Bikes Product Launches

First Glimpse: The New-For-2019 Oxford Bike Works Expedition Disc

When visiting the UK earlier this year, I popped over to Oxford Bike Works to catch up with Richard Delacour and to check out a prototype of the new Expedition Disc touring bike he’s been working on.

This disc-equipped specification will be part of Richard’s custom-built bike lineup as of 2019, so I wanted to share some insights on what else makes this new touring bike different from the original Expedition and, perhaps more interestingly, why he decided to go down the disc brake route after years of steering clear of them (neither pun intended).

Why Put Disc Brakes On An Expedition Touring Bike?

First and foremost, lest riders of the original Expedition be alarmed, the Expedition Disc is not a replacement or an upgrade over the Expedition. It’s just a bike for a slightly different type of rider and tour.

Richard and I originally conceived Tom’s Expedition Bike, which became the Oxford Bike Works Expedition, as the ‘ultimate expedition touring bike’, in which simplicity and durability were paramount for a ride of months or years through the back of beyond. The original Expedition remains absolutely my go-to bike for this particular type of tour.

The Disc, on the other hand, was born out of a growing demand Richard was experiencing for a bike that would suit a rider who also had a lot of long-distance riding in mind, but perhaps over a series of shorter, more adventurous trips. They might also be considering throwing some dirt-road touring into the mix, and could therefore feel comfortable with a little more mechanical complexity in exchange for better braking performance in specific situations.

Given the changing priorities of many of today’s bicycle travellers, therefore, it made sense to tailor a bike to better suit this growing community of riders.

The Durability Of Disc Brakes On Long-Distance Cycle Tours

As longer-term readers might remember, part the rationale for sticking with rim brakes on the Expedition was the relative lack of proven durability and reliability of any particular model of disc brake on ultra long-distance tours in the developing world.

The picture today is different: cable-actuated disc brake technology has come of age. Models such as the Avid BB7, Hayes CX and TRP Spyre have been showing up on the spec sheets of disc-equipped world tourers from the big commercial manufacturers for several years, with few significant issues reported, and spares are a lot easier to find as a result of the increased global availability of high-end bikes and parts.

Some riders will no doubt chime in here to say that they’ve been running discs for much longer than that. I too was touring on hydraulic discs – of all things – as far back as 2007, perhaps ill-advisedly (though I still use that same set of brakes on my bikepacking rig today).

But that’s the point: these disc brakes have proven themselves over enough time and miles for even the most conservative bike designers to now consider specifying them on flagship touring models like the Expedition Disc – the TRP Spyres, in this case.

There’s also the option for early adopters to try out the rather amazing-sounding Juin Tech R1 cable-actuated hydraulic calipers that have recently found huge favour with the cyclocross community.

Disc Brakes Vs Rim Brakes Revisited

There’s no real dichotomy between rim and disc brakes, of course. There are and always have been pros and cons to both types of brakes.

With discs, the tolerances involved mean that they tend to rub on occasion, especially when the frame flexes under stress. The rotors can be rather vulnerable, especially when the bike is disassembled for transportation (fixing a bent rotor is almost impossible). It’s also true that, in the majority of regular touring scenarios, they don’t actually offer significantly improved braking over rim brakes. Let’s not forget that rim brake-equipped bikes have been taking people round the planet for over a century.

But I see the ever-increasing popularity and accessibility of shorter, more adventurous tours off the beaten track as a good reason to offer them. A set of properly set-up and bedded-in disc brakes offer significantly better modulation, slightly more power, and generally better performance in the mud and wet. I’m also much more confident in the durability of the components and the availability of spare parts than I was just a few years ago.

Disc-Specific Frames & Forks For Touring Bikes

Disc brakes do, of course, call for a frame and fork that are built for the job. This isn’t just about having bolts in the right places. Because the position of the brake calipers is much closer to the axles, the act of braking exerts a stronger rotational force on the wheel attachment points of frame. So it’s not just a case of welding new disc brake mounts onto a frameset that was designed for rim brakes.

To that end, the new Oxford Bike Works Expedition Disc frames will be individually fillet-brazed from Reynolds 525 and 631 chromoly tubing by a UK-based master frame-builder.

To keep prices from soaring (as tends to happen with made-to-measure framesets), they’ll be batch-produced in Richard’s already-popular range of four sizes, so he can continue to offer value for money while at the same time customising and fitting each bike to order (which was what impressed me most about his approach in the first place). The frames themselves will continue to come with the same 10-year warranty as before.

While both the 26-inch and 700c frame geometries will be essentially the same as those of the Expedition, the stiffer disc mount-equipped fork and rear triangle will make for an ever-so-slightly less springy ride, as is the case with disc-specific frames in general (though if you can accurately tell the difference in a double-blind test I will personally mail you an extra-large Snickers as a prize).

Three frame colours are available: the ever-popular red gloss, a new semi-matt khaki green, and anthracite grey. Custom colours and decals have proved surprisingly popular on the Expedition – maybe because if you’re buying a bike for life, you might as well really make it your own – and so this will continue to be an optional extra.

Additional Changes & Improvements

Richard has also made a lot of tweaks to the original Expedition specification too, reflecting both the changes in industry offerings and the years of road-testing and feedback we’ve had from our riders. I’m saving that for a future blog post, but in the meantime you can click here to see the revised specification of the Expedition, as well as that of the Expedition Disc, and get in touch with Richard if either bike sounds like it might fit the bill for your next trip.

A final reminder that each of Richard’s bikes is fitted in-person to each customer’s size and body shape and built to their preferences, so if there’s anything you don’t like or you have any special request, you can just ask him, and – if it’s possible – it shall be done.

This is, for me, remains the single best reason to pay Richard a visit, rather than dash for the nearest branch of Evans Cycles before it get shut down by its new owner.

I’ve ridden a fair few touring bikes in my time, but those that have given me the most satisfaction and enjoyment have been the ones that have been built to reflect my personal approach to touring.

That’s why I’ve become such an advocate for Richard’s approach to expedition bike building, and why I will continue to be so.

Touring Advice Upcoming Events

Last Chance to Get Tickets for The UK’s First & Best Cycle Touring Festival

The UK’s 4th annual Cycle Touring Festival is rapidly approaching – there are now less than two months to go until that weekend of cycling, camping, workshops and talks in the lovely surrounds of the Forest of Bowland AONB in Lancashire.

Founded and run by my good friends and fellow world cyclists Tim & Laura Moss of fame, I was proud to have played a small part in organising and promoting the inaugural event back in 2015, after a fairly nonchalant chat about the idea during a picnic in Esfahan a year previously.

It’s ironic that I’ve been too busy exploring foreign lands (!) to have attended the event since then, and it sadly looks as though the same will be true this year. But I’m happy to see the festival going from strength to strength, and for a lot of UK-based riders, the May dates represent the sweet spot between the planning and the execution, with several people kicking off their tours from the festival itself each year, while many others head back to the final stages of their preparations before riding off towards whatever adventures await them on the road.

More still come to the festival to get a crash-course in what’s actually involved in the adventurous end of cycle touring, and with dozens of riders far more experienced than me (or Tim & Laura for that matter) volunteering their time to speak, run workshops, and be bribed with ale for additional coaching time and advice throughout the weekend, there’s probably no better place for it.

The last few tickets are still available, though don’t expect them to last long. Check out all the details of the weekend and reserve your tickets at

Bikes News Personal Updates

Oxford Bike Works & Tom’s Expedition Bike: The Story So Far

Just before I flew out to Bangkok for my current trip, I paid a visit to Richard Delacour at Oxford Bike Works to collect Tenny’s newly upgraded tourer. Based on a vintage steel Trek frame, the lovingly recycled bike is a tidy piece of work, naturally — but it got me reflecting on the story of my acquaintance with Richard and his company; a tale of serendipity and good timing that still elicits a smile.

I first met Richard in 2014 when he wrote to me asking if I’d promote a new range of touring bikes he was launching. At that time I was publishing a lot of gear reviews, so I suggested he lend me one for a write-up, to which he responded by promptly driving a hundred miles from Oxfordshire with an early version of the Oxford Bike Works Model 2 in the boot. We had a cup of tea, did a quick fitting session in the basement, and off he went. I spent the next month pootling around the backroads of the Midlands, putting the bike through its paces, before he came back to pick it up. (The resulting review is here.)

Beyond the bike itself, which had impressed me with its thoughtful, unorthodox design choices, my curiosity had been piqued by Richard’s story. Previously a schoolteacher with a passion for cycling and bike-building in his free time, he’d taken what must have been a daunting leap of faith, especially with a young family to support: quitting his career, designing his first touring frameset, and investing a hefty sum in the manufacture and shipping of a first batch of frames, which he stored in his garage while seeking out a local paint shop to do the coating. The Model 2 was one of three initial offers launched under his new Oxford Bike Works brand, each one built to order in an outbuilding behind his house repurposed as a workshop. Now Richard was doing all he could to get the word out with a marketing budget of precisely zero.

A while later, as I was riding the delightful riverside trails of Germany and Austria on a cumbersome Frankenstein’s monster of a bike, dreaming of the perfect do-everything tourer I wished I’d been riding all these years, I had a lightbulb moment. What if…?

That evening I fired off an email to Richard with the idea of actually prototyping “Tom’s Expedition Bike” with his frameset as the starting point. He liked the idea, so I drafted a brief and a spec, went over to his workshop, and spent a day bouncing around ideas for component combinations, fitting options for different riders, and extra touches that would make the most of Richard’s ability to customise each bike to order. The goal would be a bike built ground-up for long-haul expedition touring, customised for each rider, and at an accessible price point. No small ask.

A little over three years later, the slightly less narcissistically-named “Oxford Bike Works Expedition” has not just debuted but matured and carved out its very own niche, with a veritable fleet of happy riders now doing the rounds. Of course, the spec has been tweaked in line with the ever-shifting bike industry (excuse the pun), and the pricing and options have been tuned until they work consistently for both Richard and his customers, but the package as a whole remains as we originally envisaged, and it’s now a core part of the OBW line-up.

Critically, these bikes have now been inching their way across the globe for long enough to be scattered far and wide and prove that they’re up to the job. Time and miles: the only test of a expedition touring bike that really matters to a buyer with a journey of several years ahead of them. Ironically, most of the road-testing hasn’t been on my watch, instead on that of riders like Renee Rowland and Adam Sultan — not to mention the effervescent Anna McNuff — who have put many more thousands of far more arduous miles under their wheels than I have. No transcontinental tour is without its mechanicals, of course, but the reports Richard’s been getting back from his customers indicate that they’re inevitably of the predictable, easily fixable kind we anticipated in the design from the word go. Phew!

Here in Thailand, where the going is rarely that tough, I’m still riding the original “Tom’s Expedition Bike” prototype. My only issue so far is no fault of the bike: a bent front fork as the result of an abrupt and unhappy fusion of dog and bicycle while riding across Burgess Park in South London last year (the red replacement fork adds a nice splash of colour to the original beige). Otherwise, it’s a total dream. As I ride the thing, I still catch myself thinking on an almost daily basis:

“Man, this really is the bike I wish I’d been riding all those years…!”

(Which probably says as much about my bad first choice of bike as anything else.)

Richard reckons he’ll hand-build around a hundred bikes in the coming year, of which a dozen or so will be Expedition spec, and while there’s constant pressure to scale up, he’s deliberately resisting doing so. Bike building is what he loves, he says; he didn’t start this to end up as a business manager, and as long as he can pay the bills, he’ll be happy. It takes courage to stick to principles like that, and I have a huge amount of respect for him for doing so.

Staying small doesn’t mean stagnating. Richard’s proactive with his obsession, enthusiastically showing off a prototype disc-equipped adventure bike, born in response to growing demand and being put through its paces right now. And he talked me through some of the smaller components he was fitting to test models for research purposes, including new generator hubs priced to appeal to those who want on-the-go power but without the Schmidt price-tag, and some Microshift 3x8 thumbshifters that would — if durable enough — bypass the current Shimano bar-end shifter hack, and add barrel adjusters to boot.

So that’s the story so far. And I’m proud to have played a tiny part in helping a fellow idealist and lover of all things cycle touring to get a dream off the ground and make it a sustainable reality, beating the big players at their own game, and helping more people see the world from the seat of a bicycle.

Speaking of which, I’m off to ride mine

Charlie Guest Posts

The Adventures of Charlie the Scrapyard Touring Bike: Iceland

This is a guest post from Kelly Diggle, a traveller and blogger who in 2015 became the 4th owner of Charlie the Scrapyard Touring Bike (read Charlie’s full story here). Here’s her account of pedalling Charlie around the perimeter of Iceland…

In the spring of 2015 I found myself boarding a plane to Spain. It wasn’t for a holiday, however, but to collect Charlie the Scrapyard Touring Bike. Tegan had recently finished her tour across the country, and now it was my turn to take him on an adventure. 

To start, I needed to get him back to England. I deliberately booked my ticket home from a different airport 80km away, and gave myself one day to get there. This mini adventure resulted in getting lost, arriving 3 hours late at my host’s home and then subsequently locking myself in with no food (unless you count a fun-size packet of crunchy nut). But the real adventure was yet to come – a month circumnavigating Iceland alone – was I really cut out for this?!

Finally the time came and I felt as ready as I’d ever be. On the run up to this trip, I’d done everything possible to support the idea that travel doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive. With the main component of my adventure – Charlie — costing no more than £25, surely I could keep costs down elsewhere. I set myself a £1,000 spend limit (flights, food, accommodation, missing gear), which became easy when a friend gave me an iPhone to document with and I spent most of my nights free-camping around the island. 

Once again day one proved interesting; I reached Iceland to find Charlie was still in London. Having opted to wrap the bike in a clear plastic travel bag, rather than a box, we had problems fitting him in the scanning machine before departure. Either the man carrying him to the plane got lost, or he couldn’t resist a short tour himself before putting him on a flight a few days later. But of course with dark clouds there is a silver lining. This slight mishap meant I was able to take a bus to the city and avoid the face-on downpour, and I ended up cycling with a hilarious Texan during my first week as our departure day now matched up.

I soon realised that Iceland was a perfect destination for a first-time-tour. The wild camping options were endless, the roads quiet, the scenery stunning and as long as the sea remained on my left; I wasn’t lost. It was thanks to a cut-short trip I took to Iceland the year before that I returned with the idea to see more. Summer was an amazing time to explore, as I had 24 hour daylight and zero worry about time – I could cycle at my own pace, for as long as I wanted.

During the four weeks I experienced many new things and never let the somewhat changeable weather get me down. Well, aside from one day I remember well that had me cycling slower than walking pace face-first in to the wind (on a flat road, I might add). There were highs; climbing dormant volcanoes, swimming in a natural hot river and being invited in by strangers on soaking wet days. Of course there are always low points – that’s why it is called an adventure – but I’ve never been one to focus on them. If anything, I think it is important to turn a low into a funny memory, learn from it or push it aside and make way for the positives. 

As it turns out, I was cut out for the trip. I had no previous experience cycle touring or wild camping alone. What I did have however, was sheer determination, enthusiasm and an open mind. My love for cycling has grown hugely, and I learnt many things including; the generosity of strangers and the capabilities of myself. It also prides me to mention that my total outgoings came to just £859 for this 4 week trip.

As for Charlie the Scrapyard Touring Bike? I got the pleasure of handing him over to Charlie (human) whom recently finished her 8 month tour from England to Hong Kong. Wherever he ends up going next, I can’t wait to continue following his journey, and feel genuinely honoured to be a part of it.

Thanks Kelly! For those interested to read more, do head over to By the way, Charlie did indeed make it to Hong Kong, but is now AWOL – the last reported sighting was a few months ago in Southeast Asia. Have you seen him by any chance…?

Charlie Inspiration Other People's Adventures

How Charlie The Scrapyard Touring Bike Made It Halfway Round The World (And How You Can Take Him Further)

This is a guest post by Charlie Rowen, the fifth in a series of owner-riders of Charlie the Scrapyard Touring Bike, who I rescued from my local tip and refurbished back in 2013. The following year, at the end of his maiden voyage, I nonchalantly launched him into the world with a new owner, Tegan, on a brand new adventure.

Little did I know that I was putting into a motion a train of events that would eventually see him arriving in Hong Kong in time for Christmas 2016 – and in need of a new rider to take him further round the globe!

Could this rider be you? Do you have an inkling for a South-East Asian bike trip in the near future, but don’t have a bike to do it on? Read on to find out how you could write the next chapter of this fantastic little story…

* * *

In May this year, my sister Louise and I set off from our home in Hartford, UK, to cycle to our childhood home in Hong Kong. After 8 months on the road, crossing countries and continents, we are now just a few short weeks away from the end of our trip. Hong Kong is tantalisingly close.

It is hard to believe that just over a year ago I was sat having a cup of tea with Kelly, the previous owner of Charlie the Scrapyard Touring Bike, chatting about her adventures and our plans. I remember thinking, “oh my gosh, this is actually happening!”. It all of a sudden became very real. I had a bike and kit, and more and more people knew about our plan. I handed in my resignation and a few short months later we set off from home, heading East.

Cycling away from home was very emotional, especially because of how long it took to get out of sight of the house. The day we left was the first time we had cycled with our bikes fully loaded. Only then did we realise that we had massively over-packed. A quick about turn to take out the second towel, hair conditioner, and a few T‑shirts, and we were off again.

We had a fantastic few months cycling through Europe. One day in Austria we met four American girls. They were cycling the length of the Danube and we shared a lovely breakfast with them sheltering from the rain. Upon seeing my bike, they gasped and exclaimed, “you have Charlie the bike!” Turns out he has some fans from across the Pond!

Lou and I have found that travelling by bike is a fantastic way to see the world, discover interesting cultures and explore unknown parts of the map. However, as with all of the best adventures, things worked out quite differently to our original plan. Every twist, turn and visa rejection brought new experiences and actually led to some of our favourite moments of the whole trip, including meeting the wonderful Nina, a German cycle tourer who we spent 3 weeks with cycling through Europe; staying with an old Greek couple who had us helping pick vegetables in their garden; and trying camels’ milk (it’s fizzy!) with a local family in Kazakhstan.

Before we set off, we were asked if we were worried about travelling through certain countries, if it was dangerous, and if it was safe for two women alone. We understood that people might be concerned but we were confident that we were prepared and had enough common sense to not put ourselves in any unnecessary danger. What we learnt along the way is that the countries that people at home were most worried about were some of the most fun, friendly and welcoming. We found that travelling (and especially cycling) as two women opened a lot of doors. People want to help you, sometimes whether you want it or not! When we needed water in the desert or a place to sleep in the middle of the mountains, we found people to be lovely, helpful and genuinely interested in what we were doing, making for a really heart-warming experience.

It has been a fantastic trip and we have met many amazing people, including lots of fellow bike tourers, confirming that cyclists are the best kind of people! It was a scary decision to leave our jobs and set out on this adventure but it has been the most exciting, challenging and eye opening 8 months. We both plan to continue cycle touring and exploring the world on two wheels.

Now that our trip is almost over, Charlie the Scrapyard Touring Bike is in need of a new adventure. I hope I won’t be jinxing our last few weeks by saying that Charlie has been an excellent two wheeled companion… as long as you overlook his tendency to break kickstands!

If you want to be Charlie’s new owner and have an adventure in mind, no matter how big or small, drop me an email telling me about yourself and your plan, and I shall pick someone to be his new owner. You will need to pick Charlie up from Cheshire in January/February, or if you live in Bath I may be able to bring him to you, depending on timing.

We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our trip! You can find out more about us at I look forward to seeing where Charlie the Scrapyard Touring Bike will go next!


* * *

Since Charlie (the human!) wrote this article, I’ve discussed with her an even more exciting idea than bringing Charlie the Bike back home: might we find a new rider to continue Charlie the Bike’s round-the-world adventure from Hong Kong itself?

If this might be you, or if you are based in Hong Kong and would be willing to look after Charlie until we find him a new owner, please get in touch with his current owner by email before December 25th to make arrangements. Let’s keep this little bike’s trip rolling!