Reader’s Rig: Tom Norman’s Mone El Continente

In this feature edition of Reader’s Rig, we get to know Tom Norman of Vancouver, British Columbia, who shares an in-depth look at his gorgeous Mone El Continente. Find a brilliant set of photos and details about his highly considered build here, which includes a Rohloff drivetrain, dynamo lighting, and a great backstory…

Words and photos by Tom Norman (@dirtsloth)

Yo! I’m Tom, from Vancouver on the wonderful west coast of Canada. I have a long-standing relationship with bikes, beginning with over a decade of freestyle BMX as my primary love interest. After battering my poor body for years, broken bones, stitches, chipped teeth, concussions, torn ligaments, and a few surgeries, it finally came time to fade out of that scene.

Mone El Continente
  • Mone El Continente, Tom Norman
  • Mone El Continente, Tom Norman

My attention shifted to one of my other passions, and I began a career in the animation film industry. This consumed me for a while, and I lost sight of bikes other than the clunky old road bike I commuted on. A few years later, I befriended some colleagues who invited me on a short bike camping trip. With absolutely no knowledge that bike touring was even a thing people did, I strapped way too much gear on my 1980s road bike and set off with them. I guess you can say the rest is history, and I had instantly rekindled my love for cycling.

Mone El Continente, Tom Norman

In the few short years since that fateful trip, I have become totally immersed in the culture, building bikes, experimenting with new setups, and getting out there on as many trips as possible. Bikepacking has already taken me on a few multi-month tours with my partner Natalie, both at home in Canada, and abroad in Scotland, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, and Greece. Most recently, I’ve embarked on a solo mission to ride the Baja Divide route in Mexico. And I have no plans to stop any time soon. I’m super keen to experience every corner of this wild planet on two wheels!

Bike travel has also become a fuel to my creative fire, setting a previously smoldering interest in photography completely ablaze. The two are a perfect pairing, with the camera serving as an excellent creative outlet on the road while the transient nature of touring is continually inspring. I’m super stoked on bike culture and bike travel, and I hope to inspire many others to get outside and see what this bikepacking thing is all about!

  • Mone El Continente
  • Mone El Continente
  • Mone El Continente, Tom Norman
  • Mone El Continente, Tom Norman
  • Mone El Continente, Tom Norman

The big inspiration for this build came following a tour underbiking forest service roads on a Surly Long Haul Trucker. With ambitions to explore much more remote and less traveled places, the first and foremost criterion was to find a bike with clearance for 29+ tires that could take me practically anywhere. I also knew I wanted it to be relatively lively and responsive, something akin to a big BMX rather than a boat. Nimble enough to be enjoyable when the riding gets technical and comfortable enough to sustain me for months in the saddle at a time. Interwoven with these functional requirements was a desire to keep everything totally dialed aesthetically. Function over fashion always, but fashion still has value too.

Mone El Continente, Tom Norman

So, while looking around at options, I happened across some photos of the El Continente. Immediately intriguing. With a closer look into the geometry and a couple of questions happily answered by Cjell, it wasn’t long before it was in the post on its way to me. It’s a short-reach, tall-stack bike designed around drop bars, but in the interest of prioritsing comfort over peak performance, I knew I would be speccing it with a swept bar for a less aggressive riding position.

  • Mone El Continente
  • Mone El Continente
  • Mone El Continente
  • Mone El Continente
  • Mone El Continente
  • Frame/Fork Monē El Continente L/XL
  • Rims 32h Nextie Carbon NXT29XM46 (front) / NXT29XMA45 (rear)
  • Hubs SON28 Dynamo (front) / Rohloff Speedhub 15t (rear)
  • Spokes Sapim CX-Ray, Alloy Nips
  • Tires Terrene McFly Light 29 x 2.8″
  • Handlebars Tumbleweed Persuader Aluminum
  • Grips CULT begin + Hope bar ends
  • Headset Chris King
  • Crankset Cane Creek Mountain eeWings 170mm
  • Chainring OneUp Switch V2 30t
  • Pedals Tectonic Altar
  • Brakes Paul Klampers + Love Levers + 160mm Hope Rotors
  • Shifter(s) Rohloff
  • Saddle Brooks B17 Special Titanium
  • Seatpost Cane Creek Carbon eeSilk
  • Stem Newmen Evolution SL -6° 90mm
  • Front bags Rons Bikes Fabio’s Chest
  • Frame bags Rockgeist Custom
  • Rear bags Mountain Laurel Designs Poco Panniers
  • Accessory bags Loophole & Oveja Negra Chuckbucket feed bags, homemade tank bag
  • Racks Tumbleweed T, King Manything Cage, Homemade front bag support
  • Light SON Edelux II
  • Other accessories Appcon 3000 Dynamo USB charger, Stridsland Ti Top Cap, Silca Bourbon Ti cage

The magnificently brilliant telescoping chainstays, massive front triangle, tucked rear end, sensually curved fork blades adorned by that gorgeous crown, and many other charming details all sealed the deal. The second most central component of the build is the Rohloff internal gear hub, chosen both for its proven track record of reliability amongst world tourers in all kinds of harsh environments, as well as its clean and minimal pseudo-singlespeed aesthetic. Sadly, acquiring a thru-axle-compatible Rohloff was a somewhat torturous process, taking 10 long months while I already had the rest of the build completed. But it was certainly worth the wait.

Mone El Continente
  • Mone El Continente
  • Mone El Continente

The bag configuration is the outcome of trialing other options over the years, like a traditional four-pannier setup or a Wald 139 basket with front panniers and saddle bag. I’m super happy with the current setup, minimally loaded up front with the weight close to the steering axis, a massive frame bag, and 2L water capacity under the downtube to keep a lot of weight low and near the bike’s centre of gravity, and the two small rear panniers for lighter gear like clothes, tent, and sleep kit, with space on top of the rack to strap on excess water supply. I prefer having multiple smaller bags and compartments to help keep things organized rather than cavernous panniers.

Building bikes has always been a real labour of love for me, and this one is certainly no exception. From hand-building wheels to choosing every specific component, my inner bike nerd always tends to run a bit wild, and I find the whole process as cathartic as riding itself. That being said, I definitely cannot go without a shout-out to my local bike shop, Kissing Crows, for always keeping the stoke high and all their help sourcing components!

Mone El Continente, Tom Norman
  • Mone El Continente
  • Mone El Continente
  • Mone El Continente

If I were to choose one favourite component on this bike, it must be the eeSilk suspension seatpost, which makes a world of difference to the ride quality of a rigid bike, even with all the cush of a 29+ tire. I really don’t think I’d consider building or riding an expedition bike like this without one again. Second to that would be the supremely smooth and light Tectonic Altar pedals, their giant platforms pairing flawlessly with the world’s ultimate riding shoe, Crocs.

You can keep up with Tom on Instagram @dirtsloth.

Send Us Your Bikepacking Rig

Use the form below to submit your bikepacking rig. We’ll choose one per week to feature in a Reader’s Rig Dispatch and on Instagram. To enter, email us your best photo of the bike (preferably at a 90° angle), your Instagram username (optional), and a short description of you and your rig. If your bike is selected, we’ll need a total of five photos and a little bit more info.

Readers Rig

  • Make sure to set your shared image folder to public!

  • *By clicking submit, you're also subscribing to our email list. You'll receive an opt-in email before being added.

Related Content

Make sure to dig into these related articles for more info...

FILED IN (CATEGORIES & TAGS)

Bikepacking Bikes

Reader's Rig

Please keep the conversation civil, constructive, and inclusive, or your comment will be removed.

42 Comments