Bikes & Gear

BIKES

We decided to dash our savings on some customized, dog friendly touring bikes.

COMPONENT

Zoa and Jack’s Setup

Fin and Paco’s Setup

FRAME/FORK

Surly Long Haul Trucker 54cm olive

Surly Big Dummy 20″

DRIVE TRAIN

Crankset/BB

Shimano XT M770

Truvativ (mix match from the LBS)

Chain

SRAM PC-991 Cross Step

SRAM PC-991 Cross Step

Front Derailleur

Shimano XT FD-M760

Shimano XT FD-M760

Back Derailleur

Shimano XT RD-M760 SGS, Long Cage

Shimano XT RD-M760 SGS, Long Cage

Cassette

Shimano LX CS-M760 11-34T, 9 Speed

Shimano LX CS-M760 11-34T, 9 Speed

SHIFTERS

Shifters

Shimano Deore XT Style Thumbshifter Kit 9 Speed

Shimano Deore XT Style Thumbshifter Kit 9 Speed

STEERING

Headset

Cane Creek S3

Cane Creek S3

Stems

Ritchey Black Adjustable

Ritchey Black

Generic 135×40 for Handle Bar bag mount

Handlebar

Modolo Yuma Traveller Bar

Titec Hellbent H-Bar

Brooks Leather Tape brown

SEATING

Saddle

Brooks B-67 Brown, sprung

Brooks B-67 Black, sprung

Seatpost

Ritchey Seatpost

Ritchey Seatpost

BRAKING

Brakes & Levers

Avid Single Digit 7 & Speed Dial 7

Magura HS-33 hydraulic rim brakes

WHEELS

Builder

SJS, Hand Built

SJS, Hand Built

Front Hub

36 hole Shimano XT 770

36 hole Shimano XT 770

Rear Hub

36 hole Shimano XT 770

36 hole Shimano XT 770

Rims

26”, 36 hole Sun Rhyno

26”, 36 hole Sun Rhyno

Spokes

DT Swiss Alpine III

DT Swiss Alpine III

Tires

Schwalbe Marathon XR (26” x 1.65”)

Schwalbe Marathon XR (26” x 2”)

Fenders

SKS – chromoplastic Silver

SKS – chromoplastic Silver

STORAGE

Front Rack

Rolle (German)

Tubus Ergo

Rear Rack

Tubus Logo

Xtracycle Long Tail Kit

Xtracycle Wide Loaders

Front Panniers

Ortileb Front Roller Plus

Ortileb Front Roller Plus

Back Panniers

Ortileb Back Roller Classic

Xtracycle Freeloader Bags

Handlebar Bag

Ortlieb Ultimate 5 Classic

BITS & BOBS

Pedals

Shimano PD-M324

Shimano PD-M324

Mirror

D+D Oberlauda Bike Mirror

D+D Oberlauda Bike Mirror

Kickstand

Pletscher ESGE KS13 Multi Zoom Single Leg

Pletscher ESGE KS13 Multi Zoom Single Leg

Cycle Computer

Cateye Enduro 8

Builder

Reinoud, bicycle geek extraordinaire

A-Bikes, Leuven

TRAILER

Frame

Cycletote Super Deluxe Doggy Tote large

Brakes

Cycletote Drum Brakes

Rims

26”, 36 hole Zac’s

Tires

Schwalbe Marathon XR (26” x 2”)

GERG

GEAR

Clothing

Wool vs Synthetics…

We love wool and natural fibers over synthetic clothing paws down. Wool does have it’s limitations though:

Warning 1: we have found that thin merino wool clothing like Icebreaker, while being super comfy on the skin and being very good for keeping the smell factor down, has a more limited lifespan. After months of intense wearing, many small holes develop in the fabric, and it can start to look like polka dots. This is considered just normal ‘wear and tear’ and is not covered under warranty. Have a needle and thread on hand.

Warning 2: wool is good for retaining heat while it is wet, but once everything you own is damp cycling and camping is not fun. Fingertips and toes go numb, strong winds chill the bones and it is easy to become cranky. So if you decide not to stop and hide every time it rains, quality rain wear can become very appealing, most of which is made from synthetic, nonrenewable petrochemicals.

The Waterproof Swindle…

The challenge of cycling rainwear is to get the right balance between waterproof and breathability. Waterproof is a very subjective term. Something labeled as ‘waterproof’ in a shop may only keep you dry for about 15 to 30 minutes during heavy rain. Not very helpful unless you are heading for shelter the second the sky breaks open. On the other extreme, completely waterproof rain gear is just as bad. Cycling in rain-gear designed for walkers and fisherman will result in the uncomfortable, personal “greenhouse” effect, where a heavy layer of sweat can soak your underlayers and skin just as quickly as the rain.

So, the answer? If you are bombing it downhill in a heavy downpour nothing will really keep you fully dry. A big, poncho style rain cape may be good in heavy rain, but provides little breathability (some people drape them over their handlebars so that airflow can still get into them). Gortex can withstand over 27,000 millimetres of water pressure without leaking, which is almost 20 times over the basic definition of waterproof. To maintain breathability a thin, lightweight Gortex is very effective, but also very expensive. For the most green/eco-friendly rainwear there is the Australian Drizabone oilcloth (also called “oilskin” or “wax cotton”), which was commonly used for raingear before plastics. Unlike most rain jackets it is extremely durable (decades instead of years) and is most popular for horseriding. I have not heard of anyone using it for cycling, but supposedly its natural cotton canvas allows the coats to breathe, while being made waterproof by a coating of oil once in a while. Maybe it is too stiff, too heavy, or not breathable enough? Anybody tried it?

I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes…

The first victims of cold weather are normally numb fingertips and numb toes. We have trialed all sorts of socks and have realised a few things:

  • Expensive, technical socks in adventure stores are usually a WASTE OF MONEY. They may seem to be the answer with slick marketing and talk about extreme mountain summits, but be warned our favourite and warmest socks are a simple pair of thick wool socks we picked up at a no-name kiosk in a tiny town in Norway.
  • Cramming several pairs of socks into a boot doesn’t help much with the cold. Tightness and socks doesn’t equal warmth. Maybe you will need a larger boot for very cold regions?

Wool gloves are great for everyday use, comfortable and warm when they are a bit damp. If you are planning on cycling in very cold and rainy weather a second pair of waterproof gloves is recommended.

Cycling Footwear: To clip in or not to clip in?

Finding the right footwear is a very personal experience and probably best sorted out by trial and error.

For carefree days of summer cycling we tried out Teva Hurricane sandals. They are the cheapest Teva model, and the shop assistants tried their best to upsell fancier models, but the Hurricanes are flat, light, and very quick drying, ideal for cycling. The drawback is that with heavy loads and steep uphills where a lot of pressure is required, soft-soled footwear can result in foot compression, causing numbness/circulation problems. Such problems caused Zoa to trade in her Tevas for firm-soled cycling shoes.

Hiking boots are a cold weather favourite, and just as useful off the bike. Anything that is reasonably lightweight, firm-soled, while also providing some warmth will do. If you plan to be doing some cold weather cycling make sure you choose a boot size that will accommodate two pairs of socks: a thin, moisture wicking layer next to your skin, and a thick layer on top for insulation. If you are still having problems consider inserting an insole into the boot to insulate the bottom of the boot. If that fails take up knitting instead.

If your boots get wet take out the insoles and dry them by a campfire/cooking stove (not too close of course – as I soon found out). If they are still wet put the boots in a plastic bag and sleep with them in the bottom of your sleeping bag, or line your sleeping bag with a plastic bag and sleep with your boots on. Waterproof boots would be very handy, but they are also more expensive.

If you are deciding whether to clip in or not clip in, then this is worth reading…

Camping

Tent tips…

  • Clean and lube your zippers and pole connections with silicone spray routinely to avoid stuck poles and jumpy zippers.
  • Extra protection… Water is good at sneaking in from all angles, especially when it teams up with wind and mist. From the very beginning our MSR Hubba Hubba 2 person tent (complete with footprint) would soak up the moisture out of sodden ground and wet the bottom of our tent. Putting a cheap tarp in the bottom of the tent with the sides folded up (6 inches up the sides) helps a lot.
  • Most campers agree that tents that are self standing are much more convenient than those that aren’t. Who knows where you will end up sleeping when you are tired and it’s getting dark?
  • When choosing a campsite avoid frost pockets. During cold weather stay away from dips and valleys, and head for higher ground under the canopy of some trees. Low lying open fields and valleys collect all the cold air and turn into nasty frost pockets overnight making for a very unpleasant packing up experience

Sleeping Bags…

Another natural versus synthetic battle is the battle of the sleeping bags. In the natural corner weighing very little and stuffed with the fluffy undercoating of a bird’s plumage (geese, ducks, and other waterfowl) is the down sleeping bag. In the synthetic corner is the slightly heavier bundle of poly-fibers. For a blow-by-blow rundown on the advantages and disadvantages of both, click here.

We chose the Western Mountaineering Sycamore semi-rectangular bag because they are light weight (480g of 750 fill-power down) and can be joined together to create one super big cosy embryo. It has often become damp due to our imperfect tent, and been slow to dry, so we have been wondering whether synthetic would have been better. On cold nights the extra air bagginess of them compared to a mummy style bag can make it a little chilly. Everytime you turn, you turn into a cold pocket. So far they have got us through quite a few nights as low as -4 degrees. Not sure I’d want it much colder though. It is quite warm for summer nights but ok if loose.

Sleeping bags are designed to be stored in places where the fill is allowed to expand, aka not bicycle panniers. Compressing the insulation for extended periods of time weakens the loft of the product, and reduces its insulating qualities. We found the longer we have been on the road, the less fluffy and warm our sleeping bag has become. We are told that there are outdoor shops where you can get fresh down replaced.

Padding…

For a bit of sleeping comfort we went with the Thermarest Pro-Lite 3 Regular. They have been very comfy (who needs a mattress?), but more importantly they provide extra warmth and dryness by lifting your poor tired body from the cold, damp ground. We have had 3 punctures in twelve months, which were fixed on the first time by heating up a tube of Hot Bond in boiling water and then giving it a quick squeeze and spread. The Thermarest Trekker chairs, are a sleeve which turns your folded thermarest into a comfy, adjustable chair. They can be nice, but we have rarely bothered to use them.

Cooking…

For cooking we chose a MSR-XGK II stove (we’ve also heard good things about the Swedish brand Primus) because it takes loads of different fuel types. The cleanest burning is camping fluid, but we have rarely come across it. BBQ fuel didn’t work very well, so we stick to a steady diet of unleaded petrol which we store in a 1L and a 600ml fuel bottles. It has been very reliable, and is easily maintained. The only problem has been the foldable legs coming off the springs, so it no longer closes up properly. It only burns at one rate, super hot, so for simmering, and gentle cooking we found a circular metal BBQ plate handy.

Water…

With two thirsty dogs a 10L MSR Dromedary Bag has been important. If we are planning a cooking extravaganza or are a bit off the beaten track we try to fill it up late in the afternoon when we are close to looking for a campspot. It is made of tough material, and sits perfectly behind the seat of the Big Dummy, with a bungee strap attached to our basket. For washing vegies, clothes, laundry and washing dishes a 5L Ortlieb Sink has been great. It also folds up nicely for easy storage.

Food storage…

All of our food, bowls, mugs, and cutlery go in two 10L See Bags (being see-through saves frustrating searches). After 3 months of daily use though the foldable tops started splitting apart more and more (hello duct tape). After 12 months the foldable flaps are ragged, but with duct tape they are still working and keeping our food dry. They fit nicely in the Xtracycle freeloader bags of Fin’s longtail Big Dummy bike. For spices, keeping food light and dry, as well as stopping leaks we use Zip Lock Zipper bags (make sure you go with a zipper top to save yourself frustration).

Odds and Ends…

For a bit of extra light in the night Petzl Tikka Headlamps have been great. They take 3 AAA batteries.

Tektowels are small, lightweight and quick drying. Everything you’d want in a travel towel.

29 thoughts on “Bikes & Gear

    • We are guessing somewhere around 70-80kgs each of furry and non-furry luggage. If we were more ruthless it could be less though.

  1. Hey Guys,

    this is Darren from Kobarid, Slovenia. I spoke with you guys briefly this afternoon. I’m so envious of your fabulous adventure. It’s inspiring me to focus on my own cycle adventure. Hopefully not in the too distant future. I’ll keep tabs on your website which is absolutely fantastic. I’m very impressed!! Hey a question for you…did you guys get sponsorship with Icebraker and or other equipment suppliers?
    peace & respect. May the adventures never end!

    • Hi Darren,
      We have tried many companies for sponsorship, most of which have been ignored altogether. Our only success has been with upgrading products we had already bought: 6 free Marathon Extreme replacement tires from Schwalbe, and a Hubba Hubba HP replacement tent from MSR. Other cyclists have had more luck though, especially with acquiring discounted or free gear from the outset. Having a charity seems to help. We weren’t organised enough before the trip. The guys from Riding the Spine said they got some free gear by writing articles for magazines. Look forward to seeing your adventures soon. Happy hiking!
      Fin

      • hi,

        Love your blog, very inspiring especially given the hasty preparation! I’m planning a shorter trip (just a couple of months) in France & Switzerland hopefully with some offroad sections. I’m struggling with tyre choice between Marathone Duremes (better on the roads) and Extremes (better for rougher roads). You started with XRs but now have Extremes? How do they compare? I think the Extremes are lighter than the XRs – how ave you found them both on and off road?

      • Hi Chris. The Extremes would make a good choice if you are going off road in France and Switzerland. The Extremes are a little knobbier than the XR’s, but Schwalbe claims “lower rolling resistance and better puncture protection”. I have not felt them to be sluggish on the road and find they grip well on the gravel/rocky/dirt roads.
        You can’t go wrong cycling in France and Switzerland. Beautiful and bike friendly. There is normally a choice in Switzerland (at least the part we traversed) between road and off-road bicycle routes between towns.
        Here is an interactive bike map of Switzerland you might find handy: http://map.veloland.ch/
        Enjoy…

  2. Bonjour,
    Here is Duny family from Pardies Pietat who was honored to meet you one year ago.
    Adrien the little shy guy is now growing up, Arthur is just one year old now, Sylviane is fit again and I’m perfectly fine.
    If you would come back we would be 3 on the bike to meet you on the way, the little one is made about bike…
    We wish you happiness and all the best for your fantastic trip.
    See u soon on your blog

  3. Hey my old bike just blew up on me which means I’ll have to get the new one now. I’m looking at pretty much copying Zoa’s bike but the m760 seems hard to find. Is there a big difference between the m760 and the m770?

  4. Also any good sites to buy those sets from? Ebay is complicated. I also see that they have 170mm and 175 mm cranksets. Which are you using?

  5. Hi Guys,

    Dig the site, it’s inspiring. My lady and I are planning our own cycle world tour and we are about one year out from departure. I’ve been spending my time pouring over equipment and researching routes. We’re heading from Portugal to Cyprus sometime late summer 2011. I had a question regarding wheel size, are you going 700’s or 26″ I’ve heard replacing 700″ can be hard to come by in some countries. What say you?

    Thanks and God Speed!
    Davo & Abs

    • G’day Davo and Abs,
      Love your names. Sounds like a nice route ahead of you. We run on 26″ wheels. We are no bike boffins, but we took the standard advice that parts for 26″ wheels would be easier to find in the more exotic countries of this planet. We have really heavily loaded bikes so it is probably better anyway for us to run on 26″ for that reason alone. A book you might find useful in your planning is ‘Adventure Cycle Touring Handbook’ by Stephen Lord. http://www.adventurecycle-touringhandbook.com/

  6. `hello, first of all you two are very inspiring and i love you website. `i have a question about dog trailers as my partner and i are trying to plan a trip with a medium to large dog(55 pounds so far). I have been researching trailers and i am wondering if it is important to have a trailer that attaches in the center of the bike (such as yours attaching to the seat post)? Most pet trailers seem to attach at the bottom left of the frame and i am worried that prolonged pull on one side would do damage to the bike. The cycletote trailer is the only pet-specific trailer i’ve found so far where the attachment is centered. I am also considering the just getting a work trailer such as the Surly bill+ted model and simply attaching our plastic doggy travel crate to the frame.
    let me know your thoughts when you have time.
    good luck on the travels,
    hal.

    • Hi Hal. Opinion is divided on which method is better: axle or seatpost hitch. We’ve only ever used a seatpost hitch, so we can’t give you a personal comparison, but can tell you that it works well for us. People say that a seatpost hitch allows heavier loads as this position can share part of the load onto the bicycle in front of the rear wheel. It does however mean you can’t story anything on top of the rear rack, and sometimes removing panniers is awkward if the bike and trailer aren’t in a straight line.
      The Surly trailer sounds pretty sturdy, although I notice they don’t recommend dogs on it (maybe just covering liability). The weight might add up with the steel frame and the travel crate on top, but would be alot easier to re-weld than aluminium if anything goes wrong on the road.
      If it’s possible you could ask to test a loaded trailer before buying it. DoggyRide are supposed to be quite reputable too if they sell near you. Check for flexing in the connecting arm between the trailer and the bike and avoid anything that has an annoying pulsing effect. Also some bicycle trailers cannot be mounted on bicycles with disc brakes.
      Hope that helps a bit. Happy trails.

  7. Hello! The other half of our cycling circus which is currently in northern Europe told us about you, so we’re reading about your adventures from here in western Kazakhstan . . . We recently built a kind of big dummy after we ditched our self-made long-john. The south east Asian roads really took a toll on the long-john, breaking just about everything on it, so a we wanted a lighter, thinner bike. The big dummy idea is great, so we found a junk yard in Urumqi, China, stripped 2 frames of all their un-useful parts, and convinced the guys at a metal workshop in the Uyghur-speaking part of town to let us use their welding machine to put the frames together. The finished bike isn’t any longer than our black tallbike which has carried a tuba from Germany to Mongolia last year, and this year a cello from China through Vietnam and Laos. Our new longtail should get us through Kazakhstan, Russia, Georgia and Turkey, with the accordeon strapped tightly to the front rack . . .
    Where are you now? Know anyone who might want to join us for a ride through central Asia, eastern and southern Europe?

  8. Maybe you would like to try our 1-Running-Dog Bike Tow Leash to get some paw assist up the hills with your 70 kg load. I appreciate your link to Bike Tow Leash.com but don’t know if you have had the opportunity to give it a try. Let me know if you would like to have your dogs help tow the load. Best regards,
    Mike Leon.

    • Greetings Michael,

      Happy New Year.

      It is cumbersome and not ideal to attach our regular leashes to our bikes/trailers. They often drag on the ground or Paco gets caught up. Mind you he is a pretty smart cookie and he knows how to get himself out. We haven’t tried the tow leash but welcome the opportunity to give it a go. We are in Vancouver now. It seems more and more people are getting on board and pedaling with paws.

  9. This sight is amazingly helpful. Your trip and stories have inspired me and my partner to take a 2 week bike trip through slovenia! Do you have your precise route posted somewhere? Do you have any other recommendations? What did you use for navigating, GPS or maps? Do you recommend the slovenian segment of the Drau river path, even if going in wrong direction (east to west)? Thanks for sharing your stories and making this awesomely helpful website.

    • Hi Anthony,

      Thank you for the comments. We are due for a blog update and revamp of our site.

      Slovenia is one of our favourite places we have cycled. Its beauty and diversity is amazing.

      Unfortunately we don’t have a more detailed map of our route through Slovenia but the attached map will give you a general idea.

      Slovenia Route

      We used good old fashioned maps for navigating. Wild camping and no electricity require low technology. I imagine a GPS would be helpful though.

      We followed the Drau river path from Austria but we ventured off the path because we wanted to go to the Triglav National Park (which was an absolute highlight and not to be missed). http://www.tnp.si/national_park/

      The Soca River is a gem, so clean and so beautiful. We tried river kayaking on the Soca and highly recommend it. http://www.slovenia.info/?reka_potok=12363&lng=2

      Kobarid and its surrounding area is not to be missed. The gorges and waterfalls are amazing.

      We enjoyed Ljubljana and its vibrant university city vibe. Great coffee!

      We didn’t get to the coast but we hear that area is fantastic too. One of our regrets is not crossing from Slovenia into Croatia. We hear wonderful things from bicyclists and motorcyclists about Croatia.

      I really don’t think you can wrong with Slovenia.

      Here is a link to the Drau cycle path in case you don’t already have it: http://www.radtouren.at/en/radwege/genussradtouren/drauradweg.html

      We found the cycling along the river to be relatively easy and I believe it is easier going East to West. There are great coffeeshops and resources along the river and we found it good for wild camping.

      Anyways, I hope this helps!

  10. I have a tip from someone who gets wet boots every day and is Ex British Army Arctic survival instructor, when your boots are wet stuff them with newspaper every night (always a free one outside supermarkets) and stick them at the end of your doss bags! Shame I missed you guys in Cambridge and it looks like you rode right past our village.
    Happy riding.

    • Hello Chris,

      We did try that trick and even tried cycling with newspapers in our boots. Unfortunately when it rains for days straight (like in Galicia, Spain or the Norwegian Coast) there is no way to get your boots dry. We eventually bought SealSkinz waterproof socks which worked pretty good but weren’t as breathable as we had hoped. Interestingly, they were designed by a British Company.
      Rain was one of biggest struggles.
      We really loved Cambridge, what a fabulous cycling city!
      Sorry we missed you too. We will be back eventually :)

  11. It definitely sounds like Shimano hubs are just too light for heavy touring. I am at the moment building a LHT for myself. I am considering taking back the front Schmidt Son 28, 36 hole dyno hub for a 40 hole, and going with a Phil Wood touring 40 hole hub instead of 36 hole for the back. I read you had suffered a broken axle I believe, and also that you had a split rim. I hear about the spit rims even on the best wheels with the best rims, and I am beginning to suspect that that comes from inflating tires too high. At Velocity they told me to keep tires pumped up as high as 15 psi under what the tire company says it can go. The tire can take that higher psi, but not rims I believe. Your riding is definitely “extreme conditions” with all the weight you carry, etc, and I had better build my bike for extremes, or stand vulnerable. I may go with the Sun Rhino Lite rims, or else the Chukker by Velocity. I also plan to run Alpine 3 triple butted spokes, which you can not even put on a Shimano hub, for not having big enough spoke holes. Shimano makes a lot of good parts, but they are really not in the touring hub business at all.
    I plan to pick up touring when my two Schipperkes pass. The idea about a canine companion is a wild one. I have considered a puller/guard, or else a Tea Cup Chihuahua to tip my heater, though it might be best for me to travel alone.

    • Hi David,

      I agree I wouldn’t go with Shimano again for pulling a 100 pound dog and 60 pounds plus of supplies. The cracked rims were mainly due to the hydraulic rim brakes on the Big Dummy, another mistake in our builds. Compared to most touring cyclists we had a lot of equipment failure (bike and non-bike). I guess it is like human beings, the more weight we carry the harder it is on our bones, muscles and joints.

      Schipperkes are small dogs so you would have no trouble pulling them in a trailer. I agree dogs help keep a tent warm on a cold night.

      Dogs do make great traveling companions, I would feel lost without mine.

      Big smiles,

      Zoa

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