If you were embarking on a round-the-world cycle trip, what would your steed look like?

Quirky looking, upright things with saddles fit for horseback. That’s what comes to mind when I think of touring cyclists. But it ain’t my jam (no offence to those who are into them). I’ve never liked carrying too much gear. I’d say I’m closer to the fast-n-light category, with exception for the critical comforts. You know, good coffee twice a day (at least), enough to eat and drink, decent glass to capture good pics, a relatively comfortable place to sleep at night.

As we’re planning this mission in late 2011, the rise of fastpacking and gravel bikes is yet to take hold on the world. The best reference we have for innovation in bicycle carry is the Iditarod from our friend Eric Parsons, creator of Revelate Designs, more on him later. We’ll unpack the gear list in a separate post because we really want a space to spotlight our bikes in their full glory.

Paul Larkin. What an amazing guy. Our paths crossed while working in the cycling industry and Paul was right on the case when we started asking his opinion on ‘the right bike for a round-the-world’. At the time Paul was working in a Melbourne-based bicycle shop that only dealt with unique brands – Independent Fabrication, Parlee, and Moots to name a few – and was all in on designing dream bikes.

While Paul had his fair share of adventures, the ones that stood out in his stories were ones of supporting teams in the far reaches of the globe, including a race near the China-Mongolia border.

What better guy to have on our team for the design of our round-the-world rig?

Together we worked through the route, the conditions, the load we’d be carrying, all of our ambitions and desires, and Paul tempered every decision with the pragmatism of reliability, serviceability and availability of parts.

Our plan was to average 120km per day. Nothing crazy, but steady. Our route would take us through deserts and over mountains. We had no idea about the quality of the roads in many places. And we would be carrying a fair whack of kit – panniers on both ends for me, and just rear for Kristina. Along with some frame bags and the like.

Right away Paul kicked off conversations with the team at Moots in Steamboat Springs, Colorado (USA). He told us they’ve got a history of building project bikes for the likes of Iditarod and other adventures, and they make an amazing product.

If you haven’t heard of Moots, they’ve been building custom bikes since 1981, first in steel but now exclusively with titanium, and have a reputation for some of the finest craft in the industry. They offer a genuine lifetime (of the buyer!) warranty because they believe what they make is good enough to last a lifetime, so they back it! This fit our bill not only from the view of building a strong, fast-ish, light-as-possible, purpose built machine but also ticked the sustainability box.

Moots Workshop

The Frameset

What can I say, Moots stepped up to the plate in spades. They created what I can now talk about as the genesis for the serious gravel bike. They took their 29er Mooto X hard-tail mountain bike and tweaked the geometry to be slightly steeper (not so slung back), built around a suspension-corrected rigid fork, the Salsa Firestarter (mount-everything-to-it fork), with drop bars on my bike and flat bars with clip-on race extensions on Kristina’s. Wow. What a rig.

Groupset

Paul enlisted the guidance of Rob Eva, General Manager of SRAM in Australia, tapping into his wisdom for the groupset. Reliability and gear-range were key here. We landed on X9 2×10 groupsets with Avid BB7 cable disc brakes, and mine was paired with Force shifters for the drop bars.

Remember, 1by and Eagle hasn’t happened yet.

Maybe it was being pondered deep in the labs at SRAM HQ but the X9 was going to give us enough gear range in a reasonably light and solid performing group.

Wheels

These are really what takes all the hits with the persistent load and varying terrain. These needed to be solid. Paul chose DT Swiss for their track record, lacing the TK540 rim, one of the only rims with a reputation for round-the-world touring, with 340 hubs on the rear and dynamo hubs up front.

Our dynamos were a unique one from Supernova in Germany, who we also relied on for front and rear lights and USB charging via the hub.

Tyres, Schwalbe Marathon.

They claim to be “the most puncture-resistant pneumatic tire there is”. While we can fit up to 2.25 inches on the bikes, the biggest bag in this tyre was 1.75, enough for most of the terrain.

Contact Points

Kristina went for a pretty funky saddle from Fizik while I decided to have a crack at the classic Brooks leather saddle, maybe it was the appeal of seeing the shape of my arse well worn into it over a year, maybe it was the good faith that many cycle tourers before me had chosen it for good reason, time would tell.

On the bars Paul had some tricks up his sleeve and put gel under my bar tape to make it cushier, this was pretty sweet. Kristina’s bike had ergo grips on the flats with bar ends, then some cushy bar tape on the clip-on tri-bars.