Choosing an expedition bicycle is no easy matter, even for the most experienced Adventure Cyclist (which I guess I sort of am thinking about it!). These top end bikes cost between £1000 and £3000, and whilst choosing the right one may lead to many years of happy cycling, the wrong one will represent an expensive mistake. Defining the basic set-up required is just the first step in choosing an expedition bicycle, this then has to be balanced between value for money, reliability and comfort.
In the past, I have cycled Dawes bicycles exclusively. I hasten to add that I am not sponsored by them in anyway, I just appreciated their build and reliability. The only problem, is that Dawes don't really make a specific expedition bicycle. The closest they ever got to making one, was the famous and still much sought after Dawes Sardar, and in fact, it was a Dawes Sardar that I rode when cycling from Alaska to Argentina. The other Dawes bike that I rode, was a Galaxy, and I used that when cycling from England to South Africa. Both bikes had their good and bad points, but on reflection, neither are suitable as a hardcore expedition bicycle that can undergo years of riding on a wide variety of roads.
With Dawes reluctantly ruled out (but Mr Dawes, if you want to design an expedition bicycle, talk to me as I can help you!), it was time to investigate other bike builders. Having ridden through the USA, I noticed a lot of riders on Surly bikes. In a way, they reminded me of Dawes, only a bit more modern and trendier. They do have a lot to offer, but for some reason, I am a little bit put off. I can't explain it, but sometimes you have to go with your gut.
The next brand of expedition bicycle that I have seen a lot of, is the range offered by Koga-Miyata. For serious adventure cyclists, the World Traveller is the bicycle of choice, and on their website, you can put your own build together and even have your name sprayed onto the side of the frame. The problem? – Its the frame. It may be a tried and tested aluminium frame, but I just don't trust aluminium to carry heavy loads over rough roads for long periods of time.
Choosing an Expedition Bicycle – Thorn
Being British though (well, English really, but lets not get into all that!), it is Thorn Cycles bicycles that stand out from the crowd. They offer a number of variations of dérailleur and Rohloff models such as the Nomad, Ripio and Sherpa, all with steel frames. On top of that, you can visit their shop, get measured up and then choose which bicycle components you want to go into making the expedition bicycle. All in all it makes an interesting proposition that has the very realistic possibility of me ending up with an expedition bicycle that will last a lifetime. As a bit of a skinflint, I have often dreamed of buying a Thorn bicycle, but have never been in a position to afford one. Things are a little bit different now though, and so, I have booked an appointment to go and see them next week. I am quite excited about it all, as not only will it be the first purpose built bike I have ever owned, it may very well also be the largest purchase for anything I have ever made! Wish me luck….