Author Topic: Bike Choice for Bike Tour in Tibet  (Read 5969 times)

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Offline Stormtrooper

Bike Choice for Bike Tour in Tibet
« on: August 20, 2017, 05:40:00 pm »
Hello Everyone,

My name is David, and I'm new to the forum. I am also new to cycling as a sport/hobby;however, I'm a fitness enthusiast, and I'm in good physical condition. Next summer I will be doing a 21 day adventure bike tour from Lhasa Tibet to Kathmandu Nepal. I have two questions for the members of the forum.

1. Has anyone done this or a similar bike tour?

2. What type of bike should I purchase and use on the trip? As far as I know right now, the first 10 days from Lhasa Tibet to the fork to Mt. Everest Base Camp is tarmac. From the fork to mount Everest Base Camp and through the Himalayas for the next 8 days is rough gravel. The final three days to Kathmandu is paved. We will average 50 miles a day. Average elevation gain per day will be around 1000 meters. Elevation of the trip will be between 14,000 and 17,000 feet. I have heard that gravel bikes may be best for the trip. A road bike would be rough on the gravel and a mountain bike would be slow and inefficient. I'm not sure if I can get a bike like the one featured here https://oklahomacity.craigslist.org/bik/6227168411.html and simply and gravel tires to it.

Thanks for your feedback.

Cheers,
David

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Bike Choice for Bike Tour in Tibet
« Reply #1 on: August 20, 2017, 09:37:26 pm »
I haven't done a trip like that, nor, at my age, am I likely to do one.

Adventure Cyclist has had a number of articles detailing trips in the Himalayas the last few years, though.  I believe every one of the bikes involved has been either a mountain bike, or an expedition bike, all with wide (and stout) tires and wheels.  Not all gravel roads are built and maintained like old rail-trails with crushed gravel surfaces; if you think original railroad ballast and bigger rocks than that, you're thinking of some of the "roads" pictured in those articles.

Offline RonK

Bike Choice for Bike Tour in Tibet
« Reply #2 on: August 21, 2017, 07:34:08 am »
I've trekked in the Himalaya but not cycled. Friends did it several years ago in a group ride. They all had mountain bikes. You will definitely need front suspension and mountain bike gearing.

Comment was that it was an extremely difficult ride, particularly with the altitude, even though they were all very fit road cyclists. I think they drove in from Kathmandu to Lhasa to acclimatise.
« Last Edit: August 21, 2017, 07:36:55 am by RonK »
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Offline Stormtrooper

Re: Bike Choice for Bike Tour in Tibet
« Reply #3 on: August 21, 2017, 06:20:55 pm »
The consensus that I'm getting is that a mountain bike will be best. Now I just need to figure out my needs and determine the right bike for the trip.

Offline RussSeaton

Re: Bike Choice for Bike Tour in Tibet
« Reply #4 on: August 22, 2017, 12:20:20 am »
I'd suggest getting YouTube videos, TV shows, news stories, etc. showing the roads in Tibet NOW.  Look for recent videos and shows to get sort of up to date views of the roads.  When watching the shows, look at the roads.  In your opening questions you mentioned lots of paved roads to and from Tibet and Everest.  In the shows I am talking about viewing, you may discover that these paved roads were built by the British in 1953 to get Hillary and Norgay to Everest.  And they have not seen one iota of care since.  In case you did not know, cold climates, like Tibet, are really hard on pavement because all of the freezing and thawing breaks up pavement very quickly.  In your opening question you talk about lots of "paved" roads.  I bet "paved" roads in North America and Europe are different than "paved" roads in Tibet.  I'm guessing "paved" roads in Tibet may not even be good enough to drive one of those huge tire BigFoot trucks on.  A mountain bike is probably the best choice.

Offline dadventure

Re: Bike Choice for Bike Tour in Tibet
« Reply #5 on: August 22, 2017, 03:40:54 pm »
You will definitely want a mountain bike once you reach Nepal

Offline heflinkw

Re: Bike Choice for Bike Tour in Tibet
« Reply #6 on: August 22, 2017, 08:11:39 pm »
Yeti........HAAA!!!!!


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Offline Stormtrooper

Re: Bike Choice for Bike Tour in Tibet
« Reply #7 on: August 22, 2017, 09:17:36 pm »
Does anyone have ideas about the type of mountain bike I should begin researching? I won't need anything that's designed for rock hopping or really hardcore mountain biking. I won't be racing with it. I would prefer to spend around $500 rather than $1000. Any suggestions would be much appreciated :D

Offline heflinkw

Re: Bike Choice for Bike Tour in Tibet
« Reply #8 on: August 24, 2017, 12:15:15 am »
I'm not sure there is a $500 mountain bike I would trust on a trip like that.  You are likely to spend more time fixing than riding. $500 is about what you should be spending on the wheel set, not the whole bike. I would recommend something like the Surly Troll with 1.75 or 2.0 marathon mondials. You didn't say if you were supported or un-supported. If you are supported you can get away with a more normal mountain bike that may be available at a reasonable price on the used market. Definitely check out adventure cycling.

I still think it would be cool to be riding a Yeti through the Himalayas.


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Offline DaveB

Re: Bike Choice for Bike Tour in Tibet
« Reply #9 on: August 24, 2017, 08:06:48 am »
I'm not sure there is a $500 mountain bike I would trust on a trip like that.  You are likely to spend more time fixing than riding. $500 is about what you should be spending on the wheel set, not the whole bike. I would recommend something like the Surly Troll with 1.75 or 2.0 marathon mondials. You didn't say if you were supported or un-supported. If you are supported you can get away with a more normal mountain bike that may be available at a reasonable price on the used market. Definitely check out adventure cycling.
+1  A $500 mountain bike is going to have a lot of compromises to meet it's price point and you really don't want to be dealing with low line components and wheels in the middle-of-nowhere.  A simple but higher line MTB or "fat tire" bike would be more suitable.  A full suspension bike would be more comfortable but the complexity may cause more problems then it's worth.  A "hard tail" frame is both simpler and lighter and a rigid fork may also be worth the added simplicity.  The Surly Troll is a good example of a simple but suitable better quality bike.

BTW, Mountain bikes come with three different wheel sizes these days: 26" (ISO 559"), 27.5/650B (ISO 584) and 29" (ISO 622, same as 700c road rims).  World wide 26" wheels and tires are much more commonly available and 29" can use a 700c tire.  27.5 is much more uncommon.  A 26" wheel is probably your best choice for where you are going to be.

What's this trip going to cost?  Don't compromise it by taking cheap equipment.

Offline Stormtrooper

Re: Bike Choice for Bike Tour in Tibet
« Reply #10 on: August 27, 2017, 10:54:42 am »

You didn't say if you were supported or un-supported. If you are supported you can get away with a more normal mountain bike that may be available at a reasonable price on the used market.

Definitely check out adventure cycling.

What's this trip going to cost?  Don't compromise it by taking cheap equipment.

Let me throw out a few answers to these questions and give you some of the feedback I've received from the tour group.

1. I will be supported. Due to the international conflict/hostility sprouting from China's takeover of Tibet, the Chinese government will not allow anyone to bike in tibet without joining an official/registered tour group. Therefore, a support truck with extra equipment and gear will be following the group.

2. When I asked the tour company what kind of bike I should get, the person helping me said this (note that they are not a tour guide but just a person that works for the company)
"We recommend you take a 'normal' mountain bike either 26" or 29" wheels are fine. A hard tail or full suspension bike is fine and the tires should have some tread in case of rough or poor road conditions.You need to take your own spare tubes and basic bike parts."

3. They say 90% of the road is paved, and from what I've seen from pictures and videos online, the paved roads are in good condition. The trip will be roughly 1500 km. Therefore, I'll be riding about 150 km (93 miles) on rough gravel roads and 13500 km (840 miles) on paved roads. Some snow/ice may be encountered.

4. I thought this was adventure cycling. Should I look somewhere else too?

5. Trip costs $3000 USD. Include plane tickets and food here and there, and I'd call it $4500 to $5000 total.

I am deciding between 2 different companies that are roughly the same price. One company allows you to rent a bike from them and the other company requires you to bring your own bike. The company that allows you to rent a bike uses Trek 4300 or similar.

Is flying with a bike a pain and expensive?

Offline Stormtrooper

Re: Bike Choice for Bike Tour in Tibet
« Reply #11 on: August 27, 2017, 11:13:44 am »
Looks like I quoted the above reply incorrectly  ::)

I thought I would copy and paste the information that one of the tour companies gives about bikes. Here is their website:

https://www.redspokes.co.uk/cycling-holidays/essential-information.php?c=23&t=152

"Equipment and bike stuff
Bikes for this trip need to be:

Tough because bikes can take a hammering on Tibet's roads. Low geared too, a 22-tooth granny cog on the front crank driving an 11-32/34 block on the back will do the trick. Comfortable as there are some long days so it is essential your saddle and riding position are right.

A mountain bike is a good option. Front suspension will help with the washboard tracks and potholes, but it is not essential. Full-suspension is OK, but may be hard work on the tarmac stretches. If you have flat bars, fitting bar ends will give you a different hand position and help with the climbs. Touring bikes. The trip can be done on a traditional touring, but it is important to ensure it has got strong enough wheels, sufficiently wide tyres (37mm is about the minimum) and low enough gearing. It's worth investing in a pair of 36 spoke, hand-built wheels, using a good quality rim (e.g. Sun Rhyno, Mavic or Rigida).

Tyres
The route is a mixture of poorly maintained tarmac and very rough gravel tracks. The best tyre for the job is probably the Schwalbe Marathon XR. It's very tough and hardwearing, and has a decent tread for the gravel without being too knobbly for tarmac.

Spares
We would advise the following: multi tool, tyre levers, pump, 2 spare inner tube, spare spokes of the correct length to fit your wheels - check with a bike shop, brake pads, a few spare links for your chain, spares for any unique or high-tech items on your bike, e.g. fluid and bleed kit for hydraulic brakes.

Please ensure that you bike is in good working order before you leave on tour. If you are not the most mechanically minded, we suggest that you get your bike looked at by a professional bike mechanic. In particularly we would suggest looking and adjusting all wheel spokes, greasing all your bearings, checking your brakes/gears cable, tighten all nuts and bolts, check chain, quick release clamps, tires and put in new inner tubes and check wheel rims are not worn. In addition, make sure the bike is well serviced and ride it with as much care and attention as possible."

Here is what they say under Bike Hires:

" Bike Hires
For this tour, we have Trek 4300 bikes (or similar) in a range of sizes. They are mostly new for this season and all are well maintained bikes with Shimano components and suspension forks. Spare parts (tubes, tyre, chains etc.) are included in the price of the bike rental and will be carried in the support vehicle with a tool kit and track pump. The bikes are equipped with flat pedals. Those who prefer to use spd or clip-in pedals, are welcome to bring these with you, along with your own cycling shoes and cleats. You are also welcome to bring your own saddle. The guide will carry some spares and tools for fixing punctures etc. but we suggest bringing a couple of spare inner tubes (26 x 1.75), a pump and a puncture repair kit. If you are able to do a simple repair yourself this will avoid the need to wait for assistance should the team or support vehicle be any distance away. Helmets are not included in the bike hire, you will need to bring your own helmet."

Offline heflinkw

Re: Bike Choice for Bike Tour in Tibet
« Reply #12 on: August 27, 2017, 01:50:08 pm »
Take a look at this web site. They have lots of educational material that can answer many of your questions.

https://www.adventurecycling.org/



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Offline RonK

Bike Choice for Bike Tour in Tibet
« Reply #13 on: August 28, 2017, 06:55:44 am »
It all comes down to your sense of adventure and your tolerance for risk. Having spent some time in the Himalaya, the last thing I'd want when I'm cold, exhausted and have a raging headache from altitude sickness is a broken bike.
To me a cheap $500 bike is not worth the risk. I would not risk spoiling a $4500 holiday for the sake of a decent bike. Add another $1000 to your bike budget, buy the bike early and do plenty of riding to make sure the fit is correct and the saddle is kind to your butt.
And yes, packing and flying with a bike can a pain, and expensive too if you don't take care to understand the airlines baggage policy and excess baggage charges.
You still haven't mentioned how you are getting to Lhasa. Let me warn you again that flying in carries a high risk of developing altitude sickness.
« Last Edit: August 28, 2017, 06:57:56 am by RonK »
Cycle touring blog and tour journals: whispering wheels...

Offline Stormtrooper

Re: Bike Choice for Bike Tour in Tibet
« Reply #14 on: August 28, 2017, 06:33:35 pm »
I'll be flying in to Kathmandu to acclimate for 3 days and do some sightseeing. Then, we flying as a group to Lhasa and stay there for 3 days to acclimate and sightsee. Then, we start riding to Everest.