and agile Rondo Ruut, with a mix of 50 and 45mm tyres for as much cushioning as possible on the rocky trails. With 38x42T combination, I’m hoping to have enough gears for the climbs, otherwise I’m mentally prepared for the hikes.
BAGS: In the Specialized saddle pack, I’m storing my sleeping system and some warmer gear. Underneath it you’ll find a small Apidura foldable backpack that I’ll use to carry extra food for the longer stretches away from populated areas. Moving on to the frame is the small but very practical Restrap bag. I like the wide opening, great for accessing snacks or my gilet, and doesn’t get in the way of the knees. Finally at the front is my trusted Ornot bag, which I’ve ridden on all my bikepacking trips since 2019.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: I’ll be navigating the Balkans with the good old Wahoo Bolt, then turn on the bright Supernova lights as the night approaches. After long stages on the bike I’ll be eager to get some rewarding sleep with the Sea to Summit sleeping bag and mattress.
Age 50 / Pantin (France)
BIKE: A stock Canyon Exceed CF6 with 12-speed Shimano SLX 30×10/51T, WTB Volt saddle, Ergon grips and BBB (inner) bar ends.
BAGS: A mix of Apidura, Ortlieb, Reload and Salomon.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: Garmin Edge 830, Knog PWR Mountain, GoalZero Venture 75, Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite, Mountain Hardwear sleeping bag, Nordisk Lofoten UL1 tent, Decathlon MT100 synthetic down jacket.
Age 32 / Salzburg (Austria)
BIKE: I will be riding a Caynon Exceed CF 6, coming from a road background I am new to the gravel/mtb scene and after riding Istraland on 38mm tires, an ultegra groupset and with 38cm drop bars I decided to make the jump to a hardtail. Small upgrades include Vittoria Mezcal 2.25” tubeless tires, Ergon GS3 grips, and Specialized Romin Evo Expert saddle.
BAGS: My bags are a mix of various brands combining Apidura, Revelate and Rapha. With a camelbak Chase 8 bike vest for extra food and water carrying capacity.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: I’ll be taking a Big Agnes Fly Creek tent with a Sea to Summit Spark 2 sleeping bag as my sleeping system.
Age 41 / Auerbach, Deutschland (Germany)
BIKE: Giant XTC Advanced 1 2015, Continental Cross King 27.5×2.25″, Gearing is 26/38T, 11-42T (2×10). I swapped the saddle for the best saddle ever, the Infinity bike Seat E2.
BAGS: Front bag and the saddle bag are both Giant HP2 PRO. Top tube bag is from Rockbros. I sewed all the red bags myself and I’m very proud of it.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: Sleeping mat is a Sea to Summit Ether light XT Air, Sea to Summit Flame Ultralight Liner bag, Cumulus ULTRALIGHT BIVY, Tyvek foil undersheet. Otherwise, I have about 35,000mAH distributed over 3 power banks and because I am afraid of wild animals, a small bear bell and animal repellent spray. I also have a small water filter and lots of sunscreen with me.
Age 40 / Lille (France)
BIKE: I’ll be riding a modified Decathlon Touring 920 bike with a suspension and a flat bar. The bike features a Shimano XT 1×12 drivetrain, Fulcrum wheels with 2.25″ Vittoria Mezcal tyres. I also added Profile Design aerobar and Ergon GS2 grips. Front light is a Decathlon FL940.
BAGS: Frame bags and top tube are Decathlon prototypes. I also have an Apidura saddle bag and a Revelate design front bag.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: The lack of food and water supply will be challenging in this race. I like this bike frame because I can easily mount bottles on the seatstay. I’ll also be wearing a hydration pack on my back with a 2L bladder.
Age 32 / Marseille (France)
BIKE: No MTB here, I’m riding a Canyon Grail CF SL 7 eTap with SRAM Rival groupset and a XPLR 10-44T cassette. Wheels are DT Swiss GRC 1600. Tyres are a mix of the French brand Hutchinson, I put Tundra on the front and Touareg at the rear (may put Tundra on both). Lamps are made by Lezyne, 180 for the rear and 1100xl for the front. I will bring two Petzl headlamps too.
BAGS: I will be quite minimalist, with two Ortlieb bags and a small top tube bag. Garmin Edge 530 for the nav.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: The final touch is the flag of my home city, Marseille.
Age 51 / Independence, Oregon (USA)
BIKE: Cannondale Lefty 29er Scapel Si.
BAGS: Rear Ortlieb 16.5 liters, Ortlieb top tube bag (mounted upside down), Chrome Urban Ex 2.0 handlebar bag.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: Navigation: iPhone 13 using Gaia GPS app with a 43,800 mAh 4 panel solar charger battery bank mounted between aero bars to charge while riding. Aero bars: Vision Team carbon clip on, Lights: Light in motion Stella 500 with large battery. Clothing, 2 cycling kits, Regatta light weight insulated jacket, Running shorts, Gore-Tex pants and gloves, rain jacket, neck gator, leg and arm warmers. Marmot Pounder sleeping bag.
Age 25 / Markdorf, Baden-Wurttemberg (Germany)
BIKE: I’ll be riding on a Canyon Grizl CF SL 6. The bike is running with tubeless Maxxis Ikon EXO KV 3C 29×2″ tires. To tackle tough climbs, I use a modified 2×10 GRX400 drivetrain with a 42T cassette with a Wolf Tooth Goatlink.
BAGS: My gear is stored in a set of bags from Giant, which includes a saddlebag, frame bag, and handlebar bag. Additionally, I have two snack bags from Decathlon on my handlebar.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: To add some more water storage to my bottles, I’ll be carrying a backpack from Camelbak with a 2L water bladder. I’m using a helmet-mounted Sigma Buster 2000 HL LED Lamp for riding at night.
Age 31 / Cracov (Poland)
BIKE: I’ll be riding the Trans Balkan Race on a Specialized Diverge Elite E5. I use it for all my gravel races and bikepacking trips. It is equipped with new tubeless Pirelli Cinturato Gravel M 700x45c tires with anti-puncture inserts, Sram Rival 1×11 groupset with 36T Alugear chainring and a Shimano 11-46 cassette.
BAGS: I’ll use a Geosmina frame bag, Giant h2pro saddle bag packed with all my clothes. I will be also running a front bag and small top tube bag.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: My setup is lightweight. Frame bag and saddle bag would be enough for my needs but I’m bringing additional bags to carry on water and food. I also mounted anti-puncture inserts inside the tires.
Femke van Kessel
Age 33 / Zutphen, Gelderland (The Netherlands)
BIKE: I will be riding the TBR on my Canyon hardtail. This bike has seen a lot and I am confident it will conquer this challenge too. The wheels are hand built DT Swiss with Maxxis Rekon in front and rear. On my handlebar (BLB hobo Loop) is my Garmin Edge 830 and Klite MTB to help me during the nights.
BAGS: I’m riding as a pair with my husband Janno de Bruijn, so we have divided the burden. In my handlebar bag is the sleeping gear (2 down sleeping bags+liner, 1 inflatable sleeping pad). In the first feed bag mostly electronics (cables, powerbank, charger, Klite adapter and waterfilter), the second feed bag will be left empty for food. In the top tube bag the things I want to have nearby: sunscreen, chamois cream, chain lube, Dynaplug, multitool, drinking tablets, disinfectant. In my saddlebag the clothes + spare tubes (down jacket, rain jacket, waterproof gloves, extra cycling bibs, wool cycling shirt, wool undershirt, wool shirt long sleeves, arm and legg warmers, buff). I ride with a backpack for personal belongings, water and leave room for food when I buy too much at the supermarket.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: The favourite part will be my dynamo charger and the Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL 2 tent (carried by my husband).
Age 36 / Gent (Belgium)
BIKE: I built this Surly Troll with touring and easy repair in mind. It is not ideal but it’s the best I have. 26×2.8″ WTB Rangers (most likely one of my last trips on 26+ since it’s getting difficult to get tyres), 2×8 Deore with friction shifter, Denham bar, Avid BB7 brakes.
BAGS: Seat pack and tube bag are from Alpkit, handlebar bag is from Laufbursche, and the frame bag is handmade by me.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: Garmin Dakota20 for navigation, frame bag I made myself for food and water, Hiplok Z lok for peaceful shopping, Cumulus quilt and Salewa bivi for sleeping.
Age 24 / Hautes-Alpes (France)
BIKE: For my first off-road bikepacking race, I’ll ride my brand new Canyon Exceed CF SL 7.0. I bought this bike one week ago so it’s basically the stock build exept for the tires, I swapped the Maxxis Icon for the Vittoria Mezcal 2.35”. I added Ergon grips, spirgrips and elbow pads to made the things a little bit more civilised for my hands. My trusty Specialized Power saddle will take care of my butt. For lights, two Stoots headlamps in the front and a Knog in the rear. I’ll navigate with a Garmin eTrex 32x and a Fenix 6x. I’ll also bring two big power banks to fuel all this stuff.
BAGS: Ortlieb 4.1L in the back (down jacket, rain jacket, sol bivy, inflatable pillow), Apidura race framepack 4L (electronics, food, spare parts) and a trail-running backpack (mostly food and water).
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: I am myopic, so i will wear my Julbo rush sunglasses (corrective and photochromic) day and night. Eyes will be safe.
Age 26 / Bregenz, Vorarlberg (Austria)
BIKE: I am riding the Canyon Lux with Sram X0 1×12. My wheels are Reynolds TR49 with the Continental Raceking 29×2.2″ tires.
BAGS: For bags I am using the Apidura backcountry series (Full Frame Pack, Top Tube Pack, Downtube Pack, Saddle Pack and Backpack).
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: The hightlight is definitly twinning with Marion. We are both wearing Velocio clothing, the same bag set-up from Apidura, and a similar sleeping setup from Sea to Summit.
Age 27 / Tallinn (Estonia)
BIKE: I will be riding a plastic Scott Scale 920 pimped up with a Shimano UR700 dynamo connected to B&M IQ-XS LIGHT and smooth rolling 2.35” Vittoria Mezcals. The SQ Lab inner barends and Profile Design aerobars help provide different positions. Gearing will be stock Sram GX with 32T in front and 10-52T party in the back. Fox 32 SC suspension provides some extra cushion on the rough stuff and the lockut makes it fully rigid.
BAGS: MYOG ¾ framebag, Apidura racing long top tube bag, Revelate Designs Terrapin seat bag and some homemade stem bags for snacks.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: This is my first time racing with the Apidura 1.5L bladder, we’ll see how it holds up. Sleeping kit includes Therm-a-Rest NeoAir xLite sleeping mat, Katabatic Gear Bristlecone bivy, emergency bivy just in case, Uniqlo long johns and a puffy jacket from Decathlon. Navigation will be using a good old Wahoo Elemnt Bolt, Garmin edge 520 as a backup.
BIKE: During my trip from Italy to Kyrgyzstan I’ll take a break to race the Trans Balkan with my Salsa Timberjack, 1×11 drivetrain, 2.30″ tyres, lights powered by a Son Dynamo.
BAGS: All my bags are custom made by Rusjan, one of the best if you’re looking for waterproof bags. From the bikepacking setup that’s in the picture I’ll keep just the frame bag and one more small bag for the race
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: The frame bag is also called “the wardrobe” as I can fit everything I need and still have room for more.
BIKE: Canyon Exceed CF SLX. More or less stock other than the usual suspects. Vittoria Meacals, Brooks c17 saddle, Curve Remlaw bars, Profile aero Bars.
BAGS: A mix of Apidura and Revelate Designs bags.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: For navigation and tracking I’ll be using a Garmin etrex 32x and a Garmin inReach mini. Lighting is an exposure mk15 along with a black diamond head lamp. Special items are a pack of Sea to Summit wilderness wipes to keep me “fresh” and a half eaten pack of Oreos my girlfriend gave me before I left Australia. Plan is to eat them when the going gets tough.
Jan Hendrik Oldenhave
Age 39 / Oosterbeek (The Netherlands)
BIKE: I’m riding a Specialized Diverge with Schwalbe G-one Ultrabite 45mm tires.
BAGS: Apidura bags with a 3L Camelbak in the framebag.
Age 31 / Vienna (Austria)
BIKE: Sour Pasta Party Homebrew (made in Germany) frame. Custom wheels with hub dynamo. Four piston brakes with big rotors front and rear to keep things under control. Built up by Radplatz Vienna.
BAGS: Tailfin rear, down tube and top tube bag. Revelate Designs harness. Frame bag made to measure by Witslingers.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: A custom compartment in the frame bag to neatly stow away the hydration bladder.
Age 34 / Molise (Italy)
BIKE: I’m racing Trans Balkan on my custom carbon hardtail with Zolla Poltava wheels, and Rockshox SID fork. I’m running a 1×11 drivetrain with 30T-11/46T.
BAGS: Dropper compatible Apidura Backcountry packs, Apidura race framebag, and Apidura hydration vest for additional water carrying capacity.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: Wahoo Roam 2 to keep me on track, Sinewave Beacon headlight, Orb Droid rear light, Fizik Argo Adaptive saddle, Hutchinson Kraken/Taipan tyres, and OR Helium Bivvy.
Age 52 / Leibnitz, Styria (Austria)
BIKE: I’m riding the Trans Balkan Race aboard a MASON Bokeh. The bike has a new pair of Vittoria TERRENO MIX 38mm tyres, a 1×11 drivetrain, and HUNT wheels with a SON dynamo hub that powers a Supernova light system.
BAGS: Apidura frame bag with a custom made tension belt, Apidura handlebar bag for sleeping bag and mat. Topeak top tube bag.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: Front and rear mug guards from SKS keep me dry and stylish.
Age 36 / Gironico, Como (Italy)
BIKE: I’ll be riding on my Canyon Exceed CF7 hardtail with 2.25” Vittoria Mezcal tires, 1×12 Sram GX, 30T chainring and 10-52T Cassette. Front custom Dt Swiss wheel with Son 28 dynamo hub. Rear stock Reynolds wheel with a DT Swiss 350 hub. KLite dynamo setup with mtb light and dual charger. Lezyne rear light. Canyon VCLS carbon seatpost to smooth the rough terrain a bit with a Prologo Ndr saddle. Ergon Ga3 grips and Sq Labs inner bars. Navigation with a Wahoo Elemnt Roam and smartphone with Quadlock mount as backup.
BAGS: Mix of Apidura and Miss Grape bags, 1.7L of water on the bike plus 2L water bladder in the Salomon Vest 12L, useful also for more food capacity.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: My sleep set up consists of a Cumulus x-lite 200, Therm-a-Rest Uberlight, SOL Bivy, and pillow, stored in the front bag. Feed pouch full of M&M’s.
BIKE: 2017 Rocky Mountain Element with a few upgrades, including a SRAM AXS drivetrain and Roval-Dt Swiss wheels. I’m running 2.3″ Specialized FastTrack Control Tires in the front and back. This setup has lasted several years and it feels comfortable.
BAGS: A mix from Restrap and Topeak.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: The Spir Grips and a little survival kit to filter water into potable water. The Nemo Dragonfly tent and the Tikka Petzl led-infrared headlight.
Age 33 / Oakland, California (USA)
BIKE: Maybe it’s an unorthodox choice for a bikepacking race, but I’m bringing my Sour Bikes Crumble! With 2.35″ Vittoria Mezcals (versus my normal 2.5″ tires) it’s fast on flats and climbs, and still shreds on the descents. The drivetrain is SRAM X01 mechanical with shiny White Industries cranks. Wheels right now are HiFi in the front and Hope in the back due to a sad rear hub bearing failure on my last bikepacking trip. Also, ENVE bars, Ergon GA-3 grips, and SQLab innerbarends for a variety of hand positions.
BAGS: Luggage is mostly by Rockgeist and I particularly like the Barjam harness, which is super solid with a variety of gear on all terrain. The frame bag is custom with a few bolt-on attachments for a clean look. Finally, I have a nice Wayward Riders Louise dropper post harness, which is lightweight and provides storage for clothes and such.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: I recently received my custom Timmermade sleeping bag which is super light, warm, and comfortable. And it packs down small! Amazing!
Age 35 / Oakland, California (USA)
BIKE: I’ll be riding a 2021 Santa Cruz Highball with Fox Step-Cast 32 fork. Changed the tires to Vittoria Mezcal 2.25″ tires, updated to a 30T chainring, added a Hunt rim to the front with SON Dynamo hub, and added SQlab Innerbarends for additional hand positions on the bars.
BAGS: Upfront I have the Rogue Panda Canelo Handlebar Harness with their Gila dry bag. I then have two Revelate Designs Mountain Feedbags for snacks and water. A Pack Northwest top tube bag for external battery charging from the dynamo and more space for snacks. The Ovega Negra Superwedgie Frame Bag will carry mostly bike tools with room to spare for another bottle on the seat tube. And finishing off with a Revelate Designs seat bag.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: A pair of Specialized Rime 2.0 mountain bike shoes will keep my feet comfortable on and off the bike and I’ll feel at home in an Outdoor Research bivy and Therm-a-Rest quilt. A Wahoo Roam will be used for navigation.
Dimitri Faizi Skandar
Age 35 / Salzburg (Austria)
BIKE: I’ll be riding my TREK Checkpoint ALR5 with Pirelli Cinturo 45mm tires for the event. The bike features a Shimano GRX RX600 46/30T crank with 11-34T cassette, 11-speed, to hopefully help tackle the long climbs. The full set-up weights 21kg.
BAGS: The tent will be stored on the handlebar using a Riverside bag. The two bags on the frame will carry all electronic gear, toolkit and food. The sleeping bag and extra clothes will be in the Ortlieb bag at the back.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: I will be navigating using a Wahoo Roam bike computer.
Age 40 / Amsterdam (The Netherlands)
BIKE: I’ll be racing the Trans Balkan on a 2022 Trek Checkpoint, 300 Series Alpha Aluminum frame. The bike features a Shimano 2×11 drivetrain with a 34T chainring with a new pair of Pirelli Cinturato Classic 700x45C tires, mounted on a set of Bontrager Paradigm SL wheelset. The bike has two modifications, a new Prologo 143 NDR saddle and BBB BHB-60 aerobars.
BAGS: I will ride with a full Apidura Racing bike kit, a saddle pack, full frame pack, handlebar pack and a long top tube pack and wear a 2L hydration vest.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: For such a long race I opt for comfort and will race in Rapha cargo shorts and a loose Patagonia merino shirt. The Patagonia hybrid sleeping bag will serve as my shelter. Garmin Edge 530 for navigation.
Age 34 / Tallinn (Estonia)
BIKE: I’ll be riding 2018 Trek Procaliber 9.7. It was my dear friend Taaniel’s bike, who sadly passed away in the autumn. Together we went on many bikepacking trips and I am honored to take his bike through the Balkans.
BAGS: My frame bag and feed bags are made by my good friend Ran-Re, couldn’t be more pleased with them, additionally I am going with a Revelate Terrapin seat pack and Apidura top tube bag.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: Love my custom oversized feed bag, fits all the snacks and more.
Age 29 / Annecy (France)
BIKE: I’ll be riding a Canyon Exceed SLX 8 with a 30T ring and a 10-52T cassette, Continental race king protection tires and a DT Swiss dropper post. I’m using Spirgrips, Profile design aerobars and custom arm rests on my handlebars.
BAGS: Full Apidura: 14L saddle bag, 5.3L frame pack, 1L top tube and two 1L food pouch
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: I am making custom arm rests in carbon fiber. Come at the start to check them out if you are interested!
Age 32 / Oakland, California (USA)
BIKE: I’ll be riding my beloved Stanton Sherpa Ti that I’ve had since Dec ’21. I had used it predominantly for MTBing before January of this year and had to make a lot of modifications for long-distance bikepacking including increasing the length of stem from 35 to 90mm and adding SQLab Innerbarends, new grips (ESI), and saddle (Power Pro with Mirror). The saddle was one of the components that took the longest to settle on; I tested 5 different ones before landing on the final. I was already running SRAM GX AXS RD and a 30T chainring, perfect for bikepacking. One upgrade that was more of an indulgence than necessity was the Ingrid CRS-X cranks, they are beautiful and light and slightly shorter (165mm) than the ones I was running before (170mm).
BAGS: I am using a custom Rockgeist frame bag, one Rockgeist feed bag, one Revelate feed bag (my oldest piece of bikepacking gear going on ~7 years), and a Waywards Riders Louise Saddle harness. Shout out to Straight Cut designs for the custom colored handlebar harness and top tube bag, which they were able to make and ship from Edinburgh to Oakland in 2 weeks. I am also quite pleased with both my Ultralitesacks Dyneema Large Tall dry bag for the handlebar harness and my Tailfin 1.7L Cage Pack, which I figured out that I can strap directly to my downtube for tools.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: I love my Supernova M99 DY Pro Light and grateful for the support I got from Supernova to figure out how to mount it above the handlebar roll. I also love my Berd HAWK27 wheels with SON Dynamo. Shoutout to Berd, I had broken the Dynamo hub two weeks before I needed to leave for Europe and they took such good care of me and rebuilt my wheels with a new hub in record time. Finally, I will be riding on clouds with Rene Herse Fleecer Ridge tires.
Eva de Vos
Age 43 / Helvoirt (The Netherlands)
BIKE: Merida Big Nine Carbon MTB with Fast Forward carbon wheels and Vittoria Mezcal 2.25” tubeless tyres. Son 28 Dynamo Hub powering my kLite Ultra V2 front light and Nitecore NB 10,000 powerbank. Oldskool Shimano XT 3×10 drive train (24/32/42T / 11-34T). Time Atac pedals, Selle Italia Lady Gel Flow saddle and Ergon GP3 grips. Farr carbon aero bolt-on large for aerodynamic position during long stretches.
BAGS: Apidura Expedition Saddle Pack 17L between Topeak Backloader Wishbone with 2 bottle cages. Apidura Backcountry Full Frame Pack 6L. Tailfin Suspension Fork Mounts on which 2 Tailfin Cargo Cages with 2 Apidura Expedition Fork Packs 3L and 2 bottle cages are mounted. In total room for about 4L water. Topeak top tube Fuel Tank for the electronics and a Revelate Designs Mountain Feedbag Handlebar Bag for grabbing energy bars.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: A cnoc buc food bag for pre-mixed overnight oats after a few hours of sleep and my lucky charm; a ‘Nec temere nec timide’ patch on my MTB from my boyfriend to remind me to be ‘Neither rashly nor timidly’ (Dutch Air Assault Brigade).
Age 46 / Koln (Germany)
BIKE: CUBE Reaction Race C:62 Carbon. Mixture of Shimano Deore XT and SRAM GX with 34T x 11-51T. Tires are 29″ Continental Black Chili Compound.
BAGS: Bags are a mix of Tailfin saddlebags carrying clothing, spares, toiletries, etc. Ortlieb Pack handlebar bag with sleeping bag (Carinthia 625 grams), bivy bag and inflatable mattress. Frame bag with power bank, mobile phone, charging cable. And two small cockpit snack bags with provisions and a 2L hydration vest.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: Lupine front exposure 1100 lumens, Lupine rear light Max LED 40 lumens. Garmin Edge 1040 GPS.
Age 40 / Luebeck (Germany)
BIKE: I ride a Salsa Cutthroad with 2.3″ Continental X-King tires, a Roval traverse wheel on the rear, and a hand-built wheel with Son dynamo hub on the front. It’s set up with Shimano GRX 810 (1×11). The crank is from E-Thirteen and has a 32T ring with an 11-50T Gabaruk cassette on the back.
BAGS: In the large Apidura saddlebag I have clothes, spare parts toiletry bag and rarely used odds and ends, there is also plenty of room for food. The sleeping system is attached to the aerobar in a drybag. In the small bags are tools, electronics and snacks.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: The children’s sleeping mat from Decathlon is cheap, comfortable, and the pack size is ok.
Age 35 / Christchurch (New Zealand)
BIKE: The frame I built myself, it’s called SÜFUR which is simply Rufus backwards. The funky design is the conclusion of many bikepacking ideas I’ve had racing around my head and wanted to test. The build is running on 1×12 SRAM with a 34T ring and 10-50T cassette. Sid Ultimate fork at 120mm. Son dyno hub hooked up to a K-Lite and USB charger. Rear hub is a DT 350 and both wheels are built onto WeAreOne Faction rims. Profile aero bars on a set of Salsa Salt Flat bars. Vittoria Mezcal 29 x 2.25” tyres. 2x 750ml bottles and an Apidura vest with 2L bladder.
BAGS: Homemade bags, the main triangle bag is huge and fits most of my gear and food via the drive side zip. Non-drive side has a zip to access a small pouch which will hold things like power bank, passport ect. Top tube bag for the snacks. Strapped off the saddle is an 8L Sea to Summit big river dry bag with my sleep system in it.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: The sleep system consists of insulated pants/jacket, which can also be used if it’s cold on the bike. Bivy bag and air mattress completes the kit.
Age 60 / Brixen, South Tyrol (Italy)
BIKE: Trek Procaliber 9.8, Carbon, IsoSpeed, Fox Performance 32 Fork, Fox Racing Transfer SL Factory dropper post, e*thirteen TRS Race Carbon cranks, Shimano XT M8100 9-50T 12-speed, Shimano Deore XT M8100 hydraulic disc brakes, Bontrager RSL Integrated handlebar, SON 28 Dynamo hub, Vittoria Mezcal III 29″x 2.25″; ISM PL1 saddle, Syntace Aerobar.
BAGS: I’m running a Tailfin AeroPack Carbon, 1 Tailfin mini pannier, Apidura Expedition handlebar pack + Apidura expedition accessory pocket, Apidura packable backpack; Revelate Designs Gas Tank, Revelate Designs Mountain Feedbag Handlebar Bag; Apidura racing hydration vest. Not in the picture: Two Tailfin Cargo Cages mounted on the suspension fork for additional water bottles.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: Front light is a SON Edelux II powered by a Son 28 dynamo and on my helmet I have a Lupine Piko. Rear lights are Bontrager flare RT and Lupine Rotlicht Max LED. Battery chargers are NC-17, Connect APPCON 3000, Lezyne Micro Floor Drive mini pump. I also hope that I find my way safely north with my Garmin Edge 1040. I want to dream for a few (or more?) hours in my Nordisk Lofoten2 tent, on my Therma-a-Rest NeoAir mat and my lightweight sleeping bag. Last but not least that my sit bones are not too strained on my saddle ISM PL 1.1 in my beloved cycling shorts Skinfit tri shorts and Assos half shorts. My lucky item is my little scuffed white BEAR with me, who accompanied me on the Atlas Mountain Race, GBDuro, NorthCape4000 and Three Peaks Bike Races, among others.
Age 33 / Berkeley, California (USA)
BIKE: I’ll be riding a 2022 Santa Cruz Highball with a OneUp dropper post and SRAM Eagle 1x drivetrain with 30T in front and 11-50T in the rear. I’m using a stock rear wheel and front wheel with We Are One carbon rim and SON hub (built up by Eastern Wheelworks), both with 2.25” Vittoria Mezcal tires. From the dynamo hub, I’m running a Supernova M99 DY Pro light and Igaro USB-C charger. For comfort I have SQLabs Innerbarends, hand-me-down GS2 Ergon grips, and a Form Cycling saddle.
BAGS: I’m using a Rockgeist front dry bag and custom frame bag, custom Alpine Luddites full top tube bag, two Revelate mountain feedbags, a Bedrock Bags large Sinbad tool bag on one side of my fork (not pictured), and a Rogue Panda Ripsey rear harness and bag-it only requires 3” of tire clearance!
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: I’ve been loving my Alpine Luddites top tube bag the past few months which provides capacity for plenty of easy-to-access snacks, and at the last minute, my friend Charlie generously lent me his very cozy Katabalic down quilt, thanks Charlie! Lastly, my DIY webbing around my front bag allows for convenient on-the go layering changes.
Age 28 / Cracov (Poland)
BIKE: My bike for the Trans Balkan Race is a Specialized Base Carbon. It’s equipped with a Sram Apex 1×11 groupset, 38T Banless chainring, and Shimano Deore 11-46T cassette. I hope that it will be enough for the terrain. My DT swiss wheels have new tubeless Pirelli Cinturato Gravel M 700x45mm tires with anti-puncture inserts manufactured by the polish company Flat Out.
BAGS: I’m using a Geosmina frame bag, the made in Poland Rogalbag saddle bag, and a Lezyne front bag. My favourite bag is Btwin small pocket. I’ll also take a small backpack with a water bladder.
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: My gravel bike is quite comfortable, it’s equipped with the suspension future shock 1.5 from Specialized. Carbon frame, tubless tires, and my favourite Selle Italia saddle will help me overcome any challenges during the race.
Age 34 / Slovakia
BIKE: I’ll be riding this year’s Trans Balkan Race on Liv Devote 1 (2022). The website says it’s a lightweight and adventure ready bike and it indeed proved itself on the rugged terrain of the 2022 Silk Road Mountain Race without a mechanical fail, so I’ll be counting on that this time around as well. I’ll be riding a gravel bike against the recommendation of having a mountain bike, so it’ll be a neverending uphill (pushing) adventure for me with my Shimano GRX RX-400, 2×10 gearset for lightweight climbing only.
BAGS: The highlight of my bag set up is the rear Tailfin Aeropack with side mini panniers carrying my food complemented with the handlebar bags from Ortlieb and a long tool/snack frame bags from Giant. I fitted all I could on the bike and it’s still manageable and relatively light!
GEAR HIGHLIGHTS: I will enjoy my super light sleeping arrangement with a one-person Big Agnes tent and an awesome and warm sleeping bag from a Czech company Patizón. As a vegetarian travelling through meat-eating Balkans, I’ll also be carrying most of my food supply, lots of lightweight dehydrated meals that are quite delicious, I must say. And a new Garmin Solar will be guiding me.
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