Sunday, September 7, 2008

Bike Nerd section

This is a post for the prospective touring cyclist/ bike nerd. Maybe it will help you to figure out how to make it all work. Some of these items have been switched out for others as the trip has progressed. If i have the time and patience, i'll add a post with some reviews of what we used in a few yrs..... This is the equipment that Jason (me) is using. Jeff's bike - and approach to bike setup - is another story altogether....

For such a long journey, we decided that choosing the right equipment is essential to avoiding breakdowns, repairs, and other hassles while on the road. Also, safety is a consideration for us as well, because breaking down in a remote area and having to travel on foot could be disastrous. On top of this, we will be traveling off the beaten path as often as possible, over washboard dirt roads and potholed macadam. Our bikes need to be built for reliability, durability, functionality, and ease of repair and maintenance. After spending weeks researching what's out there and what other people have used for similar adventures, I decided that the best way to go would be to build the bikes up from scratch. What follows is a list of what parts and components we are using on the bikes, and an explanation of why i've chosen each part. It is my hope that this list may serve as an aid to those who may build up a similar bike, for similar applications, in the future. The internet is an invaluable resource...

Frame - Soma Fabrications Groove frame. This steel hardtail MTB frame has rack and fender bosses, is disc and rim brake compatible, and is a qualty frame at a good price. We decided to use mountain bikes for the trip because they are a little more comfortable than road bikes, are more compact for travel and storage, and are easier to find replacement parts for (especially in S. America) Steel is the material of choice for a long distance bike because it can flex a little bit, absorbing much of the shock from bumps on the road. Also, it is easier to repair than any other frame material (aluminum, titanium, carbon).
Fork- Surly 1x1 Rigid fork. This steel fork accomodates wide tires, has a slight rake to make the wheelbase as long as possible, and can take either disc or rim brakes.
Headset- Cane Creek 110. 110 year warranty. Less heavy and expensive than the comparable Chris King product.
Brakes - Avid BB7 Mechanical Disc brakes. Disc brakes are more powerful than rim brakes. They don't rub against the rim (causing rim wear and eventual failure). They work better in wet weather, and in muddy conditions. The frameset we're using can take disc OR rim brakes, so if anything happens to go wrong with the disc brakes i could easily find and mount some rim brakes. Mechanical disc brakes have come a long way. They are much easier to maintain and repair than hydraulic disc brakes, and are almost as powerful.
Stem- Softride suspension stem. This product is from the early days of mountain bike suspension. It has a spring loaded paralellogram design that provides 2" of travel. Perfect for washboard fire roads or bumby blacktop over long distances. Easy to maintain and repair. Doesn't interfere with a front rack like a suspension fork, and not as heavy.
Handlebars-'Butterfly' type trekking bars. These curve around and offer multiple hand positions. Because of the way they're shaped, they work well with the (very long) Softride stem by bringing the bars closer to me.
Seatpost- Cane Creek Thudbuster suspension post. Most susp. seatposts are rubbish, but this one rocks. Paralellogram elastomer design providing 3" of travel. Enough to save my butt after a long day on washboard.
Saddle - Brooks B17 leather saddle. heavy, but worth the weight due to it's comfort. Gets better with mileage, as it conforms to your sit bones.
Bottom Bracket - Phil Wood Titanium square taper. We went with Phil Wood for quality and reliability. I'm hoping to not have to replace this during the trip. Square taper because it is more durable than the newer technology. And, new parts would be easier to find in Central/S. America for square tapered stuff than the newer integrated/external bottom brackets.
Cranks- FSA Dyna Drive Mountain Triple. This is a very affordable crankset. Since we are going to use Rohloff internally geared hubs on the bikes, my main interest in the crankset is in having good, stiff, reliable crankarms. We need to use mountain triples because that will enable a setup with a straight chainline, but with the rings removed and a single 38 tooth downhill ring on the outside. Essentially, we'll use the mtn triple to achieve a singlespeed setup at the correct front chainline position. My first choice for this component was the Shimano M460 with the Hollowtech cranks, but nobody has that in stock...


In talking with all the bike mechanics i know, and bicycle tourers, and researching the web, it's obvious that the wheels are the most important aspect of the bike. If my frame were to break, for some ungodly reason, i could probably find a new used cheapo frame and swap out all of my old components onto the new frame rather quickly. A hassle, but not that big of a deal. If the wheels failed, it could mean a long walk out of the wilderness, followed by a very long wait and search for new parts, and the space and tools to build a new wheel. This is what i most would like to avoid. Here's what i'm using for the wheels:

Front Hub-Phil Wood Disc. These hubs are known as the best for reliability&durability, and are rebuidable and field serviceable.
Rear Hub - Rohloff Speedhub 14 speed internally geared hub. This marvel of engineering has many advantages over the modern derailler setup, too many for me to describe here. For more info, check out the article on this product on the website for Thorn bikes.
Rims - Mavic XC717 Ceramic, Rim Brake. The rims we use have to be strong. If a rim breaks, that could be a major setback for the journey. These rims are the strongest i could find with the machined sidewalls for rim brake compatibility. They have eyelets to reinforce the spoke holes, and a ceramic coating on the sidewall to increase braking in adverse conditions. Not too heavy, either.
Spokes - Sapim CX-Ray bladed spokes. These spokes, used by most high end wheelbuilders and racers, both on and off road, are the strongest and lightest available. These shave about a full 1/2 lb. of rotational weight (where it most matters) off the bike. Cold-worked metal manufacturing creates this exceptionally strong product, which could save us endless hassles of truing, repairing, or replacing spokes and wheels. Had to be custom ordered in a short length to work with the Rohloff hub.

Tires- Schwalbe Marathon. We'll be using different types and widths of tires as road conditions change on the trip. These are known to be the most durable, puncture resistant, and best for touring. Have a reflective sidewall for nighttime visibility.
Chain- Wippermann 8 speed - recommended by Rohloff for touring applications.
Pedals- MKS MM Cube Quick Release Pedals. These have a QR mechanism that allows quick detachment, for ease of transport, storage, and also as a theft preventative measure (much harder to steal a bike if it has no seatpost, saddle, or pedals on it)
Rear Rack - Axiom Odyssey disc brake compatible. Lightweight tubular aluminum.
Front rack - Old Man Mountain Sherpa. Tubular aluminum. mounts using front QR skewer and brake bosses.(which is great because the Surly 1x1 fork doesn't have rack braze-ons)
Trailer- Burley Rover.  I'm taking my dog, lucy, on the first half of the trip. An animal requires a double wheeled trailer, so i chose the new Burley Rover. Then i stripped it down of unnecessary parts to lighten the load.

That's about it. If you have any questions or input, feel free to drop a line. As the journey progresses, i'll post any equipment complications that we encounter and will evaluate the equipment again post-trip...


1 comment:

Jodi said...

I think a picture of Lucy in her Burley Rover would make for a nice touch on this site. Especially since she's a dog who likes to ride!