During a 37 day tour of the Philippines, one of the things that i took note of is particular pieces of gear used during the trip (check out the first entry here https://pedalpowerphilippines.com/2017/04/05/biketouring-the-philippines-preliminaries-and-leg-1-manila-to-matnog-sorsogon/). One of which is the Ortlieb bikepacking framebag (you can check the specs here https://www.ortlieb.com/en/Frame-Pack/). Ortlieb is one of the premiere companies providing quality touring bags for decades and its 100% waterproof! Similar to their panniers, the framebag uses the same fabric -PU laminated ripstop nylon-light, strong and durable.
There are a couple of features that makes the framebag an excellent piece of equipment for tours:
adjustable straps to adapt to different frame designs and uses a combination of velcro and smooth cloth protecting your frame.
The straps are robustly made-assuring you that you wont have problems making sure your framebag stays in place.
The single compartment design with internal velcro strap prevents complicated use and even bulging when loaded.
I particularly like this framebag as it fits the small Surly Troll perfectly and other similarly sloping downtube bikes in the market (i got the medium sized version)
The heavy duty zipper is not only waterproof but can be locked when closed making sure that rain will not enter the bag.
The medium size that i got can fit about 4 liters of gear. In the case of the tour, i placed all my personal stuff, gadgets, small items and even a small tab and fits perfectly.
During the tour, we experienced light to heavy rain and several boat trips and my gear remained dry throughout the trip.
One reality of bike touring is the likelihood of bad weather at the middle of any trip and nothing will annoy you more with wet shoes and socks for the duration of the ride. Luckily, one bikeshop in Manila got new stocks of these Exustar sandals (check on Bike One cycles https://www.facebook.com/bikeonecyclemart/?fref=ts)…last week, a couple of friends and I got a pair and tested these on some rides
The Exustar SS503 MTB sandals has several straps that can be adjusted to get that perfect fit. Sporting a top guard, this adds protection during rides…best of all, these are SPD cleats compatible allowing you to ride even on rainy days!
For the past days, ive used the sandals in three trips using my Brompton, Surly Crosscheck and Troll. The total distance traveled by the four trips is about 120km of urban commute
Since the brompton didn’t have clipless pedals, the cleats wasn’t an issue in terms of riding comfort. That is, the cleats are positioned deep enough so it wouldn’t be a problem when riding with ordinary pedals and no metal clashing the ground was experienced while walking (this may be the perfect footwear if you’re strolling on a bike and eventually would tour places on foot)
For my experience with the Troll and Crosscheck which had Shimano SPD pedals, the sandals worked flawlessly with my rig. Though initially, the cleats were a bit tight in terms of engagement, they were easy to take out during stretches of traffic or sudden stops…
Overall, though I only had a couple of bike commutes with these sandals, I felt these are perfect for touring as you can wear them without socks (I didn’t feel skin irritation on my ankles or different parts of my feet as observed in other sandals). Also, these sandals may be ideal for those doing cycling/trekking trips as the cleats do not hamper your movement while walking (no metal scratching the ground sound as well!). and best of all, these save up on weight as you don’t need to bring slippers when on tour.
A caveat though is that some users have suggested that you need to have the soles sewn in a shoe shop to prevent damage on the soles which may be caused by exposure to water during trips. I’ve followed this suggestion and hopefully, these will make the sandals more durable.
Let’s admit, if you’re living in a developing country, a bike tourer has limited options when it comes to quality gear. While there are some stores that carry things you need, the prices are quite high which can turn off those interested in the discipline.
Enter Ryan Blanco’s Workbench Fabrications.
Ive heard of his works from fellow cyclist/tourer JT Tanangonan and I was amazed by the craftsmanship done on the racks.
I got in touch with him and was quite surprised he was my student in 2nd grade way back early 2000s!
In November, friends and I got to visit his workshop and saw his custom creations…
saw some of his samples
As a biker, he has that keen sense of detail and finishing industrial design, he puts his knowledge to work by building wonderful racks for different kinds of bikes…
Using cold steel for his creations, his racks may be a bit heavy for the weight weenie, but these are definitely bombproof! Also, he gets to have these powercoated for custom colors you want.
There are two things that make Ryan’s works worth checking out…these are definitely custom fit for your rigs as he puts his personal touch in these designs-works of art I’d say
And best of all, his prices are very much affordable- expect to pay way less (I’d estimate these are 30-50% less) than those branded racks out there
So what are you waiting for? Drop him a line and check his stuff out!
It was only in Caliraya, Laguna where we had a chance to ride together. But prior to that I’ve seen Nerica Joy’s posts online about her adventures with her brompton. Though ive heard of people using the bike on long distance trips, very few would do such in the Philippines. And Nerica is one of those few who’d take that long distance adventure using this 16 inch wonder. For this entry on featured builds, Nerica took time to talk about her bike.
PV: Interesting to see that brompton riders like you go long distance with this bike. Does your bike have a name?
NJ: I call my bike “Tanke” because it’s as heavy as a tank hehe.
PV: Quite interesting name! and i agree with you that the bike is a bit on the heavy side given its steel construction. what’s the story behind it? Why decided to have that build?
NJ: The primary reason I got the my Brompton is because I bike to work. Since my work is client-based, I need a bike with a compact fold and easy manueverability for urban commuting. But since I love to do long rides as well, why the heck not use the Brompton?
PV: I agree about the compact fold and its potential for long rides…i remember the topic of type of bike is a longstanding issue among long distance riders but it’s nice that you always go for personal preference and balance opinions of others with your own needs. so what’s in it? anything special?
NJ: Its sturmey archer rear hub makes it easier to shift gears when tackling steep climbs. Also, its geometry allows me to pedal in a near upright position so I won’t tire easily after long distances. Plus, it is very easy to upgrade the brompton to attach racks and bags. The only fault that I have with my build is that it does not have dual crank (yet). Its current build is best for flat pavements. But that doesn’t mean I don’t use it to climb hehe.
PV: yeah tell me about climbs! you basically strolled through the Caliraya climb without breaking a sweat! since you’ve been doing long distance trips for quite some time, what’s the most difficult ride for you?
NJ: My most difficult ride would be hands-down the Taal Loop via Sungay, Talisay Batangas. After 150 km, we were supposed to climb the dreaded Sungay road going to Tagaytay. I was already exhausted then. This is the time when I wished I didn’t use my Brompton because my build has a 50t crank with 16″ wheels. It was not made for climbing. After just 1km mark from the bottom of Sungay road, both my legs cramped and I could not recover. If only I had a smaller crank, the climb would be easier. I vowed to return with a vengeance hehehe.
PV: Everybody dreads that Sungay climb but im glad you got through it…and hey, it’s just there waiting for your revenge hehe…considering that the Brompton may be a difficult bike to bring if you have a lot of climbs in your route, what would be the most memorable ride for you?
NJ: My most memorable ride would be my attempt to bike from Manila to Sagada. My favorite part was Kennon Road. The view was so breathtakingly beautiful that I did not feel the heat or the distance of pedaling for 5 hours to the Lion’s Head. Unfortunately, I did not make it to Sagada by bike since I had an accident. But still, the journey more than made up for the inconvenience that happened.
PV: Ah yes, i remember that when i saw some of the photos online but im glad that you made a speedy recovery and that didn’t dampen your spirit! Why is this build for you?
NJ: I am more of an urban commuter than a tourer that’s why the B is perfect for me. But don’t let the small wheels fool you. It can keep pace with roadbikes on flat pavement and easy shifting makes it a contender on the hills. It’s great for touring as well as for urban commute.
PV: totally agree on this one. I think on my stable, the Brompton is the best commuter out there given the terrible traffic in Manila! and to end, what advice can you give those interested in bike touring?
NJ: My advice to anyone who is touring is to just do it (Nike? Hahaha). The adventure begins the moment you walk out the door. You’ll know what you will need the next time.
In this post, I describe the bike and gear used for our recent Caliraya bike tour
The bike: The Smurf With No Name (Brompton P6R)
SPECS: Brompton P6R
Chain: KMC 9 speed chain
Drivetrain: Sturmey Archer internal gear hub x 50t crank
Tires: Schwalbe Marathon Racers 16x 1.35
I got this bike in Febuary 2016 and among my rigs, this remains to be the last one that hasn’t experienced a multiday tour. Initially, when I got this, the model was M6R and did a conversion of the handlebar (the P Bar) for touring purposes.
With a Sturmey Archer 3 speed Internal Gear Hub and External Cogs 14 and 16t combined with a 2 speed derailleur, the bike has a total of 6 speed configurations. Noticeably in folding bikes, the long stem tends to make the handling a little twitchy and the same is noticed with the Brompton. With a 50t crank, it does take a little more effort for the bike to power and the shifting of gears may make riders feel the difference between using an IGH and regular derailleur systems. One noticeable feature is that every shift in gear may tend to be quite abrupt-either too light or too heavy. In addition, the steel construction of the bike makes it stiff yet a favorable flex is felt similar to other steel bikes (i.e. Surly). But while the stiffness is a good thing, the small frame and fork and wheels tend to absorb vibrations weakly making the rider feel every pothole or bump on the road.
The bike has a long wheelbase comparable to bigger wheeled bikes making the ride quite stable. The 16inch wheels provide a much more sleek feel and this makes the Brompton shine as it is easy to maneuver especially in heavy traffic.
In a tour, small wheel bikes may obviously be an unlikely candidate but they are worthy for long distance explorations (ive done one in Pagudpud using a Dahon C7A) since they are easy to transport when folded and when things go wrong, you can always bail out with a small foldie!
For the Caliraya trip, the Brompton was very much agile in terms of maneuvering through traffic. It was quite easy to go through small spaces as you move along with other vehicles. The standard brakes that come with the Brompton also provide great stopping power. The feel is comparable to those high end v brakes-XT/XTR/Avid SD7s.
In terms of cruising and speed, it is similar to other steel bikes-feels a little bit heavy (slow) but is relaxing to operate and you don’t feel your body aching after the trip. Make no mistake though, it isn’t like a Surly that can take a lot of punishment in absorbing vibrations but the steel frame doesn’t make you feel like a rotten fruit after the ride
As regards its performance in climbs, the gearing may feel a bit inadequate as I had to exert effort in certain gradually elevated portions of the route. It may be safe to say that it may be a bit difficult to spin the rig given the large toothed Chainring and abrupt changes in gearing. However, the bike appears to be fine for moderate/light stretches of climbs.
For this tour, there are several features I’d like to zero in on specific parts of the bike.
The P bar
Among the different handlebars offered by Brompton, this one can be considered as their touring bar. Similar to butterfly handlebars (only oriented vertically), they afford several hand positions providing comfort during the whole stretches of the ride. Since the rider’s position is upright on a Brompton, the P bar allows you to hold on to the bottom part of the bar similar to dropbars making your posture a bit more aggressive-great if youre cruising on open road to minimize the effect of headwind. Also, the P bar provides a lot of mounting space for lights and other stuff.
The Brompton’s key component for carrying luggage is the Front Block Carrier and can carry a variety of bags. Though it does not get in the way in terms of steering the bike, bigger bags tend to be a problem if headwind is encountered. Hence, for this tour, I used the Ortlieb Mini O bag
The Brompton has its own specific rack bundled with a pair of bungee cords for Cargo hauling. Though the rack may accommodate a drybag, mounting third party rack bags or panniers may be a problem as there is very little space between the rack and the rear fender underneath as well as the railings are quite thick compared to other racks (ive tried installing a Deuter rack bag and it just didn’t fit!). Some would use dry bags or a backpack on top secured on the saddle but I used a new set of panniers which I will get into later.
One major concern among Brompton users is the difficulty in changing flat tires. In my rig I used Schwalbe marathon racers with Dr. Sludge sealant inside the tubes. I’ve been using this since March 2016 and I haven’t experienced a flat since then. Though it tends to corrode/contiminate the valves after a couple of months, cleaning it can extend the life of the tubes as well as the sealant.
Much like in my other rigs, this saddle has been spot on for me and didn’t pose problems while riding. Another advantage for the Brompton is that the use of Brooks saddle affords you additional space for attaching another bag in case you’ll need to go for a longer tour (Carradice or Ostrich bags are perfect for this)
Overall while the bike has potential for longer tours, operating this rig may require the rider more effort and getting used to.
In the trip, I used three bags-Ortlieb mini O bag, Pacgear top tube bag and the Conquer Dispatch Lite (prototype)
Ortlieb Mini O bag
This bag is custom fit for the front block carrier of the brompton and ive placed my electronics and other personal stuff. True to the company’s assurance that their products are waterproof, my stuff remained dry amidst two days of light-moderate rain. It is spacious and does not seem to cause problems when riding against strong headwind.
For this one, ive placed my tubes and Brompton Tool. Attaching the bag to the seatpost and frame, the bag is quite sturdy and didn’t pose problems while pedaling. Surprisingly, the thick fabric has a high level of water resistance, when we experienced constant raining, the contents remained dry.
Conquer Dispatch “lite” (prototype) panniers
As part of expanding the bikepacking line of Conquer bags, the dispatch lite panniers (I just gave a name to it!) is a response for riders who need bags for their small wheeled rigs or those going on extended tours but need a little extra space for their stuff. I’d say the bags are similar to Porcelain Rocket’s Micro Panniers and Revelate Designs’ Nano panniers. That is, if one finds a fully racked setup too heavy or a rackless setup very limiting, you may want to go “semi-racked” (perhaps using a low rider or light/small rear rack for extra stuff).
Made of ripstop fabric with excellent stitchwork, it has a high degree of water resistance. As ive experienced during the Caliraya trip where it drizzled and eventually rained (light-moderate) for two days, the material absorbed moisture but didn’t get through the inside (to be sure though, it would be wise to store your stuff in ziplock bags as they are always effective!). like other bags of this type (Revelate Design, Porcelain rocket and Rogue Panda Designs), the bag attaches to your rack using clip straps/Velcro with several attachment loops making it versatile in terms of accommodating different rack types. Moreover, the bag has shoulder strap loops for easy carrying when you need to take out the bags from the rack (yup, the strap is included in the prototype). In addition, the front part of the bag has loops as well for daisy chaining a ripcord or using bungee cords for additional attachment security if carrying heavy loads (much like in the Brompton!)
In terms of volume, I suppose you can store as much as 2.5 liters in each bag (5L in total). In my case ive tried stuffing 2 days of clothes on bag, my Klean Kanteen (500ml), slippers, extension cord/multi USB port and charger, toiletries kit in the other with space to spare. I would assume that for a heavy packer like me using a Brompton in a longer tour, I’ll probably stuff 4 or 5 days of clothes in the bags and have a saddlebag to store utilities and other stuff there.
The bags blend seamlessly with the Brompton as they attach easily to the rack with the clip straps. Though it touches the IGH chain, it doesn’t affect the shifting performance (and ive run through unfine contours of pavement, some puddles of water in the street and several potholes on the route). During the ride, the bags didn’t sag nor were they a problem when banking during the descent from Caliraya (they didn’t touch the ground) as it had several inches of clearance from the ground keeping your stuff safe.
While the bag may seem perfect, it is not without problems. Several improvements can be made with this prototype-good thing Conquer reports this will be released early 2017 (with a price much lower than its big brother-the Conquer Dispatch panniers).
The dispatch lite can be improved in several ways:
The zipper can be replaced with a rolltop strap clip as it helps in increasing storage space as well as water resistance.
Since I tried both Velcro and Strap Clips for attachment, the strap clips appear to be better at securing the cargo as well as ease in removing or attaching the bag.
Users of the bag will need to closely consider heel strike in attaching these to the rack (especially for small wheeled bikes). Though I haven’t experienced heel strikes during the trip, Marvin Martinez who tried pedaling felt heel strike due to his big feet and therefore, one will need to attach the bags further to the end of the rack (good thing, the clips can afford you greater ease and variation in mounting.)
Though this prototype appears to have certain minor issues, I think this may be the perfect pannier for the Brompton or similar small wheeled bikes (as far as i know, there are no existing panniers for the Brompton). Further, for those needing smaller bags for their bike commutes or extra space for extended tours and not wanting great weight penalties, this should definitely be part of your armory.
In sum, given the setup of the bike, gear and ride conditions, it would be good to see how this setup performs in a much longer tour and see how these hold.
Racks: Ibera pakrak (rear), Sunlite front rack, Salsa Down Under Low riders (front)
Others: Giant Fenders
Dubbed as an apocalypse bike which is part of Surly’s touring line, the Surly troll boasts of a 4130 chromoly steel frame and fork making it a beefy, heavy steed. Though speed may not be its best features, it shines in terms of cargo hauling and comfort as the geometry prompts the rider to take an upright position while riding. Given its 26er geometry, the Troll performs well in climbs and descents as it is stable and handles with a relaxed feel (no constant twitching of the handlebar as you make steep climbs sapping your energy in maintaining balance while climbing). The beefy body of the frame helps dampen the harsh vibrations which may be annoying for riders especially with off road or unfine countours of pavement or occasional potholes. Since I packed heavily for the extended tour (as I always do), the Troll manages to carry my cargo without problems. While the frame provides the backbone of my bike, the SLX groupset provides a stable, maintenance free ride…considering that exposure to harsh elements, I didn’t experience problems in shifting or braking or breakdown with the small parts.
As regards the wheelset, the Velocity Aeroheats are able to take a beating from the loads of the bike and the rider as well as the moderate, near harsh roads taken during the trip. No cracks were developed. Much like the previous long distance trips, the Hope Hubs worked satisfactorily-very minimal drag and is responsive to the ever changing pedaling effort done during the trip. The saddle has assured me of a comfortable ride throughout the tour and the cockpit gave me more comfort as the grips and butterfly trekking bar afforded me several hand positions minimizing the numbing of my hands or arms.
Since the trip was harsh on tires due to broken glass, staple wires and other pieces of trash in the way, the Big Apples had excellent flat protection and the panaracer flataways held well . Upon inspection after the trip, several pieces of broken glass were found but did not penetrate the thick wall of rubber. The big apples were also helpful in cushioning the ride to add extra comfort in tackling the roads. As for performance the tires held well in different types of terrain-grip, responsiveness to steering and traction were satisfactory.
Since I usually carry my loads more in front, the Ortlieb city roller front panniers were helpful in storing my clothes and in keeping with their promise, despite moderate-heavy rain throughout the trip, my clothes remained dry. Condensation was not felt in the interior of the bag
The PacGear (https://www.facebook.com/PACgear/) half frame bag served me well in the journey…Though it wasn’t 100% waterproof as condensation occurred in the interior of the bag after several days of rain, putting stuff in zip lock bags prevented my gadgets and other items from getting wet. The zipper and stitching held through despite the load. No leg rub was experienced throughout the trip as well.
During the trip I also used the mount anywhere cage mounts (https://www.facebook.com/MountAnywhere/?fref=ts). Attaching them to my rack, my bottles didn’t fall off during the trip and were very much secure despite bumpy sections of the road.
Since I have been doing multi day rides, I have avoided using jerseys as aside from being uncomfortable, they are difficult to dry out when washing. I have recently used the Lagalag trekking long sleeved shirts (https://www.facebook.com/lagalagstoremanila/?fref=ts) and the slits on the shirt have helped in the ventilation and are easy to dry out when washed.
For protection from the cold, the Uniqlo heattech undershirts when sleeping or in cold weather at Mt. Polis. A much cheaper alternative and decent clothing to stay warm.
Overall, I felt that the gear used in the trip was adequate for the extended tour.
With the boom of bike touring in the Philippines, many makers of gear have emerged to respond to the growing needs of the local market. Earlier I have featured the bike bag makers in the Philippines (https://pedalpowerphilippines.com/2016/10/14/going-local-meet-your-bike-bag-makers/) and one of them is PACgear. The Cebu based company led by Hillboy Honoridez has sent me this wonderful half frame bag for testing.
Also Myles Jamito of Mount Anywhere has come up with the solution to mount bottle cages on your fork. For this entry I test these two items and their potential for extended touring.
Some limitations though, after a multiday tour last month, I have spent a several days riding short distances (about 30-50km) around the metro with varying road conditions (mostly asphalt but potholes are common) under heat and occasional rain. Ive tested the two items in three rides in the metro and therefore the insights I draw here may change after I do a multi-day tour again up north at the end of the month.
PACgear reminds me of a company called Nashbar in the states, that provides different bags for the budget minded tourer. While low cost may be equated to unsatisfactory quality, this isn’t the case with PACgear.
There are several strengths of the half framebag:
First, it is waterproof and after testing it under the rain and even hosing it for a couple of minutes, my gear remained dry. The zippers are topnotch and has good sealed seams assuring you that water is kept out.
Second, the material used is similar to light rain jacket fabric-making it light and tear resistant. Examining the stitches, you’d get to see the keen attention given to the production of the bag. While the bag may lack padding (I believe this can be requested if you wish to have it done), my stuff remained stable (phones, a large powerbank, two small towels, plastic ziplock bags, wallet and even small chocolate bars for snacks) didn’t move while I was riding throughout.
Third, the key to this product is customization. PACGear takes pride in assuring you that the bag that you get is fit for your bikespecs. While the straps are statitionary in the bag, it is open for slight adjustments making the whole bag secure. I didn’t experience slips nor leg rub while pedalling.
Fourth, I like bright colors and while this color combination is the last on my list, I feel that with the variety of colors for the PACGear bags, this will help in making the riders visible but at the same time making your ride visually appealing.
The key strength of PACGear is customization. I have had several conversations with Hillboy and he has been very receptive on what I wanted. In this case, I preferred something simple and easy to use and I got what I wanted.
The Mount Anywhere bottle cage mounts (available here https://www.facebook.com/MountAnywhere/) is a very good solution to forks or frames lacking the necessary bottle cage mounts. In this case, since my Surly troll had too much of them, I decided to put them on my racks (hack-a-rack!) to see if they will hold. They are similar with Free Parable Design’s Gorilla clips (check it out https://www.facebook.com/theGreenBasikal/?fref=ts) which can be sourced in Singapore.
The Mount Anywhere bottle cage is comprised of a hardplastic mount with several ziptie strips to secure the mount and cage.
Upon installation, I had a bit of difficulty with the attachment as the adhesive may need your close attention to assure that the cage is secure. It took me about 20 minutes to attach my mounts and cages. Another issue I found is that some cages with thick attachment points may prove a bit difficult to install. To address this you may need longer screws. The good point however, is that Myles of Mount Anywhere can help you out on this if you encounter difficulty.
In use, the mounts and cages remained intact, no shaking, bottles thrown out or annoying problems. Given that I rode in rough road in the metro, this seemed a very good alternative if your bike lacks bottle mounts. Also, the mounts are small enough to allow you to mount it in strategic positions in your bike. Ive mounted it at the rear and front rack giving ample space for me to pick it up while riding and putting it back securely without any interference on other parts of the bike while moving.
Overall, while these two items were used in a couple of rides, they carry a lot of potential for tours. In fact, I intend to use them for a multiday ride this month and perhaps I’d get to see their strengths and possible shortcomings more. But so far, these products are welcome additions to your bikepacking arsenal