Choosing the right bike can be a difficult decision. Having the right bicycle can make or break your trip. Make sure that you don't rush this part of the process and do your research. Here we have condensed some our experience to help you choose the right bike for a great trip.
There are several factors to consider when choosing your bike. It is key for comfort to get the right size when buying your bicycle. The type of metal is a personal preference as its going to affect its weight and durability. The capability of the bike is something to spectulate over; is their enough gears to carry the weight and combat the climbs. Finally the condition of the bike will be the defining factor to its lifespan. Do you want this bike for more this one trip or are you going to be travelling for months on end.
When buying second hand it can be hit or miss luck if it's any good. Some things may be more apparent immediately and others will show up at some point into your trip. Have a look at our experience of buying bicycles in Bangkok.
Considering your own personal knowledge, what condition of bicycle do you want to be investing in. Realise that sometimes buying cheap, means buying twice. However if you do the right checks on purchase, you could be getting a great deal.
Small problems that are easily fixable for even the most inexperienced of cyclists; worn brakes, gear alignment or cracked tyres. Using wikihow or youtube videos will give you the step by step instructions on how to DIY.
We made the mistake with our second hand bikes by not reinvesting a little bit more cash into perfecting them. Cynthias tyres were cracked when we brought them, with roughly 500km left until they wouldn’t cope with the heat of Asia and finally resulting in a loud explosion in Laos. Despite this one issue, her bike was in fine condition when we sold it on and it was just our carelessness at the beginning that created such problems.
A checklist should be consulted when looking into second hand bikes and going for a quick ride, to test it out, is essential.
⇒ Tyres – tread depth/signs of cracks/inflation over 24 hours
⇒ Gears – runs through all available gears. Doesn’t ‘rattle’ on certain gears
⇒ Inbuilt lights – check that when pedalling the light comes on, otherwise its extra weight for no benefit
⇒ Spokes – spoke tension and check none are protruding into the inner tube
⇒ Chain - a rusty chain can be expensive to replace
⇒ Brakes – thickness of remaining pads/is the lever giving you as much as it should do
⇒ Pedals - rattling in the pedals can be very irritating over a long day. This can be due to a bent crank and that can be costly to replace.
Useful and essential parts for a great touring bike.
⇒ Mudguards - cheap investment and lightweight
⇒ Racks - there are plenty of different shapes and sizes for a bike rack. We didn't test the panniers on these new installed racks and the vertical bar protruded awkwardly on the horizontal, resulting in the pannier being bent...
For information on other parts necessary but not essential to bike touring click on equipment.
A question on kickstands...
Max and I didn't really agree on this matter back in Asia. He was arguing that they aren't essential and are extra unnecessary weight. I couldn't imagine myself without a kickstand... what are we going to do when we want to leave the bicycle somewhere? But after our trip in South East Asia and few arguments with my friends in Quebec over Christmas, I realised that they are useless for touring bikes.
Simple, you're bicycle is already heavier than a normal bike with all the luggage. Without having this 'luxury' of a kickstand, you'll manage just as well by balancing the bike with a pole, a wall or whatever else that's around. Most of the time if you stop somewhere where you're not going to be present, you'll have to lock it to something, again being the balance to support your bike. The bottom line is, 95% of the time you'll be able to use the environment you're in to uphold the bike. For the remaining 5% of the time, if the location you're in has nothing to balance your bicycle against, you'll simply put it on the floor!
What are you're thoughts on this? Leave a comment at the bottom, we are interested to see what the rest of the World thinks..!
Choose a durable saddle with no seams/stitching causing unnecessary chafing. Get a pair of cycling shorts with padding and this'll reduce saddle sores drastically. Another factor to look out for; breathable holes in the saddle, this helps circulate blood flow, again improving comfort. The saddle should be at 180 degrees, angled down, you'll be slipping forward - giving you sore palms. On the other hand, with the saddle looking to the sky, you'll be leaning back and having your arms outstretched. Womens saddles often tend to be quite wide for comfort, but bear in mind over 5 hours it will have the opposing effect.
Hint: stand regularly on pedals for 10-15 seconds to allow blood flow to circulate easily - tried, tested and appreciated advice.
More info on choosing the right saddle