The Bike & The Gear
The only thing you can depend
|Cycles LaMoure Custom, True Temper OX-Gold Tubing, Henry James dropouts & shell|
|Built by Peter J. White
|Rims||Sun Rims Ryhno Lite 700c, 48 Hole (I got some of the last ones!)|
|Spokes||DT Alpine III|
|Hubs||Front; Phil Wood fsa
Rear; Phil Wood fsa, 145 mm axle
|Skewers||Salsa Quick release|
|Tires & Tubes||Schwalbe Marathon XR
700 x 47(45) and Schwalbe tubes
|Headset||Chris King, 1" threaded|
|Handlebars||TTT Prima 199, 46-cm|
|Bar Covering||Home-made stiched leather, made from a modified Wheeklskins cover|
|Stem||Custom Chro-Moly, By Mitch Lamoure|
|Shifters/levers||Campagnolo Ergo Chorus (10 spd)|
|Brakes||Dia Compe "Big Dog" long-reach calipers (discontinued) :-( w/ Shimano road pads|
|Front Derailer||Sachs Quartz|
|Rear Derailer||Shimano XTR mega-9, Long cage|
|Cassette||Shimano XT/11-34, 9 speed|
|Chain||Wippermann Connex 908 Nickel, 9-Speed|
|Bottom Bracket||Phil Wood, 113 mm|
|Crank Arms||Race Face Turbine LP, 180 mm|
|Chainrings||Salsa 7075 Al, 54/40/28|
|Pedals||Crank Brothers Egg Beaters-Candy SL|
|Seatpost||Thompson Road Elite|
|Saddle||Brooks Swift, brown|
|Rear Rack||Jandd Extreme|
Odds & Ends
|"Big Cage", 1.5 liter water bottle cage|
|Third Eye Chain Watcher|
There are a few differences between my bike and a common stock touring bike. Here are some of the more interesting ones.~ 48-spoke 700c wheels with 700 x 47 tires. I am a firm believer that wheels are the most important part of a touring bike, and should be given the greatest care in their design and building. Overkill is a good thing in this regard. These are not especially unusual wheels, but similar sets are not often found on stock bikes, other than tandems. There is one other similarity to a tandem wheel set as well, the 145-mm rear axle spacing. I chose this because with the Phil Wood hub, the rear wheel is dishless, and hopefully a bit stronger as a result. Additionally, though I can build and repair wheels, I am far from an expert. I know that if I need to repair this wheel in the field, the dishless design will make it much easier for me to get rolling again. I chose 48 spokes simply for added strength and ease in keeping the wheel true, weight was not a concern at all for me.  In fact this wheel set already has over 15,000 km of travel, and I have not needed to true them once (also a testament to the wheel building skills of Peter White.) Some may wonder about the ability to find a replacement rim, if needed. One nice aspect of 48 hole rims is that a 36-hole replacement can be used in a pinch, by simply skipping every fourth hole on the hub flange. The ability to fit 700 x 47 tires was one of my main goals when designing the bike, and my deciding factor for choosing to use a custom frame. I wanted a bike that would travel well over rough gravel and dirt roads. I have been quite pleased by it's capabilities in that regard so far.
I believe in packing light for a tour, to the greatest extent possible, and also not carrying anything along that will make more work for me as I travel. There is enough to do just by riding and feeding myself to have to worry about protecting fragile luxuries. In that regard, I have always tried to minimize the amount of electronic devices that I bring along. For most of my early tours, the only such item I carried was a basic camera. However, once I made the switch to digital photography back in 01997, I have gradually become more interested in taking larger numbers of photographs, and obtaining better quality images. Since this Tour is obviously a once-in-a-lifetime experience, I certainly plan to continue that practice this time as well.
However, the length and frequent isolation of this trip poses some interesting challenges for managing images along the way. Fortunately, this is one situation that has actually gotten easier to deal with in the past year or two. In fact, the only good thing about the numerous delays that I encountered since I first decided to do a tour like this, five years ago, is that technology has continually advanced, providing many more practical options for handling large quantities of images. I spent many hours examining numerous possibilities over the years, so perhaps I can pass on some insights to readers who may be considering similar questions. Of course, if you are reading this anytime after, say, January of 02005, this analysis will almost certainly be out of date!
In my case, there will be an opportunity at each ocean crossing to perform a permanent archiving of all the images, so I only need to manage the images for each stage as the tour progresses. There are a few criteria that I wanted to meet:
~ Keep weight and bulk to an absolute minimum;
~ Ensure that I will never run out of power or image storage space;
~ Absolute reliability of the image storage medium;
~ The ability to check images for quality on the way, is nice but not absolutely necessary, and, most importantly; ~ Create and carry duplicate, backup copies of all images.
The number of photographs I take each day usually averages about 30, and with the numerous spectacular sights along the route, I certainly will match or exceed that on this tour. With my camera, jpg images at a medium compression level occupy about 1.5 MB of storage space. For the longest stage, at 210 days, that comes to 6,300 images and over 9 GB of storage. We are not kidding around here, this is some serious data handling, which must be done in places like Tibet and Patagonia, no less. Below are the currently available options, at least the ones that I could find, and my views on each.~ Carry a Laptop, periodically copy all images to its hard drive.
A few years ago, I would have jumped at either the micro-PC or the portable CD/DVD burner options. However, today I have settled on the last choice, the PDA/Flash card method. I will carry an HP hx4700 PocketPC, which includes 1 SD slot and 1 CF slot. I will then occasionally copy all recent images to both a primary and a backup set of 4 GB CF cards. This is very nice because the small size of the cards will allow me to store the two sets in different locations in my bags, so if one bag gets lost or stolen, I may still have the other copy. Additionally, the PDA is nice as it will allow me to rename the each day's images in the evening, so I won't forget what the pictures represent. That is a huge timesaver relative to doing so at the end of the stage. This is not an inexpensive system by any means, but I think it is the best in terms of ease of use, reliability, and size/weight, and these are probably more important to me than cost for this type of tour. I tried out this approach on my 02004 Canada tour, and found it to work very well.
Since I will have the PDA with me, there are then some other things that I can use it for which are rather nice. I have a nifty Excel spreadsheet to keep track of my daily log, expenses, and other information. At the end of each Stage, I can then convert the whole mess with a Word macro into an html text block of the daily log ready to be pasted into this site (cool!) I have also digitized all of my maps into a series of jpg files which can be browsed from an image map on a local web page. I tried this out on the way to Canada as well, and though the screen is a little small, and sometimes hard to see in bright sunlight, it was kind of nice not to have to try and fold up a paper map in a 25-km/h wind. Additionally, I have prepared a series of "guidebook-style" html documents, with information on lodging, food, and sights, gleaned from various travel and tourism Web sites, tailored to the specific areas along my planned route. This will be nice to have, especially since I won't have to lug along a lot of extraneous information for places that I know I won't visit. A set of talking phreasebooks in Spanish, French and Chinese should also come in handy. Finally, I can bring along a nice collection of e-books for those dull days waiting out a rainstorm in the tent (music and video are also possible, but I usually try to get away from all of that stuff on tour, so I will probably just stick with plain old text.)
When deciding on a new items to pack along, I find it useful to compare their weight, size, and cost to what they will be replacing. In this case I have the following load, which weighs perhaps 2kg, and fills most of my handlebar bag and one small pocket of a rear pannier:
~ 1 Camera
~ 1 PDA
~ Several flash cards
~ Batteries, spares & chargers
~ 3 watertight storage cases
These items replace the following old-fashioned analog versions:
~ 1 Camera
~ 50-75 folding maps
~ 670 rolls of 36-exp film
~ 750 books
~ Deck of cards, checkers, etc.
I don't know what the weight of all that would be, but I feel pretty sure that I will be coming out ahead. As for cost, to purchase and develop the equivalent amount of film alone would run somewhere around $US5,400.00. So, even though I have chosen to carry some of the more costly alternatives, I am still far ahead in that regard. Now, if I can only keep it all dry…
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Items in Italics are things that I would not usually carry on a shorter tour.