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!

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

Magura Odur Fork

Magura Odur fork

There is some discussion about adding a suspension fork to a traditional touring frame on various forums. It appeared from the internet that a maximum of 100 mm travel may be acceptable for the Thorn Raven Tour. Back in 2009 in fact Thorn offered the Magura Odur 85 mm fork as an option. The Magura Menja is of the same solid design but is an air fork.

Thorn Raven Tour with Magura Odur suspension forks

Forums confirmed that there were Thorn Raven Tour owners who had had few problems using the short travel 85 mm Odur fork. It was important it seemed not to affect the geometry of the bike as this can affect stability and steering. Tom of Tom’s Bike Trip has a good review. There is a great four-part video series showing the bikes in action.

Close up of front Magura Odur forks

So the search was on! The Magura Odur fork had, much to the dismay of many expedition tourers, been discontinued in 2009. It was a solid, German manufactured coil spring fork. Were they still available? After over an hour of ‘Googling’ I found a web site in Tallinn, Estonia that appeared to have one in stock. Being so rare, I immediately contacted the shop. After a few emails to the very helpful Rauno at VeloPlus confirming steerer length, V-brake fittings, other specifications, and checking the business out, I transferred the funds and a week later it arrived. It is indeed a solid basic fork fit for purpose. Spare parts and the service manual were found on-line so I should be covered for future maintenance.

Front view of Magura Odur fork

I was now one step closer to an off-road tour. The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route was one trip at the back of my mind. The Magura Odur would be perfect for the washboard tracks that apparently feature on the route.