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What Name Would You Give A Heavy-Duty World Touring Bike?

After last week’s rather vocal debate on the ethics of commercialism in adventure, I figured it was time to get firmly back to what we all love: travelling the world on two wheels. (Less talk, more action, and all that.)

Now, as long-term readers will know, I’ve never had any particular fascination with touring bikes themselves. Though I’ve written the odd blog post on the topic, this has mainly been in order to get people here via search engines so that I can talk to them about how getting on a bike and going somewhere is a far better use of their time than endlessly googling touring bikes. (This works pretty well.)

But in the years since I started this blog, I’ve inevitably accumulating a certain amount of wisdom — both from first hand experience on the road in 40+ countries and from literally hundreds of other equally experienced riders — on what it is that distinguishes the ‘ideal’ world travel bicycle from… not just other bikes in general, but other touring bikes too. For not all touring bikes are created equal. Not by a long shot.

(Ironically, my lack of interest in equipment led me to write an entire handbook on choosing gear for cycle touring — the theory being, of course, that by doing so I would never have to answer another question on cycle touring equipment ever again. This has largely worked.)

Since relocating to Bristol earlier this year, I’ve also discovered something else, which is that I actually really enjoy working on bicycles. I enjoy getting my hands dirty. I enjoy the process of taking something that’s falling to pieces and — with just my hands and a selection of basic tools and parts — intuit and experiment with how to bring it back to that state of mechanical equilibrium in which everything just works.

It’s also slightly reminiscent of long-term touring. Everyone who’s done such a tour will know of the evolving mental to-do list of bicycle maintenance jobs. The rear derailleur could do with a tweak on the second sprocket down. There’s too much slack in that barrel adjuster. What’s that tick on the drive-side downstroke — pedal bearing, chainring bolt, bottom bracket or loose shoelace? Without wanting to get too Pirsig, there’s a certain zen to the art of bicycle maintenance.

I’ve rediscovered the simple yet therapeutic nature of bicycle rebuilding by volunteering at the Bristol Bike Project, spending one afternoon a week taking donated rust-heaps that’ve been sitting in people’s garden sheds for god knows how long and making them roadworthy again. These bicycles are often museum pieces. Not a day goes by at the Bike Project when I don’t learn something new about some long-forgotten piece of bicycle engineering technology.

Anyway. It got me thinking: if I were to build another bicycle from the ground up for the specific intention of travelling the planet, ultra long term, wanting insane levels of durability, maximum versatility in where I could take it, ultimate ease of maintenance, the greatest possible chance of finding compatible parts, and with comfort under load as a top priority… what would such a bike look like? What parts would I choose? What would my priorities be for the build, with all that experience to draw from? And how would it be put together?

It would certainly differ greatly from my first attempt at building an expedition bike. While certainly unique, that bike only really came into its own in Outer Mongolia and the most challenging parts of Africa. It was massively overbuilt for long-distance touring, slowed me down immeasurably, and in retrospect was a bit like taking a sledgehammer to a picturehook. It got me where I was going, of course. But there’s a lot I’d want to change.

Well, I’m excited to announce that I have now designed and built such a bike.

toms-expedition-bike-2

While the chances of me attempting to cycle round the world in one go (again) are slim, being happily married and having otherwise got it out of my system, this bike is the one I’d like to think I’ll spend the remainder of my touring days riding, wherever in the world I choose to go.

Vast amounts of thought and research have gone into its design, and I’ll be sharing the complete build process on this blog in the next couple of weeks.

But for now, I could use some help. Because the bike still doesn’t have a name.

So here’s the point of today’s post:

If you were building the ultimate heavy-duty world touring bicycle, what name would you give it?

(Ideally, something other than ‘Tom’s Expedition Bike’ — though that is a fairly accurate description!)

Answers in the comments. Whoever comes up with the name I choose gets a mystery prize. Just for fun 🙂

To get your creative juices flowing, here are some of the suggestions that have come through on Twitter and Facebook so far:

https://twitter.com/MossyST620/status/529392759631654913

https://twitter.com/dave_steepmedia/status/529348744303869952

Go nuts! No name too silly.

Though it would also be good if someone came up with one I’d actually want to plaster across the top tube of the bicycle…

132 replies on “What Name Would You Give A Heavy-Duty World Touring Bike?”

Hermes

The God of travel and writing (of course a lot more). Hermes is the messenger of the gods and leads the souls of the dead into the afterlife. Well kind of what you do with your blog because after bike touring nothing is ever going to be the same for you. He was depicted either as a handsome and athletic beardless youth, or as an older bearded man. Well a few weeks on the bike you will see the same transformation. His attributes include the herald’s wand or caduceus, winged sandals, and a traveler’s cap. If that are not enough ideas for a bike logo I do not know what is. His sacred animals are the tortoise, the ram, and the hawk. You have to make up your own ideas on how to incorporate that.

How about “Passepartout”? Apart from the association with a timed around the world competition, which you might not like 😉 , it apparently translates as “goes everywhere” *and* is a French idiom for a skeleton key. (Thanks Wikipedia :))

A few ideas of my own:

World Wanderer
Time Traveller
Vision Quest
Walkabout
Dream Machine
Planetarium
Compass

(All awful, of course. That’s why I’m asking you!)

And the full list of social media contributions so far:

Somnium
Killdozer
Fluffy
Odysseus
Ulysses
Muscle
Rocket
Excalibur
Trojan
Grifter
The Grod
Big Dave
Beast
The Bike
Hercules
Tank!
Sissy Fuss
Atlas
Zeus
Moby
Alpha One
Jumber
Workhorse
Long Distance
Moil
Accomplish
Destiny
Enterprise
Assequi Magnitudinem
Destinare
Intrepid
Intreped
Proud Mary
Chidiock Tichbourn
Simurgh
Janus
World Explorer
Journey
Gurt Lush
Fortuna Redux
Cyclops
Megacycle
Goliath
Trundle
Ultimate Traveller
Hercules (again)
Slog
Thunderbird 2

You said it yourself Tom — Journey- or as I was going to suggest ‘Janapar’ which means Journey in Armenian right (well that’s what you said in your book)? By the way Richard at Oxford Bike Works posted on Facebook you’d been in to see him, so is he building this bike for you then? Following your article on your blog a few months ago I decided to ask him to build me a bike rather than line the pockets of the big bike manufacturers. I’m very pleased with it although only doing over nighters at the moment. Beast Wishes Tom, Mike

How about naming it” The Londonderry- Stevens World Traveller” after the first man and woman to traverse the globe by bicycle.

Butterfly, cos you always start a new journey with butterflies in your stomach. Name of the bike will remind you that, when hard moments come.

Any heavy-duty tourer worth its beans has to be called The Kevin. No one messes with a Kevin.

Seeing the name Warrem emblazoned on a downtube would also be a true mark of quality.

Worldseeker ( Sounds like you’d need to carry a sword, shades of King Arthur !)
Amiegocycle ( sort of French and Spanish sounding and definitely friendly! )
Miles-2-Go ( a touch of Frost 🙂 with a romantic spirit. Perhaps should be in kilometers?
Mule ( simple, and you’ll feel like a cowboy or at least Clint Eastwood )
( Ok…Wow! this is hard.…)Seriously.. I’ll try.…

Transformer ( because you’ll re- jig this bicycle many times during it’s life and travels. I like this one actually. And no, it doesn’t have anything to do with robots. ) It’s a good, honest name that has to do with the multi function purposes of the bike during a long journey or extended lifetime. and it suggests transport, which it is, or crossing vast distances, which it could.
And nobody else will mess with it because they think it IS a robot. You won’t need a lock.

New bike name — ‘Freebird’ — this name sum’s up exactly what a touring bike gives its owner.

Good luck with the build!

Chris

“Genepi” or “Genepy”, it’s some strong alcohol from the Alps and it echoes to your Armenian “journey” word…, just some random idea though.

The Tramp.

What’s the difference between a long-distance cyclist and a tramp?
The Cyclist uses 2 less wheels to cart their collection of carrier bags around.

Aidar already offered brilliance in Bucephalus’.

As famous as that ride was, I’ll offer Alexander’s general ‘Hephaestion’ instead. Less obvious and less well-known, but there is no better story for a faithful companion. That’ll go on the top bar of my future Koga!

You’d get used to the name in about five seconds, Tom.

More importantly, so very many good people here have hit the nail on the head: it isn’t the name per se that speaks as much as the underlying purposefulness. Pick the quality that is your life’s signature and the arrangement of letters that forms the word that represents it comes easily thereafter.

Hi Tom, I’d be a bit careful with Hephaestion. As the writer of the Wikipedia article puts it, “there were rumours that Alexander the Great “yielded to Hephaestion’s thighs””. Very delicately put. I would think in this case that your “Hephaestion” would hopefully yield to your thighs. But in a slightly different way. 

You don’t really want to find yourself in a remote village somewhere which just happens to be inhabited by Greek scholars who may seek to take advantage. Surely long distance touring is sufficiently replete with risk already.

A small number of off-hand cryptic references to gay behavior between A and H exists. They are quashed, illuminated or expanded over time, reflecting the acceptance or condemnation of homosexuality at the time. Firsthand, hearsay and apocryphal writing of Alexander’s time lived when homosexuality meant something entirely different than it does today, and this creates inevitable interpretation problems. But even in today’s toxicity no one argues that those spotty speculations were the driver behind one of the great life stories of trusted commitment memorialized in antiquity.

I’m thinking, as a romantic, it would have to be The Tenny.…
Both have, and will enrich your life in ways you can never predict.

For a bike that may go anywhere I am tempted by the rather robust if not elegant name of Indefatigable but what you describe is a bike that offers potential. In your circumstances the bike provides opportunity and I think Opportunity is a fine name for a bicycle.

Shelta

Shelta (also known as the Cant or Gammon) is a language spoken by Irish Travelers, a Celtic language dating back to the 13th century. Linguistically Shelta is today seen as a mixed language that stems from a community of travelling people in Ireland that was originally predominantly Irish-speaking. Irish Travellers (also called Pavee, Tinkers or Gypsies), are a traditionally itinerant ethnic group who maintain a set of traditions. Although predominantly English speaking, some also use Shelta as their main language. They live mostly in Ireland as well as having large numbers in the United Kingdom and in the United States. Around 10,000 people in the United States are descendants of Travellers who left Ireland, mostly during the period between 1845 and 1860 during the Great Famine. About 2,500 of them live in Murphy Village, a community outside North Augusta, South Carolina. Therefore, naming a nomadic touring bike Shelta gives to it a special meaning which is rooted in the historical background of those nomadic people that bridge the history between English-speaking communities of which I think you are part Tom. 🙂 

Greetings,

Elio (a non-native English speaker but admirer of all languages)

Elaine
name of the Fred Rebell‘s (22 April 1886 – 10 November 1968) Pacific crossing sail-boat

Laimīgu ceļu!
Didzis
Riga

Rocinante
is Don Quixote’s horse in the novel Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes. In many ways, Rocinante is not only Don Quixote’s horse, but also his double: like Don Quixote, he is awkward, past his prime, and engaged in a task beyond his capacities.

Xanadu

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round;
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

Hi Tom

I’m on the side of ‘Tenny’ ‘Janapar’ or ‘Kevin’, but other wise it would have to be ‘Sid’ or ‘Bob’. My wife says she prefers ‘Talon’ — a pun on your names?

Peregrine, for the most widespread raptor in the world found from the Arctic to the tropics. Your lighter design needs a name invoking an ease with the currents of space and travel over long distances.

Wanderlust, Explorer, Weaver, Worldweaver, Experience, Zen, 

Just a few to get started, still thinking about it :D. It’s great fun seeing everyone’s ideas!

Thank you everyone for your ideas! This has been a lot of fun.

My personal favourites so far:

Pangaea
Hephaestion
Freedom
Mule
Go

I guess I’m gravitating towards names indicating intended use, rather than anything too anthropomorphic.

Some more of my own crap/comical/utilitarian ideas for your amusement:

Perpetual Motion Machine
Motion Machine
Machine
Motion
Round-The-World Bike
World Bike

Shame ‘Nomad’ and ‘Hobo’ are already taken…

Anagrams might be an interesting route to go down, though the best I’ve come up with so far is ( the apparently meaningless) ‘ripstorm’.

Unfortunately, Co-motion cycles make a tourer called Pangea. (looks a nice bike, too!) Tout-terrain have a trailer called ‘Mule’ but no bike.

One of my bikes was called ARAGORN after the character in Lord of the Rings. I was studying literature back then and since all my bikes have names of the characters of my favourite books. Since my Aragorn is long göne I can let you use the name 😉

“Sasquatch” — but already taken…

As it’s coming up to the 70th anniversary, in 2017, how about “Viracocha” otherwise known as “Kon-Tiki” the Inca sun god?

Exodus
Freeborn
Freespirit
Transient species
Seismic
B‑line
Horizon
Trans global
Elemental
Orbit/ orbital
Mettle
Longitude/ Latitude
925’er
Wanderlust
Lunar
Tectonic
Sherpa
Abyss
Wildebeest
Rambleon
Milestone
Exile
Journeyman
Mistral
Heavy-duty bastard
Traffic jam GT
I wish this bike was lighter!

Name it “Tom Too” (or Tom II or Tom Two), since the touring bike is really an extension of yourself on wheels. 🙂 Happy riding.

Lynx (after the animal most at home in the wilderness, constantly roams while hunting for food and always seeks new territory, can survive in snow and harsh weather conditions and cover great distances ..source: BBC “Earth”)

Article Tern. It travels 44,000 a year as it migrates from pole to pole. That’s an around the world trip every year. Not bad.

Someone said “walkabout”, but that cannot be the one. A bike has wheels, and doesn’t walk.

I submit the name “Rollabout” .… with a possible modifier of “Dreamtime”, i.e.. Dreamtime Rollabout. After all, anyone who has actually toured long distances knows that a LOT of the time in the saddle is spent both “dreaming” and “rolling”.

That’s the term I use for my tours, both short and long: I’m on a rolling journey of the spirit, into space and place. Sometimes I wonder if it is “me” on the bicycle rolling about “ON” the earth, or if I’m always in one “place”, with the earth rolling under me. Ahhh, relativity!

S.U.L. (Shut up legs)
K.G.F (keep going forwards)

I like the a abbreviated letters! Excellent blog by the way.…..adventure is what you make of it!

The Argo — The name of the trusty ship that Jason and his crew manned when they were going to get the Golden Fleece. The Argo is the only thing that Jason still has at the end of his quest until the end of his days.

I hope this is along the right lines.
Moksha:
Sanskrit: मोक्ष also called vimoksha, vimukti and mukti, means emancipation, liberation or release In epistemological and psychological sense, moksha connotes freedom, self-realization and self-knowledge.
Could have the Moksha Mule/Mukti Mule..?

Hi,

I believe such a project deserves a name such as:

VAGABOND

or

GLOBE-TROTTER

or

GLOBE VAGABOND

Thanks for your blog and Good Luck with your project! .

Since you asked, it’s a custom-designed Reynolds steel frame for 26-inch wheels. Geometry-wise, it’s similar to the steel mountain bikes of the ’90s that were often used for heavy-duty touring, with a the addition of several touring-specific frame features and braze-ons.

Tom, you just reminded me of a Diamond Back Ascent EX…oldies but goldies. I have a Surly Troll so I am not too envious of your build, that is until I see the pictures. 🙂

No bad reviews, no. It’s an impressive piece of tech, just as the Rohloff is. It’s just that such a system goes entirely against the principles of simplicity and ease of maintenance. If you’re travelling the world for years on end, that’s what you’ll end up valuing most.

OK. Thanks a lot for your reply. I was asking because I am considering buying one for a new “dream bike” but I tend to be cautious as it costs a fortune.

Indeed! Also, don’t overlook the fact that it needs a custom-built frame to accept the gearbox.

I’d always suggest a traditional derailleur setup and a one-day training course in how to maintain it. Much cheaper 😉

Oh, I already have a road and a tri bike with regular derailleurs. It’s just that I am looking for a commuter / developped country tourer. Carbon belt and pinion looks like a sexy mixture. I am having some sorte of fantasies about this model: 

Did you thing about “Rossinante” for your bike’s name?

Unless you are hopeless at fixing things like me Tom. I’ve had just two situations over the past few years where my derailleur gears system jammed or let me down, both times in the dark and in the rain which meant a long walk dragging the bike. It was a miserable experience.I couldn’t fix it both times. And believe me, I tried.
My touring bike ( A Thorn Sterling) has a Rohloff and it hasn’t let me down at all. Not once. I trust it more. Yes, it could fail but so far it beats my bikes with derailleurs for reliability.

Here’s my $0.02!

So Long…
So Long, Normality
Terra
Terra Mundas
X‑Terra
Transversus
Terra Orbis
Itineris
Vector
Via Terra
…Or some combination of the above (to save writing them all out)

How about ‘albatross’ or ‘wandering albatross’ — the far travelling sea bird of so many maritime myths and legends? Also, there’s an old Scots word that might fit the bill — ‘stravaigin’ — the best definition I can muster is that it means to wander or explore, perhaps on the face of it aimlessly, but nonetheless with a purpose.

Bike names: Terra Sherpa, Tour King, World Tour Seven Four (seven years, four continents), Pack Horse, Getchathere, Epic Tour Machine, Mile Master, Tour Master, Tour Utility Vehicle.

Loadmaster or Load Master. Tribute to those who make sure your airplane stays in the air while carrying lots of cargo. Same is true of bikes I guess. You sort of have to be a loadmaster to get the weight distributed correctly.

I call my bike “The Honey Badger”, an indestructible beast which doesn’t give a sh*t.

However, after reading your post on the man (which then inspired the the most amazing internet research binge for me in a long time) how about;
“The Jumber”

ExPedAll
A contraction of Expedition, Pedal and All (aka the whole world). 

There are some hidden suggestions for interpretations in the name:
Ex-PedAll: Exit to pedal all of our beautiful world. Ex-plore, Ex-plosive pedals, Ex-pedalling = where you have been. PedAll: the bikes ‘wants’ to go anywhere and you’ll just have to follow ;-)… And I could go on and on…

Pegasus ?

The wonderful irish poet Francis ledwidge (died ww1) used to jokingly refer to his bike as his Pegasus. Used to cycle over 40 miles a day and then work on roads or in a mine for a few years.

Sisu.

It’s a Finnish word meaning determination, bravery, and resilience. It actually lacks a true translation into any other language. It’s general meaning is about being steadfast and courageous in the face of adversity.

The name picks itself “Tom Bike”
There is great presidence for this from Merckx, Hoy, Pendleton and Cipolini, so if they can have their name on the side of a frame, why shouldn’t you?
It is what mine will be known as.……

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