Touring: Protecting & Loading Up

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While not necessarily about bringing it all with you, cycle touring involves carrying some of life’s essentials along and keeping them protected. Loading a touring bike can be an art all of its own, while the vagaries of weather means you need to take preventive measures.
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Setting up a bicycle for touring can be as easy or as complicated as you want to make it. There are purpose built touring bikes available, kitted out with every conceivable option a touring cyclist might need, including the kitchen sink. At the other end of the spectrum are riders who take whatever bike they have available, and go.

The basic premise of taking your everyday bike along, be it an audax, a foldy, an MTB, is that you will need some way of carrying the stuff you need to bring along for your trip, and a way to protect yourself from the effects of wet weather, notably the spray and road grime that is thrown up by the wheels.

Go for several shorter rides to build up mileage and stamina before attempting a multi day ride.


RACKING IT UP

The best way of carrying loads on a bike is with a rack. There are generic racks available in the market, usually meant for trips to the corner shop and back. Most will come with a parcel grid on top, with a spring clamp to hold small loads. These are usually not designed to carry a lot of weight, and may not stand up to the rigours of cycle touring. Purpose built touring racks are commonly made from steel, use thicker gauge steel and designed for heavy duty use. There are also racks made from titanium, which save a lot of weight, but hit the wallet hard.

A touring frame will come with eyelets ready to accept a rack, and installation is as easy as sizing a rack to suit and fitting it securely using the supplied bolts and nuts. For frames that omit the eyelets, solutions such as Thule’s Sport Rack are available, which attach to the fork or rear stays using straps.

Racks should hold panniers securely, and carry the weight of the panniers in a position that doesn’t affect the center of gravity or handling characteristics of the bike. For front panniers, the most suitable is a rack that carries the panniers down low, near the front hub. This minimises the effect of the weight of the panniers on the handling of your bike. Typically, most touring cyclists will use larger panniers in the rear, and smaller panniers in front, with the load distributed evenly between front and rear, and left and right.


KEEPING IT CLEAN

When touring, the one thing you will notice is that keeping the water and grime off you and your bike makes the ride that much more enjoyable, as well as minimising the amount of clean up you have to do after a trip.

The best way of doing so is with a pair of mud guards or wheel guards. In the old days, guards were made from metal, and were strong but heavy. Today, most guards are made from plastic or aluminium, with some being a composite of both materials. One example is the SKS Bluemels reflective mudguard made from Chromoplastic, a material proprietary to SKS and virtually indestructible in normal use. These guards mount to steel stays that attach to eyelets on the frame and fork.

Should your bike lack the wheel guard eyelets, an alternative would be a snap on guard such as the Velo 42 Urban or the Blade series of guards, both available from SKS. Designed to fit easily and be removed when not required, these guards are an attractive option for those who only need guards occasionally, or need to remove them when using the bike for other purposes, such as training or racing.


TASIK CHINI
Tasik Chini is the second largest freshwater lake in Malaysia, and is actually a series of 12 lakes that drain into the Pahang River. Listed as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Tasik Chini is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna. It is also the lake of legends. According to Orang Asal folklore, Naga Seri Gumum, Malaysia’s version of the Loch Ness monster, is believed to reside in the depths of the lake. A resort by the lake provides accommodation for those wanting to get away and connect with nature. Our trip was a 3 day ride that began in Pekan, Pahang, and overnighted at Tasik Chini on the first night. The second day was a transit to Maran that had us making a crossing over the Pahang River using a ferry.


The success of any cycle touring trip lies in proper planning and preparation. Choose your equipment and accessories carefully, and install them early. Go for several shorter rides to build up mileage and stamina before attempting a multi day ride. This will give you the chance to sort out any fitting issues or equipment problems near to home, and not on the road.

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