Sunday, February 20, 2011

Modifying Mountain Bikes for Epic Bicycle Touring

Hello cyclist friends (:
Sharing some tips on modifying stock mountain bikes (mine: OEM - Blackcat/Giant All-Aluminium alloy tube frame; Gareth's Motobecane All-Titanium alloy angular tube frame). 

First setup: Tubus builds an amazing Swing Suspension Rack that mounts to the handlebar stem and the fork crowns, it stable and carry regular panniers -with ease according to Gareth. His bike is well-equipped with Rockshok SID RACE 100mm rebound/lockout RLT forks, that are industry-standard quality and performance. 

Second setup: My Blackcat mountain bike is basic-equipped showing a translated page from Naver. The Suntour XCM coil-loaded forks, 80mm rebound/without lockout aren't the top of the line suspension fork, they are heavy, but they are coiled and reliable for basic trail riding and bicycle touring. 

Adjustments of the Suntour V2 XCM fork: I have tweaked the tension through fork crown adjustment head (PVC material) without much result. Finally, I snapped the stabilizer low fork mount (believing it was for tensioning -it's solely for securing the inner suspension alignment link to the bottom of the fork case. A large 30cm coil that should be properly re-greased (my first service in over 5000km!). 

Service the Suntour V2 XCM fork: I drained water and moldy-grease fungus from the fork shafts, and inner casings. I balanced the coils removing a center-plug (20cm length) that was located on one side, and reloading was done with a huge open-adjustable wrench, loading pressure on top while threading the PVC plug back into it's fork-crown top-down, position.  The forks continued to perform for bicycle touring, they are simple and indestructable, albeit they being heavier than most top-of-the-line fork and do not lockout

Frame comparisons:  The frame material that Gareth is using on his Motobecane mountain bike (Titanium) and my Blackcat/Giant (Aluminium) are compared. Gareth mentions the flex in the frame with a fully-loaded rack on the titanium, while I have loaded mine with a seatpost-rack and loaded 10kg+, whereas, in comparison, in the aluminum frameI found there to be no problem in handling/stability.  I did find the aluminium frame stiff and rigid, a + for touring. After riding for thousands of kilometers on tour, the rigid aluminum frame will "buzz" and this vibration caused my hands to feel numb, but the ride was always solid, supportive for the equipment being carried (excess 30kg) and the frame never failed or fractured throughout the HimalayasX2011. 

Of course, there is also another verdict to always go with "steel frame" like Eddie's Surly Long Haul Trucker (LHT) which is the standard touring frame for all touring occasions. I have another posting listing many touring bicycles and a set of photos for example, and a link to PBASE with actual touring bicycles being used around the world, really helpful to see for yourself.

It's exciting to make a mountain bike ride like a touring bike, it can be done with the right materials assembled, like a KONA Explosif (steel) frame and Magura coil-sprung forks. Tom @ Ride-Earth does it well. Here's another link/setup for the Himalaya [compliments of Gareth's research]. 
 Blackcat/OEM Giant loaded for touring. Suntour V2 XCM coil suspension forks are heavy, useful for everyday trail/road riding though, 10,000km on mine.
$10 tent, seat-mounted rack/fender, handlebar SLR pack 
 Bring a -20 mummy bag for the cold nights +thermarest
 Mornings are looking brighter after touring
 Full-coverage to protect yourself from the elements
 Ensure you pack light, enjoy the tour =balanced/control.
 Gareth's Motobecane, Tubus Swing (fr), Cosmos (Rr) [photo courtesy]
Gareth's Titanium Motobecane w/Tubus racks and full panniers D.I.Y.  Notice the weight of the Tubus Swing rack over the front suspension. Attaching flat racks directly to the lower front suspension tubes eliminates the suspension sag, and increases the suspension stability when panniers are fully loaded. That suspension question is proven, I rode this way in the Himalayas of western China with racks attached to my Fox RL32 120mm.

Brian Perich February 19 at 12:17am
Hey G!

I am thinking -got the Panniers, how about the rear rack to mount to ...haha! Duh! Where did you/what did you decide on for your Motobecane? It would be cool to keep the Blackcat rolling on, with panniers too! I'm going to sell that trailer, the kids outgrew it already and probably through Craigslist, I'll try and sell a few other things -go light, my new motto for living in Korea.

Hope all is well, Rob Kerr/Dominic Luther, Paul Deveau, etc cycled 6 days across Korea touring, Dom posted photos here. Dom posted on the updates about the tour, out of my possibilities with MA ongoing, damn! Wish I went now.

All the best,

Brian P (:
Winter Break - domluther's Photos
Snowboarding in Gangchon, a trip to Suwon and a winter bike tour.
Gareth Zane Barker February 19 at 12:37am Report
hey! look at
Are you going to just do rear? If you put a lot on rear only probably get a higher quality Tubus, they sell adaptors that work perfectly as well so you can throw it on any bike.

I went with the stainless tubus cosmos for the rear. It's going on it's first S24O in the morning but I've already given both the racks stress tests. I loaded them way up, slowly climbed a hill and went barreling down hitting speed bumps and crap and slinging the load around. Felt real stable. not much clearance for a fender though, it's a really low rack and has a lower bar for low pannier mounting.

I am using a tubus suspension rack but those are built for more rough riding and I think I overdid it maybe. My understanding is you can jury rig a normal front rack for suspension with a U-lock and it works just fine but isn't the best thing for the suspension. But at the end of the life of your bike you can take those quality racks and throw them on a proper touring bike. The suspension rack I've noticed I usually only see on rigs people are doing rough rides on like the great divide or Himalayas or something.

anyway, I suggest looking at tubus to start with and look at racks that could be used on your next bike as well; and keep me posted!
Brian Perich February 19 at 6:42am
(: Ba ding! (used in my ESL classrooms for great answer G). Awesome. My PC was formatted (losing the Himayala address you shared earlier...I knew it was Tubus, but forgot all other details). 

The Koga-Miyata World Traveller comes complete with Tubus, it's a cycling machine...unless stolen, then I would ride the Blackcat again. 

When you weigh the risks of theft considering the poverty cycling through some regions of the world, I would choose to ride a cheaper Blackcat/Giant Mountain bike that is modified ($70) for bicycle touring. 

Front suspension forks and expedition touring:  Replacements of those Suntours now serviced, I dismantled, drained 50cc of water from one, they had slime and fungus mold like yogurt inside them (loads of rain looking back, where did it seep in? Maybe the strange plastic/pvc grommets that actually screw down into the top of the fork crowns, holding down.....coil springs! I thought that was cool to find out. I cracked a bolt off the lower stabilizer/internal plastic fork tube lockout-which seats inside the huge upper coils. I accidentally snapped one off (6 months ago??) 

Suntour V2 XCM problems continued: tightening the torsion bolts on the bottom of the forks hoping for more stiffness/resistence, as I ride hard/almost locked-out most of the touring time (which is all the time) caused no major problems.

Regrease (I was provided a lump of bearing grease is ideal for steel-coiled forks, I asked for some at an auto repair center and in came in a plastic bag for free) worked wonder for servicing after 5000km+. 

I also discovered and removed water in one fork tube, an extra inner rubber slug removed from the other (talk about inbalance) and actually JB-welding a bolt (hacksawing off the old/snapped bit) and a rubber tube gasket at the end...will be test if it holds, I've ridden 1000km already if it doesn't, the nub of bolt barely held the nut and I crazy-glued it in place...a little wobble, but made it in/out of Gangwon and down to Busan if I recall correctly. (:

Okay, I'll look for a Tubus w/adapters. I know Topeak is available in Korea, but I wouldn't spend a dime on them, their line of products seem chintzy and suited for someone like Arden (hehe!)

Peace, thanks for informing me!

I'll check wiggle ...and perhaps, -a tip for you too!
Brian Perich February 19 at 6:46am Maybe I recall hearing of them, but this is a show my son (Matthew) watches, or we all watch from time to time. haha (:
Wiggles - music, videos, clothes, DVDs, shows, books, toys and more
Brian Perich February 19 at 6:49am
Found it, the Tubus Cosmos SS (stainless steel) rear carrier rack.
SPECS: Tubus Cosmos SS Rear Bicycle Bike Rack
The top-of-the-line rear carrier, Tubus Cosmo. Forged from ultra-durable stainless steel, the Cosmo features a generously sized elevated top space that can accommodate a large rack back.

Product Features

  • Material: stainless steel
  • Recommended Use: touring
  • Manufacturer Warranty: 30 years
Brian Perich February 19 at 7:26am
독일 자전거용품 가게

Gareth Zane Barker February 20 at 3:23pm Report
yes sorry wiggles is in the UK. Like I posted on my photo there is some flex in the bike when loaded in the rear I had never noticed. The bike isn't designed for lateral stress. But this might be a case where the nice rigid frame of the black cat would be a benefit. I think it is going to take some getting used to and I'm not super happy about it. On the way home when I was on a congested highway the wobble was a little frightening. There's not much I can do about it except try to put heavy things up front.

Those are the adapters I used to mount my rear rack. Eddie thinks I screwed up by not putting rubber under them. I just put them right on the titanium b/c it was a tight fit. If you go that route I'd suggest going a size up on the adaptor and adding a little cut up tube. I Also needed an adaptor that went through the axle.

I've never tried a trailer but I've heard good things about them. A trailer + suspension rack could take a bike just about anywhere. Although I was initially wary of the suspension rack; I am now super impressed with it. If you place the bags correctly there is no change to normal road handling and I think very little or no difference to offroad handling. But being a big guy I did come within like 1.5 cm of bottoming out my suspension at some point during our camping trip. I decided to partially close the lockout and it seemed to calm it down.

If you make a choice to do touring exclusively on suspension bikes I really suggest looking at it. It does what it's built for perfectly and has a 30 year warranty. You can take it road touring or down the great divide. Tubus Swing Suspension Rack: Mountain bike carrier for panniers. Weight 780 grams (28 oz), Load capacity 15kg (33lbs), Wheel size both 26" or 700c wheel sets.

Camping close to your mountain bike
Modified U-bolt front flat racks attached to FOX RL32 120mm forks 
Signing in new friends on an expedition, the Xjournal
Another view of the modified front racks and suspension forks
Baima Snow Mountains, Northern Yunnan, China
Cycling up to 4298 meters with teams riding to Lhasa, Tibet. 
Meeting friends, seeing lone cows on mountain roads of Sichuan
Tibetans live outside TAR in western Sichuan (Kham Prefecture)

Aksai Chin Mountains, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region
Lugu Hu Lake (2800-3000 meters) border of Sichuan and Yunnan, China
Finally, I started bicycle touring. No regrets. Live to Ride.


I decided to use a standard aluminum disc-brake compatible rear rack carrier, the Topeak Supertourist DX Disc. It fit perfectly with the Blackcat aluminum mountain bike (18" large frame). What is improved when comparing the lighter weight stainless Tubus racks, the connecting rods are steel on the Topeak Supertourist DX Disc racks, however, the Tubus Cosmos uses aluminum connecting rods (*snap easily on installation). 

So, I finally decided not to spend the extra money on the Tubus Swing rack for the front panniers (*why put extra weight over the suspension?). Instead, I installed conventional front flat aluminum racks and built a stabilizer U over the front wheel using a bent piece of re bar steel which is flexible/bendable and strong once in position (*costs considered:  $20.25 for front racks, $50.00 for rear rack carrier=$70.25 total). 

So, for less than $100 it's possible to use a conventional MTB (mountain bike) converted to expedition touring with a few pieces, much cheaper than buying it from the retailer touting touring bicycles!

HimalayasX2011 expedition of western China using the simple racks, quality Ortlieb panniers, 3200 km 1988 miles across the deserts of Xinjiang, the Aksai Chin mountains, the Himalayas. It was an expedition completed with 38 days of riding, this was the most enjoyable, challenging and adventurous MTB mountain bike tour so far. Looking ahead to the next expedition, to be launched in June 2012.

THANK YOU - AN DAE GI @ Gangneung Bike Mart, Korea

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About the Korean-World Author

Brian Perich was an English as a Foreign Language (EFL) lecturer for a decade, father, and adventure cyclist based in South Korea.

Previously, Brian has led Canoe adventures in Quetico Provincial Park, Atikokan, Ontario, Canada (1993/1999); led Grand American camping adventures (2000); lived at Paramahansa Yogananda's SRF Ashram for 5 months (see the film "AWAKE"), formerly worked in titanium welding at Agilent Technologies, formerly worked in Winery industry in Marin County with Kendall Jackson in California; Surfing and Meditation continued for several years in California, British Columbia, South Korea, Yoga training in California 1999-2000.

Between 1994-1998 - Brian completed his own adventures with motorcycles. His motorcycling marathons took him across the United States and central/western Canada, while traveling solo over an astounding 24,000km in 60 days! Brian endured 900 mile/1300km average days in the motorcycle saddle and apparently loved every minute of those adventures.

Today, he has given up motorcycle adventures altogether, but finds an outlet for his enthusiasm in outdoor recreation while bicycle touring and micro-blogging about those experiences on his mountain bikes.

While employed as an English teacher in South Korea, Brian has became an advocate for bicycle touring on his mountain bikes. The Korean-World blog originated from those small adventures in Korea, now expanded to cover his recent trek down the TransMongolian highway to the Gobi Desert, cycling 900km east through the Khentii grasslands and in 2012 crossing Mongolia in 45 days, 2500 kilometers 1553 miles. HimalayasX expedition Brian previously cycled across western China, the Taklamakan Desert, the northern Himalayas of East Turkestan Xinjiang/Uyghur Autonomous Region, the corrugated back roads and mountains of Kham Tibet. Brian successfully completed his 2011 mountain bike expedition with 3200 kilometers / 1988 miles unsupported, on/off road MTB adventure cycling.
Brian has completed his second mountain bike journey, MongoliaX expedition - Crossing Mongolia 2012, an unsupported mountain bike MTB expedition across 2500km of Outer Mongolia from Ulanbaatar to Altai Taven-Bogd National Park bordering China, Russia and Mongolia.

In 2013, as a sequel to a trilogy of cycle tours, Brian enjoyed a more leisure bicycle tour onboard his Koga-Miyata World Traveller seeing the northern tier of the United States and western Canada covering 3400 kilometers / 2000 miles in 30 days. This North American cycle tour was called Totherocktour. Enjoying the adventure of bicycle travel and every great conversation started while traveling on the road - has refueled his inspirations to cycle around the Earth. In 2013, while he cycled solo from the Great Lake State of Michigan, United States to Banff National Park in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. He weaved through local communities and reconnected with friends, family and community after spending almost a decade in Asia.

Brian is now supporting several non-profit foundations through expeditions: IDEAS Foundation of Canada IDEAS is the acronym for Intestinal Disease Education and Awareness Society which supports the IBD community, those suffering from IBD-inflammatory bowel disease, also known as Crohn's and Ulcerative Colitis.

The second non-profit foundation is ETE.ORG - Education Through Expeditions, UK which supports educational outreach programs inside schools around the world. ETE connects explorers with students in the classroom, through an interactive online program in development (Beta).

Brian is researching support for a 18000 kilometer bicycle expedition across the Americas: North, Central and South America - ONE -Arctic to Argentina
Please contact him if you are interested in helping out.

Twitter: Cycleagain
Location: Gangneung, Gangwon-do, South Korea or southern Ontario, Canada.

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Brian's friends have also been...Cycling in Korea!

Brian's friends have also been...Cycling in Korea!

Cycling in Korea, Warning: always wear a helmet! (I gave mine to my friend)

Cycling in Korea, Warning: always wear a helmet! (I gave mine to my friend)

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