Our workhorses.

When we decided to undertake this adventure we only had 25 year old Giant bikes. We had done a few bike trips with two rear panniers in the past on them and one of the issues would be going downhill. Not stable at all. We knew we would have a heavier load to carry and we would like to bike gravel roads as much as possible. Time to choose a new bike.

What we were looking for:

  • Sturdy bike which would not wobble when fully loaded, also not when speeding downhill
  • Good grip
  • Easy gearbox, small granny gear as biking a lot of mountains
  • Good brakes
  • Low maintenance
  • Easy on and off loading

After a lot of internet research we finally selected 3 different brands: Koga, Idworx & Santos. After visiting all of them and trying out the different possibilities we finally have chosen for Santos. During our trip we adjusted a few things: find out below.

Santos Travelmaster 2.9

Our first workhorse. Covered 19,000 km in the first 16 months.

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Belt drive & Rohloff hub, Magura brakes, Son dynamo.


Santos Travelmaster 3+

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Belt drive & Rohloff hub, Magura brakes, Son dynamo.

For the second part of our trip, going South from Ecuador, we wanted to change a few items to our Travelmaster 2.9. As Frank has arthritis in his shoulders, which reduces the time he can bike on gravel with a rigid bike, things needed to be adjusted. For me the 2.9 was robust and sometimes a challenge on rough roads or sand as I could not take off sitting in the saddle.

Since we purchased our Santos on our own account and could bring in 20,000 km of objective user experience, Robert, owner of Santos Bikes NL offered us the possibility to exchange our TM 2.9 to a pair of Travelmaster 3+ . He liked our independent blog and he would like to keep our bikes in his showroom to demonstrate what bikes with a (his)story look like. Robert, thanks again for this possibility to feel the difference!

Impression TM 3+

Looking at our build, the terrain we are covering and the load we are carrying, here are our impressions after 8,000 km of usage on very rough, but also smooth terrain.

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  • 27.5 inch wheels instead of 29 inch make it easier for Jacinta to start sitting in the saddle, but also easier to get rolling in the first place.
  • Smaller gear ratio, by changing from 50/22 to 46/22 ensures we need to stop less and push less going up-hill.

  • Frank can bike longer on gravel thanks to the Cane Creek Thudbuster saddle post, in combination with 65 mm Schwalbe Smart Sam tires.
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  • Smart Sam tires: 65 mm fits the TM3+ not the TM2.9. We are very happy how they perform on gravel, loose rocks, mud (they release the mud better so you have better grib and you still can use mudguards) and if you pump them up they are also great on asphalt. On our TM2.9 we used at the start 50mm Schwalbe Marathon than changed to 55mm Schwalbe Marathon MTB which are both great tires which performed extremely well. For the gravel roads we do prefer the Smart Sam 65mm.
Marathon MTB
  • More direct and agile steering due to the straighter fork. I now can say that I am in control of my bike instead of the bike is controlling me.
  • Gloss finish on the 2.9 needs less cleaning than the matt finish on the 3.0.
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Matt finish.
  • Same robust workhorse as 2.9 that can easily carry 30 kg and ourselves and still, without swaying, rush down a mountain.



  • At the time we purchased our TM 2.9 there was not yet a reliable, integrated USB connector to charge devices. Frank first installed on his bike a Bush and Muller converter linked to the SON dynamo. After a few months we had to replace it because it was no longer working. We did also install one on my bike but the replacement and this one did not lasted longer than 3 months. Not recommended.
  • On our TM 3+ we have two different systems.
    • on Franks bike the Cycle2Charge. Only recommended when you are 90% of the time faster than 8km per hour. In our case we are 80% of the time below this limit resulting in on and off charging or not charging at all and bieping when you bike too slow.
    • on my bike I am super happy with the forumslader. Charges already from 6km/hour and has a back-up battery thus no irritating bieping if you bike too slow. Still performing well even after all the cold/heat/dust.
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