Tag Archives: panniers

Touring Bicycle Modifications and Additions Part 1

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There are hundreds of modifications and additions available to bicycle owners to make in preparation for a long bicycle tour.  There are a lot of special things you need to think about before embarking on your first, next, or possibly final bike tour.  Even if you are only considering modifying your existing bike to commute to work, there are a lot of options for making your ride more efficient and more comfortable.  In this post, we’ll look at some of the better additions and modifications that are available while checking out my Surly Long Haul Trucker additions.

Consider your purpose

There are many types of cyclists on the road today.  There are your road racers, mountain bikers, tourers, and commuters.  This is a bicycle touring blog, so we’re going to spend our time considering a bicycle tour and what kind of bicycle it requires.

You should ask yourself some questions before equipping your bike with upgrades and accessories.

  • Will I do self-supported touring?
  • Will I do overnight touring?
  • Will I have a riding partner?
  • Will I encounter extreme weather conditions?

Self-supported touring is a type of tour that requires riders to carry all of their equipment on their bicycles.  This is a contrasting style to credit-card touring, where riders carry minimal equipment and rely on their credit card or cash to buy things along the way.  Self-supporting bicycle tourists carry camping equipment and food in addition to clothing and repair tools.  Credit-card bicycle tourists carry clothing and repairs tools and purchase food along the way and usually stay in hotels during overnight trips.  These two scenarios present drastically different requirements for your bicycle.

Overnight touring is usually when bicycle commuters turn into bicycle tourers.  Whether you are on a self-supporting tour or a credit-card tour, an overnight tour requires carrying more equipment.

Riding partners are great for a number of reasons.  Safety comes to mind first.  Having another rider a long increases the chance that people will leave you alone and it gives you an immediate line of assistance if you have an accident and are injured.  Riding partners can also help share the load.  If you are on a self-supported tour, each rider could carry half of the common gear.  Some good examples of this are camping equipment and food.  Having one rider carry the tent and another carry the camping equipment greatly reduces the load.  You also save weight on tools and replacement gear and can also share that load between the multiple bicycles. One last thing to consider is motivation.  Having a good riding partner who is able to keep your spirits high, motivate you up a big hill, and lend an ear during a rainy night in a leaky tent will certainly make your bicycle tour more enjoyable.

Bicycle touring requires riders to spend a large part of the day on their bike exposed to the elements.  Especially if you are on a long trip with some timeline, riding through extreme weather is something you’re probably going to have to prepare for.  Depending on your trip, it might be monsoon rains (Southeast Asia, India,etc), snow and ice (Russia, Canada, etc), wind (everywhere), heat (deserts).  Knowing the conditions you will face greatly alters the equipment you need to bring on your tour.

Consider your budget

A rider’s budget effects just about every aspect of a bicycle tour and starts with the bicycle.  I’ve written a number of reviews for touring bicycles in the past so I’ll just take a quick snapshot here to give you an idea of what kind of bicycle you can afford.

Inexpensive (Good for short tours and commuting)

This is the Novara Safari Touring Bike.  Pictured below is the 2009 model.  This is visually appealing and inexpensive.  The price tag is 849.00 at REI.com.  Click on the picture to learn more.  I would recommend this bike for commuting, credit-card tours, and shorter self-supported tours.  It is a nice bike but there are a couple of things I don’t like on this bike if it is used for a long self-supported tour.  There are very good components on this bike so I’d check it out if you’re in the market.

Novara Safari Touring Bike - 2009

Economical, Versatile, Reliable (These models will go anywhere and have a small price tag)

This is the Surly Long Haul Trucker. Pictured below is the Surly LHT 2009 model in truckaccino color.  This is a simpler bike that is designed specifically for bicycle touring.  Surly bikes have a pretty impressive following in the bicycle touring world, considered a great value for all types of tours as well as commuting. The reasons people love these bikes is because they are extremely durable and are very easily upgraded.  There are four total braze-ons on the front and rear of the bike, these are screw holes used to secure racks, fenders, and other accessories.  There are 3 sets of water bottle bosses on the frame, allowing owners to attach three water bottle cages to the bike.  The frame also accomodates huge tires, check out these stats:

700c: w/o fenders: 45mm; w/fenders:42mm
26″:
2.1″ with or without fenders

The ability to fit tires is a great option for bicycle touring because you can fit snow tires, MTB tires, or road tires on the bike.  This model can be bought for around 1,095.00.

Surly Long Haul Trucker

Surly Long Haul Trucker

This is the Raleigh Sojourn.  This is another one of my favorite touring bicycles. The Raleigh Sojourn is very visually appealing with creme tones and brown accents. This bike is recommended for all types of tour including commuting.  I personally would be a little wary of the disc brakes if I was out in the middle of central Asia or some other remote region, in case they fail you will have a hard time fixing them.  The Surly comes with canti brakes which are found just about anywhere.  You can see in the picture, the Raleigh Sojourn comes with a set of fenders, a rear rack, and a frame-mounted mini-pump.  This model sells for $1,099.00.

Raliegh Sojourn Touring Bike

Raliegh Sojourn Touring Bike

Expensive

This is the Koga Miyata World Traveler. This is one of my favorite high-end touring bikes.  If you’ve got some cash to throw around, I’d go with this model. Nice components, a ton of accessories, and high-quality materials.

Koga-Miyata World Traveler touring bike

Koga-Miyata World Traveler touring bike

Don’t forget you’re going to need to buy other things for your tour, like bags, clothes, and camping equipment.  Keep this in mind when choosing a touring bicycle.

Consider your options

Now that you know what kind of bicycle tour you’re going to embark on, whether or not you’re riding with a partner, and what bike your going to use, we can look at some additions and modifications you can make to get tour ready.

Water

Clean, drinkable water is the most important thing to have with you on tour.  If you’re doing a credit-card tour you don’t really have to worry about carry more than a bottle or two of water as you can stop by the 7-11 convenience store and pick up extra liquids just about anytime you desire.  When your bicycle tour gets long and more self-sufficient, you’re water carrying needs increase quickly.  The farther from civilization you get, the more water you need to carry on board in case you can’t find it.  As a rule of thumb, you need about 1 liter of water per riding hour, and 2 liters per person for cooking dinner and breakfast at camp.  Think about a typical 8 hour day, that is 10 liters of water!  For an example, the Surly Long Haul Trucker has three water bottle bosses, allowing you to mount about 75 ounces of water, or 3 liters.  Here are a couple of ways to upgrade your bike to hold more water:

Racks

Bicycle racks attach to the front fork and rear frame and give riders the option to carry gear in a number of ways.  Some racks come with top platforms which are ideal for loading tents, sleeping bags, pads, and cooking gear.  Simply put it on the platform and strap down with a strong bungee cord.  The sides of the racks are ideal for securing bicycle luggage, called panniers, that hold clothes, repair gear, and other smaller objects.  There are a handful of rack manufacturers, I recommend the Surly Nice Racks, as well as the following companies:

Topeak (Check out the Super Tourist Rear Rack)

Jandd (Check out the Expedition Rear Rack and the Extreme Front Rack

Tubus (Check out the Tara and Logo Rear Rack

Topeak doesn’t offer front racks so consider pairing its rear rack with a Surly Nice Front Rack like my riding partner Derek.

Baggage

Panniers are the bicycle touring version of luggage.  These bags clip onto the front and rear rack of the bike and give you added storage space.   There are a lot of different brands out there, so I’m just going to say remember to consider your weather when buying bags.  Expecting a lot of rain? Get waterproof panniers.  A little rain?  Panniers with rain covers.  I’ve written a post about the types of bicycle panniers on the market, click here to go there.

That’s all for now, part 2 will be posted tomorrow, so come back and check it out.  In the meantime, please learn more about the Long Haul for Hunger, an 8500 mile bike ride on Surly Long Haul Truckers from South Korea to Portugal.

Ortlieb Bike Packer Plus Panniers Review.

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I ride my Surly long haul trucker with Ortlieb bike packer plus rear panniers.  They are larger than my frontroller panniers, measuring about 1,000 cubic inches bigger.  This model is very sturdy and gets great reviews across the board.

Why REI ads? Great customer service and great prices, really, I shop there!
REI.com

I’ve been busy preparing my new website, www.theultimatetrek.com, to go live.  It finally has, so now I’m back to the blog.  Have a look at the new website, it looks at my upcoming trek from South Korea to Portugal on my Surly long haul trucker bike.

Ortlieb Bike Packer Plus

Durability: 

Price:

Weather:

Organization:

Compatibility:

Total:

The Bike packer plus panniers get a higher rating than the frontrollers based on two main criteria; size and compatibility.  The bike packers have more straps and are more easily adjusted to fit your rack than the frontrollers.  The bike packers also measure in with 2,441 cubic inches of space, a lot more than the frontrollers.  Now compared to other panniers, this combination is quite small, with only roughly 4,000 cubic inches of storage.  I find it just enough, mounting my camping gear on the tops of the front and rear racks gives me plenty of space.

Bike packer plus ortlieb pannier

Bike packer plus ortlieb pannier

There is plenty of heel clearance on my 58cm surly long haul trucker.

Ortlieb Bike Packer Plus Panniers - Pair

Let’s look at the Bike Packer Plus specs:

Ortlieb.  Obviously they are waterproof, and they are also well-made.  They can carry 2,441 c inches combined.  That is about as much as a large-sized backpacking pack.  The thing I like the most about the Ortlieb bike packer plus panniers, and the Ortliebs in general, is the mounting system.  It’s great.  Super easy to use, adjust, and replace if necessary.  The Bike Packers dont even require a hex-screwdriver, they simply click in and out for easy adjustment.

*  Clips are quick-release.  Simply lift the cord and they come open, let it go and it closes.

*  Bottom clips move around to tightly secure the pannier to the rack and stop it from jiggling.

*  There is an exterior pocket with ventilation

*  There is an internal pocket for a little added organization, but basically these are top-loaders.

Ortlieb Frontroller bicycle panniers review

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This is the first bicycle pannier review, there will be many more pannier review posts to come.

Why REI ads? Great customer service and great prices, really, I shop there!
REI.com

I apologize for the recent lack of updates, I’ve been busy preparing my new website, www.theultimatetrek.com, to go live.  It finally has, so now I’m back to the blog.  Have a look at the new website if you’ve got the time.

So let’s get started with out look at Ortlieb panniers.

Durability:

Price:

Weather:

Organization:

Compatibility:

Total:

.8

First up are the front panniers.  These panniers are typically smaller than rear panniers and are very important in effecting your bike’s handling.  You’re going to want to keep these panniers evenly loaded and low to the ground.  The lower the bag, the more stable the bike.  Don’t overload the front panniers or you might go head-over-bars on downhills.

Ortlieb Front Roller Panniers Ortlieb Front Roller Panniers


Let’s look at some specifics on the frontrollers from Ortlieb.  Obviously they are waterproof, and they are also well-made.  They measure 11.8 x 9.8 x 5.8 and can carry 1525.6 c inches combined.  That is about as much as a medium-sized backpacking pack.  The thing I like the most about the Ortlieb frontrollers, and the Ortliebs in general, is the mounting system.  It’s great.  Super easy to use, adjust, and replace if necessary.  I freaked out when I first went to install the panniers because the clips didn’t even come close to lining up with my Surly Nice Racks.  Upon further inspection I learned all about the great clip system. It’s very simple.

*  Clips are fully-adjustable left to right.  So this means you can make them wider or narrower depending on your rack.

*  Clips are quick-release.  Simply lift the cord and they come open, let it go and it closes.

*  Bottom clips move around to tightly secure the pannier to the rack and stop it from jiggling.

*  There are no ventilation options on these panniers, so do not keep wet things in here long.

Bicycle Panniers. A look at the types of bike panniers on the market.

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Now that we’ve looked at some racks (more to come, don’t worry), we’re going to get into panniers.

REI.com

There are a lot of brands of panniers on the market today, each pannier famous in their own niche, whether it be their quality, waterproofing, reliability, or price.  What panniers are the best?  What panniers are waterproof? What panniers are cheapest?  We’re going to dive into the long list of pannier manufacturers and pick out some hot brands to consider when making your purchase.

Take the poll and comment on your selection. Sorry if your pannier isn’t listed, there are a lot of them.

Popular Bicycle Panniers on the Market:

Arkel:

  • Famous for the GT-54’s and matching GT-18’s.  Load up for the ultimate trek.
  • 3,300 cubic inch rear set—2,200 cubic inches up front.  Total 5,500 cubic inches of space.
  • Not waterproof
  • Waterproof inner liner included
  • GT-54s come with a integrated tent/tent pole holder
  • Price is a little higher than other models, you decide if it’s worth it to you.
  • Lots of pockets and zippers to organize stuff
  • Easy mount/dismount clips

Jandd:

  • Ridiculously large.
  • Upwards of 6,800 cubic inches on only the rear packs!
  • Not waterproof and require rain covers
  • Lots of zip-offs and options
  • Pockets
  • Looks complicated to mount

MEC:

  • Canadian company
  • Waterproof panniers available
  • Average sized, 1,100 cubic inches up front, between 2,800 and 3,400 on the rear.
  • Not too pretty.  Colors are not very inspiring.
  • They are very inexpensive.

Ortlieb:

  • Famous for the Front/Back roller series and matching Bike Packer series.  Load up for the ultimate trek.
  • 2,441 cubic inch rear set—-2,441 cubic inch front set. Total 4,882 cubic inches of space.
  • Very waterproof
  • Interior pocket and outside pockets with water draining slots on the Bike Packer rears.
  • Reasonable price
  • Not a lot of pockets
  • Super simple & easy mounting/dismounting

Vaude:

  • Offers a seriously impressive line of panniers.
  • Five lines in fact: Discover, Aqua, H20 Proof, Roadmaster, and Traveler
  • Lots of color options
  • Roadmaster series offers serious space in a stylish package with a rear rack that has a detachable top pack.
  • The H20 proof does exactly what you expect it to
  • Similar set-up to Ortlieb panniers, similar mounting system too.
  • Surprisingly low-priced

Ok, that was very tiring and I have to get back to work.  More posts on the way.  Don’t forget to check out www.theultimatetrek.com if you’ve got the time.