Well I just collected my shiny new bike that’s supposed to take me 16000km from Dublin to Beijing. It certainly looks up to the task! Here she is:
Name is yet undecided!
So why did I choose this particular model? Certainly not for looks anyway I’m not particularly fond of the look of the bike, but that’s not really important. It’s all about its suitability to long distance touring and carrying heavy loads (Yes, yes, my J-Lo “Ghetto booty” makes up the bulk of that load).
Firstly, it’s a steel frame: Steel can be welded easily if it breaks. Aluminium, which the original bike was made of can’t be. Also, steel is stronger than aluminium, which is why the tubing is much narrower: you need less steel for the same strength. Steel is also very durable and ductile so it can absorb the bumps easily.
Secondly, the wheels are 26″ in diameter. 26″, or mountain bike wheels, are standard outside of Europe and North America. Most touring bikes come with larger 700 wheels, which are faster but since they’re not widely available beyond Europe, spares won’t be widely available. Also, shorter spokes are stronger, and these wheels have lots of them (36 I believe). They appear to be thicker than standard spokes, adding strength too. The frame comes with handy spoke holders with two spares, although I’ll probably be bringing 10 spares at least.
Another great thing about this bike is the long wheelbase. This makes it more stable and so easier to cycle. This also has the benefit of preventing my clown feet from striking the pannier bags on the back or the front wheel/fender.
The components on the bike are built with endurance in mind. The gear shifters are simpler, older designs. This makes them longer lasting and easier to repair. Also as they’re not integrated with the brake levers like most modern shifters, replacing them is more straightforward and cheaper. It might take some getting used to not having the gears in the usual place but that’s hardly a big deal. The front shifter isn’t indexed, which is very rare in my experience. For my purposes this ideal though as it allows more adjustment overall.
I was a little concerned about the drop style bars before buying the bike. My road bike had drops that have little space for different hand positions. Mark Beaumont suffered terribly with nerve damage on his round the world cycle even with large butterfly bars and I’ve had similar, although much less severe nerve problems from long cycles. The last thing you want is to try fixing a broken spoke or cooking on a camping stove with a numb hand. I was quite surprised by the bars on the LHT though. Wide with shallow drops for a relaxed position. The drops are also much longer than the road bike drops meaning more variety in hand positions.
The brakes are simple, older designs too. I have a post on balancing brakes on my road bike. Again, the road bike is more complex but the LHT’s simple and older style brakes make them easy to maintain, more durable and long lasting. The only thing I can fault is their stopping power is much weaker than the original mountain bike, but that’s the case on the road bike too. Once some rubber gets onto the rims, they should become grippier.
All in all I’m delighted with the bike. I have to say a huge thank you to my colleagues in Google for their very generous donation towards the bike. I couldn’t afford such a fantastically capable piece of kit without your generosity. Whenever I think of how lucky I am to have gone xxxkm without a puncture/broken spoke/other bike problem I’ll think back to the overwhelming surprise I got at my desk in Dublin. Thanks guys!