our bikes

recycled parts
Most recycled parts come from The Bike Station and had been donated by someone, who didn't need them. However, we found them in conditions good enough (often close to brand new condition!) to use them for building our bikes, that are designed to undertake 2-year and 27000 km long touring project. 
It took us about 8 months to complete the bikes; sometimes it was a matter of minutes to find the right part, with others it took months of waiting to get the right one...but what played crucial role in this process was the luck and the Angel from TBS, who always remembered to put the best parts aside for us...

Marta's bike

With Marta´s frame was easy – we quickly found one in a very good shape - steal 700c touring frame made by an American brand ‘Marin’. Raul´s frame was a bit of troublemaker - eventually he has an aluminum 700c mountain frame ‘Revolution’ made in the UK; after more than a month looking for a good steal frame and not founding any that was the best option within aluminium ones. Unfortunately, this frame was built to be a single speed, so our very good friend “super Rod” designed and built a clamp, so that the bike can be used as a touring bike. The problem was that a frame comes with a certain number of eyelids  where the outer cable is held to allowed the inner cable to run freely to break or to shift from one gear to another and in single speed frames obviously you need less eyelids, so Raul’s frame was missing eyelids that are necessary for touring bike. But thanks to Rod´s creativity the frame works as a regular MTB. We were trying to get both frames steal because they are better for touring, as they are more durable,  absorb more and better the irregularities of the road and, in the hypothetical case, that the frame snaps it´s always easier to find a local place where they can wield steal; with 
Alum is not that easy. So finger crossed for Raul’s frame..

chain set
What was essential when we were looking for the right chain set for us was to have a wide ratio so we can cover all our needs on the road - from a fast big chain ring to a very small one to climb fully loaded any hill that's ahead. The chain set we use is Shimano Deore and Deore XT that covers from 20-22T to 44-48T. And again steel seems to be more durable, although heavier, so most of the chain rings we have are steal.

After being asking and thinking about the subject Marta and me decided to go for clip pedals. They are far more efficient, giving you an extra power each time you pedal and even allowing to change the muscle group in your legs while pedaling, to rest some muscle when they get tired. What was making us to think about not taking them is the fact that we need to take an extra pair of shoes to walk those days or moments off the road; but the convenience and efficiency of clips is not arguable, so it is a must on touring trips, despite the extra weight. Our pedals are Shimano dual, which is of great convenience, because we can pedal either with or without clips.

rear and front derailleur
That wasn´t an easy one; we knew that it´s vital to have good derailleur that works just perfectly in the most severe conditions to move the chain up and down not damaging cassette, chain set and chain all together. It took some time to find the right ones, but after weeks and weeks looking and waiting, we found four front derailleurs and two back ones in marvelous shape, all of them Shimano Diore or Diore XT. It still surprises us so much the amount of top quality bike components the folk just dump to get something newer.

With Marta´s fork was a bit more difficult; although the frame came with a nice fork, it was too short for the headset Marta was going to have, so we had to look for a 700c steal fork preferably with two eyelids to attach panniers and mudguard to the front wheel. We don´t know how good is the one we found, we will see once on the road. With Raul’s was easier - the frame came with the fork, unfortunately with no eyelids in it to attached low rider panniers, so we needed to get another wee gadget to clamp the panniers onto the fork.

When you are touring you want your equipment to be as simple as possible (so that in the smallest town it is easier to find a replacement in case of damage) and that is the main reason we did not want disk brakes, but V-brakes. If  the V-brakes are well set they are very reliable, even if you are heavily loaded as we are and in case of any problems it is more likely to get spares and fix them anywhere in the world. Our brakes are Shimano Diore LX and XT, which – as all top quality breaks – comes with metallic levers.

brakes pads
The one we are using are good ones - hardly used, just regular ones. We have found them in different bikes, just making sure to match the same ones on both sides of one wheel. They are not specifically made for any specific conditions, as we will experience probably nearly all possible conditions

The one we use are a mix of solid plastic and metal, so they are fairly flexible and can be bend without breaking. What we were looking for was something durable, not too heavy and not too big

handlebar stem
We went for long stems so we can ride our bikes fairly straight, which is essential in long-distance touring as it helps to avoid lower back pain. In Raul´s bike it was necessary to add an extra extension to lengthen it.

seat clamps

seat post
Marta´s sit post is, according to few friends from TBS, a very good suspension sit post and Raul´s one is rigid (but he has his suspension built-in in the saddle). Both are well designed to move the saddle backward and forward to adjust to the right, most comfortable position.

The handle bars we have chosen are the butterfly shape ones. It gives up to four different positions for the hands, so over the whole day of cycling you can be resting the weight in different groups of muscles and bones avoiding to over-stress your wrist and arms.

Just regular rubber grips for both of us, where the controls are; the rest of the handlebar is covered with leather handlebar tape.

Unfortunately tires are something that wears off the most in the bike, so it seems virtually possible to find good ones in TBS. After more than 3 months of looking among hundreds of bikes to recycle, we found just one. We were looking for something that would cover our needs: 700c -35 and anti-puncture. The one we found is Race Lite Hard Case Triple Puncture Protection and is on Marta’s front wheel as this wheel carries the smallest weight

·         spokes
Our spokes were hand made out of old ones by one of the mechanic at TBS. He recycled them by cutting and threading again. We also carry few spare spokes.

·         pump
One of the pumps we are taking is a mini pump, very portable and light; I bought it five years ago and it is still in good shape so why not to take it? The other one it new, bigger and more powerful. Why two pumps? We cannot afford the risk of one pump not working and us in the middle of nowhere with a flat tire!

·         rear pannier racks
We found two Blackburn solid and fairly light pannier racks with three arms on each side to carry up to 25-30 kg. Marta´s one came even with rear light – working!

·         lights
Raul´s set of light, front and back, is the old one he has been using for the last couple of years in Edinburgh; they are still perfectly fine, so before investing in anything new we believe you need to use what you have until is totally worn off. These are battery run lights, but we use rechargeable batteries, if it is possible.

·         bottle holders
Basically the one we have found, we have tried just to choose the best ones within the pile of bottle holders in TBS. One is worth mentioning as it is adjustable to different sizes of bottles, made by Topeak.

·         hubs
We were very lucky with the hubs - we found three marvelous Shimano hubs plus a Hope hub; three with 36 holes, which is perfect for a solid touring wheel and a 32-hole one, that is not bad, just a bit more fragile, so we used this one for Marta´s front wheel, as she will take less weight on her bike. After checking the rear hubs thoroughly, we decided to replace the free-hub bodies in both of them for new ones; we used Shimano XT free-hub bodies for it.

·         bike computer
We were lucky to get both of them as a present. They are basic Cateye bike computers showing time, speed, average speed, max. speed, distance and total distance, which is just enough for our needs.

new parts
The components we needed to get new are the one we didn’t find in TBS to recycle or the one we thought or were advised that it is very important to have them brand new, as they will be exposed to most demanding conditions during our cycling project. Those parts are basically friction points; let´s describe it as the bike-joints.

Raul's Bike
The rims we have chosen are a French brand Mavic 319 ones which are a top quality touring rims; something we can use for thousands of kilometers, hopefully without any major problems, despite all the road conditions we are going to go through.
Those rims are 700c and double walled; because we are using recycled hubs, we had to buy rims that their number of holes would match with the number of holes our hubs have, so we have three rims with 36 holes and one with 32.

After months of waiting to find four good quality 700c-35 recycled tires we were unlucky and had to buy three new ones. The tires we have chosen are considered to be one of the best ones you can find for touring - the anti-puncture Schwalbe Marathon plus. We also carry emergency folding tires, made by Continental.

I think I´ve lost the track of how many hours we had spent searching for pannier; at the end we decided to go for a polish company called Crosso, except for the handlebar bags and saddle tool bag, which are Ortlieb. Panniers are crucial in an adventure as our. They are the place where all your gears are so you need something “bulletproof”. All our panniers are made of PVC and Cordura, which are fully waterproof and durable fabrics; the mounting system in the Crosso ones are the traditional metallic hooks, but again simplicity is what works best, is easier fixable or replaceable.
Marta carry 2 rear pannier 20l each, 2 front panniers 17l each and the handlebar bag; Raul’s load consists of 2 rear 30l panniers, 2 front 17l panniers, a 60l tube bag (carried on the top of rear pannier rack), handlebar bag and saddle tool bag.

gear shifters
We decided to get Shimano SLX shifters, as after months of waiting there wasn’t anything recyclable in TBS we could use; and shifters must be in very good condition as they basically work all the time. So, following our mechanic friend Rod advice, who even found the website where the shifters were almost 50% off the price, we got them.

Marta´s front light
That’s the only light we didn´t have so we bought one. Cateye hybrid one which either works with a solar panel or rechargeable batteries

front low rider pannier racks
We decided to go with low riders, because they are known for giving your bike better stability by lowering down the centre of gravity. Our choice was Tubus as their pannier racks are the most often recommended by touring cyclists.

All the cables and outer cables for gears and brakes are news.

inner tubes
700c wheels aren’t so popular, so within abandoned and donated bikes at TBS we didn’t find not even one 700c inner tube in good conditions. At the end we need to get them brand new – Continental is the highly recommended brand. We also carry two spare ones.

That was a tricky one. Saddle is a place where most of our body weight is going to be supported, so it has to be something extremely comfortable; imagine being in an office 8 hours a day sat on a chair that uncomfortable! Moreover, choosing a saddle is a very personal thing, nearly that many opinions as many cyclists. At the end we decided to go for the most recommended brands. Raul will cycle on Brooks Flyer, touring model that has build-in springs to reduce the tension off lower back and kidneys; saddle famous for being extremely comfortable after you – so called - break in (that is when the saddle takes your body shape). Marta had chosen an American brand - Terry, touring model Liberator X.  These are saddles designed by woman for women, so their unique shape fits to women anatomy and also the brand is recommended by few cyclists we thrust.

We found that none of the recycled headsets we have tried worked properly with our forks, so eventually we needed to get new ones. However quite expensive, at the end of the day it is a good investment, as it is a very important friction point in the bike - it needs to work perfectly to turn smoothly and keep the bike steady. If you are looking for a headset there are two types: sealed (cartridge) and not sealed. The one we used are the sealed ones FSA  Token; they give more protection against water and dust.

water bottles
We carry two 500ml bottles each. One is plastic and the other steel, with time we will see which one works better for us. We think 1l of water per person per day should be enough in the northern condition; however, one in warmer climates we might consider getting extra water container.

Choosing a helmet is a personal thing – it has to fit your head and feels comfortable; there are some basic rules of how the helmet should fit on the head, but apart from that any shop assistant we asked in bike shops told us “just try them on and choose the one that feels most comfortable”; and to us comfortable means that we can forget that we have the helmet on our heads; apart from that what was important for us was for the helmet to be fairly light and breathable. Raul’s helmet was sponsored by a bike shop in Edinburgh and Marta chose for her middle range made by Met.

We take Topeak Alien II multi-tool for bicycles with 26 functions; almost every small job can be done with it. Apart from that we carry only 2 long ball Allen-keys no.5 and 6, prayers, cone spanner 13 and 15, tire lever, hypercracker, and some spare nuts, bolts, duck tape, puncture set and other necessary bits and bobs.

It is a small piece of equipment that is considered by many cyclists as useless extra weight. We cannot agree with this statement at all – for us mirror is something essential that makes your cycling so much easier. We carry super small and super light Zefal mirror that can be attached anywhere on your bike that is comfortable for you.