Nice tips Peter, thks again!
I am going to add a few things:Wheel / Spokes
: I traveled with a Rigida rim, which broke after 12,000 km. and I thought it was pretty good, considering I traveled with close to 50 kg. (110 lb.) on my bike (not like you, Peter
... by the way, we need an article on "how to travel extremely lightweight by bicycle" - written by you!).
Anyway, I thought 12,000 km. was pretty good until I met Niegel in Tibet, who told me he biked 55,000 km. with his Sun Rhyno. So I switched to Sun Rhyno and after 15,000 km. I still cannot feel any indentation on the rim wall!
Also, I wanted to add... you often hear bicycle travelers talking about broken spokes and how it is the most common breakdown for cyclocampers. Some people might think I lie or exaggerate, but after 40,000 km. I NEVER changed a single spoke! Never! And yet I do travel with a LOT of gear and have biked a lot of dirt roads. So what is the secret?
OK, you'll need a few ingredients for the most reliable wheel:
Steel vs. aluminum frame:
- A tough rim: a strong 26 inch / 36 spoke wheel, like Peter said (Sun Rhyno seems to be better than Rigida or Mavic - but with my Rigida I never broke a spoke, either),
- A set of rock-solid spokes: You can't beat the Belgian-made 2mm Stainless Sapim Strong often used on tandem bikes. They should be used with brass nipples (NOT aluminum) and most important: make sure you have your wheel built by an experienced bike mechanic. A proper and well-balanced tension is the key for unbreakable spokes
- A good hub probably helps a bit, too - I use the Shimano silent clutch rear hub
It is true that I never heard of anyone breaking his aluminum frame while traveling. I heard of people breaking their fork, though, and when you're in the middle of nowhere, you're in big trouble if it is made of aluminum. I met a guy who traveled close to 1,000 km. in Africa with a fork fixed with a few pieces of wood! I used both aluminum and steel frames and for me, the biggest advantage of steel frames is the comfort. Aluminum is VERY stiff and I MUCH prefer the way steel "absorbs" the stress of a loaded bike and the vibrations of a dirt road. And, as Peter says, aluminum is a dirty metal to produce.Racks:
I agree Tubus steel racks are the best racks on the market.Tires:
Yes, the longest I have biked with a Schwalbe Marathon XR is 18,000 km! I'll never use another brand. Definitely worth the money.Components:
Again, I agree with you. LX is excellent. I am using XT since I updated everything on my bike when I was in Asia. Parts are cheaper there, and so I figured it was a good time to do it. The XT cassettes are worth the extra bucks since the weight difference is quite important. Otherwise, LX is definitely good enough. XTR is too fragile (and too expensive) for bicycle touring.Brakes:
I would never bicycle travel with disc brakes.Position
: Another important thing about a touring bike is the position of the rider. Touring bikes are partway between road bikes and mountain bikes. Make sure you don't have too much of your weight on your wrist (it will kill you on a long day's ride) and also make sure all your weight is not on your bottom - like when you sit up straight (you will get sore and it is very bad for your spinal disks).Mud guard
: I don't think it's a matter of taste! I would say if you don't want to be wet and muddy, you better have one. Aluminum is much better than plastic (plastic breaks too easily).SPD pedals
: It is much more efficient to bike with clips, but I would rather use good regular pedals with a strap so I don't have to carry another pair of shoes. Bicycle shoes are too stiff to walk in, and certainly not good for hiking. I like to hike here and there when I travel, so I use stiff hiking shoes. Note: it is better for the tendons in your feet to use stiff shoes when biking - plus it is more efficient.Saddle:
I strongly recommend Brooks saddles. But it is true that you need time to break them in and not everyone likes them. I like the leather much better than plastic (I don't like to have a sweaty bottom!). The bike mechanic in my hometown has had the same Brooks saddle for the last 40 years! He changed his bike many times, but kept the same saddle!Handlebar:
This is definitely a matter of taste, but I like the bull horn type of handlebar (much more common in Europe than in the US) because it allows you to have many different positions on the bike. I like to be able to switch positions in order to relieve my back and also when I climb or face a strong wind.
Any additional comments are highly appreciated.