bike touring, my bikes

The Bantam Rambleneur as touring machine

The whole concept around the Bantam Rambleneur custom bike project was to create an all-rounder that would tackle the bike things I do (or want to do) most: around town riding, commuting, longer rides, rough stuff, and of course touring. I knew from riding over the past few years that I didn’t need a full-blown touring bike like the Long Haul Trucker anymore, since I wasn’t going to do super-loaded touring anytime in the future. However, I wanted a lighter, sprightly bike that still could carry stuff, and carry stuff well.

That’s one of the reasons why I had it spec’d to have as many braze-ons as possible on a bike: to give it maximum versatility. I didn’t want to be locked into exquisite integrated racks, I wanted it to be able to be stripped down to almost nothing (if I ever get a cyclocross hair up my ass!*) I can also go full front and rear racks, but I probably won’t be using a rear, since this bike is more optimized for front loads (though of course I have the humongous saddlebag). In the last few years of the Long Haul Trucker (post big tour) I managed to go with a front rack and saddlebag setup, and that worked just fine.

But right now I’m experimenting with a rackless setup: Besides the aforementioned Carridice Camper Longflap saddlebag with its 24 litres of capacity and strapping ability, 20747520235_ba8c4d12ef_oI’ve got two Salsa Anything cages on either front fork. With the cages alone I could strap things and drybags in there, but me being me, I went fancy and got two Big MUTs (Multi Use Totes) from Randi Jo Fabrications in Elkton, Oregon. These things are designed around the big cages, and look nice to boot. (They match my other bags!)

wpid-wp-1441071531441.jpgAlso on the front is a Brand V (now Sackville) Bar Tube sold by Rivendell and made in Waterbury, CT.** I resisted buying one for awhile because they ain’t cheap (but not expensive) but then when I saw how big it was, I got one (though I got it used.) It’s possibly the biggest tube-style handlebar bag available! I can fit quite a bit in there.

For added capacity I have my Frame Pack Large from Jandd. Basically a similar style to the not-full-inside-diamond bags offered by Revelate et al, but cheaper because it’s Jandd!

IMG_3007The Columbia Gorge camping trip was my big shakedown test of this setup before the Eastern Oregon tour that starts next weekend.  And the setup works well! This is the breakdown of what went where:

  • Handlebar Bag: Tools, snacks, camera, sunblock typed stuff, other assorted sundries
  • Big MUTS: clothing and toiletries
  • Frame Bag: Food
  • Camper Longflap: sleeping bag/liner/pillow (in stuffsack), sleeping pad, stove, some extra food and extra clothing, tent (strapped to outside)

Now I could add a small front platform rack to this setup for additional items, but I’m trying to avoid it. (I can’t put a regular front rack on with this setup without removing the Anything cages.) For one, those small racks are expensive and don’t hold much, so it would mostly be for strapping the sleeping bag to it or something light but bulky. And I could go full front rack and throw panniers on instead of the Anything cages, but for now I want to see how well this setup works.

One final thing to note in regards to touring: the 1×8 gearing is pretty versatile, but the lowest gear is around 25 gear-inches. It’s not as low as the low-low you’d find on a typical mountain/touring triple setup, where it can get down to about 17 gear-inches. Low, not super-low. It was fine for the amount of stuff I had (probably somewhere around 25 pounds) and the grades encountered during the Columbia Gorge ride (max 5% on the touring section.) I know I’ll encounter steeper (and longer) climbs on the big tour, but I think it can handle it.

Now the big test of the Bantam Rambleneur’s touring ability will be the week-long Eastern Oregon tour I’ll be starting next Friday September 11th. I’m excited!

IMG_3008*Editors note: Not that likely.

**Where I happened to go to college, albeit briefly.

6 thoughts on “The Bantam Rambleneur as touring machine”

  1. Very cool. I like what you’ve done here, and am looking forward to lots of updates from your upcoming excursion!

    Are you planning to report on your impressions on how the bike rides/feels/handles…maybe as compared to the former LHT or one of your current bikes?

    1. I’ll probably do a riding recap after the tour. But I will warn you folks: I am horrible in doing reviews on “how a bike rides”. I am no Jan Heine! (Speaking of which, since you are probably going to ask: Yes, I am interested in getting the Rat Trap Pass tires, but probably not until spring.) But so far I will say this: It definitely handles better than the LHT. The front end is a LOT more responsive, though I don’t know how much that would change if I racked and panniered it. But I will say it feels more closer to riding the few roadesque bikes I’ve owned (both my Centurions.) It rode good on tour. The only issue is that there is a slight defect on the tire, which causes a wobble, which won’t be fixed until I replace tires. I’m not too concerned about it right now.

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