Author Topic: First tour on our Ravens  (Read 755 times)

j-ms

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First tour on our Ravens
« on: March 07, 2017, 11:19:23 AM »
Hi

We have just finished our first tour on the Ravens we bought from SJS at the end of last year.  This was through the Western Cape winelands in South Africa and was intended to be a  short “dry run” (15 days) for a longer (6 months) trip in the far East starting in May this year. 

The route of just short of 700 kilometers took us through winelands, wheatfields and general farming country with probably too much in urban and tourist areas.  It included a couple of great mountain passes, rolling hills and some fast flat sections.  Some of the roads carried extremely high volumes of traffic of which not a small minority drove dangerously fast and close to us.  Two of the worst roads were between Klapmuts and Simmondium and between Hermanus and Stanford (both had no shoulder and were filled with what seemed like cyclist-hating drivers).  The roads away from the coast and further from Cape Town were much more cyclist friendly and enjoyable.

The bikes, with the exception of one aspect of the tyres, were 100% suited for the job.  My wife was lightly loaded (about 11 Kg plus – rear panniers and handlebar bag) while I carried a bit more (minimum 25 Kg – rear and front panniers, rackpack and handlebar bag) and both bikes felt very balanced.  They handled wonderfully, whether plodding up steep passes at 6 kilometers an hour , gunning down the other side at 60 kilometers an hour, or bouncing along corrugated dirt roads.

Unfortunately the tyres, Schwalbe Marathon Duremes, weren't able to deal with the thorns that are very common in Africa – dubbeltjies (a corruption of duiweltjie or “little devil”) which are three sided pyramids with a spike on each corner which almost guarantee that they will get a grip on a passing tyre.  I lost count of the number of punctures I had to repair – thank goodness I carried three spare tubes because on some days I used all three.  All seven tubes now look as if they have measles due to the number of patches used.

We had same great food (and bad) and tasted some lovely wines.  We camped eleven of the fifteen nights and gave our camping setup a good test.

The full trip report can be found at https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/?o=tS&doc_id=18927&v=1K.

We can't wait to hit Japan in May.

Jean-Marc

lewisjnoble

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Re: First tour on our Ravens
« Reply #1 on: March 07, 2017, 11:52:01 AM »
A great ride and report, thanks.  It's good to see the step-through bike in pictures, and hear that it went well - very few manufacturers make a step-through capable of serious touring.

Bad news about the tyres, and no particular advice - Duremes always did well for me in European riding.  No doubt others will be along with comments about that.

Good luck with your planning and proposed tour.

Lewis - Sheffield
 

jags

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Re: First tour on our Ravens
« Reply #2 on: March 07, 2017, 02:48:43 PM »
look's like a great tour ,all than sunshine man will i ever see it again.

jags,

mickeg

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Re: First tour on our Ravens
« Reply #3 on: March 07, 2017, 06:33:04 PM »
Glad most things worked well for you.

Twice when I went out of town for biking, I took special precautions for tires. 

One of those trips was mountain biking and I used my Nomad for that.  I used a "thorn resistant" tube with Slime sealant in it on the rear.  The tube was thick rubber, but it was very thin within about a cm of the valve stem.  And it failed right in that thin spot.  Photo is of me changing the tire.  Front tube was a normal tube, but with Slime added.

The other time I took precautions for a tire was a two week bike trip I got home from a couple weeks ago.  I used Schwalbe Marathon tires (with GreenGuard) front and rear on my Sherpa, 559X40mm, or 1.5 width.  I put a tire liner in the rear because we had heard that there is a lot of debris on the side of the road.  I got a puncture in the tire with the liner, picked up a large staple like the staples that some woodworkers use for low cost woodworking.

So, the two times that I took special precautions, I had failures.  I give up. 

Dan recently mentioned that he has had some failures of tube valve stems coming out of the tube rubber.  I have had the same types of failures over the years too.  That is why I always carry two spare tubes instead of one.  You are fortunate you had three.

Matt2matt2002

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Re: First tour on our Ravens
« Reply #4 on: March 07, 2017, 08:29:15 PM »
I enjoyed reading about your tour.
And pleased you like the Raven.
I ride one and have come to think of having x2 bikes.
The handling is so good both loaded and unloaded but so different.
I sometimes think I should load up my four panniers and use them on the bike for day to day riding.
Never drink and drive. You may hit a bump  and spill your drink

martinf

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Re: First tour on our Ravens
« Reply #5 on: March 07, 2017, 09:31:16 PM »
Unfortunately the tyres, Schwalbe Marathon Duremes, weren't able to deal with the thorns that are very common in Africa – dubbeltjies (a corruption of duiweltjie or “little devil”) which are three sided pyramids with a spike on each corner which almost guarantee that they will get a grip on a passing tyre.  I lost count of the number of punctures I had to repair – thank goodness I carried three spare tubes because on some days I used all three.  All seven tubes now look as if they have measles due to the number of patches used.

Sounds like a place where you need Marathon Plus tyres. These trade greater puncture resistance against performance.

I have a set of Marathon Plus on one of my visitor bikes. The drop in performance seems to me to matter less on a bike only used for short distances, and worth the avoidance of hassle from someone inexperienced trying to mend a puncture on a hub-gear bike.

On my own bikes I have had very few punctures with Duremes and Supremes, but devil thorns and goathead thorns are absent from the parts of Europe I ride in, and I tend to avoid urban areas with lots of glass and metal debris.


j-ms

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Re: First tour on our Ravens
« Reply #6 on: March 09, 2017, 02:40:44 PM »
Thanks for the comments and advice re tyres.  I am considering using slimed tyres in future - still wacks of tread left on the Duremes.  It would be great to go back to UST tyres.  The lack of absolute flats when using UST tyres with slime was the best move I made on our previous bikes.

Anto, I'd trade the sun for a windless environment any day ;-).  I was watching some of the videos of the trip this morning and even only a few days after the end of the trip I am surprised at how strong it was at times.

EDIT:  Just noticed the following line from Andy Blance in his Thorn Mega Brochure regarding Duremes: "It’s one of the most puncture resistant tyres ever made.".  Not sure if I would agree.
« Last Edit: March 09, 2017, 02:53:57 PM by j-ms »

jags

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Re: First tour on our Ravens
« Reply #7 on: March 09, 2017, 05:10:34 PM »
Don't mind Andy he's great at making bikes but when it comes to tyres  ;)

we get any amount of wind and rain here although today was fantastic a great  to be cycling i got 30 hilly miles in .

btw those thorns look like they would puncture a car tyre don't think a slime tube would win the battle against those little horrors.


anto.

John Saxby

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Re: First tour on our Ravens
« Reply #8 on: March 10, 2017, 12:25:26 AM »
Great tale, Jean-Marc, and I'm glad that the bikes performed so well. (Glad, though not surprised. My Raven is capable of much more than I am, I think.) I admire your and Leigh's ability to sample the wines and ride the bikes!  Envy your visits to the smaller wineries, too. Ontario's gvt-owned liquor store is the largest purchaser of wine and spirits in the world, so we get only the products of SA's larger vineyards, and we can't get 12-year-old Klipdrift brandy :-(

You seem to have handled the hills of the Cape pretty well -- good on yer both.  What sprocket/ring combos do you have on your bikes?

I don't have any answer for handling the duiweltjies -- met those wee devils 12 years back on a weeklong trek in the Naukluft. Maybe Dan, who now & then has to deal with goathead horns, will have some advice.

As for the headwinds, ummmm -- I live in a windy place (the Ottawa Valley) & couldn't manage with flat bars, so use drops on my Raven. But in your case, I think it's too late for that. Shorter days as a default strategy?

And the traffic -- we lived in Pretoria betw 2003 and 2006, and I found the peri-urban traffic to be almost as bad as you describe. Friends in CT have given up riding in the urban & peri-urban areas for that very reason. Happily, like you I found the drivers of heavy goods vehicles to be quite considerate.

Look forward to your story of The Next Big Ride in Japan.  Safe journeys, John

Danneaux

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Re: First tour on our Ravens
« Reply #9 on: March 10, 2017, 05:51:20 AM »
Wonderful story, Jean-Marc; many thanks for posting. John Saxby wondered...
Quote
I don't have any answer for handling the duiweltjies -- met those wee devils 12 years back on a weeklong trek in the Naukluft. Maybe Dan, who now & then has to deal with goathead horns, will have some advice.
I can share my experience and solutions, which are different from what others seem to use use. I prefer to use my Schwalbe Dureme tires in goathead thorn country (in my case, America's Great Basin and related desert regions) and have had reasonably good luck using standard Schwalbe PV13 tubes and *carrying* a pair of Mr. Tuffy liners, which I *install* when I reach areas with goatheads. I have found the Mr. Tuffy liners work better than other brands I've tried.

In this way, I avoid undue wear from the liners on the majority of my journey, yet benefit from their increased puncture resistance.

There are some provisos, of course:
• As mentioned, I don't ride with the liners all the time, just when I feel they are needed. This sometimes means I do incur one puncture before I install the liners. I find it pretty quick and easy to install and remove the liners, about the same effort as repairing a puncture.
• I pre-shave the ends of the liners into a bevel using my disc sander. This prevents the ends/overlap from wearing through the tube, possibly causing a flat on their own through friction.
• I use a piece of tape with low-creep adhesive to cover the end-joint overlap; same reason as the beveling.
• I boost my tire pressure by about 5% over my ideal (~15% rim drop under load) bare tire/tube pressures. This isn't much, but I've found it is just enough to prevent squirming between tube, liner, and tire casing.
• I do adjust my riding style and try not to lean over too far in corners, as the liners don't extend up the tire sidewalls, which can remain vulnerable.
• Whenever I stop, I remove any visible goathead thorns partially embedded in the tire tread. I don't have as much trouble if the thorn embeds in a tread block, but the thorns are more problematic if they embed in the thinner part of the casing between the tread blocks.

The season seems to make a real difference wrt how many thorns I encounter. They seem to be far worse in the late summer/early fall. Rainfall makes a difference, too. Wet rubber cuts far more readily than dry rubber (any high school chemistry student can testify that wet surgical tubing cuts far more easily with single-edged razor blade than dry rubber), so I've found my tires to be extra vulnerable to thorns when riding during and immediately after thunderstorms. These thorns are opportunistic to a degree and "like" to proliferate in disturbed soils, so it pays to stay away from road shoulders and such.

I do ride pavement as well as gravel and off-road (cross-country). I find these three environments don't really affect the incidence of thorns very much -- they blow across pavement, ride atop gravel and dirt, and are sprinkled across vegetation as vines. One benefit of riding across dry lake beds and through largely undisturbed areas is they don't seem to support goatheads -- it is just open playa, usually with high concentrations of alkali salts. The big concern is getting out on it and having unexpected rain or thunderstorms occur. Playa is usually hard and solid to a degree, but when it gets wet, it becomes pudding and one sinks. Worse, it sticks to and coats pretty much anything in contact with alkali water that is very irritating to skin.

Even more than my tires/tubes, I worry about goathead punctures to my tent floor and self-inflating pad. I always sweep and groom my campsites to reduce the incidence of thorns (Ouch! Fingers!) and sometimes take a closed-cell pad and lay it out *beneath* my tent floor, which serves to blunt any unfound thorns and so prevent some punctures to tent and mattress in that way.

Unlike a majority of users, I have had simply terrible experience in my desert touring with flat-preventing sealants including Stan's. I think the source of the problem is the extreme heat I encounter when touring the desert in summer. It can get hot enough to melt asphalt and cause it to stick to tires or oneself if you sit on the pavement (with terrible results when it cools and you try to peel it off taking the hide with it). I think the heat basically cooks the goo and converts it to little snot-balls that clog valves and don't seem to do much in terms of remaining liquid enough to seal punctures.

I've not had great luck with puncture-resistant (thicker) tubes, either. They always seem to be thinner around the valve and that's where they seem to pick up punctures for me in my use.

I typically carry 6 new spare tubes, start on new tires (and carry 1-2 new folding spares in plastic zip-top bags inside lightweight dry sacks to slow rubber degradation), and carry a number of both vulcanizing and instant patch kits and my usual tube of beta-cyanoacrylate super glue (the kind that glues rubber...I pinch a puncture so it opens, put in a drop of glue, let go, and the leak is sealed within a few seconds. I use small drops of water, sometimes with alcohol from the stove and with baking soda as a kicker/accelerator and filler for larger holes in tires and to fill cracks in case something made of plastic cracks and needs repair. Desert humidity can be very low so the water -- even spit -- helps to cure the glue).

Maybe something in the above will help. Goatheads and related thorns are bedeviling little things, and almost every defense against them is vulnerable to a degree in my experience. They're no fun when they stick into skin, either. I got some in an elbow and both knees one night as I leaned over to unzip my tent door. Sure did hurt.

Best,

Dan.

j-ms

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Re: First tour on our Ravens
« Reply #10 on: March 10, 2017, 06:55:21 AM »
Hi John, we have 40/19 chainring/sprocket combos giving a gear-inch range of 15.3 to 80.3 (re Sheldon Brown's calculator).  This means we  spin out soon after 30 kays an hour but does allow us to crawl up the hills when needed.  We didn't have any sections worth mentioning much over 10% on this trip but last year in SE Asia we went over 15% a few times and with a low end of 18 inches on the bikes we had at the time we were taken close to our limit, particularly if we hit a steep climb in the heat (40 degrees plus much of the time in SE Asia during March/April).  I'm guessing the topography of the Western Cape might be similar to parts of Japan, particularly Shikoku where we plan to spend most of our time, so it was hopefully a good testing ground.

Dan, thanks for the extensive and insightful discussion on how you deal with devil thorns.  Interestingly, the only punctures we have had in the three months that we have had the bikes was on this trip and during a short stay in the citrus growing areas of the Gamtoos Valley in January where we picked up nine punctures in less than 100 kilometers, also as a result of dubbeltjies from the orchards being carried into the roads by farm vehicles.

My current feeling is that I must just man-up and keep on dealing with them as they happen but in the future (when we get back from Asia at the end of the year ?) I might look for another solution.  We were used to UST tyres (Maxxis Crossmarks) which were practically puncture free when used with Stan's slime over a period of three years.  However, they were much heavier and slower than the Duremes and I am not sure I could go back to that (or if Leigh will even countenance it).
« Last Edit: March 10, 2017, 07:00:07 AM by j-ms »

John Saxby

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Re: First tour on our Ravens
« Reply #11 on: March 10, 2017, 12:45:57 PM »
Thanks, Jean-Marc.  Your 40-19 combo gives similar gear-inch ratios to my 36-17.  That's worked well for me in the year-plus I've had it -- my original setup was 38-17.

Good luck with your prep for Japan.


Mike Ayling

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Re: First tour on our Ravens
« Reply #12 on: March 13, 2017, 08:09:09 AM »
Hi



The bikes, with the exception of one aspect of the tyres, were 100% suited for the job.  My wife was lightly loaded (about 11 Kg plus – rear panniers and handlebar bag) while I carried a bit more (minimum 25 Kg – rear and front panniers, rackpack and handlebar bag) and both bikes felt very balanced.  They handled wonderfully, whether plodding up steep passes at 6 kilometers an hour , gunning down the other side at 60 kilometers an hour,

Jean-Marc

We can also testify to the stability of a loaded Thorn bike.

Credit card touring on our Thorn Twin Raven  tandem we were carrying four panniers with about 20kg all up and doing 70 kmh down hill the bike was solid as a rock, wewere both impressed.

We also have the goats head thorns here in Australia.

Cheers

Mike