Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Refitting the BLT for Tropical Touring

12 years ago I bought one of my most beloved bicycles, my Bruce Gordon BLT. This is what it looked like when it was new:

BLT stands for Basic Loaded Touring by the way. I rode this bike from San Francisco to Maine on our honeymoon tour in 2002. The next year Carol and I did a little tour of northern England and Scotland, and the Bruce Gordon came along for that too. While we lived in Flagstaff it was my dirt road adventure bike and a versatile travel bike. After moving to Madison I even raced it in a few cyclocross races, and its been my trusty steed for many a gravel road grinder. But mostly now it serves as my errand/commuter bike for longer distance trips (> 4 miles).

In 2011 to celebrate its 10th 'birthday' I had it repainted blue and my friend Eric built me a beautiful double crowned fork for it so I could use larger 29er tires on the front end.

With the rear triangle's already generous tire clearance it was now ready for real off-road use. I put this to the test on my Trans-Wisconsin dirt road/back road/trail tour that summer. The only thing that broke was my thumb.

So, when I got the chance to go to Nicaragua this winter for some biking and general travel, the Bruce Gordon was a natural choice to take with me. The only problem is that it costs $300 round-trip to bring a bike on a plane! So I took the opportunity to make an upgrade that I've been thinking about for the BG for a while: S&S couplers.

These allow me to take the frame apart into two pieces and fit the whole bike in a 26"x26"x10" box!

So I only have to pay the $40 (each way) fee for a second checked bag, saving a total of $220 per trip! The installation of the couplers cost $600, so it should pay for itself in 3 trips. Plus I am sure the couplers will help save space when carting around this bike during other forms of travel.

John from Fritz Cycles in Madison did the coupler installation for me and I owe him many thanks for doing a rush job. He also did a couple other nice little upgrades to the bike. Look again at the above photo and you will see that there is a water bottle mounting boss on either side of the coupler on the underside of the downtube. John lowered this for me, previously they were higher up on the downtube and there was overlap if you tried to mount a large water bottle down there and were running a front fender or large front tire. Now a large bottle fits fine.

He also brazed on a small copper plate over the chainstay where I have experience some frame damage from chains suck. Looks classy!

In the above photo you will also notice a divot in the opposite chainstay. This subtler reworking allows for more tire clearance. I can now fit a full 29x2.1" mountain bike tire in my touring frame!

All together these upgrades make the Bruce Gordon an even better adventure bike than it already was. I can't wait to test it out in Nicaragua this week... And who knows where next.

Adios por ahora!

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