We don’t have many valuable belongings, but we’re are not free from feeling affectionate about one thing: Our bikes
I’m supposed to write now and tell you about my dear little bike, but I just don’t know where to start. We’ve been through so much together over the years, the two of us. My bike has seen a lot, it really has. If it could talk it would sure have some stories to tell. If it could talk. It can’t talk, obviously. Not since Dea showed up, anyway.
I bought the bike as a complete Surly Long Haul Trucker from Brixton Cycles in London way back in 2010. After 110,000 kilometres of dutiful service more parts have changed than have stayed the same, but I’m still riding on the original frame and fork. The frame did need to have some repair work done to it, after it cracked during an unexpected collision with a kangaroo. A frame specialist in Melbourne welded on an extra bracket to keep it going. The handlebars, brake levers, seat-post and, most impressive of all, the Brooks saddle are all original too. I should add, however, that the Brooks saddle stopped being comfortable about four years ago, but I can’t get the damn thing off. It’s like having a giant shoe horn under my ass. But I’ve stuck a gel seat cover over it, and I get by.
Also still going after all these years are the Tubus racks, but they have certainly seen better days. The front one has cracked and needs to be welded up. Unfortunately I can’t be bothered to find a welder, so I’ve used a couple of cable ties. It’s also got a gaping great hole rusted in the bottom of it. Onto this front rack I hook two Ortlieb panniers, replaced in Singapore a couple of years ago. I did also have two Ortlieb panniers on the back, but one morning in Canada I awoke to discover one of them had been stolen by a mischievous bear. Hearing of my misfortune Arkel stepped in and offered me a replacement set, and I have to say so far I find the Arkel panniers to be far superior to Ortlieb. The method of attaching to the rack is ingenious, they are easier to open and close, and they appear to be much more robust than the Ortlieb ones, which have always demonstrated an annoying habit of breaking in every conceivable way.
The wheels are new, hand-built by the excellent Spa Cycles. 26” of course, 36 spoke, Rigida Sputnik rims and Shimano LX hubs. I’ve teamed them up with some Schwalbe Marathon Plus Tour tyres. As for the drive train I’ve got 27 gears but I’m not going to get too in depth with the names of all the components, mostly because I can’t remember them. I use mostly Shimano stuff, with the exception of the chain, as I’m a big fan of the SRAM PC951. It’s very cheap, but always been excellent for me. I also cheap out on pedals. I’ve always used flat pedals and buy cheap plastic ones. My current ones I bought for ten dollars in Australia and they’ve given me a good 15,000 kilometres so far.
But by far and away the best thing about my lovely bike is the new basket I have on the front. I bought this in Grindsted, Dea’s hometown in Denmark, and lord knows how I got by for so long without one. Absolutely fantastic it is. I fill it up with food and eat on the go. It’s like having a buffet in front of me all day long. Quite brilliant. I also keep a radio in there for musical entertainment, and it’s awfully useful for keeping maps and things close to hand.
So, to conclude, if I could give you one piece of advice for building a bike for a long tour, it would be this: Get a basket!
I didn’t know anything about bikes when I decided to join Chris on a bike ride around the world, so I decided to build a touring bike myself. Yes, it makes perfectly sense, because in that way I would learn at least what my own bike was made of and what could break before I rode out into the remote Australian outback and jungle. I managed to collect all the parts I needed and put it all together over a few days with good help from Chris and a nice guy called Hugh from Commuter Cycles in Melbourne. I still don’t know much about bicycles, so i can’t tell anymore details about which brands and sizes and parts I used. But I know that I have a pretty awsome bike that is green.
My bike was so awsome that for the next several thousand kilometres nothing broke. I didn’t even have a puncture. So I forgot most of what I learned when I built it. Therefore I now feel excited, almost happy, when things start to wear, fall apart and need to be replaced, like brake pads and cables, or when I see scratches and rust on the racks. Then I can practise my bike mechanic skills and I see the wear as signs of what we have experienced and learned together, my bike and I. Some day soon I will be able to efficiently fix a puncture and pump my tyre. That was what I dreamed of when I began all this.
One thing I really like about my bike is to look at it. I can see that it is strong and determined. It wants to go out there and it can do it, it can do everything. It looks confident. It inspires me when I find things difficult.