Bike and Kit:
The original 15 month ride is now extended to close on two years, during which time my home is just 4 bicycle pannier bags. As one friend commented as I left the Opera House in Sydney: 'It doesn't look like much more than a trip to the supermarket...'
Shedding all the trappings of society, possessions are streamlined to a minimum. Basic kit includes either a one or two men tent made by Terra Nova, a Mountain Equipment lightweight down sleeping bag, an MSR multi fuel system stove, an MSR ceramic filter and medical supplies. Clothing must be versatile to cope with the diverse situations faced, from hot and humid jungles to windswept Himalayan passes. A fleece,a goretex rainproof, sturdy shorts and a couple of faithful Tshirts make up my extensive wardrobe, adjusted when seasons dictate.
I've christened my steed 'Possum', and she's based around a Specialized Rockhopper Comp. With a superior steel and component quality to the standard Rockhopper, the frame's simplicity made it ideal for this kind of journey; steel is reliable and easy to repair locally. Setting up a bike for touring is a very personal matter, focusing on comfort, quality components and reliability. All aspects of the bike's makeup were scrutinised and various improvements were made.
Of paramount importance is the overall ride position: feeling comfortable day in, day out. It's taken time to hone this down and Possum Mark 3 is now a considerably improved steed than when I first set off from Sydney. Sampling touring drop handle bars for several months, I have reverted to riser bars for a more upright riding position. A Softride suspension stem is easy to maintain and tones down the vibrations that cause numbness in the fingers and hands. My Rolls leather saddle has even been recovered in Yak hide, much to the bemusement of a local Chinese cobbler.
Dispensing with rapid fire shifters, I use 'antique' XT thumbies for sturdiness, reliability and ease of use. The range of gears over the standard setup has been increased - Possum now runs a 46 tooth large chainring with a Mega Range rear cassette. This setup is easy on the knees by offering gears for all situations. Due to the increased weight carried, standard 32 spoke wheels were replaced with 36 spoke XT hubs and Mavic rims. Blackburn racks, both front and rear, carry a set of Ortlieb lightweight waterproof panniers and matching bar bag to keep out even the worst storms.
Other upgrades include: XT V brakes for increased stopping power and its replaceable pad system, Continental Town and Country semi-slick tyres for speed, long life and versatility, a folding Michelin Wildgripper 1.9 for rougher conditions and Panaracer tyre liners to cut down on flats.
Nestled in an Ortlieb tools bag, I carry a basic set of spares. This includes a folding tyre, inner tubes, instant patches, a sachs chain, cables and housing, spokes of the relevant lengths, chain oil, 5mm bolts and all correct ball bearings with lithium grease and replacement cartridge brake pads. Also required is an equally small but effective collection of tools; cone spanners for hub bearing adjustments and replacement, an adjustable spanner and general purpose zip ties. A Park Tool includes a set of Allen keys, a spoke wrench and chain break. A Leatherman or Swiss Army knife is also a handy, if only to peel guavas when repairing a flat...
Fully dressed, Possum weighs in at anything between 40 and 55 kilos, depending on climactic conditions and food necessities. In particularly remote and dry areas, as much as 10 litres of water may have to be carried, adding considerably to the bikes overall weight.
A kit review with a full catalogue of spares and ideas on maintenance is available in Cycling Plus Article 11, found in the journal section. The Wear and Tear chapter in the Reference section details how some of this kit has faired.
Thanks to all at Wheelie Serious, including Karl Avery, Mechanic, Karl Geeson, Richard Sale, and Trystan Cobbett, for their help and invaluable support along the way.