I’ve had a request from one of my valued readers to tell a bit about the bike that’s taking me on this journey. So, without further ado, here it is:
Profile view of my bicycle, fully loaded. Photo taken on Audēju iela, Rīga on 28th May.
The bicycle itself is a Polish-manufactured “Kross Trans-Siberian”, which I bought at a bicycle shop in Rīga. It has a 108cm wheelbase, being the distance from the front to rear axle, which is quite large but important for a touring bike because you need to be able to attach front and rear loads without having one’s heels or toes constantly kicking the loads while riding. Furthermore, it has – I think – a 46cm chainstay, being the distance between the front crankset and the rear axle. That’s also fairly large by most standards.
It has a triple front crankset – pretty standard for a touring bike – and a seven speed rear cassette, adding up to 21 gears. That’s actually quite modest. Many touring bikes will have a nine speed rear cassette leading to 27 gears. For me, that wouldn’t be necessary. Latvia is quite flat and I spend most of my time in eleventh gear anyway, rarely needing to depart from that.
The Kross Trans-Siberian isn’t specifically engineered to carry a front load, however I was able to purchase a Finnish-manufactured commuter front rack while I was in Stockholm, Sweden earlier in May and it attached very neatly and easily to the bike. This rack allows for me to attach “low-rider” front pannier bags while also storing a light load on top of the rack.
About the pannier bags: they are manufactured by a German company called Ortlieb. This company really does have the market cornered for pannier bags designed to be mounted on touring bikes, and their bags are very much a touring standard. The two front bags, red in colour, mounted on my front commuter rack, have a combined capacity of 25 litres. I use these bags to store a supply of food that I carry with me. More specifically, I like to have 72 hours worth of food with me, just in case something goes wrong and I need to survive independently while I wait to be rescued. To be honest, I think I could make that 72 hours worth of food last a lot longer than that if needed.
Now, if you look at the rear of the bike, there’s two big, black pannier bags with a combined capacity of 40 litres. I used these bags to carry most of the things that I need: clothing, self-inflating mattress, sleeping bag (rated to sub-zero temperatures), my laptop, and a few other odds and ends.
Strapped on top of the rear rack is my tent, a Pavillo Navaho x2 tent. Not the lightest tent on the market, but excellent value for money and it does the job. If you check out the photo above, the tent is the bright orange package on the rack.
Above the tent, you’ll see a black and blue carry bag strapped onto the bike with bright red bungee straps. We call them “occy straps” back in Australia and that’s what I will continue to call them hereinafter. That bag is carrying a hotchpotch of items that I like to keep close at hand, including insect repellent (ticks are a menace in Latvian forests), underarm roll-on deodorant, antiperspirant, soap, my cookset, gloves, disposable shavers, lighter, hexamine stove, spare hexamine tablets, and a grab-bag of other bits n’ pieces. Really, I sometimes forget what I’ve got in there.
Just before the handlebar, you might notice a little black, red, and white thing strapped to the frame. In there, I keep my mobile phone, earplugs, a small torch, a little point-and-shoot digital camera, and a USB cable. I sometimes tuck some small snacks in their, too.
Attached to the front of the handlebar is a handlebar pannier – just a cheap one – that I used to store emergency disposable raincoats, the keys to my bike lock, loose change, more snacks, my wallet, Australian and Latvian passports, and a few other things that I might need to produce quickly.
The plastic bag you see strapped on top of my commuter front rack using occy straps contains a fleecy-lined hooded top that I can put on if the temperature drops.
Here are a few more photos of my bike:
So, that’s my “aluminium horse”. If you have any questions you’d like to ask me, feel free. For the record, I’m not an expert about touring bicycles or long-distance touring. I’m just some bloke who is giving it a go.