Words and photos by Jan Ayalin (@jan_16hk)
Hello, my name is Jan Ayalin. I’m a landscape architect originally from the Philippines and currently residing in Dubai with two cats. Before moving to the desert, I was living in Hong Kong. As a kid, the very first bike that I had was a cruiser with a banana seat from the late 1970s that I shared with my brothers—having a bike in one family back then was already a luxury where I came from.
Somehow, I guess one can never forget their first bike and the first time they were able to balance on it. Now in my late 40s, I’ve managed to collect a number of bikes over the years. I pretty much dabble into trail rides in the mountains and camping during winters here and xc rides in our flat local trails on the weekends. Road cycling is quite popular in Dubai, which I also do twice a week. I don’t own a car, and I cycle for my daily commute to work. And, when the heat is unbearable here in the desert, I take public transport (only about three months of the year). I was able to save some cash with this strategy, although the savings mostly went into buying bikes.
On overseas holidays, I love to take along a mountain bike for countryside trips. And to explore cities, I bring a Brompton bike along. I had been intrigued with the idea of bike touring and bikepacking for a very long time, and it was only last year, in September 2021, that I managed to muster myself to do it. That was also the time when I came across BIKEPACKING.com. I was trying to figure out a bikepacking itinerary that would fit into my two-week work holiday. Due to Covid restrictions everywhere, I eventually ended up doing the last leg of the Eurovelo 8 in Izmir, Turkey, for a week (there were some steep climbs over there), followed by some XC exploration of the Cappadocias in the second week.
It was actually upon reading the “Rigs of the 2020 Atlas Mountain Race” here on the site that I happened upon Michael Drummond’s 26-inch hardtail and got inspired to rebuild my old 26-inch XC. It was my regular weekend ride bike up until 2015, when I decided to move to Dubai. It went into storage back in the Philippines, but come December 2020, I brought it with me to the desert and updated it to its latest iteration. This frame is my favorite, and for my stature at 5’4” tall, the 26” wheels give me the liveliest ride. I can’t wait to do another bikepacking trip on my holiday this year.
The bike is from a titanium bike frame manufacturer called Hi-Light, and it was built up by my local bike shop in 2006. It has always been an XC setup, hence the choice of components and frame material. Through its various iterations over the years, it’s remained at around 10 kilograms, fully built. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the bike frame, coming from a relatively unknown factory in China, but the quality of the build has been good enough for it to last all these years (I couldn’t afford a bike from the bigger and more popular titanium brands).
- Frame Hi-Light Titanium (2006)
- Fork RockShox Reba RL Solo Air
- Rims DT Swiss FR 560 26”
- Hubs DT Swiss 350
- Tires Continental Race King 26 x 2.20”
- Handlebars Syncross
- Headset Cane Creek
- Crankset Shimano Deore XT 3x (converted to 1x, 34T)
- Pedals Crankbrothers Doubleshot
- Cassette Shimano XT M8000 11-speed, 11-46
- Derailleur Shimano XT Shadow Plus
- Brakes Shimano SLX M7100 disc
- Shifter(s) Shimano XT 11-speed
- Saddle Selle Italia XLR
- Seatpost Thomson Elite
- Stem FSA
- Front bags Lezyne
- Frame bags Revelate Hopper
- Rear bags Roswheel
- Accessory bags Roswheel Off-Road top tube bag / Revelate Joey and Feed Bags
- Other accessories Profile Design Sonic Ergo 45AR aerobars, Wolf Tooth B-RAD
I love tinkering, and I converted the 3×10 drivetrain to a 1x setup. I upgraded the wheelset to a set of DT Swiss FR 560 and learned to set up the tires tubeless—all from just watching BIKEPACKING.com’s YouTube channel. I also replaced the original SID fork with a new stiffer Reba. It took a while, though, as it is so difficult to source wheels and forks for 26” bikes these days. Last year was also the first time I was able to use aero bars.
Regarding packs and bags, the first packs I used in my first bikepacking trip in Turkey were pretty much makeshift bags: drybags strapped to an Old Man Mountain Sherpa rack. There wasn’t any time to order them online before my trip. It was only at the end of 2021 that the Roswheel and Revelate bags arrived from online orders. This bike has brought me much fun over the years, and now in its latest form, I’m sure there’s a lot more in store!
Find more from Jan on Instagram @jan_16hk.
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