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Specialized bike provides ride of his life

Sun., Nov. 1, 2009

Scott Stoll and his customized mountain bike. (Courtesy of Scott Stoll / The Spokesman-Review)
Scott Stoll and his customized mountain bike. (Courtesy of Scott Stoll / The Spokesman-Review)

The bicycle that carried Scott Stoll around the world doesn’t look like anything special.

There’s tape on the frame and extra washers to hold racks in place. The leather saddle is faded and worn, a dented anatomical imprint testimony to the months and thousands of miles Stoll sat pedaling on a quest to travel the planet on two wheels.

The bicycle, a customized mountain bike made by Waterford Precision Cycles, served for four years as Stoll’s vehicle for discovery. It is a star in his new book, “Falling Uphill: 25,742 miles, 1,461 days, 50 countries, 6 continents & 4 moments of enlightenment on a bicycle.”

I met up with Scott in Minneapolis, where he was on a book tour. He was riding the same bike and wearing the same Shimano shoes he’s had since Australia.

Indeed, Stoll’s long ride has served as an ultimate gear test for bike-touring equipment. Over the months and years on the road, he has formed some strong opinions on what gear works – and what fails in the field.

The Waterford bike has gone more than 31,000 miles, Stoll estimates. Along the way, Stoll said everything on the bike was replaced at least once except for the frame, the handlebars and a rear rack made by Jandd.

The $84.95 Jandd rack was designed for “carting firewood or portaging large containers of water,” according to its description on

Another brand-name rack, which is less expensive, did not fare so well: “Blackburn racks are no good – I ruined two of them,” Stoll quipped.

He toted food, water and dozens of items on the road, including camping gear. Ortlieb’s Back Roller Classic panniers served as saddle bags for all manner of miscellany. He said the $165 waterproof bags survived four years of wear.

The aforementioned leather bike saddle is something he calls “The best thing I’ve ever bought.” It is made by Brooks, and the model name is the Flyer. Beyond the good fit, Stoll said the $122 saddle’s large springs absorbed bumps and improved his comfort and endurance on long days.

He went through several sets of tires. The Schwalbe Marathon Plus tire, which has a 5mm-thick layer of rubber for puncture protection, is by Stoll’s account “the best touring tire in the world.”

The Marathon Plus tires, which cost $55 apiece, are cited as impenetrable even by shards of glass and thumb tacks. Stoll went 15,000 miles on one set.

Stoll said he also used Continental’s Top Touring Tires, which failed his test. “The beading and sidewall kept getting destroyed when I had to take them off to change a flat,” he said.

For components, Stoll used Shimano’s Deore LX line, which he describes as “heavy duty, long-lasting, midrange priced stuff.”

He used shoes and pedals from Shimano, too. He doesn’t know the model names of either. “The markings and model numbers have been long worn off.”

He said most of the Shimano products held up all the way around the world. The rear hub cracked after 30,000 miles, but it still didn’t fail.

Now that’s a serious gear test.

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