Bike specs, and a first-draft answer to “why?”

by davidharries

Strange things happen when you tell people you’re planning for a tour. Probably it’s partly my fault for saying, “I’m going on a long bike ride,” but what else do you say? When the conversation turns to where/how long/why, the inevitable drift toward the sentiment of how far I’m going/why am I doing this/don’t I have better things to do (read: responsibilities)/where will I sleep/won’t I be killed by bloodthirsty degenerates is a little odd. After all, I haven’t done anything yet. I’ve done a fair bit of plotting, planning and preparation, but haven’t turned a single mile on the TransAm route. It’s pretty much exactly like being congratulated for landing on the moon when you’re in Florida, strapped to a Saturn V on top of 2 million liters of fuel and oxidizer. Yeah, if all goes well it’s going to be a pretty nifty trip, but there’s still 240,000 miles between you and the Sea of Tranquility.  I’ve got the Pacific Ocean in my sights, but there’s 4,300-plus miles and a handful of loose dogs separating us. So, feel free to call me Neil.

It’s tough when folks ask “why?” The easy, smart-ass retort is “why not?” Snappy and superficial, while imbuing me an undeserved vagabond aura of spontaneity, this is not wrong —  just incomplete. The answer — as best I’ve puzzled it out — is that the whys outweigh the why-nots right now.


To others of you reading who have thought of adventure, just go. Don’t say “someday”. Set a date, make your plans and go. There will always be reasons not to go, but don’t let those reasons rule you. You can overcome them. Everyone should have adventure in their life.

John Meiners in “Going Across” (An excellent journal on the most excellent CGOAB site)


I don’t have a mortgage. I don’t have a car payment. I don’t have children (AFAIK). I do have a fabulously understanding girlfriend and my health. I left a solid job on good terms in November, and that was the big catalyst. When you read about folks’ extended tours, it’s a fairly bimodal distribution. You have the young (college students, high school/college grads, etc.) and your old (retirees, empty-nesters). Life happens in the middle, and other obligations can pull you away — if you don’t push back.

Here’s the obligatory build-out of the bicycle, for my records and those who are into specs and gear. Packing and equipment lists to come.

Frame and fork: 2010 Surly Cross-Check.

Wheels and tires: 36-hole Velocity Dyads/Tiagra hubs (machine built; stress-relieved), 700x32c Schwalbe Marathon.

Drivetrain: Suntour MTB crank (46/36/24), Ultegra FD, Deore XT RD, SRAM 12-34 cassette, KMC chain, Shimano M520 pedals.

Components: 42 cm FSA Gossamer Ergo bars, Soma brake levers, Dura Ace bar-end shifters, Fizik tape, Chris King headset, adjustable Ritchey stem (Yeah, I know. Shameful.) Thompson seatpost, Selle Anatomica TransAm saddle, Paul Cantilever brakes (front: Neo-Retro, rear: Touring) Kool-Stop Salmon pads.

As I discussed earlier, the bike was an eBay score. It’s sure looks different now.