Written by Dave
Disclaimer: Same as last year, we bought all this stuff with our own hard earned cash. While we would always take free schwag, our limited social media footprint (make that flat out invisible social media footprint) means that fancy equipment companies are not exactly knocking on our door to get us to use and review things. There is upside here however – because not having been influenced means we can tell it like it is. Our 7 (or 8 on a good day) online followers (not counting our mothers) will get the truth from this review.
One Vegemite : leave it home or sell on eBay when you get home
Two Vegemites : Worth a second try, but don’t get your hopes up
Three Vegemites : a keeper, fully functional
Four Vegemites : don’t leave home without it
CO-MOTION PANGEA TOURING BIKES
This review is long overdue. I planned on making some notes last year after our trip but got stuck back into work and lost “fun time” momentum. This year since I’m not working, I’ll flesh out some thoughts on our bikes.
For starters, we have lots of bits on our bikes that we really like, I’ll come to them in a second. The basic bikes are classic steel, mountain bike sized frames with 26 inch wheels and road bike style dropped handlebars. We can use up to a 2.25 inch tires, this year we used 1.5 inch tires. We picked a mountain bike style bike because we wanted “ride anywhere”. Last year with massive 2.25 inch tires they rode anywhere, albeit very slowly. This year, with the skinnier tires I think we found just the right combination. We had some rough dirt roads and the bikes handled a treat (except maybe that 15% uphill dirt section – but this was not the bikes fault – perhaps a small route planning error). We liked the drop bars with all the different hand positions as well.
I should also mention that the bikes have co-pilot SnS connectors. We didn’t de-couple them on this trip but have done so to travel in the past. These little beauties save countless airline fees and really do make air travel by bikes much more convenient.
Avid disk brakes – absolutely loved them. They stop perfectly in any conditions, wet or dry. And they were great coming down the other side of that 15% grade – no need to stop to let the rims cool for fear of a blown tire.
Rohloff 14 speed internal geared rear hubs – loved these as well. Top and bottom-end gears were adequate (except again on that bloody 15% dirt climb!). Cleaning the bikes at the end of the trip is so easy – two sprockets and a lot less chain and no derailleur. Shifting is smooth and predictable.
Son 28 front dyno-hub and Sine Wave Reactor USB plug – Another winning combination. Ride over 6 kph and you can charge any USB device (with only a .03% load/drag). We used our phones and kept them nicely charged all day most days. Another day I used it to charge 4 AA batteries. The only issue here was riding/walking 4-5 kph up that aforementioned hill. At that speed and being remote, the phones really ate up batteries – no charging input and constantly searching for a mobile signal. The Reactor replaces your stem top, almost being invisible when there is no USB cable in use.
Rubber hose rack covers – I should patent this one. We have Tubus racks and Ortlieb panniers. The default hooks on the panniers are set up for the largest rack tubing known to man. Those rack tubes are bigger than our Tubus tubes. Ortlieb has little inserts that you can use to downside the hooks. These work great until they fall out (ours did on our round the world trip – we held them in place with multi wraps of dental floss). So, I invented a fancy hose and hose clamp solution that makes our racks seem bigger and we use now use the Ortlieb bag hooks without spacers (and no dental floss). These worked very well with the exception of one of Nancy’s bags where I need to file the hose down a little.
Brooks saddles – We both have Brooks leather saddles on our bikes. I mentioned these last year and I absolutely love mine. Nancy likes the ride of hers but is not too sure about the rivets and the blisters that they caused. She really wanted to like the saddle 100%. Nancy may have to “ride until you get a callus” stage and see if things settle for her (Senior Editor’s note – yow! not sure if I can do that, as the blisters make me sit funny and therefore set off my normal riding posture, which leads to more aches and pains elsewhere. Jury is still out for me.). Me, I’m set for life.
Shimano bottle cage adapter thingies and BBB Fueltank cages – The cages are a complete winner. They hold 1.5 litter PET bottles with ease. The only issue is fitting them on the frames. They didn’t fit our frames but using Shimano bottle cage adapters made them work. These worked great until when bombing down the 15% dirt road (Senior Editor’s note – no way I was bombing, it was just a really rough road), Nancy’s bottle and cage flew off, completely shearing the Shimano thingy. To be fair, we are probably using a part designed for affixing a water bottle in a quirky frame (eg triathlon racing frame), not loaded touring bikes on roads a husband should not be taking a wife on. So, upon returning home, I’ve done some re-engineering, using 20mm aluminium (much thicker than Shimano) and have the cages ready to go for the next trip. Hey maybe I should patent this as well!
OK – bikes as a total package – I only have 4 Vegemites. If there was a 5 Vegemite award, they would get it. They ride like champs, and all the bits on them work great. Now all we need is 2 more years of free time to give them a chance on another world tour.
Overall – 4 Vegemites
MOUNTAIN HARD GEAR – TRANGO 3 TENT
We bought this tent with the view to another 2 year worldwide expedition. Thus we got a three person tent and one that was reported to be super strong. One of our readers (Ted) commented that the tent was bomb proof. (Ted has climbed just about every mountain in the USA Pacific Northwest – so he knows what he’s talking about).
Well, I’m happy to report that we didn’t need to bomb test the tent this trip. I am however, also happy to agree with Ted. If you hook all the hooks and loops as Mountain Hardware intended, this tent is not coming down until you want it to. We set it up properly for the first couple days before we discovered that normal summer weather really doesn’t need everything all bolted up. We stopped hooking the rain fly to every poll loop and generally got more casual. The tent is still extremely stable in all conditions. We loved the inside room, three people really could sleep in it and there are so many gear pockets we never used half of them. Sit-up height was great, better than our old tent. The vestibules were big enough for of our gear, with only a little spilling into the inner tent – Nancy’s superior organizing skills came to the fore here – things worked much better once I listened to her tent loading advice (orders).
The only thing we don’t like about the tent is the weight. It weights about twice what our old tent did. It is a lot more liveable if we were to take a week off somewhere on a long trip, we’d never worry about getting caught in a storm and the fabric will take forever to breakdown. But all those nice things come with a cost – twice the weight. We plan to stick with the tent in spite of the weight – our (new last year) dual sleeping bag is 1/2 the weight of our old bags so net-net we are even – and it is really nice to feel like you have a solid home on long trips. And the room inside eliminates the elbows in the rib if you happen to drift off of your side of the tent.
Overall – 3 to 4 Vegemites
TYVEX TENT FOOTPRINT
Here’s another invention. We bought a Hardware foot print with our new tent but it doesn’t cover the vestibules. But more importantly, we like a dry tent in the mornings and having the foot print sit directly on the ground almost always means a wet foot print.
We picked up one of those ubiquitous “blue tarps” in Turkey and used it for the last half of our world tour. This worked great as the dry tent went in its bag and the tarp folded up to be put on the bike rack. This has a couple issues however. For starters, when it rained, the water ran off the tent onto the tarp and right under the tent. We fixed this by tucking the trap under the rain fly on wet nights – but this was kind of bulky. The second issue with the blue tarp was weight and bulk. It was heavy and took up a lot of room on the bike.
So… This year we ordered a piece of Tyvex big enough to go under the full tent and vestibules. We then cut it just a little bigger than needed, folded and glued the edges and voila – we have a lighter, smaller version of the blue tarp. And it worked great. No water came through, the tent foot print was dry and packing was easy. The only issue was the noise of walking or crawling on new Tyvex. It is loud. This will moderate as it breaks in. We hope it stays waterproof over time – for now, at least, it’s a winner.
(sorry no photos – upsetting the tent setter-upper for photos, while she is tapping her foot and extending tent poles is not a good idea).
Overall – 4 Vegemites
GOAL ZERO SHERPA 50 BATTERY and NOMAD 13 SOLAR PANEL
Going 100% off grid with only the hub chargers is not possible. We can’t charge our PC off these smaller devices and batteries. So, we decided to try out a new system from Goal Zero. Overall the system worked well to charge the PC. We used it two times. We recharged the battery from mains power once, the other time from the solar panel.
The only issue we had was on the second PC charging. The battery overheated when I tried to charge the PC at the same time I was re-charging the battery from the solar panel. There is nothing in the manual that says not to do this. The battery error said “Battery defective – Call Goal Zero “. I called them on return and was told to first simply charge off mains and if that didn’t work, pull the fuse and hard re-set the battery.
The Goal Zero folks were helpful but it would have been better if they had included the reset instructions in the manual. As it was, it was the last time on this trip that I needed to charge the PC so it didn’t matter. Had we been out in the bush and needing power, I would have liked to have known I had other options. And now, I have this niggling doubt over the battery. We’ll use it for charging a few times at home before our next trip. I’d hate to lug it all over the world and have it stop working again – but yes, the mains charge did recover the battery as the Goal Zero folks said it would.
Oh yeah, Nancy keeps telling me that leaving the PC home is another option rather than worrying about recharging it. More time looking at the mountains and less time typing about them, or something like that…
Overall – Somewhere between 2 and 3 Vegemites
ORTLIEB HI-VIS FRONT AND REAR ROLLER PANNIERS
Strictly speaking, our old panniers were not completely worn out. We had patched them in a few places and they probably had a few trips left in them. They probably didn’t however, have another worldwide trip in them. So, we bit the bullet and got new , same model, but Hi-Vis colour panniers.
They work exactly as the last ones, so there is not a lot to review. Other than to say, I absolutely love the Hi-Vis. I can see Nancy so much better now and I’m sure that cars can see us better. Of course they will get dirty and not be as bright over time but for now, you sort of feel more respected by traffic. It’s probably all in my head, but I really do feel like cars and trucks give us more room simply because we are trying harder to be visible.
Anything that helps us be seen has to get 4 Vegemites.