The custom-built, cherry red, comfy tourer

Mark with touring bikeBuilt for comfort: Mark got just what he wanted by building his own touring bike.

The only original part of Mark’s old touring bike was the front derailleur and that was looking weary.

After 22 years, it was time for a new bike, but nobody made exactly what he wanted. So he built his own.

Touring bikes are designed for comfort. They generally have a longer head tube so you can sit more upright and longer chainstays so your heels don’t bump the rear panniers.

The forks are more raked giving slower handling, but you don’t want twitchy steering with 25 kg of gear.

There’s room for three bidons, a decent sized pump, even spare spokes.

Obligingly, the bike shop ordered in the Surly frame and fork set. Then Mark got to work.

He hunted around for traditional randonneur touring handlebars. These curve up at the sides and flare out in the drops making for a very comfortable ride.

Bar end shifters are also traditional touring gear. They’re much less complex than STI shifters, so there’s less to go wrong when you’re a long way from anywhere.

He had to buy a lot more cable so he could run the brake and gear shifting cables under the handlebar tape. But this allowed him to fit a handle bar bag and it looks much cleaner.

The bike shop was following this with interest as all the parts dribbled in.

Next were the wheels. The small frame size was designed for 26” MTB wheels—too small for Mark’s liking since the old bike had 27” wheels.

Enter the 650B. It’s a common size in Europe, the US and parts of Asia, but not Australia. It’s bigger than a 26” wheel, smaller than a 27” and fits the new frame nicely.

He bought 36-hole rims from Brisbane, ordered some MTB hubs and had the now bemused bike shop build the wheels for him. But 650B tyres had them stumped. Eventually, after a lot of phone calls all over Australia Mark found himself a pair in St Kilda.

The running gear is a mix of Shimano racing, touring and MTB parts—with the crankset, rear derailleur, bottom bracket cartridge and one brake set off the old bike.

The old front and rear racks were also transferred to the new bike.

The final touch was to order in a set of sleek, full length, black mudguards. Aghast the bike shop said: no one would buy these if we stocked them! “But I don’t get a wet backside or shoes from tyre spray in the rain,” Mark says smugly.

It took about three months to source the parts and build the bike. Are you sure it was worth it, asked the bike shop?

He figures it probably did cost him more than buying a complete bike, but now he has exactly what he wants.

It’s still the same bike, just a different frame now.

Frame and fork: Surly Long Haul Trucker, cho-moly steel
Wheels: 36-spoke, 650B rims, Shimano MTB hubs and 42mm tyres
Gearing: Crankset – 52, 42, 30, Cassette – 9-speed, 11-34
Weight: 15.5 kg


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