The randonneur—from the French word meaning “to ramble”—is more inclined to savour the countryside than the racer dashing for finish line, fame and fortune.
Pete with his Tern P24 in Vietnam.
After much research, he stumbled upon an experienced Australian world tourer Noel McFarland who used all the lessons he learned from his numerous adventures to build his ultimate tourer, the Vivente World Randonneur. I have never heard of this bike until Pete alerted me and while there are many established brands around such as Surly LHT, Trek 520, Thorn Sherpa, Koga-Miyata World Traveller etc, the VWR stands out because of its unbeatable value for $ at A$2700 only fully kitted.
For that price, it comes with Shimano BR M395 hydraulic disc brakes which is so important for those long steep descends fully loaded. Going down Wulin Taiwan at high speeds, I learned the limitations of V brakes, no matter how good they are. The other feature that caught my eye is the excellent lighting system - AXA Lux Plus auto which connected to the front dynamo hub, provide day time running lights. It has built in intelligence where after 12km/h, the beam throw changes to offer excellent visibility up to 30km/h. The tail light continues on for 4 mins after you stop for safety and what's more, it has a built in USB charger for your phone!
The VWR also comes standard with my favourite tires, Schwalbe Marathons where the front is slightly narrower than the rear, 32 v 35. This reflects the weight balance of the bike. Rims are very robust DT Swiss made specially for touring. The wheels are built for heavy duty work with minimum spoke failure.
The gearing for the VWR comes with a choice of the world renown Rohloff or a triple chain ring Shimano XT RD system. The Rohloff is the choice for many top tourers but it is an additional $1500 or nearly 60% of the total price. of the bicycle, which is a considerable investment. Pete reckons that the RD system is more than enough and I agree with him.
I also love the Tubus logo rear rack which is bomb proof and it comes with full size fenders, a very ergonomic trekking handlebar and get this, a squeezy air horn! Not many people are a fan of this and I use it as my house door bell but I can attest to its effectiveness!
I took the bike for a short ride around the block at Pete's home and came away very impressed with its smoothness, stability and silence. Absolutely no sound from the hubs, gears etc! No wonder Pete not only bought one VWR but another one for his wife too!
The desire to cycle China to Singapore has always been something at the back of my mind and when I shared it with Pete, his eyes lighted up and his reply was, "When?" Now this has got me really itchy too in getting a VWR but I do have a trusty Surly LHT. Though it is 8 years old and in mint condition, a new toy always excites!
I reckoned bicycles are like dessert. No matter how full you are, there is always room for one or two more, especially for a bicycle that can take on a world tour with ease!