I have just recovered from a bout of fever ( don’t know this? Read part 2 ) and still not feeling a 100% fit. However, the thing thats been haunting me is not the weakness but my lack of bicycle touring experience in India.
I may have over 7,000 kilometres of bicycle touring/bikepacking experience in Europe, but I have never toured in India. To compound this I’ve never toured on a fatbike. In Delhi, I use a single speed Decathlon MyBike for pottering around town and use a cheap MTB here in the Himalaya. But touring the Konkan Coast is nothing like riding in Delhi or the Himalaya.
It’s already August, 24th and I spend the next couple of days sorting out my bicycle and gear. Since this was my first bicycle tour in India, I decided to go with the “pack everything including the kitchen sink approach”. Some of my choices may seem a bit strange, but bear with me for now. I will revisit this gear list later to review what was important, things I missed and what I could have done without.
My objective was twofold – A lower than stock gearing for climbing the ghats with a loaded bike and more comfortable touch points. We (me and Varun from FittripBikes ) had a lot of discussion on what would be the best gearing for the #100BeachRide. Ultimately we settled for
- A wider ratio freewheel – replaced the default 11-28 7-speed Shimano freewheel with a 14-34 Shimano Megarange freewheel.
- A smaller chainring crank – replaced the default 34 tooth single chainring with a 32 tooth chainring.
This update gave me a low gear of 0.94 (32/34) and a high gear of 2.2 (32/14) vs. 1.2 (34/28) and 3.09 (34/11) on the stock bike. I would have preferred an even lower gear for those ghat climbs but a 10-50 SRAM Eagle drivetrain retails for over $1300. Suddenly this drivetrain setup made a lot more sense and economy.
The other changes had to do with more touring-friendly touch points. There are three touch points on any bicycle, i.e., the cockpit, pedals and saddle. These are points that a rider will touch and interact with while riding a bicycle (unless you’re a BMX freestyler). Since I will be on the bike for over a 1000 kilometres it was very important to get these touch points just right and customised to my riding style. Therefore I made the following changes
- Wider handlebar. Replaced the stock 680 mm bar with 720 mm bar. These wider handlebars offer more control, easier breathing and better positioning for balance. They make me more stable and slower to fatigue. Purchased from Decathlon online store (₹ 1000).
- Bar ends. Some people reckon bar ends take away the clean look of a bike. Yet to me they are a must-have for touring as they provide me 2 extra hand positions. Flat handlebars have only one default hand position which gets irksome for a long ride. If your hands get numb on a flat bar, I’d recommend getting bar ends and using them. Purchased at Giant Starkenn, Khar, Mumbai (₹ 1500)
- Rear-view Mirror. You can anticipate what the person in front of you is doing. On a tour its also important to be able to do that for people behind you. A rear-view mirror is the most important accessory for cycling in an Indian city (even more than a bell). Purchased at Decathlon Ghatkopar, Mumbai (₹ 400)
- Bell. Tells people you’re barreling down a blind ghat (mountain) turn. Purchased at Decathlon Ghatkopar, Mumbai (₹ 200)
- Handlebar bag. Ortlieb Classic 6 litres waterproof bag holds everything I hold dear and need to access often – phone, wallet, snack, etc. It can be locked to the handlebars and removed with a single click. Purchased in Rotterdam, Netherlands (60 Euros)
- Custom Rack. No off-the-shelf rack would fit the wide tyres on a fatbike. Therefore we had a custom-made metal rack for carrying panniers. The design for the rack was inspired by Tubus Cargo and it was custom created and welded by Varun from FittripBikes.
I went with the stock Grips, Stem and Saddle as they fit me quite well.
Once I’d dialled in these modifications, I bicycled for over 200 km in Mumbai. As with new trekking boots, this burn-in period is important to sort out any small niggles and dial in the settings. From experience I know any small niggle is magnified on a long tour. Over this 200 km I noticed that the fork bearings needed greasing and repacking and that the rim liners are no good at protecting the inner tube from spokes. Zubair from Bichanix (Bandra, Mumbai) was kind enough to help me with the fork and other small niggles while I replaced the default liners with Schwalbe rim liners. Finally, a day before the ride I had the bike completely serviced at Giant Starkenn Khar, Mumbai .
“Here’s a shoutout to Zubair from Bichanix and Lal Bahadur from Giant Starkenn. – you are the best bicycle aficionados and repair guys in Mumbai.”
My repair/spares kit
Once the bicycle was sorted, then came the audacious task of packing my personal, photo and bicycle gear in three bags. I am a big fan of Ortlieb bags. They may be expensive but they’re built to survive a nuclear holocaust and are truly waterproof. Something I’d find out soon on the #100BeachRide. So a day before my departure, here’s how my packing list looks –
- Multi-Tool Allen Key.
- Multi-Tool Chain Breaker and spanners.
- Tyre levers 3.
- Puncture Repair Kit.
- Miscellaneous nuts & bolts.
- Spare brake pads (2 pairs).
- Spare tubes 2.
- KMC Chain master links 2.
- KMC Spare chain 1.
- Zip Ties 5.
- Spokes 4.
- Duct Tape.
- Screwdriver set by Taparia.
- Adjustable Spanner by Taparia.
- Pressure Gauge by Coido.
- Wet Chain Lube by Joe’s Nano Lube.
- Derailleur hangars 2.
- Size 15 spanner.
And finally a Topeak MTB mini pump (not in picture).
Some items on this list merit an explanation
- A Pressure Gauge because a fatbike is extremely sensitive to tyre pressure (How sensitive? Read in my bike review ). Plus I was en-route to 100+ beaches and that would require deflating tyres to as low as 8PSI and then reinflating them again.
- Derailleur hangars because from my experience they are the first thing to break when you drop a loaded bike on the drivetrain.
- Duct Tape and Zip Ties can fix almost everything in an emergency.
- Most bicycles have a size 15 nut that holds the axle in place unless it is equipped with a Quick Release (QR) or Thru Axles. Therefore a specialised size 15 spanner and an adjustable spanner if all else fails.
Gear in Ortlieb Handlebar Bag
- Panasonic Micro 4/3 Camera with 2 lenses (20mm Panasonic and 45mm Olympus)
- Go Pro Hero 5
- Wallet with bank cards and ID
- Mobile Phone
- Spare Mobile Phone
- Baseball Cap
- Pocket Knife
Gear in Ortlieb Panniers
- Helmet Decathlon.
- Padded Cycling Shorts 2 Vaude.
- Mountain bike shorts 1 Vaude.
- Cycling Jersey 1 Gore Bicycle Wear.
- Cycling Gloves 1 Gore Bicycle Wear.
- Socks 2 Decathlon.
- Shoes 1 Salomon.
- Rain jacket 1 Decathlon.
- Full Sleeve T-shirts 2 Decathlon.
- Shorts 2 Decathlon.
- Half sleeve T-shirts 2 Adidas.
- Zip off trousers Decathlon.
- Headlamp 1 Black Diamond.
- Misc Chargers and cables.
- Power Bank 1 MI India.
- Mini Tripod 1 Sony.
- Clothes detergent sachets.
- Emergency Kit inditramp
- Homemade Granola 500g inditramp.
If you’re a regular reader then you know that I am a weight weenie. For those who are not regular readers, let’s just say I even cut off my toothbrush handle on treks to save weight. But this tour as with everything else so far is a departure from the norm. This is more of an expedition than an alpine assault. Here’s what my final weight tally looks like –
- Bicycle spares 1.2 kg
- Would you believe it but those 2 bicycle tubes weigh in a humungous 1362 grammes! That’s more weight than a pair of road bicycle tyres.
- Handlebar bag 705 grammes
- Handlebar bag gear 2.2 kg
- Rear panniers 1.9 Kg
- Rear Pannier gear 5.6 Kg
Almost 13 kilograms
This on a mule that already weighs 17.5 kilograms to start with. This will mess my already knackered knee (an interesting story) to no end. Before I get to the start of the trip I’d like to digress and share a few stories from my cycling experience in Mumbai. These stories are important to me as they give me an insight into what to expect on the #100BeachRide. So if you’re waiting for the ride to start bear with me for just another day.