A new touring bike for your trip around the world has quite a price tag. You want something bombproof and the big (and small) bike brands make you believe only the best is good enough. What’s more, they probably try to trick you into choosing for the latest technologies. But these technologies become a problem when you are in a country that runs a bit late… bike-wise. In this post I will show your perfect touring bike will cost you a fraction of a new bike, while not compromising quality, by converting an old school 26 inch steel mountainbike to a round-the-world touring bike.
1: The Frame (100 euro)
Frames can break, new frames as well as old frames. This often is a result of a collision or a fault in the fabrication process. If you look for a frame as a basis for your touring bike, have a look at old mountain bikes with the following qualities:
– Is made out of steel: this is easier to repair (weld) when something breaks while on tour. Look for the higher-end frames and chose chromoly frames over hi-ten steel ones. The higher the quality of the steel, the more attention is paid to the production process and the less likely faulty welds will ruin your day.
– Takes 26 inch wheels: these wheels are stronger than 28 inch wheels and more prevalent in faraway places, so easier to replace.
– Has eyelets on the front fork: this makes mounting a front carrier a whole lot easier.
– Has no front suspension: front suspension is another moving part on your bikes can break, and it has a negative influence on efficiency.
– Is in good condition: a visual examination tells a lot about how the bike has been treated. You don’t need to be an expert to discover rust and dents on the frame.
– Giant Terrago: There is quite an abundancy of these bikes being offered second hand in Germany and the Netherlands. The 1995 – 1996 models appear to made of chromoly steel. Almost every model has eyelets on the front fork. Many are being offered for well under 100 euro. Look for the models with the grip shift gear levers; although they don’t get much love on the internet fora, they are pretty reliable and simple of design.
– There are plenty of late 80’s mountain bikes with mid-fork eyelets, but somewhere around the beginning of the 90’s, manufacturers got rid of them. You may opt for an older mountain bike but this would possibly mean you have to upgrade the gear and brake levers, and derailleurs. That is why I would suggest looking for mid-90’s bikes with at least a 7 speed cassette, grip shifts, and cantilever brakes, because you still can get cheap replacement parts for these systems. There are ways of working around the mid-fork eyelets, I will discuss this in the ‘racks’ section.
2: Rear wheel (150 euro)
The back wheel takes the majority of the weight of rider and his gear. Because, on a derailleur bike, the cassette causes for an asymmetrical wheel, the rear wheel is not as strong as the front wheel. To prevent broken hubs, spokes and rims on this weak link in your noble stallion, you want a strong rear wheel built by an experienced wheel builder. Get some advice from your local bike shop on whether or not to replace the front wheel too.
Tip: Go for a Ryde Sputnik rim, Alpine iii spokes and a Shimano Deore LX hub. Use your old rear wheel to practice the art of wheel building on. That might be a valuable skill on the road.
3: Crank and bottom bracket (20 + 16 euro)
To bombproof your bike, I believe using a square taper bottom bracket is the way to go. They are cheap and last forever. Tip: combining the Shimano BB-UN55 bottom bracket with the Shimano Altus FC-M311 Crank Set will give you a combination that will get you around the world without problems.
4: Cassette and chain (15 + 20 euro)
Of course you want to start off with a fresh chain and cassette. Before you chose the number of teeth on the biggest cog of your cassette, you might want to check if your rear derailleur can handle this. Find the number of your derailleur and google till you are sure. Also take in mind the front chain rings.
5: Cables and brake pads(26 euro)
Cables are prone to rust and should be replaced before your big trip. Doing this yourself is pretty straightforward; if everything works you were successful, if not, keep op on trying.
6: Pedals (30 euro)
Many old mountain bikes come with cheap plastic pedals. Tip: the MKS Sylvan touring pedals are strong and can easily be taken apart on the road if something goes wrong.
7: tyres and tubes (50 euro)
I have seen people doing just fine with all kinds of tyres. I used the Schwalbe Marathon Mondial tyres, which turned out to be a bit overkill in the end. The single puncture I had in 6 months is a testimony to this. Choose your tyres according to the amount of off-road you plan to do. Tip: a Schwalbe Marathon tyre will set you back about 20 euro.
8: racks (110 euro)
Don’t skimp money on the racks. According to a good friend of me, ‘it is nice if she has a great rack’. I never took him for a bike enthusiast. Anyways, give this part of your bike some attention, I have seen plenty of racks brake. Things to take into account:
– As you use a mountain bike, you might run into problems of your heels hitting the rear panniers. A solution would be carrying your stuff in small ‘front’ panniers on the rear and use a luggage roll on top. Tip: the Tubus Cargo rack (70 euro) has a wide platform.
– On the front, things are a bit more complicated. If your bike of choice of has mid-fork eyelets on the front fork, all options are open. If not, you have four options. 1) Have metal worker add eyelets; you risk ruining a perfect fork, might be expensive. 2) Install a new fork. You can pick up a new 26” fork with eyelets for as little as 20 euro, but I don’t know about the quality and you’ll need a new crown race installed too. 3) Use racks that don’t use mid-fork eyelets. Old Man Mountain makes nice front carrier but these can be a little expensive. 4) Use Tubus clamps (10 euro). Not the best looking option but I have never heard of any of these clamps fail (you can bring a back-up clamp for your own peace of mind). Tip: an affordable way that worked great for me was the Racktime TopIt made by Tubus (30 euro). I did not use front panniers with it, but it took my tent in a roll bag on top without any problems on even the worse roads.
9: the saddle
Calm your ass down! Take your new oldie for a spin and discover whether the current saddle is working for you. If not, do like everyone else and go with the Brooks B17.
10: tools (57 euro)
Crank extractor tool: 10
Bottom bracket tool: 15
Chain whip: 10
Cassette removal tool: 13
Mounting paste: 10
Here you have it, your bike that can take you anywhere. And because you build it yourself, you have learned new skills that are vital for your keeping your bike going.