Sir Norte: Early 90’s 4130 CroMoly Steel Nishiki Pueblo Frame
Sir Norte is a relic of the old duo combo of Japanese design and solid Taiwanese construction. Using a heavier but solid steel she has the geometry to be comfortable and to tackle any terrain. Her long wheelbase gives her the ability to handle turns and still allow me to pedal without worrying about kicking my bags. Plus, with her wheel clearance I can slap on many different types of tires within the 26-inch variety. And she only cost me $40 completely built (with throwaway parts that I put on my polo bike). Her previous owner kept her indoors so I received her rust-free, sprayed some FrameSavr into her tubes and now she is one badass steed ready to conquer continents hop-fueled.
Sugino XD-600: 26/36/46
SRAM PG850 Powerglide 8-speed cassette: 11-30 (replaced 1x)
KMC X9.93 9-speed chain (replaced 1x)
Old skool Shimano Deore front derailleur
Shimano Deore XT rear derailleur
The drivetrain was assembled with parts that came on my StumpJumper that I use for polo. I chose the Sugino crankset because it is light and strong, cold-forged steel and the sizes of the rings are perfect. I originally wanted a 9-speed to have a wider range, but I couldn’t pass up the deal and condition of the rear derailleur that came off the Stumpy so I stuck with 8. The SRAM cassette is compatible with Shimano components but costs way less and is just as good. 11-30 was the largest range I could find through J&B. I thought the chain was an 8-speed, whoops. Still works and is lighter and stronger than a Z-chain so I’m not complaining.
Shimano Deore XT hub: 36-hole
Sun Rhynolite rims: 26-inch
(Replaced all rear driveside spokes after 4 broke on the road)
Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires (slight kink in front and rear bead from folding too much)
The wheels took a lot of abuse and had to be ready for whatever conditions Latin America might throw my way. 26-inch wheels are good for the wide range of tires that I can put on them and they have more torque for uphill riding. Since they are smaller they are slightly stronger. To become better acquainted with the wheels I built them myself. Don’t let anybody tell you that building wheels is hard. All you need are the right tools, a good book, and a six-pack to give to a knowledgeable friend and to drink away the mundane, repetitive motions. I wanted to get some Phil Wood hubs but they are crazy expensive and the XT hubs are fantastic anyway. They are cup and socket so if I’m in a jam, I can replace the ball bearings easier. The Rhynolite rims are just a solid choice: strong and light. The front wheel is laced with a basic 3-cross and the rear wheel is laced with a basic 4-cross for the extra weight on it. In retrospect I would have just stuck with 3-cross on both wheels. The extra passing doesn’t actually give you that much more strength and adds a bit more weight. The tires are (almost) the perfect tire. Sure they are very wide which puts more surface area on the ground and slows me down, but I can also handle rougher stuff. However, the Marathon Plus Tour are the new mega ultimate. NOT PICTURED: WTB Velociraptor tires. I picked up a pair of these knobbies so I always had something rideable on my wheels and to slap on when the road is too rough for the slicks and if I ever want to go off-road. Not as much flat protection but these guys sure have some traction. There’s enough tread on these puppies to dig into the gloop at the bottom of an outhouse.
Shimano Deore XT V-brakes
Avid Rim Wrangler V-brake shoes
Kool-Stop salmon V-brake inserts
Avid FR-5 brake levers
When I’m zoomin’ down a hill with 100 pounds of gear it’s nice to know that I can stop. I went with V-brakes because they are easy to maintain and have solid stopping power thanks to the raised leverage. These brakes came off the StumpJumper but the XT brakes are known for superior stopping because of their parallelogram design. I wanted insertable brake pads so I went with the Avid shoes. Inserts are great because of easy maintenance and you can carry spares without sacrificing space and adding much weight. You don’t need anything fancy in a shoe and Avids are cheap. However, there are differences in quality with pads so I use Kool-Stop. Salmon is ideal because it works better in wet conditions and won’t eat away at your rim like black compounds. Avid brake levers because they are cheap and again, you don’t need anything too fancy in a brake lever. There are certainly better ones out there, but this works. Note-If you are buying brakes wholesale or online, brake levers are sold in pairs so you don’t need to buy two (whoops!).
Packin’ it all in
Minoura MT-800 rear rack
Surly Nice Rack front rack
Axiom Champlain series rear panniers
Topeak Tourguide DX II handlebar bag (I have to have a large bundle beneath the bag to keep it accessible)
The racks are strong and sturdy steel frames. The Minoura one is great and super light. Plus, most of the “joints” are rounded which gives them a lot more strength and reduces break potential. The Surly one is extremely heavy. This is because with my fork I need to have a lot of hardware to mount a front rack and the Surly provides that. It also has two different levels for placing gear which is nice. The lower mounts give me more control, but on rough, off-road days or windy downhills I can place my gear on the upper mounts. Sets of dead tubes work great as straps. Axiom makes some awesome panniers. These suckers can pack a lot of stuff and have many pockets to allow you to sort your stuff and have quick access to it. The bags are water-resistant which is nice because this allows them to breathe and defunkify your shweaty spandex and the included covers make them waterproof on those really wet days. The handlebar bag is great because I get quick access to my camera and snacks while I’m riding and I don’t have to stop to get to them. It also comes with a waterproof map holder which is invaluable. However, the mounting system for the bag is crap. Still looking for the perfect handlebar bag.
Bringin’ it all together
Ritchey quill stem (busted locking bolt for stem by overtightening)
Uno Comfort Trekking handlebars
Shimano Dure-Ace Bar-end shifters (Broke rear shifter while installing Loc-Tite, snapped front shifter cable 2x)
As soon as I saw and experimented with the butterfly bars on a friend’s Xtracycle I knew that I wanted them for this bike. They are perfect for touring. You can put your hands and arms in so many different positions they rarely get tired and uncomfortable. I have a favorite position for city riding, uphill, downhill, and flat, car-deficient riding. They only problem is that the bars wrap behind where they connect to the stem, shrinking the distance between the seat and where I place my hands for braking and shifting. Fortunately I was able to find the stem at City Bikes. Super long and a quill. Quill’s are nice because I can raise the height of the handlebars on a whim instead of having to have the right amount of spacers and completely taking it off to find the right spot. A huge plus would have been if I had found a stem that had a removable faceplate to easily take the handlebars off the bike but the world isn’t perfect. You can’t survive on beer alone and I’m still not complaining. The handlebars proved to alter my plans again when it came to shifting. It is well known that the most reliable shifters are Shimano’s Dura-Ace bar-ends. They can quickly change from friction to index with a simple mid-ride twist and are very simple and durable. Plus, friction is good to have in case the index busts. Well, they couldn’t be installed into my bar-ends because, well, that would just be a strange way to shift and the frame doesn’t have downtube mounts so I couldn’t put them there. Instead of admitting defeat and going fixed my friend suggested a pair of Paul Thumbies he had lying around. This allows me to mount the bar-ends onto the flat part of my bars and shift like an old pair of friction mountain bike shifters. Way cool.
Brooks B66 saddle
Bottles and cages (broke front one from trying to insert a large bottle)
Chris King GripNut Headset
Planet Bike Cascadia fenders
ESGE Double Kickstand
We’ll start with the seat. Brooks’ saddles are known for resiliency and the radass ability to custom mold to your butt grooves. I knew I wanted one, but they are expensive. Well, I got the biggest, bulkiest one because I got a major deal on it. I wouldn’t mind having a lighter one (this one has those two large springs and 4 rails…4!), but y’know what, the springs are actually very active and the seat is extremely comfortable so no complaints yet. The only problem is the leather is more sensitive than a baby’s rashy butt. The seat sits on the most fateful seatpost in the world. Many years ago some designer said, “There will be a great man named The Cowabunga Dude who will bike everywhere and need a 26-aught seatpost that will have an unbelieveable amount of setback. I will build it now so he can buy it used.” I need the setback because of my funky handlebars. I now am not hunched like a pedaling Quasimodo. I am a whistler, not a bell-ringer, dammit! The water bottle cages are just cheap steel stuff. The frame only has mounts for one cage, but with electrical tape and hose clamps I added another. The bottles are just basic 1 liter bottles. I have four of them. I think that will be enough. I have received the most grief over the headset because of it’s price. And you know what, forget those chumps. The headset is smooth and I will probably never have to worry about maintaining it. People argue that they are too expensive for such a basic and simple part. They’re right, but a reliable and worry-free product will be invaluable on this trip. But the GripNut is more trouble than it’s worth. Just a regular threaded headset will do fine. The fenders are plastic and aluminum. My buddy, Shawn, offered to make me a pair of custom carbon fenders, but I decided I didn’t really need that. Kryptonite U-Lock. It’s heavy, but it’s big to wrap around anything and I’ve had it for three years. Old inner-tubes are the best straps for tying down tents and sleeping bags and such. The kickstand is extremely heavy but it is so easy to put my bags on with its stability. Two points if you can figure out what is strange in that picture (WINNERS: Ryan McC, …).
Upcoming is camping gear…please feel free to ask me any questions about my gear or why I chose what I chose.