Packing for bike touring – lightening the load

OldSkool? - Touring Iceland on a Surly Troll with 30kg of kit across four panniersa dn a drybag
OldSkool? – Touring Iceland on a Surly Troll with 30kg+ of kit across four panniers and a drybag

I’ve been experimenting with packing for my trip to Scotland later this month. Given I’ll be riding off road as much as weather conditions allow the traditional pannier set up has been ditched and I’ve been forced to re-evaluate my packing routine.

Adios panniers

A traditional cycle touring set up where the load is split across four panniers, bar bag and, maybe, a drybag on the rear rack offers the rider the chance to bring the kitchen sink – literally. For me, this results in luxuries such as books, a (relatively) large tent, hipflasks of whisky and bottles of ale, numerous electronic gizmos, extended camera kit, at least one full change of clothes including ‘evening wear’ for nights in the pub… you get the picture. Continue reading

ECR miles

The last couple of weekends I’ve been getting the miles in on the ECR ahead of my trip to Scotland in May. Importantly, these have been largely off road miles and with luggage to a lesser or greater degree.

Last weekend saw me out with those fine folk from Keep Pedalling and a couple of other customers, among them Tim from Life in the Cycle Lane. We bimbled around the byways of the South Pennines on our passé geared machines while our hosts chewed up the trail on single speeds. It was the workout I needed and a salutary reminder that my fitness is not quite where it should be. Read Tim’s account here. Continue reading

This year’s adventure and a change of plan

rannoch moorI had planned to head to France for this year’s bike tour and tackle the Grande Traversée du Massif Central, a 700km mountain bike route from Clermont Ferrard to Montpellier.

I bought the guidebook and had (nearly) sorted my slightly awkward logistics flying outbound and grabbing the Bike Europe Express coach service home. Naturally, I wanted to take the Surly ECR on this trip although this bike’s massive proportions would cause problems on both modes of travel. If you’re interested, Bike Europe Express will take fat bikes – be they half or full fat – classing them as ‘unconventional solos’. However, I think it’s a good idea to call them first if you fancy taking your monster truck. Continue reading

Surly ECR XXL four months on – Evading Clichéd Rides?

I’ve had my mahoosive Surly ECR since March.

In that time, it’s been on numerous trips over the trails near home, took part in a celebratory ride for the bike shop that supplied it (and was greeted with nods of approval from the Surly dudes), lugged bikepacking gear on an epic trip from Settle to home along the Pennine Bridleway and ferried me out for coffee on a hill when I just couldn’t take it any more.

Surly ECR in the Pennines
A sunny day on the trails. An ECR day.

Continue reading

Keep Pedalling’s Third Birthday Ride

So this week has been a little different…

Rather than spending Wednesday up to my armpits in the usual heady mix of meetings and miscellanea in the Smoke, I boarded a Routemaster bus armed with my ECR alongside a bunch of like-minded folks with a plethora of impressive steeds.

The reason? Manchester’s best bike shop (now official) Keep Pedalling celebrated its third birthday. Naturally, the only way to mark this occasion was to go for a ride and follow it with a party in the shop… with beer, pizza and a fantastic cake courtesy of The Baking Room.

A couple of those very fine folk from Surly also came along… great company they were too.

The Routemaster was a very novel touch and provided the perfect entrée to a day of mud plugging in the Pennines. Despite my lowly off road skills, I didn’t crash… my only misdemeanour was losing my bottles when I got the beefy ECR airborne.

Riding bikes in the sunshine = happy days. Thanks so much Keep Pedalling for the invite, your advice and my two rather excellent Surlys. Here’s to your continued success.

More pics from the day can be found here courtesy of Steve Makin. Read Tim’s always entertaining account on Life in the Cycle Lane.

Surly ECR XXL – listen up tall folks

Got my Surly ECR yesterday. It’s a massive Humvee of a bike. While it’s too early to give an impression of the ride, let’s just say… so far, so ruddy marvelous.

The sizing of this bike caused a bit of head scratching but I am glad I went for the largest model. I feel I am sitting ‘in’ this bike rather than ‘on’ it.

I’m 6’6″ with a 37 1/2 cycle inseam and wanted an upright position. The result seems perfect for throwing my sizeable weight backwards on descents while the ‘aero’ position on the Jeff Jones loop bars is  comfortably within reach.

It’s early days, but I’ve found a bike that feels ‘right’ and inspires confidence off road.

Anyway, you’re probably not interested in my babble. Here are a spec list and some pics, including one of me on it for scale…

Frame: Surly ECR. size 24”
Rims: Velocity Dually, 32 spoke
Tyres: Surly Knard folding, 29×3”, 120 tpi (running inner tubes for now)
Front hub: Hope Evo, black, 32 hole
Rear hub: Shimano Alfine 8 speed black, 23 tooth sprocket, Surly Tugnut
Brakes: Avid BB7, front rotor 180mm, rear 160mm
Brake levers: Avid FR-5
Grips: Ergon GP-1
Bars: Jeff Jones H bar, 660mm
Shifter: Shimano Alfine trigger
Stem: Salsa Pro Moto, 90mm, 25 deg rise
Headset: Hope, black
Bottom bracket: Hope stainless, black
Crankset: Middleburn RS-8 X-type, 32 tooth ring, hardcoat
Seatpost: Thomson Elite layback, black
Saddle: Brooks B17
Pedals: Shimano Saint
Rack: Caradice Bagman Expedition
Bag: Nelson Longflap

ECR inspiration and festive best

All good things... The Surly ECR (Pic: Surly)
All good things… The Surly ECR (Pic: Surly)

It’ll be some time until I get my paws on my new Surly ECR. Time, then, to carry on thinking about specs and where I can get it muddy in the New Year.

I can also take some inspiration from riders who’ve built up steeds from the first batch of frames.

If you are similarly ECR-afflicted, you can read about them here:

Pedaling Nowhere

Visit this excellent blog to read about an ECR build and follow a great adventure in South Africa.

Gypsy by Trade

Another inspirational blog and a perfect tonic for those dark Manchester evenings… Here you’ll find an excellent, objective review of the ECR sporting a Krampus-esque paint job.

Run Out, Off Route

One of the first to post about the ECR in detail, read about some early impressions on the trail.

For those wondering if I’ll ever go walking again and stop posting about ruddy bikes, I hope to get out in the hills between Christmas and the New Year so there might be a post before year-end 🙂

Until then, may I wish you and yours a restful festive break.