Manali-Leh Highway


Map of Ladakh

Map of Northern India











Bolivia 2

UK Rides

French Alps

Ultralight Touring

Photography on Bike Tours

Timetrial Bike

Fixed Gear Cycling

Wheels for Touring



Weight Training

First Ironman



The Bike

British Eagle Touristique

Frame-British Eagle "Touristique", 1991. Reynolds 531 ST throughout, lugged and brazed. This is a great frame. I've put over 30,000 miles on it in all weathers, loaded and unloaded, on four continents and I'm still very happy with it. Unfortunately British Eagle only exist in name now, having been sold to Falcon or somebody, and the only bikes they make are a couple of cheap junk "mountain bikes"...that's capitalism for you. ):

Front Wheel-40-hole Miche "Superfast" hub, laced with DT stainless steel swaged ("double butted") spokes to 700C Mavic 261 rim. Even though the bike is set up for loaded touring, a 40-spoke wheel on the front is probably overkill. But the hub was new for a couple of quid at a swapmeet, and I couldn't pass it up!

Rear Wheel-48-hole Suzue sealed tandem hub laced with DT stainless steel swaged spokes to 700C Mavic T217 rim. A no-pissing-about expedition wheel: tough rim, as many spokes as you can get, and 7-speed/130mm spacing to keep dish low. I'm going to rebuild the wheel into a tandem 48-hole freehub eventually though, to avoid breaking another rear axle. Should also be cheaper to run with conventional cup-and-cone bearings than cartridge bearings.

Tyres-Avocet Cross 35 mm kevlar, with Raleigh heavy duty tubes. These tyres seem to be very good, so far. The nicest thing about them is they are the widest tyres (important for riding on crap/non-existent roads, especially when loaded) I have found that still run at high pressures: they are rated at 80-90 psi, and are good for higher still.

Chainset-Shimano Exage 500LX non-compact triple, 170mm cranks, chainrings 24, 44 and 50 teeth. I spend most of my time in the middle ring, where the 13-32 block means I hardly ever have to shift to one of the other chainrings day-to-day. I only ever use the 24 on special occasions, and so got one as small as possible. The 50/13 is as high as I ever need on my touring/commuting/going to the pub bike!

Freewheel-Custom Sachs 7 speed, sprockets with 13, 14, 16, 18, 21, 26 and 32 teeth. It's easy to take apart Shimano cassettes, so when I get round to changing the back wheel for a freehub, I'll be able to keep these ratios by building up my own cassette. They are better than those on an off-the-shelf block as they give more even steps all the way through the gears (about 10"/shift).

Front Mech-Shimano Exage 500LX. Came with the bike. Works fine, never needs adjustment.

Rear Mech-Shimano Deore.

Gear Shifters-Shimano Ultegra bar-end shifters, set on friction. Nice, much more ergonomic than the downtube shifters the bike came with. I run them on friction as I can't be arsed keeping the indexing up to snuff, and whadya know, life is still worth living...

Chain-Whatever's cheap at the time, typically Sachs.

Handlebars and Stem-Modolo Anatomic, 42cm c-c covered with Cinelli cork tape. Terry high-rise stem. Altura "Orkney" handlebar bag.

Brakes-Shimano Exage 500LX road aero levers driving Shimano Exage cantilevers. Never liked these cantilevers, they're swines to adjust and take non-standard blocks (more like threaded road caliper blocks than normal cantilever blocks) but they refuse to wear out so I can't justify changing them.

Pedals-MKS GR9 platform touring pedals with Mt Christophe mountain toeclips and nylon toestraps. These are very comfortable. I don't reckon clipless pedals for touring as there are no waterproof shoes for them, which are essential in the UK. I also like to be able to ride this bike with anything from sandals to going-to-the-opera shoes, and to be able to walk more than 100 metres once off the bike.

Saddle-Brooks "Conquest", leather with steel springs.

Rear Rack and Panniers-Blackburn "Mountain", aluminium. Karrimor Iberian panniers. Not a bad combo, but could do with an extra "dogleg" bar in the rear carrier frame to prevent the rear pocket of the panniers from swinging into the spokes. If the Iberians were waterproof, that would be brill.

Front Rack and Panniers-Blackburn "Lowrider", aluminium. A good rack. Altura "Skye" 13 litre universal panniers are excellent but heavy-almost a kg each.