When Gayle first mentioned the idea of riding from Perth to Albany on a dedicated off road trail, I had one of those Cinderella moments. You know – the ones that go something like, “Oh Wow, but what will I ride?” With only a limited supply of pumpkins, mice and no fairy Godmother in my life, it was off to the World Wide Web of ideas to see what sort of equipment we needed for the adventure.
What could be better then the chance to tick off one of those long-term bucket list items, go adventure riding for three weeks and possibly need that N+1 bike (or in our case N+2). We considered all the merits of the various bikes on the market and got all keen on the idea of a Cyclocross style of bike or maybe a hard tail mountain bike, or better yet a Fat Bike before settling on our trusty old Giant Trance dual suspension 29ers. Gayle later upgraded her choice to her Giant Advanced Anthem 29er due to its superior weight and handling ability. While this now seems like it was a very easy choice to make it took a fair amount of research and arguing the pros and cons of each solution.
The choice of bike was driven by the methods available to us for carrying our gear. The Web is full of good ideas and opinions on what is the best way to get your prized possessions from A to B. There are countless options for panniers and trailers to be considered. Probably the neatest trailer option I saw was for the Off Road Camper Trailer that could be towed by a bike. However on further review this was ruled out as totally impractical as it didn’t come with an ensuite.
Ever the keen maker of things, I had a crack at building a trailer that would carry a couple of extra large pannier bags. Unfortunately this all ended up being a bit too heavy and due to a lack of tolerance control during the welding phase, the trailer had a slight but permanent starboard list. Eventually the idea that a trailer was the solution to our problems got discounted on the sheer size that our wagon train would become. Further research required!
After our brief fling with the idea of a hardtail bike with panniers on the back, we discovered that it was possible to mount a pannier rack on the rear triangle of a dual suspension bike. There were a few different options on the market but our ultimate choice was a set of Pioneer racks from Old Man Mountain. These racks mount through the rear axle and onto the top stays of the rear triangle and are reported as being 100% bombproof. I first thought that we would both use a set of front and back racks and associated pannier bags. As Old Man Mountain was located in the USA, we thought we would start with a trial setup and purchase another set if it all looked like it would work.
During the trialling process we came across the idea of Bike Packing, where people head off into the bush with as little gear as is practical. The main method of carrying gear is usually a front roll strapped directly to the handlebars and a rear bag that is strapped up under the seat. This is truly ultra light camping. We toyed with trying to build enough storage on and around the bike not to need a set of racks. Ultimately we decided that we needed a fair bit of home comfort for a three week trip. The idea of a front roll in lieu of a rack did stick however. This left me with a spare front rack that, on careful inspection, could fit Gayle’s bike as a rear rack. After a few enquiries to Old Man Mountain and the purchase of a few additional bits and pieces, I was able to successfully fit the front rack to Gayle’s Anthem. On our trial runs, our choices seemed to be a reasonable compromise and we were able to haul a fair bit of gear about the countryside.
It will be interesting to see how much gear we can leave at home for our next big adventure. Maybe it will be time for that N+1 bike (I have seen some really cool new Cyclocross styles of bike on the market recently). We are looking forward to 1000km of product testing!!