I remember riding my bike as a child, primarily in school holidays. As an only child I would often amuse myself in long summer breaks, back in the days when children were allowed to play. Most frequently I would ride through quiet lanes to Cotwall End , a local nature reserve in my home town of Dudley. Looking back I remember the freedom and ability to get myself around that was the great appeal of my very own two wheels. Despite this I was never keen on sport as I got older and the fact that I am now exploring the world in this way would come as a big surprise to many. One day I’ll have to do a blog based around my old sports school reports!
These days I have six bikes in my collection. For many folk they would question this. Two tourers, a tandem, a cheap city bike, an off roader and a folding bike. To date they’ve all served me pretty well but given the number of miles now covered on my newest trusty stead I thought it was about time to do an Ode to The Captain. A number of people have asked me how I’m finding the bike so I thought I’d do this update.
For those who have yet to be introduced “The Captain” is my world touring bike – a custom built Koga Signature. (you can read my blog from June 2012 for a full spec). With his black aluminium frame, butterfly bars, Brooks saddle, dual pedals (SPD and flat sided), Rohloff hub gears and a carbon belt drive he is one smart machine.
I chose the frame size based on my Dawes Super Galaxy – another bike I had done many miles on and found very comfortable. The Brooks saddle, now well worn in, has been as comfortable as a seat can be when riding and average of 80/85 miles per day and to date I have used chamois cream only once, applied antiseptic cream only twice and have a bum that’s bearing up pretty well. To take the bumpier roads into account and indeed an increase in the distances I would cover I added suspension and butterfly bars. While there is not as much give in the suspension forks as perhaps my much lighter mountain bike may have offered in recent off road sections the suspension forks were a critical addition and have proved reliable so far both on this trip and on the Annapurna circuit. This bike has certainly been put to the test. Dual pedals have allowed me, as a sightly nervous off roader to remain unclipped on tricky section,s though care has still been needed on wet days as metal slips on metal – the only other shoes I have being flip flops and crocs – not neccesarily suitable for a long ride.
Hub gears were new to me. Initially I was going to go with the standard derailleur system. I am so pleased I made the change to the Rohloff. After the initial 4,500 miles of stage one I (well, Edinburgh Bike-Co-op) undertook an oil change ready for the Africa leg. I watched and will emabark on this myself after another 5,000 miles. While I had one afternoon where i strugged to get into the granny gear to climb to Kumbalgargh fort in India simply reconnecting the cable to the hub after a quick clean fixed the issue. Since then the range of gears available has got me over 2502m climbs and along long flats with strong tailwinds. While on odd occasions speed has been hampered as I could not pedal fast enough overall the ratio has proved well.
Perhaps the part of my bike that has been of most interest has been the belt drive. It brings many a mechanic out for a look, even a photo. Like a motorbike with no engine and not as fast has become a standard reply. I still of course have to wait to determine reliablity up to 70,000km but the need for much less maintenance, clean and also therefore no need to carry lube all get a top vote from me. This was especially true the day after a sandstorm. It was on the off road, gravel and sand that the belt drive was not perfect however. The pedals felt sticky and the belt was noisy as I cycled across off road Sudan. While a quick wash with water was a quick remedy it did not take long before poeple heard me coming again. Back on tarmac again all is fine and I hope the belt has not suffered – there is more off road to come.
Last but not least – the bell – (in reply to a special request as to how the dinosaur is from Jared and Aden Harris – aged 4 and 7 respectively). Dino, my sqeaky hooter purchased in Astoria, USA, sat comfortably on my handle bars for stage one of my trip. Unfortunately India and its incessant horn culture took its toll and while Dino remained in position until I returned back to the UK having lost his voice it was time for a replacement. So, my new bell (given to me courtesy of Fred William bicycles, Wolverhampton, UK) is big silver and makes a fantastic ding dong.
So, on that note – that’s my review. Here’s hoping all stays well. Riding begins again tomorrow.