Allan Shaw’s Silk Road Mountain Race Omnium Cargo
Later this month, Allan Shaw will be setting out on the fifth edition of the Silk Road Mountain Race in Kyrgyzstan. This year, he’ll be doing it a little differently from the other 155 riders. Allan will be pedaling the rugged 1,800-kilometer route aboard his fresh Omnium Cargo V3IR. Learn more about Allan’s shiny new titanium steed, why he decided to ride it in this race, and find his complete pack list here…
On August 12th, 2023, 156 riders will leave Karakol, Kyrgyzstan, for the fifth edition of the Silk Road Mountain Race (SRMR), a 1,880-kilometre race with 30,000 metres of climbing across the rugged and remote Tian Shan Mountains. I will be one of them, and this year, I’ll be competing on my Omnium Cargo.
SRMR on a Cargo Bike?
I feel like there are so many good reasons to take on the SRMR with a cargo bike. But, for me, they all fall into two main categories.
The first is that I don’t believe in the perfect bike. For so many years, I’ve been told that I’m not riding the right bike for whatever adventure I’m taking on. They say, “You can’t do that without a mountain bike,” or “You need a gravel bike for that.” Bigger tyres, more gears, different clothes, etc., etc. I’ve always just had a go on whatever bike I had available to me at the time, and I discovered that naysayers are just putting up barriers to my—and their—participation.
Performance is one thing, but your ability to take part and have a unique and meaningful experience is much more about you than your equipment. At the end of the day, your bike is a tool, and you are the machine. The bike is your instrument, but you are the rockstar. It’s your beautiful, imperfect self that is the true definer of whether you can or can’t. If you’re not aiming for a first-place finish, which nowadays is such an incredible effort, you should be as focused on having a memorable experience as you are on your performance. Perfection is an illusion, we all know that, and I think it’s in the true spirit of bikepacking to just do things your way.
The second reason is that I really believe that the Omnium Cargo, and especially the version we’ve put together, is going to be an incredible tool for this race! I believe in this bike, and I know many other Omnium owners believe in it too. The people who I’ve told about this idea who don’t own or have never ridden an Omnium think I’m mad, but everyone I’ve told who owns or has spent enough time riding an Omnium has told me it’s a great idea and I’m going to have an amazing time!
Omnium is the game-changer cargo bike. It’s a bike made by passionate cyclists and for passionate cyclists. It’s versatile, agile, and relatively lightweight. I wouldn’t want to advocate for a world where we are only allowed to own one bike, but if there was any bike I truly believe could be the “one bike” for me, it would be the Omnium Cargo, no question. It can do anything, and I can’t wait to show that that also includes finishing the Silk Road Mountain Race.
Fulfilling a Dream
Doing this race on an Omnium Cargo has been a dream of mine for years, since the first time I heard of the Silk Road Mountain Race. It’s been a background obsession of mine ever since. In 2021, I took part in the race, but after months of preparation and lots of warnings of its difficulties, I essentially chickened out and took a gravel bike. I finished in 10 days and 13 hours in 13th place, and almost the moment I arrived at the finish line, I started telling Nelson, the race organiser, and anyone else who would listen, “I totally could have done that on my cargo bike!”
I feel so fortunate to have the opportunity this year after emailing Matias at Omnium last year to say, “It’s going to sound crazy, but I’ve had this idea in my head for years…” and getting a reply that said, “You ARE crazy, let’s do it!”
So, I’m most looking forward to finally getting to fulfill this dream on a dream-build version of this bike. I’m so sure we are a capable team. To use my earlier metaphor, I’m looking forward to playing sweet music with my amazing instrument.
Fears and Concerns
It would be a lie to say I don’t have my fears and concerns, especially having done the race before. The race comes with many challenges, but these are challenges every racer faces, and I’m unconvinced that these challenges will be more difficult for me based purely on my bike choice alone. I believe the three pillars of ultra-racing that will determine how well you do are mechanical, physical, and mental.
The mechanical is my weak spot; it doesn’t come naturally to me, but I’ve learnt a lot. The physical could always be better, but I’m generally at peace with wherever I’m at when I get to the start. The mental is generally my strong point, and a lot of that comes from working full-time as a bike messenger for 10 years. As a messenger, you have to be ready for anything, ready to adapt to quickly changing scenarios, to stay calm but always keep moving. I’ve worked so many long and arduous days in the winter in pouring rain, wind, snow—you name it. I know how to put my head down and just get on with it when times get tough. After all, it’s just another day at the office!
The concept of this build was to get the weight of the bike down as much as possible while adapting it suitably for the rough terrain. It has to be lightweight, but it also has to be bullet-proof. We were never going to build the lightest Omnium out there, but we believe we have built the Omnium most ready to take on the Silk Road Mountain Race.
For me, there are quite a few solid highlights. A 2.4” rear tyre on a cargo bike is a new level of comfort for me. Both tyres are super grippy off-road, and it has the potential to make the course easier than the first time I raced on 47mm!
The carbon fibre front rack and lightweight webbing were ideas Omnium owner Jumbo came up with the first time we chatted about the possibility of SRMR three years ago. We thought it was a great idea both for the race and also potentially for many other Omnium users. Between the rack and the webbing, you shave off a healthy amount of weight while still having plenty of capacity for weight. It’s a new prototype product that I think works super well, and I’m really happy for the small part I had to play in its inception.
Lastly, I’m really lucky to be trying out the new Classified wheel for this race. Acting as a front shifter, it allows me to run a 1x chainring while being able to shift between two speeds via an internal hub in the rear wheel, giving me a super generous range of gears for the climbs while making it less likely to experience damage with everything that can get thrown at it externally. It’s not been used in much ultra-racing before, and I think it has incredible potential.
- Frame: OMNIUM Titanium Cargo V3IR
- Fork: OMNIUM Prototype Segmented
- Front wheel: SP Dynamo hub on carbon rim
- Rear wheel: Classified 142x12mm on Classified carbon rim
- Tires: Schwalbe Big Betty (20 x 2.25″ and 29 x 2.4″)
- Handlebars: Tune Turnstange with Zipp Vuka TT bars
- Grips: Ergon
- Headsets: Chris King + OMNIUM
- Headset spacers: Zipp carbon
- Crankset: Cane Creek eeWings Mountain
- Bottom bracket: Chris King
- Chain: SRAM Eagle 12-speed
- Pedals: Shimano PD-M500
- Cassette: Classified 11-40 12-speed
- Derailleur: SRAM X01
- Brakes levers: Hope Tech 4 E4
- Rotors: Trickstuff 180mm (front) / TRP CL 180mm (rear)
- Shifters: Classified Ring Shifter/SRAM XX1 Trigger
- Saddle: Brooks C17 Carved
- Seatpost: Tune Starkes Stück
- Stem: Tune Geiles Teil (85mm)
- Front bags: Brooks Scape Handlebar Bag
- Frame bags: Brooks Scape Frame Bag
- Accessory bags: Brooks Scape XL Top Tube Bag, Feed Bag, and Dry Bags
- Rack: OMNIUM carbon prototype
- Lights: Supernova
- Other accessories: OMNIUM Prototype carbon steering rod and SL webbing
Every racer will obsess over what to bring and what to leave behind, and I’m no exception, although I probably worry about it less than others. I have the fortune of having done the race before and still have the spreadsheet I made of my pack list to use as a template. In the end, I’ve changed pretty little compared to the first time. Always a careful balance between efficiency and comfort, your kit has to be as light as possible but also keep you safe and comfortable when the weather inevitably takes a turn. Below is my intended pack list for the race.
Brooks Dry Bag No. 1 – The Sleep Kit
- Alpkit Soloist Ultralight 1-person tent
- Robens -8c down sleeping bag
- Cheap-unbranded inflatable sleeping mat
- Emergency blanket
- Ultralight Stove
Brooks Dry Bag No. 2 – Clothes and extras (when not wearing a lot of it!)
- Velocio Concept Bib Short x 2
- Velocio Concept Long Sleeve Merino Jersey
- Velocio Short Sleeve Base Layer
- Velocio Leg Warmers
- Velocio Rain Anorak
- Velocio Ultralight Jacket
- Velocio Signature softshell Vest
- Velocio Zero+ Rain Bootie
- Velocio Zero+ Gloves
- Velocio 210 Merino Collar
- Gorewear C5 Gore-tex Rainpants
- Unbranded skiing waterproof overglove
- Cheap Decathlon Down Jacket
- long tights (for sleep)
- Wool Socks x2
- Small cooking pot (stuffed with clothes!)
Brooks Handlebar bag – Things I hope I don’t need
- Personalised First Aid Kit
- Tool kit consisting of:
- Omnium Multi-tool
- Restrap Tyre boot Kit
- Spare Tube for front and back
- Patch Kit
- Spare Brake Pads x2
- Masterlink x2
- Tyre Levers
- Hand pump (bought for €5 in a Danish supermarket 6 years ago, never failed)
- Spare Valve
- Valve core remover
- Chain Lube
Brooks XL Top Tube bag – Electronics
- 1x 30,000mwh battery Pack
- Misc Cables
- Ricoh GR iii Digital Camera
- Olympus mju film camera
- Exposure JoyStick MK15 light
- Extra batteries
Brooks Frame bag – Misc and Extras
- Lifestraw Water Filter
- Baby wipes
- Chamois Cream
- Folding toothbrush and toothpaste
- 1x 20,000mwh backup battery pack
- Back-up AAA battery-operated camping headlamp
- Power adaptor
- HolyFat Protein Bars x 12
- HolyFat Nut butter gels x 8
Brooks Feed Pouch – Water and Sneaky Extras
- LipChap with SPF (important)
- Water Bottle
- Hammerhead Karoo 2 GPS (Bar-mounted)
- GoPro 11 (Bar-mounted)
- POC Gravel Helmet
- Quoc Escape Shoes
- Quoc x Restrap Sandals (Yeah, really!)
With all my focus aimed at the Silk Road Mountain Race, I haven’t given a whole lot of thought to what comes after. Or rather, I always have lots of great ideas but am far from confirming anything. Aside from what this bike and I might do next, what I’m excited to see is what races other people might take on with an Omnium. I’ve already heard some very interesting whisperings. I know the wave of people doing these kinds of races on cargo bikes has already started, and I think the sky’s the limit.
I’ll be posting sporadic updates on my personal Instagram and the Omnium Instagram during the race, and we’re excited to be producing a short film about the experience that we will be sharing here on BIKEPACKING.com in September. Stay tuned!
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