Editors Note: This the first installment of an ongoing series where we find out from the mountain biking community what their go-to accessories are for tackling the trails, enhancing the ride and saving the day. Thanks to Alexandera Houchir for volunteering to be first
Alexandera Houchin recently set a new women’s singlespeed record at the 2019 Tour Divide and we were very curious about what her favorite mountain bike accessory is especially after such an accomplishment. Here is what she had to say:
That’s a funny question because in bikepack racing fewer accessories are better. And then I was thinking about things on my bike, and then realized I wasn’t sure what constitutes an accessory. So I googled accessory. Hahaha. Then I had to look at various pictures of my bike to see what I couldn’t live without.
Side story: After having worked at Subway for nearly three years in high school, I still call Subway my favorite restaurant. Since moving to the northland, I find myself listening to shitty pop country more than past me would like, in fact, if you crept up on me during a bike race, it’s likely you would hear some radio country blaring from my little clip-on JBL boombox (ooh, another accessory that I can’t live without). My friends tell me I shouldn’t brag about that. I want to think Kathleen Hanna would still rock (country?) out next to me while we sang about tractors and trucks and… girls in bikinis.
First, I want to tell you the story of my spork. In 2018, during my Tour Divide race, I’d been flying through the section on Brazos Ridge, and the spoke I’d busted somehow lodged itself into my cassette, and I couldn’t spin my rear wheel any longer. The only way I could get the spoke out of my cassette was to take the thing off. Obviously, I didn’t bring a cassette tool. I’d used my flat head screwdriver, various parts of my Leatherman, and rocks. I was stripping the teeth on the lockring one by one, which was very concerning to me. To no avail, lockring wasn’t budging. I was so defeated and wanted to quit. My advice to people has always been “If you want to quit, sit and eat some food.” So, I sit to eat some peanut butter and pull out my spork. After my first bite, I stop and think, eh? Maybe this can get the lockring off… So I clean the nut butter off and wrap my bandana around the handle and jam the teeth in the lockring. I use the chain from my drivetrain to hold the cassette in place and use the spork to twist the lockring off. It fucking came off! It was magic, and I got the spoke out and carried on with my day. I still have that spork. A few of the teeth are all haggard and sketch, but it reminds me that, when in doubt. Eat.
HOWEVER, the most useful accessory on my bike for these long-distance races has been my Cane Creek bar ends.
I used to ride with some tiny 3-inch Profile Design aluminum bar ends and found myself dealing with hand-numbness post ultra season. While working on my build for this year’s Tour Divide, Vince (the master of bike builds at CHUMBA USA) suggested that I give the Cane Creek bar ends a go. I switched over this year, and they changed my life! They were so comfortable and extended below the bar as well as above the bar. They have a very ergonomic grip, and they’re exactly the right size. I did deal with some blisters on the palms of my hand— single speeding requires a lot more arm bending and hand torquing that I remembered. I think riding with gloves is a cop-out, I want to go through the process, blisters turn to callus, and my hands tell the story of what I’ve done.