Category Archives: Bike

the bike

Protecting your Bike Racks

Ortlieb panniers come with small plastic inserts to allow a snug fit to a variety of bike racks. There have been numerous reports from other cycle tourists that these inserts can come loose and get lost resulting in a rattling rack set up.

On a long tour the pannier mounting hooks can also get a lot of wear and tear as can the pannier racks themselves. Repeated rubbing against the rack rails can damage the powder coating and steel racks can begin to rust. Having seen other bike tourers’ attempts to reduce this with gaffer tape or other material with some success I decided to try a more robust solution to address both problems.

After scouring the internet I found some reinforced clear plastic tubing with an internal diameter of 10mm (the diameter of the tubing used on Thorn steel racks) and an outside diameter of 15mm (slightly smaller than the 16mm Ortlieb pannier mounts without an insert).

Reinforced tubing used to protect rack

The tubing and tools required … oh, and add some zip-ties

Thorn Low Loader Mk V with protective tube

The finished front Thorn MkV Low-Loader

Rear rack covered in tube protection

The finished rear Thorn Expedition rack

After the North Sea Cycle route tour of about three months in 2013 there was little noticeable wear on the protective tubing. After the second trans-Europe tour in the Summer of 2016 there was still little wear on the rack tubing.

It works well and is not an expensive solution!

Rohloff Rear Cog Wear

The Thorn Raven Tour is equipped with a Rohloff 14 speed internal gear hub. One nice feature is that the single drive cog can be reversed so that additional kilometres can be obtained from it as it wears. Being a single cog it functions as a single speed drive with no lateral chain movement hence less chain wear compared to derailleur gear systems. I like both derailleur and internal hub gear systems. I prefer the Rohloff hub for reliability and durability on long tours. So far there have been no problems with the Rohloff on tour.

Rohloff Cog after 10450km

A 16 tooth Rohloff cog after at least 10450km

The cog above was used on my first long tour of 6124km back in 2013. It was reversed about half way through that tour and reversed again prior to the summer 2016 trans-Europe tour. The picture shows the cog and drive direction at the end of this second 4326km long tour. It has since been reversed again as the ‘shark fin’ wear pattern had become quite pronounced.

I hope to get another 5000km (or more!) from the above cog before fitting the new one below!

Rohloff Cog New

A new 16 tooth Rohloff cog for comparison

If you have a Rohloff on your bike, how many kilometers/miles have you squeezed out of your rear cog?

Comments welcome below!

SR Suntour SP12-NCX Suspension Seat Post Review

A suspension seat post can be a useful thing if you are a hard-tail mountain bike rider. It is important too for the long distance cycle tourist to make the bike as comfortable as possible.

A good suspension seat post removes the lumps and bumps and generally makes the ride a bit more comfortable (together with the trusty steel frame). There are simple seat posts with a spring to absorb the rough stuff. SJS Cycles have a good range of suspension seat posts. There are also several makes of the parallelogram style post such as the Crane Creek Thudbuster and the SR Suntour SP12-NCX. The idea of the parallelogram design is to minimise the shortening of the operating distance between the saddle and the pedal. This improves contact with the bike as well as maintaining the position of the rider in relation to the geometry of the bike.

I decided to go for the SR Suntour SP12-NCX. It was redesigned in 2012 boasting improved brass bushings. Travel is 50 mm with a rider weight range stated as 60-100kg. The on-line reviews seemed good and the price was quite a bit less that the Thudbuster. I had also read that the Thudbuster can bounce up and down a bit depending on the combination of elastomers used. I have never used the Thudbuster but it also seems very popular. I was looking for a solid seat post that would only absorb the bigger bumps and pot-holes without loss of power transfer caused by a ‘bouncing’ saddle or saddle with springs.

Full technical details of the SR Suntour SP12-NCX, can be found on the Suntour web site.

The Suntour arrived in plain packaging which is how they are supplied in bulk to retailers. I purchased it from Practical Cycles in Lytham in Lancashire, England. They provide a wonderful range of utility bikes and bike parts. Service and delivery were excellent.

Seatpost top and Brooks B17 rails for comparison

On arrival I was a bit concerned about the fit. The above photograph shows the upturned Brooks and the seat post top. With the B17 Select saddle there is not much forward-aft adjustment possible with only about 6 mm of leeway available. Perhaps a small Suntour redesign would sort this out. I fitted it without a problem though. I was able to set up the bike into a comfortable riding position despite this limited adjustment with the Brooks saddle.

The point where the post would operate was tested by cycling over some bumps and pavement edges. The adjustment as delivered was almost ideal for my weight (71 kg). After tightening a little by adjusting the hex bolt in the seat post the correct setting was established. On numerous day rides I liked how the post would only absorb the larger bumps. There was no bouncing and in operation the post would absorb the bump and immediately return to a solid position in one action. I was happy with the purchase. A neoprene dust cover adds protection to the moving parts. This was purchased separately.

This Summer I set off to complete the North Sea Cycle Route. The seat post performed well on a variety of surfaces from smooth Norwegian roads, rough forest track in Denmark, tree roots under some Dutch and Belgian cycle paths, sand dune cycle paths, to pot-hole damaged sealed and gravel roads that we love to nurture in the UK. Really big bumps and holes were handled with confidence and no doubt prevented some serious back jarring and possible injury. The instant return to a solid seat post position after a bump helped in controlling the bike on rough terrain and complimented the Thorn Raven Tour’s inbuilt stability. It is a fit-and-forget item once the correct spring tension is set for your weight and preference.

Wear caused by rubbing against Brooks B17 rails

During the trip I examined the post a few times and discovered that the top had been rubbing against the Brooks saddle rails each time the post absorbed a bump. There was some wear to the corners of the post. There was no damage to the saddle rails other than the black paint having being worn off. There was no sign of any rust on the saddle rails. The wear in the photograph looks worse than in real life and has not affected the bushings.

Viewed from the right side …

Suntour SP12 NCX right view

… and from the left side of the bike …

Suntour SP12 NCX seatpost left view

After 14 weeks of daily use, and over 6200 km, the seat post performed very well. Initial spring tension remains as it was set before the tour. There were no indications of additional wear to the saddle rails or to the Suntour SP12-NCX. In operation the seat post now clears the saddle rails.

The neoprene cover did rub through as shown in the photograph …

Wear of the neoprene cover

The neoprene cover worked well. During and after the tour closer inspection of the mechanism showed little wear or signs of dust ingress. The bushings and contact points appear undamaged and intact.

Seatpost wear after more than 7000km

All in all I would recommend the Suntour seat post for your touring or mountain bike. I hope to compare it with the Thudbuster one day. For the moment the SR Suntour SP12-NCX does the job!

PROS

  • Solid well-made construction
  • Micro-adjustable spring to obtain the right ‘bounce’
  • Good quality spring without any loss of tension on the tour
  • Quality brass bushings
  • Effective neoprene cover
  • Good value
  • Cool black colour

CONS

  • Tight fit with a Brooks saddle
  • Initial slight clicking sound until it wears in
  • Neoprene cover must be purchased separately
  • Not tried the Thudbuster yet

Patina on the Brooks B17 Select

The Brooks B17 Select is the latest model of the long running B17 classic from Brooks England. What attracted me to it was the claim that it was a bit thicker than the standard Brooks B17 and suited to long-distance use. The fact that it was made from organic Swedish cow hide and was a natural un-tanned leather made it even more interesting.

I had read that world travellers had sometimes reported that after serious and sustained abuse, the standard B17 could become a bit soft. Not that many complained about that fact, indeed the B17 was up to the job, though the Select model seemed like it would stand up to even more punishment. It was a new model and I was intrigued to see how it would perform.

After almost 500km in the saddle, it is becoming supremely comfortable. Some may never find that a Brooks is the saddle for them, but for what seems like the majority of long distance cyclists, the initial discomfort is worth it. Its worth the perseverance in case you miss out on a great touring saddle.

Being of natural leather it would develop a ‘patina‘ over time adding to its unique appearance. Documenting the changes in the saddle over time seemed like a good mini-project.

Brooks B17 Select at 7km

Brooks B17 Select at 7km

Brooks B17 at 489km

Brooks B17 Select at 489km

Patina after 8000km and more

Brooks B17 Select at 8000km

RandiJo Wax Cotton Cover

Before setting off from Scotland to Istanbul in the Summer of 2016, I added a waterproof RandiJo Fabrications waxed cotton saddle cover. This is it after the 4326km tour

Brooks B17 Select at 11500km

The ‘naked’ Brooks B17 Select at 12500km after the 2016 tour. Now it is REALLY comfortable! Only applied two half turns of the tension bolt so far