My Perfect Pack: Ultra Endurance Mountain Biker Jay “JayP” Petervary
Whether biking the Iditarod Trail race in Alaska or setting speed records on the Continental Divide, Petervary always carries the necessary tools to ride all night. Victory depends on it.
In a typical year, Victor, Idaho-based Jay Petervary, or JayP as he’s known, will pedal over 10,000 miles of snow-packed roads and trail, singletrack, and dirt roads. Of those miles, 6,000 of them come from racing in such formidable sufferfests as the 1,000-mile Iditarod Trail in Alaska (which he won in a sprint finish last February), the 750-mile Arizona Trail race (first place, last April) and the 2,800-mile Tour Divide from Canada to Mexico (broke the speed record for that route last fall). “I like events that are 500 miles or longer,” says JayP. “That’s just the way I’m skewed.”
The key to his success? “After 20 years at this, I’ve figured out that I only need three straight hours of sleep a night to race at 100 percent the rest of the day and night,” says the one-time multi-day adventure racer. “You have to ride through the night to win. It’s also fun; that’s when all the critters come out.”
This summer will be his most ambitious ever as he attempts to run the table at endurance cycling’s top three events, or what’s known as the Triple Crown, the three most classic and hardest mountain bike races in the world: the Arizona Trail race, July’s Tour Divide, and his first attempt of the 500-mile high-altitude Colorado Trail race in August. “Only a couple of guys have done all three,” he says. “But no one’s done the Triple Crown and the Iditarod in one year.”
Obviously, what JayP carries depends on the particulars of a race, but the following essential gear almost always makes the cut.
Princeton Tec Apex
The brightest and most versatile waterproof LED headlamp Princeton Tec makes, the Apex uses 4 AA batteries to power 5 different LED bulbs that can be modulated between full power for a high-speed descent, illuminating the trail up to 120 yards ahead, or a soft light that will burn all night. “I like to have my most powerful lamp on my head so I can turn my head wherever and see everything,” says JayP. “Burn time is important to me, as well. I need a light that will last from dusk to dawn, and I can usually get the Apex to last all night. On a full-moon night, I might even get two nights out of it before swapping in fresh batteries.”
Princeton Tec EOS
On his handlebars, JayP mounts the svelte EOS lamp with its single LED fed by 3 AAA batteries. Its beam combines the best of wide and deep lighting illuminating the trail roughly 50 yards ahead for 10 hours on its medium setting. “I use the EOS so I always know where my bike is going. Between the Apex and the EOS, I’ve figured out the perfect lighting system for any of my adventures.”
Princeton Tec Swerve
No matter if JayP’s riding miles away from the nearest paved road or in the middle of town, he always turns on his Swerve LED taillight. “It’s a safety thing for me,” says JayP. “It’s not that much weight. It’s small and stays out of the way, and it runs forever.” Power comes from 2 AAA batteries that keep the Swerve flashing for up to 70 hours.
AA, AAA Batteries
To power headlamps, GPS units, and race trackers, ultra-endurance bikers like JayP rely on easily-sourced AA or AAA batteries like Duracell Quantums they buy at stores along the way.“Rechargeables don’t work,” says JayP. “There’s no time to unpack a charger, run around looking for an outlet, then sit around and wait for them to recharge. If I can find a pack of something like Duracell Quantums, I buy ’em. I can tell a difference. My headlamps shine brighter and they last longer.” *
Over the years, JayP has acquired an arsenal of custom-fitted frame bags for a variety of frame types and needs, but his tried-and-true approach to packing his bike remains nearly constant. “You want your heavy stuff in the frame pack, where it’s down low. So that can be a full water bladder, tools and spare parts. Clothes go in my rear seat bag. My sleep system: sleeping bag, pad, get strapped on my handlebars. I’ll put my food in a top-tube bag where it’s easy to reach.” And then there’s the pack on his back. On overnight trips, he shoulders the Escapist 25, counting on its easy-to-reach compression straps to keep his gear tight as the internal water bladder empties out during his ride. “I usually run water bottles on my frame for longer rides, but when I do ride with a hydration pack, I like Ospreys,” he says. “I love their bladder system and bite valve, and the way they fit.”
As a pro rider for Minnesota-based Salsa Cycles, JayP is able to march specific models to individual events. “I’m lucky,” he says. “Salsa makes bikes specifically for endurance riding and bikepacking. You can see it in the details, like putting braze-ons for an extra water bottle underneath the down tube. Only an endurance cyclist would care about that.” For his win at this year’s 750-mile Arizona Trail, which included shouldering his bike down and back up the Grand Canyon for over thirty miles, he rode the Spearfish, a full-suspension 29er with 80-mm of plush rear travel.
Garmin eTrex GPS
These days, most endurance race organizers distribute the race routes via downloadable files that plug right into handheld GPS units such as JayP’s eTrex. “I used to be a map and compass guy—in adventure racing, you weren’t allowed to use GPS units, so I got very good at orienteering. But I’ve made enough wrong turns in races since then that now I’m over it.” Before a race, JayP will download a topo map of the area onto his GPS so he can see where various roads lead to and what terrain is ahead. “I can see what bailout options are available, and if there’s an emergency, I know exactly where I am,” he says. Plus it keeps my mind busy, telling me where I am and what I’m riding through.
Giro Code Shoes
When you ride for thousands of hours at a stretch over some of the world’s most punishing terrain, the points where your body meets bike can mean the difference between finishing with a smile on your face or losing the feeling in your toes. Every year, JayP starts with a new pair Giro Code MTB shoes. “I put 10,000 miles of riding and hundreds of miles of hike-a-bike treks into every pair.” Giro’s Evofiber upper molds to the top of his feet and the shoe’s Fit Kit custom insole lets him dial-in his arch support. The carbon composite sole is stiff and light, and the Vibram outsole can handle hundreds of miles of hike-a-bike stretches.
Giro DND Gloves
The “DND” in the name stands for “down and dirty,” but for JayP, the DND’s elegantly simple durability is why he wears them. Oddly enough for an ultra-endurance rider, these slip-on Giro’s have almost no padding on the palms. “After all these years, I found that padded gloves are like a soft rock pushing up against my hand over-and-over again. It starts to hurt. I need grip, not padding.”
Pactimo Cycling Bib
As a sponsored racer, JayP rides in a cycling kit provided by Salsa Cycles. Fortunately it’s from Colorado-based Pactimo, which comes with a proprietary chamois and articulated seam construction for a glove-like fit. Take JayP’s word for it, on his two-week-long Tour Divide runs, he starts and finishes wearing the same pair of bike shorts. “Don’t get me wrong, I clean them them regularly,” he says. “But you don’t want to come across me in the wild when I’m stopped. I’m usually naked, airing out my crotch and my shorts at the same time.”
*Based on 2015 ANSI performance tests