Wheel choice for expedition biking is a personal one. I used Sunn Rhynolyte rims because they lasted well and are still going strong. I’ve recently head about other rims. For example, Emily Chappell is riding Rigida Sputnik 26″ rims.
My first set of touring wheels used Mavic XM721 rims, which cracked after a few months. They don’t have a good reputation for touring therefore avoid.
On rough ground then the Sunn rims I sued are one of the best options because they are so strong. If you are sticking to the roads then go for a lighter weight rim.
Things to consider when choosing a rim are how they are engineered. The Sunn rims are double walled, welded and machined.
For loaded touring you should go for 36 spoke rims for strength. A 26 inch rim is easier to find replacements. A 700cc wheel is more efficient on the road so if you aren’t venturing anywhere crazy stick to those.
My wheels rims are built with DT swiss spokes and are handbuilt which is probably better than factory built which will apparently require more spoke tweaking during the first months of use.
I recommend spraying a small amount of WD40 on the inner side of the rim and on the spoke nipples on outside of the rim. This can help them to stop them seizing up.
Gaffer tape will work okay as a replacement for rim tape. Check the rim for any knocks which could increase the risk of a puncture through damage.
I used XT disc hubs which performed excellently, are easy to take apart, clean and regrease (you will need cone spanners). The bearing races are still running smoothly.
I was once told that it is a good idea to invest in a decent quality quick releases so I got a Hope front one. I don’t know whether there is much in this but it is an important component seeing as it keeps the wheel in place.
Schwalbe Marathon XR tyres provided me with hassle free performance on my tours.
I used Magura Louise hydraulic disc brakes. They require little servicing and were very powerful. The pads last longer than v-brakes especially with a great deal of weight on the bike. V-brake pads are more fiddly to install. However, if the hydraulic brakes did fail then you have no brakes, which won’t happen with v-brakes. Consider that if you are paranoid.
If you are going on a lightweight road tour using a racing style frame it is unlikely the bike will have mounts for disc brakes. Which brakes you use are a personal choice. Having been a mountain biker for a long time, I gave up using v-brakes a long time ago because they wear very quickly in gritty, muddy and wet conditions.
Thomson comes as a recommended brand. I favour Bontrager seatposts. It has dual allen key adjustment which I found easier to manage. It doesn’t slip. I have also used Easton and Kona seatposts in the past and had no problems with them.
For my tour I used DMR chromoly riser handlebars which were a massive overcompensation for strength. They weighed a lot they had a sweep back which was uncomfortable on the palms after long periods of riding. I swapped to flat bars which I used in Mongolia and they were more comfortable.
Handlebars are again down to personal preference. I have never used the butterfly handlebars that you often see on touring bikes, opting instead for mountain bike bars and bar ends and managed to be comfortable. I tended to ride for the majority of the time with my hands perpendicular to the handlebars resting on the bar ends. Mark had some nice rubber bar ends which I tried out and were very comfortable, although because they were made from a soft rubber, they wore out very quickly.
At first I used a standard mountain bike stem but quickly discovered a cheap and cheerful adjustable touring stem from Decathlon which allowed more adjustment. It held out for many thousands of kilometres and even a few more of mountain biking.
An adjustable stem is definitely recommended for touring especially if you are going for the mountain bike handlebars.
I started out using Shimano DX SPD mountain bike pedals which were brilliant until I messed up the alignment of the cleats. I spent many frustrating minutes by the roadside trying to get them aligned properly and finally gave up having injured my right knee.
I reverted to the Wellgo v12-copy platform pedals and used them up until recently when I’ve been using SPDs again having allowed my knee to recover properly.
This post was originally written around 2012. Updated 2022.
Part 3 in 4 part series.