07.29.09

11 weeks in

Posted in Gear that We use, Hints at 10:37 am by Administrator

bikes
- the overall bikes are holding up well. I have had to change my front tyre to the back to avoid over wear but the frames are in good order, no broken spokes and the gears are still ok but in need of adjustment.
tent
- the tent broke a pole in slovenia in the middle of one night. Thankfully it comes with two repair peices but we were dissappointed to have to use one so early. Its also a little annoying that it isn’t free standing and is required to be pegged down. Thats not so great in some rocky areas or italian campgrounds that are all concrete. It did handle the wind really well and isn’t too hot at night if we leave it all open.
chairs
- we’re on our second set of cheap stools. Its great having them along and thats why we are persevering. Still what can you expect for $8 at big W.
mats
- the mats went flat after 2 weeks but they have some cushioning in them and are great insulaters from the ground. We haven’t found a patch kit that works on them and the holes are bloody hard to find anyway. I’d go a different brand next time.
brakes on the bike
- the set up of teh brake levers on the bikes is giving Nic some troubles. She’s the only person in history to need breaks going down hill. The reach is too far for her hands and so they are cramping. We’ll try some adjusting but we’ll have to see how that goes.
panniers
- the panniers are starting to deteriorate. Some of the less important seams are separating. We were warned that the clips that attach them to thte bike may be dodgy but they have been ok so far. Mine now have some cool holes where they hit the tarmac in the bulgarian tunnel so that one is now the bag for the wet gear. The size has proved to be good enough and now that Nic got rid of her front bags the weight is good for her. Any more weight and the bike would be too heavy for her.
cooking pots
- the cooking pots are now looking pretty battered. They have lost their nonstickyness but I don’t know if we’ll get anything better. They get some serious use. They are 3 l and 2l and that has proved a good size unless I do the shopping while really hungry.
stove
- This has been a little winner so far. The fact that it runs on unleaded or diesel is great. The only prob is that you need to warm the jet up before cooking and that creates about 2 minutes of large flame and black smoke. That often gives us away and got su kicked out of a campground in France. Doh! I’m getting better at limiting the amounts of smoke and so its not beena problem for a while. I’ve had to clean it twice now and that wasn’t too hard.
water filter
- has prooved quite useful in remote areas. The filter needs a fair amount of cleaning if the water is a little dirty but I’d rather clean the filter than have the runs a lot. It does leak a bit and the seals are hard to maintain so there is a fair bit of pumping inefficiency. That will need to be looked at.
tarp
- cheap tarp but great to have. Whether to cover teh bikes at night to hide them or for somewhere to stretch or have lunch on. A thin tarp is good to have with you.
bungie cords
- These are the way to go for tying things on. Dan used ratchet straps but the bungies came through as the better choice.
racks
- we’ve had no issues with the racks. they are holding up well.
bike seats
My seat that I stole off of my specialized racer is doing ok. I’m only just starting to get the beginings of a bumsore after 11 weeks. We had to get Nic another seat in Slovenia. This time we went for a much more upright position and lifted her handle bars to suit. It has proven as the way to go and it loads better than the more racve positioned mountainbike seat that she had done the previous 7 weeks on.

05.24.09

how the gear is going after week one

Posted in Gear that We use, tips and repairs at 6:03 pm by Administrator

Things that good
- Neoprene booties
- camp stools
- GPS is good fun
- removable arms on bike tops
- accupuncture needles.
- cameras
- sleeping mats (it is worth carrying the good big ones)
- pillows (mmm comfy black wolf pillow)
- tent is going really well especially the set up features
- flouro vests on back of bikes for visibility, we can be seen from miles away

Things that are bad
- wobbly panniers (large imbalance at front end)
- GPS (needed to spend the money on detailed maps for it) the one that I have is not really for road navigation.
- food is too heavy.
- we have too much gear.
- screws and nails on the road
- toyworld waterbottle cages aren’t good enough
- trent’s short camera lens is faulty so only have the telephoto.
- Nic’s seat needs to be better. Already having a few issues. This was the best of the 5 seats that she tried out and so more research or luck was needed there.
Our clothes aren’t quick drying enough, need less cotton.

The main equipment is holding up ok so far but the front panniers are creating a weight imbalance on the bikes that is causing massive speed wobbles at anything over 25 km/h. We will be playing with that in Paris but if it continues the stress on the frame will be too much and our arms will wobble off.

Tc

03.26.09

Our House Has Arrived

Posted in Gear that We use at 6:30 am by Administrator

We’ve just got our new home for the next year and a bit. Its a tent from Wilderness Equipment and is apparently so good that they invented another season for it. Thats right its a 5 season tent. I think the fifth season is supposed to be the monsoon but who really knows.
The tent weights 3.5 kgs and fits nicely in the paniers. Its supposed to be a snug 3 man tent but they have to like each other lots and lots if they were to share this tent. It is easily big enough for the two of us but three blokes is a bit of an ask.
The tent is a First Arrow with a siliconised fly for extra water resistance and light weight. The cool thing about it is that you can take down the tent part of it while the fly still stands up and so if its raining the tent itself doesn’t get wet even when you’re packing up or setting up.
Its a nice mat green colour so that it will blend in with farmers fields nicely and they won’t chase us off when we’re camping.
Ooh and my favourite thing is that it has a clothes line built into the inside of it to dry off the bike shorts as we sleep.
It has about forty five thousand zips on it which means that you can open it in 96,000 different ways but that basically boils down to the fact that I’m going to get taggled in a zip at 3 in the morning on my way to the loo and I’ll pee my pants at least twice on the journey. However, at non desparate moments the zips really help ventilation so there will be a plus side.
We’re going to test it in the wild soon and I’ll post photos when I do.
Tc

03.03.09

Travelling with bikes

Posted in Gear that We use at 12:32 am by Administrator

Rated M (this one has a few rude words in it)

There are lots of people that are shitscared to travel with their bikes or they think that it’s not possible.
Well it very much is possible as I’ve done it bloody heaps.
The first thing is the packing of the bikes and the packing medium.
I know of 3 things that you can pack your bike into

1. The good old and simple, cardboard bike box. The kind that the ‘brand spanking’ new bikes turn up to the bike shop in. They are available free from all bike shops. Well unless the bike shop owners are real tight arses. I have actually had a guy try to charge me once but I laughed and went to another shop down the road.
To prepare your bike to travel in one of those you need to take off the front wheel and remove its axle. You’ll need to leave the back wheel in place but remove its axle. The pedals are pretty important to take off and chances are you’ll need to make sure the handle bars are off and only attached by the cables. To do all this you’ll need your fingers for the quick release axles, a set of allen keys for the handle bars and a suitably thin, open ended spanner to get off your pedals. (See the soon to be posted tips on taking off pedals for which I’ve only just figured out a surefire method) Make sure that the pedals, nuts and axles are tied up tight in a placky bag so that they don’t fall out of the holes that inevitably form in the box during travel. I also duct tape a bike shoe under my front forks to make sure that they don’t punch through the bottom and I wrap the rear derailleur in foam or soft goodies and I stick something protective under the front gear crank. You can then pack the rest of the box with all your other gear, as it fits, but make sure to wrap it in placky so that it doesn’t get grease and crap all over it. Nic prefers the bike box method (comment veto used by nic on what I was going to say) The box does offer a fair bit of protection for the bike and the chuckers (or luggage handlers as they call themselves) tend to treat a box with at least a smidgen of care. Also if you put a nice strap around it then it is much easier to carry. One problem is that you need to use a mountain of sticky tape to seal them up and if you fly through the US the arseho.. I mean.. customs officials tend to want to rip them open then in their lovely manner, not seal them up again which leaves your possessions free to explore as many airports of the world as they can.

2. Bike Bags. This is the current way that we are getting our bikes on and off of planes and I think that they are the schniz dingle. We bought a soft, padded bike bag each for $150 CAD. They can cost anywhere from $100 to $300 and the quality can vary greatly. Ours are a little on the lower quality end (and as such, I got a great deal on them) but with a padded base, special wheel pockets and other pockets for all the goodies they do pretty good. The process to put the bike in the bag is to just take each wheel off and remove the axles from each and then slot it in the bag and zip it up. The shoe duct taped to the forks and some extra padding around the rear derailleur are recommended (Nic’s copped a fair knock on one flight). There is loads more room to put all of your extra junk in with the bike bag and with both wheels being on the side of the bike it means that the whole thing fits within standard airline luggage size requirements and so you don’t need to pay excess baggage for it (well provided that it doesn’t weigh a ton with all your crap wrapped around it). It helps to make sure that the bag is covered with fragile stickers and has “THIS IS A BICYCLE” written all over it as my back wheel recently endured a pretty nasty buckle from the wonderful staff at jetstar when they mistook it for normal luggage and stuck it on the moving belt in Townsville.
The bike bags are mainly good because they pack down into a sack that you can carry with you. As such we can now ride to the airport and put the bikes in the bags in the departures area and then go and check in.

3. Proper bike box. This is the way that will most protect your bike but it is also the most expensive. These little beauties will set you back at least $400 (some are over $800) but your baby should arrive undamaged. (Your bike will be ok too). I’ve not travelled with one but I’ve seen them being trollied and pulled around airports and they seem all the go if you are willing to outlay all the cash to get one.

Also if you need packing tips on how to get the rest of your gear into your hand luggage then please see the marvellous tips presented by couchsurfing guru, polyglot and good bloke Benny http://www.irishpolyglot.com/travel/how-to-take-as-much-as-you-like-in-your-hand-luggage/en/

02.18.09

We Got New bikes!!!

Posted in Gear that We use at 2:16 am by Administrator

Well I figured that I better start getting down and dirty on this blogging thing so that I can keep up to date on how things for the trip have been going.

We picked up our bikes last night. They look and feel pretty schmick.

We have gone for a Long Haul Trucker from Surly. The frame is a dedicated touring frame with a long wheel base so that its more stable and a long chain stay so that my feet don’t hit the paniers with every pedal.

The complete bike set us back $1800 AUD each.

The only difference between the bikes is that Nic’s is a 52 cm frame and mine is a 54 cm and that her’s is green and mine is the wierdly named ‘Truckaccino’. Thats obiously code for light brown but I’m not that hip with the bike colour lingo. We wanted exactly the same set up so that we can interchange parts when I inevidibly crash or when Nic gets her fifteenth flat tyre for the day.

The wheels are 26 inch rims – I went these because I figure that mountain bike gear is easier to find in remote places.

The frame is steel. I went with that because a) its cheap and I’m a tight arse and b) because people that use it rave about it and people that don’t use it don’t really rave about what they’re on. (Kind of like the mac vs pc thing)

The shifters are simple, oldschool bar end shifters and the brakes are good old v-brakes. None of that disc or caliper nonsense for us.

The bike is designed to be as simple and hardy as possible and the bits that count, like the wheels and bottom bracket, are top of the line stuff. Even I should be able to fix it on the road. Although to help that I’m going to go and sit down with the bike mechanic and learn a thing or two before we head off. I don’t want to be trying to figure out which way to tighten a spoke to unbuckle my wheel on the top of a tibet mountain pass while a yak tries to get friendly with me.

The place where we got the bikes is pretty cool. The bloke is really helpful and trying to get us the best gear we can get. So if you are in Townsville drop into Off and On Bikes on Ross River road.

The funny thing about bike shops is that some of them have a good name but are actually really shit because all that they want to do is sell you the most expensive gear at a ridiculously inflated price. For example, I rang the blokes that import our bikes into Aus and sussed out all the details and how much they should cost and because of the wholesale vs retail thing I had to find a shop in town that would bring them in. I went into one shop and told the bloke all that I knew and the costs and everything and when he looked into it he still tried to charge an extra $200 on top of the recommended retail price. I laughed at him and went straight to another shop.

The paniers that we are going for are the Tioga dry bags. These are 42L each front and back and are cost $400. There are 2 other brands that we’ve found that are fully waterproof. They are Orleib and Topeak. The topeak ones were too small and a bit commuter oriented and the ortlieb ones were $660. The orlieb is supposed to be the bee’s knees of all paniers but I’ll let you know in future updates if saving the $260 up front was worth it.

We’ve now got to go out and buy our camping gear and get these visas sorted. The camp gear should be easy (a little expensive but easy) but the visas are a nightmare. I can’t understand why consulates refuse to pick up their phone and help me. Argh. but that is for another story so I’ll go for now.