Bike Packing 4000km on a 7kg Carbon Road Bike: Part One. by Sam Taylor

A bit of background...

 13th June - about to leave London with Rob, Tom, Aled and Archie.

13th June - about to leave London with Rob, Tom, Aled and Archie.

For 7 weeks this Summer I rode from London to Bergen, Norway over 4000km of some of the most varied terrain you could feasibly cover on a rigid bike. Everything from the tarmac of dreams, to rim-destroying-pothole littered towpaths, decrepit cobble roads, 3-inch-deep gravel tracks and bridleways which would have been good fun on a short travel trail bike. We rode through 7 countries and in general we were riding on either national cycle paths or Euro-Velo recommended routes. Probably 90% on road, 10% take what you're given, usually with some added spice.

 Final set up. Arkel Rollpacker 25L seatpack, Alpkit custom framebag, Salsa Anything handlebar bag.

Final set up. Arkel Rollpacker 25L seatpack, Alpkit custom framebag, Salsa Anything handlebar bag.

As full time mountain bikers with one bike each, the other guys chose to buy touring bikes to make the trip. 3 went for steel, one a low-end Trek road bike and I decided to use the ~7.2kg KTM Revelator road bike I've had for a few years. I couldn't afford to get a new bike and wanted a set up which I could use for bike packing on my mountain bike so pannier mounts weren't required.

The one thing I'd have to highlight is that I don't weigh that much so even with the added weight of the full bike packing set up, the total weight on the frame/wheels was still comfortably under the recommended max weight for either component. You'll need to do the maths and work this out yourself. Also, all the weight I added to the bike went through the handlebars/seatpost (i.e. where it normally does) - it is possible to buy pannier adapters which clamp to your seat stays or similar, but if you ask me this is a pretty sketchy idea as frames aren't designed for that kind of load. 

 

Firstly, alterations.

I made a couple of tweaks to make my life easier/more comfortable on the road. First was changing the saddle and seatpost from the lightest full carbon pairing I could find on Alibaba to a Brooks C17 and back to the original KTM own brand aluminium post. The carbon Specialized Toupe replica saddle has been great for 6 hour plus rides in the past but I couldn’t ignore the rave reviews of the Brooks saddles so splashed out. The Arkel seatpack I went for mounts to the saddle and seatpost so I went back to metal just for piece of mind.

Next I decide a new drivetrain would be wise given the old chain and cassette had a couple thousand kilometres wear. It gave me the chance to change my ratios so I went with a 11-34t cassette (which needed a new rear mech) and new chain. Coupled with a 34/50t compact chainset I felt like this would be plenty for what we had planned. I think I probably could have got away with 11-32t and saved on the new rear mech.

 French gravel... hard work.

French gravel... hard work.

Tyres. I was running some 23mm generic lightweight racing tyres and wanted to go as high volume as my frame/callipers would allow. One of the compromises of touring on a carbon racing bike is the limited clearance so 25mm was as large as I could go. I’ve used Continental Gatorskins before with bombproof reliability and went with a pair. Of the 5 of us, I had by far the least punctures (the others were on 38mm tyres) but did have to deal with skinnier tyres on the occasional deep gravel section. I wouldn’t hesitate to use the same set up again though and the lower rolling resistance made a huge difference on the tarmac.

I flipped the stem and bumped it up 10mm on my steerer after a weeks riding which made an instant massive difference to the pressure on my hands. I also ended up buying a new roll of bar tape after 1500km and wrapped it over my original tape to dull the road buzz. Would have done this from the start if I’d known how uncomfortable it’d be doing 30+ hours riding a week on rough roads.

And that's it.

I wouldn't say any of the changes I made were 100% necessary but the tyres were probably the one major recommendation I'd make or you'll probably find yourself going through a few tubes. In short, yes, you can tour on a silly light weight road bike if you're not too heavy already. If you are, maybe borrow a different bike and save the light weight machine for the next tour when you've shed a few pounds over the course of the trip?

If you're interested in seeing what we got up to you can find a comprehensive Instagram story with videos/photos from every day of the trip on my Instagram profile: www.instagram.com/samtaylorphotos

My next blog post will go into detail of the bike packing set up I went for with some short reviews of each bit of gear.

Cheers!

 2nd August - arrived in Bergen.

2nd August - arrived in Bergen.

Airdrop Bikes new website by Sam Taylor

Ed gave the Airdrop website a makeover and I'm proud to have some of my latest photos feature on the home page. There's something satisfying about seeing your photos built into a webpage or in print, it seems like they've finally reached their proper place, rather than just ending up on Instagram. Check it out at www.airdropbikes.com.


Plenty of shots of the new Hope Tech build in the workshop section, alongside some of Richard Baybutt's black and whites for Dirt Mag.

The Quarry by Sam Taylor

I'll keep this short. Mikey Pearman and I headed out into the Peak District on the hunt for some true freeride lines, not something you often find around this part of the UK. The obvious place was a quarry because of the guaranteed steep terrain. We can't go into details about where exactly we've been going but theres something to come that's much, much bigger than what we've documented so far.


SITE 1:

ROCKS AND RUBBLE


SITE 2:

STEEP SANDSTONE


SITE 3:

A WALL OF SAND - A JOB FOR 2017...

A month in NZ by Sam Taylor

I've just got back from a month in New Zealand so I thought I'd post up a few photos to convince you to head down South and see it for yourself.

I consider myself incredibly lucky to have been able to go, with my university deciding to go there for the first time on a field trip to the South Island studying glaciers and rivers, I just wouldn't have been able to afford it otherwise. Having finished the two weeks fieldwork, I was able to stay on for a further 2 weeks and ride the bike park in Queenstown, not a bad place to end up on a field trip if you're a mountain biker!

I found myself enjoying riding my bike too much to want to stop and take photos so I've only got a couple of photos of bikes. The landscape in NZ is incredible though so it was nice to have the chance to focus on that for a change.

Enjoy.

 NZ itself is strangely lacking in wildlife, Singapore Airport's butterfly garden however makes for a nice way to kill time between flights

NZ itself is strangely lacking in wildlife, Singapore Airport's butterfly garden however makes for a nice way to kill time between flights

 Castle Hill limestone, lecturer for scale

Castle Hill limestone, lecturer for scale

 Unknown peak, taken from Castle Hill

Unknown peak, taken from Castle Hill

 Mt Cook

Mt Cook

 Sunrise at Mt Cook

Sunrise at Mt Cook

 The walk to the Franz Josef Glacier

The walk to the Franz Josef Glacier

 Waterfalls lined the Frans Josef Glacier valley

Waterfalls lined the Frans Josef Glacier valley

 Fox Glacier

Fox Glacier

 Watching some TV with this view made for a chilled evening in Queenstown

Watching some TV with this view made for a chilled evening in Queenstown

 You don't know the meaning of smooth jumps until you've ridden Huck Yeah, I probably rode this about 50 times

You don't know the meaning of smooth jumps until you've ridden Huck Yeah, I probably rode this about 50 times

 Rapid randomer styling it up on Original 

Rapid randomer styling it up on Original 

 The Milky Way from the bike park tracks in Queenstown

The Milky Way from the bike park tracks in Queenstown

My introduction to Airdrop Bikes by Sam Taylor

Back in November I started shooting for Airdrop Bikes and things have gone rather well since, with a press release photoshoot up on Cadair Idris following soon after and a project in the works which will blow your socks off (get your tickets to the Sheffield Adventure Film Festival booked!). Here's a recap what went down all those months ago.

"Every now and then a new bike company pops up on social media and everyone gets excited. With a new company comes the promise of a launch video to share with your mates, a press release with detailed shots of the bike to drool over and a new website to spend time deciding which is going to be the latest addition to your stable, the n+1 rule once again clouding your judgement.

When Ed got in contact about being part of the team responsible for the launch of the Airdrop Edit 150 it was like being offered the dream mountain biker job; getting out in the Peak District, spending lots of time with bikes, creating content that I'd want to see. I was intrigued to say the least...

Meeting over coffee at Ed's house, he explained the vision for the brand and we had a look at the bikes. I have to say, I'm a sucker for a raw frame and seeing a prototype in person got me a bit excited. When there's no paint the finish needs to be flawless and the raw Edit certainly didn't have anything to hide. Neat welds, quality graphics, tidy.

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It was refreshing to hear him talk of a company that reflected the bikes they made, no gimmicks, no nonsense, contemporary and cool, but without the bullshit that comes with most things labelled “cool” in the mountain bike industry these days. It's rare that you find a frame designer who wants to remove as much as possible from a frame, in the pursuit of clean lines and a final product which ticks every essential box, and no more. If you probably won't use it, it doesn't need to be there. A minimalist approach to frame design also allows more time to be spent on the details - think brushed aluminium headtube badges (something I think is sorely missed with the rise of carbon frames), custom colour decals and intelligent spec lists from the likes of Chromag and Joystick.

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So we've established the bikes are rad, but people need to know about them. Every new company needs a launch package and myself and Dan Hearn, a fellow photographer who I've shot and ridden with for a couple of years now, were called in to take care of the product shots. Ed was after clean backgrounds so we headed for the Peak District on the hunt for some nice bokeh that'd do the bright orange Edit 150 frame justice and make the bold colour pop. With product shots done and a few environmental portraits amongst the gritstone thrown in for good measure, it was back home for editing and shot selection.

So what comes next? Well, the press launch package will be heading out in the coming weeks, with bikes ready for shipping early next year. Already becoming a bit of a topic of conversation amongst the riding community of Sheffield, it's time the rest of the country knew about the newest British brand on the block, and I, for one, can't wait to see where Airdrop takes me."

www.airdropbikes.com
@airdropbikes

@samtaylorphotos

Buxton Powder by Sam Taylor

I like a lie in as much as the next man and with a computer next to my bed it’s all too easy to spin the monitor, drag the keyboard onto my lap and start the day scrolling through social media. However, sometimes opportunities come along that are too good to miss and with a forecast of heavy snow on Saturday night, that’s how I found myself heading out into the depths of the Peak District with Gee Milner yesterday morning.

In the UK we’re spoilt for choice when it comes to places to go and get stuck in with outdoor sports, with world renowned riding spots, surfing beaches, mountains to climb and rivers to run. But when it comes to skiing, especially in England, you’re hard pressed to find a place which you can rely on, so when the snow comes down and you get the chance for some turns, you’d better take it.

***

So it’s Sunday morning and we’ve planned to drive to a great location we’ve previously scouted for a video we’ll be shooting in the next few weeks, just outside Buxton, with some steep sided ridges which had potential for some dramatic shots, given enough snow fall…

…happy with the shots, we bashed the snow out of our boots and jumped back in the car. Driving back, I remembered at the end of first year when someone asked me what it was like in the Peak District, having been at university in Sheffield for 9 months. I was a little confused, I’d been riding out into the Peaks a couple times a week for that whole time, it’d become an extension of uni life, you can walk from our halls to the start of the Peak District in 20 mins and yet they’d never been. I’ll never understand people who don’t like getting outdoors and into the countryside, but to those who do, I’d just say try and do it more often, put aside time for it, spend time planning trips you’ve always wanted to do, think up crazy ideas and go and do it whilst you’ve got time. When it snows and everyone shuts down, there’s no better time to get out into the hills, it’s not that much effort and you stand a good chance of experiencing the feeling of being in proper wilderness, an increasingly a rare thing in our country. You won’t regret it.

Escaping the grey buildings by Sam Taylor

It’s taken me 21 years to work out what makes me happy. I thought for a while it might be money. “Without money you can’t afford to get yourself where you want to be”, I told myself, and believe me, I’ve heard that countless times from teachers, friends, family. But the easiest path to money is a job in London, in an office, in a grey building, with grey people. Somehow, people seem to find that lifestyle addictive, it gets people hooked and before they know it, those 20 something graduates who saw a job in a London office block as a means to an end are now turning 40, wondering where the spark that first drove them into the city to seek their fortune has gone.

So no, money’s not top of the list.

A while ago I was told that if you put your heart and soul into something you’re passionate about, eventually you’ll become a master of it, and a master of anything is worth paying for. Luckily for me, I’ve got a passion for photography. Well, it’s part passion, part addiction really. I don’t leave the house without a camera, I spend all my spare time reading about photography, watching videos about photography trips, flicking through albums online, trying to find examples of work of the quality I’m aiming for, for inspiration. I don’t think I’m ever going to take a perfect photo, or become a master of the art of photography, but I’m going to spend as much time as I can pushing for those standards because I truly believe I can get close, even if it takes me 50 years. I don’t think enough young people these days think about what they actually would love to do with their lives but I know that if I spend the rest of my life trying my hardest to do what I love everyday, I’m not going to regret it.

So then I had a little think…

What makes me happy is surprising myself. Climbing to the top of a mountain to see what’s on the other side. Getting up at 4am, waiting for what the sunrise will bring or staying on top of a mountain at 2000m after sunset to catch a glimpse of the milky way. Dropping into a scarily steep downhill track or sending a bigger jump than I’ve ever attempted. Deciding to make photography my main source of income…

You don’t often get a surprise in an office. And when you do it’s normally followed by an ordered assembly in the car park, five minutes of fresh air, bit of relief that it was just a drill, then back to the grind.

I’m talking about the surprises that make you feel alive.

Being a photographer in the outdoors, every shoot is different, the surprises are non-stop. Even when I’m sat behind a computer, I’m excited by editing, searching for new ideas to make my work stand out from the masses, itching to get to the next location I’ve just discovered.

I’m writing this because for the first time in my life I can’t wait to get stuck into the new year. I’ve got trips planned all over the world, from Norway to New Zealand, to some of the most incredible landscapes on the planet and the thought of being able to capture the best photos of my life genuinely gets my heart beating. I appreciate that I’m lucky to have this as an option but I say to anyone that its worth sitting down with yourself for a while and having a think about what makes you tick. Whatever your passion is, find as much time for it as you can in 2016 and see where it takes you, at least you’ll be doing what you love. You never know, you might surprise yourself.