Broken Gear: Two Years of Bike Travel

We’ve now finished our trip, putting in over two years of riding and 31,000km. Our gear was put to the ultimate test, and lots of it ended up failing somewhere along the line. To give you an idea of the amount of stuff that stopped working, broke or lost some of it’s functionality, we’ve put together this extensive list. Some of it you may find surprising!

Here’s a brief list of the the stuff that broke and/or repaired in our first year of bike travel:

  • Sleeping bag;
  • 2x Mavic rims;
  • Tent poles;
  • Alee’s iPad screen;
  • Lots of clothing;
  • Kat’s air pillow;
  • A rear pannier clip; and
  • Our musettes

The full article on our broken gear is HERE.

This is the carnage our kit has seen over the second year… it’s far more extensive!


Our original Steripen had a really good innings, it worked well for 18 months before it either wouldn’t turn on or wouldn’t stay in long enough to filter our water. We were later gifted an unused Steripen in the Philippines but didn’t get more than about 10L of water out of it before it suffered the same issues. We’ve since bought ourselves some Sawyer Water Filter Bags to replace the Steripen, but as you’ll read below, we’ve had issues with that solution.

iPad Protective Cases

We broke the zip on our Hard Candy Bubble Sleeve recently, and Kat’s Apple Smartcase has repeatedly comes apart at the edges (we superglue it back together when we can). Kat’s original Kensington Protective Cover cracked early on in our trip, however, Alee still uses his same one today. It seems Kat doesn’t have much luck when it comes to cases… More on iPad cases for bike touring HERE.

MSR Titanium Pot

Our MSR titanium pot cracked at the handle. This ultra-lightweight pot gets used 1-2x per day, so we are happy that MSR sent us a replacement!

Philips Hair Trimmer

I really like this hair trimmer (review HERE), but unfortunately, it didn’t last the distance. An integral part which holds the hair trimming comb in place broke after 12 months use.

Orbea and Giro Helmets

Helmets take a real beating on a bike tour. Our helmets are dropped, lent against and packed into small spaces. After 20 months, the retaining strap on Alee’s helmet snapped, and both helmets are now cracked in multiple places. We recommend replacing helmets every 12-18 months of bike touring!

Gates Carbon Drive CDC Tandem Belt Kit

We had a problem with the CDC tandem timing belt and chainrings after 2,000km use (review HERE). Gates replaced this under warranty and updated everything to the Centertrack model, which we’ve now used successfully for 20,000km.

Mountain Hardwear Skyledge 3 Tent

Our Skyledge tent shrunk, making it unusable after ~400 nights in it. The full details of our tent failure can be read HERE. We are glad that MH was generous enough to award us with a warranty replacement despite being out of warranty period.

MSR NeoAir Mattress

Alee’s four-year-old NeoAir died after about 500 nights use on it. MSR offer a brilliant lifetime warranty on this product, so it was quickly replaced. Review HERE.

Exped Air Pillows

We’ve broken three Exped air pillows on this trip: two lightweight versions, and one Comfortfoam. We got about 150-200 nights of sleep out of the lightweight ones before they deformed, and we decided to stop using them after that. We thought that the Comfortfoam model wouldn’t lose its form given it is filled, but after ~500 nights of sleep, even it has deformed. The good news is that Exped is great with warranty replacements provided you’re within five years of purchase.

Salewa Leone II Tent

Although we only owned these tents for two days, we managed to break two! It seems we picked up some tents that were part of a dodgy production run. Needless to say, we got our money back. Review HERE.

Nalgene 1.5L Bottle

We thought Nalgene bottles were tough as nails, but it turns out, that if they fall the wrong way you can be in trouble!

Airstash A02 Wifi Drive

Our Airstash worked fine for almost two years until one day it would not turn on. Given it was out of warranty period, Alee decided that he would open it up and see if he could fix it. A cable had broken inside, so we were able to make it work again! Unfortunately, that only gave us a few more weeks, the next time it stopped working, it was completely shot. There seemed to be an issue with the chip. Review HERE.

Schmidt SON28 Dynamo Hub

This particular Schmidt hub completed over 10,000km but unfortunately decided to give up the ghost just as we were getting close to home. It was a bit noisy one day, and then by the next, it had completely stopped providing a charge. Luckily Schmidt has a good warranty. Review HERE.

Gates Carbon Belt

We had finally snapped a belt… at 31,000km. The Carbon Drive system lasted much longer than we expected. We probably would’ve used four chains over that kind of mileage.

FSA Bottom Bracket

Alee’s crankset BB up the front of the tandem gave it a pretty good shot, with 19,000km covered in all types of weather conditions. This is a pretty typical life for a high-quality bottom bracket, so we weren’t too bummed.

Spot Tracker 2

We got about six months of use out of our Spot Tracker before it stopped tracking. We have still not received a warranty replacement.

Garmin Edge 800 GPS

Our Garmin has suffered ongoing problems throughout our trip. More recently, it likes to play a game where when we turn it on, it automatically switches itself off. We play this game 5-10 times before it finally works. We kind of gave up on it (it’s out of warranty and Garmin want $200 to replace it), so we mostly use a smartphone for most of our navigation these days.

Sony TX-10 Digital Camera

Most of our technology has kept itself in one piece, however just recently the battery door to Kat’s camera had a hinge break, and as a result, we cannot close it. The camera is still good functionally despite how many times it has dropped – luckily it is shockproof.

Ortlieb Trunk Bag

Our Ortlieb trunk bag had a bit of stitching come undone, but we’ve been able to keep that together for some time now. Despite the odd hole in the material, it’s held together well, like most Ortlieb gear.

Ortlieb Pannier Strap Pads

The shoulder pads for Backroller panniers (which are incredibly uncomfortable btw) have broken off the straps of our bags. This makes using the pannier as a shoulder bag rather uncomfortable – luckily we don’t do this often.

Ortlieb Map Holder

Our Ortlieb map holder tore open after 20 months of continuous use, which we think is pretty acceptable. It was getting pretty scratched up anyway, making map details harder to see through the clear plastic.

Leatherman Juice S2 Pocketknife

Although our scissors became blunt very early on, the Leatherman faired pretty well on our journey. For some strange reason, some of the spacers on the knife became brittle and eventually fell apart, allowing a few of the accessories to rattle around.

Sawyer Water Filter Bags

The Sawyer water filter bags are a light and cheap way to filter water. We purchased a set after our Steripen stopped working. Unfortunately, the bags aren’t as durable as we’d have liked, the 1L bag was good for two months of heavy use, and the 2L bag only lasted a couple of weeks. They’d be fine for people who were only using them now and again.

Rohloff Hub

We managed to break the flange on our Rohloff hub, after about 28,000km. We believe that it is partially our fault, as we’d laced the hub up multiple times using different spoke patterns, which as a result had weakened the flanges. Luckily, Rohloff is brilliant with replacements and we were on the road in no time.

Gorillapod Tripod

Our little tripod gave way by cracking at one of the non-replaceable ball heads.

Other Minor Items

  • We broke the tip off our cooking knife.
  • Our rim tape failed, resulting in four punctures at the valve of our tubes (very frustrating problem, make sure you carry a spare good-quality rim tape).
  • We’ve worn through a few pairs of disc brake pads, our most impressive had holes in them.
Evidence that it’s kinda hilly in the Philippines… holey brake pads.

  1. Thanks for taking the time to get this update finished! I’ve been looking for *real* world stories to backup Rohloff+Carbon Drive for touring, and this helps me with exactly what I need!

    – Grab the soft plastic (milky white with blue top) Nalgene bottles, they really will last for eons (especially compared to the hard plastic ones)

    Keep up the great work!

  2. Good to see a long-distance tourer using disc brakes after hearing so many people claim they “shouldn’t be used” outside of US and Western Europe. Did you have any issues with them on the road? Was it easy to find pads around or did you just pack a few?

  3. If you send your Leatherman into the company they will fix it up as good as new or replace it, I’ve done it with two of mine. 🙂

    I second the Nalgene comment.

  4. Wondering about the issues you encountered with your SteriPENs. Most can be activated 8,000 times to treat up to 8,000 liters. Usually when a device only works for a short time it is because the wrong type of battery was used. Hope you will contact our technical support team to troubleshoot your devices: support@steripen.com or by phone: 888-826-6234 (in the US).

  5. Hi – Am enjoying the website! Tons of good info. I second the idea that you contact Leatherman. They replaced a knife on which I broke a blade by using it as a prybar. No questions asked – just an immediate replacement. FWIW, I’ve had similar response from MSR with a tent that had issues with the urethane coating on the fly – another immediate replacement with no questions asked. Try that with some cheap no name piece of shit import off eBay.

  6. Great to hear that you’ve had warranty success with those companies. I will have to hit Leatherman up! I’m currently battling with Spot regarding our Tracker – they’re one of the worst companies I’ve had the pleasure of dealing with.

  7. I’m trying to get my iphone5 charged from my Schmidt SON 28 dynamo using a Universal-i-cable from PedalPower. It produces a steady 5.3V, but does not charge my phone when I use the PedalPower USB adapter and my Apple-supplied iphone5 charger cable. Has anyone had experience of charging and iphone5 successfully with a dynamo, using this cable? Will the addition of PedalPower’s V4i kit make a difference?

  8. Hi Greg. I couldn’t get an iPhone 5 charging off my PP+ cables, but I was told that a working adapter was being produced in late-2013. You might need to chase that up with PP+. Charging an iPhone through the V4i battery is fine. Alee

  9. Number 8: The NeoAir Mattress ist made by Therm-a-rest, not MSR.
    Great Article though, thank you very much.

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