2 very important key factors for bikepacking and ultra races are light weight and warmth. On the one hand you don't want to drag too much weight and volume up 30.000 meters of ascent on a 700km race on the other hand you don't want to start freezing or get soaked on this mountain peaks when the night sets in and temperatures drop to close to zero.
One of the worst ways to waste valuable energy and potentially risk having to abandon the race is freezing too much, either on the bike or when trying to get a few hours of sleep in.
After testing around I have found the perfect setup in from of a layering system that works for riding, nights and the days before and after the race, helping you to seriously minimize overall luggage.
Base layer: I ride with a merino base layer as it has great temperature regulation but I also often don't get to change or wash for days at a time and merino really helps with the 'stink'. It takes forever until it starts smelling real bad.
Middle layer: A cycling jersey combined with arm warmers for the days you want just a little extra protection on the arms. Combined with the merino base layer the arm warmers are also my outfit for when I have to fly to the start of a race.
Jacket: A small down jacket can work well but down fill can become in issue when getting wet. The closest I have found to resembling the warming capabilities of down and small packing size is the Patagonia Nano Puff. My go to puffer jacket for all the trips. I use it as a warm layer when cycling, as a sleeping bag alternative when riding without a sleeping back or to add a few degree of warmth and therefore allow myself to ride with a smaller sized, lighter sleeping bag. It is perfect to throw over when stopping for lunch or setting up camp as well. I personally sacrifice a little weight and opt for the version with a hood as it replaces carrying a beanie or similar and for me there is few things worse than the wind blowing on my head and ears when trying to sleep.
Hardshell / Outer Layer: I do NOT bring a windjacket on trips like this. I pack a rain jacket that triples up as rain protection, for additional warmth or as a windjacket when descending. I picked one that has a couple of vents built in so I don't sweat too much. My personal go to here because of extreme lightweight, rain protection and venting flaps on the back is actually a running rain jacket from Ryzon.
Shoe Covers, etc: I usually race without shoe covers. I ride in merino socks and will cover shoes with simple plastic bags or wrap when it is getting too wet or too cold.
Additional: As on many races I race without a sleeping mat or sleeping bag I will bring a simple emergency blanket to keep me warm when trying to nap for a moment. Pro tip here from Trans Pyrenees winner Ulrich Bartholmoes is too make sure to not wrap it around you too snuck and keep it breathable as otherwise you will start sweating and there is nothing worse then restarting a cold ride in wet cycling kit.
Final tip: If it is still too cold for you in some of the descents, like Annika Vossen and I had in January from Teide on Tenerife back to the ocean with minus celsius degree up top, a 45km descent and rain starting half way through, the good old 'newspaper' under your baselayer in your skin still works wonders. You will have a bit of print ink on your skin afterwards but the newspaper keeps the wind out and soaks up potential sweat.
As always, if you have any questions, drop me a message here or on Instagram Tillschenklive