There is a category of bicycles that looks familiar to road bikes but are in a class of their own and that my friend is the Touring Bicycle. Only problem for me is they are too expensive, even the cheap ones. In my research for my next adventure I thought I would splash the cash and buy a bottom of the range touring bike, only thing is I did too much research. I discovered when you take all the individual components and price them up I can build a touring bike cheaper.
I came to the conclusion that when my bicycle breaks and it will, I’ll be able to repair it myself. I also came to the conclusion that if my bike got stolen, I could build another one. So decision made I am not going to buy a touring bicycle I’m going to build my own. Well not quite, I had a little luck whilst working in Lanzarote, I decided to buy an inexpensive bike to train on and to get around the island whilst I was here, with the intention of selling it before I left. Only thing is I paid €229 for it and a week later, when I was back in the shop I bought it from I noticed it was for sale at €449. What had happened there? The shop assistant kindly informed me that they had only arrived a week ago and had been priced wrong, so I have a €449 bicycle for €229 so now I’m going to cycle around the world on a slightly modified Berg Trailrock mountain bike.
A touring bike has to be robust and be able to take the weight of all my luggage so I’m opting for 4 Ortlieb Classic roller Panniers in black to spread the load and help stabilise the steering. I will have to purchase a front suspension disc brake luggage rack but have found that Axiom sells one. The advantage of a mountain bike is that I will have a good ratio of gears to get up steep hills. I already have 34 spokes per wheel to spread the load and fatter tyres, which although slower will help with any rough surfaces I encounter. I bought a comfier seat recently due to the original seat being damaged in an accident I had. The frame is aluminium which is strong and light and most likely the only difference between a quality touring bike, as they are usually steel. So I have the basis of cheap bike which should get me at least part way across the planet.
My last journey across Europe was on an old steel mountain bike which had cost me £45, it was a little big but I made it comfy and managed 1000 miles on it before I broke it in Sarrebourg. Thinking about it now I could have easily repaired it and carried on but I was itching to buy a new one. So the excuse of a broken back wheel, worn headset bearings, a bent chains set and gears which needed indexing. Led me to Decathlon to buy a crap bike, new panniers a rucksack and a new water bottle for €200. What was I thinking, obviously I wasn’t, hindsight is a very good thing.
The plan for my Berg Trailrock is, once I have it safely back in the UK, clean it, rebuild it and then add pannier racks. I already have a Blackburn rear rack which just needs the fittings, I will order the Axiom suspension disc brake front rack and a longer wheel release bolt as the supplied one is apparently too short. I need a rear mudguard, not because of the weather but I’m going to mount 2 encased power packs under the rear rack and need to keep them as dry as possible. I will run a usb cable along the frame to the handlebars, this will give me power for my LG G3 mobile phone. The LG G3 will be used to track my progress, navigate and provide music on the go. I will still be using paper maps and a Compass to navigate but based on the last journey I need a backup plan as I kept getting lost.
Apart from the Ortlieb Classic Roller panniers everything else will be Alpkit, some pieces of gear are a luxury items, well most gear is luxury anyway but I want to be warm and we’ll fed. I will have an Alpkit Airlok Extra 13ltr bag mounted to the handlebars, this will contain my Alpkit Pipe Dream sleeping bag, Alpkit Hunka XL Bivi and possible my raincoat. I’ll put 2 Alpkit Stem cell bags on my handlebars one with my Alpkit Brewkit in and the other a water bottle. I’ve seen that it should be possible to put my 2 spare inner tubes in the bottom of the Alpkit Stem Cell bags before I put the Brewkit and bottle in. Moving further back I’ll have an Alpkit Fuel Pod, this will hold my snacks, phone and possibly a small first aid kit. I have opted on an Alpkit Possum frame bag, this will hold all my tools, patch kit, latex gloves, wet wipes and a few empty plastic bags.
I’m hoping to be able to fold my tent up and get it in one of my panniers, although I’ll have to attach the tent poles to my bike frame, Tent pegs will have to go in the Alpkit Possum. I already have a basha (silnylon tarp) which I’ll use to create a porch on the tent or a rain cover when sleeping without the tent. I’m still unsure about the hammock, I’m pretty sure I’ll buy one as it’ll get me off rough or wet ground in a lot of stealth camping situations, after all if I stealth camp for just one night that would have covered the cost of the hammock. Also a hammock will give me an advantage because who will be walking into a boggy wood at night, I’ll be able to relax and sleep in out of reach places. Hammock and basha will be tucked in the top of a pannier.
One rear pannier will carry my Alpkit Aro 120 3/4 inflatable sleeping mat, a pillow, my flip-flops and a plastic tarp from a pound shop. Don’t laugh at the pillow you’ll be amazed at how much better a nights sleep is with one, flip-flops are for dodgy shower blocks and going to the loo in the middle of the night in boggy woodland. This also explains the plastic garden trowel, plastic bags and wet wipes but this blog post isn’t going to be about s***ing in the woods.
Next rear pannier will be maps and clothes, I’m going for a general rule of 3 when it comes to clothes. 2 Marino lambswool base layers, 2 t-shirt, 1 shirt, 2 pairs zip off trousers / shorts, hoody for cold nights, windproof jacket, rain jacket and a buff. I already have a poncho so that’ll go in followed by socks and underwear. I was going to get an Eagle Creek Packing cube but I have a bag which is similar, I currently used it for my scuba regulator. I’ll separate the clothes with cheap net bags from the pound shop and compression sacks. On top of that lot will be my shaving kit and a pack towel.
Front panniers will be for my kitchen and food, which as yet is undecided. I know I’ll grab the Gelert 2 person pot set as last time these were perfect when cooking for 1, the stove will be from Alpkit and then a wind breaker, although I can make one out of cardboard and tinfoil. I will carry 3 days worth of food and water and only extend this when crossing desserts or if there is a scenic route which avoids cities. Any available space left will be for water but I can always strap this to the top of my rear rack with bungee cords.
So with only 23 weeks and 4 days to go my bike and gear is finally sorted. Feel free to comment on the above and add your top gear tips.