Recap of a bikepacking trip on the X-Trail Carbon by Thomas De Gendt & Tim Wellens
Pro cyclists travel the world for cycling. They train, they race and they’re always on their bike. But never without a strictly predefined schedule in mind. Working towards goals and preparing for the next big race they meticulously plan their daily habits in function of their training scheme. But make no mistake, sometimes they would also like to ride with no real goal, just for fun. Sometimes they just want to start their own adventure and wander through the beautiful scenery they often pass by. And that’s exactly what Thomas De Gendt and Tim Wellens did during #thefinalbreakaway. And which other bike can support such a trip better than the X-Trail?
Where did the idea start? De Gendt explains: “On Twitter I’m following Kristof Allegaert, a Belgian ultra-endurace cyclist who won the first Trans-Siberian Extreme (9 400 km) in 2015. His adventures really spiked my interest. Taking baggage on the bike and sleep along the roads. I wanted to do something similar. On May 28 Tim and I decided to organize a trip.”

De Gendt and Wellens rode from Como to Semmerzake, directly after Il Lombardia, the last race of the season. Although the first two options were to ride from Calpe to De Gendt’s house or from Innsbruck back home after the Worlds. But Lombardy fitted best on the fully-packed training schedule. De Gendt goes on: “The next months we started to plan our route and checked which places to spend the night. On Strava you can select roads on popularity, so that was a good start. A total of 1000 km with 1100 altimeters in 6 days seemed like a manageable distance.”

A six-day trip that can be done by any recreational rider who’s used to being in the saddle for 4 to 5 hours per ride, according to De Gendt. “It’s definitely possible because you can determine your own pace and you can stop to eat if you’re hungry. You will push your limits, but you ride without stress. Some days we rode about 7 hours, but it didn’t feel that long. The whole ride was all for fun and it didn’t matter how long we would ride on a day or when we would arrive at our stop.”
"Hopefully we have inspired other cyclists to start their own adventure"
– Thomas De Gendt, Lotto Soudal pro
The original idea was to make the trip with their Helium SLX team bike, you have to know pro’s just don’t like to change the bike and position they’re used to, but ultimately the X-Trail Carbon became their partner. “I was watching YouTube videos and found out about what you would need for such an adventure. Some of the tips were to have a wider handlebar for improved comfort and disc brakes to improve the brake power in order to compensate for the extra weight you’re carrying. On the Lotto Soudal team day in October we spoke with Ridley and afterwards we changed to the X-Trail Carbon."

"We would only ride on paved roads so we opted for slicks, but yet 32mm tires to improve the comfort. In the front we mounted a 52 crank with a 34 inner chainring. In the rear we opted for a 11-29 cassette. A 32 wouldn’t be necessary because there weren’t any steep climbs on the route, but we regretted this afterwards. We didn’t count for the extra 12kg of the bags, so at strokes around 10% the 29 proved to be too heavy.”
Although De Gendt & Wellens preferred a carbon bike, the major part of bikepackers choose for an alloy gravel bike nowadays. “Alloy would have been possible as well, but it depends on what you want yourself. For real bikepacking adventures I would pick alloy, but if you would like to leave the bags at home from time to time I believe carbon might suit you better.”

#Thefinalbreakaway became one big memory for both riders and they enjoyed every minute of it. “I think we showed that pros don’t only ride their bike because they get paid, but mainly because they have an incredible passion for cycling. Hopefully we have inspired other cyclists to start their own adventure.” 

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