Touring Bikes & Luggage

Despite months of research and deep contemplation, the decision to buy a Salsa Fargo was done in a sudden burst of spontaneity. I was in a local bike shop in Issaquah, Washington getting the rear wheel of one of my mountain bikes rebuilt and happened to notice a Salsa Fargo frame hanging from the ceiling, size large. An inquiry about the price led to an on-the-spot markdown and the sudden flash of a credit card. This was in late 2010, several years before the planned departure date. “But look at all those braze-ons and bottle cage mounts,” I exclaimed to my rather surprised–and unamused–wife. With three mountain bikes and a road bike already in the stable, there was some apprehension about adding yet another.

Doug’s Salsa Fargo and gear on the backroads of central Washington.

That kicked off a slow accumulation of parts from various online distributors throughout the winter. I had previously spec’d my dream racing bike, the Moots Mooto-X YBB 29er I rode at TransRockies and the Leadvillle 100, and knew I wanted to stick with SRAM grip shifters, though this time I would be doing the wrenching myself (with constant supervision from my friend Doug C.). The decision to roll a 29er (700c) touring bike with disc brakes went against all conventional wisdom in the bicycle touring community at the time — and probably does still, particularly among those who have spent considerable time off the beaten paths of North America — but I was undeterred. Mechanical disc brakes are very easy to adjust and repair in the field and the additional stopping power and reduced wear and tear on the rims more than offsets the additional weight of carrying a spare rotor, in my opinion (or pliers to straighten a bent one). As for the size of the wheels, there are few problems that a couple of spare spokes, tubes, and tires can’t solve (not to mention time, money, and international shipping). I had been riding 29er mountain bikes since 2007 and wasn’t about to give up the bigger wheels. We had the wheels built by Larry Naylor at Perfect Wheels in Seattle  — and they are bombproof!

That being said, I didn’t expect Kristin to also end up on a Fargo. But after multiple test rides on the 26″ Salsa Vaya and other traditional touring bikes, she immediately fell in love with the stability and handling of a size small Salsa Fargo 2. The newer model of the bike did away with the puke-like Funguy Green color and added a detachable derailleur hanger. With the frame ordered, I set about amassing a pile of parts identical to those on my Fargo that spring in time for the 2011 model’s arrival. Building the bikes up proved to be an excellent opportunity to gain confidence and greater familiarity with the parts and is highly recommended to anyone planning a lengthy tour. Though, truth be told, I find it far easier to dial all of the shifting and brakes in from scratch, in a clean garage (preferably with a beer nearby) than I do trail-side in the dirt when the bugs are biting and the rain threatening.

Kristin’s Salsa Fargo and gear in eastern North Dakota.

We originally built the bikes with a butterfly-style trekking handlebar (and some lovely Brooks leather bar tape) but found the positioning of the hands to be too close to the stem. Not only was it uncomfortable, but it certainly would make the bikes more difficult to handle on a rocky descent. Even worse, riding with our hands that close to the stem comes off as a bit hipster-ish and that simply will not be tolerated. So I ordered us up a pair of Salsa moto-ace flatbars and Ergon grips with bar ends to replace the trekking bars with some far more mountain-worthy. That said, it was a shame to see that Brooks tape go to waste after just a few short trips.

The rest of our touring setup is pretty standard, consisting of Tubus racks and Ortlieb panniers, duffle, and handlebar bags. We experimented with the Arkel Big-Bar bags, but found them to be overly cumbersome, far too big and heavy, and boasting a mounting system that made us want to scream everytime we tried to take them on and off. We decided against dyno-hubs for no good reason and opted for lights that we could toss on when needed. With the belief that bicycle locks are purely a deterrent to the opportunistic thief, we’re going to continue along with a relatively measly 12mm cable lock and a pair of watchful eyes. We found that we can slip a small pocket cable lock through the buckles on our Ortlieb panniers and lock all of our bags together when leaving them unattended in a hostel or campsite. Kristin and I will each be carrying an ultralight REI Flashpack 18 with us when we go out to keep our laptop and passport close at hand.

Bike Tools and Spare Parts

In deciding which tools to bring, I opted to bring those that I can use without explanation, to fix only those things I know how to fix. Given our bike’s lack of suspension and hydraulics, this means that I should be able to fix just about anything barring a broken frame or complete undoing of the hubs or bottom bracket. At least well enough to get us to the next shop. Fingers crossed. Also, never in my years of mountain biking have I heard of someone breaking a Chris King headset or Thomson seatpost/stem so those are concerns I don’t have in the least. Some problems are worth throwing money at.

Bike Tools

  • Tire Levers (2)
  • Pump
  • Spoke Wrench
  • Fix-It-Sticks (2mm, 2.5mm, 3mm, 4mm, 5mm, 6mm, Torx #25, Philip #1)
  • Torx #15 Driver (for Ortlieb bags)
  • Chainbreak
  • Chainring Nut Tool
  • Lightweight Snips
  • Lightweight Adjustable Vise-Grip
  • Crank Install Tool (for Shimano Hollowtech cranks)
  • Next-Best Thing II Cassette Removal Tool
  • Brooks Saddle Wrench
  • Bike Lube
  • Blue Loctite
  • Bike Grease
  • Brooks Saddle Proofide
  • Park Tools GearClean Brush

The list of spare parts we’re bringing seems lengthy, but it actually packs up quite small aside from the tire. I plan on swapping to a slightly more aggressive touring tire before we head to Morocco and points east so I opted for a spare that could serve as a replacement regardless of terrain, even if it is a bit overkill for the early portions of our journey. Kristin’s Fargo has a replaceable derailleur hanger, hence the spare, whereas mine is one with the frame (again, fingers crossed). I may decide to take on additional spare cables and perhaps even a spare rear derailleur before we head further off the beaten track, but I’m confident in this collection of parts being able to get us through the USA, Canada, and western Europe. Or at least to the next resupply.

Spare Parts & Miscellany

  • Spare Tire (Schwalbe Marathon Mondial 700×40)
  • Spare Tubes (2)
  • SRAM Speed-Links (3)
  • Spokes & Nipples (3 front, 3 rear)
  • Derailleur Hanger (1)
  • Brake Cable (1)
  • Shifter Cable (1)
  • Brake Pads (1)
  • Torx Bolts for Rotor (3)
  • Rack Bolts/Nuts (2 each)
  • Chainring Nuts/Bolts (2 each)
  • Zip Ties (assorted)
  • Duct Tape (wrapped around bike pump)
  • Bailing Wire
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About Us

We're Doug & Kristin Walsh, a couple of Washingtonians who love to travel, both abroad and in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest. We set off to travel the world in 2014, primarily by bicycle. We're back home now, but the travel bug continues to be fed every chance we get.

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