GEAR REVIEW FOR AROUND THE WORLD CYCLING
Jeremiah Watt, an RTW adventure cyclist, says like almost everyone who tackles a long and epic adventure such as around the world by bicycle, will end with an opinion on gear and the needs for a cyclist as he travels. I am then no different than many who have come before me, except that my opinion on gear and camp life nessessities may differ. So, lets get started as Jeremiah lays out his thoughts, the pros and cons of gear, planning, blogging etc.
Informative blogs, as travellers I think its imperative that we read and follow as many as possible. They educate, inform and prepare a would be traveller as too what we may have for expectations with regard to such things as food, money/currency questions, routes, accessories. As far as Jeremiah is concerned, and his opinion, read as many as you can find, that deal with the adventure and route you intend to take.
Smart phones, I dont care who makes them, or what version that you may have……they just ain’t that smart when you are stuck in the middle of Mongolia and no signal……or even no GOOGLE mapping feature. I love mine, and dont want to be without it, but dont place your life in an online mapping service, have some basic paper road maps with you. And do not depend on the translation apps for anything other than single word translations. You could find that trying to translate an entire sentence may have you accidentaly placed in front of a fireing squad LOL. I carried a Samsung S4 phone.
Tablet or small laptop. I chose a 10″ Samsung Galaxy2 tablet and found it perfectly capable for my needs and my many images. Besides all that, I could charge my tablet thru my Shimano front dyno-hub. I found this to be particularily useful.
Cameras, my son carried two Go-pro units and we really liked the video and image quality that we got from the units. These items also returned home with my son when he flew back from Bucharest. Jeremiah, carried his Samsung S4 phone for panoramas, which is does beautiful with. And for digital cameras, he carried a Canon SX50 HS camera. I really like this type camera, its easy to use, plenty of range on the lense, and does not kill batteries quickly. All plusses when traveling. I had downloaded 2 different apps for handling the editing of images as I traveled. Jeremiah uses Pixlr Express for the bulk of the editing, really like this app. I also have Photoshop Touch on my tablet, this is a powerful app, make no mistake, but it is just so much slower than the Pixlr software. All totalled, I filled 3 of the class 10 x 64gig cards, and 2 class 10 cards of 32 gig capacity. Thats alot of images folks, and almost no video was shot on these cards. For storage, we added an external micro SD card of 128gig capacity.
Bike, that Jeremiah rode was a Surly Long Haul Trucker. This has proven to be a bullet-proof all steel frame with nary a failure nor weakness. I love, love, love this bike says Jeremiah.
Racks, I know that the cycling world loves Tubus brand racks and most likely for good reason. With that said, on our 2 bikes, we ran Surly Brand expedition racks both front and back. Put all bolts in with a drop of blue Loc-Tite. Never lost nor broke a bolt, no failures what-so-ever. One thing I really liked about the Surly racks was the racks had a good top base to support added bags and crap that we cyslists tend to carry, Tubus racks to not have this luxury.
Stove, my choice of stove was loved and hated. All due to fuel issues. I had an Esbit brand alchohol fuel stove, from Ukraine and on west it was not much problem finding fuel. It cleaned up well, cooked just fine, was light and efficient for us as we travelled. Once we arrived in USA, it was a piece of cake to travel and use this little stove. The real problem lay within Russia, Mongolia and China…..you will pull your hair out finding fuel in any of these countries and find yourself wishing for a different stove, as we did. Have to be honest here, that had we been using canister fuels, in some pllaces that also would have been a problem. We carried a multi-fuel stove for a while, but got tired of its leaks and everything smelling like fuel in short order along with the ports being plugged up and constant cleaning..maybe, there is no perfect stove?
Seats, at home I ride a Fizik seat and really like it. But on all day tours, I ride a Brooks-B17. This seat is not only comfortable but looks like a million dollars after its broke in. I think it takes close to 1000 miles to actually have the seat breakin and conform JMO.
Wheels/Rims, Jeremiah chose 26″ wheels after much discussion and advice on blogs. But in retrospect I would say that the 27″ are by far more available in those places such as morthern China, Mongolia and eastern Russia. There were actually several places where we could not find any 26″ wheels, but had choices of several 27″ wheels and tires. My rims, front and backwere Ryno-Lite double walled, with a 40 spoke count, 4 cross pattern x 12ga. spokes front. On the rear wheel I used the same rim brand, but 48 spoke count x 4 cross pattern. Back hub was a Phil Wood hub, fantastic hub. Front hub is a Shimano Dyno hub and it worked flawlessly the whole trip. ( NOTE, my son rode with me on the same bike setup, same wheels and same rims for 4 months. We set his bike up with a Son28 hub, and where always dissappointed. Very miserable wiring connections at the hub itself, always broke loose from brush and or vibration. I have too say, that we sent them 2 emails regarding problems we had been having with this hub, and never heard a word back from them) Would never place this hub ahead of my Shimano dyno hub.
Tyres/Tires, depending on where you grow up and how it is spelled. Make no mistake about it, if you choose anything other than a Schwalbe brand tire, you are asking for more trouble while touring. Schwalbe brand tires, in my case Marathon Plus version x 1.75 width they proved to be invincible. We met several other long distance tourers and most ran the same tire as what we placed on our bikes. For our choice in tubes, we just ran condoms with a valve stem. The lightest tubes around. We added tire liners inside the Schwalbe tires.
Patch kits, this may sound rather harsh, but you cant take chances on being in the middle of no-where and need a patch kit. So, chose Rema Tip-Top Touring patch kits. You can be assured that the glue is fresh, and patches stick. I equipped my sons bike with Patch kits from Parks Brothers and NONE of the glue was useable PERIOD, bought at 2 different stores and several months apart.
Frame pump, floor pump????. Jeremiah admits that he must be the only idiot who cannot depend on blowing up a tire to full pressure, or without wrecking the valve stem during the process when using the ultra-lite frame style pumps. With that confession made, Jeremiah has never been left sitting on the side of the road cussing at the broken stem on his last danged inner tube iether…..because I always carry a full floor pump. Yes, they are heavier and bulky for sure. When I left, I had a Lenzyne Traveller floor pump……a gorgeous unit and not at all heavy, a perfect full sized travel floor pump. But the constant bump and jar of Chinese and Mongolian roads completely messed the pump up, beyond use. To Lenzyne’s credit, I sent them an email telling them of the state of the pump and they replaced it with a very apologetic letter. The only problem was that the replacement was sent to my home in california, a matter that I dont hold against them, I like the fact they stood behind the product. We replaced this pump with a $1.29 cent floor pump at the black market in Bayan Olgii, Mongolia……it worked flawlessly and was super light. Had this pump till it was taken away from me in Portugal at the Airport when flying home.
Solar charging system. As stated, we had Dyno hubs on both bikes to charge such things as our phones and tablet as we rode. In addition to this charging method, we had a Goal Zero Sherpa battery pack unit along with the Goal Zero 20 panel array. However, this proved to be lacking for rugged use, no matter how we tried to take the harshness and rigors of travel out of the equation. By mid way thru Mongolia, both the panel and the battery units failed completely and were sent home. To the Company’s credit, they fully replaced both units and were very apologetic about it all, but again, the replacements were sent to my house in California.
Tents. For my expedition I chose the REI Quarter Dome tent, which is an ample 2 man tent with a gear shed on both sides, allowing 2 loaded tourers to keep everything out of the rain except for the bikes themselves. My son and I done this on several occassions in blowing sand as well as heavy rain. I really like this tent says Jeremiah, it has a larger floor plan than most 2 man tents, good sized gear sheds leave room for gear or cooking under during pouring rain. The tent proved to be strong and durable for my use. In my opinion, the only fault found with this tent, is its poor wind resistance ability during wind events, in this scenario, it is very poor, and the camper MUST find refuge for the tent or suffer the consequences. Even a little wind will flatten this tent.
Convertors, whether E-Werks brand which is fully adjustable to any/everybattery……or a very simple Sinewave version for half the price or less. We had both and tested both. I will take the consistant simplicity of the Sinewave version hands down says Jeremiah. The other version, while technically a more intuitive and thought out convertor, it proved over and over again to be farless able to place as much charge in any battery as did my Sinewave convertor. Besides that, the user has do pull batteries, do some calculations, turn three times to the left followed by one turn to the right while at the same time sticking his tongue out and you come up with an Amp and Joule setting, of which you need to make both settings correctly……..yes, correct, it comes with 3 feet of chord on it for good reason, that way you can throw it further out into the ditch and never feel like you should go looking for it. Stick with the Sinewave unit and wear a smile.
Sleeping mats, Jeremiah uses a 30″width Luxury Traveller by Thermo-rest and loved it. Not a single issue except that they begin to stink after a while on a long journey. So, I began a habit of giving it a serious scrubbing every couple months, and this helped alot. No holes, no patches, no leaky valves haunted me as I travelled.
Panniers, it goes without saying that the top of the line bags/panniers are those made by Ortlieb. They are not cheap, because they are well made and function everyday in the harshest conditions, dont try to scrimp and save on bags. Just call Wayne at the Tour Store an online provider of Orlieb brand product and you will be set for years.
Sleeping bags, now I had a Moutain Hardware bag, a mummy style, zipper sided and rated to minus 15. The bag proved capable in the temps that I camped in during this trip, and so for that I am happy. BUT, the bag design has one serious flaw that will cause a Pastor to cuss, and a sailor to blush when he hears it. The problem, is the stinkin zipper flap which stops wind blowing thru the zipper when zipped up. The fabric tape used is too short in length for one thing, and also way to flimsy. So as a result, the damn zipper is ALWAYS STUCK. Middle of the night, pitch black, this will really test your patience. By Romania, some 4 months into the trip, Jeremiah had had enough of this hassle. I took out my tiny scizzors, and just hacked the damned little protective flaps off of both sides of the zipper. While not a complete cure, it did help in the bags performance for the rest of the trip.
RTW advice, dont over plan the trip. By doing so, it leaves no room for God to work and reveal himself. Dont over pack clothes, keep it very basic with layers, you can always buy an extra piece of warmer clothing as you go. I for instance rode in 1 pair of Pearl Izumi bib shorts for the entire trip, I think the Pearl brand is the most rugged brand of cycling clothing on the market today. I also think its designed to fit Americans, we tend to be a little larger and carry more wieght than most Europeans or asians for instance.