I’m allowing myself to mini-brag because this isn’t actually my bike – even if I’ve been lucky enough to be riding it for a solid 8 months.
I’ve made a few adjustments to it for this trip, as detailed below. And, read on for thoughts on what I might do differently if this was my bike (and there was a next time).
As detailed previously, this is the titanium version of the Jones SWB. But the space metal doesn’t stop on the frame… This bike arrived with a set of Cane Creek’s eeWing cranks, no less! Have a seat and look up the price online. Yep, you read that right. Would I spend my own $$$ on them? Probably not! But do I love them? Most definitely yes! (mostly because they’re not just ogle-worthy – they’re stiff, light, and hard-wearing, too).
My test SWB also came with a SRAM Eagle drivetrain, befitting the rest of its high end build. But before I rode south into Mexico, I swapped it out for a humbler Shimano 11-speed setup, mated to a heavier, long-lasting 11-50T Sunrace cassette. I did this because I figured replacements might be more readily available (and affordable) overseas, plus the SLX shifter and XT rear mech I already owned have proved tough and reliable. As it is, 12-speed SRAM parts of all grades appear to be relatively common in Mexico’s high-end bike shops and the prices are generally in line with the US, so I probably needn’t have worried so much.
Other little details… I do love Paul’s Quick Release Seat Post Collar. In my experience, it’s one of the few quick-release models that clamp tight enough to ensure that the seat doesn’t slip – which is a pet peeve.
I also fitted a Widemouth CargoMount, allowing me to carry a Nalgene’s 1.5L water bottle on day rides. It has a number of mounting positions, allowing some adjustability within the eyelet placement on the frame. I’ve found that one Voile strap is all that’s needed to secure it in place.
The eagle-eyed may spot Rockgeist’s Spacemount positioned between spacers to tidy up the cockpit. I also really like Rockgeist’s accompanying Honeypot Feedbag – its shallow profile means my knee is less likely to glance against it.
Perch? That’ll be WTB’s Pure, my all-time favourite saddle (well, maybe I preferred its predecessor, the Pure V), on a none-more-beautiful (or costly) Kent Erikson ti seatpost. There’s a Wolfooth B-Rad Roll-Top Bag for day to day spares. It’s discreet, so I just leave it on the bike.
BXB’s Goldback (the medium size version sits perfectly atop the curves of a truss fork) is on camera-toting duties. My Sony A73 rests on a sleeping bag or soft bed of clothes. This bag is also great for day rides – ideal picnic-toting proportions – and thanks to its Carradice-like ‘longflap’ design, good for general shopping shop. In case you’re wondering, it can fit two pineapples, or 16 mangos, or at least 4 bags of fresh corn chip. I like the now sun-faded yellow and turquoise colour combo too.
Navigation? This is handled by the brains within the Wahoo Roam. I preplan routes (or follow ones devised by others) using Ride With GPS and these generally sync relatively swiftly with the device. (I’ve actually noticed that Komoot syncs quicker than RWGPS, but right now, I prefer RWGPS as a program). I prefer the Wahoo over my iPhone 6 for following routes as the battery life is pretty good, it charges quickly, it’s tough, and it’s easy to see in bright sunshine. The Roam also includes a neat little rerouting function should you go off course, which works well for the most part.
When I’m in town, I snap on my iPhone (can’t beat Googlemaps!) with a Quad Lock mount and case. This has proved completely solid, whatever the terrain. I don’t tend to leave my phone on the bike all the time as it overheats quickly in the summertime, or the battery drains when it’s frigid cold. Note that mine is an older iPhone 6 – I harbour plans to upgrade to a newer water and dustproof model at some point.
The bits I hold onto? That will be a Jones H-Bar Bend, wrapped with Camp And Go Slow’s gorgeous Rattlesnack Bartape, over a padded, rubbery underlayer for extra comfort. I forgot to photograph the Woltooth Encase tool system that is buried within the handlebar, in place of end caps. Clever! The little bungee do-da is my ‘handbrake’ which stops the bike rolling backwards or forwards when I lean it up against a wall (great for packing the bike or taking photos of it!)
Some other stream-of-consciousness thoughts
- Jones C-Rims: Incredibly strong for their width/weight and completely unblemished after a year + of hard use and misuse. From being a carbon rim neigh sayer, I am now a convert!
- Maxxis Chronicles 27.5x3in: Whilst these aren’t my very favourite tyres, they’re what I had to hand when I left for Baja California. They’re still going strong, just one little sidewall cut, easily repaired with some streaky bacon.
- 38T front chainring: Definitely too big (even with a 50T cassette at the back) for hilly, offroad bikepacking (roughly 20.4-100.2in gear range). But it’s been great for speedy, unladen gravel/road riding, with an appropriate tyre change. I’d personally be happy with a 34T (roughly 19.7-89.6in) for the kind of riding I enjoy most, or even a 32T if I was riding the likes of the Colorado Trail (roughly 18.6in-84in).
- 200mm front rotor: Lots of braking power but big rotors do seem more prone to getting bent in transit. I think 180mm, front and rear, would suffice next time.
- Avid BB7s: A bit fiddly to set up but very dependable, though I prefer Shimano XT hydros, as they feel more conducive to 1 finger braking. Unfortunately I’m relatively inept at bleeding them, which has always put me off taking them abroad.
- Hope F20 platform pedals: I love these! I’ve used them for years and they just won’t wear out, despite the kind of neglect I shouldn’t be proud of (even if I am, just a bit). Note that they are wide (cue pedal strike) and liable to remove chunks of your shin/calf if given half a chance.
If this was my bike… what would I do differently next time? Probably not much, except…
- Fit a smaller chainring, as mentioned above.
- I also may be tempted by a 29×2.6in wheelset, as replacement 27.5+ tyres are increasingly hard to find (like the lightweight version of Schwalbe’s G-One 27.5×2.8 Allrounds, which I love). If we’re to use Schwalbe’s Nobby Nics as an example, a 29×2.6in tyre is 60g lighter than the 27.5x3in version. The diameter is a little bigger – more ground clearance – and the profile a little narrower – extra mud clearance with a 1x chainline.
- Perhaps I should learn to bleed hydraulic brakes, because I’d love to feel confident enough to travel with them.
- Dynamo hub front wheel? Maybe! Unfortunately the one I like most – the Son 28 – is costly and whilst reliable, it isn’t infallible. I’ve had two fail over the years and since the SWB uses a 150x15mm TA front spacing, finding a replacement hub may not be so easy. In some ways, I wish the SWB used standard Boost spacing at the front for easy wheelset swaps.
Thanks for making it to the end! Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below.