We’re both experienced bike tourers. However, when we started planning this trip, neither of us owned a bike suitable for carrying such a monstrous amount of kit across such a wide variety of terrain for such a preposterously long time. We went for two very different options: Ruth for an off-the-peg, derailleur-equipped tourer with a few modifications, Will for a fully custom build with a hub gear. There’s a maintenance calendar at the bottom of the page.

(Note: Stuff we bought en route has been marked with a [+] sign.)



Ruth’s bike

Ruth’s bike is a Surly Long Haul Trucker, with a few variations to the standard 2012 build:

Handlebars replaced with Nitto B136AA Randonneur bars, briefly switched en route for [+] Bontrager Race Lite Cyclocross bars but then changed back again
Handlebar tape Specialized, with Body Geometry Bar Phat
Stem replaced with Deda Logo, switched en route for [+] RavX Tempo Hi-Rider
Brakes & shifters stock levers and bar-end shifters replaced with Shimano Sora STI shifters

The randonneur bars are slimmer than the Surly’s standard bars, and the stock bar-end shifters proved an irritation on a previous tour. The RavX stem allows for higher handlebar positions.

Saddle replaced with Serfas RX-922V
Seatpost replaced with System EX alloy post

When you find a comfortable saddle, stick with it.

Pedals Shimano PD-A530
Tyres [+] Continental City Ride II (26in x 1.75in, front) & [+] Maxxis Overdrive Elite (26in x 1.75in, rear)
Skewers replaced with Pitlocks
Front luggage Tubus Tara rack, Ortlieb Front Roller Classic panniers, [+] Roswheel top tube bike phone bag (12496)
Rear luggage Tubus Duo rack, Ortlieb Back Roller Classic panniers with outer pocket, Ortlieb 35l medium-weight dry bag
Bottles Zefal Magnum (1000ml), Brixton Cycles (800ml, 600ml) x 2
Lights CatEye HL-EL120 (front), CatEye TL-LD130 & [+] Bontrager Ember (rear)
Bike stand Click-Stand Max 5 [sent home]

Tubus and Ortlieb are touring standards. The tyres are replacements for a pair of Continental Travel Contacts, a Geax Evolution and a Schwalbe Marathon Dureme. The Click-Stand is a nice invention, but we sent ours home as we simply weren’t using them.



Will’s bike

You don’t need a bespoke bike for a trip like this. There are a number of widely admired tourers on the market that would do the job very well, from derailleur-equipped models such as Ruth’s Long Haul Trucker to Rohloff-anchored workhorses such as the Thorn Nomad, the Tout Terrain Silkroad and the Santos Travelmaster. Bad reviews of any of them are hard to find. (Side note: Thorn’s Nomad brochure is the most catastrophically ugly publication we’ve ever seen but contains plenty of very useful guidance on touring kit.) Nonetheless, the opportunity to get a bike built from scratch was a vanity project that proved impossible to resist.

One of the framebuilders Ruth and I met at Bespoked Bristol in April 2012 was Ryan McCaig from Oak Cycles, who’d just made a bike for Emily Chappell that was already several thousand miles into a round-the-world trip. I wanted something that would be both beautiful and fit for purpose, and Ryan had some great ideas as to how he could marry those ambitions.

While Ryan built the frame/forks, I settled on the components, before Ryan and Nik at Look Mum No Hands put the whole thing together. I’m absolutely delighted with the end result. A year later, Ryan showed the bike at Bespoked Bristol 2013, where he won the Best Touring Bike in Show award for Nik’s multi-purpose 29er.

Here’s the spec…

Frame & forks Built by Ryan at Oak Cycles, powdercoated by Armourtex

Ryan’s written a bit about the bike on his site, where you’ll also find some images.

Wheels Built by Celia at Bike Yard East
Front wheel Schmidt SON 28 dynamo hub (32h, silver), Rigida Andra 30 CSS rim, DT Swiss Competition spokes (260mm), [+] Continental Country Plus tyre (26in x 1.75in)
Rear wheel Rohloff Speedhub 500/14 CC EX OEM (8015, 32h, 16t sprocket, silver), Rigida Andra 30 CSS rim (Rohloff drilling), Rohloff Speedhub spokes (238mm), [+] Continental City Ride II tyre (26in x 1.75in)
Tubes & tape Schwalbe MTB tubes (26in x 1.5in-2.5in), Velox cloth rim tape (22mm)
Mudguards Gilles Berthoud stainless steel mudguards (26in x 60mm, short), Brooks mud flap
Skewers Pitlocks

The hubs are longtime travellers’ favourites, despite the occasional worrying Rohloff failure, and the Rigida rims are putatively bombproof. The tyres are on-road replacements for Continental Travel Contacts, a Schwalbe Marathon Dureme and a Maxxis Overdrive Elite; they’re far from perfect but they’re about the best and most appropriate I could find when I needed new tyres in Ecuador and Mexico. The mudguards may be overkill, but they look lovely. If you’re in or near east London and are in need of a bike mechanic and/or a wheelbuilder, you won’t find a better one than Celia at Bike Yard East.

Brakes Shimano Deore XT BR-T780 V brakes
Brake pads SwissStop RxPlus Blue Sky
Brake levers Tektro RL520

Running V brakes with drop bars requires special levers, and the Tektros are a bit cheaper than the alternative. The Blue Sky pads are required for the CSS rims.

Crankset Stronglight Impact Rohloff chain set, single guard; original 39t chainring replaced after 21,630km with Sugino CR1159 40t chainring (110mm BCD, five arm)
Chain KMC X1 #1, KMC X1 #2 [both used & replaced], Shimano CN-IG70
Bottom bracket Shimano BB-UN55 (73-122.5mm)
Pedals Shimano PD-A530

The crankset and chain used on the original build were both Rohloff-specific, though the chainring and chain have both since been replaced by non-Rohloff but best-available kit sourced in Mexico, and the square-taper bottom bracket should last a while. (Incidentally, if you’re thinking of building a bike with this chainset, beware of SJS‘s 118mm bottom bracket recommendation; like this guy, Nik found we needed something wider.) The tried-and-true Shimano pedals have an SPD fitting on one side and a flat platform on the other.

Headset Chris King NoThreadSet (1-1/8″)
Spacers Hope Space Doctor
Stem Condor Strada (100mm length, 26mm clamp), Nitto shim
Handlebars Grand Bois Randonneur, HubBub drop bar adapter
Handlebar tape Fizik Superlight wrapped over Condor cork tape
Bell Portland Design Works King of Ding [broke]

The double-wrapped randonneur bars are too compact for some riders, but they’re really comfortable for this narrow-shouldered one. Ryan built the bike with a long steerer tube to allow for plentiful adjustments to the handlebar height, hence the spacers. The HubBub adaptor holds the Rohloff shifter. The bell was a beauty until its dinger snapped off.

Saddle Brooks B17, Randi Jo Fabrications cover
Seatpost Nitto S83 seatpost (27.2mm x 300mm), Thomson seatpost collar (29.8mm)

The S83 has more layback than the Thomson Elite I originally used.

Dynamo USB charger Pedalpower+ Super-i-Cable
Lights Busch + Müller Lumotech IQ Cyo Senso Plus (front), [+] Q-Lite QL-262 Nite Rider TL 5.0 (rear)

Mounted on the bars, the Super-i-Cable is wired into the Son dynamo and produces enough power to charge almost all our gadgets (the exception is our tablet, a Google Nexus 7). The dynamo also powers the front light.

Handlebar bag Carradice Super C, KlickFix Distanz-Set
Front luggage Tubus Nova rack, Carradice Super C universal/front panniers
Rear luggage Tubus Cosmo rack, Carradice Super C rear panniers, [+] Bewolk 35l dry bag
Bottle cages & bottles King Cage stainless steel cages, SIS bottles (1000ml x 2, 600ml x 1)
Bike stand Click-Stand Max 5 [sent home]

Tubus racks and King Cage cages are (hopefully) indestructible. Carradice won out over Ortlieb for breathability, repairability, size and the exterior pocket.



Spares and accessories

Multitool half of a Topeak Alien II [other half rendered useless by rust] , [+] Topeak Mini 9 MT [too small, sent home], [+] Park Tool AWS-10

Pumps Topeak Turbo Morph, Blackburn AirStik 2Stage (spare) [both broke], [+] Giyo GP-71 (Will), [+] Lezyne Pressure Drive (Ruth)
Tyre levers Park Tool TL-1
Tyre boots Park Tool TB-2
Puncture repair kit from Condor Cycles
Tyres & tubes Schwalbe Marathon Dureme (26in x 2.0in; was on Ruth’s bike), [+] Schwalbe MTB tubes x 1 (26in x 1.5in-2.5in), [+] Bontrager Standard tubes x 2 (26in x 1.75in-2.125in), various others [used & abused]
Spoke key Park Tool SW-7
Brake blocks Shimano Deore M55T (Ruth; used), SwissStop RxPlus Blue Sky (Will; 1 spare set used, then replaced)

Locks Abus Sinus 46 (300mm shackle), Abus Steel-o-Flex 840 [lost]

Chain lube Rock ‘n’ Roll Gold (4oz/118ml) [ran out], [+] Finish Line Ceramic Wet (4oz/118ml) [hopeless], [+] ProGold ProLink (4oz/118ml)
Chain cleaner [+] Chepark BIC-110
Grease Rock ‘n’ Roll Red Devil (4oz/118ml)
Saddle care [+] Brooks Proofide (40g)

Rohloff spares (Will) Rohloff sprocket (16t) [now on the bike] & sprocket tool, oil change kit x 4 3 2 1 [all used], Torx TX/TS20 key, Rohloff shifter cables
Carradice spares (Will) spare C System pannier hooks, spare anti-sway catch, waterproof liners
Ortlieb spares (Ruth) spare inserts for QL1/QL2 pannier hooks x 2 1
Spare chains [+] Shimano CN-HG53 (Ruth), KMC X1 (Will) [both used]
Spare cleats Shimano SM-SH51
Plus various spare spokes, spoke nipples, chain links, gear and brake cables, nuts, bolts, screws, cable ends and other bits and pieces

Inevitably, we’ll have forgotten something. Answers on a postcard.



Maintenance en route


Punctures 16: at 1,585km (front and rear at the same time!); 3,800km (rear); 5,000km (front); 7,100km (rear); 13,330km, 13,350km, 21,110km, 21,230km, 21,350km & 21,740km (all front); 23,850km, 24,520km, 24,710km, 25,130km & 26,170km (all rear)
Broken spokes None yet
Services 980km (quick check at Bike Sul in Curitiba, PR, Brazil), 3,450km (full service at Trek Bikes in Montevideo, Uruguay), 5,100km (quick check at Solo Bici, Godoy Cruz, MZ, Argentina), 8,900km (full service at X Bikes in La Paz, L, Bolivia), 11,920km (quick check at Bicimania in Loja, Ecuador), 12,900km (full service at Construbicis in Quito, Pichincha, Ecuador), 14,210km (gears reindexed & saddle repaired at Bisoño Mechanics, Manizales, Caldas, Colombia), 18,200km (basic service at Antigua Bicycle Co-op, Antigua Guatemala, Sacatepéquez, Guatemala), 18,700km (brake & gear cables replaced at Terra Bike, San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico) & 24,375km (full service with numerous new parts at Bicycle Sport Shop, Austin, TX, USA)
New parts Brake cables at 3,450km; chains/cassettes at 3,450km (chain only), 8,900km, 12,900km, 24,375km & 28,300km (chain only); gear cable/housing snapped & replaced at 13,340km; brake pads at 18,200km; brake & gear cables at 18,700km; bottom bracket, middle chainring, jockey wheels, gear cables & bar tape at 24,375km
Retired tyres Front: Continental Travel Contact (26in x 1.75in; lasted 7,010km, two punctures), Geax Evolution (26in x 1.9in; lasted 8,460km, six punctures), Continental City Ride II (26in x 1.75in; lasted 6,980km (end of trip), no punctures) | Rear: Continental Travel Contact (26in x 1.75in; lasted 6,090km, three punctures) | Schwalbe Marathon Dureme (26in x 2.0in; lasted 11,920km, three punctures), Maxxis Overdrive Elite (26in x 1.75in; lasted 4,440km (end of trip), two punctures)


Punctures 31: at 505km (rear); 930km (front); 1,400km, 2,575km, 2,990km, 3,250km, 3,430km & 3,550km (all rear); 5,405km, 5,450km, 6,270km & 9,250km (all front); 9,720km (rear); 11,640km (front); 11,920km, 14,200km, 15,430km, 17,580km & 18,360 (all rear); 18,850km & 18,860km (both front); 20,010km (rear); 20,210km (front); 22,820km (rear); 23,000km (front); 23,270km, 24,880km, 24,950km & 25,840km (all rear); 26,020km & 26,870km (both front)
Broken spokes 4: at 1,400km, 3,250km, 9,800km & 10,700km (all rear)
Services 3,450km (basic service at Trek Bikes in Montevideo, Uruguay), 14,210km (chain replaced, sprocket reversed & bottom bracket regreased at Bisoño Mechanics, Manizales, Caldas, Colombia), 16,900km (broken chain-link replaced & pedals serviced at Ciclo Taller Frank No.2, Liberia, Guanacaste, Costa Rica), 18,200km (brakes serviced & pads replaced at Antigua Bicycle Co-op, Antigua Guatemala, Sacatepéquez, Guatemala) & 21,630km (chainring & chain replaced at Zona Bici, Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca, Mexico)
Wheels Rear wheel trued after broken spokes at 5,100km (Solo Bici, Godoy Cruz, MZ, Argentina), 9,820km (Russo Bikes, Cusco, 08, Peru) & 11,920km (Zona Bike, Loja, Ecuador)
Drivetrain Rohloff oil changes at 4,860km, 10,190km, 15,300km & 21,630km; chain link removed at 12,900km, then chain replaced at 14,210km; chain link removed from chain #2 at 18,700km, then chain, chainring & sprocket replaced at 21,630km
New parts Chain at 14,210km; brake pads at 18,200km; chain, chainring & sprocket at 21,630km
Retired tyres Front: Continental Travel Contact (26in x 1.75in; lasted 9,060km, four punctures), Maxxis Overdrive Excel (26in x 1.75in; lasted 11,095km, four punctures) Continental Country Plus (26in x 1.75in; lasted 4,835km (end of trip), two punctures) | Rear: Continental Travel Contact (26in x 1.75in; lasted 3,450km, six punctures), Schwalbe Marathon Dureme (26in x 2.0in; lasted 9,830km, three punctures), Maxxis Overdrive Elite (26in x 2.0in; lasted 11,650km including 4,220km at the front, seven punctures), Continental City Ride II (26in x 1.75in; lasted 8,500km (end of trip), five punctures & one split)