Here we explain how we chose equipment to take and how those items performed. It is quite possible that you would have different priorities and different experiences that would lead you to different choices. Back to top.
Our experience of equipment extended to British made Reynolds tubed frames equiped with various components from manaufactures such as TA, Stronglight, Mavic, Weinmann, Sun Tour, Sachs Huret, Shimano, Campagnola, with tyres by Michelin, Specialized, Continental and Nutrak.
We were looking for reliability under heavily laden conditions and preferably simple designs that could be repaired rather than replaced.
We decided on the following: Condor Super Cadet Touring Frame made from Reynolds 531 Designer Select, cast fork crown and bottom bracket. Alesea Rims with Continental Top Touring 700c x 37mm tyres, KSS Sealed bottom bracket, Campagnola transmission, hubs & brakes. We did not take the excellent ergolevers but used simple Mavic retro shifters. We opted for Blackburn racks (for the front low rider), a Brooks B66 Champion saddle for Ian & a Terry ladies saddle for Allie. We used Duracell front lamps and cat-eye rear led lights. Small pumps that could easily be concealed in a bag were taken.
We Cycled over 15,000 Miles/24,000 Km with the following results. The only parts that were replaced were the front forks which cracked adjacent to the braze-on part way down the fork tube. We cannot be certain but this may have been caused during a flight from London to Kathmandu. Other consumable parts per cycle : three chains, six tyres (average of 5000Miles/8000Km per tyre), and a number of brake blocks and cables. We had no punctures for the first 11,000 Miles, urban glass in California and spikey desert plants changed things in the States!
After returning home the cycles were used for one more year, after which Monty Young at Condor inspected the wheels and did some minor adjustments to three, but alas pronounced Ians' rear as worn out, a new hub and rim were purchased. We replaced both rear clusters, all other components being original, We are still regularly using the cycles.
We feel we made a good choice, the frames were built to fit us as individuals and the components we chose lasted the course. We certainly recommend Condor, Campagnola, Continental and Alesea. Back to top.
Our direct experience was only of Karrimor products which had served us well over a number of years. We felt for our world tour that we were looking for somthing that would be rugged enough to cope with the rigours of frequent camping and use over a period of 18 months. We wanted as much capacity as possible as were knew that carrying more than one days supply of food would be essential at times.
We looked at what was available and chose Carradice Caradura as our luggage. We opted for front and rear panniers and a saddle bag. We both took front bags, Alison used an old Camera Care Systems bag to hold her SLR, I used an Ortlieb waterproof bag to hold my notebooks, and various papers.
Performance was excellent, the Carradice product is extreemly durable but not entirely watertight so we recommend using heavy duty plastic bags (we got through two sets in our journey) Capacity wise we found we often had them fully laden and required some temparary items - like a gallon of fuel or 10 litres of water to be dangled from the saddlebag. We used four pannier hooks on each rear bag and had no failures, each front panniers had three hooks but we feel two would have been sufficient. Back to top.
Previously we had done only limited duration - maximum of three weeks - trips in Greece, Canada and the UK. We had tried a few different stoves, sleeping bags and tents. So we looked for advice from other sources.
We wanted a tent that would be big enough to be comfortable as our home for a large part of the 18 months and one that was of good quality, many other cyclists simply want the lightest possible with the shortest poles. We struggled with choices and eventually decided upon a Wild Country Ultra Quasar. This tent is a great size, is a geodesic tunnel and withstands wind very well, and has poles that fit across a saddle bag. On the downside despite handling very carefuly we had many poles shatter, and found the timescale to replace protracted. After some months use the groundsheet leaked. After eight months use the zips ceased to work correctly : we were lucky to find a repairer in Moab Utah. We would not select this tent again.
We had previously used simple camping mattresses, but for this trip we tried full length Thermorests. We found them very comfortable and hard wearing. When we were sightseeing we used to let the trapped air out of the Thermorests during the daytime when temperatures inside the tent became very high. We had two problems, first accidentaly puncturing one with a set of keys [this was entirely our fault], and secondly when we camped at a thermal site in Rotarua, New Zealand. Here we especially picked a high temperature spot - evidenced by no grass growing. This was a mistake, despite nightime temperatures below freezing, we felt as though we were in a sauna! The really bad thing is that one of the thermorests became delaminated and blew up like a balloon! This was not so great for sleeping on and was replaced. We continue to use thermorests.
Sleeping bags : We tried to spec a bag that would meet our needs. Our plan was for mainly camping during spring, summer and autumn [fall] seasons. We were more concerned with moisture problems & cost than weight, so we chose synthetic fibre, two season bags. They were ideal for what we'd planned but our plans changed so that we cycled in New Zealand and parts of the USA in the winter so that warmer bags would have been much more useful. We are sure we made the correct choice in taking synthetic bags as on occasions when condensation was a problem we stayed warm & dry.
Stoves. There are several different basic types, most of which we have used. For our world cycle tour we wanted small size, light weight, easy servicing, and widely available fuel. We chose an MSR Whisperlite Internationale. It packs up small, generaly lightweight : fuel is the heaviest part and it can be dismantled with a minimum of difficulty using tools supplied with the stove. In western Europe we mainly used Coleman fuel, but on reaching Czech Republic we switched to the localy available petrol (gasoline). In India & Nepal we used locally available kerosene, petrol (gasoline) in south east Asia, Shellite in New Zealand and a mixture of Coleman fuel (available in handy cyclist sized cans of 1 US Gallon) and Gasoline (petrol) in the USA. We continue to use the same stove burning coleman fule wherever possible as it burns cleanly. Petrol is much dirtier. Occasionally during our trip we needed to clean the fuel pipe, this was most necessary after a couple of weeks burning petrol (gasoline). Back to top.
Clothing is a personal choice but we have a few tips to pass on.
Synthetic is great for cooler countries where getting your clothes dry quickly after washing is important. It is also good to have a base layer that wicks away moisture in the cool countries. Where it is hot we found cotton clothing more comfortable, and it is still possible to dry cotton overnight, particularly in rooms that include an overhead fan (most of Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore & Indonesia).
In muslim countries we found it sensible for a woman to wear modest clothing, ie no crop tops and no lycra shorts. In the more rural regions away from Tourist hotspots the sight of a woman in revealing clothing is unusual and gives out the wrong message.
Because cycling imposes a restrictive regime of how much one can carry we tried to take clothes that could double up as cycling & off the bike wear. Consequently we did not for example have dayglow yellow Goretex jackets but ones of a more sober colour.
Waterproof clothing is essential, we took Freestyle Goretex equipment : jackets, leggings and socks. Their performance was excellent, particularly suprising was the socks which we had not tried before, they kept our feet always dry, even in torrential rain and when wading through puddles. Highly recommended.
We took an extensive first aid kit including sterile needles & syringes. We took a water purification device (never required), and a large water bag which was used extensively in the desert regions of the USA. Back to top.