Camping Bikes For Backroads
new links 2007 / October 29
In the present era, most of those travellers will choose to travel by motorised transport ( in many cases, themselves degrading the very environment they are travelling to experience ), unconcerned that sources of supplies may be separated by sometimes long distances. While that is the case, it is not surprising that the relatively thin spread of facilities and infrastructure is organised on a scale suitable to the needs of the motor vehicle exclusively.
Yet people can, and do, travel long distances by bicycle in
So, what would be the best bike for independent, self sufficient
extended touring in Australian conditions ? Consideration of a bike suitable
The problem is that, in much of
So, most people who want to travel by bicycle in most parts of
However, for many cyclists’ purposes, this is not an ideal result,
and leads to the need both to retrofit certain features, and do without others
altogether. Indeed, the lack of a suitable bike specifically designed for most
of the conditions encountered in
Why not a Touring Bike ?
Classically, in the Northern hemisphere , a " touring" bike will
be made with relatively expensive, strong but light weight tubing .It will be
very stable in its handling and comfortable to ride for long periods,
with relaxed, shock absorbing geometry and a leather saddle. It's likely to
have narrow, low resistance tyres, narrow drop bars and a high top bar,
brazed-on rack mounts, preferably mountings for three bottles , double eyelets
front and rear, proper mudguards , and a dynamo lighting system. It will be
fast - over good roads, anyway - but uncomfortable or impossible over the rough
for extended periods. Such bikes are most practical on the well paved roads of
in Europe or
What the touring bike lacks is "rough road" capability, and perhaps the capacity easily to carry the extra amount of luggage - tent, sleeping bag, food, cooking equipment, and especially water - required for a fully self supported bicycle camping tour, away from hostels and restaurants.
In view of these problems, many Australian cyclists turn to the MTB for independent bicycle travel in our country. So......
The MTB evolved in the 1980's, essentially as a robust off road machine for
semi competitive day rides, in the reliably mild weather of
The MTB also has the high bottom bracket that enables a skilled rider to perform spectacular tricks, take corners fast and fly down rocky descents at great speed. That high bottom bracket also means it has very positive, twitchy steering , especially when combined with a short wheel base. These characteristics allow a fast rider (who has the required motivation and concentration ) to ride very quickly through terrain that would be impossible on a TB at the same speed. The current popularity of suspension is for the same purpose, really designed to cater for the very restricted ( and ecologically damaging ) activity of " downhilling". Even though most MTB buyers will never want to do these quite dangerous racing stunts and tricks, retail advertising heavily promotes them and bike shops use them as sales levers to "wannabe’s" who admire those tricks and wish to copy them.
Unfortunately, many other impressionable bike buyers, especially less energetic ones, are oversold by contemporary sales techniques, and surprisingly ignorant bicycle journalism in several countries. For such potential buyers, including the expeditioner, the MTB’s geometry and characteristics are a poor choice.
In terms of componentry too, the modern MTB has little to offer the independent cycle expeditioner, as gear and brake elements become increasingly "disposable", for the sake of quick replacement in racing events where saving time is more important than long term serviceability.
So, while the MTB is well suited to off road bicycle racing, (a limited , short term activity which is fixed in space and time), such a bike is less than ideal for the open-ended nature of extended bicycle touring .
While many recreational cyclists will say they are happy enough with one bike, usually an MTB or "hybrid", many of them will also refuse to ride off sealed roads. This reinforces the observation that it is not possible to have an all-purpose bike - some compromises are necessary in your cycling activity, unless you have several bikes, eg racing/ commuting/ touring/ MTB-ing. It depends how many compromises you are prepared to make. Do you really need the characteristics of ALL the different types of bikes ? Think about what you're going to do, and how often you're going to do it - many people will never want to race, so why have a semi-racing bike ? Other people would never go camping, so why have the capacity for the various extra items that are necessary for camping ?
If however you want a bike to carry you independently more or less anywhere across a range of surfaces, especially for long distances, over an extended period, you may need to consider a "camping" bike. Not least, such a bike makes choosing a route that much easier, as you can simply go where you want to go without worrying too much about surfaces, and also know you can carry supplies and equipment, independently of other support.
As long as you are not interested in winning races, it’s possible to come up with a much better concept than either the (light) tourer or the MTB as an ideal Australian bike. So the choice is not only between a " touring " bike and an MTB. It is - or would be - possible to combine the best elements of both. But , in the face of the concerted hyping of the international bicycle industry, there is little demand for a camping bike which is for the moment a niche market that is almost totally ignored.
What would a "camping bike" be like ?
Disadvantages of a camping bike
Some WWW resources
Braze on's - Joshua Putnam’s list - almost every one imaginable
The Surly Long Haul Trucker Road Frame – odd name for an interesting touring frame !
“…Chas Roberts produces
perhaps the best
Free Spirit Adventure Cycles - "Manufacturers of Fine Touring Bicycles" ( Australian)
Swiss Army bikes http://www.lickbike.com/i2787050.htm
"Thorn Nomad " - 26 " Expedition bike (
The Orbit Bicycle Co. (
Bruce Gordon, expedition bikes (
Koga Miyata http://www.koga.com/english/indexcol99.html
off road tourer by REI (
Sakkit Fully Integrated Touring Bicycles - 26" wheels
A comparison chart of various touring bikes based on criteria such as chainstay, tire size, shifters and price. http://www.bikindex.com/guru/bg-datatable.asp
Further research : take a look at "trekking bikes " on the www - I would appreciate anything you find there , I don't have time at the moment ! Thanks.