Cycling Plus #11:
Eleven month on the road...This month finds me on the 'Roof of the World',
preparing to ride the 1000km stretch between Llasa, Tibet and Kathmandu,
Nepal. Sharing a guesthouse dorm with two fellow cyclists, I have compiled
a list of what am carrying and how the bike is set up.
'Possum', my steed, is based around a Specialized Rockhopper Comp - its steel
frame is strong and easy to repair. Touring is as much about comfort as
performance and it's taken me a few months to hone down the perfect riding
position. Downhill riser bars allow more upright riding and the Soft Ride
suspension stem helps to smooth over potholes. Padded gloves and U shaped
bar ends for varied hand positions prevent numbing of the fingers.
'Possum' has undergone a series of modifications. Old XT thumb shifters keep
gears reliable and easy to maintain, and a 46 tooth outer ring allows faster
touring on the flats. Front and rear Blackburn racks are adequate, though
the constant vibrations of the pannier clips have worn divets in the
aluminium - wrapping strips of a coke can under a layer of masking tape
helps. I'm running either the excellent and hard wearing Continental Town
and Country tyres, or the Michelin Wildgripper Sprints for the rougher
conditions. They're collapsible and easy to pack as spares. I ride in SPD
Shimano sandals when its hot, and have a pair of North Wave shoes for colder
Whilst most large towns have a mountain bike shop, their stock can often
be a little hit and miss. For tools and spares, I carry cables, SPD cleats,
XT brake pads, allen keys, a chain break, an adjustable spanner, a spoke
wrench, bearings, 5mm nuts and bolts, grease, a puncture repair kit (instant
patches are handy), zip ties, super glue, wire cutters and masking tape.
14,15 and 16mm cone spanners fit the front and rear XT hubs. If you plan on
replacing your inner tubes on the road, bear in mind a mini pump will often
not fit the local Woods valves found in Asia. To remove the freewheel for
broken spokes on the driveside, a zip tie attached to a spoke and a length
of spare chain serves as an alternative chain whip. A general purpose tool
like a Leatherman is handy too.
Over the last 13,000kms, I've cracked two rear rims. I'm currently using a
very strong Mavic 521D downhill with a front Mavic 517, fitted in Australia.
Rain and mud in China's wet season mean constant oiling of the chain. Finish
Line's Cross Country lube is hard wearing, though other tourers have advised
sewing machine oil as a good alternative. Along with camping equipment,
which includes a Voyager two man tent, soon to be changed for a Solar, one
man tent, both made by Terra Nova, waterproofs, and a few clothes, I have a
Psion 5 palmtop (my second brain!), an Ericsson I-888, a GSM phone, a
Garmin GPS, Nelles maps and a Rough Guide. The kit is squeezed into a set
of lightweight Ortlieb roll down panniers. They're excellent bags, though I
would perhaps choose the heavyweight material for their durability - a
patching kit is useful. The total weight: around 50 kgs plus food and water.
But at the end of the day, you only have to look out onto the road and see
that everything is relative. The Chinese make do with their 'Flying Pigeon'
single speeders, and one Dutch traveller bought an old Peugeot for ten
pounds in Lhasa to do the same ride.
I would like to thank all the Cycling Plus readers who have emailed me with
their regards, messages of good luck and travel stories of their own -
it's the inspiration more than anything which gets me over those long
Himalayan passes, and drives me to go further. Finally, I would like to
thank my Sponsors, who are making this journey possible.