Bike and pannier setup

Warning: this post contains some bike geekery.

Whilst on the road we’ve been asked fairly regularly about the bikes so I thought I’d do a  detailed post on my bike and pannier setup. We’ve also almost finished the gear list which lists all the things we’re carrying inside the panniers. Sam’s planning on doing another post about his bike selection process so I won’t steal his thunder by talking about his stuff in this post.

Ok, so here is the spec of my Thorn Sherpa (mk2 I believe) with commentary on each component. Thorn let you select each part on the bike as part of the buying process. This bike was actually bought over six years ago when the concept of doing a cycling trip was first conceived. It’s done a few thousand miles already and is still going strong. Here is a link to the current Sherpa brochure (mk3) on the Thorn website. Thorn make better bikes than they do websites 🙂




Thorn Sherpa steel frame Whilst steel frames are generally heavier than aluminium they are stronger and offer a softer riding feel. Also in the unlikely event of something going wrong the frame can be welded. Thorn also have pannier rack mounts in all the right places which makes things easier and stronger.
Sun CR18 rims with Shimano XT hubs Heavy duty touring rims to cope with all the weight loaded on the bike. When I bought these wheels USB hubs were not really an option. Having seen the success of Sams USB hub I’m tempted to retro-fit one. I’d definitely get one of these if building a bike for touring – especially if you’re a bit of a gadget geek like me 🙂
Schwalbe Marathon Supreme These tyres are semi slick and roll well on tarmac. There’s some tread but they are pretty sketchy on loose gravel. They are puncture resistent too which has proved helpful with glass littered road shoulders.
Thorn heavy duty front and rear pannier racks These weigh quite a bit but are crucial in carrying all the gear. The racks fit perfectly with the Sherpa frame.
Brooks B17 saddle with Thorn seatpost A tried and tested saddle that has been on the bike since I bought it – its now moulded around my derriére. The tension nut needed to be tightened in Vernonia as the leather gets softer.
Shimano XT crank, cassette, chain, shifters, front and rear derailleur, cabling and skewers Upgraded the Shimano Deore groupset with XT just before the trip. All feels pretty responsive and solid.
Shimano cage/spd pedals The mix of SPD and cage pedals is handy for short rides when I’m not wearing SPD shoes (for popping to the shops etc).
Shimano Deore brakes These came on the original bike I bought. Just before leaving I bought a full XT groupset for a decent price but it came with XT disc brakes. Whilst disc brakes would give much better stopping power, I’ve had issues with disc rubbing in the past and couldn’t be bothered with the hassle. These are probably the weak link on the bike but they still work ok. Had to replace the pads in Portland.
Butterfly bars These are great in theory in that they give a variety of hand positions for long days in the saddle. However, despite adjusting the stem height and angle I’m experiencing quite a bit of hand pain whilst riding. Sams setup offers pretty much the same hand positions but has bar-ends and the supportive and ‘squidgy’ Ergon GP5 palm rests. These seem to be a much better solution – Sam’s experienced no hand pain so far. Think I’m going to have to change fairly soon.
SKS mudguards Very effective but a pain to put on/take off. My rear mudguard got a bit bent whilst being transported from the UK (in a flight bag – later discarded). Couldn’t face taking them off 🙂
Ortlieb Ultimate 6 Handlebar bag with Klickfix handlerbar mount and Ortlieb map holder This is a great little bag for keeping all your essentials together. However, despite organising it before a ride everything gets jumbled pretty quickly and it’s difficult to find stuff. It really needs some dividers inside. The Ortlieb map holder is pretty effective after you’ve worked out the rather cryptic instructions 🙂
Ortlieb Front Roller Plus and Back Roller Plus panniers Classic design, durable, waterproof and all round excellent. Some pockets on the out-side would be helpful.
Ortlieb dry bag with hump reflective backpack cover This simple and effective dry bag sits on top of the rear pannier (with two bungee cords) and waterproofs the tent and roll mat during transit. Having the roll mat wrapped around the tent saves space in the main panniers. The reflective hump cover provides decent ’round the clock’ visibility.


Andys stuff

Contents of my panniers

There are 4 panniers, 1 dry bag and a handlebar bag. Each one has a specific purpose and the weight is roughly evenly distributed across the bike. I’ve been experimenting with different configurations to make regularly used items more accessible but its still work in progress. Having to unpack multiple panniers to locate items is pretty tedious. I’ve also been moving weight forward on the bike to see how this effects the handling and feeling uphill. Various items have also been discarded along the way such as a secondary fleece jumper, pots, non cycling t-shirts and various other bits and bobs.

Pannier configuration

Pannier configuration

This annotated picture shows whats in each pannier and the naming conventions I use to try remember where everything is. This saves endless repacking and swearing 🙂

However, the pannier packing is very much an ever changing process. I’ve been trying to keep dirty clothes separate but this plays havoc with the system. Especially as they build up when staying in camp sites with limited washing facilities.

If anyone has any good packing strategies please feel free to share some wisdom in the comments 🙂

Any other comments or questions on the panniers or bike welcome too.

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