Samer and his Panamerican Bombtrack Hook EXT
In our latest Rider and Rig, we catch up with Samer Abouhamad on his way down to Patagonia aboard his streamlined Bombtrack EXT. We talk Beirut, Redshift Kitchen Sinks, Crocs, cakes, and we even rescue a little puppy too. Plus, find Samer’s full gear list for his journey across the Americas…
Welcome to another Rider and Rig from Oaxaca, in which I get to meet cool people doing awesome trips across the Americas. Unfortunately, this particular meeting didn’t involve a campout – the best storytelling locale – but Samer Abouhamad and I did have time for a couple of local loops with Huesos, a Sunday barbacoa, a few slices of the best cakes in town, and… a puppy rescue, the tiny little chap you’ll spot in these photos.
Samer Abouhamad is a 28-year-old who pedalled down from his home in Boston, which he left in early April of this year. His aim is to get down to Patagonia by the spring of next year, so he’s flying along at quite the pace. He’s now been on the road for four and a half months, including a three-week break in California and a 10-day layover in Mexico City. As Samer is running a more streamlined setup than we often see for such journeys, we figured it would be interesting to find out more about his rig, and what he’s chosen to carry for this more than 10,000 kilometre odyssey.
But first I asked him how he got into cycling and bikepacking. And, in part, it came after moving to Beirut. “Both my parents are from Lebanon and grew up there. They moved to the US in the 80s and eventually settled down in the Boston area, where I was born and grew up. I moved to Lebanon in September 2020 after the August 4th explosion in the capital of Beirut. I was originally planning to stay for three months and volunteer in the rebuilding of the city, but that turned into a year and a half. A big reason was biking and the ability to reconnect with my roots and discover the country from the saddle, including a three-day, 350 mile/603km and 25,000 feet/7260m tour with my dad and a friend all around the country and along its borders with Syria and Palestine. Lebanon has a rich history and it was a spiritual experience for me to bike through lands that have been inhabited since some of the earliest civilizations. The country also has amazing geographical variety- you can bike from the beach up to snowy mountain tops and over into a valley with farmland and wineries – all in a country three times smaller than my home state of Massachusetts!
I also took a 10-day trip to France in July 2021. I rented a basic Trek touring bike with panniers and left Paris to try to catch the Tour de France and bike the Mt Ventoux. That’s the ride that really planted the seed for the current journey, and after that, I started consuming tons of bikepacking content via books, YouTube, podcasts – and BIKEPACKING.com!
Before Lebanon, I was living in NYC working in real estate. Like many, I moved to my family home during Covid and was working remotely from Boston, wishing I could travel again. I actually got into road biking there, as I was able to borrow my dad’s older bike. When the explosion in Lebanon happened, that was the final straw for me to make a change, and I quit!”
A lot of bikepackers choose burly mountain bikes, often shod with 29 x 2.4″ tyres or larger, for similar journeys down the Andes. Samer has gone for a more light, lean, and fast approach. How come? “I was introduced to Bombtrack by following Sofiane Sehili (the 2022 Tour Divide winner) who used to ride a Bombtrack. He actually responded to an Instagram comment of mine back then, where he recommended the Hook Ext for a world tour if he were to do it. I liked that it was a well-rounded bike suited to the mix of pavement and gravel I was targeting. I like the clearances (I was able to run 700 x 40 for the US crossing before switching to 650 x 2.25” in Mexico) and all the mounting options! I had a great experience working with a shop in New England – Maine Bike Works – that specializes in ‘adventure bikes’ and a few months later the bike was ready to go!”
Being more of an ‘alt bar’ kind of guy, I’m always curious when drop handlebars are favoured for long, off-road tours. Certainly, Samer’s setup is minimal and well-considered, and from the looks of his Instagram page, it hasn’t stopped him from exploring the road less travelled. “I love the Kitchen Sink handlebars. The front loop helps secure my sleeping bag, tent poles, and sleeping mattress with straps and also gives me another riding position if I want to get a bit more aero or coast on some downhills.
The lower grips and width of the drops also make it a comfortable position for extended periods, and the top grips are my ideal position when I’m climbing. The flare of the handlebars also allows me to fit more between them! The stem is awesome for all the off-road stuff (especially cobbles!), without sacrificing speed on the pavement. Coming from a road background, I liked the idea of drop bars to tour. It’s fun to go fast downhill in the drops! I have never ridden flat bars for significant periods, so I can’t really comment there. But I am definitely interested in getting a mountain bike and touring some gnarlier stuff eventually.”
Bombtrack Hook EXT highlights
- Frame and fork: Bombtrack Hook EXT (medium)
- Rims: DT Swiss GR 531db
- Hubs: Schmidt SON 28 (dynamo, front) Origin8, 11 speed (back)
- Tires: Maxis Ikon 2.2
- Handlebars: Redshift Kitchen Sink
- Stem: Redshift
- Headset: Included with frame
- Crankset: GRX 1 x with Wolf Tooth 40T ring
- Cassette: Shimano XT 11-42T
- Derailleur(s): Shimano GRX 810
- Brakes: Shimano XT
- Shifter: GRX 600 11-speed
- Saddle: Brooks C17 Cambium carved
- Seatpost: Deda Elementi
- Pedals: Shimano Pd-M324
- Frame Bag: Revelate full frame bag
- Front Bags: Ortlieb fork bags and Revelate Designs Yakataga Dry Pocket
- Rear Bag: Tailfin rack with top trunk bag and REI cargo bungee
- Accessory Bags: 2 Revelate bottle holders/snack bags, 2 Revelate top tube packs
- Other Accessories: Schmidt Edelux 2 dynamo light and Sinewave’ revolution dynamo/USB converter
How about navigation? “Routing has been a hodgepodge of different sources. I use a mix between Garmin (directly on the device), Google Maps, Ride with GPS, BIKEPACKING.com routes, the Garmin Explore App, maps.me, Strava (global heat map feature is super helpful), and of course, the best mapper of all: local intel!”
As for his favourite bits of small gear, Samer mentioned his Ombraz sunglasses – super lightweight and durable – and a Sea to summit foldable backpack for extra storage – like food or drinks before finding camp – and off the bike activities. He’s also been really happy with his Tailfin system. “I was using the super durable panniers until Mexico City but decided to lighten my load for Central American and DHL’d some stuff ahead to Colombia.
In fact, when I crossed the US (Boston to California), I was using their 10L mini panniers, which were the perfect size. But as I was preparing to enter Mexico, I started getting paranoid about water capacity, so I ordered the 22L panniers to hold some extra water bladders. About three days after restarting my trip, I realized I lost my left pannier. It was my fault – I didn’t set the bag up right and it fell somewhere along the road without me noticing. Although there was nothing too significant in there (my passport was in the right pannier!), I was obviously disappointed. I ended up strapping a 2L coke bottle to the Tailfin rack to replace my lost pannier – this helped me carry the extra water I needed and balance my bike. Tailfin noticed my predicament via Instagram and reached out to send me a replacement. I coordinated with a Warmshowers host in Zacatecas where I was able to pick it up. Unbelievable customer service, seriously!
My scariest equipment failure was leaving Tijuana around the same time. I was on a busy road out of town when my derailleur somehow snapped. I hitched a ride to a local mechanic, who started calling all his contacts in town, while I phoned every bike shop in San Diego to track down a GRX derailleur (the feedback was that it would be 2-3 months before they were back in stock). I was extremely discouraged until a local mechanic had the specific piece that snapped from a regular Shimano derailleur, and was able to use it to fix my bike the next day!”
Most of Samer’s riding has been solo, but his dad has joined him twice. The first time was when he crossed from Kansas into Colorado and started climbing into the Rockies, and the second was north of Mexico City. “It’s special to be able to share parts of my journey with my dad, and I hope you and your son will be able to continue to share experiences on the bike as well!
Crossing the Rockies stands out in my mind. After lots of straight roads and headwind in Kansas, once I got to the Colorado mountains and started seeing snow, it felt like the adventure was really starting. I took a bike path to Loveland Pass and had to hike the last two miles in knee-deep snow – this was my first hike-a-bike of the trip, and it was definitely memorable.
The ‘Espinoza del Diablo’ between Mazatlan and Durango (following the Trans Mexico Norte) was also a highlight, with its never-ending switchbacks and sweeping views of the Sierra Madre. This was special because after two long weeks in Baja, it was exciting to leave the desert behind and enter a more tropical climate – even if that meant rain!”
In fact, a downside to leaving Boston in April was that it was summer by the time Samer had made it to Baja California. “It was brutal! I naively thought I could try the Baja Divide at the end of June into July. After a few days, I rejoined Hwy 1 and followed that all the way to La Paz. It was obviously still hot, but at least the main road had more frequent resupply options. Temperatures hovered between 100-125°F (38-52°C) every day! I always had to be carrying the right amount of water and know when the next resupply would be. A couple times, I ran out of water and had to wave down a car or two to help refill my bottles!”
Samer has some extra gear too – stored in the aforementioned 22L Tailfin panniers – that he’s forwarded on to Colombia, with extra gear for the Andes ahead. Last time I posted a Rider and Rig, it was Karl and his Salsa El Mariachi, loaded up with patinaed gear, so it was fun to see a totally different interpretation of what’s needed for a long-distance bikepacking trip.
Samer’s gear list
CLOTHING AND RIDING GEAR
Specialized SPD gravel shoes
Fjallraven hiking shorts
Arcade Biking belt
REI lightweight long sleeve
Lightweight flannel with snap buttons
Two pairs of Lululemon socks
Two pairs of Lululemon boxers
Lululemon gym shorts
Outdoor Research rain jacket
Arteryx down jacket
Smartwool full length tights
Bontrager hip pack
Sea to Summit Ultra Sil Nano backpack
Zpacks Duplex tent (with the freestand add-on)
Zpacks 10F quilt
Big Agnes Q Core Insulated sleeping pad
Sea to Summit pillow
Lightweight MSR towelette
Primus multi-fuel stove
500L gas container/bottle
Titanium mug (500 ml)
Grayl Water purifier Bottle
Garmin 1030 Plus
Garmin Inreach Mini 2
Whoop 4.0 armband
All corresponding charging wires and outlets
Anker power bank (20,000 mAh)
TOOLS AND SPARES
Extra toothbrush to clean chain
Swiss Army knife
Park Tool Allen wrench mini tool
Benchmade S30V switchblade
Lots of Voile straps
STUFF FORWARDED TO COLOMBIA
Winter gear – Gloves, beanie, merino wool base layer
Solar panel charger
GoPro Hero 9
Larger cooking pot (1L)
Long sleeve flannel
2 cotton t-shirts
1 pair of socks and 1 pair of boxers
2 x 22L Tailfin panniers
Any sage advice? “If you’re thinking about doing a trip like this, just go for it. You won’t regret it – the hardest part is starting!” I’m pretty sure Samer will have a wonderful journey, in part because his joie de vivre will carry him through. As an example, he didn’t even bat an eyelid even when I tacked on a surprise rough-stuff loop after our barbacoa feast last Sunday, despite the fact that he was wearing Crocs!
And about that little puppy. On Samer’s last day in Oaxaca City, I suggested Huesos and I accompany him out of town via Huayapam so he could try some tejate, a pre-Columbian energy drink for which the Oaxacan valleys are known. Then, we’d ride some rural dirt roads to Tule, check out the world’s girthiest tree (or second widest, depending on your online source) and I’d point him in the direction of Mitla, on the Trans Mexico Sur.
Everything went to plan until we were on the fringes of Tlalixtac and chanced upon the smallest puppy we’d ever seen. At just a month and a half old or so, it should have been with its litter, but who knows where they were, or if they were even still alive.
Samer rang a dog shelter further along the valley in Teotitlán, which his route passed close to, but they already had 53 dogs in need of new homes, and none were puppies of a similar age. I got in touch with Friends of Megan, an animal sanctuary in San Pablo Etla, and asked if there was room for one more puppy. Thankfully there was.
Now we just had to transport the little guy. Initially, Samer placed little Tlali into his Revelate front bag, riding carefully along dirt roads until we connected with smoother pavement. Enamoured by Huesos, he even considered continuing with him, but quickly realised it would involve too many big changes. Once we got to Tule and had filled our bellies with memelas and quesadillas, Samer and I bid each other farewell. He gave Tlali one last hug and Huesos one last squeeze, then we loaded up the little pup into my front bag, while I pulled Huesos in the trailer behind.
That evening, I washed the little puppy down and soaked some kibble in water for his dinner – he was so small he had to step right into the bowl! Not wanting to be alone in his crate, he slept on the pillow between me and Huesos. I can’t say that Huesos was completely convinced by this tiny house guest, but he did take it upon himself to make sure the little fella didn’t wobble too close to the edge of the bed on his midnight forrays. The following morning, I popped him in a musette bag, hopped on the e-bike and wiggled through the rush hour to a vet in the next town, to be checked over before he went to the animal sanctuary there. I plan to go and visit Tlali/Huesos Junior at some point soon to see how he’s doing. Hopefully he’ll find a good home, be a happy soul, and bring lots of joy to someone.
If there’s a moral to this story, maybe it’s… no matter how lean your bikepacking setup may be, always save a little extra room for an impromptu rescue mission. Great to meet you and all the best for the open road ahead, Samer!
To find out how Samer is getting on, follow along via Instagram. If you want to see his full route so far, head over to www.share.garmin.com/neverstop123, click ‘view all’ on the top right once you’re in the map interface. And to learn about his experiences riding in Lebanon, you can watch his YouTube video here. Want to ride with Samer? “If you are planning a bike trip that will roughly coincide with his location/route, please reach out as I would love to share some miles!”
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