Choose adventure, get excited, shop for kit. Amazing.
I read a blog a while ago about someone who did a world tour on a bike they found in a skip and got expedition-ready for free, which is fantastic. We’ve gone a different route, involving repeated trips to the lovely and brilliant Strada Cycles as well as expertise from old (really old) friend John Russell who’s in charge of this amazing thing. It’s taken a fair amount of wedge to get bikes together which are, we hope, about as proofed against their task as they can be. Details below on what we’re riding.
Wanting to be self-sufficient in terms of camping, cooking, and sleeping has been a little easier as we owned most things already, though that has not stopped us upgrading this and that. Any fool can be uncomfortable in the jungle, as they say. In all honestly, sorting the bike set up and kit choices have taken up far more time and brain-space than all the other aspects of our trip combined. I have genuinely thought more deeply about handlebar type than I have about learning Spanish, hombre.
Standby for some geekery; below is an extensive list and description of the stuff we’re taking. It’s a best guess really, and as our buddy Marcus wisely pointed out, “the kit you leave with won’t be the kit you come back with”.
The inspiration for our blog name, we are the proud owners of two Surly Trolls. Not the 2017 green version, but jet-black stealth destroyers. Or perhaps stealth tractors would be more accurate. Surly and the Troll were recommended by our chums at Strada Cycles for being indestructable, plus the frame (steel, mountain bike geometry, drilled for any attachment you can think of) will run any size wheel, any hub, any gearing. Fully adaptable in case of problem in lands far, far away. I found an un-used second hand frame, we bought one new for Zoe. So now we are matching. These bikes are heavy and comfortable and will be our home.
For running gear, blimey did we um and arr about what to do. Braking system, type of hub, dynamo or not, rims – everything had pros and cons, every piece of kit had supporters and detractors. In the end I feel we have kept things simple, with the plan being to enable easier replacement, rather than top-spec kit designed to withstand everything. So no hub gears, no dynamo. Rim brakes, shimano deore kit for the most part, and dura-ace thumb-shifters. If you know what these are you’ll be either nodding or tutting. If you don’t, you will have stopped reading a while back. Basically we’re happy that we understand how most bits of our bikes work – with the exception of hubs. I still have never serviced a hub, though ours are serviceable, so that’s a youtube task coming up. Actually thinking about it I don’t really know how to tension spokes either. I’ll work it out when it’s required…
Surly troll, V1. Have changed the bars since then…and loaded it up…and added mudguards…
BIKE LUGGAGE AND WOTNOT
Ortlieb classic panniers for no particular reason and which we use every day already. Racks are tubus, I have a front rack with set of carradice low-riders, and Zoe has some nifty Anything cages from Salsa to which we can strap various things. I found a company called Lomo who make waterproof bags considerably cheaper than other brands, so we have a fetching yellow roll-top bag aswell, which sits on the rear rack/panniers and normally holds the tent and any food we’re carrying. An ageing altura handlebar bag, and we’re off.
CAMPING AND SLEEPING
We love a camp and a microadventure (sleeping in a ditch for no reason, generally on a Tuesday) so felt pretty confident with our existing kit and topping up with one or two bits. We have an MSR Hubba Hubba tent with posh middle class gear shed extension (oooo) which has already seen service in the harsh wasteland that is summer time in France and Spain, amongst other places. Sleeping set-up…exped synmats with their amazing inflating dry bag thing, some thermarest squashable pillows (in a washable pillowcase) with sea-to-summit thermal liners, and, the utterly amazing and not cheap Enlightened Equipment down quilt. All of the sleeping stuff was on the basis of recommendation from friends and we felt would be money well spent. We’re now ready for everything. Probably.
COOKING AND CLEANING
I’ve had an MSR Whisperlite stove for a couple of years, it seems to be the industry standard as it’s simple, light and can, with a little jiggery pokery, burn any known liquid fuel as well as gas. Useable anywhere in the world, that’s the theory. Except in France, I discovered, as they have pesky automated 5-litre-minimum-delivery petrol pumps. But they also have croissants so cooking is less necessary. Titanium cookware, stuff we had already, from Alpkit and Snowpeak. The main excitement around cooking was Zoe’s design and creation of our own home-made pot-cozies:
Insulation material from B&Q and some duct tape, and bingo, food will keep cooking off the stove, saving us fuel and keeping everything warm. Another epic suggestion from Team McGumford!
What else….only the highly desirable LVIS Spork, of course. Beetle shown for scale.
Getting clean is not always possible and can be over-rated, but after a day of pedalling around it is a really nice feeling to get at least a little less greasy. Wetwipes are ok but I think they generally smell weird, also you have to buy and carry them and they create rubbish. So, as a possible – as yet un-tested – solution given our aversion to jumping into cold rivers, I give you this, the camping shower. I think it’ll be mint, as long as the air temperature is ok. And the sun is shining. And we stop 4 hours before dark. Hmmmm…
Two main things on clothes. One – what footwear? Two, merino this and merino that. We’ve got standard road cycling gear coming out of our ears, but touring needs are a little different. For shoes, I’ve gone for touring sandals from shimano which I haven’t yet properly used but they seem comfy enough so far. Zoe’s still in research mode on shoes as of November 2017. After that, we’re hovering between cycling gear and more casual stuff, bibs or non-bib shorts and zip-off trousers. With two months to go, our guess is we’ll still be faffing with clothes until the day we go.
We will be merino-ed up the eyeballs. I’ll also have a long-sleeve cycling top, Gore waterproof jacket and some trousers, and (for every occasion) a Montane prism jacket which is warm, washable, wind-proof and shower proof. May or may not take a gilet. Might end up with three pairs of gloves (mits, long finger liners, long finger warm), a couple of buffs, and a battered casquette.
Right, that’s enough of that… I’m off to look at more STUFF. Bye 🙂