My bike – Thorn Sherpa 2013
The bike I selected after a lot of research was the Thorn Sherpa: a 26″ wheel, derailleur geared, steel framed touring bicycle.
I went for the following specs to fit a 6ft (183cm) male:
Thorn Sherpa MK3 Frame – Red – 600L for 46 mm Forks
Thorn straight handlebars
Ergon GP5 Anatomic grips (replaced after 16,000km as they were wearing mainly due to the kevlar grips on some gloves I bought)
Brooks B17 saddle
Schmidt SON 28 Dynamo Front Hub
Busch & Muller Lumotec Lyt N Plus Headlight for Hub Dynamos
Shimano Deore FH-M590 Quick Release 8/9 Speed Rear Cassette Hub – Silver
Rims BLACK Andra 30 26″
Schwalbe Marathon Mondial HS428 EVO Folding Tyre – 26 x 2.15 Inch (replaced after around 20,000km not because they were worn out). Second set replaced after 16,000km, one earlier due to a massive puncture second one as it was wearing out.
Shimano Deore HG50 9 Speed Cassette – 11-32 (replaced after around 14,000km and again after 26,000km)
Shimano RD-T661 Deore LX Top Normal / Standard Rear Derailleur (replaced after 17,000km with a Shimano Deore XT as I think the original had gotten bent out of shape in an accident, this has now been replaced after 26,000km as it turned out the Chinese mechanics put a 10 speed instead of a nine speed changer on)
Shimano Deore FC-M590 9 Spd HollowTech II Triple Chainset – Black – 44/32/22T (replaced Large and middle chain rings after around 14,000km, whole front crank set replaced after 16,000km due to an accident) Now running a Funn Ridge front triple chain set. First bottom bracket failed after around 8,000km. Second broken in an accident. Third from the Funn Ridge set replaced after 12,000km)
Shimano Dura Ace Thumb Shifter kit
OEM Shimano Deore BR-M590 V Brake
Hub SILVER Shimano Deore Rear
SKS chromoplastic 26in mudguards
Thorn front and rear pannier racks
Thorn accessory bar
Why the Sherpa?
There were a number of reasons why I selected the Sherpa and the specific set up at the time and most of them have been justified to one extent or another on the trip.
As someone who knew (knows) next to nothing about bicycles I wanted something simple and rugged. The Sherpa seemed to fulfill those requirements as it has a very tough Reynolds steel double butted frame that is supposed to be able to stand up to a lot. Having ridden across a large portion of rubbish central Asian roads at the time of writing I can confirm it must be pretty tough!
I was also able to get my front fork bent back into shape after an accident which is definitely a benefit of steel.
Also it was possible to get the Sherpa with 26″ wheels. This was important as I had read that getting 700c (the standard in Europe and the US) wheels or tyres was very hard outside of the west. As I was planning a lot of my touring to be in Asia I wanted to make sure I could get spares if something went wrong.
Finally the Sherpa was in my price bracket and was made by an English company with a very good reputation for touring cycles. If I was going to go off riding round the world I figured I should do it on something reliable and made by a small specialised English company.
Other alternatives that I strongly considered were the Surly Long Haul Trucker and VSF Fahrrad Manufaktur’s range. While I think I would have been happy with these bikes it was very convenient and easy for me to get a Sherpa and Thorn made it very easy to select and put together the type of bike that I wanted.
Why the components selected?
A lot of the parts are fairly standard so I’ve commented on the ones that I made specific choices regarding or that have been commented on by other cyclists I have met on my trip.
I wanted parts that would be easy to repair and unlikely to fail in the first place. I went for Andra rims as they are supposed to be very tough and able to stand up to a lot of punishment. They have done. I also went for some wide chunky Schwalbe Marathon Mondial tyres as I wanted the minimum of punctures and fuss. While they felt a bit overkill on the flat smooth roads of Europe and Turkey, in central Asia they have been amazing. I have had only one real puncture on the trip, which was in Switzerland and have ridden straight through pot holes and over rocks without trouble. Even on snow and ice they have performed reasonably well as I have been able to travel if not at full speed. Update for China: Got a lot of punctures in China from the wire inside truck tyres. These are sharp bits of metal like staples and they work their way into the tyres gradually causing in the main slow punctures. This has been the case in the USA as well.
I chose thumb changers for my gears as they are simple to repair and apparently more durable than other types. This coupled with V-brakes means that if I can’t fix anything I should be able to find someone fairly easily who can do.
The only thing that has gone wrong massively is the Shimano Deore Bottom Bracket which I had to get replaced in Tashkent. Apparently this had gotten so much water and grit in there that there was no grease anymore and part of it had been ground away. Not quite sure why this happened but I was riding in the wet and on some gritty dirty roads for quite a long distance and some must have gotten inside. I have had some troubles with an accident and have had to replace pretty much the whole chain set apart from the front derailleur.
Basically all the Thorn built parts have been totally reliable and any issues I have had have come from Shimano components or accidents.
For comfort I chose a Brooks saddle as I had heard good things about them for touring. I have had no problems with it other than slight saddle sores but never anything that has stopped me cycling. In fact I often feel more comfortable sat on the bike than I do on a chair after a long day’s ride. I also went for Ergon bar grips which give me something to rest my palms on and after some initial tweaking have been very comfortable.
So overall the setup I went for has been comfortable, I can ride for a day and only get slight aching in my shoulders.
One of the items of equipment I have been most pleased with is my Son dyno hub. This is basically the centre of the wheel where the spokes attach. I chose to get a dyno hub which allows me to generate electricity when the front wheel spins. I can use this electricity to power my front light so I don’t have to worry about batteries for it.
That is more of a side benefit as batteries are pretty easy to get hold of globally. The main reason I got the dyno hub is so that I can charge my electrical equipment as I go.
With the e-werk from Busch & Muller I am able to convert the electricity from the dyno hub into something that I can use to keep my mobile phone charged or to charge separate cache battery that I can use to power any electrical equipment that I have the adapters for when I am not on the bike. This has been very useful when wild camping or when I am using my phone a lot on the road and need to keep the charge up.