Kelly Kempenaaes and Joris Doossche have come a long way. When I met them last week in Blue River, British Columbia, they had already bike toured South America and the United States, and were continuing their northward trek, towards the Yellowhead Highway (16) where they would turn right, towards Jasper, Alberta, and ultimately, New York.
As their blog records, the journey began on October 8, 2011. By the end of August, 2012, they had covered 10,607 kilometres by bike, in Argentina, Chile Peru, Bolivia, Columbia, Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica, USA, and, of course, Canada, with links by plane, bus, train or boat.Their bikes are the aluminum-frame “Travelmaster,” built by Santos Bikes. But I was most interested in their drivetrains: 14-speed Rohloff Speedhub, turned by Gates Carbon Drive belts. According to the duo, this system has been virtually trouble-free, requiring far less maintenance than any traditional chain-drive mechanism. Santos proprietor Robbert Rutgrink is a convert to this this set-up, with 15-years experience rolling on Rohloffs and 4-years as a carbon belt believer.
I must admit I’ve been somewhat resistant to these innovations, based on the idea that when strange things break in strange places replacements are hard to come by. However, when it comes to internal hub gears, having worked in a shop that sold Rohloff hubs, I have seen few issues to support my hesitation. I have been unlucky enough to ride derailleur-equipped bikes over unpaved roads thick with “gumbo” mud, which required stopping every few kilometres to clean the drivetrain so cogs and chain would mesh.
I’m guessing Joris and Kelly will encounter less muddy tracks than Bolivia on their route eastward to The Big Apple, and none of the 120 km/h headwinds they faced in Patagonia.
Happy trails, guys!