Cycling Plus magazine's product editor Simon Withers specced this Koga Miyata World Traveller Signature online, then took a trip to the Dutch company's HQ in Heerenveen to watch it being assembled. He's been delighted with the result.
- Frame: Handmade, perfectly aligned and sumptuously ﬁnished aluminium frame – ideal for the very long haul (9/10)
- Handling: An upright and comfortable riding position offers steady, surefooted handling. Long day's riding? not a problem (9/10)
- Equipment: The Rohloff hub is a top-level performer and there’s good quality and very durable kit throughout, from the hub dynamo to the Tubus rack (9/10)
- Wheels: Belgian-made touring rims, Sapim spoke nipples and spokes, and Continental tyres form a hardwearing if heavy combo (8/10)
Anybody who knows me will know that I’m not exactly a stylish dresser and that I’m never likely to own a bespoke suit. But if clothes maketh the man, then it follows that bikes maketh the cyclist. Or something like that. And as somebody likely to spend more time cycling than suited up (funerals and court appearances aside), then it made sense to ride a bike speciﬁcally made for me.
I've ridden just about every type of bike out there, but the type of cycling that probably shapes me more than any other is touring. I've done two major tours – a 2,750-mile ride from Cairns to Melbourne, and a 3,000-mile trip on four continents over three months – and fancied something expedition-ready.
The Dutch company Koga make numerous models, from pro quality race bikes, commuting and leisure machines to full-on tourers. These all come in standard versions, but if none of these takes your fancy then a very large degree of customising is possible on most of their models using Koga’s Signature system.
So whether you want hub or derailleur gears, ﬂat or butterﬂy bars – popular on the continent, less so here – dynamo or battery lighting, rim or disc brakes, the choice is yours. And Koga have a pedigree when it comes to touring bikes: Mark Beaumont set his round-the-world cycling record on a Signature model World Traveller.
I specced our model – complete with Cycling Plus signature on the top tube (you can choose your own wording) – using Koga’s online build-your-own-bike website. This is a straightforward and very easy to use system, giving you a large degree of control over the bike’s ﬁnal design. The World Traveller frame is available in ﬁve sizes, and the website gives you clear advice on sizing.
The default model, with a Shimano XT triple setup, costs £1,907, with a Deore-equipped bike a very reasonable £1,475. Ours came in with a heftier price tag because we went for the Rohloff 14-speed hub – for its minimal maintenance and ruggedness – and a front hub-driven dynamo lighting system. Aside from Shimano Deore, LX, XT and Rohloff there’s also the option of Shimano’s Alﬁne eight-speed hub gear.
I’ve always been happy with Shimano’s V-brakes, so stuck with them, but could have gone for Shimano hydraulic disc brakes or Magura’s hydraulic rim brakes. As for the bar, I plumped for a ﬂat mountain bike handlebar with an adjustable stem and stubby Ergon bar-ends. Riding on ﬂat bars I always like to have the extra handhold bar-ends offer, which is crucial on long rides. But again numerous options are available, including swept-back ‘bird’ bars and three multigrip bars, including Koga’s Selego, which combines a butterﬂy bar, short tribar and a bag holder.
Koga don’t offer a lot of colour choices, ‘mystic black’ and ‘polished silver’ being the only ones. Rim choice is limited to Belgian-made Exals, but these tough-as-old-boots hoops proved well up to the job. Three different tyres are available, and having toured on Continentals I chose the Travel Contacts. These combine a slick central section with deeper treads around the edge for better grip on broken surfaces. Heavyweight rubber, yes, but tough too, and puncture-free for a year.
Numerous extras are also available, and it made sense to go for a couple of Koga-branded Vaude panniers and a bar bag. When I tour I don’t travel too heavily, and if it won’t ﬁt in two panniers and a bar bag then I leave it behind.
The personal touch
I witnessed my Signature model being assembled, and as with every Koga Signature bike one mechanic is responsible for completing each machine before it’s given the thumbs-up by a supervisor and can leave the factory. Mine was put together by an ex-pat Brit, Andy Saunders, whose hobby is listed as long-distance cycling on the card you get with the bike. Koga’s Heerenveen factory is clean and spacious, and extremely well organised and efﬁcient. Koga arrange a number of open days at their showroom and factory where you can see bikes – including Signature models – being assembled.
The frames themselves are made in Taiwan by a subsidiary of the Japanese company Miyata, and they’re made to a very high standard. When our mechanic George took the Koga apart he commented on its Cannondale-like weld and ﬁnish quality. And while it’s built for strength, the frame is triple-butted to keep the weight down and comes with a lifetime guarantee.
On the road
It’s all very well the bike looking the part – and the Koga does – but how does it ride? Well, I’ve been riding it for over a year, in snow (it’s the only bike I’ve dared to venture out on in our recent cold snap), rain, sun and anything else the British climate can throw at it, on A-roads, country lanes, tracks and towpaths.
There hasn’t even been a murmur of complaint from the Rohloff, which I’ve grown to love, and I’d be more than happy to tour using one. The 19-100in gear range will cope with just about anything, even when the bike’s heavily laden. I haven’t taken it over any mountains yet, but I have tackled some Mendip slopes on it during day rides. Sadly, work precluded an expedition.
The wheels also coped with every challenge. One of the advantages of using a hub gear is that you do away with the need for dishing the wheel and the uneven spoke tensions that result. This is why Rohloff argue that a 32-spoke wheel will be strong enough. It certainly seemed to be.
About the only thing I would change is the saddle. Up until a year ago I’d been using a Selle San Marco Rolls, and have since become a fan of Fizik’s Aliante. But I never did get used to the Fizik Rondine. That said, Koga offer saddles from Selle Italia and Brooks or no saddle at all so you can keep your old one and save a few quid.
I don’t know for sure that the Signature model was any better than a standard World Traveller, but I do know that I’ll miss it when it goes back to Heerenveen. And that’s the ultimate test of any bike.