Sir retires from the-ride…
I am back in Stockholm!
Surprising, but I have spent a fair bit of time considering some major equipment changes and finally decided to just do it. I plan to be traveling through Europe for a whole year, so spending yet another few days making sure everything works as well as possible should prove more than worth the effort.
One problem I have been having already is with punctures. I’ve had 4 in just 10 days! This was something I was afraid might happen as the tires mounted to Sir, Schwalbe G-Ones, are far from touring tires and I was always expecting to have to swap them out for something a bit sturdier, with a more aggressive tread pattern. Just not quite so quickly, this first section of the-ride was supposed to be an easy one!
But a bigger problem I have been having is that Sir wobbles at speed when fully loaded. I do have a bit of gear with me, but have packed somewhere between a bikepacking and a more conventional touring setup, so it is not as if I’m carrying huge amounts of stuff.
Sir is just not built for this type of riding.
One problem could be the tires, that they flex a bit too much, but there are other reasons as well. I bought the bike converted from being a mtb with a suspension fork to a more gravel oriented bike with a solid Surly fork. But it turns out that the fork is just a bit too short and does not have enough offset for the frame, making the bike self-steer under heavy load. While Sirs frame is a thing of beauty, it is built more for lightweight bikepacking or racing use and not for expedition touring. Even the 29-inch wheels are 28 spoke rather than a more solid 32 or 36, light but maybe a bit flexible.
I have spent a fair part of the first 10 days of the-ride trying to decide if Sir was going to be able to cope or if I had to make a drastic change and in many ways, the decision has more or less made itself. I just need to look at where I have been and what I have done.
Estonia was expected to be a rather easy start to the-ride but I have already got stuck in a bog, zipped along tight, bumpy single-track, had to carry both up and down stairs, ridden along beaches and carried over rocky coastlines, made strange (and probably highly illegal) railway crossings and jumped logs and stones. It seems that I just naturally gravitate towards the rougher tracks rather than the paved bike paths. So when I reached Riga, I booked a ferry to Stockholm to either change bikes or make some changes to Sir.
I landed in Stockholm on Thursday morning and rode straight to Cyklecraft, I knew from their website that one of their stores had what was probably the only Surly Troll, size large, left in stock in Sweden and had been trying to see if I could buy it online for the last 2 days without success.
Thanks to great customer service by Mats (great name) at the store, I finally managed to buy the Troll and got it delivered to the store the next day, Friday. I spent Friday afternoon fitting my racks and holders to the bike and am going to try loading it up and going for some test rides during the weekend.
The Surly Troll is probably one of the original bikepacking, off-road touring bikes and is already a classic. I have wanted to own one for a long time but have always been sidetracked in one way or another from getting one. But now I am the end of the world, bug-out expedition ready, the Troll is built to take it all!
But I am sad to leave Sir behind, it is a great bike in its own right, just not for this ride. It rolls so well that I sometimes felt that it was rolling by itself, even on the slight uphills! After testing the Troll for 20 or 30 km I realize that it is going to be a bit harder work from now on. I have already started converting Sir back to its original configuration with a suspension fork, with the right length and offset, and am hoping to be able to do some lighter backpacking trips with it later on. Maybe the tour divide…
I’ll post an update with information about the Troll (needs a name) and equipment after the weekend and hope to be back on track by Tuesday evening. The only problem is that I now have to decide if I go back to Riga to continue or start again from Tallinn? The coast along the western part of Estonia looks like really nice riding and it would be sort of nice for the new bike to get a chance to start from the beginning. That would see me having to ride the 2 days between Pärnu and Riga again, but at least Estonia would be well and truly done…
Time will tell.