The Touring Bike Project

The Touring Bike Project – Specialized Crosstrail Sports Disk

Like most of us I started riding bicycles at about five or six years old. My first bicycle was a birthday present from my father, when we were still living in Oldenburg, Germany. I remember the bicycle being red, running into a stinging nettle bush when I was first learning to ride it, and then being punished by my mother for following a Gipsy Wagon that was traveling through our town.

In my pre-teen and teenage years I lived in Tuxedo Park, New York and attended Tuxedo High School School, five miles away, in the town. The bus was too slow and boring, so I started riding an English 3-speed to school and around the area where I lived. Unfortunately I gave up on the bicycle once I was old enough to drive a car and in New York State that meant at age 16.

From home to school – https://goo.gl/maps/RDqfVB6hhJR2

Fast forward to my fifties, when I rediscover the joys of riding a bicycle again. I entered fatherhood rather late, but when my son was old enough to start riding a bicycle I decided that I should join him (and maybe loose a few pounds in the process).

There have been a few bikes since I started the current – Specialized Crosstrail Sports Disk – Touring Bike (or more accurately Trekking Bike) Project.

2004 to 2006 – The first bike was a strange looking and not so much fun to ride, Mongoose full-suspension mountain bike, that I bought for $50 in 2004 at a Walmart damaged goods sale in Fresno, California. I fixed the bike and used it in Fresno and Calais Maine for several years. Not sure where it is now, I assume still in Calais.

2007 to 2011 – The second bike was a Thai manufactured Marawuti mountain bike which I bought for 7000 Baht ($200) and fully re-built into a light (but a little too small for me) adventure trekking bike. I used this bike both in Thailand and Cambodia and had a lot of fun with it. This bike gave me the experience and confidence to build my current bike.

Mid-2011 – I purchased a 2012 model Specialized Crosstrail Sport Disk from Greggs Greenlake Cycles, in Seattle, Washington. The bike sales people around Seattle did not like my choice of bike and tried to steer me towards a Surly Long Haul Trucker (a very good road touring bike) but I knew that I was going back to Cambodia (very rough roads) and Thailand with this bike. The cost of this bike project is well in excess of $2000 at this point (mid-2016).


2011 to 2013 – Seattle – stayed for two years – first visit since 1969

Bought: Specialized Crosstrail Sport Disk (2012) – Racktime Add-it rear rack – Racktime rear and front bags – Jandd (grocery bag) panniers – Kryptonite lock – Topeak Mountain Morph pump – Bontrager bottle holder – Light-in-Motion rechargeable headlight – Busch & Muller tail-light – Catseye seat post light

Replaced: original Suntour suspension fork with Salsa Fargo rigid front fork.

Note: the original Suntour suspension fork had a number of problems, I like the solid feel and lower weight of the Salsa (chromoly) rigid fork much better. At this point the tires were getting too many flats and I was looking for a solution.


2013 to 2014 – Chiang Rai – stayed for 8 months – visited in 2015 & 2016

My first visit was in 1979 while working on a UNHCR book project.

Replaced: original straight handle bar with Trekking (butterfly) bar – original tires (too many flats) with Schwalbe Marathon Mondial tires (sent from Germany) – original Suntour crank with Shimano Deore crank (at Keng Cycles in Chiang Rai) – I also bought a very inexpensive pair of plastic Wellgo pedals (the metal pedals destroy my shoes and shins) that have outlasted the original pedals that came with the bike.

Note: the Trekking handle bar is much more comfortable in various riding conditions, the Schwalbe Marathon Mondial tires have had no flats in over 2 and a half years (mid-2016), and the Shimano Deore crank is just part of my plan to upgrade all the original drivetrain parts to one Deore Groupset over time as parts start to wear out.


2014 – Banchang, Rayong – stayed for 6 months, visit often

My first visit was around 1990 while working on a Golf Course advertising project.

Bought: a bicycle trailer for 6000 Baht to take luggage to Cambodia from a Rayong City bike shop.


2014 to 2015 – Siem Reap – stayed for one year

First touched Cambodian soil in 1979 during a UNHCR book project, have returned many times over the years for both long and short visits.

Bought & Sold: I bought some new grips for the handle bars, the original grips were very comfortable but were starting to disintegrate into a sticky & gooey mess. I sold the trailer, it was very handy while I had it, but I could not imagine doing another long trip with it, the main problem being the connection to the wheel hub with thew skewer, it did not feel safe. I may try one that connects to rear rack next. I also sold a stand pump and some tools that were just too heavy for travel. (mid-2016 – I just bought another much lighter stand pump)

Repaired: I had an accident with a motorcycle on Route 6 and my front wheel was slightly bent out of shape. I took it to the local Giant bicycle distributor (no Specialized dealer in Siem Reap) and they fixed it for very little money. Unfortunately they managed to destroy my inner-tube in the process (no problem I had spares). My wrist and foot took a little longer to heal.


2015 – Siem Reap to Bangkok – by bus & bicycle

I have used most of the available border crossings, and many forms of transport.

Note: This is the Thai Government owned bus service that goes directly from Bangkok to Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. I had to pay an extra 100 Baht to the driver, to put my bike on the bus. He took very good care of it. Being able to speak Thai was a big advantage in getting good service. Due to overbooking and a broken-down bus I had to ride up front with the driver, we got along well and chatted (in Thai) the whole way

I still had to transport my luggage through the no-man’s land between the countries (you can hire a porter for big luggage) but the bicycle was allowed to remain on the bus. I have also gone across this border by bicycle, in which case you have to leave the bicycle with the vehicle border guards and carry your main baggage into immigrations (somewhat negotiable, depends on what mood everyone is in).


2015 & 2016 – Bangkok – stayed for two weeks, several times

I first started working out of Bangkok in 1978 and can often be found there.

Note: When in Bangkok I drive my bike every day in Sukhumvit and Silom areas and also to Hua Lamphong Train Station. No real problems but you have to stay hyper alert at all times. It depends upon the day of the week and the time of the day. Driving at night would be suicidal.


2015 to 2016 Chiang Mai – still in Chiang Mai

Replaced: Changed the rear derailleur from the original Shimano Accera to Shimano Deore 590 – I have also sold the Jandd panniers and replaced them with (Thailand manufactured) Vincita rear panniers. The Vincita bags are very large and do the job nicely, but I don’t expect them to have a long life.

Repair: My rear wheel-rim had a catastrophic multiple spoke failure (not uncommon on touring bikes), which ended up being impossible to repair and too expensive to rebuild. Luckily I found a replacement rear wheel (Alex XD-Lite 700c) and had the rear derailleur and all the shift cables replaced at the same time.

Looking to acquire: the Mainstream – MSX bike bags – https://mainstream-msx.de/ – these are the sexiest (and at the same time, incredibly strong looking) bike bags I have ever seen.

Note: I am staying with 3×9 speed Deore components for now – next year I would like to upgrade to the new – 2017 Shimano Deore XT T8000 Touring and Trekking Groupset – I better start saving my pennies.


2015 & 2016 – Lamphun – multiple trips from Chiang Mai, by train, car, bus, & bicycle

Note: Lamphun is a beautiful town and province to bicycle in. The province border and town of Lamphun is approx. 30 kilometres south of Chiang Mai. The province itself stretches another 150 kilometres south, it is filled with fruit orchards, interesting old temples (many on mountain tops) and a lot of very friendly people.


2016 to ???? – Japan, Germany, etc. – have passport, camera and bicycle – will travel

Main Life Project – Around the World in 100 Years

Please contact george@georgemannphoto.com for more information.