What bike kit you need to survive riding in the Himalayas

We take a closer look at the kit Si and Hank used to ride through the Himalayan mountains on an epic multi-day adventure

Clock16:15, Monday 18th September 2023

Simon Richardson and James 'Hank' Lowsley-Williams went on a five-day epic across the Himalayan mountains, covering 448km and 11,000m of ascent on their journey to the lost kingdom of Lo Manthang.

Creating a truly breathtaking documentary for GCN+ the boys bikepacked their way across some of the most remote terrain in the world aboard their 3T exploro gavel bikes, laden with all the kit that they would need to complete such a tough and isolated ride. Here we take a closer look at just what is needed to complete a ride of this magnitude whether that be in the Himalayas or anywhere else in the world.

3T Exploro Race Max Italia

The main bit of kit that was integral to the success of such a mission was the bikes that the duo would be riding. They had to blend efficiency and capability into a perfectly balanced cocktail that would allow for a fast enough approach to complete the journey in the allotted time frame but also would be strong and dependable enough for what they may encounter.

This is where the 3T Exploro Race Max comes into its own. Upon its original release it was marketed as the world's first aerodynamically optimised gravel bike. Since then it has had numerous variations released all with slight tweaks and differences to accommodate the ever-widening spectrum that is gravel riding. This aerodynamic blueprint sets the tone of the needs for this trip: fast yet capable. A balance that the 3T Exploro race max strikes perfectly.

Something that is special about this particular model is that it is made in Italy as denoted by the frame's full name, the Race Max Italia. We were lucky enough to get invited to the manufacturing facility in Italy where 3T makes this frame, where Oli Bridgewood got to take a closer look at the process, as it is not built like a typical carbon frame is.

You can check this out by following the link to the video here.

Adorning the front of the bike, a pre-production version of the all-new 3T integrated stem has been fitted, although the stem is integrated that is not to be confused with an integrated bar and stem, as in this configuration the bar and stem remain separate and are clamped together. The bars being used are also from 3T and are the AeroGhiaia gravel bars that feature a flat top aero profile for increased efficiency as well as a flared design for added control.

Something that is noteworthy with the bars is that the flare to the drops only begins below where the shifters clamp. This allows the leaver to remain in a familiar vertical orientation rather than sitting at a diagonal angle that can take some getting used to. Although the bars are flared from lower down than typical this doesn’t prevent them from having a substantial offset, with the 42cm bars coming in at nearly 50cm on the drops. Perfect for the control needed when descending loose mountain passes that littered their journey.

With the addition of bikepacking kit that would sit on the frame and could be subject to relentless rattling and rubbing, the bike was covered in a protective frame wrap of clear vinyl plastic. This is something that is considered normal practice in the world of mountain biking as it acts as a sacrificial skin in the event of any rubbing or cosmetic damage, protecting the frame in the process.

Although the journey was mainly on unpaved roads and loose surfaces the need to move quickly across the terrain can be traced down to the wheelset that was selected. The deep section carbon 3T discus 45 40 limited wheels offer an aerodynamic profile tailored to the wider tyres used when gravel riding. For a wheel and tyre system to be aerodynamically optimised, the rim needs to be wide enough to offer a smooth transition from the tyre to the rim. In order to achieve this, the rims have to be incredibly wide with the 3T Discus 45 40 measuring in at 29mm internally which is wider than a lot of road wheels' external rim width.

The tyres mounted onto the hooked 3T discus rims are from Pirelli, these hardcore gravel tyres are the Cinturato M model that are designed for the more aggressive end of the gravel riding spectrum.

This choice allows for a bit more reliability than with a lighter gravel tyre, although they are slower rolling due to their tread pattern they offer more protection, a logical trade-off that is needed when riding in remote locations.

In order to try and gain some extra traction on really loose surfaces, as well as adding some compliance to the bikes, the tyres were being run at very low pressures. Somewhere in the region of 20-25psi, allowing the tyre to deform and act as suspension taking some of the harshness out of the ride.

Finishing off the bike is the groupset, with the ever-dependable Shimano Di2 GRX 11-speed group being selected. In order to cover all eventualities a double 48/31 tooth chainring was set up being paired with an 11-34 tooth cassette. It is a real testament to the durability and reliability of Shimano Di2 that an electronic groupset was selected for an adventure so isolated that there would be no spares on offer if anything were to go wrong.

Riding Kit

The kit used by the boys during the adventure to the lost kingdom was provided by outdoor apparel specialists Rab, who, although a lesser-known brand in the cycling world, is incredibly established in the world of climbing and mountaineering.

Rab have recently made strides into the world of cycling attire with their Cinder range that covers everything you might want to wear during an adventure ride. To check out the full cycling range offered by Rab you can check out the Cinder range here.

Due to the nature of the journey, almost all of the range was used at some point or another as they rode in conditions from 38 degrees way to minus five. This has meant that a large portion of the kit being carried on their bikes has been clothing to keep them comfortable in the changing climates that they ride through.

One of the most highly regarded garments that the pair used throughout their epic ride was the Rab Zero G down jacket. This incredibly packable jacket is easy to store and also weighs in at only 300 grams but offers an insulating layer rated at 1000 fill power, perfect for the high altitude sections of the ride. The packability of the jacket made it the perfect choice for bikepacking where space is of a premium.

Fortunately in Nepal, there is no need for some of the bulkier items associated with bikepacking such as a tent and cooking supplies as there is often a tea house not far away that can be used for food and accommodation.

Besides the clothing needed, the frame bags fitted to the bikes housed a comprehensive tool kit and all the food that was necessary to complete the riding each day. In a post-Covid world hand sanitiser and emergency toilet paper were also essential to carry to keep things clean in every eventuality.

To watch the full documentary where Si and Hank take on this once-in-a-lifetime adventure head over to GCN+ where you can check out this and tons of other documentaries as well as all the latest racing, news and highlights.

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