It’s been a few weeks since I last gave any updates, but spring is upon us here in Germany which means that time is moving fast. Over the past few weeks I’ve gotten a lot accomplished in preparation for June and now I have only 6 weeks until I will leave. I recently carried out my first overnight test of the camping gear which I’ll detail below. I have completed most of the maintenance on my list and I also continue to receive some generous donations from friends and family. This comes as world events have unfortunately forced a substantial change to the overall route.
This is only a test
Once I had received my one-man tent, camping mattress and finished the rear cassette swap, I was excited to try out the gear on a longer trip. I packed the velo on a Friday after work and left the house around 7am Saturday morning in late March for a ride out to the German city of Bonn. I was hoping that their famous “Altstadt” cherry blossom street would be already in bloom, but sadly I was a week or so too early! I rode through streets lined with bemused tourists who were photographing the flower buds and then almost falling over when they saw the Quest. The cobblestone streets were very uncomfortable with my new tires, so I made my way down to the river and followed the the Rhine north to “Camping Berger” and got things setup for the night. A one-man tent is quite a compromise, especially when you are 6′ 3″ tall (1.9 meters). Other than freezing my way through half of the night, things went very well. Even though my trip will be in June and July, Iceland’s weather is notoriously unpredictable, so I have a set of thermal underwear, hat and gloves set aside just in case sleeping up there becomes a challenge.
Repairs and technical challenges
With over 9,500 kms ridden in 2 years, the Quest has proven to be very reliable overall. Besides a single flat front tire and some derailleur issues, I have had only one serious recurring problem which has been the front wheel spokes. Over the course of 2 years I have broken 8 spokes between the two front wheels. I had gotten used to replacing these with spares made at a local bike shop, but this problem caused me concern. With the Quest loaded with 20 kg of additional weight, it seemed that this problem would only get worse. While on the journey to Cologne to test out my camping gear I was thinking about this problem and when I arrived at the campsite I found that I broke another spoke! I decided that it was best to get both wheels completely rebuilt by a bike shop using new heavier gauge spokes.
Removing the wheels from the Quest is a 2-3 hour affair of disconnecting 6 tie-rods, 2 brake cables and a speed sensor. I had done this work a few months ago when I serviced the brakes, so it was very familiar. When I took the two 20″ wheels to the local bike shop in The Netherlands, the technician noted that the old spokes were exceedingly tight which was the reason that they were failing. As many things go, this was my own fault having continually tightened the spokes over the past 2 years, never realizing that I was causing the breakage! So, out with the old 15-gauge spokes and in with a brand-new 13-gauge set. I also took the opportunity to replace the worn tires with new Continental Contact Speeds. This is a very fast and light tire with average durability. I am torn between which tire to use for the trip. Fast, light & low-resistance, or heavier, slower and bulletproof? I have had very good results with Marathon Supreme tires but they weigh about 6x what the Contact Speeds do! I will run these tires for a few weeks and then decide.
I have also spent the past week trying to solve a long-running problem with my front derailleur. Because the Quest uses a very large gear-range for high speed and steep climbing ability, the front derailleur has to cope with a very large 53-tooth chainring and a fairly small 30-tooth one. I continued to have issues of the chain falling off the large gear and wrapping around the pedal cranks. I have made a recent modification to the derailleur arm by removing some offending material which should allow better clearance and hopefully a smoother shifting experience. This one issue has really caused some heartburn lately and I am keen to solve it once and for all.
After spending a full week reviewing the planned route kilometer by kilometer and finding suitable campsites along the way, I finally finished the entire path up through Denmark and across Iceland. After finding campground accommodation all the way up through Germany and Denmark, I made my reservation on the Smyrill Line ferry from Hirtshals, Denmark. This will depart on 2 July so I plan to arrive in the area 2 days prior. At this point, I thought it prudent to check in with Jonar Transport, the freight forwarder in Reykjavik, Iceland whom will crate and ship my Quest onward. I got a quick reply that was sadly not good news. I found out that because of the ongoing worldwide 737 Max 8/9 grounding relating to the tragic recent crashes, as well as the collapse of WOW Airlines, the shipping company could no longer offer a direct route to Halifax from Iceland. If I insisted on this routing, I would have to pay to fly the Quest to JFK, then have it trucked backwards (internationally) to Halifax! Obviously this was not going to be cheap and it would also eat up more time.
So I have made the choice to now ship the bike direct to JFK from Iceland. This will cut approximately 1,500 kms off the trip, but will save about $1,500 in costs. I will still get to cross Iceland which will be the high point of the trip, and get to still cross NYC and then down the Jersey coastline to eventually cross the Delaware River to my home state. It is a regrettable compromise which I am willing to accept. This will cut the trip down to 2,300 kms (1,420 miles). Honestly, I do miss my wife and family and will be very happy to reach them by mid-July!