Category Archives: bikes

Tour d’Afrique 2013 by Laura Holms by Laura Holms: Sports & Adventure | Blurb Books


Tour d’Afrique 2013 by Laura Holms by Laura Holms: Sports & Adventure | Blurb Books.

On January 11, 2013, exactly 1 year ago today, the 2013 Tour d’Afrique began in Cairo.

A couple of weeks ago, my sister Laura surprised me by giving me a book for Christmas that compiles all of my blogs from the ride plus a collection of photos she gathered from other riders.

It looks great and brings back many good memories.

You can have a look at it and order it you wish by going to:

Yesterday the 2014 Tour d’Afrique riders left from Khartoum. I hope they enjoy their ride as much as the 2013 crew did.

Great photos of the Tour stage by stage

John Chevis has just been uploading hundreds of great pictures of the tour, stage by stage, on his facebook page.


Have a look:

Bike Review – Genesis Croix de Fer, 2013

What the bike had to put up with

The 12,000 km of the 2013 Tour d’Afrique, bike race from Cairo to Cape Town, about 25% of which was off road.

The Frame

The frame is made of Reynolds 725 steel. I am 1m73 and I used the 54cm frame.  The geometry was great. I was very comfortable on the bike after it was fit for me. I had no nagging aches or pains at any time. The paint chipped and abraded down to raw steel at several places. I chose steel because it can be repaired just about anywhere. But no repairs were needed. We were advised not to take carbon but several people did and not one of them had a problem. You can do some repairs to carbon anyway. Alloys seem to be less reliable. One alloy frame had a break and had to be scrapped.

The Wheels

The Croix de Fer comes with Alexrims XD-Lites. These were excellent. They took a real pounding and stood up to it. I had them trued twice but just as part of preventive maintenance. They never went really out of whack.


I used Schwalbe Marathon Plus – one set of 40mm and one set of 28mm They were superb. I had no punctures on the road. I did have one mysterious puncture in camp one evening. The bike came with 35mm Continental Cyclocross Race tires. I didn’t like these at all. I had several punctures while training before I left for the Tour. They are lightweight and thin and not suited to long rides in tough conditions. I didn’t even take them with me.

The Brakes

The bike came with Avid BB7 mechanical disk brakes with 160mm rotors. They worked very well. They are easy to adjust. The original brake pads disintegrated in wet and muddy conditions. I replaced them with resin pads, which held up better.  When the break pads disintegrated one of the rotors became very scarred. I replaced it.

Front and Rear Derailleur

The bike came with a Tiagra group set. Both derailleurs bent under the tough conditions and handling. I replaced both with 105 derailleurs. The front derailleur performed better, not much difference in the rear derailleur.

Front Chainrings and Rear Cassette

The bike came set up for racing, with two front chainrings (52/34) and an 11/26 ten speed rear cassette. I stayed with the front chainrings but soon switched to a 12/32 rear cassette. This helped on the hills but I still didn’t really have a granny gear. There was lots of sustained climbing of 12% and more. In future I would get three chainrings on the front.


The headset is a weak point on this bike. It is a cheap 1 1/8th threadless headset. Fine dust and sand gets in easily. I repacked it 4 times on Tour. It was not up to the very tough off road conditions. The headset became pitted and scarred. By the end, a couple of ball bearings had come out of one of the bearing races and the bearing race was bent and twisted.

Front Fork

The front for is a fixed fork. This made off road riding unpleasant. You could do it. But you suffered, especially your ulnar nerves. There is also not very much top clearance. The tube that goes into the headset extends down into the fork. I had to file this away to put my 40mm tires on. Even then I only had a few mm of clearance. In dry conditions this is ok. In wet and muddy conditions it means you are always stopping to clear away the mud that is acting like a break. In future I would fit a front suspension fork. Genesis should consider making this available as an option.

Rear Stays

Once again there is a problem of clearance. I could fit the 40mm tire but there was a real problem in muddy conditions.

Crank and Bottom Bracket

The Crank is Tiagra and came with SPD pedals. Both were fine. The bottom bracket is a standard English threaded one. The first one lasted only 5,000 km (about 1000km pre-Tour and the first 4000km of the Tour). I might have expected a bit more out of it.


I had no problems with the chains. There was a standard bit of stretch. I used three chains over the 12,000km. I changed it as part of regular maintenance rather than because of failure. I used Shimano 10 speed 105 replacement chains. I cleaned the chain and used dry lube very frequently.

Cables and Cable Housings

I had no problems with these but I did change them during the tour s part of routine maintenance.


The bike came with Tiagra Brifters. They worked well. I had no problems at all. They were sometimes were infiltrated with sand and grit but were not difficult to clean.

Bars and Bar Tape

The bars fit me well and I liked them. The cushion in the bar tape didn’t last very long in wet conditions. The tape became hard and crusty. I soon replaced it with better bar tape with good cushioning – and in bright orange, with goes so much better with the black frame.

Seat and Seat Post

The seat was a Genesis own brand. I found it very comfortable and had no saddle sores for the 6000km+ that I rode it. Unfortunately it broke on tough off road conditions. I had to ride 26km to the finish line on sharp rocks corrugation and sand with no seat. By the end of the Tour the seat post was firmly rusted into the seat bar. I had put some lubricant in at the beginning but it obviously didn’t last and I hadn’t checked it over the course of the long ride. But this is now a real pain.

End of the tour – Leaving Cape Town

Leaving Cape Town early Monday morning after finishing the race on Saturday was both easy and difficult. It was easy because over the last four months we had all become very adept at packing and sorting and getting to the starting line on time. It was difficult for the same reasons. Routine took over and before I knew it I was on an airplane. Fifty of us had just spent four months living in each other’s pockets. We had developed good friendships, suffered and celebrated together. How do you then say goodbye to somebody you know you may never see again. It all seemed very perfunctory and inadequate. But perhaps that is for the best. The French don’t say goodbye. They say “au revoir,” “until we see each other again.” Holding out this hope, even if we know that in many cases it is an empty hope, and getting back on the freight train of routine may be for the best.

It is perhaps too early to reflect on the last four months. I have now been home for four days and know that I have not yet really begun to absorb the experience. Being back home with Liz and Catherine and Laura is spectacular. Without them I am sure I would feel much more rudderless right now.

The first thing I did when I got home was put my bike back together. It got pretty beat up in the plane. The box was ripped and skewered. But the apart from a punctured tire (valve separated from tube somehow) the bike was more or less ok. I have been out most days since – no long rides, just local rides, doing chores and getting things done. But tomorrow I am going on a 60km off road ride in the Pande Forest with the morning cycling group. I am looking forward to it – even though I still do not have shocks on my front fork. We meet at 6am at the Butcher Shop.

There will be a postscript I am sure.

For Rick – see his comment below

naked mile 2 naked mile 1

Sorry for the long absence

Since leaving Arusha internet connection has been dreadful. First, somebody in Egypt apparently cut the optic fibre cable that feeds tyhe internet down the East African coast. Second, we have been off road in the bush in Tanzania where there isn’t even any cell phone coverage, let alone internet access. We were hopeful that we would be able to get online when we got to Mbeya. But it was not to be. In Malawi there was minimal service in Chitimba. I signed on, but after waiting 15 minutes for the first page to load – and getting nothing – I gave up. We finally arrived in Kasungu at at hotel with wifi. But the demand was so great when we arrived that it was all but impossible to get on. So I got up at 3:30 this morning – nobody else up – and was able to use the wifi.

We cycle to Lilongwe today. We are hoping for better access there.



The Macbook is Alive!


I have just returned from picking up my Macbook from Elite Computers on Magore St here in Dar. In the end it needed a new hard drive. They tried to repair the old one but it just refused to be repaired. Luckily I had done a full system backup before I left for the TdA so it was easy to load the new hard drive.

All systems go. I am writing on the Macbook as we speak. And I now have no excuse 9or perhaps less of an excuse – or perhaps I’ll have to think up a new excuse) not to take pictures.

Anyway, here is the first picture I have posted in yonks – winning the golden Compass award at the half way mark for getting lost and surviving.

Thanks to James Campbell for the photo.

The Curse of Electronics

I am sorry that my posts come in batches and far apart. I am not having a happy adventure electronically. My MacBook died in Khartoum so I have been borrowing laptops and tablets. we then travelled through some internet free zones, which caused delays.

Some riders are far more clever than I am and are connecting to the internet through 3G, so don’t need to find a location with internet, they can simply use their cell phones. for more regular updates on where we are you may want to follow some of them.

Also, since my MacBook died I have nowhere to store pictures. As a result I have not been taking and posting any. Once again, several others on the Tour are excellent photographers and are posting photos regularly. So please have a look at their  blogs.

We are now sitting in Nanyuki waiting to see what happens after the elections.

All is well.

in Gondar

In Gondar. Macbook stll dead. sending this from my phone. Rest day today. will borrow computer and updat blog today. last 8 days very tough riding. but made it. More to come.

macbook dead

in kharrtoum. macbook dead. no way to write or post blog at the moment. working on it. pissed off.