Bikes & Kit

When we first started thinking about this trip the subject of bikes was one of Rog’s first thoughts. Having owned a bike shop for many years he’d seen many different makes, models and styles of bike coming in and out of the workshop and also at the dozens of trade shows he’s attended over the years. We’ve sold many Koga Miyata World Travellers to people planning (and now doing) long distance trips. The Koga ‘Signature’ bikes could give us just about everything we would need from a Round the World expedition Bike, but, we have not gone for that option.

Our good friends Tony & Melody Wilkinson run Independent, a niche company in the cycle trade supplying many high end brands. One of their in-house MTB brands is Sanderson frames; they are built using very high quality Cromoly Steel in Taiwan. During discussions with Tony he talked about adding touring frames to the range, and offered to build us some frames to prototype his ideas.

So we have the first 2 Sanderson ‘touring’ frames. Dee’s was made first as Rog had already built up a bike using the standard MTB frame. Although the frame uses the unique single speed bottom bracket shell from the Sanderson Soloist, we added a derailleur drop out in case we changed our mind about hubs. We added cable routing for twin Rohloff gear cables and a route for a derailleur cable as well!

Nine months in and we still love the Sandersons (Big Boy & Sally). Other than Dee wrecking hers when she was hit on Day 248 by a drunk motorcyclist, they have proven to be more than capable as touring frames. :-P

We towed trailers for the first 5700km, but in Tajikistan (Day 167) the arm on one of the trailers broke.  We’d also had problems  in some countries,  with kids wanting to jump on for a ride ,and so we then swapped from trailers to racks and panniers for  the remainder of our trip.   :cry:

Having decided on the frames Rog then went off in search of the best components to complement them. Many of the shop’s suppliers ended up with earache after numerous lengthy conversations about materials, weight, colour and durability of their products!! The result gives us what Rog believes are 2 long distance, low maintenance bikes that will survive the trip!

The front forks are from Surley, again Cromoly, and are designed for tough off road use. Rog has a Hope headset and Dee has a Blackspire one.

Dee’s fork has now been changed to a Salsa because, post-accident,  we could not find UK stock of a replacement Surly and even e-mails to Surly themselves failed to get help…………..   :-(

The gearing is via Rohloff hubs. The Rohloff provides 14 gears with even spacing between all the gears and about the same ratios as a 27 speed system. A hub gear is so much easier than having front and rear shifters, front and rear derailleur, cassettes and multiple chainrings!

The Rohloffs have been superb, so easy to use and very little maintenance. :lol:

Our wheels are built using Halo Freedom Disc rims, a big deep section downhill rim that should cope with a few potholes! We are using 26” wheels as they are stronger than the bigger 700c.

I had one spoke break early on but even that did not put the wheel out of true! Dee’s front is now being replaced but her rear survived the accident without needing any truing!!

Having used Schwalbe tyres and tubes for many years they were the obvious choice for the trip. Following discussions with Chris Hearn at Schwalbe we are using Marathon Extreme 26 x 2.25 tyres on the bikes and Big Apple 16 x 2.0 tyres on the trailers. All the tubes are Schwalbe with Schraeder valves.

One of my biggest concerns before we set off was what tyres to use. Chris Hearn at Schwalbe UK assured me that the Extreme was lighter and stronger than the old XR. We fitted them before we left and although they were a little noisier than the XR they were lighter and made the bikes more responsive. Well, after 5700km (without much load directly on them),  and then 2000km with panniers,  I feel we have given then a fair trial and I think they are rubbish! We have had 11 punctures; the first after only 140km!! Two tyres are totally shot. I have now ordered the old XRs to continue the trip with, and wish I’d never switched …………… :cry:

We are hoping that we can complete the trip without wearing padded cycle shorts, although we like the extra padding, they are a pain to dry when washed. We are therefore using Brooks B17 saddles and a Cane Creak Thudbuster ST seat post.

Our bums are always a bit sore if we have a few days (or weeks), off the bikes,  but that is all –  definitely the right choice!! 8-)

Rog found some great looking ‘North Road’ style handlebars a couple of years ago made by SQ Labs. The importers, 2 Pure Ltd, kept promising that they would be in the UK soon!! Well soon never came, so Rog ended up buying them from Germany! The handlebar grips are Ergon GP1. They spread the contact point by about 50% giving a much more comfortable grip.

The handlebars are great, we also have 2 sets of bar ends, the first mounted as normal on the ends of the bars giving another 2 positions and then a second straight set mounted inside the grips to give a more aerodynamic position for strong headwinds.

We have a couple of extra little bits on the bikes to help make life easier for us on the trip. Firstly an ESGE Twin Leg Prop Stands, which, although heavy will keep the bike upright and even work as a makeshift workstand for repairs. We also have some neat little Hebie Springs that stop the handlebars spinning round from the weight of the handlebar bags.

The propstands have been great   8-)  but now that I have added an Xtracycle mine does not fit and Dee’s has got quite loose and wobbly – I’ve ordered her a new one!

After reading hundreds of long tour reports (and, this Boy has really done his homework!! Let me tell you!!!), a number of riders all suffer the same repeated failures, those of, rear spokes, rear rims, wheel bearings, tyres and racks. The cause of many of these failures is weight, or to be more specific it is excessive weight on the rear wheel. Most bicycles are not designed to carry an extra 40/50kg over the rear wheel and even those that ‘claim’ to be touring bikes often have inferior wheels/rims that are just not up to the job.

Rog decided that the sensible option is not to overload the bike but to spread the load by using a trailer. What trailer should we use? There are 2 well known bicycle trailer brands, Bob and Burley. Bob trailers are a single wheel trailer that follows the track of the bike well, they are great if you are heading off road and want something that you know will fit through any gap your bike does! However, we decided on the Burley Nomad. The Nomad is a twin wheel trailer, thus splitting the stress and load across 2 wheels, OK so the trailer is wider than the bikes and adds a bit more wind resistance but then this is not a race!! Our only slight worry is that the plastic hitch arm connection to the trailer has now been redesigned in metal on the latest model making us wonder if they had a few failures with our style …. we’ll let you know how it goes!!

Well I could go on forever on this subject!!!

We have now given up on the Burley trailers. As I found out before we left Burley had redesigned the hitch arm on the latest Nomad trailer. I asked them if I could retro fit the new arm but no that was not possible. I did not want to buy 2 new trailers so set off, still with this big niggle in my head that they must have had some failures to prompt the re style.

Hindsight and all that!!

The actual cause of the trailer failure was ‘misuse’ on our part – nothing to do with Burley and obviously not something we could claim from them BUT we did leave home under the weight limit for the trailers and even then the plastic clamps around the hitch arm had to be held with large zip ties – there was no way they would have lasted. The trailers were superb and went where ever we wanted them to go. We had a few fun moments on rough, steep, off road tracks but they stayed put and caused us no problems UNTIL we overloaded them in Turkmenistan. I carried an EXTRA 20kg in water to get us through the desert. We rode through the night with poor headlights and hit a fair few potholes!! 450km later one of the hitch arms snapped – and the rest is history!!   :cry:

We then fitted Surly Nice racks to Dee’s bike, both wrecked in the accident (no help with replacements from Surly – see forks above)

I have fitted THIS from Xtracycle and love it!! I am able to fit 2 pairs of rear panniers to Big Boy and still not overload the bike!! :-P

I do still think that a trailer is better than panniers BUT the Nomad we had was not up to the job and I have seen quite a few broken Bobs!


Tent

‘RoadRunner’ by North Face

This was an easy decision for us really.  I get very claustrophic and therefore this tent with its 2 doors, was a no-brainer for us. We’ve used it quite a lot already and think its great; well I haven’t had any panic attacks and had to crawl over Rog to get out!  It’s very easy to erect and easy to hold upside-down to tip any grass and dirt out.  We’ve also purchased titanium tent pegs in order to cut down on weight.

We also have 2 x footprints/groundsheets; to really keep the chill out!

Sent home in Munich and replaced with an Exped Venus III DLX Plus, heavier, bigger and just perfect!!


Tent Extension!

‘Arc Tarp’ by Exped

We decided that we needed a little bit more room than the tent gives us on its own and started looking at extensions.  We found this extension  and think it is brilliant.  It has 2 poles, front and rear, that form 2 Arcs and you can make the entrance as shallow or as high as you wish, by bending the front pole accordingly.   With the use of carabiners,  the rear of the extension attaches to your tent.  This piece of kit now gives us a sizeable space in which to do our cooking, bike maintenance, reading etc. etc. when the weather is not so good.

Also sent home in Munich – see above!!


Sleeping Bags, Pillows & Therm-A-Rests

Big Agnes & Marmot

I’ve gone for the Big Agnes brand, and got the model “Ethel”.  This gives me more room to move around and, as I don’t sleep like a “Mummy”, but more like a windmill, I think this will be alot better for me!  It weighs quite a lot and doesn’t pack up as small as Roger’s but I needed to be comfy night after night and felt the extra weight and space was worth it.   Also, I can put the Thermarest into the back of the sleeping bag and therefore won’t spend half the night rolling off the mat onto the cold tent floor!   Rog is a neat, “Mummy” sleeper and so the Marmot “Arete” is the one he’s gone for; it packs up very small and is a nice, light sleeping bag.  For pillows, we have a little IKEA pillow each, although this is slightly unnecessary as you could make do with a large, fleece from your clothing!

The pillows were left at a campsite somewhere!! We now have a great little fleecy bag that is stuffed with either washing or a fleece etc!

We’ve been using Therm-A-Rests (Prolite 3), for a while now and find them excellent.  We have the additional piece of kit to turn them into chairs.  This is a piece of luxury for us; it is much more comfortable sitting in these reading, as you can recline back a bit and take the pressure off your back.

Perfect when relaxing in the tent!   :lol:


Mossie Net
Life Systems Bell Double Mossie Net

We purchased a double net to save on weight; 2 x singles were quite a bit heavier.  This Net has a single point to hook from the ceiling and “tucks in” under both the roll-mats.


Cookers

MSR ‘DragonFly’ Multi Fuel Stove & MSR ‘SuperFly’ Stove

We’ve  settled on the  Multi-Fuel Stove because we will be unable to get calor gas in some of the countries we are intending to visit.    This one has the capacity to simmer, which makes cooking slightly easier.

We are also taking the MSR SuperFly which we can use with Calor Gas. This seems a little overkill, but it is easier than the DragonFlycooker, and, where we can get Calor Gas, then we’ll be using this one.

Propane and Butane gas is WAY too expensive so the Superfly was sent home from Munich. The DragonFly is great – but does tend to draw a crowd when used on the roadside in Vietnam etc!!   :-P


Cooking Pans & Kettle & Mugs

MSR & Snowpeak

We’ve gone for the ultra light weight Titanium versions!  We’ve got a 0.85 litre capacity MSR Titan Kettle.We’ve gone for the ultra light weight Titanium versions!  We’ve got a 0.85 litre capacity MSR Titan Kettle.Also, we have the MSR Titanium Cooking Pans; a 1.5 litre and a 2 litre capacity, complete with the handle to remove them from the cooker.

We have purchased Snowpeak Mugs, one smaller than the other so that it sits inside to save space.

We also have Titanium cutlery.

All this Titanium kit is expensive, but saves vast amounts of weight, so very much worth it in the long run.


Water Filter
Katadyn ‘Pocket’

The World Health Organization (WHO) attributes 80% of all travel diseases to contaminated drinking water and so this piece of kit is a “no brainer” to us, even though it weighs a hefty 550g, which is quite a lot when you are cycle camping!!    It means we can draw water from any source and be sure that the ceramic filter element will remove bacteria and protozoa and viruses (well nearly all of the viruses, see below!).  We can produce fresh, drinking water straight from the Katadyn into our Platypus Water Carriers, at the rate of 1 Litre per Minute.

Protozoa (e.g. lamblia,giardia, amoebae, cryptosporidia), are single-celled organisms and they get into drinking water via human and animal faeces :cry:    Due to their larger size, they can easily be filtered, but are rather resistant to chemical disinfectants; thus the Katadyn is the right piece of kit for these beasties!
Bacteria (e.g. salmonella, cholera, E-coli), Bacteria when mixed together with animal or human faeces in drinking water, they become a serious health risk.  They propagate quickly in water.  Again, the Katadyn can filter all of these without any difficulties 8-)
Viruses (e.g. Hepatitis A, Norwalk virus, Polio virus), because these are smaller than the above, it makes them difficult to filter from the water.  In cloudy water, they usually bound to particles and can then be removed, (to a large extent)
with filter pores up to 0.2 microns.   The Katadyn has a 0.2 micron ceramic depth filter which will be able to cope with these.   However, some of these viruses have a size of 0.02 microns, because they have not bound to a larger size.  Therefore, to ensure we capture all of these as well, we will be using Micropur Forte liquid to really be “belt and braces”, and, of course, we are vaccinated as well against Hep A, and Polio.

Water Carriers
Platypus & Sigg

We’re taking 4 x 2 Litre Platypus water carriers.

As we filter our water we can put straight into the Platypus carriers.  They are lightweight and collapsible with secure closure caps.  They are also taste-free, easy to fill, and weigh alot less than others.
We are also taking Sigg bottles to  go on the bikes.


Hardware Items
Ipood! SheWee, LifeVenture, Sea to Summit Stuff

IPood – Well, this is self-explanatory. You just don’t expect your Husband to buy you one for Christmas!!
Given away!!
Again, the She Wee is self-explanatory! And, again, I got it for Christmas!!  How romantic!
LifeVenture Rucksack that packs up very small.

Sea to Summit Toilet Roll Holder   We still have this!!!
Sea to Summit Washing Up Bowl    Very useful for all sorts of things!!
Sea to Summit Shower (which holds 10 Litres)   Never used given away!!!!!
Sea to Summit Washing Line    A bit too short but gets used a lot!!

Electronics
Laptop, Battery Charger, Lights etc. etc.,

Laptop = Acer Aspire 1 Notebook.  We have also purchased an additional battery to give us double the life.

Still hanging in there – just!!! Freezes quite often, but boots back up! We keep it backed up and hope it lasts!!! We would have replaced it by now but trailers and crashes have used up way too much money!!!

Western Digital 500gb Hard Drive

Does what it says on the tin!! Backs up!!

Canon 450EOS SLR Camera (c/w 3 batteries), plus Tamron 18-270 Lens, & Gorilla Pod

Producing some fab photos and a much loved piece of kit! Batteries last forever so sent one home.

Canon SX200 Bridge Camera (c/w 3 batteries), plus Gorilla Pod

As above!!

Roberts Short Wave Radio

Not used much, too heavy, given away in Tajikistan

Mobile Phone VX1         Crap

Garmin GPS (Etrex Legend)  This has been another great piece of kit BUT I had to replace it in Turkey as it was cutting out while riding along!

Olympus WS-210S Digital Voice Recorder   Not used as much as we thought but very small and easy to use

IPod 160GB & Ipod Speaker X Mini 2     Great little piece of kit

Hahnel Unipal Battery Charger    Fab little charger – shame it doesn’t plug into a USB but does save us carrying different chargers for the 2 cameras and the AA & AAA cells   8-)

Petzl Zipka Plus Head Torches

Love them! Since the accident we have ordered 2 more but brighter for night riding (we seem to do more than we thought we would!!)

Spot Satellite GPS Messenger
Simple and easy to set up and use – if we had more money I would upgrade to the new version that is smaller, lighter and has a stronger signal. (Santa?)   :lol:

Hobbes WiFi Detector!!

Much easier than getting the Laptop out to see if we have a signal!

Have just ordered a WiFi booster to help us get more free WiFi!!


Clothing – Shoes

Keen ‘Commuter’ & ‘Springwater’

We’re using this Keen shoe and sandal; they’ll “double up” for when we are off the bikes.  We’ve got Speedplay Frogs clipless pedals.  Where possible we are trying to have identical kit and then we can keep the spares to a minimum.

We wore the boots for the first 2 months and have been wearing the sandals since – in fact we have both got problems with the sandals that we are talking to Keen about!


Unsung Heros of the Trip to Date

Zefal Spy Mirrors – Clip to the bars of frame and save having to turn your head to see the other one, and before pulling out in traffic etc

Shimano XT Disc Brakes with Goodridge Hoses – Always stops our heavy loads even down some mighty big hills!!

Topeak Road Morph Pump – Pumps up the tyres!!!!

Tilley Hats – Rain or shine, these hats are fab!!


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