Until this trip, I think the last time I rode a bike was about 20 years ago. I had a lot to learn, and much of the cycling equipment was bought specifically for this trip. I didn't consider myself a cyclist at the start of the trip and I still don't now. However, my friends Paul and George had given me a lot of good advice, and I felt prepared.
I encountered a number of problems during this trip. These were: Broken spokes, wrist strain at the end and after the trip, malfunctioning of the cycle computer, fracturing of welds on the luggage racks, damaged rear derailleur(s) and flexing of the bike frame.
I had a total of 6 broken spokes during the trip and these were all on the back wheel, on the same side as the cassette. This is the most awkward place to replace a spoke, but they break here because these are the spokes under the greatest strain (the back wheel of a standard bike is not symetrical). The failures were almost certainly from carrying too much weight for the standard wheel fitted to the bike. If I had carried less weight or had had a stronger wheel then I would not have had this problem. For part 2 of the journey I had a much stronger wheel made with spokes that are thicker at the hub end where they usually break.
Similarly with the flexing of the frame, with hindsight I should have bought a more expensive and stronger bike - the Dawes Galaxy is a well known touring bike for example, but would have cost twice as much as the Kalahari. Moral: You get what you pay for and you learn from experience.
The fracturing of the luggage racks was again an issue with strength of equipment. The fracture on the front low rider rack was on one side only, and clean through the solid aluminium support bar secured near the front axle. The rack I bought in Wales was of a stronger design but raised the the centre of gravity of the panniers to the bike. This may have helped cause the wrist strain. This rack fractured too during the journey, in a similar position near the fixing at the front axle, but on a weld line where its two vertical bars met. Similar fractures occurred on the hollow steel rear rack on both sides, so I held all of these together with cable ties for the rest of the journey.
At the end of Part 2 of the journey in 2002, I called in to a local metal fabrication company and had all of these seams re-welded. The aluminium rack cost me £10 and the steel rack £5. Finding somewhere to weld aluminium had not been easy and in the future I would like to have custom made solid steel racks constructed for both front and rear of the bike. On part 2 of the trip I met a couple of Dutch lads in Carlisle with this type of equipment. They had travelled in many countries and wouldn't fit anything else to their bikes. They were interested in strength and being able to get them repaired almost anywhere.
Towards the end of the trip and for a few weeks after, I suffered some significant wrist strain. I think this was caused by the effort needed to turn the handlebars, because of the weight of luggage I was carrying and perhaps the distribution of this weight on the bike. I also have a physically tall and thin build, so I do not have robustly built wrists either. Perhaps I could have reduced the weight in the front panniers and also move the weight lower to reduce its centre of gravity. Because I replaced the fractured low rider rack with a higher loading one, the centre of gravity of the weight had been raised.
I decided to buy a gas conversion kit for my Trangia as I passed through Bangor. This was a huge improvement over the standard bowl of methylated spirits that came with it, although a little expensive. I found that the unit I have sometimes stops providing freely flowing gas especially when left connected up overnight. The cartridge has to been tightened up, sometimes beyond what I would call hand tight, for the gas to flow again and this worries me. I am still not sure if this is how the unit is supposed to work or if it is a design or manufacturing fault.
The wireless cycle computer which I bought second hand malfunctioned many times, and did not read the correct speed or distance during the journey. This I think was due to the large distance from handlebar unit to the wheel sensor as I have my handlebars raised very high. In the future I will fit a wired model.
From day 2 of the journey I encounter problems with the rear derailleur. This was caused initially by a little carelessness on my behalf when I entangled a small tree branch in the rear wheel. This happened during an epic ascent on foot whilst following an offroad section of the Sustrans route! These would become familiar as the journey unfolded. However I then damage the new derailleur that I buy in Taunton later on in Caernafon, when a broken spoke gets entangled in the wheel. I began to wonder if I am cursed or whether this megarange derailleur design is perhaps faulty in some way or just not strong enough. In End to End Part 2 I suffer more problems with megarange rear derailleurs when using a Bob trailer, and I eventually change to a different design after the trip is finished.
I buy a new pair of tyres in Southport - Nimbus EX
I surprisingly suffer no punctures during the journey north to Carlisle, and only when stopping off in Lancaster on the way back home get a flat when popping down to the pub in the evening!
I started the journey with many more things than the following list shows, and I am not going to tell you about these items that I clearly didn't need. These all got sent back in padded envelopes at various stages during the journey.
My North Face Roadrunner 2 tent, Ortleib panniers, Thermarest mattress and Vango sleeping bag please me greatly and I have had no problems with them at all. They have made life on the road quite comfortable.