In about 10 days I will embark on my my Cycling East adventure and for this epic cycle ride I am lucky enough to be taking not just a good bike but quite possibly the ultimate touring bike currently available.
This is a trip that has no defined end point but I will cover an incomprehensible distance, riding both on and off road through some truly epic places. I need a bike that is light enough that it can travel these distances fast in comfort, a bike that is strong and robust enough to be ridden loaded day in, day out. Oh, also if it looks fantastic that would be nice too! I am pretty certain that the bike I will be taking is not just good but fits these criteria making it the ultimate long distance adventure touring setup. Adventures like this are often once in a lifetime, so budgets should be stretched and all options must be considered to find the best of the best.
So how did I conclude what is the ultimate adventure touring bike?
The first and quite fundamental point is wheel size. It’s a simple debate: 26inch or standard mountain bike wheels are a non-starter. From past experience I know that 700c or road bike wheels are smoother and faster on long distance tours, there is a noticeable reduction in the effort required to cruise at a steady speed with larger 700c wheels. With modern wheels strength is no longer an issue, 700c or 29er wheels are plenty strong enough (29er and 700c are the same size but 29er are often disc only for MTB’ing). I agree it can be hard to pick up spare tubes for 700c in remote places but it’s hard to get any spares at all in many areas, so why add the extra hindrance of smaller less efficient wheels! So the Ultimate Touring bike has to have 700c wheels.
I then considered what’s the best frame material:
For this cycle tour the non enthusiast cyclist would probably dive straight in for a ‘traditional’ trusty touring bike: the well known and off the shelf Dawes Galaxy, Ridgeback Expedition or the Kona Sutra. However I personally want something faster, lighter and just more fun. ‘Off the shelf’ steel touring bikes are the equivalent of a Ford Focus, pretty comfortable, quite slow, normally reliable but pretty boring to ride. A lightweight custom built steel bike would make a great option, but for me steel is not the ‘Ultimate’ solution.
Carbon bikes can be a great choice for fast, light and therefore shorter cycle tours. I strongly considered a carbon bike, and after much research it seems there would be some interesting carbon options. It would require a well considered lightweight approach to kit. However the terminal factor against one, was that I will be forced to travel by bus e.g. when entering Tibet and while carbon bikes are very strong when ridden normally, they struggle with impact and stress from a lateral angle. I wouldn’t be happy letting a carbon bike bounce about on the roof up through the Himalayas.
So this leaves aluminium or titanium. Going on all these adventures over the years is not particularly profitable so I looked for the best value aluminium Cyclo Cross bikes. A friend, Addy Pope, has used his Kinesis PRO6 over the last few years and thoroughly recommended it to me. He has written a great review on it here: Addy’s Review
I therefore discussed my trip and this bike with Dom at Kinesis and we both thought the PRO6 would be a fantastic bike for #cyclingeast. It’s strong, Light and very fast. It has rack mounts and is disc ready, so all round pretty ideal, but this is not the ‘ultimate’ adventure touring bike.
The ultimate touring bike has to be made from Titanium. A material stronger than steel, yet lighter and rides even more comfortably. Titanium comes with a cost, but sadly so does most stuff that’s awesome. Like an Aston Martin they aren’t cheap but they are both likely to last a lifetime.
So after talking to Dom at kinesis, Rory in charge of marketing pointed out I should really be riding Kinesis’s latest bike – the Titanium framed – Tripster ATR. Kinesis say the ATR stands for Adventure, Touring and Race and I don’t think any other name or bike could be better suited to my #cyclingeast adventure.
What makes the Tripster ATR the Ultimate Bike for Cycling East?
On top of being titanium it has a number of features that combine to make it, on paper at least, perfect.
The Tripster ATR uses 700c road or 29er MTB wheels which are simply the best options. People often start touring on 26inch wheels but once they try bigger wheels they very rarely look back and I think that says it all.
The Tripster frame is disc only because disc brakes are the best option. The stopping power, reliability and longevity of discs make other system pale in comparison. Any mountain biker will tell you the benefits of discs over rim brakes, it’s no longer a debate. It’s not only power though as discs are more reliable and also stop rim wear which can take its toll on longer journeys. The Tripster has an elegantly machined and pretty unique dog bone disc mount that will house my cable TRP carbon Spyre brakes.
The Tripster frame geometry is spot on. A longer head tube provides a more upright position, taking the strain off your arms and back for all those hours in the saddle. This relaxed position is combined with a slack fork that is at a similar angle to a racing XC mountain bike rather than a road machine. This I hope will inspire confidence descending those heart in mouth remote mountain descents.
The frame is paired with a carbon fork which I think is the strongest option and also helps absorb vibrations, which can otherwise fatigue your wrists following a few consecutive days riding.
It will be built with a Shimano 105 groupset, combined with TRP Spyre disc brakes and Kinesis Crosslight CX disc wheels. I can see the attraction of Rolhoff hub gears but I know and trust derailleurs and I will stick with them for this tour. I will explain the build in more detail after the bike arrives.
Finally as you might expect from the Ultimate Touring Bike, it looks stunning; understated enough that thieves won’t follow you, but classy enough that cycling fans will stop to stare!
On paper this bike set up appears perfect and the innovative geometry certainly seems to make a lot of sense. I will be sharing more of my thoughts when the bike arrives and sharing my experiences constantly over my epic ride that will test the bike to the limits.
It’s not just me excited by this bike, check out this review: http://road.cc/content/news/112970-just-kinesis-tripster-atr
Note: all pictures borrowed from http://www.kinesisbikes.co.uk/