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
Forumites often ask about where to get touring stuff-from frames, to parts and components. Not all bikeshops in the country offer touring specific brands/stuff but there a few that offer these hidden gems for those intending to venture into the discipline…
But before that, it’s important that you and your bikeshop have a clear point of reference when dealing with each other…
As a customer, it would be good to…
Know what you want- will your rig prioritize cargo hauling, comfort or speed? These obviously influence your choices.
Be realistic with your resources-You can’t expect a bombproof rig with a beggar’s budget. Though there are alternatives out there, most of the time, you will get what you pay for when getting components/goods for your rig.
Feel free to ask- most of the bikeshops that I have encountered are passionate about the sport, so feel free to ask, inquire and know what you’re getting into. Over the years, I’ve learned that hidden gems/service are offered by some shops which prove to be helpful in improving my rig and riding in general.
When choosing the shop, it’s important to consider the following:
Range of products and services offered-Nothing frustrates me more when a shop can’t offer stuff that you need which you expect to be commonplace (brakepads, cables etc). Similarly, shops that have inadequate tools and expertise in dealing with mechanical issues with the bike can also be annoying.
Customer service-In the past ive encountered rude salespersons from bikeshops-I aint wasting my time there. For instance, there was this one shop in Cartimar, Pasay who would refuse to bring out stuff unless youre buying them-we don’t deserve this kind of treatment!
Discounts-Everybody loves lesser priced items so why not ask for a good price? Be realistic though and you cant get it for free!
Call me old school but though there are online sellers for components, warranty claims and post purchase service is important to me and these may be essential considerations for you as well.
Bottomline is, it is important that you- as a customer develop a good working relationship with your bikeshop. That is, they’re not just people running a shop to suck your funds with the goods but they are there to help you address your touring needs.
What I present here are shops that ive dealt with over the years and I’m sure there are others out there…
The ever first bikeshop that I’ve dealt with when I started biking again several years ago, they’ve got good stock of different bike brands as well as components. Aside from reasonable prices, they provide good services ranging from bikewash to overhaul. Also, they are in touch with fabricators and even Mang Lando (the famous saddle, shoe repairman) hangs out often in the shop. What I like as well is that since the shop carries a variety of brands, maximizing your budget for quality components/alternatives are available (La Bici, Cole, Novatech) and ive asked them many times to reconfigure my rig with satisfactory results
Though specializing in tri/roadbikes, full suspension mtbs, they carry touring stuff as well. Aside from the usual services, they also offer Retul bikefitting. In addition, they also sell used frames/parts at decent prices.
Quite active online, this shop has a cozy atmosphere and great customer service. If you need information about a particular item, they’re fast in responding. Not only do they offer a range of touring gear for your needs, their services are excellent as well.
(Touring stuff offered: Salsa, Surly, Niner, Jones’ bike, Apidura, Thomson)
One of the pioneers in the industry (established in 1979), this shop has withstood the test of time. Though specializing in Fixed gear and folding bikes (this is where I get the brompton serviced), they have unique stuff for the touring cyclist. Also, if you intend to setup your bikes with that classic/vintage feel, your best bet is this shop.
(Touring stuff offered: Carradice, Nitto, Velo Orange, Dia Compe, Ducas)
One of the main stores to get your Surly or Salsa touring bikes, they run the shop in a much more personalized manner-they’re a bit slow in terms of responding to online inquiries but they are customer friendly and engaged when you visit their shops. As a matter of fact, several mechanics work on a bike making your waiting time much shorter. Also, the discounts given are quite hefty-and with such a great inventory, you won’t regret visiting them
Don’t be fooled by the posh looks of their shops as they have a lot to offer in terms of brands and components at the right price. Though they may seem much more focused on fixed gear bikes, the brands they carry for touring are also topnotch. They have great customer and repair services …I wish they’d offer a bikewash (soon) though
Overall, while I may not have shared the totality of my experiences with these shops, they are worth visiting as many would give good feedback about them as well. So go ahead, pay a visit, inquire and find out what they have in store for you J
In my previous entry, ive written about our itinerary for our Manila to Vigan trip. This time, I describe and provide a review of my rig used for this bike tour. I divide my review into two sections. First, the build and second the bikepacking system used for the trip. Some preliminaries though:
I am a notoriously heavy packer-that is, I bring stuff in extras (clothes, etc). Prioritizing comfort over weight and speed, I prefer bringing the necessary items with me to make sure that ive got potential concerns covered.
Aside from personal preference, I consider the route and potential ways for experimentation for my build-while some riders prefer their bikes/rig with a standard set of components or specs, I feel that constantly updating your build/rig gives your riding experience much depth.
For this trip, I opted to use my Surly Crosscheck’s third build variation-As I aptly call this build Dr. Jekyll (Single Speed). I haven’t tried doing a multiday using single speed but ive gotten great advice from other, more experienced riders and they claim that the use of single speed has it advantages and problems.
Surly Crosscheck Frame/fork
Cockpit: Jones Loop w salsa guide stem 90mm, 6 deg rise
Saddle: Brooks Cambium C17 carved
Wheelset: Alex adventurer rims/DT swiss champion spokes/New Surly Ultra hubs (front)/Chris King Single Speed Specific Hub (rear)
Tires: Vittoria Randonneur 700x 35 laced with panaracer flataways at the rear tire
Crank/chain ring: Shimano Tiagra with 38t wolftooth narrowide chainring
Cog-Surly stainless cog 16t
Brakes: shimano non series vbrakes
Additional: Free parable design’s gorilla clips with waterbottle cages
The whole build is an interesting one as it is swift and light but offers the same comfort in other touring bikes and is decent in terms of handling cargo. Using a rackless setup, I found the current build responsive in terms of turns and climbs but still allows me to keep an upright, more relaxed position while riding (due to the Jones loop handlebar). While the single speed build can sometimes be frustrating as you don’t seem to get the right gear in certain stretches of your route, I find the 38tx16 ratio adequate for keeping up with other riders on flat road or exerting minimal-great effort during climbs. Now on to specific parts of the build:
Chris King Single Speed Specific Hub
Though I admit I am a Hope fan (got the SS hub too!), I felt greater engagement of the CK hub as response to pedaling effort was just right on all occasions (sudden movement or needing to rush during a climb or speeding up when needed). Though I felt a little drag which makes the pedaling chunkier than the hope ss hub, I found this as a pleasant experience. Also, the noise produced isn’t as annoying or loud compared to the other hub.
Vittoria Randonneurs (Available at Epic Cycles, Alabang
Though I had doubts about these tires, after this trip, I am now a believer of this tire because of its weight, durability and all around use. It grips well in wet surfaces and shines the most in asphalt and is decent in rough roads, I remember hitting a lot of potholes during the night and no tire pressure was lost nor did I experience a flat during the tour.
Wolftooth dropstop round chainring 38t (Available at Gran Trail Cycles)
When I started using single speed for my riding I stuck with the generally accepted ratio of 2:1 (36×18) but wanted to experiment on a higher tooth profile for my chainring. While I felt I could have gotten better performance with an oval version, the round chainring had small instances of deadspots while pedaling. A nice thing about the chainring is that no drops were experienced even if I encountered varying road conditions during the trip.
The bikepacking system
Now I proceed with sharing my experience and review of the bikepacking bags used for the trip. I promised myself to take a chance in using a Philippine made set of bags produced by Conquer Outdoor (Available at Built Cycles https://www.facebook.com/BuiltCycles/?fref=ts) as they seem to have a lot of potential in terms of durability, ease of use and cost. Since I have previously used Revelate designs bags in other bike tours, I was able to compare how this new bikepacking system would fare in a physically demanding tour.
In general, the Conquer bikepacking bags (handlebar, saddle, feed, frame bag) have shared characteristics-several loop options for strapping your bags in a variety of builds. Second, quality straps with foam underneath the straps assuring you that your bike is protected from scratches. Third, they are all made of water and tear resistant material making them ideal for long distance tours. Now with the specifics:
The handlebar bag
The scout handlebar bag has similarities with the Revelate designs sweetroll but is quite short in terms of length but is roomy in terms of volume- allowing you put a large amount of stuff but would not interfere with your use of your handlebar-I tried using this before with handlebars as narrow as 42mm and they don’t interfere with your dropbar shifters! The adequate straps and adjustment options allow you to hold the cargo securely but not run the risk of having tire rub which some bags fail to address. Moreover, the accessible outer pocket provides additional space for smaller items such as phones, wallet etc.
Extension cord and usb multiplug
Tools, pump, lights, 2 small towels
Among the different bags in the system, this is my personal favorite as there are different options for customization. Unlike other framebags which have a standard set of compartments, the Conquer framebag i chose has one vertical and horizontal pocket which allows you to maximize the use of space. With a generous amount of padding, the internal divider assures that your stuff is organized and adds to the internal structure of the framebag preventing sagging. Though i was concerned about knee rub while pedaling, I was surprised that I didn’t experience any considering that I packed the framebag with bulky items. Moreover, the fit of the bag which is similar in specs compared to my Revelate Designs straggle-check framebag , provides ample space for the bottom part of my frame and saved me from hassles concerning interference with the Bottom bracket or crankarm while pedaling. Also, the zippers have a housing to prevent rainwater from entering the bag
2 cycling pants
3 cycling shirts
4 pairs socks
4 pairs underwear
2 outdoor shirts
Among the different bags I brought during the trip, this was the one that I kept an eye on as I have encountered several problems with other saddlebags-sagging (causing tire rub), swaying (due to cargo), and leg rub-these problems are not only annoying but can cause serious delays during your trip as you constantly fix these concerns on the road. The same problems could probably be your criteria in selecting the saddlebags you’d like to consider for your trips
The conquer saddlebag didn’t pose any of the problems mentioned above for several reasons. First, the mango shaped structure of the bag with thick padding at the base of it assures that the bag is held in place. Similar to my Revelate Designs Terrapin, the Conquer Saddlebag stays in place despite my careless stuffing of clothes. Second, the numerous loops and clips provided in the bag allowed me to make the necessary mounting options for my saddle. Though I had reservations with the strap provided, they definitely held well and did not slip during the whole trip. I have to admit that this is the second saddle bag that didn’t pose problems for me (the first one is the Revelate Designs Terrapin)
Nalgene 1.5 liter bottle
Aside from the solid Velcro straps and tough fabric, i found this bag useful whenever I needed to store food or small items during the trip. Also, I used this to store my personal belongings for the bus ride home.
Though the bags are solidly built, there are two minor issues of concern. First, the zipper for the saddlebag appears to be a bit flimsy. Perhaps in succeeding versions of this bag could include a much more robust one or simply take the zipper out. Second, though the company admits that the fabric is water resistant, I hope to see the bags be in fabric that’s waterproof. Though waterproofing can easily be addressed by putting your stuff in ziplock bags or not riding out in the rain, I feel these two points can definitely make the bags even more bombproof
Overall, these bags are definitely tour worthy and I recommend that you check them out for three reasons. First, they can carry a huge load but at the same time these are not complicated in terms of adjustments and does not pose great demands on your part to constantly pack systematically and watch over your stuff as other bags give way. Second, the bags are comparable with foreign brands such Revelate designs in terms of quality construction and durability with an added option for customization (in the case of the framebag) and important of all, the price appeals to the budget conscious tourer. At an estimated cost of around Php 10,000-11,000 or 200 usd for the whole system (aside from the bags ive used you get the anything bag and panniers) the price is difficult to beat. With these points in mind, this bikepacking system is definitely at par with the international brands that we’ve always yearned for but are either unavailable locally or are too expensive to invest on.
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam-one of my happy places because of the food, people and culture. This is my third time in this wonderful place because of two things-a conference that I love attending (since 2012) and the strong cycling culture. In 2014 I was able to bike around the city. But today, due to unpredictable weather, I had to forego a trip on two wheels and visited a bikeshop instead.
While I wasn’t in the mood to stroll around the city, I just bummed around in my room at the Spring hotel (check it out-they got accommodating staff, spacious rooms and quite accessible to the shopping areas-http://www.springhotelvietnam.com/)
And…had to taste the wonderful Pho-something that I missed for two years.Too bad though that the chicken rice restaurant a couple of meters from the hotel is already closed (and a lot of construction going on and very heavy traffic)
The shop reminds me of those big ones from Hong Kong (Flying ball)-but this ones focuses more on touring stuff keeping its brands limited (Trek, Surly, Vincita, Bontrager)
If you’re interested in Surly bikes, this is the shop to go to-while I didn’t see any fat bikes around, the touring and pavement lines of the brand are complete-and take note, most of the sizes are available (I recall a friend asked me to inquire if they had an extra small frameset-they do). While the prices of the frameset and built bikes are a little bit higher than the ones in the Philippines, im glad to see the 2016 models on display-that disco tomato red pacer and the long haul trucker fully setup looks amazing. Also, ive seen a couple of steamrollers and of course the ever lovable troll.
Aside from the bikes, what caught my eye are the touring bags and other stuff. Since they carry Vincita, you get to see an assortment of bags, racks and other small stuff (you have to check out the fenders!)-an old man mountain front rack was lying there-obviously a hidden gem for you tourers using bikes with suspension (it’s the quick release version of the front rack)
What caught my eye are small panniers that was priced right-since I was on the look out for panniers for the brompton-something that will not hit my heel while pedaling, hopefully this was a worthy purchase.
While looking around, I was assisted by Hoang, one of the staff in the store and he gave a lot of inputs on the strong cycling culture in Vietnam-the store arranges guided cross country tours (too bad for me, so much to do, but so little time)-perhaps when I make a visit again in two years, I ought to try this one J
So even if I didn’t end my day with burning calories, I stuffed on some more with not Pho this time, but my favorite fried rice and stuffed spring rolls…I hope tomorrow I get to see sunshine for some pedalling action
Several websites devoted to bikepacking do not only show innovative builds but also feature interesting gear on how riders carry cargo…though several prominent brands such as Revelate Designs, Porcelain Rocket, Apidura, Ortlieb to name a few, are prominent brands that consistently show up with these dream builds, Filipino cyclists often are often discouraged because of the steep prices of these brands charge.
What complicates matters is that though there are many bikeshops around the metro, very little is offered in terms of quality bike commuting or bike packing systems leaving the Filipino cyclist with very little options.
The growing popularity of biking to work or even bike touring has sparked innovative inviduals and local companies to come up with the solution of providing quality cargo hauling gear for those who dream of going places on two wheels with the right price.
In this entry, I focus on four Filipino bike bag makers offering different types of bike commuting/backpacking systems…
But before you go out and get these bags, there are several considerations that you should think about before investing…Of course what I share comes from insights I’ve gained through numerous rides trying some of the stuff these bike bag makers have to offer.
While there are several bags out there, very few will serve a multitude of purposes and functions. For instance, there are saddlebags that can also work as handlebar bags or an “anything” bag (similar to Salsa’s Anything bag) that can hold clothing and even bicycle parts. Also, it’s important to check the capacity of bags. If you’re going on a multiday tour on a rackless setup, it is important that a fewer bags that can hold stuff such as clothing, tools, gadgets (or even small mammals) are used to reduce the hassle of removing these from your rig when you check in for the night
Fit and Versatility
While bags may look good on photos or even videos, an important consideration cyclists will have to think about is if these bags work with their x number of bikes they own. For example, a handlebar bag may not work with your mountain bike but works perfectly with your cx/road bike. Or does the bag require a rack? What happens to it if you decide to go rackless? Nothing frustrates a biker after saving up money for a framebag only to find out that your bag doesn’t fit your frame! Fitting bags to your bike is as important as making sure that your frame fits your physical features. More importantly the bags shouldnt affect your overall ride. For example saddlebags when loaded heavily may tend to rub with the back of your thighs or may sway up and down and sideways causing tire rub as well as discomfort while pedaling
For bike bags, waterproofing and sturdiness are some of the features you’d want to look out for whenever buying. There are bags that are water resistant-meaning they will hold your stuff dry when exposed to light rain and water proof-meaning even when exposed to heavy rain, they keep your gear wet free. Though most bike bags are water resistant, it would make more sense if you get those that are water proof to save your gear from damage and time from dismounting from your bike to put rain covers on your bags. Sturdiness is also important for bags so it wont break down on you during a trip. Particular here are bags that use zippers and structural shell of bags. For instance, rack bags when loaded can put a lot of stress of zippers causing damage and exposing your stuff to the elements. Likewise, a weak internally constructed bag may give out along the way.
Now here’s the tricky part, most quality bags come at a price. The rule here much like in buying components is “you get what you pay for”. If you have a budget meal mindset, expect your bags to disintergrate after your first trip. My take is that spending something mid level will be economically sensible since you will be using these bags for several trips. Also, if you decide to sell the bags in the future, you’d fetch a decent price for it just in case
One of those pioneers of bike packing gear, Larga bikepacking has a simplified system of saddlebag, handlebar bag and top tube bag (the fuel tank) as well as soon to be launched framebag. Designed by experienced bike packers who have traveled in parts of Southeast Asia and Beyond, these bike bags are made with water resistant materials and can fit in most bikes. One nice feature of these bags is that they are roomy and a lot of stuff can be stored
Larga Handle Bar Bag (i fit a small tent here)
22 dryfit shirts fit in their saddlebag!
Hidden Gem: Fuel Tank
Ive owned all bags previously and while ive had issues with the saddlebag and handlebar bag, the fuel tank, appears to be a great item in their lineup. A top tube bag that has three compartments, it can store several items and can easily be accessed during rides.
The fuel tank top tube bag on my cannondale hooligan
If you grew up in the 80s, Khumbmela is part of that generation’s experience with their ever memorable lineup of backpacks and other bags. Designed by Rodel Guinto (he loves coffee outside), the Khumbmela’s bike packing line covers all your rackless bike packing needs (framebag, anything bag, feedbag, handlebar bag)…though earlier versions of the bags use heavier stock materials, the new xpac made bags are not only lighter but feature greater water resistant properties. Recently, they have launched their pannier set l for those deciding to go with a racked rig.
“Mr Coffee Outside”Rodel Guinto (Right)
Hidden Gems: Frame bag and Anything Bag
I got my frame bag last year and have done several day trips and a multiday tour to Legazpi, Bicol and under extreme conditions (heavy rain and heat), this keeps your stuff intact and dry.
The Khumbmela Framebag en route to Legazpi
The anything bag is also a good piece of gear that ive used this during bike to work trips and I can say it can hold a lot of stuff.
The established brand for mountaineering gear has also joined the fold in launching in their extensive bike packing system in collaboration with Built Cycles. Comprised of a handlebar bag, saddlebag, panniers, feedbag, and anything bag (and soon framebag), their bikepacking system appears to be reasonably priced and are made of light waterproof and heavy water resistant fabric. While I haven’t toured with these bags, they seem to fit in a wide array of bike builds (I’ll be using them for a future biketrip to Vigan, Ilocos Sur). Moreover, with the same quality in their mountaineering lineup, these bags were developed by experienced bike tourer Vincent “Sok” Palisoc who has subjected these bags in various multiday trips. Best of all, Conquer prides itself of offering a limited lifetime warranty for their gear
With Scout master Vincent “Sok” Palisoc
Hidden Gems: Panniers and Handlebar Bag
Ive ridden briefly with the panniers and handlebar bag and both seem to hold well. The panniers are made of thick but light stock water resistant material assuring you that your clothes and important stuff don’t get wet under the rain. Equally impressive is the attachment system for these panniers. Similar to Ortlieb, the Conquer Dispatch Panniers fasten securely to your rack when pushed by the handlestrap and can easily be dismounted when pulled. At the bottom part of the pannier, there is a hook which can be easily adjusted to fit a variety of racks adding more stability to the panniers.
The conquer pannier bags-yup, they come in pairs 🙂
Excellently designed attachment system
The handlebar bag is also a good product as it does not only have a simple yet effective attachment system but has foam lining protecting your handlebar as well as your stem. Though the length may be a bit short, its width can hold several pieces of clothing or a small sleeping bag or other bulky stuff. The nice thing about the scout handlebar bag is that its short length will fit perfectly with your dropbars if youre using a cx or roadbike
Best of all, is that it has an intergrated large pocket fastened by buckle straps and thick Velcro assuring you that you can access your phone or small gadgets but not worry that it might fall off from the main bag
Comparative length with the revelate designs sweetroll
Produced in Cebu, Pacgear produces custom made framebags and saddlebags. Too bad I haven’t had the chance to get a hold of their products, their demonstration videos have shown that their stuff is robustly made as well as waterproof (they even have a video of spraying their framebag with water!)Also a popular brand in mountaineering, their bags are made of thick, waterproof fabric. With the possibilities of customization, they can design your framebags for a perfect fit for your rig.
So there, while you might find this post wanting because prices aren’t shown, this is where you come in…I encourage you to visit or get in touch with these makers as they are very receptive to feedback and queries-best of all given that they are close to home, test their offerings and im sure you’ll be able to select the best bike commuting/bike touring bags for your needs
In an earlier post, ive described our itinerary for our trip. This time, I go into detail with the bike and gear used.
Before I proceed, some points to consider:
I always believe that there are many ways to build your bike depending on your riding style, budget and preferences of components. I believe that getting something that is mid priced will be more economically valuable in the long run.
I pack heavy in the belief that in the long run, bringing the essentials with you will make the tour comfortable. You don’t want to bug other riders with an extension cord or would want to risk yourself getting a parasitic infection with not wearing slippers during overnight stops (but that’s just me)
Weapon of Choice: Surly Crosscheck (Ms. Bridgette Jones)
I currently have three bikes in my stable and among the three, this bike has three distinct builds Dr Jekyll (Single Speed Commuter), Mr Hyde (Cyclocross), Bridgette Jones (Hybrid tourer). For this trip, I decided to use the third variation and below are the build specs:
Drivetrain- Tiagra Crank (170mm), Absolute black oval narrowide chain ring 36t 110BCD, Shimano XT rd and right shifter, Sunrace 10 speed cogs 11-42t
While this may be my first time to try Ms. Jones on a tour, it didn’t disappoint. In terms of adequacy in dealing with variations in terrain, the 1×10 setup proves to be satisfactory as it can speed up in flats and provides good performance in climbs. Though the Marinduque loop has its fair share of stretches of gradual elevation (as per strava, the total elevation gain is around 2600m), the setup appears to be quite responsive and didn’t wear me down during climbs.
In this build, there are two things that I found concerning though. My steerer tube is a bit high due to the differences in setup…it’s much lower when I have it setup as a CX bike and quite high whenever it’s on SS or Hybrid. And in terms of handling, the cockpit tends to be twitchy. Second, is that when dealing with dirt roads or potholes, the slender frame and thin fork of the Crosscheck may not be too adequate in dealing with road vibrations. Nonetheless, these are some minor shortcomings im fine with given that the tour has been a short one.
In terms of cargo handling, I found it quite satisfactory. While I intended this build to go rackless or (semirackless), it can accommodate an assortment of bags for the trip. Since i decided to go semi rackless, ive used Free parable designs’ Gorilla Clips to mount waterbottle cages on the side of the fork
In the next section, I review some of the specific gear used in the tour:
Ive heard many positive reviews about this handlebar and true enough, it is a versatile piece. As a curved handlebar, it simulates a relaxed arm/hand position and given that the bars allow you to use several hand positions (for climbs, aero like posture and touring), I can say that the Jones loop is a great handlebar if you intend to do extended tours in varying terrain.
Absolute black Oval Chainring
While the recent trend in oval chain rings have been mixed, I found this as a really good piece if you like a 1x setup. Though I had one instance of chain drop (too much downshifting!), the oval chain rings shines as it lessens if not eliminates pedaling deadspots during climbs.
Revelate designs’ Straggle Check Frame bag
Designed for either the Surly Crosscheck/Straggler, this full framepack is quite roomy as I was able to fit tools, personal stuff, toiletries and even a pair of slippers. True to its producers’ promise, the bag is made of water resistant material and has kept my stuff dry amidst rain and the seawater splashes during the ferry trip. Though I felt that the bag was underutilized, riders who love to pack light will find this a good bikepacking bag. No leg rub was experienced and one interesting feature that I find advantageous in using this is that it serves as a natural “parachute” that can lessen speed during steep descents…but can also be a problem when you encounter strong headwind (what I call as a sailboat effect hahaha)
Portland Designs Bindle Rack
I got this piece a few days before the trip and I can say that this may be the best seatpost rack in the market. As it addresses most problems of bikepacking saddlebags available in the market such as swaying/sagging, waterproofing, saddle compatibility and possibility of tire rub. Paired with the Revelate Designs Terrapin Drybag, My clothing remained dry and cargo stable. Though some may find the bindle rack as a piece of added weight, the difference appears to be minimal.
Ostrich s2 Saddlebag
Elsewhere, ive seen riders use this as a handlebar bag and during my short commutes, ive used this as such whenever I have the jones loop attached to the bike. There are two positive things ive experienced in using this one. Much like the framebag, this allows easy access to your stuff as you don’t need to remove the bag just to get your stuff. Also, since I felt twitching due to the high steerer tube, attaching the bag helps in stabilizing your steering which made descents and climbs more secure.
Overall, I felt that the gear used worked well for their intended purpose of light touring and while there are several alternatives available, mixing and matching different gear will definitely be of help in attaining that perfect weapon of choice