Note: Every Tuesday for the following few months I will be recounting my experiences from my loaded touring adventures. I hope you find this entertaining and helpful. Enjoy!
Picking up from where I left off two weeks ago, I was in the process of putting together my first touring rig from an old mountain bike traded in at the shop I started at in the early 90's. The bicycle was a 1984 Mongoose All Mountain Pro. It was in pretty good shape, all the original parts were there, even the snake belly tires were still on it. Looking back, it probably would have been smarter to keep it as it was, since it was a somewhat collectible machine as it sat, but I didn't see it that way at the time. I saw it as a cheap way to get a tour worthy machine and head out on an adventure with some new friends.
The decision to get it and modify it were largely influenced by my co-worker at the time, Troy. He had been wrenching at the shop for a few years ahead of me while he attended college. His advice was to take the chromed beast and do the following modifications: Change out the wheels, handle bar, stem, shifters, brake levers, and fork. He told me that drop bars were the way to go, and that the bikes "bull moose" stem and bar set up had to go. He also thought the plate crown fork looked too spindly and that I should get a uni-crown fork for it. The wheels looked sketchy, and of course, new tires and tubes would be in order as well.
Sheesh! I suppose I must have gotten the bike for a song, because I was making wholesale changes to the bike. I stayed late after work making changes. It proved to be a frustrating and valuable learning experience.
I found out that the Mongoose had a BMX specific head set, owing to Mongoose's BMX roots. That was a bit of a problem since I had to order in a headset special to fit it. Then the fork needed to be compatible, which severely limited my choices. I ended up finding a chrome fork with a uni-crown in the shop's basement. All good except that it was a high tensile steel fork. Not as strong as a Cromoly fork. I don't think I told Troy that it was "hi-ten" since I figured he would disapprove and I'd have to try and find a CroMo one. I doubted that I could do that, so I kept that to myself.
I used a Mongoose branded steel quill stem, seemed the right thing to do there, and a Nitto drop bar with some Campagnolo friction shifters that the shop had. The aero levers were something I think Troy had. I wired those up to the front cantilever brakes and rear SunTour roller cam. I didn't have a clue how to set up that rear brake and for the most part it really wasn't functional. I pretty much did that fist tour with only a front brake!
I think I stole the wheels from off my Klein for this tour. A hand built set of SunTour Grease Guard hubs on Ritchey Vantage Pro rims. Shod those with Avocet tires. The ones with the inverted tread. Otherwise the bike was stock with the Avocet saddle, SunTour "AR" derailleurs, and serviceable bottom bracket with Sugino cranks sporting a 48-38-28 gearing. I had a eight speed 12-32T SunTour cassette out back. (If indeed I used my Klein wheels, which I think I did)
The bike had a triple strut aluminum rack already on it. I scored a set of rear panniers through the shop, and a front set from another co-worker. A few purchases through Campmor rounded out the set up. Inflatable Therma-rest pad, 40 degree bag, and some other small items. I borrowed a tent and a couple of smaller items from friends.
All of this lead to a name for our little trip that hadn't even begun yet. Since my co-worker and the customer that were going along were around for all of this, we jokingly called it the "Beg Borrow and Bastard Tour". I had my bike cobbled together and it worked fairly well. I had my gear lined up. It was decided that we would leave right after RAGBRAI on the first week of August. All we had to do now was wait.
Next, the decision on our goal and the beginning of the tour.