Gear Talk

Posted 22 May 2022

If anyone’s particularly interested in what gear I’ve brought along on this trip, there’s an overview below…

Bike - “Sir Lee”

Sir Lee is a touring bike I built up myself at the start of 2020 (to be finished just in time for the start of lockdowns due to COVID, so we couldn’t go anywhere for a few months!)

Surly Disc Trucker frameset

Avid BB7 disc brakes

Shimano XT 3x10 trekking drivetrain - chainrings 26/36/48, cassette 11-36.

Dia-Compe downtube shifters - I love these - as they’re friction shifters, no need to worry about keeping things adjusted. Due to the position on the downtube, the cable run’s really simple too. Yes “brifters” are easier to use off-road but most of the time these work a treat!

Pretty much everything with a bearing in it is made by Hope - Hope headset, bottom bracket, hubs (and jockey wheels!)

Wheels - 26” - built to order by Hewitt Cycles in Lancashire - Ryde Sputnik rims, Hope Pro 4 hubs (36 hole, 6-bolt disc). Steel freehub for the rear.

Tyres - thanks to the generous frame clearance I can fit tyres up to 2” in size … I set off with Schwalbe Marathon Plus Tour 26x2 tyres.

Brooks B17 saddle

Shimano one-sided SPD trekking pedals

For luggage carrying, I have a Surly front rack and a Tubus Logo Evo rear rack.

Shortly before setting off, I decided to truly go anti-lightweight and got a set of the largest Ortliebs - Back Roller Plus Pro. These have worked well and the exterior pocket has proved quite useful (it also acts as a kind of abrasion cover for the panniers; it doesn’t really matter how much wear it gets as the pocket doesn’t contribute to the waterproofness of the panniers).

On top at the back, I have an Ortlieb Rack Pack for the tent.

On the front, I have a set of Back Roller Classics.

And an Ortlieb Ultimate bar bag too.

I prefer having plenty of space available to carry odd bits around as needed, and particularly to carry extra or cumbersome food when needed. So while the gear on the front especially would normally fit into a pair of the usual smaller front Ortliebs, I prefer to take a bit of a hit on weight and have the extra space available when needed.

Sleeping gear

The tent is a Hilleberg Staika. This is expensive and heavy, but bombproof, spacious and comfortable! I had previously used an MSR Hubba Hubba, which was good, but not so great in cold weather or strong winds. I also wore one out and was part way through wearing my second one out too - hopefully the Hilleberg will prove more durable, but it’s definitely warmer! Probably a bit too warm in hot climes. It’s free-standing, which I value, and very quick to pitch. It actually packs down perfectly into the Ortlieb Rack Pack, so carrying it around is super easy.

I’ve got a Sea to Summit Ascent AC II down sleeping bag. This is a three-season bag, and seems warm enough although I haven’t tested it in particularly cold conditions yet. What sold me was the flexible zip arrangement - it has three zips, so you can fold the front down, vent at the feet, or completely open up and use like a blanket - I’ve already used it in blanket mode a few times on warm nights.

Sleeping mat is a Thermarest Prolite Plus. Nice and thick and comfortable, but heavy and packs down fairly large! I’ve used a Prolite for ages but have now plumped for the “Plus” which is the thicker version. It is very comfortable. I don’t trust the newer style of mat which is a lot lighter but is more air and less foam (this is based on no evidence!)

Not that long ago I finally started using an actual pillow, rather than folded-up clothes - this has been a bit of a revelation. It’s a Nemo Fillo Elite, which packs down really small but inflates to become very comfortable.

Cooking gear

I set off with a Primus Omnilite stove, which I’ve had for six years now. Unfortunately it soon refused to work properly (a full service will sort it out for sure, but combined with being on the road and the global shortage of parts for all sorts of everything, this was impractical) - so I picked up an Opimus Nova while I was in Germany. This has worked well - very similar to the Primus, but I like the magnetic cleaning function, and it also seems to simmer a lot lower than the Primus. Like everything else, though, the Optimus is a bit heavier…

Continuing the non-lightweight theme, I have a couple of MSR non-stick pans. I’ve also recently started using the Orikaso folding plate and bowl - these are great, very packable as they store completely flat but easily fold into shape for use.

After trying many different iterations of how best to prepare coffee on the road, I’ve plumped for a small stove-top espresso maker this time, which has been consistently the best method I’ve used so far.

Other stuff

I do carry a small chair, an Alite Mayfly.

Loads of spares and tools. I’m trying something new this trip - carrying two chains. I’m swapping them every eight days or so to try and wear the drivetrain a bit better.

Kindle is invaluable for hours of reading - I get a newspaper delivered to it, which it can pick up wherever there is data service - 21st century!

This trip I’m also taking a small Chromebook for the first time, which has worked well so far.

Sir Lee in all his glory: