The Moulton Tank Build

Okay, let’s get down to it.

The TSR30 makes a fantastic all-rounder for the dedicated cyclist. I’ve spent the past five years cycling my hand-built TSR30 around the world in its current road config and have been loving every minute of it. I originally built this TSR with fast road touring in mind, that is to say above 20 mph with moderate luggage, but in reality I’ve only had the time to take it out on multi-day trips with little to no luggage, relying on credit cards and cash to keep a roof over my head and food in my tum. It was a problem with living in China; there just arn’t any decent spots to go camping in and around the city I lived in, and the pollution was shocking even on a good day. So we stuck to shorter rides, staying in guest houses and tended not to veer too far from the beaten path in case of emergency. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good adventure, but it’s not uncommon for ‘insurance accidents’ to happen in many parts of Asia, kinda accidently on purpose, if you know what I mean. Living in China and everyone knows someone who’s been involved in one way or another, so it’s better safe than sorry in this case.

BUT… now I’m living it up in Vienna, Austria, home to the majestic Danube, winding Alps and gazillions of cycle paths, it’s time to see what else this frame is capable of.

The plan now is to convert the TSR30 into a stable and reliable long-range tourer, capable of taking luggage for a few weeks worth of outdoors activities. By this I mean anything from a few days shooting the stars in the countryside, a few weeks camping in the forests of Europe, or a few months trekking across large stretches of tarmac and towpath. In my mind, if I can achieve this build and it actually feels stable, then the TSR30 will have matched my original expectations, perhaps even exceeded them. The current road /race build is a real joy to ride, and I don’t want to loose that ‘feel’, but having cycled for a month across France on my old Kona cross bike, I know that heavy and unbalanced luggage very often makes riding bikes a really misery.

Let’s see what we can do.

The Prereqs

  • Needs to carry a full complement of photography gear, within reason, to perform mobile location shoots. Will list later, but am thinking 2 camera bodies, 4 batteries, 3 lenses, 2 flashguns plus stands and batteries, 2 tripods, battery charger, and all the other little bits we need to shoot with. Shooting will cover all the usual travel aspects, with astro and macro thrown in for something a bit different.
  • Needs to hold basic sleep / eat / safety gear. Usually, I’d go with a tent, but for this build I’m thinking tarp and bivvy, lightweight sleeping bag, silk inner-bag, super lightweight matt etc. Actually, it’s not any lighter than a good one-person tent when you add it all up, but it’s much more modular when packing and deploying in different locales.
  • Bikes spares. Tubes, tyres, spokes, cable, tools, gaffa tape.
  • Super bright lighting. Front and rear with charging capabilities.
  • Tough-as-nails tyres.
  • Super low hill gearing as not bothered about speed for this build.
  • Comfortable hand positions for long hours on the road.
  • Ability to secure bike at night.
  • Quick release camera gear for on-the-spot shooting. This means one of two things; 1) stop and shoot in under 5 seconds, or 2) stop, set up tripod / camera and shoot in under 5 minutes. This will allow me to capture both reactionary shots that I see coalescing and landscape shots that require a little more attention.
  • Basic food prep and cook tools.

Considerations

Stability. It’s kinda obvious, but when you add weight to a bike, well, things can go south real quick if you don’t get it right. The key here, considering the amount of gear we need to haul, is to spread out the weight evenly across the frame, and that’s going to mean as many luggage fixing points as possible. Luckily the space-frame lends itself well to this idea, and I already use a set of Alpkit luggage bags that will help spread the weight throughout the frame itself. What remains to be seen is if I can use the front and rear of the bike to carry the rest.

Climbing. Long steep hills and heavy luggage don’t sound fun… to most people, but I actually rather enjoy the challenge 🙂 So we’re not going to worry too much about weight. Saying that, I will go through all my gear and streamline it where possible. There’s no point in carrying 20 tent pegs when you really only need 6, and so on. In fact, I used to use sticks fashioned into pegs when I was younger, but with the advent of Titanium it seemed silly not to take advantage of it.

Security. I never leave my bikes unattended, they go everywhere with me and touring is no exception. Obviously, if I have the option when credit card touring, to lock it up in my hotel room, I do. Camping is a little more tricky, and I’d never leave my bike chained next too my tent whilst walking about a city or town, it’s just too insecure. So this build will not include super heavy D or U locks, which is good because they weigh a freaking tonne. Instead, we’ll utilise a few clever ideas and a couple of newer novel bike locks that make security a little less worrying. Nothing will ever stop a thief who is determined, but we can make it super difficult for the f*ckers and a real misery to boot!

Longevity. We’ll be out on the road for a few days, weeks, or months, so the build needs to be capable of utilising a modular luggage system depending on our timeframe. I don’t want to rebuild every time I change my mind about where or when I go, so the luggage racks will remain fixed, but the carrying bags will change depending. Sounds obvious, but I don’t want to use 2 x 32ltr front panniers for a 2-day trip, nor do I want to rely on 1 seat post bag for a month-long trek. The key here is having multiple bags that all attach in a similar way. I like this kinda stuff 🙂

 

MORE COMING SUMMER 2016