Golly there are a lot of bikes. A lot of bloggers will say that any old bike will get you round the world. To be fair that's probably right, but with visas, wild camping, water, weather and money to worry about as we go, I can't face the prospect of being stranded if the bike can't manage the journey! So, shiny new bikes are the order of the day for me and old Clarkingtons.
We spent A LOT of time researching bikes that were available off the shelf, looking at the spec list for each and trying to figure out if the componentry was up to the job, and whether, if anything went wrong we could fix it or find spares in the remoter parts. After looking at some fantasy bikes (from Thorn and Koga, lovely but too expensive) and ones within our budget of around £1,500, including panniers and the rest (like the Kona Sutra, or the Specialized Awol, or Cinelli Hobootleg ), I came to the conclusion that speccing our own from the components up might just be answer. On the bikes we could afford there were certain parts that I just couldn't get comfortable with… like sub-par wheels, or STI shifters. The chance that these could fail was just too much, however unlikely that actually is. Even mechanical issues in Scotland have been an issue in the past, so in needed to get the failure risk as low as possible
So the grand trawl had to begin. It started with taking a standard long haul trucker and going through the components. In a few hours I figured that with some selective shopping we could put together bikes built of better parts, for the same cash. By better I don't mean more expensive, I mean more suitable. Hood brakes on good cantilevers with bar end shifters, stronger wheels, stronger racks, a better seatpost. The focus of the exercise was on reliability, then fixablility, then replaceablity. With so many hours researching comes another advantage – I actually understand nearly every aspect of the bikes we are going to ride round the world. And that's the second tick for building our own, because Helen and I are putting the bikes together with our own hands (and the hands of a friendly man called Dan) we should, in theory, be better placed to make the repairs we need on the road.
A full component list is going to follow once the bikes are built, together with a full breakdown of costs and our assembly, but to start with we've spent under £1,000 each so far, including frames, Tubus racks, Vaude panniers, and having carbide rimmed dyno hub wheels hand built by top man Harry Rowland. And there's really not that much left to get. By my reckoning the complete bikes will be coming in at about £1,500 a piece, including all the extras. So if you're interested, check back to see them in their final form, meanwhile, I need to get my credit card out and back to google - our first test tour is coming up in July.
Oh and as an added bonus – Gareth at spray.bike is very generously letting us have some of his brilliant paint so we can customise the bikes even more. Thanks Gareth!