February 16th, 2015
We will be sending out a more detailed description of road conditions once our tour leader Cristiano has completed the scouting for the trip. However from running our previous tours in South America, much of which followed similar routes to what we are now riding, we can say that overall we will be on approximately 75% paved roads. The remaining 25% will be a mix of gravel, dirt, mud, rocky roads, corrugated roads and to top it off a giant salt flat.
The bike options below would all be suitable for this tour depending on your own personal preferences and strengths.
Whichever style of bike you bring make sure that is comfortable for you to ride long distances, the best bike in the world won’t help you if it doesn’t fit.
The most common bikes chosen for the SAE are touring bikes, cyclocross bikes, hybrid bikes and mountain bikes with front suspension. Below is some information on those choices.
Cyclocross Bikes or Touring Bikes
This option is becoming more and more popular among our clients, as it combines the ruggedness of a mountain bike, with the speed and efficiency of a road bike. When fitted with slick tires these bikes are fast on the good roads.
While these bikes do accommodate wider off road tires they do not have suspension, and riders will be seriously challenged on the rougher off-road sections. Cyclecross or touring bikes are recommended for relatively fit and strong people who can handle the abuse of the rough roads while benefitting from the increased performance on the good roads.
Make sure that your bike can accommodate wider tires. Ideally you should be able to fit a tire that measures 700 x 40. These wider tires will help provide a bit of comfort and traction on the rough roads.
A hard tail mountain bike provides suspension for the off roads, relative comfort, and with a thinner set of tires it also provides a decent ride on paved roads. The drawback is that with smaller diameter tires and front suspension, it will be a little slower, and a little less efficient than other bikes on pavement. Having locking front suspension is useful, as you can “lock out” on the smooth roads and engage the suspension on the rougher roads.
Some mountain bikes come in ‘29er’ size – meaning the wheel diameter is larger, like a cyclocross bike, giving you a little added momentum on the rough roads.
This bike has the same wheel size as a cyclocross bike, but with straight handlebars instead of road style drop bars. Hybrids often also have front suspension. Hybrids are designed more for comfort and leisure rather than performance, and have more of an upright sitting position.
Some more thoughts…
We always preach to riders that simplicity and durability are best because the availability of replacement parts is greatly limited in most of the countries along the route. The tour’s bike mechanic may not have the tools to work with complex or unusual assemblies. A steel frame is preferred (if not steel then aluminum is the best choice), with simple components, simple suspension, and no hydraulics if possible. Road racing bikes are not suitable for this tour.
Keeping your bike on the road
On your five and half month ride from Cartagena to Ushuaia in 2015 you will spend between 600 and 1000 hours on your bike. That’s almost as much time as you would spend in an office chair at a 40 hour a week desk job! Your health and safety are very important to us and having a bike that fits well and is mechanically sound is critical to your completing the nearly 14,000 km journey successfully.
Much of the responsibility of taking care of your bike lies with you. Our staff are there to take care of bike issues that go beyond daily maintenance. Below is a quick break down of the roles and responsibilities of our mechanic staff on tour and what we expect of you.
What we expect from you
Bring a mechanically sound bike that fits you well and that you have spent significant time riding and adjusting. The best way to ensure a proper bike fit is to seek advice from your local bike shop or your cycling friends. Of course, we are also happy to help answer your questions as they arise.
Here is a list of the necessary spare parts that you should bring. Every bike is different so make sure the spares you bring are specific to your bike.
- Derailleur hanger – this is an important piece that you won’t find along the route. Most modern aluminum bikes have a removable derailleur hanger. They are a specific size and shape to fit your specific bike. Inquire about it at your local bike shop
- 2-3 chains – compatible to your drive train.
- 1 rear cassette
- 5 patch kits
- 5 – 10 spare tubes
- Bottom bracket – this is not needed if you start the tour with a new bottom bracket
- Chain rings – you only need to bring the ones used the most, be sure to match the bolt pattern
- Spokes – you will need 3 lengths; front wheel, rear wheel drive side and rear wheel non-drive side. Bring 2 – 4 of each length
- Brake and shifter cables, housing and fittings- make sure to get the proper sizes as they differ between mountain and road bikes
- Brake pads
- Bar tape/handlebar grips
- Tires (max. 2 sets – folding tires preferred)
- Extra nuts and bolts
NOTE – you are not allowed to bring a spare set of wheels
Most of the tools needed for the tour can be found on a good multi-tool. Any larger tools will be supplied by our mechanic. All that you need to bring are cleaning products and the basic tools that you will want to carry with you while riding. Here’s a short list:
- Tire levers
- Chain break tool
- Gear brush
- Chain lube, Degreaser, Rags
Don’t bring enough lube and degreaser to last the whole trip. There are places in larger cities that sell both of these items where you can restock
Knowledge of basic mechanics and having the basic tools needed to make adjustments to your bike is also something we expect of you. Ask your local bike shop to teach you the following skills and practice them before the tour:
- How to change a tire
- How to adjust your brakes
- How to adjust your gears
- How to clean your bike and oil your chain
What you can expect from our mechanic
Though we do ask that you be able to perform basic maintenance on your bike we are there to assist and share advice. Early in the tour our staff will run bike maintenance sessions to help you gain confidence in your bike maintenance skills.
Daily bike mechanic hours: Each day on tour our mechanic will be available to assist you with bike related issues. During these ‘shop hours’ our mechanic will:
- Replace parts that have worn out or broken
- Perform major repairs such as drivetain overhauls*, wheel truing, suspension adjustment
- Deal with specific issues you may have with bike fit
- Provide access to specific tools you may need
- Check your bike for any needed preventative maintenance
- Help you with riding tips and bike maintenance tips
*Mechanics are not available to do drive train overhauls as the tour comes to an end
In the 13 years of running our tours there have been a few bikes destroyed or damaged while in/on our vehicles due to accidents (no human injuries luckily). While the TDA vehicles are insured, it is not possible for us to insure the contents of our vehicles. This means that in the case of damage or loss of your bicycle it will be your insurance which will need to cover the cost of repair or replacement. TDA does it’s best to prevent these situations but it’s important to be aware. It’s also important to understand that TDA would not be able to run our Tours if we had to take financial responsibility for all damage caused by accidents, which is why we are stating this as clearly as possible at this time. For this reason we highly recommend that you bring a strong, suitable bicycle for the trip, but please do not bring excessively expensive bicycles. They are both more a target for theft and obviously much more expensive to repair/replace.