Preparation: the Wheels

Prepration: Trip Hardware – The Wheels

Two-am, lying in bed looking out of the window at the Northern Lights playing across the sky. It’s early April and soon the ambient light levels will obscure any ‘night’ sky theatrics as the Midnight Sun rises triumphant.

Big changes this time of the year.

The sun never sets, millions of cubic meters of snow melts in a but a couple of weeks and there’s water E V E R Y W H E R E.

2 m snow wall from when the snow slid off the roof
2 m snow wall from when the snow slid off the roof
Torne River ice-berg flow
Torne River ice-berg flow

Somewhat contrary to Australia, especially the middle of Australia.

It can be argued I guess which is drier: the middle of Australia in high summer. Or the middle of Lapland in high winter. Personally I’d go for Lapland. Low humidity, no surface water, -30 or lower temperatures.

The big difference of course is that with a bit of heat a pot and some time in Lapland you can always get water.

Squeezing water out of sun-dried red-Australian Outback sands is a completely different thing.

Researching cycle-touring in Australia in preparation for my trip I came across a lot of extremely useful sites. Two stand out: Cycle Trail Australia (http://www.cycletrailsaustralia.com/) for brute information.

The other the irresistible inspiration of Chris Rishworth who seems to be permanently on the back of bike touring around (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCixDe2nzRXRb1LZca59K7Gg)

CTA points out that some stretches between water sources can measure in the 100s of kilometres. Since road conditions, weather and state of mind are able to vary daily it’s not really possible to come up with an accurate daily travel distance. Let’s assume it’s a bad road and it’s hot and dry. Let’s say I only make 50 km a day. Them photos and chilling sessions if not the bad road and hot conditions. 200 km distance is suddenly 4 days ride. Need about 5 litres of water per day. 20 litres total. Then a bit of spare. Say 30 litres max. water supply to be carried along some sections.

Back to Chris … he uses a trailer.

Lots of bike+trailer shots on the CTA website too.

Conclusion: get a trailer.

I researched trailers. The Industry Standard seems to be a BOB Yak or variant. In Australia it seems to be Topeak Journey.

Zyflex single-wheeled bike trailer
Zyflex single-wheeled bike trailer

But as I cruised around the web I came across a manufacturer in Sweden: Cyklorama, who produce an aluminium trailer rated at over 40 kg max. load, among other cycling-themed products: www.ckclorama.se

Named ZIFLEX, it has a single wheel with shock-absorber: http://cyklorama.se/cykelvagnar/enhjulig-lastvagn-cykloramaa.html

Curious and interested I fired them off an email only to find the trailer has been on the market for a few weeks. No one as far as Mathias Johansson of Cyklorama knows has used their trailer for a trip such as mine. They are confident it would perform brilliantly, but can’t back it up by anecdote.

Generously they agreed to provide a trailer for me to, well, test and provide feedback on. I pick it up as I head south.

Now I had a trailer.

Now for the bike.

I own a superb Santos MTB and simply couldn’t fathom why it wouldn’t be suitable for the trip. Afterall it’s raison d’état is to hammer on bad roads and tracks and survive. Right? Right!

Santos, a small but specialised manufacturer of bikes based in Nieuw-Vennep, the Netherlands (http://santosbikes.com/santos) , pointed out the frame is not designed for pulling a trailer. The fat Rox-Shox front forks will eventually fail (I’ve already replaced them once), and after about 6 hours on the MTB on a road my right shoulder ceases to function. Conclusion: get a touring bike.

There are basically only two touring bikes. One, the Koga, as ridden by Chris. The other the Santos. Arguably the former is The Industry Standard. But when I got down deep into details I realised there are only a few very minor cosmetic differences between the Santos and the Koga.

And, very importantly, Bikers Best, the eponymous high-end bike shop in Rotterdam who has been keeping my trusty two-wheel steeds mobile throughout the challenging seasons of the Netherland for over a decade, sells Santos, not Koga. I bought my Santos MTB from them in 2006.

Their website http://bikersbestrotterdam.com/

Now buying an expensive bike 3000 km from source requires a certain trust.

Santos TravelMaster 29 with Rohlof hub & riem
Santos TravelMaster 29
with Rohlof hub & riem

I possess that trust in Bikers. They’ve earned it in abundance over many-a-year of excellent service and advice. Even if they did used to laugh at my 150 € blue Pantha steel framed el-cheapo I used to ride before I got the Santos.

Jos the Boss has patiently led me through the whys and wherefores of the configuration of the bike: A Santos Travelmaster 29’ with Rohloff hubs and riem. The basic philosophy: reliability, low maintenance and durability. It doubles the cost of the bike but it should pay massive dividends on the road, or track should I say.

Available to view at http://santosbikes.com/fietsen/travelmaster-serie/travelmaster-2-9

For sure the final final finishes can only be done when back in the Netherlands but for now I am confident about the hardware: Santos + Cyklorama.

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