I’ve had years of experience with bicycles and I couldn’t tell you how many I’ve owned over the years – BMXs, trials bikes, hard-tails, full suspension mountain bikes..you name it! But when the need for a touring bike that could take us across the world came up, I was a little lost. After scrolling the main blogs on how to chose your new companion we started having an idea on what sort of steel horse we might need.
With such a huge market, different models, budgets and features, it soon became clear that our dream touring bike would have to have some key characteristics:
1.Steel tubing, for durability and comfort.
2. 26″ wheels, easily repairable and replaceable all over the world (28″ and 700cc are not).
3. Dynamo hub, to recharge our tech.
4. Multiple bottle cage mounts, for carrying liquids and fuel.
Some extra features such as Tubus steel racks (leaders in the pannier rack market for durability and longevity), full mudguards, and solid groupset and brakes, were an added bonus. Also, we didn’t want to pay over £1000.
With this in mind, the hunt began!
The only brand that I had heard of before was Koga Miyata, which is what Mark Beaumont used on his round the world trip. Their Randonneur fit the bill almost to a T, but at the painful cost of £1700. Oxford Bike Works looked lovely, and if our budget had no limits then their bikes would be high up on the list, along with the Santos Travel Master series. More mainstream brands such as Surly, Dawes, and Ridgeback all popped up as well, but nothing stole our hearts away. Another brand that popped up was Thorn, but their eye-straining, head-ache-inducing brochure was a sign that those bikes weren’t for us.
AND THEN WE FOUND VSF FAHRRADMANUFAKTUR and their fantastic TX-400 model.
Produced by a German company (with only a couple of dealers in the UK), they simply had everything we wanted at a fantastic prize!
VSF FAHRRADMANUFAKTUR TX-400 SPEC
Frame: 25 Cromo 4, 2-times double butted
Fork: 25 Cromo 4
Rear derailleur: Shimano Deore XT RD-T8000
Derailleur: Shimano Deore FD-T610
Shift levers: Shimano Deore SL-M610
Crankset: Shimano Deore octalink FC-T521 48/36/26 tooth
Cassette: Shimano CS-HG62, 11-34 tooth
Chain: Shimano hg 54
Bottom bracket: Shimano octalink bb-es300
Handlebars: BBB BHB-30 trekking bars with o/s clamp
Stem: BBB BHS-28 adjustable stem 130mm
Grips: BBB BHG-27 foam (replaced with Ergon GP1)
Headset: Ritchey Comp Logic V2
Saddle: Selle Royal Scientia (replaced with a Brooks B17 Special)
Seat post: Thomson Elite inline 27.2
Brakes: Magura HS33 Hydraulic
Hubs: Shimano DH-3N72 dynamo (front); Shimano Deore FH-T610 (rear)
Rims: Exal MX19, aluminum hollow section rim, double eyed
Spokes: Niro 2mm
Tires: Schwalbe Marathon Mondial, 50-559, reflex
Mudguard: SKS fender with edge protection
Pannier Racks: Tubus Cargo including tension belt (rear); Tubus Tara lowrider (front)
Headlights: B&M Lumotec IQ2
Rear light: B&M Toplight Line Plus
Pedals: Shimano XT PD-T780
Kickstand: Pletscher Twin
Other: 3 bottle mounts
Weight: 16.1 kg
We found the cheapest online deal at Rudis Radladen, a small independent bike shop just outside of Heidelberg, Germany. A quick string of emails back and forth and before we knew it we had just bought our two new bikes for a total of £1900 (shouts here go out to Johannes, the trustworthy guy that runs the shop, for all his help pre and post-purchase).
With these bikes, ALL of our boxes were ticked (including some great extras that we didn’t even think about). The Marathon Mondial tires were perfect, and apparently the choice of world tourers. The lights by B&M are of very good quality, too. Whilst the hydraulic brakes were a bit of a concern, we were guaranteed their reliability for the entirety of our trip (they are still perfect after one year on the road). In the worst-case scenario, anyway, we know that the bikes’ frames and forks are compatible with v-brakes (should anything go seriously wrong).
WE SWAPPED SOME COMPONENTS…
We swapped some components, which include saddle and grips, with the aim of improving comfort for our hands, bums, and feet. The Brooks saddles were a no-brainer, supported by renowned Thomson Elite seat post for reliability and peace of mind. BBB Trekking bars and their adjustable stem replaced the flat bars the bikes came with, purely with our comfort in mind. I’ve heard about muscle fatigue from riding in the same position for extended periods, and this gives us so many positions options that we can adjust while on the road. I struggled to find a quality company that produced trekking bars and adjustable stems but came across Ritchey for the stem and BBB for the bars. The Ritchey was a complete waste of mine and I actually broke a bolt while installing it. The BBB replacement seemed much better straight out of the box. I had come across the BBB brand before, but it never seemed to be of high quality required. Time will tell with these bits of kit so look out for future reviews.
Ergon GP1 grips were the replacement for the set of GP3’s that came stock purely so they would fit on the trekking bars – again, this brand seems to be the grip of choice for the masses (I lashed out and bought a pair of the Brooks Edition, and matched the leather to my saddle. Drool…).
Pedals were something that we chose differently. My experience with cleats was very extensive and I feel uncomfortable and unnatural without them, while Alessia’s experience consisted of mainly falling over and complaining. Understandably, she stayed with the standard touring pedals that came with the bike (later in the journey changed for a pair of MKS). I opted for single-sided Shimano XT SPDs.
The kickstand that came with the bikes is great – the Hebie 611 is a solid piece of kit, that can hold up to 25kg leaning into it. They even supply the Royal Mail with their kickstands! So why change? They are not the lightest, though. Whilst Alessia decided to keep her kickstand, I bought a Click-Stand: nice and light, but not the best when you need to park your bike quickly.
The last upgrade was to get maximum use out of the Dynamo and have a USB socket for charging phones, tablets, cameras, and battery packs. I’ve looked at the Sinewave models, the B&M ones, some cheaper products, and everything in between, and after hours of research I still don’t think there is an outright favorite or market leader. I did make an investment of £45 for a Cycle2Charge USB kit just to start my hands-on knowledge and although it has gone a bit rusty after one year of exposure o the elements, it still is working phenomenally well.
Check the video review of our bikes here. Stay tuned and Happy Rolling!