...is a beautiful SURLY LONG HAUL TRUCKER, which is very useful if it breaks down, because when I shout and kick it in a rage, its name rhymes with "useless fucker".
This model of bike is well known across the World as being strong and tough. Sure, there are more expensive and specialised cycles, but I need simplicity and ruggedness. It's usually the human rider bit that fails.
Surlys are strong steel bikes, made in Taiwan to an American design. Solid quality. Good reputation. You can't buy them at Halfords. The frame's tubing is thicker-walled and larger-diameter than standard road and sport-touring frames, which makes it a heavy bike. Mine's a small 42cm frame (because I am only 155cm). The colour is called "Grandpa's Thermos". That lovely old-fashioned dull green Thermos flask colour.
LHTs cope with a lot of weight. Fully loaded, it's not unusual for the bike (no rider) to weigh 60kg (same weight as me).
My Trucker has 26" wheels because a) they are stronger than normal bigger cycle wheels, and b) tyres and wheels are available in most developing countries.
We may choose to bring ExtraWheel trailers at first, until Jon and I whittle down our loads. The trailers are single wheel, using the same bike wheels and tyres, so it can also act as a spare wheel for the bikes if, say, a wheel on one of the bikes collapses or gets badly damaged. (throw the trailer frame in a bush and ride-on!)
My wheels have 36 spokes, for strength. Most bike wheels usually have 32 spokes. The wheel rims are Ryde Sputnik, which is a very strong double-walled rim, and the spokes are Sapim Race and Sapim Strong and I carry 18 spare spokes, as there are 3 different lengths of spokes on my bike.
On the front wheel there's a Shimano N72 3-watt dynamo built in for charging my phone, not for lights. This charges via an AdeptVelo electronic box to give the steady DC current and to clean up the AC pixies. It gives a reasonable charge at 10km/h, and a very strong charge at 20km/h.
The back wheel runs on a Shimano Deore T61 hub, which is an old-fashioned cup and cone loose-ball bearing jobby, field serviceable. I can strip it and grease it in 15 minutes.
My tyres are Schwalbe Marathon Mondial 2" tyres, pretty wide and slow by road bike standards. But, these are bulletproof tyres, grippy and last ages. They have tubes with schrader (car) valves, so normal air-lines at garages will work to inflate them.
My chain is a 9-speed KMX. My lights are cheap usb-rechargeable ebay jobs, rubbish really, but they are not really for night-time riding (I don't want to ride at night).
My Surly Trucker is a very low-geared bike... first gear spins like hell because to get up mountains, it needs to be easy to pedal. That means pedalling fast, yet travelling very slowly, slower than walking pace sometimes. Top gear is not all that fast, it's no racing bike.
I chose normal but good quality Shimano Deore rear derailleur gears because they just work (and Shimano Sora up front). They can be fiddly to adjust, but if they break, there's a chance to bodge them up or get replacements.
There are modern hub or centre gearbox options for some bikes, called Rollhoff or Pinion, and although they seem more reliable than old-fashioned derailleurs... if they break it seems that's the end of the matter. Every bike shop has derailleur bits that can be bodged to make work, to keep riding.
My Surly LHT has 3 x 9 gears, 27 in total, but that's a bit nonsense because they aren't all usable and some are duplicates depending which front chain ring I'm using.
For the more technical of you, it has 44/34/24 chain-rings up front and a Shimano HG400 11-36 cassette at the back. That will be laughed at by most road cyclists - but I need to get up some mountains!
I've got a very basic but reliable and replaceable Shimano UN55 113mm square taper bottom bracket (the bearing the pedal cranks turn). Nothing cutting edge about that, but it just works. Standard stuff throughout the World.
I've got some very basic spiky metal Halfords pedals. No fancy SPD pedals for me.
The bike's brakes are very basic too, old fashioned Shimano Deore rim V-brakes, not discs. They just work, and brake pads are available anywhere. Downsides are that mud can get in and jam the wheel, the wheel rims can wear out, they can be a bit shit in the rain, they can overheat down mountains, but really, they are bobby-basic brakes that work.
My Surly has an Orbit Equipe headset (the steering bearing). I don't think these go wrong, but I left the steerer tube (the tube that goes through the steering bearing) uncut, so it pokes up rather a lot. This is so I have loads of adjustment for my handlebars, in case I want to raise them. I chose some BBB Butterfly handlebars, so I have lots of hand positions.
I'm fitting a Redshift Stem, to give a little bit (20mm) of "give" in the handlebars, just to take the edge off bumpy, stony or gravel paths.
The saddle is a Brooks B17, but I might change that, I'll see.
I fitted a motorcycle-style twin-leg centre stand... I may remove that before I set off and simply prop the bike up on something, but it's useful to use while I get the bike ready.
My mudguards are cheap chromo-plastic, if they jam up with mud I can take them off at the side of the road, and throw them away in a ditch.
My racks will carry a lot of gear, so I chose world-class Tubus Tara front, and Tubus logo rear. These are very strong, simple and sturdy. The panniers I chose to use are old-fashioned English waxed canvas Super-C, rather than the German Ortlieb that most other people tend to ride with. I'll let the Germans sneer, they always have better bikes than Brits.
Jon and I have got a spare tyre each (they fold up these days), 4 spare inner tubes, a spare chain, plus loads of specific tools like chain splitters, pedal spanner, rear cassette remover, bottom bracket tool, spoke key, as well as more general allen keys and other tools, etc.
I have lots of water-carrying cages which will cope with larger coke-bottles, and also a cage on the very bottom beneath the pedals to carry petrol in a special fuel can, for the stove.
The bike cost in the region of £1500. I bought my bike from Spa Cycles in Harrogate because they have a very good reputation for touring bikes. They are certainly excellent to deal with and know what they're doing.
So, all-in-all, I hope my Surly Long Haul Trucker will be reliable. It is said they take massive amounts of punishment over miles and miles of tarmac roads and off-road terrain, and they don't easily break.. They aren't very sexy or cutting edge bikes, but they are STRONG in a classic sort of way, like a Toyota Hi-Lux 4x4 is strong.
We'll see :)