Building an Expedition Bicycle
It's going to take a while to save for my next trip, and so to keep myself interested, motivated and busy whilst I am doing so, I have decided to build my own expedition bicycle. Whilst I have ridden fairly standard bikes for my cycling trips so far through places as varied as Sudan, Bolivia and Alaska, the bikes did have some limitations. It's these limitations that I want to improve upon, in order to build a bicycle that is better suited to both myself and a long distance, long term cycling expedition.
To start off with, I will be using my steel framed Dawes Sardar that I used to cycle from Alaska to Argentina. Now, its taken a bit of a battering, it was never quite perfect and a lot needs replacing BUT I have to start somewhere. I figure that if I do a bit at a time, it will become apparent if I need to use a new frame or not quite quickly, and I can always just transfer over the parts that I am happy with to the new frame in that event. Ideally, the frame will still be solid and good to the task, saving me a fair wedge of cash!
So far, I have three basic criteria for a new expedition bicycle, although as the weeks and months go by, I am sure that this list will expand!
Handlebars – I want butterfly bars, or trekking bars as they are also known. Previous trips have seen me cycle with road racing style handlebars almost exclusively. Despite what most people think, this does give you a greater range of hand positions than traditional mountain bike handlebars. However, the downside to this is that they tend to be a bit low and there is less stability on real rough tracks. I am hoping that the butterfly bars will solve this.
Suspension Forks – I would like some basic suspension forks that can cope with dirt and gravel tracks and off road cycling in general. However, they should also be able to “lock out” for when I am road cycling, and they should also be pretty idiot and bomb proof when it comes to maintenance. I have used rigid forks on all my trips, and although I have cycled thousands of miles of unsealed road and tracks, I wonder how much more comfortable it would have been with a little suspension! In addition, the rigid forks on the Dawes bikes that I have used have never been able to take a wide tyre. The suspension fork should also be able to take at least a 2 inch tyre.
Saddle – Once you have clocked up a few miles, you are going to get arse ache… plain and simple! I have never had a great deal of luck with saddles, but have heard that Brooks saddles are worth the extra price tag that comes with them. The B17 seems to be the “classic” saddle, and so this is the one that I will be going for.