Words and photos by Leslie De Cuyper (@movebeyondaverage)
Hi, I’m Leslie. I’m a cycling addict (and I would like to thank BIKEPACKING.com for adding a whole new dimension to this addiction!). I still consider myself pretty new to the bikepacking scene, discovering it only about a year or two ago, but I have been riding some sort of bike pretty much every day for the past 15 years. In normal times, I get a daily 50km fix by riding from Brecht, the place where I live, to my office in the centre of Antwerp.
To be able to chase podiums in the Ironman races I do in summer, quite a few run, swim, and training sessions on the Kickr are added to these commutes during the week. I know many bikepackers prefer riding outdoors only and get the chills just thinking about riding in Zwift. I feel you! But there’s just no way to get the same level of consistent, high-quality training in the same amount of time outdoors. If you always need to think about finding the right road where you can focus on putting in the work instead of worrying about getting hit by a car or hitting the deck when hitting a patch of ice, everything takes twice as long. And that’s not even mentioning the difference in laundry in winter—adding just shorts and a base layer every day instead of a full, muddy, winter kit.
With all my races cancelled last season, I ended up feeling rather unfulfilled this winter. So, with things still kind of uncertain for the coming season, I decided to start setting up some challenges for myself to keep motivation high, and it has been a blast.
The first one of these challenges came up in January when I treated myself to a vEveresting on Zwift. A proper type 2 fun sufferfest. If you’re thinking about doing this yourself, my best piece of advice would be to get a Kickr Climb. The difference it makes, shifting your weight on the contact points with your bike, as it follows the virtual gradient, literally saved my ass.
In March, we took things back outside when I left for a trip around Flanders, the region in Belgium where I live. The plan: 900km in three days. What was intended to be somewhat of a fun early spring trip, catching some vitamin D, turned out quite different. There happened to be a storm passing over Belgium that weekend, and it was two long days of 30km/h headwind with bursts up to 100km/h followed by a day of sailing home, sometimes riding 30km/h without even pedalling. To make sure I didn’t enjoy the wind in the back too much on the last day, mother nature threw in some rain and hail storms just to keep things interesting.
I’ve been in love with the Van Nicholas brand ever since I first laid eyes on one of their bikes several years ago. I was visiting my local bike shop when I suddenly saw a Zephyr, their titanium endurance road bike, standing there. Week after week, I kept coming up with excuses to go back to the shop and stare at it some more. The same case of love at first sight happened when I saw this bike, the Rowtag. The timeless look of titanium combined with the bold tube shapes. A geometry that hits that sweet spot between stability and agility, making it both fun on long days in the saddle and when chasing friends and cornering at speed, trying to drop each other
This is by far the most versatile bike I own and the one that I ride most. Whenever it’s dry, I use it for my commutes. On the weekend, I put on my Garmin Vector Power pedals and use it for my tempo training rides. And when we’re going on more of an adventurous ride or a bikepacking trip, I bolt on an extra bottle cage and strap some bags to the frame, handlebars, and saddle.
- Frame Van Nicholas Rowtag
- Fork Van Nicholas Carbon Adventure
- Rims Mavic Allroad
- Hubs Mavic
- Tires WTB Byway 44mm
- Handlebars Van Nicholas
- Headset FSA Orbit
- Crankset Shimano GRX 400 (2×10, 46-30)
- Pedals Shimano XT or Garmin Vector 2s
- Cassette Shimano 11-32
- Derailleur Shimano GRX 400
- Brakes Shimano GRX 400
- Shifter(s) Shimano GRX 400
- Saddle Fizik Alliante
- Seatpost Van Nicholas Alloy
- Stem Van Nicholas Alloy
- Front bags Apidura Backcountry or Rapha handlebar bag
- Frame bags Apidura Backcountry
- Rear bags Apidura Backcountry
- Other accessories Specialized side load bottle cage
Since I got this bike, I’ve only switched the tires from Panaracer Gravel King SK 47s to WTB Byway 44s. This is mainly because I like the tanwall look of these and the fact that a lot of the recent rides and adventures I did had only limited stretches of off-road riding, and none of it was really technical.
I’ll probably also switch to a Brooks C17 saddle for bikepacking trips this season, a saddle that I have on my touring and endurance bikes as well. I’m also considering getting a 650b wheelset paired with the biggest possible tires that will fit the frame for the more technical stuff. I’m usually the one in the group in the best shape, but also the one with the worst technical skills. So, a little extra effort on the road is worth the extra confidence when we get off it.
You can find Leslie on Instagram @movebeyondaverage.
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