Bike Equipment Review – After 25,000km

I wrote a review of the bike equipment after a year on the road, from Yaounde in Cameroon, after 17,000km. Now, having completed my ride to Cape Town, after 25,000km in total, it’s time for an update.

Since Yaounde there has been little to fix – the wobbling wheel got worse but I lived with it, I did another oil change, the cable of the Rohloff internal mechanism frayed and had to be replaced and I got two more punctures. That’s all.
And now for a detailed run-down:

Frame (Thorn Raven Tour)

A few scratches but otherwise good for plenty more km’s.

Racks (Thorn)

Paint has gone where panniers have rubbed and so some rust where metal is exposed. Otherwise good for plenty more km’s too. Not a single loose bolt the whole journey.

Tyres (Schwalbe Marathon XR)

Moved front tyre to back at 12,000km and replaced rear with spare. Not really necessary though. Less than 10 punctures in total. Both good for many more km’s.

Wheels (Rigida, ceramic)

Never needed truing and not a single broken spoke. Minimal signs of wear on rim. So no problems, good for more km’s.

Brakes (v-brakes)

New pads at 17,000km. Current pads ok for a summer of cycling in the uk but will change for the next trip. Cables lasted whole trip… just (should have changed them at about 24,000km but struggled on to end) and having removed them now I can see the wire is frayed at the lever end. The cable housing has split at ends also. Brake levers still work fine. So, cables, housing, v-noodles and rubber boots all need replacing.

Chain, Chainring and Rear Sprocket

Replaced at 15,000km. Needs changing again, but nowhere near as worn as last time (remember the ninja-style sprocket weapon)!

Headset (Cane Creek with Orbit sealed bearings)

The headset is fine except that the sealed bearings are badly worn and will need to be replaced.

Handlebars (straight bars with ergon grips and bar-ends)

The grips are totally worn and splitting so will replace for the next trip. Although, having suffered with loss of strength in one hand and some minor pain due to pressure on the palm trapping the nerves, I will probably look into alternative styles of handlebars – possibly the butterfly style.

Saddle (Brookes)

– very comfy now it’s well worn in and don’t even wear padded shorts. Difficult to keep out of wet for entire trip and now the rivets are rusted. Otherwise, it’s fine.

Rohloff Hub

Besides the oil changes, no maintenance required. Unfortunately the rear wheel started wobbling at 14,000km and progressively got worse, but made complete journey… just. Wobbling due to worn hub cap bearings. Desperately needed replacing so I took it to SJS Cycles for repair – read more about this at end of post.

Rohloff Internal Mechanism

The cable runnning through the mech frayed and caused the unit to jam so couldn’t change gears at 20,000km. It was an easy roadside repair to remove the internal mech, trim the frayed wire, put it back together and keep cycling with all gears working. I then changed the whole unit when I got to town.

Rohloff Twist-Shifter

The rubber twister is totally worn with no grip remaining, once triangular in shape, it’s now round. The rest of the unit is still in working order, but looks rather battered after attacking it with a screwdriver to loosen it after it seized up after 15,000km – due to cycling in wet season with sweat and dirt and grime getting inside. Probably in part due to the o-seal which broke at 13,000km. Still usable for now but I will replace at same time as replacing the gear cables.

Rohloff Gear Cables

The cables are just about ok, but since these are the originals they are near the end of their life. The housing has split at the twistshifter and where it bends to go along the frame. The bayonet connectors and cable stoppers look pretty old but still do the job. Will replace whole system for next trip.

Notes on Rohloff Hub and SJS Cycles

After email with both SJS and Rohloff while in Africa, they agreed that the wobbling wheel was due to worn hub bearings. I could send the wheel back to either SJS Cycles or Rohloff and it would be repaired under warranty. I was told I would do no further damage to the hub if I continued cycling. It would be about at least a 2-week turnaround. I continued cycling on it.
Last weekend, now I’m back in the UK, I took the wheel to SJS Cycles expecting to leave it for repair. I explained the problem and Dave said he’d take a look to check it out. Five minutes later he returned and said that if I could wait half an hour, he would fix it and I could take it away. That’s what I did. The sealed hub bearing was worn, as suspected, but on further investigation, the axle was wobbling within the assembly and a groove had worn into the internal mech due to continued cycling on the wobbling wheel. The whole unit was replaced, including the internal mechanism and a new rear sprocket put on at the same time. All covered under warranty which meant I walked out without spending a penny – oh, except that I bought a few Schwalbe Marathon XR’s to stockpile, since Schwalbe don’t make these long-lasting tyres any more and they were on offer. Excellent service, which has gone a long way to reversing my original opinion which I wrote about SJS before.

In short

I’m just sourcing all the new parts I need so the bike is ready for the next trip. It’s quite a lot, but that’s to be expected: new brake cable set, gear cables and housing, twist-shifter (think I’ll buy the ‘light’ one which is cheaper too), chain, chain-ring, sprocket (replaced at SJS), headset bearings, and handle bars/grips. And as mentioned, I have a new hub now too.

9 Responses to “ Bike Equipment Review – After 25,000km ”

  1. Helen, I really love it. Your review I mean. I can’t think what to say at the moment because I can’t stop laughing. You are not really going to use the same bike on your next trip? I think the EDP should read your review, they did not do you justice with the short report they put in the paper to cover the whole adventure. Perhaps if they published this review some people would understand a little more of just what you accomplished. Surely you are going to write to a wider audience about Africa and what a girl on a bike can do. I hope you are enjoying the UK, I’m sure you are being spoilt by your Dad.
    Great to hear from you again.

  2. Just get a whole new bike! Are you really using this bike for the great divide? You should watch the movie to see what the conditions are actually like: you might want to at least put some proper knobbly tires on! I also hope you have a real granny gear…

  3. Hi Helen,

    Interesting write-up, thanks.

    If you want different bars, and it sounds like you do, I cured most of my hand numbness problems by using drop bars, although it’s not easy to fit a Rohloff shifter to them. You could also try H bars which give a much more natural position for your wrists. The original Jones ones are insanely expensive, but there are a few copies around. I’ve never tried butterfly bars, but lots of people like them so I guess they must be good.

    I’m glad you’re not retiring your bike. With the new parts you’re fitting it’ll be good as new – no need to replace it.

  4. do let me know what brakepads you use to get 15000km out of them. We’ve been chewing ours up at a wild rate.

    3600km and 2 flats on schwalbe marathon pluses.

    In the rain they just disappear


  5. Hi Helen,

    I have been using 1/4 inch thick neoprene inside my over sized gloves for many years and have no numb fingers. (I bought the neoprene from a scuba dive shop. Had to buy a one foot section. Since it comes 4 foot wide I had a lot but have been using it for other things.)

    I did get a pair of handle bar grips that looked like neoprene but were not. When those got wet they flattened and felt like steel.

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  8. […] A Bike Makeover Jul 31, 2011 No Comments by Helen var fbShare = {url: '',size: 'large',}stLight.options({publisher:''});emailprintDigg Diggvar fbShare = {url: '',size: 'small',}My Thorn bike made it the 25,000km to Cape Town. Just. […]

  9. Helen

    Enjoying your Africa site and your current trip too! Just purchased a Thorn Raven Tour and I must say I am comforted to know how well it went in Africa and that you are using the same bike on the Great Divide! Looks like I made the right decision on what bike to buy … hope to get on a big tour soon.

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