Winter is rolling in and while most down this way are thinking of sliding around on white stuff, my mind is full of images of endless dirt trails through astonishing mountain landscapes.

In July I’ll fly to Lima with my pal Bruno, to begin a 5 week odyssey pedalling the backroads and single tracks between Huaraz and Cusco in the high Andes.

The route

Our route is largely based on the Carretera Central route designed by Neil and Harriet Pike on their Andes By Bike website – the result of endless examination of Google Earth, looking for mining roads (Peru has a LOT of mines), dirt roads and backroads that would connect along the spine of Peru, while avoiding anything that looks remotely ‘busy’.

We’ve added a diversion to the southern section where we’ll attempt to divert through Salkantay in the region of Machu Picchu, if time is on our side…

Cordillera Huayhuash

Image from “Huayhuash” the bike movie.

Bike & gear

Taking a bike to the back of beyond where spare parts will be near non-existent leads to some inevitable head scratching and beard stroking!

Bombproof and simple are the ideal here, so a steel frame and rigid fork fits the criteria. The Surly Karate Monkey is a bike with a long heritage of dirt adventuring, having helped usher in the new age of no-nonsense 29ers. In it’s latest form it has gone back to it’s roots somewhat and is once again festooned with braze-ons – a big plus for adventure riding. My bike has had the stealth grey primer treatment – the original orange is very pretty, a bit too pretty!

Surly Karate Monkey Dirt Tourer

I have decided to go for a light rear rack set up so the braze-ons are essential. I have butchered my trusty Ortlieb Front Roller Plus panniers (15 years and going strong!), to trim the fat and shave off about half the weight. Panniers are definitely easier to pack and stash extra food on those days where we’ll need to load up for remote sections.  In order to keep everything lashed down tight, I ditched the rail brackets for a simple Velcro system, and added cinch down straps to anchor the panniers tight to the rack. Some extra tough PVC fabric (pretty much the same stuff Ortlieb use for their tough panniers) was bonded to the back of the bags to reduce abrasion as we bounce down 2000m descents.

Surly Karate Monkey Dirt Tourer Surly Karate Monkey Dirt Tourer Surly Karate Monkey Dirt Tourer

The wheel size required a bit of thought too. The ‘monkey can run 27.5+ (ahem, I mean 650b+ :-)), 29 and as I discovered to great delight, 29+ as well. I love the ride and terrain flattening qualities of 29+, but given that we will have many, many long and grinding climbs (up to 2500m of ascent in one pitch), I’ve opted for 27.5+ in order to gain a little bit more low gear and also have the wheels spin a little quicker over the ground thereby getting a bit more efficiency out of the front dynamo hub.

Surly Karate Monkey Dirt Tourer

Up front Jones bars make for a comfortable cockpit with their 45° backsweep and multiple hand positions. Plenty of extra space for GPS and lights. Navigation duties will be covered by a simple Garmin eTrex 20 for following the line we’ve plotted, with GaiaGPS and RideWithGPS apps for finer detail when needed. Gadgets and Supernova lights will be powered by the PD-8X dynamo hub via a Sinewave Revolution charger, running through a cache battery.

Surly Karate Monkey Dirt Tourer

I’ll be using a Salsa EXP Anything Cradle on the bars with a detachable dry bag for stashing overnight/warm gear that doesn’t get accessed until the end of the day, with a waterproof Ortlieb framebag and Salsa Anything Cage on the forks. Days should be fair and settled at this time of year but nights can be brutally cold so carrying enough warm gear is essential for the inevitable numerous nights under canvas. My lightweight camp includes a Big Agnes Fly Creek 1 person tent, Enlightened Equipment quilt and Sea to Summit insulated mat. A great combo that is compact, light AND warm!

We’re really amped for this trip and there will no doubt be last minute gear rethinks, but very soon we’ll just be there, having left behind the many complications of daily life and all we’ll be required to do is ride, eat and breathe (deeply)!