There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that my ride from New York to San Francisco will be done on my trusty Specialised Tricross. I originally bought this bike from Certini’s in Saltash back in 2006 before I first cycled LEJOG and since then it’s carried me on 2500 miles and £10,000 of charity fundraising (plus a few miles of training rides). So in August 2018 I took my bike back down across the Tamar where I met Rob from Certini’s who talked me through what I need to do on my bike. It needs a full service now as well as quite a lot of work to make it fit for purpose… Here’s the diagnosis.
The frame on my bike is fantastic – lightweight but very strong. At the moment there is only one problem – one of the pannier rack mounts has stripped its thread. This isn’t impossible to fix but if it’s done wrong then I won’t be able to carry any weight on the pannier rack… which would make the frame useless for my ride. Asides from that I need to get the headset and the bottom bracket serviced and possibly replaced (but we won’t know until the service is done).
Drivetrain (e.g. pedals, gears, and chain)
The official term for my gears and chain is knackered. I need a new rear cassette and a new chain as they’ve suffered some pretty heavy riding since they were put on by the lovely people at Alf Jones cycles during my last bike ride. I am tempted to see if I can put a lower low gear on my rear cassette as I’ve only got two gears at the front. This means my lowest gear isn’t that low and that cycling up hills when I’m carrying a lot of weight can be quite hard work. However, this would require a new derailleur arm that has a longer reach.
My current wheels were custom built on Mavic Open Pro rims before my first LEJOG ride to save weight and increase strength. One of the biggest things that can go wrong on the bike for long distance cyclists carrying panniers is split wheel rims which can be a real issue if you’re not right outside a bike shop. These are excellent wheels and don’t need replacing. However, I do plan to rebuild the front wheel around a dynamo hub which will generate power to charge devices whilst I’m on the move. This will mean I have two different lengths of spokes for the front and rear wheel so I’ll need to carry spares of both.
One of the things that I love about my bike is that it has two sets of brakes – one on the drop bars, and one at the top where they would be on a mountain bike. The handlebars aren’t only what I hold on to but where I hold everything I’ll need on the road – bells, route information, etc. I already know that I’ll need a new bike computer – mine is over a decade old and only tells me my speed. In the past I’ve navigated with paper maps but this just won’t be possible for America. I’ll also want a second mount to hold the phone in case I want to record vlogs, make phone calls etc. I also desperately need new bar tape as mine is now 50% gaffa tape but there’s no point doing this until I get a full service on the bike as I will need to refresh my cables as this requires taking the bar tape off.
As I go across America I’m planning to get the bike booked in for a service about every thousand miles to make sure everything is running OK. But if something’s going to happen it’ll happen when I’m in the middle of nowhere right between services. So Rob recommended I carry: inner tube x 2, tyre, cables, spokes, brake pads, chain link, and a derailleur hanger (which is specific to the bike and would be hard to find on the road). I’m not convinced about the spare tyre – these should last 3000 miles and seeing as I’m already planning to stop I’ll probably aim to replace them early. It’s the same thing for the cables – I’ll plan to replace these before they could wear out – but everything else sounds sensible. I also need to purchase a new multitool – mine doesn’t have a spoke key and I’d rather has one that has everything than have multiple tools. Ooh! I also need to take a paper clip – if I do need to put a new link in the chain I can use this to hold the two ends together.
One of the first thing Rob said to me was to get rid of my helmet. Much as it’s nice and shiny and I’ve not landed on it with my head yet (touch wood) it’s an old model – at least 5 years and probably many more. The jury appears to be out on this but there are many people who reckon an old helmet could just split if you land on it. Now, obviously, I don’t plan to land on my head but if I do I’d quite like to not have the helmet split instantly. So, I’ve now got a new helmet. In the near future I probably need new bib shorts, and at some point I’d love to have a custom T-shirt that tells people what I’m doing to raise awareness of the ride (and something that is very visible so people don’t hit me!)
So – lots of work still to do but nothing impossible. If you’ve done any cycling I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions below 🙂