Last weekend, I participated in the Brisbane to Gold Coast annual charity ride. Before I get on with the point of this post, I would like to point out that I smashed the ride and got a bunch of Strava awards in the process! 😀
OK. Now that’s done, let me get on with this post. During the ride, I saw an unusual number of people riding bikes that were fully laden for touring. I’m talking racks front and back, panniers front and back, mudguards, lights, you name it. On these rides, you generally see one or two people riding like this, and it’s usually because they’re doing a test/shakedown ride, but last Sunday there were at least a dozen altogether. I gave thought to chatting to some of these people during the rest stops, but didn’t actually do it. I kicked myself afterwards.
Then, I saw him. Pannier Man. I call him that because he was riding a touring bike, laden, funnily enough, with panniers. I caught up to him and rode alongside him. I figured he’d probably been asked about his bike/panniers/setup/etc a million times and didn’t want to irritate him. So, I came up with the second-best thing, which was “I bet you’ve heard a lot of comments about your bike today!”. To which he answered “Yes”, in possibly the most unhappy manner possible. He added, “and lots of jokes too”. There was not the slightest indication of mirth or self-deprecating humour in his voice. I figured I needed to skip any attempt at humour or joviality and just get to the point. So, I started, “Well, I’m not going to make any jokes. Actually, I’m really interested in talking to you because my mum and I are planning a tour of Tasmania”. No sooner had I got those words out, then this guy riding with a kiddie seat (complete with kid) rode past and hollered, “Hey, you’re even more disabled than I am!” 🙄 What a knob. Gee, it’s no wonder Pannier Man sounded apprehensive about talking to me, if that’s the calibre of joke he’d been hearing.
I told him how mum and I are planning this trip, and that we’re doing lots of research about touring bikes, equipment, tents, camping, you name it. Once he realised I was serious in talking to him about his bike, he relaxed a little and we chatted. He was riding a 2 year old Vivente World Randonneur:
His was a drop-bar model (shown above), but it’s also available in a trekking/butterfly bar model. He liked it because it’s an all-included bike touring solution. Racks front and back (the front racks aren’t pictured here), mudguards, pedals (you’d be surprised how many bikes don’t come with them), steel frame with mounting points all over, dynamo lights front and back, spare spokes, strong wheels with touring tyres etc.. you can find all the specs by clicking the link and going to the bottom of the page.
His panniers (Ortlieb, of course!) looked brand new. I asked him how old the bike was, and I was surprised when he told me it was two years old. Trying to reconcile this with the newness of the panniers, I asked how much touring he’d done on it. It turns out that although he’d done plenty of recreational riding with the bike, this was the very first time he’d actually put panniers on it and loaded the bike up. I just had to ask the question.. why had he waited so long? Was it lack of opportunity? Didn’t have all the gear yet? Something else? And he basically admitted that he simply hadn’t made the time to do it. But obviously, something had clicked in him, because he’d finally loaded up and set off. As I expected, this ride was a shakedown ride. He planned to ride to the coast with the group, then ride back. I don’t know if he intended to stay overnight or just turn around and ride back the same day, but that was his plan.
I personally think doing a shakedown ride on an event like the B2GC is a really good idea. Firstly, it’s a supported ride. If something breaks down or needs adjustment or whatever, there are roving mechanics who can fix it. Because it’s a long distance over varying terrain and road surfaces, it gives the rider a proper appreciation of what a real loaded touring ride will be like.
Pannier Man told me he planned to do some shorter tours to start with, weekenders/overnighters, then eventually do a long tour. He hadn’t decided on a destination yet.
I asked him about all manner of things. His brakes: he prefers rim brakes (the older model has rim brakes vs the newer model shown above, which has a disc brake at the front and rim brake at the back) and thinks disc brakes are a bad idea for touring. Me, I’m not convinced of that. I’ve heard a lot of people make that assertion on the basis that disc brakes are fiddly to adjust and a pain to repair. There might be some truth to that. However, the other side of it is that disc brakes can operate without loss in rainy conditions. I think this is particularly valuable, particularly if one is loaded down with 30Kg of luggage.
I asked him about his wheel size. His bike runs 28″ wheels. I’m still doing a lot of learning about wheel sizes and why I’d want one size over another in a touring scenario. Most touring sites tell you that 26″ wheels are better because you can find parts for them anywhere (ie Patagonia or Swaziland or Joondalup – 😉 😛 a call-out to my friend Aushiker in WA). But, I don’t plan to go to Patagonia or Swaziland. I might go to Joondalup one day, but I’m sure even backwaters like that can source parts for a 700C or 28″ wheel. That said, it’s something to think about. He was happy with his tyres, which I think were one of the Marathon family from Schwalbe, but not so happy with his wheels. He complained he’d suffered a lot of spoke breakage over the years. I found it interesting that he’d had broken spokes, given he hadn’t ever loaded the bike up. I didn’t have the presence of mind to check out what wheelset he was using, but it’s something I’ll have to look more into.
He was very happy with his racks, which were a Tubus product. No argument from me there. Tubus have an excellent reputation. When the time comes for me to get my touring bike, I won’t be skimping on the racks.
His bike was fitted with a Shimano groupset (I assume Tiagra), but since I have already decided my touring bike – whatever I end up getting – will have a Rohloff hub, I didn’t ask him about it. I also didn’t ask him about the dynamo lights. D’oh!
All in all, he was very happy with the choice he’d made. He said he’d recommend it to anyone. It’s one thing to read a recommendation on the internet, but quite another to hear it in the person. I’m glad I chatted with him. After about ten minutes, I thanked him for his time, and was on my way. Thank you, Pannier Man, wherever you may be.