Video: Tom and Matt's Arctic adventure

Ever wondered what it would be like to ride 150km inside the Arctic Circle?

Ever wondered what it would be like to ride 150km inside the Arctic Circle? Well, wonder no longer – MBUK's Matt Orton and WMB's Tom Marvin have done the legwork for you, battling through snow and ice in sub-zero temperatures at this year's Rovaniemi 150 Arctic Winter Race. Sit back in the warm and enjoy the video, then scroll down to take a look at the bikes and essential kit that the boys needed to complete their mission.

The bikes

Matt’s Surly Ice Cream Truck Ops

By Surly’s own admission the ICT is a “trail approved ripper”, not an adventure bike or race machine. Designed around RockShox’s fat-specific Bluto suspension fork and boasting some of the slackest angles you’ll find on a fatbike, it didn’t sound like the perfect choice of bike for this race. Which is why I was really impressed with its performance. Could it be lighter? Hell, yeah! Were the 3.8in tyres wide enough? Nope, there were times when I could have done with extra flotation on the unseasonably soft snow. This is a bike that’s unlikely to trouble the podium but I’ve proven it can still complete an event like this in a respectable time. There’s no doubting its versatility, and with a few minor tweaks I’ll be ripping around the trails back home all year round.

Matt's surly ice cream truck ops:
Matt's surly ice cream truck ops:

Race day spec

  • Frame: 4130 chromoly steel
  • Fork: Surly Ice Cream Truck (rigid, 4130 chromoly)
  • Transmission: SRAM X0 with Grip Shift shifters and Surly OD cranks (2x10) Brakes Avid BB7 cable discs
  • Wheels: Salsa hubs laced to Surly Rolling Darryl rims with DT Swiss Comp spokes
  • Tyres: Surly Nate 26x3.8in 
  • Finishing kit: Answer ProTAPER Carbon 720 Enduro 20/20 bar, Kalloy AS-025N stem, Kalloy SP-342 seatpost, Charge Scoop saddle, Nukeproof Electron Evo pedals
  • Weight: 16kg/35lb (unloaded)
  • Price: £2,199.99 (complete bike)
  • From: www.ison-distribution.com

Tom’s Sarma Shaman

If I was going to take part in a 150km race I wasn’t going to do it on anything other than a carbon race bike, and that’s just what the Shaman is, only one designed around fat tyres. With a rather fancy build, my Sarma wasn’t far off the weight of a conventional XC hardtail. The humongous down tube and BB area and bolt-through back end meant as much power as possible was transmitted to the monster truck tyres, and although the fork only had a QR axle, I never hit anything technical enough to warrant a stiffer front end. Carbon rims minimised wheel weight – vital for a sprightly feeling bike – although at over a kilo a piece, plus tubes, they weren’t exactly super-light. If you want to cover ground quickly on a fatbike, we’d not look much further.  

Tom's sarma shaman:
Tom's sarma shaman:

Race day spec

  • Frame: Carbon fibre
  • Fork: Sarma Hoboy (rigid, carbon fibre)
  • Transmission: SRAM XX1 with Grip Shift shifters (1x11)
  • Brakes: Avid Guide hydraulic discs
  • Wheels: Salsa hubs laced to Sarma Naran 80mm carbon rims with DT Swiss Comp spokes
  • Tyres: Surly Nate 26x4in
  • Finishing kit: Renthal Fatbar Lite Carbon bar, Renthal Apex stem, Genetic Syngetic seatpost, Charge Scoop saddle, Nukeproof Electron Evo pedals
  • Weight: 11kg/24lb (unloaded)
  • Price: £1,650 (frameset)
  • From: www.ison-distribution.com

Cold weather kit

To survive the extremes of Arctic riding we went to the experts at Go Outdoors for advice on the best kit to keep the elements at bay.

Cold weather kit: cold weather kit
Cold weather kit: cold weather kit

1North Ridge Onyx gilet –Small and packable synthetic bodywarmer, an ideal part of a layering system to help keep your core warm – £70 (£49.99 with Go Outdoors discount card – £5 for a year)

2Marmot Thermo half-zip baselayer – Close fitting base made from waffle pattern fabric for superior insulation and wicking ability while remaining breathable – £100 (£90)

3 Rab Baseline hoody – Fast-wicking baselayer made from Polartec and PowerDry fabrics to make sure you stay warm and dry – £75 (£50)

4 Montane Sabretooth softshell jacket – Highly breathable windproof that’s a perfect pairing with the Terra trousers – £175 (£118)

5Montane Terra Thermostretch mountain pants – Stretchy and well vented softshell trousers with a water repellent treatment – £110 (£64.97)

6Scarpa Manta mountain boots – Alpine boots with sufficient insulation and a stiff sole ideal for pedalling – £249.99 (£149.97)

7 Rab Latok Alpine gaiters – Perfect for keeping snow out of your boots when pushing through unridable sections – £40 (£36)

Cold weather kit: cold weather kit
Cold weather kit: cold weather kit

    8 Rab Andes 1000 sleeping bag – Rated to -26ºC, this mandatory kit item is designed for fast and light adventures – £460
    9Lifeventure Dri-Store bags – Ultra lightweight dry bags for keeping spare clothes and equipment dry – From £8.99 (£8.09)

10 Hi Gear First Aid Kit 3 – Safety is paramount on any kind of adventure. Being able to patch yourself up is essential – £17 (£11.99)

11North Ridge Valiant 100l holdall – Huge water resistant bag to keep kit safe in transit – £89.99 (£69.99)

12Lifesystems survival bag – If things go bad, keeping warm and dry will save your life. An essential item you’ll hopefully never need – £4.50 (£3.99)

13Hi Gear Ultralite lightweight sleeping mat – Sleeping mats aren’t just for comfort. The extra space between you and the ground helps insulate you from the cold too – £40 (£22.47)

Adventure Essentials

There’s no such thing as packing light for an Arctic winter race. Self-sufficiency and safety are important factors when selecting your kit. Here are the things that got us through…

Matt's adventure essentials: matt's adventure essentials
Matt's adventure essentials: matt's adventure essentials

1POC Fornix Backcountry MIPS helmet – Just because you’re riding on snow doesn’t mean you don’t need a lid. Snow sports helmets have the added bonus of keeping your noggin warm and safe – £174.99 www.2pure.co.uk

2Alpkit Stem Cell bag – This pouch attaches to your stem and offers easy access to small essentials such as food and tools without having to get out of the saddle for a rummage in your frame packs – £18 www.alpkit.com

3 Answer ProTAPER Carbon 720 Enduro 20/20 bar – For all-day riding it’s worth considering a bar that puts your hands in as natural position as possible. The 20-degree backsweep and 20mm rise of Answer’s carbon ‘alt bar’ make it comfy for long stints in the saddle – £119.99 www.hotlines-uk.com

4 CamelBak Classic 2l hydration pack – If your hydration pack is low-profile enough to fit under your jacket, the contents are less likely to freeze during long rides in sub-zero temperatures – £44.99 www.zyro.co.uk

5CamelBak Antidote Thermal Control Kit – A nifty upgrade for winter riding in the extreme cold, this insulated tubing will help keep your water flowing and slow the build-up of ice – £22.99 www.zyro.co.uk

6Topeak Rescue Box – This small but simple puncture kit also has space for spare master links and chain pins – £4.50 www.extrauk.co.uk

7Salsa Anything Cage – Running out of carrying capacity on your frame? With this gizmo you can strap kit or water to your fork – £17.99 www.charliethebikemonger.com

8-11 Porcelain Rocket frame bags – Porcelain Rocket have been making premium quality frame bags for years so you can expect the very best in handmade bikepacking gear in a choice of colours and materials.

8Booster Rocket seat pack $165

9Salsa Anything Cage bags $100

10 Single compartment frame pack $180

11MCA handlebar system $125

All www.porcelainrocket.com

12 Petzl Ultra Rush Belt headtorch – The nights are long and very dark in the Arctic Circle so finding a light source that’ll last is essential. The external battery unit can be carried close to the body to keep it warm and extend burn time – £305 www.cyclestore.co.uk

13 Brunton All Day GoPro HERO 3+ power supply – With this charger you only need one GoPro battery for all-day filming. A USB connection lets you charge other accessories from the unit too – £40 www.brunton.com

14GoPro HERO3 White Edition action camera – An abundance of mounts and accessories added to industry-leading image quality make the GoPro the obvious choice for recording your adventures for posterity – £169.99 www.madison.co.uk

15Gerber Outdoor knife – A knife is the most essential piece of survival kit you can carry. Avoid fiddly folding options if you’re going to be using them in cold conditions with thick gloves – opt for a reliable fixed blade – £39.99 www.gerbergear.co.uk

16Light My Fire Swedish FireSteel 2.0 – Firesteels will make a spark in any conditions and are impervious to damp or cold – £15.50 www.lightmyfire.com

17 Greenman Bushcraft Natural Organic Down Tinder – Making a spark is only part of starting a fire. Keep your tinder dry and you’ll be enjoying the warmth and safety of a fire in no time – £2.75 www.greenmanbushcraft.co.uk

18Silva Expedition compass – If your electronic devices fail, you can always find your way home with an old-school compass. Don’t worry if you lack navigation skills – if you really need to, you’ll figure it out! – £25 www.silva.se

19Surly fatbike tube – Save as much time as possible when sorting out flats by carrying a spare tube or two – £11.99 www.ison-distribution.com

20Topeak Mountain Morph pump – Lightweight, compact and capable of inflating fatbike tyres with relatively little effort (for a fatbike tyre) – £28.99 www.extrauk.co.uk

21POC Retina Big goggles – Cut out glare with these snowsports goggles from POC. Comfortable and a great fit with the matching helmet – £145 www.2pure.co.uk

22Revelate Designs Williwaw Pogies – Having never ridden with pogies before this event, it’s now hard to imagine riding in these conditions without them. They kept our hands so warm that only thin trail riding gloves were needed underneath, making for a comfortable ride – £POA (approx £95) www.backcountrybiking.co.uk

23Gerber Suspension multi-plier – Big, chunky and perfect for using with winter gloves. The sprung action offers more control and there are ample tools for most trailside repairs – £50 www.gerbergear.co.uk

24Topeak Hexus II multi-tool – A comprehensive mix of bike-specific tools to keep you moving – £19.99 www.extrauk.co.uk

25The North Face Chilkat II boots – Rated to -32ºC the Chilkat IIs will definitely keep your feet warm, and with great waterproofing they should keep them dry too. The grippy outsole makes pushing through deep snow and ice less of an ordeal – £100 www.thenorthface.co.uk

26Nukeproof Electron Evo flat pedals – Metal pedals conduct the cold, so switch to plastic platforms to keep your feet warm – £34.99 www.hotlines-uk.com

27MSR Pocket Rocket stove – Melting snow for water may be essential if you find yourself far from a checkpoint. Keep your stove small, simple and reliable – £30 www.cascadedesigns.com

28 JetBoil Jetpower fuel canister – Gas canisters won’t work below certain temperatures, in which case a liquid fuel stove is your best bet. Luckily conditions for this year’s race were warmer than usual so the Jetpower worked fine – £4 (100g) www.jetboil.com

29 MSR Titan kettle – Lightweight and super-strong. Also large enough that we could pack most of our cooking kit and gas inside it, optimising use of space – £50 www.cascadedesigns.com

This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

Freelance Writer, UK
Jake comes from a downhill background but now spends most of his time smashing shorter-travel trail and enduro bikes down those same downhill trails. He's well known for pushing components and gear to their limits, and a little further.
  • Discipline: Mountain
  • Preferred Terrain: Any type of razzing, anywhere, on any bike!
  • Beer of Choice: Cider! West country, like.
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