And it all fits nicely in panniers
Touring kit basics, the bulky more expensive items are covered.
Balanced pack weight distribution
Packing for any type of trip or vacation requires some varying degree of consideration and planning which mostly depends on travel methods and scheduling. Fortunately when packing for a multi day bike tour when the bike is the primary or single mode of transportation there are a certain number of considerations which can be cast aside. Other than having some idea as to where I want to ride considerable effort goes toward getting the bike packed properly. Click on linked content in bold for more information.
By properly I mean packing the bike to handle nicely under all riding conditions. For example, my front axiom cartier panniers
have a locking mechanism for mounting to the Minoura front rack
as the handles cannot be attached together over the rack as is the case with the rear rack
. I pack the lighter, bulkier stuff in the Trek rear panniers
which due to their shape happen to fit tent poles very nicely when packed vertically. Heavier, more organized items such as camp stove kit, clothing, food are packed in front panniers. As more body weight is applied over the rear wheel this technique of packing has proved to be an excellent method of weight distribution contributing to the bike's riding and handling characteristics.
One or two person cook kit
Another boon is when picking up the bike for example when portage is necessary the front and rear of my loaded touring bike is balanced.
After much tinkering and experimenting with different packing methods and equipment choices over the years, this is my current go to kit list for a multi day, multi season bike tour. Rather than review every single item, which has been covered in another post (link at end of this post) instead I'm covering the basics with my selection of gear of the more bulky and often times more expensive items that make up a good bike touring kit. Tent and Stuff Sack
: Alps Mountaineering Lynx 1 person tent
weighs a bit over three pounds, so I swapped out the tent pegs that came with the tent with my MSR groundhog mini tent stakes
providing a lighter tent set with better quality. By packing this tent and rain fly into the Outdoor Research five liter Lightweight Dry Sack
I'm able to easily fit the tent into one of the rear Trek Panniers
with poles simply placed vertically into the pannier with the packed tent. This is the most affordable solo bike touring tent kit I could find without sacrificing quality or comfort. Sleeping Bag, Pad, Pillow and Compression Bag
: On the topic of comfort is usually where it seems that a compromise is made in losing valuable room for packing or where the extra weight gets cumbersome. It's a bit of a conundrum for folks putting together a quality affordable kit for bike touring so here is how I have handled that issue with success. Having a sleeping bag that is comfy for a wide range of temperatures and that can handle getting a bit damp without loss of warmth is the North Face Furnace Down Twenty Degree F Sleeping Bag
. It packs down very small into a Small Sized Sea to Summit eVent Compression Dry Sack
with room for a Thermarest Compression Pillow
. I have found this to be a very comfortable solution for laying on during warm nights or tucked in with a warm beanie in below freezing temperatures. Last but not least my favorite sleeping pad is the Thermarest Trail Scout Sleeping Pad
in the regular size. I have a few Thermarest mattresses now and this one packs down the smallest by far as it is the only pad which is designed to be folded in half length wise and then rolled up to a very small lightweight pack friendly size. It packs so small in fact that I can stuff down to the bottom of my Trek Pannier with enough room for the previously described sleeping packed on top.
Affordable quality waterproof handlebar bag
Some bike touring folks simply refuse to pack a cooking kit or stove as part of their kit due to weight, bulk or simply don't want to hassle with it. When I'm with Lisa I enjoy making coffee for us and when solo camping I like having some oatmeal and tea. For this reason I set out to find us a versatile, convertible kit for both my solo rides and when I plan on camping with Lisa.
First I found the Stanley Adventure Camp Cook Set
which holds twenty four ounces and is perfect for making coffee or tea for two people and includes two insulated BPA free plastic cups. We have used an alocs alcohol stove kit
which can also be used with esbit or other fuel cubes. Next I added the GSI Outdoors Glacier Bottle Cup Pot
which is shorter and wider than the Stanley Pot, holds up to eighteen ounces and the best features are that the lid from the Stanley Pot fits perfectly on the GSI Cup as if it were made for it and the Stanley Pot fits into the GSI Pot for packing. With the two stackable pots slipped into the alocs stove kit bag we have a very nice, efficient kit. Note that the alocs stove will burn forty approximately forty five minutes but with the adjustable snuffer this can be extended depending on cooking needs. Fuel source is usually if not always a bottle of Heet fuel conditioner which is easy to find at many stores and gas stations and is very inexpensive. I might add that both the Stanley and GSI are made of quality stainless steel, both have folding handles for cooking with and as previously mentioned share the same size lid. Miscellaneous items such as fuel cubes, matches, spork or cleaning cloth can be tucked into either one of the pots when used together with the alocs stove or when using just the GSI cup and stove. Another important piece of my kit is a Contigo Auto Seal Travel Mug
, it fits snugly into a frame mounted water bottle holder (shown in background of above photo) holds sixteen ounces of hot or cold liquids and is leak and spill proof. I have turned it upside down and not a single drop spilled out. It keeps liquid hot for up to five hours and is excellent for winter or summer. I also use it to mix up a batch of nutritional supplement green powder drink by simply adding water and shaking the container. It's an excellent insulated container that has proven to be very useful for a variety of needs.
Alps Lynx 1 Tent in Dry Bag
I have looked long and hard to find a handlebar bag that was not only waterproof but would fit the items for my photography equipment in a way that was practical and versatile enough to use on my different types of bikes. This includes different handlebars from drop bars to mountain bike trekking bars as well as the flat bar of my little folding Dahon bike. This meant foregoing any handlebar bag that required mounting a quick release bracket. This handlebar bag is not only very inexpensive but very well made and includes a clear map pocket under the lid. Click on photo for information or to purchase, you can't beat the price for what you get. It's also very easy to take on and off the bike for walking around with and have found it easy to get the bag very secure with the underside buckle cinch straps with velcro.
Other items including clothes are packed in Outdoor Products Ultimate Dry Sacks
that are sold in a set of three different sizes. I pack my clothes in a medium or large sack depending on whether I need warmer bulkier clothing for cold weather and smaller items for personal hygiene in the small sack. I like the large high viz yellow at times for mounting on top of the rear rack for visibility. Refer to upper left photo of assorted pack kit items.
I've limited comments regarding clothing as personal style and other whimsical considerations are too diverse to garner much attention. However, that having been said there are a few items of clothing gear for bike touring worth mentioning. I have been riding with Pearl Izumi Journey Shorts
for several years and they are simply perfect padded shorts for bike touring. Casual comfort, excellent design with practical pockets and very durable I can't say enough about how excellent they are. Regarding rain gear I have found the Bell Storm Front Jacket
and Tenn Waterproof Trousers
to be all I need for any wet weather conditions. Both are as waterproof and breathable as they are pack friendly. Excellent rain gear for bike touring.
How does all this stuff look when it's packed onto the bike?
Pale Spruce's depiction of bike for bike packing
A typical standard road touring bike
Touring Bike and Bike Packing
While skimming through some favorite photos on Instagram the other day I observed a bit of a spat between two of the bike touring feeds I follow. While the bike packing fat bike off road touring rider claimed one of the reasons he preferred bike packing to typical touring bikes was so he could portage his bike and venture off road where a touring bike would give a person a headache. As soon as I read that I knew the poster would receive a response and sure enough a more road oriented bike tourist replied with how much more efficient and freedom to wander the roads and highways was preferable. Their exchange ended with the closing remark "to each their own". Sure, to each their own there's different bikes for different terrain.
Bike packing has become a very popular method of transporting gear and equipment over particularly rough terrain. Most commonly applied to steel frame fat tire bikes which are so stoutly built somebody just figured who needs a rack on that type of bike just strap stuff on it and ride,well kind of.
It's one of those silly truisms one finds often in the bike industry and folks have been forking over dollars (pun) on some stellar quality handlebar harness style bags that can carry impressive amounts of stuff. Preferred fork mounting holes are for large capacity water bottle containers rather than rack or fender braze ons as frame bags are used instead of panniers. Point being there really is no point in comparing these two widely different styles of touring. I would no more want to ride a fat bike along fifty miles of rolling hills highway than take a road touring bike boulder hopping. At Yeti Rides
, Peter Nylund provides a description of bikes designed for bike packing and accessories. Also, check out Bike Touring News
' run down of Revelate bike packing accessories.
Considering how versatile touring bikes can be by evidenced of how well my bike performs on gravel roads depending on the tires of course and the fact that I can stuff some pretty wide tires on without removing the fenders I decided to get a front rack that could be used as much for bike packing as touring. After finding my old Delta Mega Loader front rack had become bent I installed a Blackburn MTF-1
with a top deck on it. Photo at left shows the bike with that rack. It worked to provide more clearance for m front panniers on trails with rocks, brush or when riding through tall grass. After deciding I didn't like how the bike handled I installed a Minoura FRP 3000
low rider style front rack and wow what a difference. I love how it handles and is perhaps the main reason I haven't been looking to follow the bike packing bag option.
Another significant difference is I like having everything packed in the panniers with little or nothing strapped on to the outside of my bike other than a small handle bar bag. This is just a personal preference and when I compare photos of this same bike with the Blackburn rack with the one at the top of this posting with Minoura rack it's obvious why the bike feels so much nicer to ride when packed for road touring. That having been said I also preferred to install a low rider front rack on my off road touring bike. Photo below is of my version of an off road touring bike for bike packing, which I tend to pack lighter than my road touring bike. There are plenty of bike packing options provided with the Minoura MT-4000SF front rack
though a bit on the heavy side I have found the versatility of the rack quite handy as a cargo bike for commuting. However, due to the ease of removing the front rack when not in use I may convert it to a bike for bike packing when I get around to another Colorado visit. I will be sure to update this post with pics but until that day, enjoy your riding style whatever that may be.
Links related to this topicTouring Bike Voted Best for CommutingBuilding a Half Fat Trekking BikePack Kit List for Multi Day Touring
Low rider style steel front rack and top deck carrier of the Minoura MT-4000SF. A bike suited to touring and trails.
Stormy Kromer Hat and Bellwether Jacket
Bike commuting can be fun even on dark or dreary rainy days.
Finding quality equipment to meet your wet weather bike commuting needs is actually very affordable. Here is a list of some excellent products currently available to help keep you and your stuff dry for those rainy day bike commutes.
Some links to previous years posts are provided below regarding this topic of wet weather riding gear. As most of my equipment has lasted for several years whenever I find some new product or information to share I am always pleased to know that the gear will last for years to come. A good example is the Stormy Kromer Waxed Cotton Cap
which is a fun yet practical design for riding in the rain or while bike camping in wet weather.
After last year's cold, wet winter commutes wearing water proof pants specifically designed for riding a bike from Tenn Cycling Gear
not only kept me dry but provided practical function for use as wet weather work pants. Over the years most if not all waterproof products slowly begin to lose their water repellent features so knowing how to care for the materials to get the best and longest lasting performance from your investment is important. A simple, cost effective product from Atsko is their Sport Wash
. I have been using the product to not only wash or restore older well used water proof fabrics but is also excellent for washing and restoring the insulation qualities of down sleeping bags. However, even while properly cared for after ten years or so I have noticed some of my water proof bike commuting and touring outer wear simply needed to be replaced as was the case with a pair of old Columbia Omni Tech pants which I enjoyed wearing while commuting during the very wet months in Portland, Oregon.
Bellwether Stormfront Jacket is waterproof
Bellwether Storm Front Jacket with rear protective rain flap.
So, after successfully finding new rain pants last year, this year I needed a new water proof bike commuting jacket. I was looking for a jacket I could use for bike camping and touring as well as commuting so I wanted a jacket that would pack easy, keep me dry and could be used for cold weather layering
. Bellwether has been providing excellent products for many years with good reviews as well as having heard good things about their outer wear over the years. Expecting to have to pa upwards of over a hundred bucks I was relieved to find the Bellwether Storm Front Jacket
for less than fifty! Yes, wow! and it is very waterproof indeed. With adjustable velcro wrist closure, zippered mesh vents and reflective material for night time commuting this was a score for bike touring as well due to very small packed down size.
Axiom Monsoon LX Panniers for bike commuting
A couple of other nice features worth mentioning are the rear waterproof zippered pocket that provides plenty of space for any size cell phone or other items a bike commuter might want to keep handy and dry.
Another feature I have found to be particularly useful when commuting on a mountain bike is the ability to drop the rear of the jacket down to cover my butt. For folks who enjoy wet weather trail rides or those who commute without a rear fender or rack this is a particularly useful option unique to the Bell Storm Front Jacket
. Made from Bellwether's patented Aqua No material provides an excellent water proof barrier that provides adequate ventilation with full front zipper as well as the zippered side vents previously mentioned. Interior of collar has a soft fleece lining to prevent chafing and an adjustable draw string chord can be cinched around the waist. This is an excellent quality rain jacket well thought out for bike commuting at an exceptional price. Click on photos or links provided for information or to purchase.
Have a laptop, extra clothes or a brown bag lunch you don't want to get soggy on your commute? Then get a set of waterproof panniers. Axiom Monsoon LX Panniers
provide the perfect size and waterproof features for bike commuting.
These panniers have been offered at very reasonable prices though expect to pay a bit more for the high viz yellow. Either way these excellent quality panniers can usually be had for less than a hundred bucks and are easy to get on and off the bike. Features include:
- Waterproof, welded tarpaulin and 600D polyester construction
- Tiedown adjustable hook and bungee system for quick and secure bag attachment
- Dry bag style roll-down closure keeps gear dry
- 4 way 3M Reflex reflective Axiom logos
Whenever purchasing panniers online always contact the seller to confirm that they are providing a set of panniers and not selling just one. It's a very common complaint and the only negative review regarding these panniers. I contacted the seller prior to placing an order and they confirmed their price was for a set of two panniers. Waterproof Pannier Rain Covers
For folks who already have a good set of panniers that just need some extra protection against the elements a good pannier rain cover might provide all the water proofing needed.
My favorite so far are the Tenn Tempest Waterproof Hi-Viz Bag Cover
shown in photo at left and are described thoroughly in a previous post
. Made of a thicker, more durable polyester material rather than nylon, coated nylon or nylon tafeta may be why these rain covers work so well.
Excellent for bike commuting as they provide high visibility for traffic areas as well as very bright reflective trim for night or low light riding.Another useful method for keeping your bike commuting items safe and dry are by using waterproof stuff sacks in a variety of sizes which also helps to organize your gear for packing panniers. These are excellent for use when bike touring or commuting and provide another affordable alternative to waterproof panniers or pannier rain covers. A set of three stuff sacks of four, six and eight liter capacities are available from Outdoor Products. I was able to fit our REI Quarter Dome 2 Tent into the eight liter sack with no problem. These are excellent quality for the price and can be used for all sorts of types of travel. .
Have a safe and enjoyable rainy day commute by adding any or all of the items listed here to your bike commuting kit. Use any of the links provided in bold or click on photos for information or to purchase.
Links related to this topic:Winter Bike Commuting GearWho Makes a Good Pannier Rain Cover?
Camelbak Multipurpose Rain CoverWaterproof Bike Commuter PantsBike Commuting in Wet Weather from Portland, OregonDry Stuff Sacks for Panniers
Chukker rim requires longer presta valve stem.
Deep V rims of the Velocity Chukker for bike touring
After a recent post regarding wheels for bike touring and commuting
I decided to get a set of Velocity Chukkers
. Just received these wheels today, several days earlier than expected and wow! I really like this new beefier rim and of course, yay now I have serviceable hubs. With a front and rear wheel combination built with thirty six spokes there is a noticeable feeling of confidence for loading the front rack. Twenty five pounds? No problem, not that I load that much weight over the front wheel but when and if I want to it's not going to be an issue.
Most noticeable difference between the Velocity Chukker Wheels
and my older Velocity Dyad Wheels
is the rim depth. Not a huge difference just needed a slightly longer stem for the presta valve to comfortably clear the rim with easy access for a pump. Fortunately I had a couple of 48 mm stem length tubes in the shop. So, if you're someone interested in the Chukker Wheels
note that you need a presta valve stem of at least 41 to 55 mm however I would suggest getting a stem no shorter than 48 for ease of pump use. For added convenience this is a common stem length found on 700c Slime Tubes
with presta valves and are available at many department stores if you find yourself in a bind needing a replacement tube while bike touring or commuting.
It's not that I like the Chukker rim better than the Velocity Dyad
but I like the hubs much better than the sealed cartridge hubs of my '07 Dyad Wheelset. Also, it's worth noting that because of the 135mm hub width I was able to change out the rear axle spacer for a nice easy fit with 130mm drop outs. I'm not particularly fond of black spokes and the color of the wheels had nothing to do with my purchasing decision but the machined side walls were a better price on sale. Although the thirty two spoke front wheel of the Dyad set never posed an issue when loading the front rack it concerned me when I found some lateral play in the front hub and took it to a shop in Colorado to have them look at it. The shop had pressed in some new cartridge bearings and a few weeks later there was some (though not as much) lateral play. So, I have decided since then that having hubs I can use cone wrenches on is better for maintenance reasons. Speaking of which due to the beefier rim design of the Chukker I know these wheels require minimal truing as I rarely needed to adjust the slightly less rugged Dyad wheels. When combined with the Vittoria Randonneur Trail II RFX
in the 700c x 35mm sizing it provides substantial durability for getting off road for some trails or off road touring.
New X Series Saddle Shape
Selle Anatomica has improved the "weak" points.
My original Selle Anatomica Titanico
Watershed saddle was in need of a new top from having stretched over the years and the threaded adjustment bolt was on its' last bit of threads. Considering how much it would have cost to get a new cover and after reading several reviews of how those older original models had problems with the rails bending I decided to get a new saddle with chromoly rails instead.
I don't mind investing in quality particularly when it's something that can be rebuilt or repaired over the next several years. Given the information provided by Selle Anatomica's new design methods I feel very confident in their new line of products particularly after having purchased the NSX model for my off road touring bike.
First of all the newer model Selle Anatomica X Series Saddle
has a much nicer shape from the original design. Dubbed as their "Flex Fly" design the patented slot creates two separate wings which move or "flex" independent of one another providing a comfortable leather saddle which requires no break in period.
Secondly, the newer design also supplies a longer threaded adjustment bolt which allows the saddle to continue to be stretched further than the older models for longer life of the leather. It may have been possible to simply replace my old saddle's 44mm bolt with the newer 55mm bolt available direct from Selle Anatomica but as I mentioned I preferred to invest in the 4130 chromoly rails, another factor contributing to the saddle's longevity.
I began to notice that the old nose piece design on my '07 Titanico saddle wanted to sort of pop off the end of the frame after the shorter 44mm adjusting bolt had been pushed to its' maximum limit of adjusting the leather. The following quote from the Selle Anatomica product site is another reason I chose to invest in their new frame and nose design.
"While the replacement tension bolt is compatible with older models, we recommend that you not tension the saddle past the point where the nose piece can rest fully and safely on the frame
Yeah, I can concur that statement with the photo at left showing where the leather broke on my old saddle from having tension on the adjusting bolt at its' last threads for the past few years. Photos below show the differences between the older adjusting bolt design on left and the newer, longer adjusting bolt of the X Series Saddle
V shape of older Titanico model
Older Titanico model with shorter adjusting bolt and without threaded sleeve as on the newer X Series saddle.
New nose design of the X Series Saddle not only provides a longer adjusting bolt but has a reinforcing threaded sleeve as well.
The X Series
saddle is touted as Selle Anatomica's work horse saddle for both heavier riders of up to two hundred fifty pounds and for high mileage riders of a hundred miles per week. You might assume then that this saddle would be stiffer and less comfortable with their product description of reinforced dual laminates and thicker leather, however like my other two Selle Anatomica saddles this X Series Saddle was also comfortable on its' first test ride.
So far what I am really liking about the newer X Series model
is the much more contoured shape. My older Titanico shown at left needed to be sanded along either edge in order to prevent chafing on my inner thighs. During my last ride with this saddle I noticed it was beginning to rub again but only on my left side and was most likely due to the saddle needing to be adjusted again. However, because it was so stretched over the years that's how I determined it was time for a new saddle.
Fortunately for me I never had the problem of the rails bending on my older Titanico model but it always concerned me after hearing about it being an issue with several other owners of the same saddle model.
Although the new X Series model
is sixteen grams lighter for you weight weenies out there this saddle actually feels sturdier. After changing the saddle frame materials to chromoly steel they also changed the geometry of the frame which is something that most likely lends itself to the new shape of the leather's top cover.
Upon receiving your saddle you are provided with where to find installation information regarding how to setup your saddle to achieve optimal comfort and performance from your saddle as well as where to register your saddle's warranty information. Selle Anatomica Saddles
are still made in the US and continue to offer innovative ideas and products to provide customer satisfaction. Use any of the links provided or click on top image for information or to purchase your Selle Anatomica X Series Saddle
Links related to this topic:Made in USA, Selle Anatomica TitanicoSelle Anatomica NSX Mountain Bike Saddle ReviewMaking the Hard Feel Easy, Having a Good Bike Saddle
"Roll on brother, like wind inside the wheel"
Relics of old wheels and bike parts still find some use as repurposed bike art in Durango, CO.
Leatherman Tool easily removed broken spoke
I decided this year to replace my touring bike's wheelset for a couple of reasons.
1. My experience with cartridge style bearings is that I don't like them. I received a rather high quality wheelset from a company I won't say who and I was told that one to two millimeters of lateral play in the hub was normal. Yeah, I disagree there shouldn't be any lateral play in the hub of a wheel and so I'm sticking with good old cup and cone hubs.
2. Do I really need forty spoke wheels for my bike touring needs? No and this is mostly due to the fact that my experience with quality wheels is simply that a hand built wheel or "how" a wheel is built vs. machine built wheels provides a significant difference in wheel maintenance. This translates as quality hand built wheels require less frequency of truing than a machine built wheel.
A lot of information is available regarding this topic and I'm not going to venture into the philosophical kaleidoscope and never ending debate of wheel building, wheel engineering, or physics. There's been plenty of banter about what is the minimum number of spokes for a solid bike touring wheel. Forty on the front and forty eight on the rear has been a rule of thumb by a few wheel building experts. I agree that if someone plans on hauling uh, how much weight are we talking about hauling on a bike with that stout of a wheelset? That's how you find what wheelset is really necessary for your own bike touring and commuting needs. Refer to previous post regarding Loaded Touring Bike Weight
On the other end of the spectrum are road bike wheels with twenty spokes which have to be trued too often when used for bike commuting, let alone touring. I have heard folks complain about feeling scandalized by their local bike shop for selling them a bike for commuting that didn't have the wheels needed to meet the demands of pot holed roads and minimal load carrying. These days the wheel size options for any bike that can be used for commuting in 650b, twenty niner, 700c and of course twenty six inch wheels provide varying strengths, weaknesses and efficiency differences. For example a thirty spoke twenty six inch wheel is sturdier than a thirty two spoke 700c wheel but the 700c wheel provides better rolling efficiency. Personally, for my commuting needs the efficiency variable between twenty six inch wheels versus 700c wheels has never been an issue. For mixed terrain of dirt, gravel, pavement, potholes and load carrying capacity for commuting the twenty six inch wheel has always performed admirably with much less need of truing maintenance. Tire selection of course also contributes to wheel maintenance as a larger touring style tire while providing load bearing qualities is also better at absorbing bumps and providing a type of suspension absorbing quality between the riding surface and the wheel. Of course for longer miles of road touring the efficiency of a 700c wheel dominates.
My own experience with a thirty two spoke twenty six inch wheel has kept me from "upgrading" or changing to a 650b wheel. While riding my '93 Bridgestone MB 1 to run some errands this past winter I heard a front spoke break so I immediately stopped, quickly removed the broken spoke with my Leatherman Tool
, spun the wheel and was pleasantly surprised to find that the wheel was still holding true! I was able to finish my ride of approximately seven or eight miles without issue so I could repair the wheel when I got home at my leisure. A broken spoke on my road bike with twenty spokes on the front wheel wouldn't have been as uneventful. So regardless of wheel size here are the basic characteristics that contribute to a quality wheelset for bike touring and commuting. There essentially four basic categories of a complete wheel and consist of a rim, spokes, nipples and hub. That's it, so it's actually very simple to determine what is a good quality wheel set for bike touring and commuting.
1. Rim: Double walled rim construction. Absolutely, I have heard of folks being happily content with single walled wheels being used specifically for gravel road riding but for tried and true commuting and touring purposes a double walled rim is a must. Velocity, Sun Ringle, Sun CR 18 and Mavic Open Sport are a few examples of quality rims with established reputations for bicycle touring and commuting.
2. Spokes: At least thirty spokes. A quality built wheel set like those provided with a Mavic Open Sport
Rim and Tiagra hubs have an established reputation of durability. Sheldon Brown praised the Shimano Tiagra hub as rivaling even more expensive top of the line hubs at a modest price, not to mention the ease of servicing the hubs. This is the type of wheel that can be used for demanding commutes or light weight bike touring and can easily handle weekend bike camping getaways. Stainless Steel Spokes. Yeah, ever worked on a bike with galvanized spokes, hahaha, quality wheel sets are going to be built with quality spokes, duh. DT Swiss spokes are worth making mention as they are commonly used on some of the finest wheels available. Good stuff.
3. Brass nipples are common and many new alloys are making better spoke nipples than those qualities offered by brass. Weight and corrosion resistance are the two most touted qualities of alloy nipples. However, regular lubrication of brass spoke nipples when a wheel needs to be trued for instance, is enough to keep the corrosion from setting in on the spoke nipple for it to be an issue.
4. Hubs: As I mentioned there are two basic types of hubs commonly available today. Sealed cartridge bearings and cup and cone bearings. Don't be fooled by a sealed bearing to mean cartridge bearing. Some of the descriptions of a sealed hub does in fact contain cup and cone bearings. If you find some good wheels at your local bike shop and they have the tools to service the cartridge bearings and you plan to ride mostly for commuting or local touring then the hub construction wouldn't be an issue. However, if you plan on servicing your own bike or want to be able to have the wheels serviced wherever you might be in the world then get cup and cone bearings for their serviceability. Determining your needs for a quality bike wheel set need not become rocket science. Determine your own personal needs or what you intend to use your bike for. Reference some of the leading touring bike manufacturers and see what is being installed on their rides. Thirty six spoke front and rear touring wheels can last for many thousands of miles of loaded touring. Many folks who know how to appropriately pack and load their rigs for bike touring or bike packing are sharing their information online. As we were taught years ago in Oregon to load more weight on the front wheel than the rear was based on the idea that the front wheel is not bearing the load of your body weight like the rear wheel is. For that reason having a thirty six spoke wheel in the front as well is a good idea. Some folks don't like how a bike feels or handles when packed that way but for all practical considerations of wheel maintenance it is the preferred method. Some of our favorite wheels for bike touring and commuting are listed below for information or to purchase. I have only listed four wheelsets, two for 700c touring wheel size and two twenty six inch mountain bike wheels for touring and commuting that can be used for disc or rim brakes. My favorite rims are from Velocity and I have been enjoying a rather maintenance free set of touring and commuting wheels for several years. The Velocity Chukker Wheels consist of thirty six spokes front and rear and are available with machined or non machined side walls. 26" Wheels for Bike Touring and Commuting: Sun Rhyno Lite MTB Wheel Set 26" x 1.75, Deore 8/9-Speed QR, Black 32 spokes Sun Rhyno Lite MTB Wheelset 26x1.5 Black Rim Brake 36-Hole Shimano M525A 8/9/10S
700c Wheels for Bike Touring and Commuting:Rims: Sun CR18 Rim, Hub: SHI M430 8/9sp BK 32H Sun CR18, 36H, double walled, silverHubs: Shimano M430, 8/9-speed, quick release, silver
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All the wheel sets listed here are double wall rim construction, thirty two or thirty six spokes and serviceable hubs.
Hot Weather Tips for Bike Touring and Commuting
Follow your Shadow
A fun summer trail riding buddy.
Several years ago an old friend gave me some pretty solid advice (no, it wasn't my dog) to "follow your shadow". There were some other rather esoteric connotations left for me to derive from that but for practical considerations of helping to stay cool if your ride gets too hot is to put the sun on your back and follow your shadow. It's rare that I find myself in such a situation where I feel that I have needed to change course or direction to avoid being over heated but on a couple of rare occasions it has been good to know. Lightweight convenience, small hydration pack
For example while riding through a long stretch of hot, dry, barren portions of New Mexico I found myself riding into winds of over twenty miles per hour. It wasn't too bad at first but after thirty minutes or so I realized the wind was drying my perspiration so that my body wasn't cooling properly. It was an oddity and something which hasn't occurred since due to the rare combination of elements at the same time. Riding directly into the sun and extreme wind in an extremely arid climate with no shade even though I was exercising it was like riding into a very hot blow dryer. Because I was familiar enough with the area I knew I could make it to a shaded desolate truck stop before my skin was damaged from what felt like a cooking effect. If I had thought of it I probably would have turned on to a side road for a bit and "followed my shadow" for a bit help my parched face and skin to cool off. Fortunately it wasn't necessary and that experience, including a few similar ones have given me some solid preparation skills for riding in hot weather.
I have been reading a bit about proper hydration methods for cyclists lately, if just to check in with what folks are fussing about these days. Debunking myth of coconut water being better than regular water, whether or not you need an electrolyte drink, adding salt and or sugar to your water for better absorption. That's all fine and whatever that is but when I start reading about "how much water you should take on a fifty mile ride" I immediately holler out nonsense! Oh sure, I will only consume twenty ounces of water on a fifty mile ride on a hot summer day under ideal circumstances. Fine, but if I get a flat, or some other haphazard event such as the winds decide to kick up off the Gulf from a different direction that wasn't in the weather forecast (which occurs quite often) then the amount of time to ride that same distance can double when riding into strong winds. I am not a worry wart or an overly prepared "expect the worst, hope for the best" type of bike folk. Rather, based on personal experience I take enough water for hydrating under ideal conditions as well as if my ride decides to last twice as long or longer than planned. Another factor besides summer heat is humidity. Humidity has been much less challenging than the blow dryer effect in New Mexico but is certainly another consideration as to how much water is needed to ride x number of miles.
My favorite method of simple hot weather bike touring or commuting hydration has been the use of a small seventy ounce hydration pack for convenience. Most folks ride the same bike to commute on and maybe have another bike for touring. I have four or five bikes I like to use for bike commuting and a few I like to ride for bike touring and camping and depends mostly on the type of terrain I will be riding. My point being that having a hydration pack makes it easy for me to pack my helmet light, a rear light clipped to the hydration pack, multi tool, tire levers, patch kit, a few snack bars and a couple of spare tubes in different sizes so that whatever bike I'm riding I'm prepared. I like the smaller size particularly for summer as I hardly notice the weight and is very comfortable to wear in a cycling specific design. I also appreciate the blue color of the pack as it seems to be sort of cool and refreshing visually when I'm not wearing it. High Sierra
offers smaller hydration packs that are well made and very affordable. I have been using mine for three years now and it still looks brand new. After replacing the bladder reservoir this year I'm sure I can get a few more years of use from it.
following shade with bucket hat
For longer full day bike touring during the summer months I don't have to carry as much gear, particularly warm clothing or cooking equipment. For a typical day of bike touring which consists of forty to sixty miles having at least one full insulated water bottle with my hydration pack works very nicely. An excellent choice for this is the Swig Savvy Insulated Water Bottle
that can be used with hot or cold liquids. Very durable quality steel water bottle with three different bottle caps included.
At the end of a long hot ride I don't like drinking hot water but this type of water bottle keeps it just cold enough when I add ice before my ride so that the water temperature is not an issue, even after a long day of hot weather bike touring. During the winter it can be used as an excellent coffee or tea thermos for either bike commuting or touring.
While preparing to finish up this post I asked the girls here what one item would they recommend for hot weather bike riding and they agreed on a shade hat. Good idea as they asked questions about the hypothetical ride circumstances their top two suggestions were sunscreen and a sun hat. Like a day at the beach, I got a good chuckle out of it and I like their attitude. Sure, sun hats work well preferably off of the bike as I prefer to wear a helmet particularly over rough terrain trail rides.
However, I used to wear my old Kavu Bucket Hat
for all my summer rides as shown in photo of mountain biking in Sedona, Arizona. Yep it was hot and I kept the sun on my back for most of the return ride home. That old hat lasted several years until my puppy decided I needed a new one and chewed it to pieces while he was teething. Since I still have my Kavu Visor
which has lasted even longer than the Bucket Hat and Kavu Strap Cap
. Kavu products, at least the hats anyway are made in the USA based out of Seattle, Washington. Excellent summer head wear on or off the bike.
I wear a helmet when I ride and there are cooling benefits to be said for wearing a helmet. Well ventilated, sun deflecting, built in visor and when combined with a Head Sweats Shorty Beanie and Helmet Liner
it's an excellent combination for beating the heat. This prevents sun burn or heat getting to your head through the helmets air vents as well as an excellent solution for keeping sweat out of your eyes. The shorty model doesn't have long ties on the back that could blow around in the wind on to your face in an annoying manner.
This is another on of those products that I have owned for several years and continues to work as designed.
Links related to this topic:Variation of Hydration, Got WaterLittle Hydration Pack That Could, Can and Will
Old School style of Pasela Tour Guard tires
When you hear bike touring folks run down their list of must have qualities in a tire for touring most common is durability and flat protection. Schwalbe and Vittoria are perhaps the two leading tire manufacturers meeting those demands in a touring tire.
Selecting a tire width for touring is where folks differ and this is mostly due to what the rider feels comfortable with in terms of performance and handling over their most traveled surface. Another consideration is how much stuff gets packed into panniers which is another consideration for wheel stress. Some touring tires bear the weight of loaded racks and panniers better than others. When I rode with Schwalbe Marathon tires
in the 700 x 32 size it felt as though the tires provided suspension between the road surface and the wheel's rims. However with the same tire in the 28mm width the ride was so harsh that I was regularly having to true the rear wheel. As the tire's casing was so robust and solid though hardly wider than my Velocity Dyad touring rims the tires seemed to echo every rough surface reverberating to my hands. Over rough asphalt it was tolerable but over gravel and dirt roads was when the wheels took most of the beating. Sure I never ever got a flat with those tires even when I rolled over a patch of goat head thorns for a quarter mile or so that had accumulated on the tire to the point where they were scraping on my fenders. I still didn't get a flat!
I currently own a pair of very robust Vittoria Randonneur Touring tires
with their Ultra Shield flat protection. They are thick, heavy tires that require a bit of pushing on most rides. Over gravel roads or trails they are exemplary with more tread depth than my Schwalbe Marathons and really seem to roll faster on or off road. It is also the widest tire I have ever installed on my road touring bike at 35mm and they just barely clear the full fenders. When I ride over very loose gravel or rocks I can often hear the tires throwing debris around under the fenders. During fall wet weather riding some times wet or partially wet leaves would get stuck in the narrow clearance between the tire and fender.
There is a brick and cobblestone pathway near our house that is perfect for testing how a tire feels over an irregular surface. It's not so much that it's bumpy it's that some tires actually feel that they grab and drop into each perpendicular groove between the bricks and rocks along the path which can feel very disconcerting. Even the robust size of the Vittoria's felt that way and I attribute it more to the tread design than anything else as it is designed to handle loose stuff with dirt and gravel.
Panaracer Pasela Tour Guard 700 x 32
Checking ride quality of tires over a nearby brick pathway.
As I mentioned most bike folks want ultra durability and unlimited flat protection. Usually the trade off is a heavier, slower rolling tire. So, if the topic of touring tires is all about efficiency isn't anyone producing a lighter weight, faster rolling tire with quality flat protection and enough durability to justify having a faster rolling tire?
While packing my panniers for a regional bike tour I mindlessly tossed a Panaracer Pasela Tour Guard
folding bead 700 x 32 tire that I have kept either in a pannier as a spare for long tours or in a tool box when not needed. I rode with these tires more than ten years ago on an old mountain bike I used for commuting. I remembered how fast those tires rolled although other tires offered better flat protection. I decided to order a second tire to match my old spare to see how I would like the ride.
First thing I did was "hit the bricks" with them as previously mentioned and the Paselas
rolled over all those grooves like they weren't even there. Not once did the tires grab or get hung up in the grooves along the surface, not even in the curve where tires that don't perform well or perform even reasonably well always seem to grab. Next I took the tires for a fifteen mile jaunt as the wind was kicking up pretty good and set a course that would best challenge the rolling resistance, or lack of resistance of the tires. As with any tire review I simply fill the tire to the manufacturer's recommended pressure. For the Pasela TG's it's ninety five, same as my old Schwalbe Marathons
and both tires are made of 66 tpi whereas the Vittoria's are 30 tpi and run at seventy psi. Weight differences are 640 grams for the Schwalbe Marathon 700 x 32 and 360 grams for the Pasela Tour Guard in the same size. Schwalbe has added a disclaimer stating that their flat protection technology does not increase rolling resistance, I'm sure that's true but the weight difference of the tires is significant enough to be noticeable. I say this after having swapped the Vittoria's which weigh in at 760 grams, which is twice the weight of of the Paselas.
This summer I am going to enjoy riding these tires for increased speed on hot days and high winds. When I feel the need to pack a lot of stuff for full touring rides I will use the Vittoria's for extra girth and added flat protection. For everyday commuting in areas of broken glass and regular road hazard debris the Paselas are an excellent choice. This is an excellent light weight fast rolling tire for bike commuting or touring .
Links related to this topic:Vittoria Touring Tire reviewBest Budget Tires for Bike CommutingFavorite Gravel Grinding Tires
From Mountain Bike to Commuter Bike to Touring Bike
Large Handlebar basket rests atop front rack
'93 Bridgestone Catalog with fun illustrations
'93 Bridgestone MB-1 as I had found it with stripped threaded 1" steer tube and broken fork dropout.
New fork, shorter riser stem and sweeping ergonomic bars provides instant commuter bike conversion.
Converting an old steel frame mountain bike can be accomplished and identified as two distinct phases of the bike's transformation. Here is a precise definition of conversion; a substitution of one component for another so as to effect a change:
What begins as a simple, no frills basic vintage trail bike instantly transmutes when handlebars and stem are swapped out for comfortable commuter handling and posture. Adding a set of fenders, a rear rack and some efficient tires for commuting and oala, presto, ta da, it's a mountain bike for commuting. Yay!
So, what makes a touring bike different from a bike for commuting? Well that depends on some other factors when you are considering all the bikes available on the market defined as commuter bikes including three speeds and such. For this topic of converting a mountain bike to a touring bike the only difference to "qualify" this bike build project as a touring bike is the addition of a front pannier rack.
Nothing is at all lost in this process after all when it's all said and done the mountain bike that began the project still exists as a mountain bike that can be used for touring.
Like most avid bike folks who appreciate a high quality frame I love the old steel mountain bike frames and in particular those with lugged design. One name comes to mind when reminiscing over the golden era of steel lugged mountain bike frames and that's Bridgestone.
Back when folks would pour over Grant Petersen's Bridgestone catalogs a following was quickly established and today you might hear the term "BOBISH" referring to the Bridgestone Owners Bunch. Described as some bike folks who "stuck with steel through the aluminum and titanium years".
Setting aside all bike cultish nonsense there are some genuinely practical reasons for preferring a solid old steel lugged mountain bike frame to build up as a dependable commuter touring bike. If steel frames feel better than the more rigid aluminum frames than a lugged frame from Ritchey Logic tubing is something of a Cadillac in frame design. If you're one of those folks who feel that 700c or Twenty Niner wheels are a necessity for bicycle touring, check out Darren Alf's Co Motion Pangea
that he's been riding for at least a couple years now and continues to ride as his bike of choice to fit his bike touring lifestyle. Complete with 26" wheels of course.
So my point here is to say that the tried and true twenty six inch wheel is not dead, far from it. Recognizing the fact that a high end bike company like Co Motion is successfully producing and selling a three thousand dollar touring bike with twenty six inch wheels and some guy is out there riding the thing all over the world enjoying every trip he goes on then do yourself a favor and consider your own possibilities of building up an old steel frame mountain bike for touring or commuting.
This is not the first bike I've built up and converted to a touring bike. I love my old Diamond Back Ascent EX though it has a very long top tube and required more comfort consideration with a complete overhaul of the cockpit. Which brings to the point of swapping out those old stems, which is the number one part to convert an old mountain bike especially for touring. Tom Ritchey's patent eight inch long flat stem and bars though perhaps some of the finest components you will ever encounter on vintage mountain bikes is a brutal combination for a touring bike. Some folks find it suitable enough to simply add bar ends, the most popular being the Ergon line of ergonomic grips and bar ends. However, for this conversion project I decided to go with sweeping handlebars as an ergonomic approach to improving the ride comfort in which case bar ends are not used.
Enjoying how this bike handles for both touring and commuting.
Bike packing seems to be gaining more popularity particularly with off road enthusiasts wanting to explore gravel roads and trails. It's a different method of implementing bike bags and gear typically with the use of frame bags, seat packs, and handlebar bags. Smaller front racks are often used to help stabilize the handlebar load but not always. It makes sense for those riding conditions described that having low rider panniers on conventional front touring racks might inhibit ground and cornering clearances for particularly rugged terrain. My purpose of pointing this out is that it might make more sense when converting a mountain bike for touring that setting the bike up for bike packing would be easier.
Not necessarily. Regarding bike handling characteristics for me it's knowing how the bike's steering characteristics and overall feel of handling with a load as being more or less predictable that determines my choices in bike packing. So, is this a touring bike for bike packing? Of course it is I just prefer to use a tried and true low rider front rack with the steel construction of the Minoura FRP 3000
. This is essentially the only additional bike accessory needed to convert a commuter bike to a fully loaded touring bike. This helps shed light on the process of converting an old mountain bike as it goes through it's first phase as a commuter bike before making it to touring bike status.
Links related to this topicBridgestone MB 1 Threaded Fork Reviews A Bike for All SeasonsHandlebar Favorites Build a Touring, Trekking, Commuter Bike
Looking for a new touring bike with a steel frame, good components, rack, fender braze ons, disc brakes, with wider tires than a conventional road bike for a price at or approximately a thousand dollars. Wouldn't it be nice to find a bike that meets all the criteria of quality touring bike standards with a customized bike fit system designed specifically to meet their customer's needs? I was looking for just such a bike when I found the Fitwell Bicycle Company Fahrlander
and Fahrlander II
Fitwell Bicycle Company Fahrlander bike offers an excellent design for bicycle touring and commuting
Fahrlander frame geometry is in keeping with traditional touring bike frame design.
As a former bike shop owner one of the most appreciated offers from Fitwell Bicycle Company is their rebate offer
of up to one hundred fifty dollars to ensure your new bike is assembled and tuned by a qualified bike mechanic of your choosing. This is proof of a company caring about their customer's bike fit and ride satisfaction. Visit their site to download the rebate form
that must be filled out by the service provider.
Internet bike sales have effected local bike shop's sales as big box company's are able to offer bikes at prices well below suggested retail and with free shipping. Most notably has been Bikes Direct, an online bike superstore that had my customers asking me if I could complete with the prices and then asking me if I could assemble the bike for them once it arrived. Of course I offered the service but I did not offer the same tune up specials available if they had purchased a bike from our shop. That having been said, due to my experience of shop service and bike sales in a very competitive market it is refreshing to find a company that has built their bikes as it specifically pertains to customer satisfaction with local bike shop loyalty in mind. In short they are basically saying "here is an excellent bike and here's some rebate cash to give to your local bike shop to ensure the bike operates safe and properly". It's a beautiful thing.
Fahrlander is designed to fit for bike touring
Fitwell Bicycle Company "Morgan" Fit for leisure rides.
Fitwell Bicycle Company's "Riley" fit for touring bike
Fitwell Bicycle Company "Alex Drew" fit for roadies.
Fitwell's Fahrlander and Fahrlander II is a quality bike designed as a touring bike and of course would be an excellent choice for bicycle commuting. Providing a comfortable frame geometry for a more relaxed riding position the Fitwell name derives more from three or four options of posture or style than it does actual bike fit in the technical sense of the word.
Photos on the left depict the four riding styles or "fit" as described at their company site. Every bike designed and built by Fitwell Bicycles fits one their four bike styles. Their first style called the "Morgan" refers to a very upright riding position with a bike designed for leisure commuters or a porteur bike.
For the touring bike being discussed the riding style is dubbed the "Riley" and the Fahrlander
and Fahrlander II
are designed to provide that riding posture. This is an excellent posture for bike touring and has been discussed in another post. Remember, after purchasing a bike from Fitwell Bicycle Company
entitles you to the rebate so that your local bike shop can help you get the bike dialed in for an even better fit.
"Alex or Drew" fit (style) is a couple of options providing roadies with the more or slightly less aggressive riding style for aerodynamic comfort and performance and have a couple of bikes built for that particular style as well.
This is all meant to clarify what the company defines as "fit" which I would refer to as style or posture. Anyhow, I'm going to point out a few things about the Fahrlander as a touring bike.
Around here we have become quite fond of our Minoura front racks and if you want to install a front rack on the Fahrlander take note that the fork does not have braze ons for cantilever or linear pull brake options, it is strictly a disc brake fork without midway threads on the fork for mounting a low rider style front rack.
I am pointing this out for folks looking for a new touring bike as there are front racks available that would certainly work with the Fahrlander but it does limit some of the choices. That having been said there are the threaded braze ons needed at the dropouts for both a rack and fenders both front and rear. As the Minoura MT 4000sf
is designed to accommodate disc brake and comes with clamps for suspension forks the clamps could be made to fit solidly with the additional axle mount design. Or for a lighter weight solution there is the Axiom Journey Suspension and Disc Low Rider front rack
As far as gearing is concerned both the Fahrlander 1 and Fahrlander II have double chainring cranksets. They are compact cranksets at 50t and 34t but for touring you really want to be using a triple geared like a mountain bike. Fahrlander I is a nice nine speed cassette whereas the Fahrlander II has the current ten cluster. Shimano 105 drivetrain group is a very nice setup but the Tektro Lyra disc brakes have very few but mixed reviews, mostly from folks installing on their own rigs. Discounting possible installation errors on part of the reviewers I do know that the rotors included with the Lyra calipers are reported as being much thinner than avid bb7's for instance. For proper brake setup and tuning is advised to use the rebate from Fitwell Bicycle Company for your local bike shop.
Weinman Rims with Novatec sealed cartridge hubs are coupled with bladed spokes to provide some durability for a bike described as being designed for "adventure". Maxxis Columbiere 700 x 32 tires provide some flat protection in a grooved semi slick design that wouldn't perform really well on trails.
In summary I really like the Fahrlander 1 and with its' current price tag it would still be worth using the rebate to swap out the crankset if needed for loaded touring. However, if you ride mostly on the flats or do more credit card style bike touring none of that is an issue. Slap a rear rack on with a nice handlebar bag with a trunk bag or rear panniers and have fun! I'm sure either of the Fahrlander models can handle it no problem.
Note that I have included a link in an older post to a free bike ergonomics ebook
written by Juliane Neuss. Wherein she describes four basic riding postures similar to those adopted by Fitwell Bicycle Company. It's an excellent resource for understanding some of the aches and pains experienced while riding a bike with solutions to most common complaints. Click on photos or links provided in post for more information or to purchase.
Links related to this topicEffective Posture for Commuter Touring Bike
Ergonomic Bike Comfort