Words and photos by Jaïr Dan (@the_grannygears)
Hi, my name is Jaïr (Ya-eer), but I’ve gone by “Jar” for a couple of months in the US. Apparently, my name is very hard to pronounce for Americans. Luckily my Hebrew name is also familiar in Mexico (where we are now), so I got my real name back again. Back home, my job is water treatment engineering, but currently, Annabel (my girlfriend) and I are on our year-long cycling tour of North America. We started the GDMBR in Montana, are now on the Baja Divide going further south, and will continue on the Trans Mexico Norte route.
Once in Oaxaca, we will do some of Cass’ routes in the vicinity. If we have time left, maybe Guatemala? Since we like the idea of biking home (which is the Netherlands), we plan on flying back into Europe via Spain, taking on the Altravesur and other routes on the way home.
Why cycling? Because you get to go slow, immerse yourself in your surroundings, camp in the wild, do physical exercise, and eats lots of forbidden foods (soooo many Snickers. Still not sick of them!). Turns out, cycling is also a great conversation starter with locals and other tourists alike. We’ve had many special connections due to cycling.
The ideal rig that can handle all of the gravel, sand, singletrack, washboard, and pavement we’ll encounter is obviously the Surly ECR! The bike (it has no name) was conceived during the pandemic and its supply chain issues. Although I ordered it with my LBS 10 months before our departure date, we ended up finishing it only four weeks before. The delivery of the frame got delayed four times, for a total of nine months. I got some grey hairs during that period.
So about the bike itself, credit where credit’s due: it is heavily BIKEPACKING.com inspired. As said, its base is the Surly ECR steel frame (XL). Since we’ll mostly ride dirt, interspersed with singletrack, a 29+ bike is ideal. Next to that, the frame is stiff and gives an upright position that I find comfortable.
To move forward, the bike is geared by the ultra-reliable Rohloff hub. I doubted the investment beforehand, but now I couldn’t be happier with it. It works flawlessly. The LBS was also happy with our choice, since Shimano parts were impossible to get hold of! The granny gear is very low (16”), so we can grind up any mountain, be it the Rockies or steep punchy climbs on Baja. We do spin out above 35 km/h, but the more reason to cruise on the downhills and take that beautiful scenery in.
The wheels are heavy-duty 36-spoke Velocity Duallys, set-up tubeless. I started off with 2.6 Nobby Nics on the Great Divide since 29+ was impossible to purchase in the Netherlands. I have to say, they roll okay on smooth terrain too, despite what the name implies. I did find a pair of Knards in the USA for the Baja Divide, and I am certainly happy for the extra flotation and cushioning. This route is bumpy!
- Frame/Fork Surly ECR, XL
- Rims Velocity Dually 29s (36 spoke)
- Hubs Shimano Ultegra (front), Rohloff (rear)
- Tires Surly Knards 29 x 3”
- Handlebars SQ Lab 30×16 with 45 mm rise
- Headset Ritchey WCS
- Crankset Taiwan 5×130 JIS 175 mm
- Pedals MKS Allways
- Gearing Rohloff 14-speed
- Brakes TRP Spyre
- Shifter(s) Rohloff
- Saddle Terry Arteria Gel Men
- Seatpost Ergotec Hook
- Stem Ritchey Trail 80 mm
- Front bags Revelate Designs Harness with 13L Sea 2 Summit Big River dry bag
- Frame bags Revelate Designs Ranger
- Rear bags Porcelain Rocket Mr. Fusion with Revelate Terrapin 14L dry bag
- Accessory bags AGU snack packs, Topeak Fuel tank, Revelate Jerrycan, Polecats, and Egress
- Other accessories Spurcycle bell (very zen) and a rear blinkie
The bike is stopped by the dual piston, mechanical TRP Spyre brakes. They’re a great step up from the single-piston mechanical brakes I was used to. Most often, I can comfortably brake with one or two fingers on the downhill. So, not missing hydraulics all that much. The back and front rotors are 160 and 180mm, respectively—180 mm is sufficient, but 203 mm wouldn’t have hurt.
The handlebar is the SQ Lab 30×16 alu handlebar. Much lighter than the Surly Moloko I first tried, and it has 45 mm rise, which puts me in a much more comfortable position. My hands are resting on Ergon GP1 grips. The seat is a Terry Fly Arteria model. I was worried it was a bit to racey, but I like it now (no chamois!).
All in all, I am very happy with the bike as the LBS (Horizon Bicycles in Utrecht, go there if you’re in the Netherlands!) built it up. It inspires confidence. Going downhill, it eats up anything in its way, so you can just barrel it down. It climbs as well too, remaining planted on the ground. The bike makes you forget about your bike, so you can just focus on your surroundings. The weight is hefty (I have no actual numbers, too scared), but it has never bothered me while biking. Maybe once on that wild uphill ride/hike-a-bike coming out of Nueva Odisea on the Baja Divide…
You can find more from Jaïr on Instagram @the_grannygears.
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.
Please keep the conversation civil, constructive, and inclusive, or your comment will be removed.