A Different Bike for a Different Type of Tour

Riding on a train in Ireland during the first week of backpacking about Europe during the Summer of 2010 I saw several groups of travelers boarding with lightly loaded touring bicycles. The moment I saw this I thought that it would be a great way to see Europe…

While I was immediately intrigued by this mode of travel I never really thought it would be something I would ever actually do. Seemingly random events over the next year or so would expand my interest in cycling and lead to a tour through Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala. During the many hours of pedaling my mind kept returning to that moment on the train when bicycle travel first entered my mind.

A week from today I will be in London visiting my friend Darren, who’s own bike tour through Western Europe and Northern Africa, motivated me to take up bicycle touring. From there I will embark on a 3 month ride about mainland Europe with an emphasis on hitting the areas I did not make it to during my backpacking/train wandering 3 years ago. My very vague plan, at least to start, is to ferry to France and head South into Luxembourg and then towards the Alps and Switzerland possibly taking a left at some point to head into Germany to catch the frequently pedaled Rhine Route. Early in this trip I plan to check out several of the well established routes of the Eurovelo cycle route network. This network currently consists of 14 routes connecting the continent with a combined length of over 70,000 km. Upon reaching the Alps I will be either turn West towards France to potentially try to intercept the Tour de France or East into Austria, Slovenia, Czech Republic, etc. The cycling culture in this area of the world is very strong and I am interested to see just how organized the routes are and how much cycling infrastructure there is.

Cycling through Europe as opposed to Central America will obviously allow me to lighten my gear and simplify my packing. My first bike tour taught me I don’t need to take as many clothes a I found myself settling on a certain few things. This is also made easier by the fact I can find suitable gear anywhere I will be going if I find I need something. I have also been able to lighten my gear by taking fewer tools and spares. Finding quality bike shops will not be an issue in the least. I have also decided not to take a camp stove or cooking equipment of any kind. Reading this article made me realize I could always get by if I find the need to make something like this. Instead of the 4 panniers, rack top duffle bag, and handlebar bag I used on my previous trip I will be taking 2 rear panniers, a smaller rack top bag, and my handlebar bag. I hated that thing the first time but since I will be taking my Nikon DSLR it is the best way to carry it.

Finally, the bike. Over the past two months I built Surly Cross check to be my light touring and commuting bike of the future. I thought about this build for many hours during my tour through Central America. The Surly Troll as I had it is a perfect bike for hauling big loads of gear through second and third world conditions. I wanted a lighter, more classically styled 700c bike. Going forward I don’t know how many long term bicycle tours I will be able to pull of as compared Below are the details of the build for those who care.

Cross Check Build

  • Frame: 56cm Surly Cross Check
  • Wheels: Shimano XT 36h hubs, Mavic TN719 Rims
  • Tires: Schwalbe Dureme 700c 40mm
  • Crankset: Sugino 24-36-48
  • Bottom Bracket: Shimano square taper
  • Shifters: Shimano Ulegra Bar End
  • Front Derailleur: Shimano 105
  • Rear Derailleur: Shimano XT
  • Headset: Cane Creek 110
  • Stem: Nitto threadless 90mm 17d
  • Handlebars: Nitto Noodle 44cm
  • Brake Levers: Cane Creek Drop V
  • Brakes: Paul Components Motolite Linear Pull
  • Seatpost: Velo Orange Grand Cru
  • Seat: Brooks B17 Standard

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