I’ve got a few bikes. None of them were really suited to off road touring though. I’ve three road bikes and whilst I could take my tourer off road it isn’t geared low enough for off road climbing. This could be sorted though it isn’t much fun to ride off road especially on technical descents when loaded. And it’s a road bike so the brakes are crap.
My proper mountain bike is a steel framed Whyte 19 which I love riding on single track. It has air forks and hydraulic disc brakes and they have been very reliable though the thought of blowing a seal in the middle of nowhere would really spoil my fun and curtail my ride. And then there is the risk of rear mech damage due to Neanderthal baggage handlers and the even clumsier rider.
So, I thought I would convert my single-speed mountain bike (which has rigid forks and hydraulic brakes) into a reliable mountain bike tourer, by fitting an Alfine internal geared hub (IGH) and cable disc brakes. Whilst I was debating this with my wallet (where every pound is a prisoner) and doing ahem “extensive research” on t’internet, I found a new bike with this spec (and even more) and with a 45 % discount off the retail price. So, I now have a Genesis Fortitude Adventure which is purpose built for mountain bike touring. I’d always fancied an IGH – hey imagine – no chain suck or chain slap and no mechs to clean. It’s 29er too (so it uses road bike sized wheels) which I didn’t particularly want (for lack of interchangeability of MTB tubes and tyres). When they came out I used to call them Clown Bikes. Now I can see for myself now what all the 29er fuss is about.
There appears to be no information about other cyclists who have ridden the ECW. I’m sure some have though and so if you are reading this get in touch please. Now! Mountain biking is becoming quite popular in Turkey now and though there has been no tradition of sporting cycling it is on the increase. A few years ago, I checked into a hotel in Adana where I was spending the weekend between the projects I was working on. I got chatting to the receptionist and by 10 o’clock the next morning I was out riding a proper mountain bike with him and his bike shop mate (teşekkürler, İbo!).
So, whilst I am in touch with people who have walked and ridden the ECW on horseback I haven’t been able to discuss tyre choice with anyone. Many sections are off road but I don’t know how steep, loose and broken the surfaces are so I’m playing safe with a semi-slick tyre the Continental X-King 2.2 which came with the bike. It’s not a “dirt baldy” type and it’s actually fully knobbled though these are very low profile. I’m prepared to compromise a bit of road speed for a more enjoyable and safer off road experience.
Gearing. I’m finding climbing is getting harder and harder. I know just how steep some of the roads in Turkey are 25 % and 33 % gradients are common. So, I really wanted mountain bike gearing. One of the limitations of the Alfine 11 is the range of gear ratios. As standard, it comes with a rear sprocket that has 18 teeth. This means you have all the gears of a mountain bike triple chain set – apart from the bottom three – which I really want – no really need. So I changed this for a 23 tooth sprocket and now I have the low gears. Top speed is limited a little as I find I spin out at about 22 mph which is fine for this sort of trip. If I were to tour on the road with slick or touring tyres I would put the 18 tooth sprocket on. If you are interest in this aspect, I’ll send you my gear table spreadsheet. It’s also a cure for insomnia …