Readers’ Touring Bikes

VeloWeb Readers share their touring bikes

Like the Readers’ Commuter Bikes and Readers’ Rando Bikes pages before it, this page is dedicated to showcasing VeloWeb readers’ bikes.

Join these tourers by submitting your touring bike picture & story to VeloWeb. Apply via the Contact Page.

Stephen & Carol Hinde

“… we expect our new companions to be our last. With this in mind, I tried to outfit them with some of the better and more durable components available.”

Happy Wife (Click to enlarge)
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Pender Harbour, 1982

Carol and I started touring in 1982. We bought a pair of Apollo Prestige steeds, some panniers, helmets, and off we went to see the Sunshine Coast. I packed my tent onto the top of the front carrier, and after 20 km, my arms were so sore we had to stop. Riding up the Half-­Moon Bay hill I noticed blood running down my thighs. After that, we bought cycling shorts! Despite our obvious lack of experience, it was a wonderful trip.

Early in 1985 I decided that we needed new machines to celebrate Carol’s birthday, so that brought along the Specialized Expeditions, considered to be the best heavy duty touring bike then available, made with Tange Prestige tubing. We rode these bikes for the next 23 years, using them for touring, commuting, randonneuring, and even one race. The Expeditions went through several face­‐lifts, including an upgrade to STI, but eventually the time came: after 125,000 km, we retired the Expeditions.

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Specialized Expedition, Mosel River, August 2003

We don’t ride as much these days, so we expect our new companions to be our last. With this in mind, I tried to outfit them with some of the better and more durable components available. First, the frame. I selected a DeKerf Ubique, Reynolds 853 throughout. These frames were custom made by Chris DeKerf in Richmond, BC. Chris is more well know for his mountain bikes, but his racing and touring bikes are also of first quality. This bike is the truest and smoothest ride I’ve ever had, and the customized fit is a big bonus.

These frames have the typical long wheelbase of a touring bike, allowing for larger tires and fenders. An important aspect to me is that Reynolds 853, while the newest CroMo tubeset, does not need any special welding environment, so it can berepaired at any standard welding shop. Cable disk brakes, front and rear, required small changes to the rear triangle, all accommodated easily by Chris. When selecting components, I tried for the best, but not quite—I find cutting edge is just too delicate, and durability is an important factor to me. Carrying a full load over rough terrain can lead to a looooong walk if you have a delicate (while perhaps elegant) steed.

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Dekerf Ubique, Jasper, June 2008

After using disk brakes on our Greenspeed tandem recumbent trike (another story), I was convinced that, except for racing conditions, you’d have to be crazy not to use disk brakes. The braking performance is so superior to rim brakes under all weather conditions, and the hand force and travel required is significantly less, which is important for those with smaller hands. So, we outfitted the Dekerf with Avid BB7 cable disks. As a side advantage, rims can be ridden with full brake available even when out‐of‐true. Rims are important, so I picked the toughest touring rim: Mavic A719. However, I went with 32 spoke. 36 spoke rims and hubs are very difficult to find these days, but with the improved rim strength today, our 32 spoke wheels have remained perfectly true over 5-years of travel, including unboxed air‐transport. Axles and headset are Chris King. Drive train is Shimano Deore XT. Tires have changed–we now use Schwalbe Marathon Dureme 700×35, operating at 85 psi. I thought these tires would be a performance suck, but they actually roll faster than my 28s, they’re a lot more durable, and give more stability on gravel.

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Saddle and post were also important in the consideration. We chose Selle Royal and Cane Creek. Cane Creek post has a parallelogram design that allows for vertical motion, but prevents side twist. The elastomer block in the post takes a little getting used to; for the first few hundred kilometers, I thought I was riding a soft tire, and kept checking for flats! I used to have very bruised ischial tuberosities, but the gel saddle and shock post have eliminated that problem. We’re so happy with the Dekerfs that we don’t want to ride anything else! Comfort, reliability, performance, happy wife. What more could you ask for?

Conor Ahern

“I have fond memories of that bike, the places it took me and the people I met whilst riding it.”

(Click to enlarge)

The photo above was taken in Whitehorse, Yukon Territories. The inscription on the base of the statue pretty much says it all: “This statue is dedicated to all those who follow their dreams.”

Inspired by Robert Service and his poetry, in 1994 I decided to leave Ireland to explore Canada by bicycle. The trip would take me zig-zagging 10,500 miles across North America.

A lot of roads in Canada were still gravel, so a rugged bike was essential. The previous year I had spent the summer months cycling around my native Ireland, torture testing every bit of kit on the bike before the “Big” trip to Canada the following spring.

The bike started life as a Dawes “Raw Nerve” mountain bike, in 1991. By the time it was ready for Canada it had changed significantly. The only original parts were the frame, handlebars, seat post and brakes.

The frame was over-sized Reynolds 531, sand blasted and powder coated. The wheels were hand-built for me by a world-class wheel-builder; the front a Mavic hub laced to a single eyeleted Mavic rim with 36 spokes in a 3-cross pattern. The rear wheel was something special: a Mavic hub with a double-eyeleted Mavic rim, with spokes in a 4-cross pattern. In the entire trip only one spoke broke.

Mavic hubs were chosen for their simplicity: sealed cartridge bearings with a one-piece axle (no cones or loose balls). If an axle broke, a new one (secluded in the handlebars) could be fitted in minutes by simply knocking the old one out and tapping in a replacement—thankfully an operation I didn’t have to perform. The double-eyeleted rim replaced one which, in 1993, exhibited “Spider web” cracks. No such problem ever occurred with the double-eyeleted rim.

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Two-Wheel Dreams in Whitehorse

If manufacturers are to be believed, the next part shouldn’t have worked. The drive-train was a combination of European and Japanese parts. Cranks and chainrings were Suntour MicroDrive 175mm, with 42-32-20 tooth chainrings. Suntour also provided the rear derailleur in the form of a GPX short-cage road mechanism; the shorter cage gives a better shift, compared to the long-cage. The front derailleur was a Shimano Deore XT. The freewheel was a Maillard 13-24, 7-speed and the chain was a Sedis “Black”. It all worked flawlessly.

The freewheel broke heading south to Calgary, through The Rockies. A quick backwards whip on the cranks jammed it into a fixed wheel, until a replacement was installed in Calgary.

The chain and middle chainring were also changed at the time—if you replace one part of the drivetrain you must replace them all to avoid slipping gears.

The pedals were double-sided Shimano with SPD on one side and regular cages on the other. If the SPD broke, I still had a usable pedal.

I changed tyres to suit road conditions: a set of knobby tyres for gravel roads like the Cassiar and Alaska Highways and a set of slicks for everything else. I used a mix of Tioga, Continental, Michelin, Kenda and Avocet tyres throughout the journey. The photos show spares rolled and strapped to the handlebars.

Two saddles were used during the trip, starting with a wide and heavy Avocet “Gel” saddle which was comfortable and caused no problems; later a Vetta SL road racing saddle, the most comfortable saddle I have ever used.

The racks were a Blackburn Mountain on the rear and a Blackburn Lo-Rider on the front. The front rack, though it suffered damage from a lightning strike in the autumn of 1993, lasted many more years. The rear panniers were Macpac, a New Zealand brand. They started out red but were pink by the end of the trip and were still in use in 2004. The front panniers were Irish made “Lone Wolf” Cordura, which also lasted over a decade.

After the 1994 Odyssey the bike was still going strong and was converted back to a racing mountain bike. I left it in a bike shop in Colorado, in 1999, when I finally made my way back to Ireland. I have fond memories of that bike, the places it took me, and the people I met whilst riding it.

In conclusion, I would like to thank Ray Parker for letting me contribute this article. The best months of my life included the honour of meeting and spending a few great days with him as we rode along Highway 16, until one day there was a fork in the road, where we bade each other goodbye and went our separate ways.

If anyone has any questions on long-distance touring, please feel free to contact me.