The miles and chips are adding up are beginning to add up on the Divide with adventure. With each journey, my riding style continues to evolve. Each foray over the horizon teaches me something new in the art of bike travel. At the end of each ride, I usually end up tweaking this or that. Adventure cycling is a never-ending journey of not only the land but of the self and one’s gear as well.
As of late, my bike travel has been about slowing down and getting into the experience of the ride and not so much the distance traveled. I’ve become much more focused on the quality of the ride and the places visited while paying less attention my average speed or distance covered.
Reducing the daily travel distance creates more “white space” for the serendipity of travel to occur. The shift in traveling style also generated a few component changes on the bike and kit as well.
Digitally, I’m dropping the Garmin Edge 800, which was a legacy device from a previous road bike. Eliminating screens to watch enables me to focus more on the “feel” of the ride. For example, if I “feel” like I’m in the right gear or I “feel” I’m making good time, then I am. Plus, it’s just one less device to charge at the end of the day.
I’m keeping the InReach Explorer and iPhone with GPS apps for navigational and communication purposes. I’m purposely keeping both screens while riding to avoid distractions and only check the map periodically to make sure I haven’t drifted too far off course.
Shorter Daily Rides
Unless the route absolutely requires riding farther, I’ve been keeping my daily mileage around 70-100 km to keep a fairly leisurely pace. Moreover, spinning easy allows for more time to enjoy the view, take pictures, and meet people along the way.
A more relaxed pace allows for more relaxed riding. A more relaxed riding at a slower pace has allowed me to employ flat pedals in lieu of clipless pedals, which has opened the door for more comfortable footwear on and off the bike.
Flat Pedals and FiveFingers
Loving my Vibram FiveFingers, I’ve dropped the clipless pedals and am going with flats. Earlier this spring, I fitted the Divide with a pair of Specialized Boom Slang platform pedals to see if they’d work out. After a short transition period, I’m able to wear my FiveFingers not only off the bike but pedaling throughout the day as well.
To get the most comfortable fit, I replaced the Boom Slang’s original pins with a set of shorter RaceFace pins that still give me plenty of grip without creating pressure points on the soles of my feet.
After doing a half a dozen short rides in the FiveFingers and on the flat pedals, the first big test was to be trekking the Great Divide. Short rides around Shanghai were promising. Though I was only on our Great Divide journey before having to return to Shanghai, riding on the flats with my Vibram’s worked out okay.
Dropping the clipless pedals was as much about mindset as it was about technical efficiency. For me, pedaling on flat pedals is less efficient and forces me to slow down a bit. And the slight reduction in speed tends to shift my mental focus from the physical and technical aspects of the ride to surroundings of where I’m traveling. Consequently, the change boils down to sacrificing a bit of efficiency for comfort and quality of the ride.
I still find myself wanting in the hills, but more thoroughly enjoy the ride overall. For now, the flats and finger shoes are staying, though my clipless pedals and SPD shoes are not far away.
Dynamo and Lights
I’ve added a Schmidt SON Disc dynamo to keep the iPhone, and if need be, the InReach Explorer charged up and running day to day.
An E-Werk dynamo powered supply unit coupled with a cache battery provides a constant flow of electricity to the iPhone or Explore GPS tracker. Whenever I have access to an electrical outlet, I charge up all the devices, camera batteries, and cache battery to keep the devices topped off.
In addition to the SON Disc dynamo, I added a Schmidt Edelux II headlamp and taillight to forgo using the Cygolite Centurion and battery. The Edelux’s lamp isn’t as bright as the Centurion but it’s enough and frees me up from having to carry another charger and battery.
Tire Popping Troubles
The new wheel with the SON Disc dynamo came with an updated version of the venerable Cliffhanger, which immediately proved to be troublesome. Every time I took the bike out for a ride, the front tire blew off the rim and popped the inner tube. I even popped two inner tubes installing the tire and tube on the new rim.
At first, I thought I was loosing my touch and was somehow pinching the inner tube during installation. But upon closer inspection, the Velocity rim was causing the blowouts. The lower profile sidewalls on the new style Cliffhanger rim wouldn’t properly seat the bead on the Schwalbe Mondial tire. As a result, the tire pressure would force the tire off of the rim and tear the inner tube at the valve, which was locked in the rim with a knurled nut.
29-inch tubes tend to be a scarce commodity in Shanghai, and the rest of China for that matter. 27.5-inch is the norm. Rarely, if ever do I run across another 29er. Most bike shops don’t carry them, and those that do only keep two or three in stock. The Divide’s six tire-popping episode depleted my tube stocks, requiring me to replenish my supply from via the homeland.
Seeing I was flying to San Francisco to begin our summer vacation in North America before starting our ride on the Great Divide, I spoke with Neil Flock, proprietor of the Cycle Monkey located across the bay in Richmond, to see if he could build me another wheel with the SON Disc Dynamo.
Neil and this team at Cycle Monkey were more than willing to oblige. He was well aware of newly designed Cliffhanger’s the bead seating issue and recommended I go with a set of burly Dutch made 36-hole Ryde Andra 35’s, similar to the Cliffhangers and specifically designed for heavy touring.
In addition to the new rims, Neil also serviced the Rohloff hub and installed a new set of axle bearings, which were beginning to chirp a bit after about 30,000 km on the road.
With about a 1000 km on the new wheels, the Andra 35’s are doing great. No issues or concerns so far. I’ll keep you posted as the kilometers add up.
Klamper Disc Brakes from Paul Component Engineering
On a lark, I decided to swap out the Divide’s TRP Spyke cable disc brakes for a set of Paul Component Engineering’s Klamper disc calipers and long pull Love Levers. In addition to the new brakes, I also added a new set of Jagwire cables and cable housings to boot. The end result is a clean look and decisive, quiet braking.
There was nothing wrong with the TRPs, which I highly recommend. I just like the sweet, clean look of the billet the aluminum calipers and brake levers. Plus, they’ll accept the same disc pads as the Spyke calipers so I don’t have to purchase any additional replacements.
The Klamper calipers use a single actuating piston while the Spyke uses dual pistons. Similar to the Spykes’ breaking power, the Klampers are strong and silent. Paul states that it takes about three rides to properly “bed” the brakes, which seems true. By my third time out, the brakes were clamping down on the discs like a pitbull on a poodle.
So far, there hasn’t been any squeaking or squawking, but I have yet to get them good and wet. I’ll do a follow-up after I’ve gotten a few more miles on them under some heavy breaking situations in wetter and dustier conditions.
A Funky New Saddle
I love the Brooks Cambium C17 save for one niggle: I hated getting it wet in the rain and would always put a cover on it when the wet stuff started to fall. After reading a few positive reviews of the Tioga Twin Tail Spyder, I decided to give it a shot. It looks little weird, even down right uncomfortable in fact, but rides very well.
After about 2000 km on it, I’m quite pleased with its performance. Coupled with a pair of chamois underwear under my riding shorts, I can ride all day in relative comfort and have incurred no saddle sores to speak of (knock on wood).
When it rains, I just wipe it off with my hand and away I go. No cover required. The unconventional looks of the saddle draw a lot of attention. To the uninitiated, it seems to resemble some sort of medieval torture device. After I explain that it’s actually a quite comfortable saddle, most appear unconvinced.
Chris King Bottom Bracket
After about 30,000 km on the Co-Motion Divide, I was beginning to notice a little lateral play in the stock FSA bottom bracket. So as a preventative measure before returning to Shanghai, I decide to spring for a new Chris King Threat Fit, which should go nicely with the Divide’s Chris King headset and ensure many miles of riding pleasure.
Against the Wind
To duck the wind a bit and to add an additional riding position to the Divide’s cockpit, I added a Jones Gnarwal mono bar a few months ago, which is working great. It’s pretty sweet being able to get down and quasi-aero when facing a vicious headwind, or stretch out and give your arms and shoulder a break when cruising along.
Truth be told, I would rather ride in the rain than against a stiff headwind. The Gnarwal provides a little relief by allowing me to get my body down into a more aero position when cycling against headwinds or to change up and rest a bit when I’m pedaling along.
Rounding out the upgrades to the Divide, I installed a Thomson stem and seat post, which is just mainly for looks. The FSA stem and Co-Motion seat post were fine, but I thought, “What the heck? When you’re booked on the Titanic, you might as well go first class.”
With added accouterments, the Divide continues to provide me with kilometer after kilometer pure riding enjoyment. If something doesn’t work out, I can always go back or change. Isn’t that what life’s all about?
Please let me know what you think. Comments are appreciated. Cheers, Johnny