Friday, May 09, 2008

DAY 198: Day off in Cloncurry

Road trains in central Cloncurry.

Fri 9th May 2008
Sunny intervals, up to 27 deg C
Elevation of destination 205 m
Distance to date 11828 km (7392 miles)

A nice relaxed start to the day off, after a warmer night than the freezing cold night before - due today to cloud cover. The locals must have been praying they would be rain clouds but no, they dissipated during late morning.
I spent the morning cleaning the bulldust off the bike, swopping tyres back for front, and shortening the chain. The latter had gone very slack with wear, so much so that the eccentric bottom bracket adjustment was not enough to tighten the chain up enough, so I took a link out and it’s now normal tension again, but probably not for long. I phoned Vincent at St.Kilda Cycles this morning and the bits I ordered still haven’t come in from their supplier, so I won’t get then sooner than early next week now. I will probably be in Mount Isa, where I asked for them to be delivered, by Sunday or Monday, so I’ll see whether they turn up in time before I want / need to leave there - I may be able to get them forwarded on somewhere else e.g. Katherine if I decide to move on without them.
This morning I also got around to listing all the components and accessories on the bike for the website, with comments on how the stuff’s performing - I’ve been meaning to do this for a while. I hope it might act as good advice for others planning a trip like this.
I had a delicious pastie and Chelsea Bun for lunch at the very good bakery here in Cloncurry, before going to the library opposite to upload. I also sent quite a few e-mails that had been waiting to be done, so this has been a good chance to catch up with correspondance. I also had a nice chat with Jen and Gareth in Brisbane last night, whom I haven’t called recently. I tried to explain to them what was going on with Lyn and I as best I could, but I don’t think either Lyn or I are sure really! I’m enjoying this trip immensely, but also looking forward to being back close to her again, and I dearly hope it all works out for us. Que sera sera though....
I spent the remainder of the afternoon by the pool, cooling off and reading the paper etc.
I bought fresh bread, chicken slices and tomatoes for a cold dinner, which w as what I fancied - the fresh bread especially is something I haven’t had so much of lately - washed down with a coupla bottles of Bundeburg rum and lime and ginger. I’m spending more time on the grass outside lately rather than cooped in the tent away from the mozzies a bit of repellant works wonders and they leave me alone.
Tomorrow I’m heading for Mount Isa 128km away - I will probably take 2 days, bush camping tomorrow night hopefully. I also have 2 offers for me to stay with folk in Darwin in 2 or 3 weeks, which I am really looking forward to.

Bicycle stuff - report on bike and accessories May 08

This is an update of how the bike (Thorn Raven Tour with Rohloff hub gearbox) and bike gear is holding up under nearly 200 days and 11,000 km touring Oz so far..........(pics in order of text)

(1) Frame and forks
Heavy, but presumably strong - it certainly survived 2 crashes at speed unscathed.

(2) Saddle
Rolls San Marco - I’ve used these on all my bikes for years and am reasonably happy with them. I have had bad saddle sores here in Oz but that was probably caused by a boil. I can’t really say if another saddle would have been better!

(3) Carbon handlebars
Thorn Comfort Carbon Bars - they have proved very comfortable. Although there’s a slight risk in catastrophic breakage with carbon items - I have tried not to damage or scratch them. I seldom get pins and needles or numbness with these.

(4) Topeak Bar Bag - I chose this small one so that the carbon bar ends could fit either side OK without fouling the brakes, and it has proved quite adequate for camera, pen, notebook, money, compass, reading glasses and other little essentials. The inner pocket is useful for keeping the waterproof cover, fly net, and the strap that converts the bar bag to a bum bag. It came with a short extension bar which I can attatch my Garmin Edge 305 GPS computer onto. It seems to be standing up OK to heavy use.

(5) Carbon bar ends
Thorn’s own make - very expensive at £50 / pair but wonderful to use, almost sensual, and very comfortable. I’ve fiddled with them a lot but now got a good position allowing me to get down when going into the wind, or simply to change to a different position at times. Getting into this lower position also takes the weight off my bottom and puts it onto my arms, which relieves the back end a little. My saddle sores seem to be less troublesome in headwinds!

(6) Handlebar mirror
This is my second after the first $35 one fell apart after 3 months - the present one is from K-Mart and cost only $8 (£3.50). I deem it essential for reading the road, especially getting out of the way of roadtrains coming from behind. I take responsibilty for myself rather than expect others to avoid me.

(7) Brakes
Shimano V-Brakes - not sure of model but standard on Thorn Raven Tour. Performed OK; had to replace rear cable (inner and outer) after 10,000 km. I have trouble setting the blocks in the right position, but that’s just my lack of skill I expect.

(8) Bike computer (wireless)
A £5 one from Lidl’s in the UK - works very well.

(9) Handlebar grips
Ergon - I’m not so keen on these - I don’t understand the shape; how are they ergonomic? They are just about fallen apart now too so I’ll have to replace soon thankfully.

(10) Rohloff Hub Gears and transmission
After an early oil leak caused by mismanagement on the plane coming over (a leak that Rohloff said didn’t matter!) no problems at all. Cables disconnect easily for removing rear wheel; gearchange usually quite positive although occasionally slips out of gear; ratios excellent for very steep hills carrying lots of weight (I have 36-16). I’ve only had to walk up 1 or 2 hills on the Bloomfield Track up to Cooktown, and these were 25%-ers! The chain was badly stretched after 6,000km and I replaced it and the ring and sprocket in Melbourne with Rohloff originals. The transmission is just about worn out again now as I write after nearly 12,000km. I’ve had to buy the special tool to remove the rear sprocket this time because I’m nowhere near a Rohloff dealer - I am hoping to borrow a chain whip from someone to complete the work myself. I’m having the parts posted out to me Poste Restante. I also carry the Rohloff manual in case of repairs I’m not familiar with.
I have a very slight issue with the Rohloff gearchange - a twistgrip on the handlebars - it’s a little stiff even when the cables are adjusted properly, especially when my hands are sweaty - they tend to slip off or I can’t get a good grip on the shifter. It could be more angular or have something to give more grip.

(11) Lights
I have a SON Front Hub dynamo which seems very relable and has low rolling resistance. The Lumitec front light has an automatic position and it comes on if it goes dark for any reason. I don’t use it much really as I nearly always cycle in daylight.
Rear light is a cheap LED which takes 2 x AAA rechargeable batteries. I have a 2-battery AA/AAA 15 minute charger and can usually find somewhere to plug it in for a short time.

(12) Wheels and tyres
Mavic EX 721’s that came as standard are still true after 11,000km including some very bumpy off-road tracks, so I assume they’re very well built up. No broken spokes. They still look good too.

Tyres - I got nearly 10,000km out of a pair of Schwalbe Marathon Supreme’s at the start of the tour and they rolled really well - they are on the slick - roadie side. I’m doing rougher roads now so resorted to more grippy Schwalbe Hurricane Raceguards and they seem bomb-proof. I’ve had 3 punctures in 12,000km in Oz, all on the Supremes.
Tubes - K-Mart do a very cheap heavyweight (thorn-resistant) tube for around $7 (£3) - great value.

(13) Mudguards
I bought the bike with wide guards to clear the 2" wheels, and I decided to leave them on for the Oz trip. There have been quite a few rainy days so I guess they’ve kept me a bit drier, but out here in Oz it’s so warm you don’t feel cold when wet anyhow, so I don’t think they’re of great value. Maybe I should bin them?

(14) Panniers and Racks
Ortlieb Back Roller Plus back and front - plenty of room for everything, and they are VERY well made and completely waterproof - I pushed the bike through rivers 600mm (2 ft) deep without leakage in. The roller mechanism means you can fit extra stuff (masses) in like when shopping or in an emergency, even though you temporarily can’t close it to watertight standard. These bags have really been knocked about but they have survived utterly intact - a great investment.
I bought a pair of Ortlieb’s little 7 litre bags that screw onto the rear panniers, and these are for tools and spares respectively. To strengthen the plastic attatchment bracket I also added a zip tie to the top bracket for extra strength. Despite quite a lot of weight in these bags they have given no problems. Ortlieb make great products!
The racks are Thorn’s own make - as I understand it hand welded and very strong indeed (certified to 15kg - 25kg each - front/back). No problems at all - they exude confidence. I go round and check all the bolts are still tight occasionally but none have ever come loose yet.

(15) Pedals
I bought the Shimano ones which have the SPD fitting on one side and flat on the other. I now don’t often seem to use the SPD cleats so it’s a bit of a fiddle at times to find the flat side - the SPD side always seems to be on top. I got these pedals because I bought the Shimano SPD sandals which are the only shoes I have. The sandals are looking a bit sad - the black outer leather is peeling off and they look a mess, however they are still intact structurally. I would probably buy better shoes and plain pedals next time (and might still have to do that here if the shoes fall apart).

(16) Water / fuel bottles
The 1.5 litre PET carrier is great, and with the conventional 700ml bottle I have enough water for a good distance without having to unstrap the water bags from the rear rack. The 700ml bottle has a wooly sock around it which when wetted cools down the drink inside - infinitely better than drinking warm water!
I have a Topeak adjustable bottle carrier on the seat tube which holds an MSR 1 litre fuel bottle, which I top up with petrol every 2 or 3 weeks or so (not shown).

(17) Lock
I’ve got a plastic-covered half-inck steel chain some 18" long, with sturdy padlock. A good deterrent unless a determined thief has bolt croppers.