Classified Powershift Technology equipped Omnium cargo bike

Riding the Silk Road Mountain Race on a Cargo Bike with Classified

Allan Shaw is an ultra distance racer and bike messanger, originally hailing from Scotland, he now calls Coppenhagen home. Working with Omnium cargo bikes, Allan has chosen Classified's Powershift Technology for the bespoke cargo bike that he will ride in the 1800km race, the first applicaiton of the technology on a cargo bike. We caught up with Allan before the start of the race to find out more.

Classified: What possessed you to want to ride Silk Road Mountain Race on an Omnium cargo bike?

Allan Shaw: My main motivation is to prove that it can be done. But having a truly unique experience on a bike that doesn’t fit into the box of what people think a long distance bike looks like or should be is also part of it. I know this bike can do it and I want people to see that. The bike and kit can often be a barrier into ultra distance racing, but if you’re fit and you’ve got the right mindset, you can ride any bike. By riding SRMR on a cargo bike, I hope to show people that they can enter an event, even if they don't have all the specific 'ultra' kit. 

Why specifically a cargo bike?

I ride a cargo bike day in day out as a delivery rider. Since 2017, I think I've been riding it everyday, for roughly 40 hours a week. It’s like my sofa! It's the bike I spend the most time with, so I think I have a symbiotic relationship with it now. After last year’s tour divide – which is famous for destroying your bike –  I went on to climb all the mountains in Mexico on the cargo bike. Most of which are 4.5K metres, so I have ultimate confidence in the cargo bike.

And why did you pick Silk Road Mountain Race for this challenge?

It's a race that I love. And I also love Kyrgyzstan, where the race is held. SRMR was my first ultra distance race 2 years ago. And to be honest, nothing since has come close. The landscape is so epic and unspoilt; no people, no tourists. The rush to the outdoors post covid has caused some of the more mainstream areas to become a bit over-populated, but that's certainly not the case in Kyrgyzstan. It’s the ultimate ultra distance cycling experience. 

You’ve completed the Silk Road Mountain Race before, finishing an amazing 13th place. How much will that help you this time?

It's a huge benefit to have raced before. 50% of the course is the same as previous years. However, when studying the route for 2023, I see the hard sections I’ve done before and think ok, I can do that. But when I see the new parts of the course that I haven’t done before, I pannick! So even having ridden the race before, it's still nerve wracking. Logistically Kyrgyzstan is overwhelming as a country, so to have prior knowledge and connections is calming. But it's ultra racing, so anything can happen. 

Let's talk about the cargo bike. What led you to include Classified in the build?

Classified approached Omnium in the first instance, to discuss how Powershift Technology would work in the cargo bike space. With the build of this special project happening at the same time, we immediately included Classified as it could be game changing technology for ultra racing. 

What makes you think Powershift Technology would be so beneficial for the Silk Road Mountain Race?

There are many reasons why it will be really helpful. Having as many internal parts as possible is always good for ultra racing, as there is less chance of them getting damaged. So the durability of the hub is a huge benefit for an event like this. And of course the increased gear range will be massive. 

Have you been training with the Classified system already? What are your first thoughts?

I have indeed. As I'm sure you're aware, Denmark is pretty flat, so I haven't explored the extreme gear range yet, but there will be plenty of time for that in Kyrgyzstan! What has been very interesting is how I've found the use of the hub gear on more rolling terrain, where you switch from uphill to downhill very quickly. Flicking the Ringshifter between the 2 ratios to instantly adapt your cadence to the terrain is fantastic. I think also this will increase the durability of the bike overall as I find myself using the rear derailleur a lot less. 

How do you see Powershift Technology being a benefit in ultra endurance and long distance racing?

Reliability is pretty much the most important thing when it comes to ultra distance racing. So anything that can increase reliability and durability is a huge benefit. I think Classified can add simplicity, which is ironic considering it's such a technological product. Anything that makes it easier to get to the finish line will be widely adopted.  

1. To shift gears under full load within 150 milliseconds
2. Maintain valuable momentum during climbs and transitions, or before an attack

Classified’s unique 2 speed gear hub allows riders to jump through 46% percent of the gear range, or the equivalent of 2 or 3 rear derailleur shifts, within 150 milliseconds. As such, ‘Powershifting’ is quickly becoming the go to term for maintaining momentum on the trails.

Tests undertaken with pro riders showed a far greater use of the powershift hub gear as opposed to the rear derailleur, leading to an overwhelming increase of momentum through transitions.

“The feedback of professional riders is very promising and brought us even better insights into the enormous potential the product offers. Extending our range further into off-road space with the mountain bike hub confirms Classified’s vision to be a technology that is compatible across all cycling disciplines. We are extremely excited about the possibilities the new product brings and its ability to enhance the existing MTB drivetrain market." says Mathias Plouvier, CEO and co-founder of Classified Cycling.

CTO Roell van Druten adds “we are very proud to bring Powershift technology to mountain biking. With an ultimate gear range of 530%, the Powershift Boost hub combines a high-grade, one-piece compact steel cassette (11-40t) with a larger chainring, improving the overall durability of the drivetrain.”

Van Druten goes further to explain the benefits of the new system: “Using the Classified hub with an 11-40t cassette and a 34t chainring results in the lowest drivetrain ratio of 0.58. To achieve this ratio with a traditional system the user would have to use a 30t chainring. Using a smaller chainring in a traditional system lowers the efficiency and durability of that system due to the higher chain forces. The more compact Classified cassette also allows the use of a shorter derailleur cage, increasing the robustness of the drivetrain alongside the efficiency.”    

The Ringshifter:

The next generation of shifting, this sleek, fully wireless handlebar control provides unrivalled shifting performance with the lightest flick of your thumb. The Ringshifter can perform 10,000 shifts before needing to be easily recharged with the provided magnetic USB cable.

Featuring a unique magnetic spring back mechanism, the Ringshifter delivers unparalleled durability and a smooth, responsive feel. The functionalities of the Ringshifter can be customized to meet the individual needs of every rider.

It looks like you picked the parts pretty carefully, the build process must have been fun?

I’m the least picky person when it comes to bikes; I would’ve ridden the race on a stock bike with good gears! But I knew we could make a really unique bike. Omnium has an amazing team with a really good plan and knowledge, so I have loved working with them on this. With additions like Classified, and prototyping with new carbon parts, we've shown how much can be done to create a cargo bike dream build.

Has your appreciation for Research & Development changed?

Oh yeah, massively. Not just through working with Omnium, but looking at the advances in cycling technology over the last few years. I’m not a snob about it, and don’t want to make the tool for the job a barrier, but it’s undeniable that riding a really top end bike and products does make a difference. Like this Omnium cargo bike with Classified. People keep saying that I’m making it harder for myself by riding a cargo bike, but this bike is so good I don’t think I am.

What is your hope for the 2023 Silk Road Mountain Race?

The Primary goal is to finish. I would really like to get close to my previous time, but there are so many variables at play, it’s both realistic and not realistic. Bike choice is one thing, last time I rode a gravel bike,  but how the race develops will determine whether I can get close to my previous time. 

You competed in 2021 on a gravel bike, finishing the race in 10 days and 13 hours. Do you think you can better that time on the cargo bike?

Yeah, absolutely. It’s definitely possible, but it’s wise to be careful with your expectations. Having a really big goal can be crushing if it starts to slip away from you during the race. You have to be flexible. I’m going to do my best to chill out about time and just enjoy the experience. I trust in my ability and my equipment to do it. 

How can we follow your progress through the race?

The best way is to follow my dot on the Silk Road Mountain Race website. It can be strangely captivating following a rider this way. I appreciate all the support, and you can also follow on my Instagram (@allanshawphoto) and on the Omnium and Classified social media channels too. Signal is pretty hard to come by in Kyrgyzstan, so posts might be few and far between, but I'll try. 

Best of luck in the race Allan, we can’t wait to follow your amazing journey. There will be an updated interview with Allan after the race to hear how he got on, as well as a full video recap released in September.

Read more about Allan's plans on the website.