Kevin Koga? Perhaps Not…

Darren from ??? (his Facebook page only gives a few clues – Australia? Camden town? Somewhere where it has been snowing recently from his picture so anywhere in the UK?) has messaged me on said social network…

Hello Andrew, I am a complete novice cyclist and am considering attempting the Eurovelo 5 route in summer 2011 as I see from your blog you have done. Could you please help me with the type of bicycle I will need and possibly some suggestions where I can purchase one? I assume an ordinary bike wouldn’t work as I will need some way of carrying my bags, etc. Cheers Darren

Now bikes have been on my mind slightly over the course of the past couple of weeks since making the decision to (probably) cycle along the Eurovelo 8 in summer 2013. Reggie Ridgeback – my “pimped” Ridgeback Panorama that I bought to cycle along the Eurovelo 5 (“pimped” by the addition of the flat, butterfly handlebars) – will, by then, have commuted his way back and forth along the back roads from Reading to Henley for three full winters as well as the 3,200 km from Reading to Brindisi. He may be looking forward to retiring. And, let’s face it, I’d love another bike! It would be hard to resist the allure of a machine from Koga Miyata (or Koga as I think they have recently renamed themselves), the Dutch company that has supplied so many of the serious long-distance cyclists, including, of course, Mark Beaumont. The one shown here is the Koga Randonneur – what a beauty! The problem is that they are bloody expensive. But they are presumably robust and reliable. Reggie’s back wheel spokes were his Achilles heel en route to southern Italy (remember the fun I had south of the St. Gotthard Pass? See “I spoke too soon“). Another Darren, Darren Whittle actually bought himself a Koga Miyata prior to cycling along the Pennine Cycleway earlier this year. I was very jealous at the time but I seem to remember it costing him…. take a deep breath…. £2,500. Ouch! But it did come with ready-fitted butterfly bars. So perhaps I am dreaming but it will give me reason to save up.

So back to Darren’s question; what type of bicycle should he buy? Well you are correct that you would need a bike with some pannier racks (although I assume these could be fitted to an ordinary bike). I went for the Ridgeback Panorama after much thought and research; it had pre-fitted racks front and back and recieved some good write-ups in the magazines. And it’s still going strong. When everything is working (which it usually is), it cycles like a dream. Would you be able to manage with a “normal” bike? Probably. Chris Hammersley (see his own blog here) didn’t invest a fortune in his bike and he made it as far as Greece (albeit with a few train journeys). You may want to get in touch with him to find out what make and model it was.

As for where to buy one, I’m going to assume you are in the UK. I bought my Ridgeback Panorama at a local specialised bike shop – AW Cycles in Caversham, Reading (although they weren’t happy about me changing to the flat handlebars; I had to go to the chain shop Evans to get that done without a battle). Most bike shops have people who can give you better advice than me with the exception of Halfords which tends to employ wide-boys who are more interested in blinging their cars (they are the ones always parked nearest to the entrance of Halfords shops with their unemployed mates sitting on the bonnet all day) than acquiring a good knowledge of touring bikes. And then there is the Internet although I would imagine most bike shops would match an online price if you quoted it to them…

Good luck with your efforts to cycle along the Eurovelo 5. Why not start a blog?!

Categories: Cycling

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11 replies »

  1. Well I am the Darren who asked the question. Thank you all for the responses. It appears I will have to do a little research. I am keen to try a long distance ride despite my lack of experience! Cheers.

    • My own inexperience is perhaps not apparent in the blog; I was just an enthusiastic novice before embarking upon on my ride along the Eurovėlo 5. And actually, I still am very much an upstart with just a little bit of experience… Good luck & keep in touch – join the Eurovėlo 5 Facebook group; there is a link on my page…

  2. If you ever get a comfy one that rides well, no matter what make, weight, colour, or style STICK WITH IT!!!
    Change the wheels if they are junk. The frame should not wear out unless you prang it or let it rust. Everything can be changed on a bike when it wears out, and it will,
    A comfortable bike will make you go faster, get further and it will be more pleasurable along the way.
    Weight is not a big issue for touring.
    The best upgrade to a bike is the wheels.
    Get them hand made. it may not cost you much more but it will save you time and money when you start to tour.
    All the rest is theory and bling.

    Is my £3000 titanium tourer my last purchase? Yes! untill somthing more comfortable comes along 🙂

  3. The comments below from Darrell and especially Iain show that my readers know far more about cycling and bikes than I do! Apologies for the delay in your posts appearing btw. If you include links, the Spam filter assumes you are a Russian trying to sell everyone sex devices…

  4. Thanks for the nod Andrew but I didn’t get a Koga, although it was a make considered), but opted instead for a Santos Travelmaster.

    It was £2500.00 but that was with a Rohloff Hub and Shimano XT components so it needn’t cost that much at all. The Rohloff is absolutely great though and I wouldn’t want to use anything else for touring now. I have covered 2100 miles since getting it, including the Pennine Cycleway, and the bike hasn’t given’t me a minutes concern and remains one of the most comfortable, able bikes I have ridden.

    If you are looking for a touring bike that will last thousands upon thousands of miles and many, many years I would heartily recommend considering a Santos

    Oh, I am Darrell not Darren (a typo easily done but kind of attached to my name). Nothing against the name Darren though so if you want to contact me I would happily chat further.

    And doing this post reminds me I still have your maps Andrew which I am going to put in a envelope and post today.


    • Sorry for getting your name wrong Darrell…. And thanks for the clarification about the bike. It makes me wonder how much a Koga Randonneur actually costs… Quick Internet check tells me about £1,800. I will keep the Santos in mind however. As for the maps… I haven’t missed them so don’t worry about getting them down here asap. In fact with current weather conditions, it would be well into January before they arrived. I just spoke to my mother; it was her birthday last Thursday but the card that I sent last Monday only arrived this morning!
      Have a good Christmas Darrell and happy cycling in 2011 🙂

  5. You can tour with just about any bike, how far you want to go, how much you want to carry, which countries you want to visit, the terrain you are likely to cover, how capable you are, the style you want to do it in and the budget you have available all influence what is possible.

    There is lots of discussion on the forums about “what bike should I get for £1000” and the like. Have a look here:

    Do a search or two and trawl through some discussions and see what different opinions are out there.

    Also have a look at reviews of touring bikes on the same website:

    Andrew also had an Equipment section where he listed some bike options that he was considering.

    There are lots of different options for a touring bike. You have to try and work out what you want to do with the bike and get a very specific bike that fits those needs exactly (which can be hard to work out exactly, especially at first when faced with so many options). Or work out what range of activities you would ideally like your bike to cover and try and get a bike that fits that. Can you afford a dedicated tourer? Are you likely to have a need to manage heavily laden touring or do you need to commute on your bike as well as tour on it?

    I think advice in person is good but can be hard to find. There doesn’t seem to be too many dedicated cycle touring shops. It also varies so much from person to person so don’t make your mind up right away and get a range of opinions to make your informed decision. Try having a look at the CTC website for specific touring points of view.

    Most people need panniers and to carry them you need a pannier rack. The easiest way to fit one is if your bike has the bosses needed to fit one. These are welded onto your frame at the key points on the rear stays. So if you get a bike with Carbon rear stays you probably won’t have these bosses. Some bikes only have them on the rear and none on the front fork. Bikes built and intended more for touring will have a front fork that has these bosses too. But you don’t even need these bosses as you can buy racks for the front and rear that can be fitted to frames without the bosses. So do you need to carry so much luggage (a tent as well?) you need panniers on the front and rear or could you get away with just the rear? Depends how much comfort you need, too much weight just on the back will make the bike a pig to handle at times.

    26” wheels are preferred for expeditions to the back and beyond because parts are more available in these countries. 700c wheels are more common to Europe and America.

    The material your frame is made out of might be a consideration. Again in the back and beyond a steel frame could be easier repaired where aluminium will probably not be able to be welded or repaired. Would this be a problem on Eurovelo 8? I don’t think so. A steel frame is stiffer and carries the weight better than a weaker metal frame might. A carbon frame is even less likely to enjoy carrying any weight but I did see a blog of a guy who travelled London to Rome on a Chris Boardman carbon bike with a very light luggage load.

    You also need to think about gearing. Buying a bike off the peg from the shop you may have a little scope in making some changes or you could just rely on it as it comes. I think the gearing on Andrew’s bike is a standard touring set up which would suit nearly anybody. Big enough gears for loaded touring and through the alps and more than comfortable enough for the rest of the trip.

    Andy changed his handlebars over from drop bars. Depends what you like and are used to. I wish I didn’t waste my time on a hybrid bike that got me into cycling and wish I went straight for a drop bar bike. Andrew would quite strongly argue against drop bars and for butterfly’s. A matter of personal preference.

    Me, I’ve toured with a hybrid (flat bars and racer like wheels/gearing) and a load just on the rear of it. I managed this fine but the handling left a little to be desired. I built up my own touring bike last year which I am quite happy with. I chose the Condor Heritage frame and built up around that with the gear I sourced myself from the internet according to what I could afford and what I desired. I learned a lot in the process and built the bike myself. If money had been no option a think I would have had to seriously look at the Koga and also Van Nicholas Bikes (titanium frame). Andrew posted a picture of my bike here:

    I was going to say for me that the key components of the bike are the wheels and the pannier rack. I got hand built wheels which are as strong as I think you might ever need. So good I bought another pair of wheels from the same chap for another of my bikes. Andrew had a few issues with his rear wheel, I had likewise with my hybrid but only ever on my commute and not in the middle of the alps! And I have found that a good strong pannier rack makes a difference to the handling of the bike as it keeps the luggage from swaying and making the handling poor. But then I started to think about the importance of the fit of the bike, the saddle the gears ……and then realised the whole package is pretty important. That takes me back to the start of what I said, ask around and read around and take a test ride or two from friends or cycle shops or hire bikes to try out different arrangements. Then when you make you decision about what you want cycle it plenty and test it out loaded on a weekend away to get to grips with it before you are on your trip. You will then have the opportunity to change any bits and bobs you may need to give attention to.

    • Wow! Thanks for that Iain. Very useful for me just as much as for the chap who is planning to ride the Eurovelo 5 this summer. All my own research is still on the site under “cyclist / bike (or equipment). Have a good Christmas Iain down in what I imagine is a snowy Kent 🙂

      • Cheers Andrew, it is pretty snowy down here at the moment but I’m heading home to Scotland for Christmas where it is even worse so hopefully the flight will not be affected! It is so bad I’ve had to set up the Turbo Trainer in the garage to keep the legs going. I’m taking part in a sportive in late February so must keep/get fit. If you are interested google “the hell of the ashdown” and if you have time there is a youtube clip of one of the climbs, I think you would find that under “Kidds Hill climb”. I had a look at the hills on google earth and it looks quite a challenge!

        Have a good Christmas in Reading! I’m looking forward to hearing about your pland for 2011 once you settle on them. I’m working through some ideas myself. So many options!

        All the best!

  6. More than happy to advise! I was (and probably still am) a novice cyclist this time last year, and yet I survived (well more than that; enjoyed!) the eurovelo 5 last summer!!

What do you think?