Tag Archives: Brooks

Advice on Touring Bikes

I think just about any bike could be used for bicycle touring. If lots of parts and bits are that important and need to be specific, then you can do what you need to get all those parts and bits. Some of the ones that may or may not be obviously important to a person new to touring are the frame, the wheels, the drive train, and the contact points.

There are millions of bikes out there. It is not crucial that you buy a Surly Long Haul Trucker or any other complete off the shelf touring bike, new or used. But one does need to start somewhere.

A steel frame that is about the right size for your body is the best place to start. New or used, a “touring” bike or just a bike that is a bike, anything in good condition will do. Having a frame made of steel is going to be best because Aluminum is too difficult to repair, Ti is too expensive, and carbon is too expensive and pretty much can not be repaired. If it’s not a pure racing bike there is probably a way to get a rack on it. If it only has 2 bottle mounts that’s fine. Mine does have 3 but i carry peanut butter in the 3rd. And if there were no 3rd cage mount i’d carry that peanut butter in a pannier. Besides that, pipe clamps will do the trick to add bottle cages where there are no mounts.

Wheels. For basic touring, generally people want a bike with either 700C wheels or 26″. Keeping it simple, and speaking about average size riders, 700C will be more efficient and good if more than 90% of your riding is on paved roads. And 26″ will be stronger and better for riding on unpaved conditions. 26″ is also OK for paved roads but will be heavier and a bit slower. This is all important because the frame is made for either 700C or 26″. So this is a choice to make when looking for a bicycle or a bike frame.

My first tour was with an off the shelf touring bike. I wanted to ride across the county so I bought a touring bike. It had the stock, 700C factory built 36 spoke, with a 3-cross lacing pattern. I had not too much stuff but was fully loaded and about 650 miles later my rear wheel broke a bunch of spokes and i could not ride. I was in the middle of nowhere and had to deal with a lot of unexpected to get back to riding.

With that, I do not recommend touring on factory built wheels. Regardless of the wheel size or how many spokes, my best advice is hand built wheels from someone who is reputable and a 4-cross lacing pattern.

It is not only important that the wheels spin true, but also that the tension in the spokes is even. A spoke that is too tight is doing more work than the ones next to it. And a spoke that does too much work will break. And then the ones next to it will be doing too much work. It’s like falling dominos in slow motion. Ask someone you know who has broken a spoke, if they kept riding I’ll bet they broke more than one. So having hand built wheels is a good place to start because the builder should watch the tension to keep it even. And as for the 4-cross, it means the stress of the wheel is sent to a broader area on the hub. Think of it like this, carry a heavy backpack with skinny straps, or carry it with wide straps.

I like to ride on roads, i don’t want to have to work any harder than i need to, and i don’t want problems with my wheels. A lot of touring advice out there says 36 spokes are more than enough. I will agree that a wheel might do fine with just 36 spokes but I know that a wheel with 48 spokes will definitely do much better, and with only a small weight penalty. I said something about spoke tension. A strong wheel with 36 spokes has more tension than a wheel with 48 spokes. With 48 each spoke does less work(because there are more of them working) so the tension does not need to be as high. Or think about it like this, tandem bikes have a lot of weight on them right? Two riders on one bike with just two wheels. How many spokes do tandem wheels have? I don’t want to carry 150 lbs. of gear, but i could. And if i did my 48 spoke hand built 4-cross wheels would be just fine.

Drive train. This is simple. Have a wide range of gears, a new chain (maybe not the cheapest one there is) and if it all works good before you depart, it should work to get you a couple thousand miles before anything major needs replaced. Although if you have to lay you bike on the ground I’d say lay it with the chain side up so your derailleurs dont have the weight of your bike on them.

Contact points meaning saddle, handle bars/grips, and pedals. Unless you have a Brooks saddle already, you should get a Brooks. I know it sucks to look all over the web looking for advice on gear and seeing nothing but LHT, Ortlieb, Brooks, LHT, Ortlieb, Brooks, LHT, Ortlieb, Brooks. They all get a lopsided amount of gushing reviews, mostly by the less experienced. I don’t give a shit about LHT or Ortlieb, but getting a Brooks is a good idea. And preferably one with springs. I’ve done 4 tours, each 2, 3 or 4000 miles and only on my most recent one did i ride with a Brooks. It can be done without one. But after I got one I don’t want to do a long ride on anything else. As for handle bars i think wider is more comfortable with good cork bar tape. And pedals, think about clipping in. It’ll let more of your muscles do work. Or,,, it means a few of you muscles wont have to do all the work.

Ok, any steel frame that fits, strong well built wheels, a sound drive train, learn about Brooks now or later, comfortable handle bars, and efficient pedals. After all that you can think about what stuff to take(clothes, tools, camp set, cook set, notebook, camera) and what to carry it in. Good luck.


Another over the water sunrise I hope

September 3rd. Day 34
This morning I woke up early. I saw the little bit of sun there was with all the clouds. Not really sun but a strip of orange glow. Thought about getting packed early and banging out a long distance day. But the rain started. I stayed in the tent and slept more.
A few hours later I woke up to a bit of mud around me but the rain stopped.
Coffee, muffin and a toilet at the gas station then walked back over to pack it up.
Rode around one corner right next to where I slept and saw the Van Horne Bridge. A cool one. I like riding over cool bridges.
I went to the Soybes and even parked my bike next to an outlet. Charged the iPod while I shopped.
Saw the lady from the gas station last night shopping too. We chatted. She was nice. I think inside the store would have been awkward but had I bumped into her outside I would have asked for a photo.
McD for wifi. Not very long.
More photos of the bridge. Then a ride over.
In Quebec I stopped in the ? for a map. They had decent Gaspe maps. And then I rode the 132 East. I did take a side road from Escuminac to Nouvelle. Not much to talk about today but it is very pretty like they say. It’s different already on this side of the bay. There was a time today that I just started laughing. Maybe because this place looks like nothing else and I’m not even to the good part yet.
I rode to a town named Maria. It was on the east side of Baie de Cascapédia and the next town is another 20km and on the west side of the bay. So I stopped early and looked around town. Today I’ve seen three outdoor photo exhibits all by the same project but different photographers. I think it may be in towns all along the Gaspe.
Spotted a church facing the water. It’s Saturday night, not the best night to camp at a church but with any luck I’ll see a sunrise and there will be no rain. And I’ll ve gone before the church goers arrive.

First day to not wear Outlier three way shorts. Looked at the butt and my Brooks brass rivets are doing a bit of wear on them. Wore the Climbers today because it was cool. Also the cap under helmet and wore tank, black T, and hoodie till about 4pm when the sun showed up. Then just pants and T for the rest the day.

Need to trim some fat. Maps I don’t need, a couple items of clothing not getting used (bibs, 2nd jersey) exposed film, and some other doo-dads not cutting it or extras brought on accident. I have 5 lens cloths. Dumb. 1 w eye glasses, 1 w sun g’s, one in camera bag, one in ziplock with camera doo-dads and a “spare” in the handlebar bag.
Not all that much really, but it can be about space as much as weight. I need space for food. The weight I can carry but there is only so much I can strap to the outside and expect it not to fall off.

About four hours after buying bread I busted it out to make PB&J. I was happy to see the little closure clip was baby blue. A new color for my collection. Only the 4th or 5th since I started. So far every one has been a different color. I’d like to find one in black.

And today I hit a record speed of 72.9 km/hr (highest for this trip I believe).
Oh, did the math and it’s only 45mph. Pretty weak.

9:45pm lights out


Items that get noticed

Items that get noticed

In no order
-fenders, for the shiny hammered look
-Brooks saddle, for it’s springs or just being classic looking
-Arkel bar bag, for having a map holder/window
-frame, always just asking what it is
-bell, usually by the young or the old
-Catlike helmet, lots of holes
-PB in third bottle cage, “he’s even got the peanutbutter!”
-“Boda-Boda!” sticker, asking what it is
-organization in general, probably from neat freaks, ha
-coffee mug, for it’s biner
-broken screen on this iPod.

And the things I wish were noticed more.
-NYC flag. Its right on the front of my bike and almost no one has said a word about it.
-old Dura-ace brake levers. So baller but not one admirer except me.
-48 spoked wheels. I’m trying to start a fully loaded touring trend here and nobody sees this or cares.
-front rack. Totally custom & handmade.
-tent. it fits two

Brooks Champion Flyer Special

If you read anything about touring you’ll read about someone praising Brooks for making saddles that work very well with riding long miles and long hours. If you read a lot about touring you’ll get bored with all the praises Brooks gets.

I just rebuild my old touring bike with a nearly new everything. On the list was the saddle. I chose this saddle because my friend Johnny, who is one of the the most knowledgeable bike people I know, rides one. We had stopped on the street to say hi and I seen he had one on his bike. I had considered maybe getting a Brooks before but hearing him say a few good things and seeing how perfect his looked I figured it wouldn’t be that big of a mistake to buy one. Luckily I bought this for less than full retail. Otherwise I might have bought the standard B-17 to save money but after putting the Flyer Special on my newly rebuilt bike I was surprised to win a standard B-17 in a raffle. I see a big difference seeing them side by side. I don’t think I’d like touring on anything Brooks makes that doesn’t have springs.

Now I say all this having never done any touring on any Brooks saddle. But I have been having a good time riding around on my days off and feeling the difference 700×32 tires and a springer saddle makes. I don’t think I made a mistake and it looks good.

Ordered from QBP

Made in England


Brooks Proofide Leather Dressing 25g

I have just applied this to my newish Brooks saddle. I started with a rag from a t-shirt but gave up on that and used a small paint brush instead. Much easier on the under side with a brush.

Seems like I’ll have enough to do a couple complete covers and a couple more light covers on the top side before it’s gone.

I did use the rag to wipe the top after it set in.

I forgot how much this cost. And I’m going to assume it’s made in England.