Following my crash in late-March 2016, racing in the Carnival City Classic outside of Johannesburg, I’d vowed to shift my riding and training from racing and touring to mostly touring, eliminating the racing. The risks that come with high-speed pacelines and tight pelotons had been somewhat acceptable when I was younger and bounced better off of the pavement, but this latest shoulder separation and broken ribs had taken longer to heal and had ruined a perfectly good vacation in South Africa. I needed a good touring bike and some tours that would fill up the “adrenaline vacuum” that racing had provided.
Through the summer of 2016, I worked with John Tsang at Conrad’s Bike Shop in New York City and Neil Doshi at Seven Cycles in Watertown, outside of Boston, to build my dream touring bicycle. My idea was that it was time to transition from racing (on my Pinarello) to touring on a perfect bike for multiday, fully-contained or bikepacking (credit card touring) trips. The decision to choose Seven Cycles for my next bike was strongly influenced by their support to my friends Kate Harris and Mel Yule during their Cycling Silk expedition, in 2011 when Seven Cycles had built and donated touring bikes for their adventure cycling for ten months, over 10,000 kilometers through ten countries along the Silk Road. I was proud to have also supported this great adventure.
I wanted a sturdy bike that could handle the rigors of both hard-pack and gravel road, fully-contained touring and also being assembled and disassembled and packed in a case for the kind of international travel that I do year after year. I wanted a Titanium frame, certainly S&S couplers so that the bike could be broken down and packed in an airline-friendly no-fee suitcase and the geometry that would keep me safe and comfortable week after week on long tours.
In early October 2016 I picked up my Seven Cycles Expat SL from Conrad’s.
In preparation for the Denali trip, I purchased the following equipment to modify the bike for the rigors of riding self-contained through Alaska, particularly on the rough gravel and 9% grades on the 140 km Denali Highway from Paxson to Cantwell. Turning my setup from a normal touring bike into one that could handle big hills, fully loaded meant that I needed to get some mountain-bike gears and some wider tires.
1) Shimano XT M8000 11-speed cassette
This cassette would give me the 42 gear (11-42T: 11-13-15-17-19-21-24-28-32-37-42) but I would need to change the derailleur to be able to handle that big gear.
2) Shimano XT RD-M8000 Rear Derailleur
This would allow my Shimano Dura-Ace 9000 groupset to handle the new cassette, but there was one more item that I needed.
3) Wolf Tooth Tanpan
This allows Shimano equipped dropbar bikes to use mountain derailleurs.
4) Marathon Mondial HS 428 37-622 700 x 35 Evolution line tires
These tires are the absolute best tires and worked perfectly on the Denali Highway
5) Racks and Panniers
Working with Wayne Boroughs at The Touring Store I bought the following:
- Ortlieb Back-Roller Pro Plus (Pair) Granite-Black
- Tubus Logo Titan Titanium Rear Bicycle Rack
- Tubus Nova Stainless Steel Front Lowrider Rack
6) Frame bags
I chose Revelate frame bags. I added in four bags:
a) The large Sweetroll and pocket bag:
These bags between my handlebars,carried my “holy shit” gear (Showers Pass top and pants, shoe covers and cold weather gloves) and the pocket bag on top full of things that I would need during the day (lightweight windbreaker, USB battery for recharging phone and Garmin as necessary), Deet mosquito repellent, bear whistle.
b) A Tangle frame bag
This carried all of my tire repair gear, small tools, tubes, pump, Brave Soldier crash pack (in case of an accident) and my small bivouac sack in case the “holy shit”gear did not work and I was stuck in bad weather with no way to stay alive without some help.
c) Gas Tank
This is for those need to grab easily things like glasses, small battery pack for recharging a phone, sunscreen, ride cards (business cards for cyclists.)
Here is the bike nicely tucked in its soft case.
Here is my touring Seven Cycles Expat SL fully loaded on the morning of my self-contained ride from Seward to Mt. Denali National Park. Next chapter… a blog post of the eighteen days on the road in Alaska.