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Mavic XM719 Rims: Probably Not Suitable For Loaded Touring

Posted December 8th, 2013

When choosing a rim for the next wheel on your touring bike, you may want to avoid Mavic’s XM719 model.

We’ve recommended this rim in the past (based on our own experience and the recommendations of others) but it seems something has changed. In the past month, several bike tourists have contacted us to report broken XM719 rims.

Bert and Gillian were the first to get in touch. They’ve broken five of these rims in just 9,000km of cycling around North America. In an email, they wrote:

It started happening after only 1,000km on the back wheel of the bike with the heaviest load. By the time we completed 3,000km a further two back-wheel rims broke on the same bike. At that stage we replaced the back rim on the heavier bike with a SunRingle Rhyno Lite rim, which solved the problem. During the last week, the same issue developed on the front wheel on the bike with the heaviest load (after 9,000km) as well as the back wheel of the bike with the lesser load (after 6,000km).

Bert & Gillian’s touring bikes.

Francesco Alaimo also told us that a crack developed in his XM719 rim after just 1,000km. He was able to ride the bike a further 3,000km before the rim gave out entirely.

In Bishkek I met a guy who had to substitute his XM719 for exactly the same problem after less than 5,000km and a couple on a tandem had exactly the same problem previously.

Cracked XM719 rimFrancesco’s cracked XM719 rim.

When we asked for opinions about rims on Facebook, Charles Coderre also reported failures of the XM719 rim (although his rims did last quite a bit longer than for the other cyclists we heard from).

We are riding fully loaded (bike and gear = 80 to 100 pounds). The Mavic XM719 we had on our rear wheels did not last. After 8,000 kilometers, my rim cracked on the entire circumference and was starting to open. I changed for Sun Rhyno Lite. After 13,000 kilometers my wife’s rear MavicXM719 rim was also starting to crack and open.

To double-check these reports, we asked two bike experts for their opinion. Both Marten Gerritsen and the wheel builders at Bike4Travel recommend Ryde Sputnik rims as a durable choice, and both had concerns about the suitability of Mavic rims for loaded touring.

We put these concerns to Mavic and they said the XM719 was a reliable rim with a return rate of less than 0.5%.

We’ve been selling those kind of rims to globe trotters for decades now (so thousands of them) and with very few issues. That said, this type of use (heavy load on the bike and rider) makes the rim more prone to this kind of fatigue. We have no influence on the wheel assembly and very often those kinds of cracks happen if the spoke tension is too high.

Mavic will replace a rim under warranty (if it’s found to be defective) but that’s of little use to most bike tourists. When your rim breaks during a tour, you just need to get it repaired and keep moving. The last thing you want is to be stuck in one place for days (or possibly weeks) negotiating a replacement with a company — especially when that company makes contact so difficult!

On the Mavic website, there are no obvious contact details (only lists of shops selling their products). It took us several days to get any reply via their social media channels. Compare that to our experience, when a Bontrager rim failed on us after just 3,000km of loaded touring. We were able to contact them easily and had a no-questions-asked refund within days (our previous rims from Alex and Alessa lasted for nearly 30,000km before we opted to replace them).

Given all of this, we can’t recommend the XM719 rim for touring anymore. It’s true that any one of these failures could have been caused by something other than the rim (eg. over-inflation of the tire or a poorly-built wheel) but when we hear so many reports about a single rim, it naturally makes us cautious. To be on the safe side, go for an option such as the Ryde Sputnik. Hopefully that will save you the trouble caused by a rim failure on the road!

First Test of MacPac’s Prophet XPD Rain Jacket

Posted September 14th, 2013

MacPac Prophet XPDOver the summer, we were fortunate to pick up a couple rain jackets at an outlet sale. One of those was the MacPac Prophet XPD.

It’s made of eVent fabric and is actually aimed at mountain climbers. That said, we love it for cycling.

It’s waterproof of course, and has a ton of zipped pockets. The fabric is reassuringly thick and with a fleece or wool layer underneath, we’re confident that this jacket will be great in cold winter temperatures.

Perhaps our favourite feature is the hood. It’s made of a stiffened fabric that doesn’t budge an inch — even when biking straight into a head wind.

The eye-watering price tag is less pleasing. We shelled out just €100 at the outlet sale but the list price is closer to €500. Keep your eye out for clearance deals!

You might also have trouble getting ahold of it. We couldn’t find any shops that carry it online, aside from a few in New Zealand and Australia. We’ve asked MacPac for more details, and hopefully they’ll let us know if it’s available elsewhere, under another name perhaps?

Posted in Trip Equipment

Hilleberg Nallo 3GT Tent: A Brief Video Overview

Posted September 8th, 2013

We’ve been in Canada for the past 3 weeks, visiting family and doing a bit of camping along the way.

While there, we managed to shoot a short video of our beloved Hilleberg Nallo 3GT tent. As you can see, it’s pretty quick to set up (even when you have a ‘little helper’ to contend with) and it’s the perfect size for the three of us.

Read the full review of our tent.

WeeHoo Bike Trailer For Kids

Posted June 15th, 2013

Last weekend we were out cycling when we spotted something different on the bike path: a recumbent-style trailer for kids.

We weren’t quick enough to get a photo of it but later we searched online and discovered that we’d seen the WeeHoo trailer.

WeeHoo trailer
Weehoo trailer in use. Photo by SheBicycles on flickr

We’re still getting a lot of use out of our Chariot Cougar 1 trailer but the WeeHoo is an intriguing solution as Luke grows up. In another year or so (when he’s 2+ years old), we think he’d love this. We like the look of it better than a standard tag-along bike because it would allow him to relax (read, sleep, play) while riding.

It’s also reasonably affordable: $399 from REI.

From what we’ve read so far, the trailer gets fairly positive reviews online. We’ve seen comments such as:

I cannot stress enough how much my kid loves this thing. Between the harness and the pedal straps I’m not worried about her at all. We whip through curvy sidewalk approaches, ride over and off of curbs, hit potholes, have managed to hit 28 mph… all without the first sign of problems.

My daughter is strapped in with a nice, comfortable harness in a cushy seat. Her weight is down low where it doesn’t affect the feel of my bike. The hitch is completely different from other trailers. It uses your seat post as an axle which eliminates almost all loose play. It comes with bags which, while not as quality as nice panniers, are great for putting your kid’s stuff in. Not only can your kid snack while peddling, the Weehoo comes with a cup holder and pocket for snacks that your kid can reach. My daughter can take a little snooze after a long day.

The main downfall of the WeeHoo seems to be its weight: it’s a hefty 15kg or 35 pounds. Tackling the Alps with this trailer might be out of the question but it but it should be fine for touring around the flatter parts of the world. On the other hand, some people don’t seem to take any notice of the weight!

And, for families with more than one kid, WeeHoo’s Facebook page suggests that a new double trailer will be hitting the market soon.

WeeHoo Double Trailer

Do you have any experience with the WeeHoo trailer? Leave a comment.

Brompton Folding Bike + Trailer: A Perfect Touring Combination?

Posted May 2nd, 2013

Can a Brompton folding bike and a trailer make the perfect combination for touring?

Stijn on his Brompton + Radical Design trailer

In this guest post for TravellingTwo, Stijn de Klerk checks out the performance of the Brompton with the Radical Design series of trailers.

***

A couple of years ago I decided life without a car made a lot of sense.

I still need to drive a car for work but do most other things by bicycle. My trusty full-size bike is often used for local shopping trips, and I bought a Brompton folding bike so that I could use the bike in combination with the train more easily.

With these two bikes I had most transport and travelling requirements covered, except for the times when I needed to transport something big. This was why I added the Radical Design Cyclone trailer was added to the stable. I don’t use it a lot but when I do use it, I love it.

Radical Design Cyclone

Unloaded, it’s hard to even tell I’m pulling a trailer at all. It functions perfectly and it’s built to last. Even better, it’s as much a duffle bag as it is a trailer and it converts from one into the other in under a minute.

Hooking the trailer up behind the Brompton was obvious as both the trailer and the folding bike are portable. I then started thinking: “wouldn’t it be great if the Brompton would fit inside the Cyclone trailer?” but unfortunately the Cyclone was too narrow for this. Then, lo and behold, Radical announced the Chubby trailer: made wider and shorter than the Cyclone and designed to hold a folded Brompton.

Chubby Trailer

As I’m a keen bicycle traveler, the next question in my mind was if I could use the Chubby plus a Brompton bike to create a combination that would allow me to take a train, plane or bus anywhere, including a lightweight camping set-up but with a minimum of the normal packing and luggage hassles that often go along with taking a touring bike and all the associated gear on public transport.

The moment of truth arrived when my cycling friends – Friedel, Andrew and Shane – conjured up the plan to take folding bikes out on a camping trip. The company that makes the Chubby, Radical Design, was kind enough to lend us one for the occasion. I picked it up a few days before the trip, so I had my chance to give it a test.

Basic Chubby Touring Setup
The total weight of a Brompton with a Chubby trailer and a bit of gear comes in at around 20 kilograms. That’s 10-14kg of Brompton bicycle (depending on the model), the Chubby itself (6kg) and your tent and sleeping bag (4kg). This is light enough to pass as regular check-in luggage with most airlines, and you can still carry the trailer (complete with bike and gear inside) by its shoulder strap over short distances. This video shows how it all works.

Any other camping kit or other gear has to be carried in a day pack (as carry-on) or in a small duffle bag (as additional check-in luggage).

Quality And Durability
The heritage of Radical Design’s Cyclone trailer (first produced in 1997), means the Chubby has a long and thorough design evolution behind it. The whole trailer oozes quality and durability. I might even go so far as to say that it’s slightly over-engineered in places, even though it’s considerably lighter compared to many other bike trailers on the market like the B.O.B, Burley trailers and Monoporter. The Extrawheel is perhaps the exception, but that’s a bit of a different proposition.

The overall robustness of the trailer shines through in the Chubby bag. It weighs in at a hefty 4kg (two thirds of the total weight) but equally will take a lot of abuse as it’s made from Cordura 1000 Fabric. Since the bag is there to protect the Brompton, it warrants the weight penalty of this heavy fabric to a large extent. The bag has a beefy, lockable YKK zipper and is reinforced in places where it matters, with extra padding to protect a folded bike inside.

From an engineering point of view I love the all-stainless steel, ball joint and quality Polyoxymethylene (POM) hitch construction. It’s one of the best and most elegant I’ve come across so far while looking for a bicycle trailer, in terms of sturdiness and one-hand ease of use.

Chubby ball hitch

The wheels are easily removed by pressing a button at the center of the hubs, which releases a quick-lock mechanism. They can be used in one of two positions: in the cycling position or in a second location further back on the Chubby, which then turns it into a walking trailer.

The hubs themselves are aluminum with industrial style sealed ball bearings on a steel axle, laced with stainless steel spokes into Brompton-size rims. This means a good selections of tires is available to suit any need and will match up nicely with whatever you are running on your Brompton.

Chubby hubs

Stable Cycling
After giving the Chubby a look over, I decided to take it for a ride around town. As with my Cyclone trailer, I noticed that the two-wheel design made it relatively easy to move around by itself and hitch on/off compared to single-wheeled trailers. This two wheel design makes it inherently more stable, which makes cycling with it a lot less nervous and it can handle higher payloads then most single wheeled trailers. 

Once rolling in cycling mode, it becomes apparent how well-mannered this trailer is. When not loaded too heavily, one hardly notices that it’s there. Due to the fact that it has two wheels, it doesn’t negatively influence the stability of the bike and it’s even possible to rock the bike from side to side going up steeper inclines, much like you would an unloaded bike. One might think it would introduce more rolling resistance, but this is hardly noticeable and I suspect this is due to the relatively light loads the trailer tires need to support.

The only downside to the design might be that two wheels instead of one don’t track as well when on rough terrain or when mountain biking but I wasn’t planning on taking the Brompton on that sort of trip anyway.

Another big revelation was how easy it is to pack and unpack all the gear from a single hold-all style baffle bag. There is an inherent ease of having all your gear behind just the one zip and the amount of space is a dangerous luxury.

Loads of Space

Conclusion
Ultimately, I didn’t get the chance to put the Chubby through a full touring test. The weather forecast for our Easter tour was miserable and I didn’t want to return a completely mud-covered Chubby to Radical Design. That means this test and review won’t be truly complete until I can take the Chubby on a longer ride but my first impression was very favorable.

That said, I did take my Cyclone along for the weekend ride and this confirmed my suspicions about a trailer and Brompton being a perfect combination for touring. I’ll definitely be taking my Cyclone further afield this summer, and maybe one day I’ll add a Chubby to my collection as well.

***

Thanks to Stijn for sharing this review. More thoughts about using a Brompton for touring (based on our Easter trip) have been shared by Shane.