Travel Bike Optimized

We build a lot of travel bikes. Increasingly, riders are realizing the value, not only of riding in far flung places, but in riding their own bike along to do it. BTC couplers and travel cases make this dream a much simpler reality than it might at first appear. We like to think about more than just getting the bike into the case though.

Part of the value of the way we build bikes, one-at-a-time, for the specific people who will ride them, is that we can be thoughtful about the whole bike and how it serves the larger goal.

With that in mind, and with a request from one of our readers, we thought we would break down, in detail the bike above, one of the bikes we brought with us on our most recent trip.

This bike is optimized for traveling just about anywhere in the world.  The kit is chosen for easy service at any reasonable bike shop on the planet.

  • Model:  Evergreen SL
  • Kit:  A mix of Dura Ace and Ultegra.  Ultegra rear derailleur so the rider could use a wider range cassette.  Shimano because it’s the most popular and common kit on the planet so easiest to get replacement parts.
  • Gearing:  11-32t cassette with 44/28t chainrings.  11-32t rather than a wider range cassette because it’s easy to replace while traveling if needed.
  • Crank:  Rene Herse.  Why?  We used this crank in order to get a lower gear ratio for steep technical climbing.  Herse cranks use a classic tapered and threaded bottom bracket for easy service while traveling.
  • Saddle bag:  Revelate Viscacha
  • Handlebar bag:  Bedrock bags Tapeats Handlebar Bag.  We like this because it has a waterproof closure at the top.  Easy to access.
  • Tires:  Clement MOS 40c tires.  With tubes. Tubeless is nice to ride, but presents serviceability issues when traveling.
  • Wheels Pacenti rims with White Brothers hubs.  Centerlock for traveling.  Classic hook spokes for ease of service.  700c wheels because they are ubiquitous anywhere in the world.  The bike also works with 27″ wheels — if you’re really in the boonies — and 650b or 27.5″ if needed for some reason.
  • Brakes:  Mechanical Shimano CX77.  These work really well for mechanical discs (which are easier to set up and break down) and are very low service.
  • Bar, stem, post:  Seven parts.  Aluminum and titanium, so they are as durable as possible.
  • Pedals:  XTR
  • Saddle:  Fizik Arione
  • Lights:  Light & Motion Urban 1000s.  Easy to mount, easy to charge, light weight, multi-function, helmet mount and bar mount.

Packing a Travel Bike

We built an Axiom S with S&S couplers for Mark Slavonia with our friends at City Cycle in San Francisco. This was Mark’s third Seven, and he uses it for EVERYTHING, including a lot of travel riding. We’ve talked about packing travel bikes before, in terms of the features and benefits of the various cases, and we’ve reviewed some of the frame and component choices that make the most sense for travel bikes, but ultimately, your success and enjoyment of bike travel will come down to how easy it is for you to pack and unpack your bike.

Mark wrote up his own bike packing guide and shared it with us. He also weighs in on the merits of the various coupling systems and the cases available. It’s well worth a read.

He says, “My travel bike is  a Seven Axiom with optional S&S couplings.  It weighs 18 lbs, 2 oz. with a 60 cm frame.  The oversized titanium tubing and the stainless steel couplings make it pretty stiff overall, especially for a titanium bike.  I’d use this bike for any ride or race and I never feel compromised by it.”

Thanks to Mark for allowing us to share.

Dems Da Brakes

One topic that came up early in our discussions with Patrick Brady about the ultimate travel bike was brake type.  Due to the wide range of tires he’ll be using, and the desire to keep packing and unpacking as simple as possible, Patrick felt cantilevers, or possibly mini-v’s made the most sense.  Easy to set up and adjust, these brakes don’t require any additional tools or time to pack in a case.  Patrick had ruled out cable actuated disc brakes for two reasons, first because disc rotors present a hurdle in the speed of packing the bike, each rotor has to be removed in order to fit, and second because Patrick had yet to find a cable actuated disc brake that he felt was so significantly better than a rim brake, that they’d be worth the hassle.

photo

Before we knew how he felt about brakes though, we took him for a ride.  His test bike was a coupled Evergreen SL, a sort of travel bike prototype outfitted with Shimano’s R517 non-series, cable-actuated disc brakes with 160mm rotors.  The route  (that he would crush us on) was what we call the Battle Path loop because much of the route follows the path taken by the British on their march from Boston to Concord way back in 1775.  Other than an occasional street crossing, nearly the entire ride was off road.  From single track in the Belmont Woods, to the long, swooping, packed dirt trails in Lexington and Concord, we rode through the unrelenting humidity.

Patrick basically rode one handed, using his free hand to snap pictures throughout, so it would appear that his opinions on braking power are believable.  The ride was as fun as it gets, the trail conditions were top notch, and the scenery unbeatable.  We love that ride, and Patrick’s smile suggested he did too.

Something changed for him during that ride.  For the first time, he had a clear cut example, in his eyes, of a cable-actuated disc brake that performed better than a rim brake.  This was an important discovery because many of the rides Patrick has planned for the travel bike are exceptionally rugged and will require a comparably exceptional braking platform.  This isn’t to say cantilevers and mini-v’s couldn’t perform well enough, but he felt the disc was a needed improvement, so much so, that it became a requirement for his travel bike.

Back in the show room, we discussed the pros and cons of each brake type, cantilever, linear pull, medium reach, etc.  There are clear advantages and disadvantages to each style, but for the type of riding that Patrick will use this bike for, especially the challenging off road rides, his choice was clear.

Disc it would be.

evergreen

The question then became, what can we do to speed up the break down time when packing the bike?  Discs come in two mounting styles, six-bolt or center-mount.  We agreed that a center mount, though it requires a cassette tool to install, would save enough time to make it the clear favorite.