The starting point.
It will be my house on two wheels for about 8 months, so I should prepare it for the road ahead.
My current bike, and at the same time the bike I’m going to use for the trip is a Maxcycles Townlite, probably from 2009. I bought it used 2 years ago before the trip to Mont Blanc, and when I bought it I thought that it’s going to be my next city and touring bike for the next 10 years. This though helped justify the otherwise high price tag (even for an used bike).
It’s my forth bike in 20 years, the first one beeing a Pegas (the comunist ideea of a city bike), the second a Neuzer Matrix, which saw quite a bit if use Bucharest and in the mountains from Romania, and the third was a Kona Fire Mountain which was a bit too big for me. And then came the Maxcycles, which I’ve used for the past 15000 kilometers.
When I think about it all my bikes up until now were second hand bikes, and all are still working and they are used by friends. The Kona Fire Mountain even was used by to friends which learned riding a bike on it. Either way, the purpose of a bike is to be used and to gather as many kilometers as possible, and this I’m really glad that they are still working and that they are fulfilling their scope.
But now getting back to Maxcycles Townlite, the bike itself is an odd build. On one hand it has parts which have endurance bike touring written over them (like the Rohloff, or the SON dynamy, or the Magura HS33 brakes, or the frame), while on the other hand another set of parts was chosen in order to save some weight (for example the carbon fork, some titanium components, the back rack, or the wheels).
The result is a bike which designed for city use and for light touring, and I think it’s more than enough Europe. On the other hand if you think of rougher roads, some things are to be desired. In the past two years I’ve used it for touring in Europe, and we ended up really often on paths which were perhaps better suited for a MTB, and thus I discovered that it can handle quite some rough terrain. You can’t cruise down a rough single train with 40 kilometers per hour, but I’m pretty sour that with loaded panniers I wouldn’t do that.
The heart of the bike is the frame though, and I really enjoy it and the size fits me really well, so I’m not going to change it, even though it’s made from Aluminium. The second heart is the Rohloff hub which without any maintenance just keeps going, and going, and going…. You get the idea, and there are hubs there which reached 100.000 kilometers and which are still going strong.
Probably the most important part after the frame, I really think it’s worth investing a bit more in a durable wheel, otherwise you can end up with a lot of problems which aren’t that easy to solve. The rims on my bike are a set of lightweight Alexrims AT400, not exactly suited for heavy duty touring. The one on the back wheel already has cracks on the side and has to be changed, and in the process I’m also going to change the front one.
In order to build a new wheel you need 3 things, a good rim, a good set of spokes, and a good wheel builder. And thus after some research and after some asking around I ended up with the following options:
- Mavic A719 – relatively light and with good reviews, medium price
- Rigida Sputnik / Rigida Andra – the cheapest ones, but also the heaviest. The Andra was designed with Rohloff in mind, but at 815gr it’s necessarily light.
- DT Swiss TK 540 – the lightest and the priciest of the 3, weighing in at 545 grams and it can handle up to 130 kilos. On the other hand the price is also double.
And regarding the good wheel build I’m probably going to do it in Berlin, as there are some bike shops which are well known in Germany for the wheels they build. I’ll also have to exchange the Rohloff sprocket with the largest one, and I lack the tool for that.
Choosing the tires is a bit easier (I’m on my second set of Schwalbe Marathon tires), and even though the price seems high just as the Rohloff they keep going, and going, and going. And as the Mondial replaced the last star, and as it has some pretty good reviews, the decision is simple. The only thing is that I’m somewhat limited by the frame, and I’m probably going to get the 42, with some small chances for the 47. A wider tire would translate in better off-road performance, but the 42 might be enough.
The front fork.
I’m not going to leave on such a journey with a carbon fork, so I’m going to have to replace it with a basic steel fork with holes for the front rack. At the same time the offer out there isn’t that great, and I can’t really think what would make a good steel fork, so I’m probably going to go with the Maxcycles stock fork.
Also here the things are pretty simple. I already have a Tubus Airy which is really light at 233gr but which doesn’t have the best durability out there. I can already see where marks in place which had contact with the panniers. And this I’m going to replace it with a Logo on the back and I’m also going to get a Tara for the front wheel. Once again they are guaranteed for 30 years, and if failure occurs (which I doubt), they can be easily fixed.
Once again the things are simple, I already have a set of backroller classic which is ore than enough for Europe, but this time I will back some additional things and I will get the frontroller classic to match them, and this should provide enough space.
Probably one of the main advantages of a Rohloff hub is that you can “seal” the transmission with a Chainglider, which limits the amount of dust which reaches the chain and which keeps the oil on the chain in rainy weather, thus reducing the maintenance needed. It may be a bit loud, but I would chose the noise over reduced durability each time.
Currently the handlebar is a light titanium model, and it’s probably going to be left at home this time. I will have to chose between a classic aluminium handlebar with Ergon grips, or the low cost is to reuse a butterfly handlebar which I already have at home. I would have to test it though in order to see if it’s ok.
Selle SMP TRK. I think that the designer thought of my behind when they designed this saddle. I already used for 3 years, I’m extremely content with it and I can’t imagine another a better saddle. The only issue is that the artificial leather started to crack, and I need to exchange it for a new one.
It might seam like a lot of changes, but the heart (or the hearts) of the bike remain the same, and if when I look at the list I only see things which I would need. If they would be absolutely needed though is another question, and there are a lot if people riding around the world with cheap bikes. In the end the desire to start the journey is probably more important than the bike with which you start it.