And I’m off! This is my Kona Sutra all-steel touring bike. Steel is a little heavier than aluminum but it’s tougher and, in a pinch, you can weld a cracked steel frame. It used to have drop bars with end-shifters but I’ve replaced the handlebars with a Jones H-bar and regular Shimano shifters.
The H-bar has more hand positions and lets me ride in a more upright position. More comfortable. Better view of the scenery. You can compare this photo with the one at the top of this blog if you really want to see the difference.
The orange Ortlieb roll-top panniers on the front rack are for food and cooking gear. The food I actually store in Ur-sacks. At night, I add the toiletries. Ur-sacks are a brand of bear-resistant bag. They don’t keep bears or other critters away but they will keep them from actually eating the food. A determined bear could, of course, crush the contents but wouldn’t actually be rewarded with food.
The Ur-sacks are to protect the bears from associating the presence of people with dinner. (That sounds more ominous than I intended.) At night, I can tie the secured Ur-sacks to a tree away from the tent. The orange panniers go there too. But they’re open with maybe just the pot and the frying pan inside. Stuff bears might slobber on but won’t eat.
Bear attacks are extremely rare and only a portion of my route runs through their habitat. I’m much more likely to encounter mice, or squirrels, or raccoons. I always seem to have mice visiting my apartment. They seem to like me. I mean, they’ve never attacked me. Anyway, I’ll probably die a slow death from mosquitoes and horse flies and such.
Strapped to the top of the front rack is my sleeping pad, inflatable pillows and my tent. The pillows are handy in case I need a nap. The tent is handy so I can take it off and dry it in the afternoon sun. Or take it off and get in it during a sudden downpour. Either case, it’s handy.
The black panniers on the rear rack are for clothes, a couple extra fuel bottles, extra water bottles, tools for the bike. Tire levers. Spare inner tubes. Patches. Chain breaker. Spare quick links. Chain lube. Zip ties. So – soft bulky stuff and a bunch finicky stuff. I’m probably forgetting something.
Red rear lamp and headlamp. Somewhere.
That black sack strapped to the top of the rear rack is my sleeping bag. With it is a green dry sack holding all the stuff I need to conveniently get to during the day. Mostly toiletries - which go in the Ur-sacks at night. Bug spray. Bandaids. Tylenol. Magnesium and potassium supplements – they help to spare me from leg cramps. A little shovel for.... never mind. That small black bag is for garbage.
I can remove the green dry sack and carry all my beauty products into a bathroom. If I can find one. Since the bag maybe has some slight scent in it, this bag also goes in the Ur-sacks at night. A mouse may gnaw through your tent if it smells the wrapper from a Snickers bar. And, of course, hundreds of mosquitoes perish each night on the insect mesh, vainly trying for a drop of your blood.
Finally, water bottles on the down tube and seat tube. Kryptonite chain lock wrapped around the seat post. Remote anti-theft alarm just under the seat stays. Pump under the top tube. That little stick holding up the bike is collapsible, like a tent pole. I prefer it to a kick stand. The bike might fall, but it will fall on those panniers. I feel that an attached kick stand could damage the frame in a fall. Personal choice.
That brown saddle is a genuine Brooks B17 leather saddle. It’s standard on the Kona Sutra. It takes a while to break it in but once you do, it conforms to your ‘sit bones’. As touring saddles go, it’s sort of legendary. Suits me fine. But saddles are a personal preference given how much time you spend seated.
Maybe you notice the spokes in the rear wheel are silver while the ones in the front are black. The original rear wheel developed a hairline crack. This one is new and very robust. The tires are Schwalbe Marathon Plus. They don’t provide the most comfortable ride but they are very hardy. Never had a flat over the length of two or three thousand kilometres, so far. I may get all the way to the coast on these. But I may have to swap them out at some point. For the moment, they still have lots of wear left.
That’s my home-away-from-home for the next three months or more. Heading off tomorrow. No need to advise me to ‘be careful’. I’m not doing anything particularly dangerous. A bit strenuous. But it’s actually as much a mental challenge as a physical one. Cycling is safer than driving. I will be on the shoulder of highways, for sure. But... try standing on an overpass in NDG and watching the traffic below on Autoroute Décarie.
I’m pretty sure I’m a lot safer than those crazy folks!