Velo Orange Porteur and Constructeur Racks

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When I built my Bob Jackson World Tour last year, I had a plan to fit racks at some point. I’d considered a number of options, but given the overall aesthetic of this bike – think French Randonneur – replica parts seemed the order of the day rather than fitting more purposeful Tubus or Surly load luggers.

Although it may never have been my intention to carry camping kit on this bike, my hand has been forced by next week’s Way of the Roses ride. Frames to replace my trusty but just–too–darn-small Surly Troll are either in transit or can’t be collected until May. I’d be pedalling coast to coast on the Bob Jackson then, and I needed racks to suit.

The hunt for the right replica parts normally means Velo Orange and I’ve been chewing over options from their range for a while. I eventually settled on a minimalist but rather elegant Constructuer rear rack and the more substantial Porteur front, which provides a sizeable platform for a large bag that I hope to acquire some time in the future. (There are some rather nice options from this cottage manufacturer in the Netherlands.)

The two VO racks arrived last month and I was immediately struck but how burly the Porteur is. By contrast, the Constructeur feels somewhat under gunned with its svelte lines and thin tubing. Both are made from stainless steel and rather nicely finished, though. Reading the VO specs they should be adequate to carry my slimmed down camping kit with control.

Fitting the racks was a bit of a faff… but isn’t it always? Both allow for the option to drill mudguards (if you have ‘proper’ alloy or steel mudguards that is) and it’s worth measuring, praying and drilling for the additional stability this provides – both for the racks and the guards.

You’ll note from the pictures I’m running the Constructeur rather tight to the mudguard while the Porteur is a little higher (and there’s a stack of M5 washers helping to keep the ‘guard put). In both cases I have to cut the tabs which attach to the drop out mounts – make sure you have a quality hacksaw for this job as the metal is reassuringly hardy.

This is a huge frame and having the Porteur rack a little higher gives me the perfect distance between its platform and handlebars for the aforementioned large ‘porteur’ bag. I’ve angled the rack back slightly too so the bag will be inline with the angle of the head tube. A personal quirk that may or may not work when the bag is ultimately in place.

Initial shake down rides now done and I am a big fan of the Porteur. I’ve carried reasonable weight up front with little discernable effect on the handling. If anything, the rack has made the Bob more settled if that’s possible for this most predictable of bikes. The rack will carry a drybag next week containing tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping mat along with lighter clothes and food.

The Constructuer, while looking dandy, is not so practical. It will just ferry a pair of small Caradice Super C panniers with some adjustment of the hooks. The platform will take a small drybag of some description too.

I’m hoping this three-bag solution will take care of my gear. I have the option to add an Alpkit framebag to spread the load a wee bit further. The Porteur will take front panniers too if needed but I’m trying to avoid the additional weight.

I’ll report back after next week’s trundle.

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Choosing the best bike touring wheels – Update June 2016

This post continues to receive plenty of views so I thought I’d post an update. Since this was published, I’ve tried some different hub and rim options and I’ll offer some thoughts.

Mavic XM719 (26″) and Rohloff/SP Dynamo PD8

Now fitted to my Surly Troll, these have offered sterling service over the last two years and maybe 12,000 miles. I’ll add to the extensive cannon on the Rohloff in a separate post at some point, but I am a fan of hub transmission for touring and the off road riding I do. The SP Dynamo has proven to be reliable and strong with the added benefit of charging my devices of course. There is resistance when the hub is applying juice, but I haven’t found it a great hassle in real world use.

Update: The bearings on the SP dynamo have now failed. This is, according to the manufacturer, all I might expect from one of its hubs. On this basis, I can’t recommend the SP8 for touring as there is no easy way to replace the bearings without invalidating the warranty (if under two years old).

The Mavix XM719 rims have been particularity impressive. These wheels are 32-spoke which initially challenged by grouchy devotion to 36- hole drilling for touring, but they have remained true over some tough terrain, including ill advised single track, Morrocan gravel roads with load and lumpy bridlepaths. They seem resistant to chips and scratches too from flying rocks and stones.

Update: Although initially impressed with the rigidity and finish of this rim, the rear has extensive and alarming cracking under the rim tape. This problem has been experienced by other tourers and you can shake the Internet to find out more. It’s a shame, I liked this rim.

Velocity Dually and Rohloff/Hope Evo 

A specialist 29+ wheelset for my Surly ECR off road touring rig. The Duallys are a cheaper alternative to Surly’s Rabbit Hole rim and I prefer the aesthetic given they have no ‘windows’. They are a little narrower though.

I recently returned from a two week bikepacking trip to Scotland where these received some very harsh treatment. The rims are now chipped due to flying stones etc, but the wheelset has remained nicely true. The Hope Evo on the front grumbles a little but spins freely.

Mavic Open Pro/Royce Titan

These are fitted to my custom Woodrup and have proven to be a noticeable improvement on my existing Deore XT/DRC combo. This wheel set is noticeably stiffer and considerably faster. Although I was expecting the Royce Titans to have a bedding in period given the sealing on the cartridge bearings, they have proven to be extremely free running out of the box and whisper quiet. One characteristic of these hubs is the precision… there is no discernible play in the hand so the tolerances are fine. The freehub will get noisier over time, but I have the lubrication kit that will silence them again when this happens.

As mentioned below, the Royce are very expensive but beautifully finished. They are the crowning component on this superb bike and make riding it an even greater pleasure. Highly recommended…

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Choosing the best touring bicycle (updated January 2013)

Thorn Club Tour parked up for the nightNon-touring cycling friends often ask me: ‘What’s the best touring bicycle you can buy?’ In some respects, it’s a hard question to answer as the
choice of bike hinges on so many factors, not least the kind of journeys you are planning to undertake. That said, the simple answer to the question more often than not would be: ‘The bike in your garage or shed.’ A solid mountain bike, road bike or hybrid will be sufficient for your first tour.

For the purposes of this post, though, I will focus on the ‘dedicated’ touring cycle, which can be loosely categorised as ‘traditional touring cycles’, ‘expedition touring cycles’ and ‘others’ – including folding bicycles for touring. Not intended to be a definitive list, it does feature models that are available for purchase in the UK.

I thought it was about time I updated this post as it it generates so much traffic on this site. So, I’ve had another look at the touring bike market in the UK with a couple of new names providing frames and bikes to the domestic market.

And if this isn’t enough to satiate your touring bike appetite, check out this site. Touring bikes in action all over the world.

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Two wheels: good

I am writing this from a dingy hotel room in Belfast. I’m here for a conference and, with my little domestic issue now sorted (near as damn it anyway), I am at last able to devote some time to this blog again. Feels good.

During the last three weeks or so, I have been rediscovering the joys of my touring bike as I’ve needed to get out of the house and clear my head. For those who are interested in such things, it’s an oldish Dawes Galaxy to which I’ve made numerous modifications so it fits my frankly lanky frame.

I’d quite forgotten how nice it is to ride and my 30-mile sorties over the hills to Saddleworth and beyond have been a joy. The weight is falling off me, too.

I used to ride a folder (a fantastic Bike Friday Pocket Llama) when I was a daily commuter to London and became as fit and lean as I’d ever been.

I am looking to regain a bit of that conditioning as it’s good for the hills too.

Hours in saddle have got me day dreaming, though. I’m starting to warm to the idea of a solo attempt on the LEJOG next year. Camping gear and all.

If I’m serious, I’d better get the miles in!