Gear Reviews: BOB Trailer and Panniers

22 02 2010

A look back: Skinny Horse and the BOB trailer on Lake Titicaca, Bolivia


The BOB (Beast of Burden) trailor was working sweetly until the drybag was stolen. Then I had a new vinyl bag made in Bolivia. It worked quite well, but a continuing frustration was the difficulty of carrying the bike AND trailor up and down steps, which happened quite frequently in non-wheelchair-accessible places.

In the end I dumped the trailer. I’m a big fan of the BOB for touring in the U.S. but I’m an even bigger fan of panniers on a Latin American tour.

So, what kind of panniers do I use, and what kind should you use? I got the cheapest ones I could find, but you should get Ortlieb panniers. They are king. My front Novara panniers aren’t waterproof and leak a bit even with raincovers. My rear TransIt panniers are waterproof but badly designed; I broke the top off of one when carrying it by the attached handle, had to re-sew it with dental floss and am now afraid to carry them by their handles anymore. So I carry them like babies. But I love them less.

In short, you can make anything work with enough plastic bags, zip ties, duct tape, and dental floss. But you see Ortlieb on most touring cyclists’ bikes for good reason.


Gear Testing: Tires and Jersey

12 02 2010

If you are considering a bicycle tour, you can do it with cheap tires and a cotton t-shirt. Don’t let any naysayers convince you otherwise. Quality gear simply makes your trip more comfortable. Here are two items that I have been overly impressed by: Voler Jersey and Vittoria Double Shield Tires, both of which I have been using for over a year, since day one.

Voler jersey drying in a boatyard in Cartagena, Colombia

Voler Jersey: I’ve washed it in buckets and rivers and swimming pools, it has been wrung dry as hard as my hands can twist, and it’s been hung on barbed wire fences overnight… and it still looks brand new. I have never had to stitch it, the elastic has not worn out, the zipper is as smooth as mantequilla and the colors are brilliant as ever. Could not be happier with this “semi-custom jersey” from Voler with the logo my brother designed for the trip and sponsors’ logos printed on the back.

Vittoria Double Shield Tires: My front tire is the same tire I have had since day one. It took a little rest when I used some knobby cyclocross tires through Bolivia’s dirt and sand, but it was soon mounted once again and rolling through glass, thorns, ruts, and a million other destructive obstacles. One day in Paraguay I found more than 100 goatheads stuck in the tire. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard the piercing crack of bottle glass under the tire. And one time I had to remove a thumb tack. The stats remains: zero flats, zero flaws, 0 complaints… and there’s even a little bit of tread left after about 10,000 kilometers.