November: Working like a dawg, Rohloff miles, shipping bikes overseas and cake

Seems I blinked and missed November.

Given the lack of activity on these pages, you’d be forgiven for thinking that I’d gone into hibernation. Not true, although the hours I’ve spent nose pressed to computer screen for the day job have monopolised my thoughts (and senses) somewhat. There’s been little room for much else – a hibernation of sorts, then.

I’m not complaining as it’s been rewarding work, but time for activity worthy of addition to the Northern Walker back catalogue has been limited. There are a few things of note, however.

Early thoughts on a Rohloff hub

rohloff-speedhub-surly-trollEvery conceivable characteristic of the Rohloff Speedhub has been covered elsewhere in magazines, blogs and forums. I’m not going to add too much to this exhaustive reading list although I’m pleased to report that after about 300 miles on my Surly Troll, the hub is starting to settle down.

As others have reported, there is noise in gears 1-7 and seven is a pepper grinder. Gears 8-14 are silent on the flat, with a little noise under load.

There is a minor sensation of vibration through the cranks under load too, but this getting less pronounced with use it seems.

The hub will not freewheel like a derailleur and probably never will – aggressive seals and internal gubbins are to blame here. I have followed Rohloff’s advice and dropped a little oil behind the rear sprocket has this has helped free things up a little. More miles will help too.

I also concur with other users who have complained about the shift in weight distribution due to the hub and how this can deaden the rear end of the bike. When I first built my Troll I found it surprisingly sprightly despite its heft and much of that character has now gone. This is not a problem, as the bike feels far more stable and more suited to touring, but it’s something to bear in mind of you’re thinking of fitting the hub to a mountain bike or monster crosser.

While the potential negatives are readily apparent from these early rides, so are the positives. I really appreciate the clean drivetrain, the ability to change gear while stationary, the evenly spaced ratios, the overall positive feel of the hub and the lack of fettling.

I also have the confidence that minor niggles with the hub are likely to get better with age.

Saying farewell to the Green Goddess

Thorn Club Tour boxed and ready for shipping
Thorn Club Tour boxed and ready for shipping

I put my Thorn Club Tour up for sale a few weeks ago. I had a few enquiries from prospective buyers in the States and Australia would you believe, while others wanted my to break the bike down and sell off the components separately. Another thought it a bit too old school (!)

Eventually I had an email from a rider in the Netherlands who was in the market for a lighter touring rig. We agreed a price and I got to work trying to find a suitable shipping carrier.

This proved to be difficult. I didn’t want to break the bike down too much to prevent squashed dropouts but most couriers’ package restrictions would not accommodate a large bicycle in a box. I asked the ever helpful folk at my LBS Keep Pedalling and they suggested some good courier options, only the price wasn’t right.

Then I came cross Direct Courier Solutions, a broker that has secured favourable rates from mainstream couriers for larger items. A bike to Netherlands would cost £70 (plus £7.50 for optional insurance cover of up to £1000). This was half the price of other quotes I’d received.

Save for a missed collection on my initial booked day, the bike shipped by Fedex in five days. Online tracking was excellent.

I’m pleased to say that the Club reached its new owner in fine condition (although I did spend an age packing it) and he seems very happy with his new ride. The whole process has given me a great deal of satisfaction, topped by the fact that this bike and its new owner will be going on plenty of adventures in the New Year…

Cycle touring the Ardnamurchan

Let me eat cake

I’ve had a few chats over the Interweb with the author of the blog Life in the Cycle Lane. We share a similar taste in bikes (not Bromptons!) and bike shops, and had the opportunity to meet a couple of times over the last few weeks.

Tim, the gent in question, is a fine fellow with a far finer beard than mine and, when not in the cycle lane, spends many a weekend selling cake with his other half Karen.

Not only would I commend his blog to those of a pedalling disposition, I’d also recommend The Baking Room, the source of said cake.

I am a fan of the Parkin and the delicious gluten-free marmalade cake, but I really must fess up my addiction to their excellent Guinness-ginger-dark chocolate bites. These flavoursome nuggets are a marriage made in heaven and highly recommended.

Check out The Baking Room here.

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Thoughts on a Surly Troll MkII

above Pingvallavatn Pingvellir IcelandI’ve had my Surly Troll – ‘Tango’ – for over a year now. It’s carried me across Iceland, on some daft bike packing trips and other short tours, to the pub, to work, to the shops… lots of times to the shops in fact, including grocery runs with four panniers full to bursting.

I like it… I like it a lot. In fact, I like so much that my traditional workhorse-touring bike – a rather classy Thorn Club Tour – hasn’t had a look-in. It sits in the garage, ready for action, yet I keep on reaching for the Troll.

Continue reading

Fully loaded

Thorn Club Tour loaded with Caradice panniersKit list… check; pre-trip pang of excitement… check; pre-trip doubts over a slightly sore knee… check; bike service… check; ferry timetables printed… check; Skin So Soft (for the wee beasties)… check; Long Wave radio for Test Match Special… check; carrying too much stuff… check; fears that bike is too heavy… check; leave some stuff at home… check; …and go.

Back in a week or so.

Thorn Club Tour ‘upgrades’

Update October 2013: This bicycle has now been sold.

Over the last couple of weeks, my Thorn Club Tour has been going through its annual service. This involves cable checks, hub servicing and the like… and I’ve taken the opportunity to make one or two upgrades.

Chief among these have been the brakes. I had been running some pretty basic Shimano cantilevers that were salvaged from my old Dawes Galaxy. These had been OK, but the bike merited better.

I have now fitted Shimano R550 cantilevers, which are a marked improvement. These were very easy to install and configure, although I did find the springs a little slack on the rear set, yet too tight to mount on the third hole of the cantilever bosses. A little bit of gentle ‘realignment’ with some pliers soon remedied the issue, though.

Other changes include a new Deore chainset. I have no reason to ‘upgrade’ to XT or other variations here. Deore has been solid and reliable in the past and I see no reason why this won’t be the case in future. The new ‘set is supplied with an external bearing bottom bracket. Although I was initially sceptical of this technology on my Audax, it has proved to be very reliable.

Finally, I have added a layback seatpost to provide a bit more cockpit flexibility. This is a ‘Zoom’ post supplied by SJS Cycles. It offers a slightly more stretched out position, which I now prefer after making one or two tweaks to the Audax.

Anyway, here are some pics and the spec:

Frame: Thorn Club Tour 620S, Reynolds 725 tubing
Forks: Reynold 531st
Bars: ProLT 44cm (c to c)
Brake levers:  Tektro RL340 black
Shifters: Shimano Dura Ace 9 spd bar end
Stem: Ritchey adjustable
Headset: FSA Orbit XLII
Brakes: Shimano RL550 cantilevers
Rims: Rigida Sputnik
Hubs: Deore LX 36 hole
Spokes: Double butted Sapim, plain gauge ‘strongs’ on drive side
Tyres: Panaracer Pasela Tourgruard 35mm
Crankset: Shimano Deore M590 22 32 44
Front mech: Deore
Rear mech: Deore
Chain: Sram PC971
Saddle: Brooks Champion Flyer B17
Seatpost: Thorn Zoom layback, 400mm, 27.2mm
Racks: Tubus Ergo front, Tubus Cargo rear.

A kit list for cycle touring

A person on a bicycle can carry more in comfort than a person with a backpack and inherent in that statement is the temptation to carry too much on your bike when on the road.

As with lightweight backpacking, though, your legs and back will thank you for shedding the pounds. A balance needs to be struck by the individual, although the basic mantra of laying out all your kit and leaving half behind generally applies.

The following list is by no means a definitive view of what kit to carry on the road. It has been refined with the benefit of experience, but I do acknowledge that more weight could be shed. Still, I would happily tour for a month or so with the kit listed here in a wide variety of conditions. Continue reading

Thorn Club Tour: Cutting a fork steerer tube

Thorn Club Tour

With rain and wind lashing the window when I awoke this morning, it seemed a good day to spend in the garage and cut the steerer tube on my Thorn Club Tour forks.

I’d purchased a dedicated tool for this job, the SJS steerer cutter clamp, and all I needed was a decent hacksaw.

Reading the cycling forums, cutting a steerer tube is one of those jobs that requires a deep breath before you start. It’s pretty final: get your measurements wrong and you’ll need a new set of forks.

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