This is not a geeky review of bicycles. This is a basic summary of how they have performed after 10's of thousands of kilometres. I think this style is best as it is what I spent days looking for in preparation for our Round The World ride. When reading this, please consider that the pros and cons of our two bicycles are based on our fully loaded touring lifestyle. Both bikes usually get the TLC of a full service every 5000km or so. They are, however, maintained well. All moving parts are cleaned weekly and checks are done most mornings. To be honest, I squirm and then break out in a cold sweat at the thought of doing anything more than basic maintenance, so if you are looking for the finer details about our two bikes, click on the links below this review.
Matthew's Bike (fondly named Farhod)
Is a - bicycle! Classified as an expedition bike (click here for distinction of bicycle types). Steel frame - for easy repair worldwide. 26 inch wheels (easy to find replacements and tyres.) Model- Fahrradmanufaktur VSF TX 400 (2013) with Rohloff Speedhub 500/14 Pros - 1. Tough as nails. No flex in the frame even when carrying 40kg+. 2. It doesn't stand out, and so far hasn't been pinched. 3. Delivered directly from their German factory to the UK. 4. Excellent Tubus racks and accessories as standard. 5. The Rohloff Speedhub (link). Flawless so far. Only 14 speeds but it has larger range than most Triple 9 speeds. Minor maintenance needed. 6. Balanced and a joy to ride. Wheelsets are well built. Good riding position for long distance. Schwalbe Marathon Mondial tyres as standard. Cons - 1. Heavy. The steel frame and Rohloff Speedhub are major contributors to this. 2. Front and rear lights are not great, and on tour the resistance on the dynamo hub makes a difference. The manufacturer has realised this and newer models have improved versions. 3. Uncomfortable saddle as standard. Replaced with a Brooks and after a few thousand kms to break in, is now bearable. 4. Does not pack down easily for flight boxes. This is a factor for most tourers unless they have a Pedallo or lots of money for cruises. It is doable, it just requires addition disassembly to the norm to include racks and fenders. 5. The Rohloff hub - It is a part cause of the 4th con above, as it is a precious thing. It has performed beautifully (see pros). However it should not be tinkered with more than just a simple 5000km oil change. Hence, I leave it alone and leave the rear wheel on for flights. Changing tyres is also tricky due to fiddly dropouts. 6. Not cheap. At around £3000 road ready. I still consider the TX400 value for money. Overall - totally satisfied.
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Niamh's bicycle :
Surly Long Haul Trucker (has not yet been given a name)
This bicycle seems to be the industry standard for bike tourers who go off-road in all parts of the world, and for good reason.
Entry level versions are pretty affordable and this smaller sized frame provides good geometry for the task.
Practical and fairly simple - steel frame, 26 inch wheels, V-style rim brakes.
Sturdy and faithful - Shimano deore 9 speed triple. Tough wheelsets and Surly designed front and rear racks.
This bike was prepared for our adventure by RAW Cycles in Limerick, Ireland. Some additions were made - Ergon GP5 grips - cushioned saddle - bulkier racks - Shimano XT PD-T780 SPD/Platform pedals. Schwalbe Marathon Mondial tyres.
1. Adaptable - For sandy or rocky terrain, wider tyres can be used. 'Fatties fit fine'.
2. All replacement parts are easy to find around the world, and as it is a steel frame, it is easier to repair. Touch wood - we will never need a welder.
3. Light for what it is. This makes the inevitable daily lifting and manoeuvring a little easier.
4. The heavy-duty wide front rack, designed by Surly is great. So many attachment options.
1. Upgrading to the folding Schwalbe tyres is worth it. The regular Marathon Mondial punctured fairly easily. Unsure that this was much to do with the bike, more the wire pieces of cheap truck tyres strewn over the shoulders of roads throughout Asia.
2. Chain servicing needed frequently. Not really a bad thing, just a consideration.
3. Niamh is 160cm and although Surly produce smaller frames (42cm and 46cm), a 50cm was the smallest readily available at the time of ordering so this is another consideration. It fits perfectly, but would be too big for anyone even slightly shorter.
4. Only comes in one or two colour options. If this is a big thing for you. Also the decals melt off very quickly. I sense a custom paint job coming.
Overall - totally satisfied.
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