What Do Our Touring Bikes Look Like After 10,000k?
UPDATE: My Inbred frame cracked at around 12,000km. Read about that here.
The virtual odometer (ie, Strava) on my trusty Inbred rolled over 10,000 km the other day. Whilst I am currently using it as a commuter / utility bike, the first 9,500km or so were spent grinding out the bumpy backroads of Central America and Colombia. Reaching 10,000 clicks has made me think about how our gear choices performed – ie, stuff that survived vs stuff that died long ago. Some of the results have surprised me, so I thought it was worth sharing. This post is an attempt to share my experiences with some gear in hope that it will help other cyclists who might be planning their next tour.
I’ve made very little attempt to clean these gruesome beasts for their little photo op. Here they are in all their filthy glory, caked in grime from various continents and worn top to bottom by our endless pedalling, dropping, kicking, rain, mud and love.
Old Man Inbred, in his younger years was a rugged expedition bike that carried me over the backroads from Mexico to Colombia… now somewhat decommissioned as my commuter/utility bike. The morning ride to my office is about 6.5km of singletrack climbing through lush woods, pesky nettles and delicious blackberry bushes. Sometimes I come back down from the supermarket with a week’s worth of shopping in the panniers. The other day I bounced down the trail with a bucket and mop bungeed to the back of the rack!
Over 10,000km on the Marathon XRs seems pretty good value to me. They’re not as grippy as they once were, but they still prevent punctures like nothing else I’ve used (aside from Slime or No Tubes, but that’s not really a fair contest).
The Shutter Precision PD-8 dynamo hub generator is still rolling around without a hitch, powering lights and gadgets as demanded. At half the price of a Schmidt SON, I have nothing but praise for this hub (as is evident in my other posts)!
Chris King Headset… a true fit and forget bit of kit. I picked this one up in a sale, hence the random colour choice!
Hydraulics on a bike tour? Hell yes! We rode with these bog standard Deore hydraulics for our entire trip without even replacing the fluid without a hitch. Brake pads on the other hand, we consumed as if they were crack laced Smarties! Not all brake pads are created equal, so we recommend bringing plenty of good quality spares to avoid (a) premature pad wear (b) excessive rotor wear. Also, having used the Deore XT hydraulics on another bike, I can say that the pistons on the Deores are little more prone to getting stuck. Sometimes they need a really good clean when replacing the pads in order to get them to go back into the holes to avoid rubbing.
I replaced my wobbly old Shimano M324 combo pedals with these chunkier Deore pedals I found for $10 in the bargain bin at the Community Bike Hub in Bellingham, WA.
My original Deore derailleur is still chugging along, though I replaced the jockey wheels with a ‘less used’ pair I found at the Bham Bike Hub.
The Brooks B17 does not disappoint, as long as you give it the love it deserves. We were pretty careful not to let them stay wet for too long and occasionally soaked them in motor oil to keep it from drying out (you can use other less offensive oils, but that’s what we had on hand in Costa Rica at the time!).
I can’t fault the Ortlieb handlebar bag on it’s waterproofness, but I found it generally annoying in several other ways. The button snaps broke off after a just a few months, it’s an awkward shape to carry and the mounting fixture is poorly designed, as it cannot be removed after installation without destroying the mounting cable! I found this last point out the hard way before we even started our trip and had to get Ortlieb to FedEx a spare cable to Mexico. They wouldn’t cover the cost because they said it was never intended to be moved between different bikes! What?!?!
The basic Deore bottom bracket is okay, but I have never been able to get more than around 7,000km out of it before I start noticing some play in the bearings. I replaced it with basically the same model in San Gil, Colombia and it’s still good as new. The Deore crankset on the other hand is gold mine of good value for the budget minded tourer. The crank arms are plenty stiff and the stock chainrings are really hard wearing. I replaced my small and middle rings after about 8000km. The small ring still had some life, but I really wanted a tiny 20T ring for steep climbs.
The Inbred frame is tough, but was no match for my inevitable crashes and general blunders. As battered as she may appear, I am convinced it’s all cosmetic. The chainstays cracked in half at 12,000km (read here). I would say that On One’s paint jobs scratch ridiculously easily, but I stopped caring about this about a week into our trip as it acts as a theft deterrent!
I replaced the first SRAM 971 chain at around 4,000km and the second one along with the original Deore cassette at around 7,000km. Annoyingly, I just had to replace the chain and cassette a third time with another SRAM 971 and Deore because the models I bought in Colombia was very low end Shimano (all they had in the shop). As an aside, I’ve recently tried a KMC chain on my trail bike, and I think I am converted!
Jenny’s mini-Inbred, dirty but dependable! The condition is pretty similar to mine, except with no big dents and half as many scratches. I really don’t no how she manages.
We replaced her ancient Deore derailleur with this (also used) Deore for $5 at the Bham Bike Hub. Now she’s shifting like a champ again!
Her Truvatic Firex crankset and bottom bracket was already used when we started our trip. We replaced her middle ring with a barely used one from Bham Bike Hub. Other than that, no trouble whatsoever, even with the BB. This surprised me. I am not sure if it’s her higher cadence or her tendency to avoid knee deep mud puddles!
Jenny’s Marathon Mondials are showing significantly less wear than my XRs… I put that down to the extra weight I was carrying.
I swear by the Ergon GP1 grips on a slightly curvy flat bar. It’s comfy on the straight and flats, but agile on the trails. I don’t understand why a lot of tourers insist on those multi position bars that look like they’ve been lifted from an exercise bike. I’d rather a cyclocross drop bar.
We picked up these Rhyno Lites in a sale from On One prebuilt on some basic Shimano hubs about £60 for the pair and didn’t have a single issue through out our trip. The hub bearings are still smooth and the rims are still true. Again, I think Jenny’s lighter weight and riding style have something to do with it.
The Salsa Cromoto Grande is one tough prong, but this model lacks the midpoint braze ons needed for mounting most front rack or a water bottle cage. I used some Tubus mounting adaptors to make it work, but would have preferred to have braze ons for ease of installation.
Aside from the upfront cost, we have absolutely no complaints about Tubus racks. They are extremely tough and their warranty gives great confidence. As with any steel tubing in a humid climate, it is wise to watch out for rust and hit it before it spreads. I coated the inside with linseed oil and occasionally touched up contact wear points with some black paint.
After more than 12,000km, my old Shimano M087 XC shoes are showing signs of imminent death… so…
… I decided to treat myself to this pair of MT71s for commuting, gravel grinding and bikepacking through the upcoming fall and winter. I can only hope they last as long as the M087s.
I cannot express my amazement at the durability of these Superfeet insoles. I’ve been wearing this pair across three different pairs of shoes for over three years. As someone who suffers pretty bad pronation (ie, creepy flat Frankenfoot), I really benefit from the added support that these provide over most stock insoles.
Jenny’s Brooks Flyer S with bouncy springs for extra comfort (once your ass is broken in!). The only annoyance is the regular oiling required to stop the springs squeaking!
These Ortieb Classics had a lot of use even before our trip. I am still using them for commuting now, but I’ve decided I don’t really like them for the kind of bike touring I do. I’ve since moved to a pannier-less setup which is much more nimble on narrow trails. I found that using panniers for trail riding is just asking for holes in your panniers. I had to patch these guys up with Gorilla glue and tarp material several times along our trip.
Jenny is still pushing on her Shimano M324 combo (SPD/flat) pedals. Aside from a pesky screw that worked its way loose, these are reliable and affordable pedals for most types of touring.
At the heart of our touring toolkit lies a Topeak Mountain Morph pump and Topeak Allien II multitool, both battered but still rockin’.
One of my most used and abused pieces of clothing, the Endura Humvee shorts are not only bombproof, they are super comfortable, ergonomic, quick drying, very breathable and full of useful pockets. The main button snap on the crotch tore off in Honduras (probably a result of me eating too many baleadas), so I paid a nice senorita a few dollars to sew a button on for me.
I have used this Garmin Edge 800 GPS on nearly every ride I’ve done in the last three years. It’s currently perched on my trail bike sandwiched between that horrible cacophony of red and orange!
Here’s a cheeky peek at the new wheels on my Stumpy. I recently laced these up with an SP PD-8X (front) and Hope Pro 2 Evo (rear) on Stan’s Arch rims, gone tubeless and lovin’ it!