May 28, 2011
This marks my 100th post to the Touring Gear and Tips column, and after looking back through some previous posts, I thought I would take this opportunity to run down some of the touring gear that I have been most excited about. What follows are my personal favorites, and should not be taken as a definitive 'best of' list, since I don't necessarily believe that there is a true best of show in bicycle touring.
Road Touring Bike
Raleigh Sojourn: I have been a huge fan of this bike over the past few years for a lot of reasons. First off, the sloping top tube does a great job helping shorter riders dismount and remount the bike, especially when it is loaded up with a lot of weight. As far as the build is concerned, they really nailed the core details, such as a wide range cassette, triple crankset, bar end shifters. What really sets this bike off is the attention to detail and extras, such as the WTB handlebars that flare out a bit in the drops for extra stability, a Brooks B17 aged saddle, Brooks leather handlebar tape, a painted to match rear rack, a full set of fenders, mechanical disc brakes, pedals with toe clips, a very nice Lezyne pump, and just for good measure, a bell. Coming in at around $1320, this is a super impressive price for what you're getting.
Off-Road Touring Bike
Salsa Fargo: I have a lot of respect for Salsa coming out and producing a bike that really focuses hard on off-road touring. This is a pretty small niche, and they were taking a big risk going after it, but it turned out to be a huge success, and we're seeing more and more of them cruise through the office each year. You see a lot of touring friendly features in the frame, such as a long wheelbase and tall head tube for a stable and comfy ride, in addition to tons of water bottle, rack, and fender eyelets to make sure you can secure everything you need to the bike. The drop bars also give you a lot of options for hand positions for comfort, and the 29 inch wheels do a great job of smoothing out the dirt/gravel.
Ritchey Breakaway Cross: If a lot of your tours require a flight, or train ride, having a bike that fits into an easy to carry suitacse can save you some money on baggage fees, and make trips between terminals and hotels a lot easier. There are a growing number of options for this style of bike, that include folding bikes and S&S couplings, yet I've been really happy with the system Ritchey has with their Breakaway line. Using a small clamp near the bottom bracket, a couple of bolts near the seat tube/top tube cluster, and a couple of cable disconnects, this frame can be disassembled and reassembled in a hurry, and fits into an unassuming suitcase (included) with rollers. Available in either steel or titanium, it provides a very smooth ride, and has rear rack mounts, in addition to eyelets for a full set of fenders.
Topeak Road Morph Pump: As far as on-the-road bike repairs go, flat tires could be my least favorite to take care of, partially because it is the most common repair encountered on tour. Topeak's Road Morph Pump doesn't make changing flats fun by any means, but does make the process go by quickly with little effort. The key ingredient with this pump is that it can convert into a mini-floor pump, which allows you to get good leverage over the handle. The road version of this pump also includes a gauge, which is surprisingly accurate at high pressures.
Photochromic Lenses: For a lot of clothing options, I'm not super picky, but when it comes to vision, I do like to make sure I can see everything clearly. Also, squinting a lot in the sun can make me a little bit tired, and for cloudy days, I like to keep blowing debris out of my eyes. Photochromic lenses, sometimes called transition lenses, are a style of lens that darkens when exposed to UV light, and clears up when UV light is less present. They are great for almost all conditions of light, so you don't have to carry around spare lenses on your ride.
TOURING GEAR AND TIPS is written by Joshua Tack of Adventure Cycling's member services department. It appears weekly, highlighting technical aspects of bicycle touring and advice to help better prepare you for the journey ahead.