Monday, November 21, 2011

Building a touring foldie Part 1

A bicycle tourist's desire
I made the right choice by purchasing a Dahon Speed P8 back in 2009.
This edition of the bike, in my humble opinion, was the best Speed ever made.
Like any other beginner, I started cycling short distances with my wife on her Dahon Curve D3. 
Later, we ventured a little bit further and as time progresses, we went even further.
It wasn't until January this year, where I fitted my Speed P8 with a front and rear traveller's rack.
My total investment was RM350. 
With the racks, there are endless possibilities.

My bike's current configuration for touring
First: build your strength and stamina
Long-distance rides is about strength and stamina. Once you covered that, the most important aspect of it would be mental endurance.
You need to train on flats and climbs. 
Riding empty and loaded is a totally different thing.
On a typical small pack like the Ortlieb frontroller, you can easily load your bike with 20kgs of excessive baggage.
Add a 24L rackpack, this is another 10kgs.
So, building your strength is the first order of the day.
Your thigh muscles must be able to cope with the long and punishing rides.
A good regime will be a 20km ride every alternate days. If you live in a hilly place, you will notice that you can climb better with load.

Getting down to business: the gear
Sometime back, I rode with a couple from Sabak Bernam to Teluk Intan.
Basically, this is a middle-distance interstate ride. 
The guy who came with his bike had rigged a child seat and lashed his backpack on it.
I thought it was silly to do so, as it impedes the rider.
He may be trying to save some money, but what he did was foolish and dangerous.
So, give it some thought, if you want to ride with all the luggage, its best to invest in a front and rear rack

Picking up from the experienced people
I first started using my rear rack and panniers in February during a tour to Betong, Thailand.
Our bikes were the most equipped bicycles on the tour.
We had little issues with the load bearing capabilities of our first touring panniers - a set of Topeak bags. 
I've invested nearly RM1k to outfit our Dahon Speed P8 and TR for this purpose.
As far as the long haul was concerned, our traveller's rack (with the TR, its a value-added feature) held up to the rigorous rides.
I am glad to say that the Speed P8 was built with an option to tour.
And contrary to popular belief that an 8-speed bike is hopeless on the road, the Speed P8 had proven its road worthiness.
Throw in any road conditions dry or wet, the Speed will take it on.
From our first touring experience, I found that the Topeak bags weren't really the kind of panniers that we hoped to use for a long-term basis.
So, I sold them cheap. 
Later, I embarked on a quest to build my pannier sets. 
I asked a season tourer Uncle Meng about this and was led to a shop in Bangsar.
Unfortunately, they don't have anything that fits the bill.
What made things worse was the fact that they take way too long to order and deliver the goods. 
Strange as it seems, this is the only outfitter in town that don't know how to take pre-orders.
To top it all, their goods are also very-very expensive.
With all leads pointing down to Singapore, I found a shop in Bukit Merah.
The first order of the day was to outfit my wife's bike with a set of Ortlieb Front and Backrollers.
I also purchased a 24L rackpack for her.
The following month, my order for a yellow/black Front and Back roller had finally arrived.
Despite the geographical differences, I managed to close the gap by fully outfitting the bikes and by August this year, we were already touring.

The donkey and and thoroughbred horse..
I find it strange when people talk down on the Schwalbe Big Apple tires.
If they have an image problem with this, they shouldn't have purchased a Speed P8 at the first place.
Instead, they should go for something like a Speed Pro TT (no longer in production) or a Vector X10 or a Tern Verge X10.
The Schwalbe Big Apple is the best touring tires I've ever come across.
So far, with three years and more than 2,500km logged on my Speed P8, I've had zero-punctures.
This goes to show that the kevlar-reinforced tire really did its job -- preventing flats.
I believe that the newer batches of the Schwalbe Big Apples are further improved.
And when it comes to a touring ride, speed is not always the criteria.
Weight issues too are not my concern.
Even with the premium-grade components on the Speed P8, I am able to go the distance with very little breakdown.
Its imperative for a cyclists to know his or her limits. 
If you want to cover 50km in a day, then, you must set your target.
On the average, with at least 40kgs of load, we can do about 80km without putting any strain to the bikes and ourselves...

1 comment:

rivern said...

Good info as I'm planning to tour. Tq.