I’m Paul Crenson and I fell in love with cycling in 2003 after breaking my leg during the last month of high school. My summer would be spent on crutches and I hated the idea of having to be driven around everywhere. After a few beers one night I realized that I could put enough pressure to keep my broken leg on the pedal and use my good foot to turn the cranks. I spent the summer biking around Toronto with my crutches hanging out of my backpack, all while getting some interesting looks from drivers. My parents flipped out when they found out. A few years later I would ride my beater Jamis mountain bike 100+ km through snowstorms to Toronto from college when I didn’t have enough money for a bus, subsisting off of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Fast forward to 2016 when I came across Nicholas Carman and his Gypsy by Trade website. I found out about the Holyland Challenge and the exciting world of bikepacking. I knew nothing about bikepacking and he was super helpful in guiding me to the start line. It was one of the most awesome adventures of my life, only figuring out how to use my Garmin eTrex 20 in the first few km of the race. The route is remarkable. Israel has such unique geography, from its luscious green mountains to epic desert canyons. And the people are some of the nicest I’ve ever met, helping me a few times when I got into some troubles. My highlight was covering four km in six hours, literally dragging my bike in soul-crushing concrete-like mud and rain. Even though it was extremely challenging the experience was very rewarding.
The last few years have been tough with a chronic knee problem that’s put biking on the back burner. I became very unhappy and needed something to get me back. When preparing for the Holyland Challenge I discovered the Transcontinental Race. The TCR, founded by Mike Hall, is an epic race across Europe with four mandatory checkpoints and parcours. Every year the checkpoints and parcours change, and the cherry on top is that you must figure out how to get to the checkpoints all self-supported.
Riders spend weeks planning the route, balancing distance, elevation, and resupply options. I figured this might be something that will get the fire going. I applied for a spot in the fall not thinking too much about it as there’s a lot of interest and limited spots for the start. Just after Christmas, I got an email from the organizers saying that I got a spot in TCR 07. It didn’t hit me right away. I had six months to prepare for a 4,000km ride after not having seriously biked in almost three years. A long and cold winter forced me to do my early training at my local spin studio, sometimes doing three or four classes back to back. I figured that listening to Top 40 dance remixes for four hours straight is great training for the mental and physical challenges I may face as I bike across Europe. I spent a few weeks putting together my route incorporating the four checkpoints. The race starts this July 27th from Burgas, Bulgaria, and Finishes in Brest, France, with my route taking me through six countries in between.
I chose a SOMA Wolverine v2 for the race with 650B wheels, a SRAM Eagle GX 11-speed drivetrain (36T x 11-50), Praxis Works alloy wheels with Maxxis Re-Fuse tires, Jones Bars, and a Brooks C17 cutout saddle. I fitted it with ISSI Trail pedals with the long spindle to help me with some knee issues. I highly recommend these pedals to increase the Q-factor if you have any hip/knee tightness. I know I won’t be setting any speed records but I do hope to set a weight record at the starting line. Knowing I will have a pretty solid bike setup will help me sleep at night.
As for my gear, I have a mix of MEC (Canadian equivalent of REI) lightweight sleeping bag, air mattress, and OR Helium Bivy. A Patagonia Storm Race Jacket, which I cannot recommend enough, and Houdini pants to keep dry. Pearl Izumi Alp-X shoes as they are so comfy. Merino wool is awesome. Merino socks and t-shirt where I can so I smell nice and fresh when I roll into those fancy French restaurants. Rapha Core Bibs. I will be running a Porcelain Rocket bar and saddlebag to haul my sleeping system and clothes. I will be using a Rogue Panda frame bag for my copious amounts of butt cream I plan on taking and tasty Eastern European deli meats to feed me (and the dogs) along the way. Lastly, I’m using a Wahoo Bolt for navigation, with an eTrex 20 for backup.
- Frame and ForkSoma Wolverine V2
- RimsPraxis Works AL24
- HubsDT Swiss 370
- TiresMaxxis Re-Fuse 650×50*
- HandlebarJones H-Bar w/ Jones Kraton Grips
- CassetteSRAM GX Eagle
- DerailleurSRAM GX Eagle
- BrakesTRP Slate T4
- ShifterSRAM GX Eagle
- SaddleBrooks C17
- StemSalsa Alloy
- Front BagPorcelain Rocket MCA
- Rear BagPorcelain Rocket Mr. Fusion
- Frame BagRogue Panda Designs Custom Roll Top
- Accessory BagsRevelate Designs Feedbags
*Swapped out from Teravail Ramparts 650×47 for TCR for better durability.
Although the TCR is a race, my number one goal is to have an adventure with my bicycle. I hope I can find the time to stop along the way to smell the roses. My biggest fear is the wild dogs of Eastern Europe as I don’t really have much of a strategy in dealing with them, other than tossing some of my assorted deli meats at them in the hope they will become more appetizing than my leg. I’m really looking forward to all the small villages and beautiful towns of Eastern Europe, meeting some very interesting people, and not really knowing what kind of fun the next day might bring.
To learn more about the Transcontinental Race (and follow the live tracker), which takes off from Burgas, Bulgaria tomorrow morning, check out the event listing here. Good luck to Paul and everyone else participating!
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