After endless deliberation, (near) sleepness nights and much field testing, (I think) I’ve figured out what machine I’ll be taking with me to Alaska and beyond. Being a keen mountain biker, I’m keen to unearth as much singletrack and fun, technical trails as I can. I also know that it’s not possible to squeeze everything out of one bike without too many compromises. I deliberated with taking a trailer. But as I’ll be carrying more heft than usual, I’ve gone for the classic burly frame/wheels and pannier route. Running a trailer means I can drop my kit and have a capable mountain bike to play with, and a setup that’s more suspension fork friendly too. However, I’m not too keen on how single wheel trailers cope with 28kg + of kit, plus food and water – they start to steer the bike. And at the end of the day, most of the time I’ll be touring, so that’s my priority.
I tested out Santos’ Rohloff-equipped Travel Master for Cycling Plus, and was really impressed with the way it’s put together, the impressive attention to detail and how well it handles heavy loads. Just as importantly, I was fitted to the bike by the folks at MSG bikes. The setup came out differently to what I was expecting but I have to say, it’s probably the most comfortable tourer I’ve ridden. I’d originally intended to take my trusty Thorn Raven, an extremely capable bike, or even my Catalyst frame with a trailer, both of which have worked really well in the past. I was even toying with the idea of riding my rigid On One Inbred 29er, whose big wheels gulp up corrugation, but grudgingly ruled that out due to tyre choice and spares once I hit Central America. Santos kindly offered to let me hang on to the bike for a while, and as it’s so comfortable, I’ve taken them up on the offer. There are a few things I particularly like about it: the massive tyres clearances (up to 2.4s or so), the wealth of bottle cage mounts (4), its well balanced handling, and the colour!
On the downside, the Travel Master is a heavy brute… but you can’t have everything. Seeing as I hope to head off the beaten track with all my kit, I’ve set the bike up to take some serious off road abuse. Tough, Rigida Andra 30 rims with a CSS coating are teamed with wide volume 2.25 Schwalbe Marathon Extremes for grip and comfort. The plan is to run these quite low when mountain biking unladen, to take the edge off the stiff frame and rigid fork. Although I prefer the way low riders handle, I’m fitting an Old Man Mountain rack to offer more ground clearance, as well as adding a little storage space and acting as a mudguard. There’s an outside chance I’ll run a suspension fork with the Travel Master, as the corrugation is said to be pretty severe in Alaska and on the Great Divide Route. I’m waiting for a set to arrive so I can do some (very) last minute testing.