It’s been a while since I felt like writing anything but my recent cycling trip to Paris seems like an ideal opportunity to put fingers to plastic once more. To recap, I and six friends had planned a three day cycling trip from the foot of the Surrey Hills to the Arc de Triomphe in Paris which we undertook last weekend (June 21st-24th 2019).
I’ve put down a lot about the thought that went into the equipment I used on my blog before – mostly to do with the bike itself but I thought I would wrap all of that up in a short post so here goes:
Bike: Planet X London Road (the ‘Vomit Comet’)
I bought the Planet X bike as it seemed like an ideal combination of robustness, all round capability, luggage mounting and colour. I wanted a capable road bike that had disc brakes, would take wider tyres and could also take a rack and panniers. The PXLR seemed to tick all the boxes for me and, at a starting price of £500, was very good value for money. The only adjustment I made was to put a (familiar to me) Fabric Scoop saddle on it as the original one seemed uncomfortable.
Post ride verdict: Great bike, performed really well with no mechanicals and was pleasant to ride. Apart from some aching in my hands when riding on the hoods I really couldn’t find any fault with it or its Apex 1×11 gearset. It is a very well priced bike for commuting, touring or just about any general cycling. 9/10
Rack: Bontrager Back Rack Disc
I looked at a lot of racks and, to be honest, couldn’t really tell the difference between them. I wanted something lightweight but robust (obviously) that didn’t look like a quarter of the Forth Road Bridge. In the end I opted for the Bontrager because the reviews were positive and most mentioned its lightness. It has a minimum of metalwork as well so all good there. For reference, I bought it for £24.99 from Evans. It was easy to fit and didn’t seem to rattle or jiggle once fitted.
Post ride verdict: Worked perfectly. No rattles or issues at all. The panniers didn’t fall off or get trapped in my wheel so I would mark that down as “job done”. There is a tiny niggle where the frame shape at the top made undoing the clip on pannier fiddly so I’ll mean-spiritedly dock one point for that. 9/10
Luggage: Decathlon B’Twin Waterproof Panniers
I hadn’t really wanted to go down the pannier route but decided that they were more practical than bike packing, if not quite as sleek looking. In the end, I found an offer on the Altura Sonic 40 pair of panniers at Evans at £65 for the pair which I was pleased with. Annoyingly, only one turned up! A quick phonecall to Evans revealed that, yes, it was meant to be a pair but they only had one left so that was all they could send me (give they’re sold as a pair I’m a little confused but there we go). They were happy to knock half the price off or provide a full refund. I went with the latter option. Given I was running out of time for deliveries, I decided just to head for Decathlon and pick up some B’Twin 900 panniers – waterproof and 50 litres per pair – for £75. They again seemed robust and well made. We did do a practice ride on the Sunday beforehand in torrential rain and they worked admirably. They fitted the rack very easily and securely.
Post ride verdict: None of my stuff fell out, which was good. They held plenty of luggage with no issues and even had a small inside pocket for passports and other small items which was a nice touch. A shoulder strap would have been nice but I found the ones from my drybags fitted OK so no big issue. They seem totally waterproof. 9/10
Camera: Crosstour CT8500
I had been toying with the idea of a GoPro but really didn’t want to splash out that amount of money on a new toy so opted to go with one of the alternatives from Amazon instead. The CT8500 is about £50, does 4K video, 16MP pictures and comes with 2 batteries and a host of accessories. It didn’t however come with a bracket that fitted my stem so I bought one separately (in fact I bought two but I won’t bore you with that particular piece of stupidity).
Post ride verdict: It worked well. I found it took a while to get it set up right but that was my inexperience. The quality of the video is great but beware the size of file you’ll produce in either 4K of even 1080/30fps. I’ve found that I simply couldn’t download the files to my iPad but have just transferred them via a memory card reader to my laptop instead but that’s not the fault of the camera. It came with a small remote control which was very handy for starting/stopping recording on the move. All in all, astounding results for £50. Highly recommended 10/10.
Shoes: Decathlon Rockrider ST500 MTB Shoes
I decided to buy a new pair of shoes in order to save weight. I thought that by having a pair of trainer style touring shoes, I would only need to throw in a pair of flip flops in to my panniers rather than an additional pair of trainers for off bike use. £49.99
Post ride verdict: In general, the plan was sound. The shoes seem well built and are trainer-y enough to wear off bike. Walking around with the recessed cleats was fine. However, when I first rode with them I discovered that the unadjustable (front to back) position for the cleat was a little further back than I am used to with my usual Sidis. It wasn’t wholly uncomfortable just a little odd. I also did find that, after a while, I was getting pain on the outside of my right foot. Loosening the shoe helped temporarily but it kept returning. I’m unsure if it was the shoes or the slightly different set up position compared to my Cannondale. 7/10
Dry Bags: Pod Sacs Dry Bags 10L
Given that I wasn’t sure how waterproof the panniers might turn out to be I thought I would also buy some dry bags for mosre valuable items of luggage. I reasoned it would also help to sort various items into groupings for easier access during the trip. I bought these from Planet X and they were (I think) about £6 each. Each dry bag comes with a carry handle and a removable shoulder strap.
Post ride verdict: Great value for money. Whilst I didn’t need the waterproofing they provided a good method for organising luggage. The shoulder straps turned out to be thoroughly useful for the panniers and I’m sure I can find a myriad of other uses for them in the future. 10/10