Co-Motion Pangea Post-tour Review

About a year ago I purchased my Co-Motion Pangea after an exhaustive search for the “dream” touring bike. Post-purchase I decided that a break-in tour was needed, to put the bike to the test. We began preparations for a tour of the South Island of New Zealand, which proved to be an amazing test of my Pangea. During our tour we experienced a little bit of everything you can throw at a touring bike: rain, gravel roads, river fording, snow and ice, mud, steep hills, and high winds.


To get from sunny Los Angeles to New Zealand involved a 13 hour direct flight. Air New Zealand has a reputation for being very strict on their baggage policy and the Co-Motion suitcases dimensions are pretty much at the limits of allowed baggage sizes.

However the real issue ended up being weight. The suitcases themselves weigh near 14 lbs., and you only get 50 lbs. per bag. We packed the bikes and added the cages, bottles, pedals seats to the suitcase only to find that we were over the limit. After some re-arranging and putting all the extra bits into our other luggage, we managed to get the bikes under the weight limits.


Putting the bikes back together was exactly as we practiced at home; please make sure you practice at home before you tour. No issues to report, everything worked as expected. It was a half-day event getting two of them together and tuned up.


So, how is it to tour on a Pangea? I can sum it up in three words: I love it! The ride is very smooth and responsive. We started off on paved roads for the first few days and had no issues with any kind of pavement. The Brook’s saddles with springs, 26×2″ Monodial tires, and thick steel tubes make for a supremely comfortable ride. Even on gravel roads, the Pangea continued to ride very smoothly. My butt has never felt so good and the saddle wasn’t even broken in yet.

Speaking of gravel roads, we found that New Zealand roads aren’t graded like American Roads. It was rather common to find ourselves going up 11-14% grades that are a rarity in the US. We found that the gearing of our Pangea’s may be a little higher than we would like for such steep roads, especially dirt or gravel. However, there may have been another factor. We hardly trained for the tour. So I am uncertain how much of the gearing issues was due to our weak bodies.

As we progressed through New Zealand there were very few bicycle problems. About two weeks in I started noting that my chain was clicking a bit as I pedaled. I found that the tension was very loose and the chain was flopping a bit. I busted out the best multi-tool for a Pangea and adjusted the chain tension using the eccentric bottom bracket. This brought the chain nice and tight eliminating the noise from the drive train. Pam’s right handlebar brake lever started to get loose but that was probably a bike assembly error. Pam was missing one gear of her 14MW on Rohloff, once again likely bike assembly error (seeing a theme here? I am wondering about the shop we used to get the bike). We had to adjust chain tension several times. The Brook’s saddles with springs produce a tiny bit of noise every now and then. The stainless steel drops require a lot of force on the quick removal skewers to keep quiet.

My biggest disappointment was the SON generator and USB outlet. Riding along on flat roads it wouldn’t charge my battery pack or phone reliably. It would turn on, with the green LED lit, then the device would start to charge, then it would shut off, and repeat. If going downhill it would charge for a bit, but as any tourist knows the downhills are always too short. Finally we went through a particularly remote 4×4 track through the mountains that involved fording knee high water 40 times. The SON generator stopped working the next night and never turned on again.

After the generator stopped working I wanted to troubleshoot it, but as a cycle tourist I was carrying nothing I needed. I had no multi-meter or method to test if the hub was producing and the USB outlet failed, or if the hub failed. I unplugged the hub and we made use of our touring techniques for maintaining electric power for devices. New Zealand campsites usually had power available, so we were never more than two days without have an outlet. As any cycle tourist knows, you just make do.

Final Thoughts:

I am very happy with my bicycle, and I was recently asked if it was worth $7,000? For me it is. It feels great to ride, and I spend my time enjoying the ride not worrying about a derailleur tuning, or wondering if my bike could be just a little bit better. If I were to do it again I would skip the generator hub, but I stand by my decision to get a chain instead of the belt drive; the Rohloff itself is amazing.

I know that the Pangea will take me anywhere in the world I want to pedal; it is built like a tank. All that being said, you don’t need a fancy expensive bike to tour, the sites and views look the same, just get out there and ride! If you want the best bike money can buy I would put my money towards a Pangea.

*Note: I was not compensated in anyway for this review, just my two cents on a bicycle I purchased with my own hard earned money.

Dream Bike: Gates Belt Drive or Conventional Chain

A relatively new concern when selecting your dream touring bike is the drivetrain. If you have decided on an internal gear hub it used to be a very simple choice: all bicycles had chains. However, over the last decade a new competitor has entered the arena: the Gates Belt Drive system. After taking an in-depth look at this new system I wanted to share my results and opinions.

Conventional Chain: This is the tried and true system. A metal chain connects the front cog to the rear cog on the rear wheel driving the bicycle forward. The downsides of a chain are that it requires lubrication, is difficult to keep clean, and can rust. The upsides are the durability, low risk of failures, and availability of replacements.

Gates Carbon Belt Drive: The newcomer to the bicycle industry, this is a carbon fiber belt connecting two special sprockets. At first glance there are some powerful incentives to this system. It is lightweight (~120grams lighter than a chain) and requires no lubrication or maintenance. In fact, if I were getting a commuter bicycle for around town I would really be interested in trying a belt drive. Touring around the world is a different scenario and I found problems with the carbon belt system.

On a tour in remote areas of the world my first concern is the availability of repair parts. If you damage the sprockets or belt there is virtually no possibility that a local bike shop will have repair parts. With that in mind you might starting wondering what it will take to damage a belt.

If you look at the manual for the Belt Drive (available here) there are several different actions which are listed as improper handling of a belt that may cause damage: crimping, twisting, back bending, inverting, zip tying, using as a wrench, mounting with a lever, or mounting by spinning the cranks. If any of those happen to your belt it is considered damaged and needs to be replaced (Page 5-7). While this may not be of much concern to the average rider, what if you wanted to carry a spare? Can you store the spare in your panniers in a fashion that does not violate any of the above? Basically, if any force is applied to the belt other than driving a bicycle it may be damaged.

Further in the manual, on page 34 it describes other scenarios that may damage the belt and require replacement: “… if a stone, a root, or a piece of clothing has been caught in the belt and pulled between the belt and the sprocket.” At this point it is advised that you always replace the belt. So let me think on this a minute. Do I want the drivetrain of my bicycle to require replacement because my pant leg got caught between the sprocket and the belt? Or if a rock drops on to the belt and rides through the sprocket? For a touring bike, no, and I don’t want to be stranded somewhere in the world waiting for a new belt to be shipped to me.

Another concern of mine is that the belt is tensioned much tighter than a bicycle chain. I have seen numbers in the range of 85-100 pounds of force being quoted for the tension. That tension is always there placing stress on the bearings of the drivetrain. Additionally, checking that tension is covered on page 15-19 which requires one of two special tools, or that you apply 20 to 45 Newtons of force (~10lbs) and measure that the belt deflects approximately 10mm. Once again I feel that this may be fine for a normal around town bicycle, but on a tour I would prefer not to be dealing with this.

And the last straw for me is that the belt requires a break in the frame. Because the belt is one solid piece the rear triangle must be capable of being separated to allow the belt to be installed and removed. Placing a break in the rear triangle of the frame seems like a less than desirable option on a bicycle that you want to take to the end of the world and back.

With all of this in mind I settled on the conventional chain with my Rohloff. It just fits the requirements that I am looking for in a bike and has a proven track record. I look forward to further advances in technology and one day being free of lubricating the chain, but for now touring on a carbon fiber belt doesn’t seem like the most reliable option.

Deciding on my dream touring bike

After pinching pennies and saving for years, and setting aside a tax refund I finally had saved enough to order my dream touring bike. You may think this very exciting; however, this meant that I actually had to decide on what bike that would be. Unlike the Raleigh Sojourn which I just picked up from a bicycle shop, I needed to educate myself and make some important decisions.

Before I could even think about anything else I needed to really nail down what I was looking for this bicycle to do. I am not going to have the luxury of purchasing another bike like this for a long time so I need durability. I wanted to travel around the world with no boundaries so I need versatility: it needs to be at home on dirt and gravel as well as on the pavement. It must be comfortable to ride and should be made in America to support my local frame builders and needs to be able to packed up for easy travel. With all of these criteria in mind I began looking at each piece of the bike.

Frame Material: This ends up being incredibly easy; if looking for comfort, repair-ability, and durability only one material really meets these criteria. Steel. A bike framed out of steel rides well, can be welded by any stick welder in the world, and should last forever.

Drivetrain: Currently there are two viable options: a derailleur system or and internal geared hub. The derailleur setup technically meets every criteria I laid out, however I am sick and tired of tweaking the shifting of these systems and cleaning the dirt and grime off them. Not to mention my wife’s experience with a stick snapping her rear derailleur right off and me having to tow her 2 miles on a dirt road back to civilization.

Internal gear hubs (IGH) move all the gears inside the rear hub. There is really only one option for touring with an IGH because of the large gearing required for a touring bike and that is the Rohloff Speedhub. With 14 gears covering a 526% gear range, it is the equivalent of a 27 speed derailleur. Additionally, you can change gears while stopped, no real cleaning is required since the gears are inside the hub, and if the shifting cables break you can set the gear manually. It will not auto return to the lowest or highest gear like a derailleur. The downsides are that no one will likely be able to repair it in remote areas of the world, and it weighs slightly (~150grams) more than a full derailleur system.

The last piece of the IGH puzzle is deciding if you want to use a chain or a Gates Carbon Belt Drive. While the carbon belt drive offers a grease free option and is lighter weight than a chain, I decided there were several significant negatives. You can read more about this comparison in its own article. My final choice was to use a chain for my long distance touring bike. While I will still have to grease the chain, I will always be able to find a replacement chain and my frame will be one solid piece of steel.

Wheel Size: 700c or 26” is the simplest way to sum up this question and I will try to make this short and sweet. 700c wheels tend to feel smoother and have less rolling resistance. 26” wheels accelerate quicker, are less likely to have toe-overlap and are available world-wide. Because I didn’t need speed, and wanted to go worldwide I choose 26” tires. However I do think that there will likely be a time in the future where 700c wheels are the dominate tire size since it seems to be the direction manufactures in the US and Europe are going.

Manufacturer: There are several touring specific manufactures in the US, however only Co-motion happened to have a dealer nearby me that stocked bicycles for me to test ride. This let me actually try out the Rohloff and feel the geometry of the bike, and after riding it I knew that this company knew what they were doing. Since they hand build each bike in Oregon if you need a custom frame change it is only $300 extra.

Conclusion: After all the research and time I spent looking I finally, nervously, decided that the Co-Motion Pangea Rohloff was the bike for me. I will document my experience ordering the bicycle, and give a review of it further down the road. If I missed any considerations, or you want to share your dream bike, leave a comment below!