WORLD Travel

CUSTOM PROJECT: Mikkelson Rohloff Expedition

Materials

– CrMo tubing
– Rohloff hub
– Velocity Dyads
– Schwalbe Marathon XRs

First, assembling the frame, using tandem 9/6/9 double butted CroMoly tubing…

To make bicycling more amenable to travel, S&S bicycle torque couplings were added…

S&S couplers are definitely worth the investment if you plan to travel with your bike by plane. If you travel a lot by car, the couplers can also come in handy (see image below). Air travel with a coupled bike has become a little more cumbersome, but my recommendation would be to travel with two checked-in suitcases. One for the frame and wheels, and the other for all the accessories and ancillary components. It’s best to include a step-by-step photo copy of packing instructions for your S&S coupled bike. TSA will invariably remove everything, so make sure all the surfaces are well wrapped and include instructions for them to re-pack your bike. They usually only fit one way into the suitcase. If you need a longer steerer tube, I would recommend a detachable steerer tube extender. If the fork/steerer tube is too long, it will only fit diagonally into the S&S case. This will ensure complete confusion and frustration for the TSA agents and likely result in undue stress on your wheelset and possibly cosmetic damage to your frame and fork.

S&S Travel Case

That being said, I was sold on the S&S couplings after having read about Joel Metz, a bike messenger from San Francisco, who put 90k+ miles on his S&S coupled Sycip without ever having a failure (S&S coupler failure, that is). You can learn about Joel’s excursions from Steve’s website at S&S Machine Works (Joel Metz w. S&S coupled Sycip).

I decided to go with a matte black textured finish on the frame, so a healthy dose of powder coat was applied… the contrast to the couplings turned out really well…

Next, the components were added. For long distance touring, apart from the frame, your next best friend is your wheelset and tires. You want to go with a high spoke count (at least 36h) as this only extends your wheel life and makes things a lot more reliable for those remote treks. A good set of rims are key. My preference is Velocity anything. I’ve toured extensively with the Dyads, and, as long as you don’t beat them up too much, they tend to be very reliable (Velocity Dyad).

Next, you want to choose the most durable travel tire you can find. My personal favorite is the Schwalbe Marathon XR… they have been replaced by the Marathon Mondial. I have not traveled with the Marathon Mondial, but the XR’s were the reason I switched all my tires over to Schwalbe. They consistently gave me 5k+ miles without even so much as a hiccup (Marathon XR)…

Apart from good rims, spokes and tires, another heavy load-bearing component is the hub. My personal favorite is Phil Wood – their new ISO track hub is incredible (PW ISO Hub). They make very durable touring hubs with extremely reliable sealed bearings. For the Mikkelson build, I wanted the most reliable, maintenance free drivetrain available, as I was going to use the bike for some of the worst terrain. Hence, the 14-speed internal gear Rohloff Speedhub 500/14 for worry-free travel…

The Rohloff Speedhub really is a work of art. The gear range is an astounding 526%, which gives approximately 18.0-94.7 gear inches (using 700x35c tires) in a sealed, maintenance free hub (Speedhub info).

Gear Inches / Rohloff using 38/16 CC & 700x35c Tires

About the same as a 9-speed triple mountain bike with 44/32/22 chainrings, 12-32 cassette and 26″ x 2.125″ tires…

Gear Inches with 44/32/22 Chainring, 12-32 Cassette & 26" x 2.125" Tires

Sheldon Brown’s Gear Calculator helps immensely for picking the proper drivetrain for your needs (Sheldon Brown’s Gear Calculator)…

For final assembly, Lupine Dual Wilma 4s, along with the Schmidt SON28 dyno hub and Busch & Muller Halogen lights as a back-up, were added. I decided on a custom dual Wilma 4 set-up, since, at the time, there was no way to get more than about 800 lumen out of an LED lamp head. If you intend on very remote riding, especially trails, luminosity at night is like water in the desert… you can’t get enough. In terms of lamp heads, LEDs have taken over the market. There is no reason to even consider incandescent bulbs or even xenon gas bulbs. They just give off too much heat and are very finicky. LEDs (Light Emitting Diodes) are basically wire filaments that give off light at a solid glass tip. They are very reliable, give off minimum heat and are now very bright.

Lupine Dual Wilma 4 / Busch & Muller Halogen

The saddle for the Mikkelson was initially the Brooks Champion Flyer, but I found the springs to be extremely stiff and really no better than an unsprung saddle. I later switched to the Selle An-Atomica Titanico saddle for much greater comfort (Selle An-Atomica Titanico). The Mikkelson was also fitted with a Rivendell Rear Rack and Surly Front Rack with Ortlieb Panniers.

Here is a current photo of the stripped down Mikkelson for around town cycling and the new Supernova E3 triple LED dyno light (800 lumen):

Mikkelson updated

Here is an image of the Mikkelson Expedition bike after assembly ready for touring…

Preparing for the journey… planes, trains, and an automobile…

Plans were made to fly to Montreal, then by car, take the Trans-Canada highway eastward following the St. Lawrence to Quebec City, visit some friends and drop the car in Quebec City.

Quebec City

Then by bike, traverse into New Brunswick and then on to Nova Scotia.

Nova Scotia

The final destination for the trek was the Cabot Trail through Nova Scotia, a stretch of beautiful highway along the coast, about 200 miles in length ending at the tip of Cape Breton.

Cabot Trail, Nova Scotia

The trip was to end at Prince Edward Island, but I decided to visit Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine (the Magdelan Islands). The Magdelan Islands are a small archipelago in the Gulf of the Saint Lawrence. The population is approximately 13k residents. It is one of the most interesting locations I have ever visited.

Cap aux Meules

The islands are connected by a single road that sometimes is only a few feet from the ocean on either side, like a string of sand dunes clustered in the middle of nowhere…

Havre-Aubert

The main island, Cap aux Meules, has varied terrain with hills, trails and tranquil rest stops…

Cap aux Meules,

The S&S couplers and Rohloff hub came in handy…

Breathtaking views and super cycling…

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