Samu the Savage Mule has come of age. With flapping colors and gear spinning persistence, together we have heaved across this milestone. Let this post stand as his bike-mitzvah and my way for saying thanx for carrying me the distance. He is the brain child of many past tours. A compiled frankin-bike built from the hard learned things that failed or I would have like to have done differently before. His theme is beefy off-road self sufficiency. His length supplies the extra space for carrying the supplies while the wheel base supplies the stability for the weight of extra supplies.(su-P-lize!) And he is fun to ride.
A few of his highlights are:
A 48 spoke rear wheel with meaty "Down hill" rim by Halo (nothing takes a beating more than the aft wheel. If there is one place not to skimp on the touring bike build, its this wheel. More spokes= stronger wheel. Popping spokes and a collapsing wheel is the thorn in the side of so many touring cyclist. In my opinion, if yer going out for the rugged long run, its best to put the extra spokes in the wheel in the beginning... not one at a time later on, on the side of the road!)
Mechanical disk brakes (Why build a fatty wheel set and then cut their life short by wearing through the rim's braking surface. Also for better stopping power in wet and muddy conditions.)
Schmidt Dynamo Hub This front hub has been effin' fabulous. Hands down the best dynamo hub on the market. There is virtually no drag while it cranks out 6 volts of power. I rely on this dude for superior lighting as well as charging various batteries while I ride.)
Spiderflex Saddle By far the most durable and comfortable "nose less" saddle to be found. It takes some getting used to but is far more comfortable in the long run. Plus it will keep yer Nads from getting operated on.
Outboard bearing crank set There is a lot of debate in this matter. Many argue on the side of square taper cranks and being able to find bottom bracket replacements easier in far flung places. As this has some truth. Square taper cranks have been around since the 30s and the outboard bearing crank system only hit the mass market in 2003. But the nice thing about the out board bearing is being able to replace just the bearing and not having to get a whole new bottom bracket cartridge/ spindle. The bearings are lighter weight for carrying spares and can be tapped out and repressed in any kind of mechanic shop. I'm running Shimano XT hollow tec2 cranks and here is the story to prove my point: I bought them used off an unnamed douche bag down hiller. So I don't know what the wear on the bearings were before I got them, but in any case I rode for a year and a half and 10,000 plus miles on them through every condition. Though just the other day I noticed a bit of play between the cranks at the bottom bracket. Further inspection showed one of the bearings crunchy and needing replacement soon. Oaxaca, the next big city I found a shop with after market 24mm Enduro bearings at a 1/3 of the price of the new Shimano BB. A bit further along in Puerto Escondito at Tello's shop. I pulled the cups out of the frame and tapped the press fitted bearings out with a punch and hammer. I found that a 1 1/8 headset crown race was the perfect diameter to use as the drift (you never want to push on the inner race of the bearing). So this steel crown race lined up nicely with the outer bearing race to press fit it back into the cup. I put two blocks of wood in the bench vice and the cup, bearing and drift inbetween them. The bearings slipped right back into the cups and I had them back on the bike in minutes. This was such a easy process and I soon realized that I could have left the cups in the frame and used only a flat head screw driver, a rock, a block of wood and my little crown race drift and done this on the side of the road. Plus the new Enduro bearings are a bit beefier that the stock ones. These bearings can be ordered from any bike shop in the U.S. or bought at most bearing companys. They´re like carrying the weight of a golf ball and four plastic spoons (standard pic-nic issue white). Yea, Shimano tells you right on the cup "do not dissasemble" but what ever. They also tell you that their chains are not compatible with any other and I've been running a half Shimano half Sram chain with no explosion problems.
Other things of note: 8 speed drive train for longer chain life. Shimano Saint rear derailure. Salsa bash guard (this has saved many bent and mangled teeth on my outter ring) Titec H-bar and Ergon grips for paw, shoulder, and assneck comfort, Schwalbe tires.
And for the big "what the hell is that" feature Xtracycle is a great little company whose been cranking out the long tail bikes for some time now. A great concept and good design for what they are. But any one wanting to get a bit belligerent with one finds themselves with durability issues A.K.A snappage. So this was rectified with the Surly Big Dummy frame. A strong option but then you are locked into the length of it all. I dreamed of something slightly shorter with the option of unbolting it and having a hardtail Mtn bike again or for making a smaller bundle for shipping if needed.
I got my mitts on a good priced broken Xtracycle free radical frame. These bolt into a standard bike frame at the rear drop outs with an extension arm that lays a tongue across the chain stay bridge. The problem is that all the downward force transfers to this little tongue. So if they get over loaded or hammered on in rough terrain this appendage likes to snap right off.
So the Free Radical frame I got was broken at this vital link. (Thanx to the fantastic kindness of Mike Stangl for opening up his metal shop to me!) I set to work hacking it up and expanding on it right away. I brazed back on the broken off tongue and added some extra gussets for strength. Then cut 10 inches off the back end of it and built the top end giving it another connection point to the frame. This is what really made all the difference. It takes all the pressure off the lower link and in addition also stops a shit ton of the torsional flexing when loaded. I feel that its all the bonus of the long tail with none of the draw backs.
P.S. the funnest part was milling down old crank arms to make the free radical connection backing plates.