Tom’s Expedition Bike: The Full Specification & Parts List (Geek Alert!)

‘Tom’s Expedition Bike’ was designed to meet my needs after years of touring all over the planet and advising hundreds of budding cyclists on trip planning and bike selection.

It was conceived as the last expedition-grade touring bike I’d ever need – a true touring bike for life, and the summation of everything I’d learned during more than 20,000km of riding on five continents. (Full story here.)

To get it built, I collaborated with Richard Delacour from Oxford Bike Works. I never expected it’d be something he’d offer commercially – but that’s how things have turned out!

What follows is a complete list of the parts from which the bike is built, strictly for the bike geeks among you:

Tom’s Expedition Bike: Full Specification

Frame: Oxford Bike Works 26” cromoly touring/expedition frame (Reynolds 525)
Forks: Oxford Bike Works cromoly touring forks
Colour: Desert Sand (custom colour)
Headset: Chris King NoThreadSet 1 1/8”, black
Rear Mech: Shimano Deore RD-M591, top normal, long cage, black
Front Mech: Shimano Deore FD-M590, low clamp, dual pull, black
Cassette: Shimano CS-HG41-8ao, 11–34T, 8‑speed
Shifter Levers: Shimano Ultegra SL-BS64 bar end, friction front, 8sp indexed/friction rear
Shifter Mounts: from SunRace M96 thumbshifters
Chainset: Shimano FC-M361, 170mm, 22–32–44T
Middle Chainring: Middleburn Hardcoat 32T (CR-104–90–32)
Bottom Bracket: Shimano UN55, 68mm, British thread
Chain: Wippermann Connex 808 8‑speed
Rims: Rigida Sputnik 26” (559), 36H, silver, Schrader valve
Front Hub: Shimano Deore XT HB-T780‑S, 36H, silver
Rear Freehub: Shimano Deore XT FH-T780‑S, 36H, silver
Spokes: Sapim Race double butted (front, rear non-driveside), Sapim Strong PG (rear driveside)
Rim Tape: Velox 19mm cloth
Skewers: Allen/hex key (non-QR)
Tyres: Schwalbe Marathon Plus 26x1.75” with SmartGuard
Innertubes: Schwalbe AV13, 26”, Schrader valve
Brake Levers: Shimano Alivio BL-T4000, silver, pair (mmm… BLT)
Brake Calipers: Shimano Deore BR-T610‑L, black
Brake Shoes: Shimano S70C with cartridge shoe inserts
Pedals: Shimano PD-M324, combination SPD/flat
Saddle: Brooks B17 Champion Special, black
Seatpost: Humpert
Handlebars: Deda
Stem: Deda
Grips: Ergon GP1 BioKork lock-on, standard, large
Bar-Ends: Oxford Bike Works rubberised anatomical bar-ends
Rear Carrier Rack: Tubus Cargo (Classic) 26″
Front Lowrider: Tubus Tara
Mudguards: Axiom Rainrunner LX Reflex, 26″, to fit 1.5–2.2″ tyres, with rubber mudflaps
Extras: Marine-grade stainless steel bolt replacements, steerer tube spacers, Pletscher centre kickstand, System EX bell

(By the way, if you’re building your own bike, I’ve compiled a handy list of online retailers selling the parts above in this big list.)

Now, before the world of online bike geekery erupts in a dervish of scandal and controversy because this list is all wrong, there’s one big thing I need to mention about the expedition bikes now on offer based on the above specification:

Almost any item in the above list is subject (and likely) to change for any given bike we build.

My design is based on the most solid principles I have available: 8 years of long-distance touring experience, correspondence with hundreds of other world tourers, a sound knowledge of the touring scene and bike industry, and plenty of workshop experience.

But the idea of a custom build is to allow each individual to express his or her personal preferences, and not just in terms of saddle and handlebars.

So if you do like the look of the bike above, but you happen disagree vehemently on one academic point or other regarding component choice – feel free to change it when you book your appointment. (That’s the beauty of custom built bikes!)

Questions about anything in the list above? Fire away in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer to your satisfaction.

Comments (skip to respond)

18 responses to “Tom’s Expedition Bike: The Full Specification & Parts List (Geek Alert!)”

  1. Tom, I love how you have set up your bike! Thank you for sharing! I have an old Raleigh “sports bike with an internal geared AW 3speed. Could this bike conceivably be set up for touring? What changes would you make?

    1. Most bikes can be repurposed for touring. More gears would be my first suggestion!

  2. Greg Merryman avatar
    Greg Merryman

    Great article and what a bike! I have a question: what does this build weigh? I know weight is not the primary consideration, but I am curious. I am outfitting a Bacchetta Giro (a recumbent) for adventure cycling and my current configuration weighs right at 38 lbs (before loading with luggage, water, etc). Thanks! Greg.

  3. Eric Ho avatar

    Hi Tom,
    Thanks for putting a list of full proved touring bike. I am building my 26″ tour wheels base on your list and going for my first bike tour in NZ in February 2016.

    Base on your list
    ‑RIM — Rigida Sputnik 26″ 1.75″ , 559 MTB Rim Silver-36 holes
    — Hub Shimano XT Rear Hub T780 and Shimano XT Front Hub T780
    — Spokes: Sapim Race double butted (front, rear non-drive side), Sapim Strong PG (rear driveside)
    — Schwalbe-marathon-plus-26-bike-tyre-smartguard 1.75″

    I stay in Singapore and not able to find all these parts in Singapore as think not many guys in Singapore go for bike tour. Even all my friends call me either nut and crazy.

    I have contact Spacycle to sell me all the above, but look like they do not have interest to ship to Singapore even I am pay for the shipping cost.

    I can get all other parts from Chain reaction and SJS cycle. Just the spokes I may need to change to DT Swiss. Can you help to advise what spokes length I should use for above hubs and Rims.

      1. Eric Ho avatar

        thanks so much for the reply.

  4. Congratulations on this great project! I guess you must feel very proud that your personal dream bike is now a production bike. I would! (It’s like being a football fan and finding out the coach of your team will use your favourite players).

    As you say at the beginning, each of us has our dream bike, but yours definitely is one of the best choices right now in the market! Thanks for the time and effort in detailing what went in and why.

    1. Thanks Joe! I’ve tried very hard to create a long-haul expedition bike based on a wide range of tried and tested principles, rather than just my own preferences. I hope that comes through in the design and spec.

  5. Sorry, another question on your speccing of 8‑speed. I seem to remember that in one of your links/pages on this topic you said something to the effect that it was pretty much future-proof/wasn’t going-leaving anywhere anytime soon. But I can’t find the page. Care to say more? The reason I ask is that a while ago I bought a 700** wheeled tourer and specifically asked about 8 or 9 speed and was told that 9 was best for future parts availability. I have since wondered about this, partly because of other spec advice I was given on the same bike. ** It was supposed to be my last bike but am pondering a 26 inch addition:)

    1. You’ll have no trouble finding 9‑speed parts in high-end bike shops the world over. But most bike shops the world over are not high-end ones! So my best guess it that whoever sold you the 700C/9‑speed tourer assumed you’d only be touring in parts of the world where high-end bike shops are commonplace.

      If you’re lucky it’ll never be an issue, but given the option I believe it’s best to maximise your overall chances of finding compatible spares in the millions of back-street bike repair shops whose regular customers are riding bikes built before 9‑speed was even invented.

      And if you do disagree, remember that these bikes are custom-built on a one off basis, so if you ask for a 9‑speed drivetrain instead, you’ll get one 🙂

  6. Bélabácsi avatar

    This is a big feat in your cycletourer career, Tom. I congratulate you for that. It sure looks an awesome travellers’ bike and the price tag is quite right for all that good stuff you are getting in the package. I saw a lot of my gear choices justified in your design, and had i not built my own tourer on an old GT mtb frame, and had got the cash, I would not hesitate for a second about getting one of your bikes.

  7. Great looking bike.

    Any particular reason you went for schrader valves?

    Also, some people have suggested that XT hubs are not as suitable for hard touring as some of the more humble Shimano hubs. I think the ball bearings are smaller. Your thoughts?

    1. Yes – everything has been very particularly thought out 🙂

      Schrader valve holes is really the point; you can then use any innertube on the planet as a spare, regardless of valve type, whereas with Presta you’re stuck with it. Less likely to snap, and you’ll find a compatible pump in every car mechanic’s too. Nothing stopping you setting off with Presta valves, of course.

      Hubs… Shimano change subtle aspects of their products all the time, which is really annoying and means what was true just a few years ago isn’t necessarily the case today. Presently Deore/LX/XT all use 22x 3/16″ bearings per hub. The main difference is in the axle material and seals – steel axle for Deore/LX vs alu for XT, and external rubber dust seals on XT only. Ideally we’d have used the older version of the LX hubs which were double sealed and had steel axles, but Shimano went and changed the spec, so we decided the extra seals offered the bigger advantage in the long run.

  8. That seems like a very solid,dependable bike,but I‘m not familiar with a lot of the newer Shimano stuff as most of my bikes ‚frames and equipment are a minimum of 20 years old! I think the Brooks saddle virtually goes without saying…although i have a friend who recently snapped the steel rails on a B17 after 2 years…but 12,000 miles of use! I have a late 60s/early 70s Brooks Professional on my 25 year old Peugeot Chamonix tourer and thats also a lovely saddle,but unfortunately without saddle bag loops. Thumb shifters are great and I notice youve got them on this. I have some Suntour ones and a Suntour long cage derailleur from a 1989 Raleigh Montage that I used for years. They are clunky but solid and you have the option of friction or index which is nice because some thumb shifters didn‘t offer this. I’ve also got a nice steel 1993 Giant MTB frame with just light rust on it. It came with early 90s Deore mechs and brakes. I got it for £1 at a car boot! I think that will make a lovely bomb-proof world tourer(at some point in my life!) with a rub down and a can of mat green aerosol! The only thing is it doesnt have braze-ons on the front forks for low rider panniers. Would you advise getting those Tom,or just getting a front rack that holds your stuff higher up and over the front wheel,despite perhaps the weight not being as stable? One last thing..nearly all my bikes being old don‘t have cassettes fitted,but the old style screw-on freewheels instead! Would you advise I modernise? ! Anyway great article as ususal,thanks a lot!

    1. Your ‘fleet’ sounds great – a testament to simple, good quality kit lasting a lifetime, which is the ethos we’ve tried to go for as far as possible, given that it’s all new kit.

      Why not get the bargain Giant MTB frame properly reconditioned for touring? You could get lowrider braze-ons added and have a respray done at the same time (NOT spraypaint!). Argos Racing Cycles in Bristol specialise in this kind of work.

      As for freewheel cassettes, because so many bikes still use them, they’re still mass-produced and widely (and cheaply) available, so I don’t see any advantage in modernising. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! 🙂

      Hope that helps!

  9. I’ve would like ask a question. Why are you choose a 26″ wheel size?

    1. Answer on the blog tomorrow!

  10. Amazing. Congratulations Tom. What an achievement!

Something to add?