Touring - Using 70s Raleigh International for Cross-Country loaded touring?
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08-07-11, 06:50 PM
Our son is thinking of using an older bike (with upgrades) to go across the USA next summer. I have some concerns about durability/performance even though I recognize that the set up is better than what I once used and better than what people used back in the day.
The bike is an early 70s Raleigh International (531 double butted frame) with changes made over the years to make it more practical. Instead of the original sew up rims, it now has Mavic Module E2 36 hole rims that take 700c x 32s -- the bike still has the original Campy New Record hubs. The drivetrain is a Biopace triple (28-38-48) with a 13-28 freewheel in back, and it has indexed bar end shifters. It has fenders and a Blackburn rear rack that is attached using the brake pivot bolt and the fender eyelets (there are no braze ons on the seat stays). Brakes are sidepulls -- Campy New Record in rear, no name generic in front. The bike has not had hard use.
Our son took the bike on a shakedown trip and had a great time! He went 250+ miles, including a 90 mile day. Most gear fit in our Arkel T-42 rear panniers, but he had to bungee the tent and sleeping bag to the top of the rear rack. He also used a handlebar bag.
He reported that the gearing was adequate but that a lower low would probably be a good idea, and a mountain triple would help with that, or a freewheel with a 34 tooth bailout gear. He found the brakes not great, but adequate. He shrugged off the handling, but I found the handling squirrely when I rode it fully loaded. It oscillated or jiggled constantly so that you had to pay attention to keep the bike going straight. I don't know if that was true due to the bungee corded tent, or the relatively light rack, or the handlebar bag, or because most of the weight was over the rear wheel, or some or all of the above.
I see the bike as fine for lightly loaded touring, but I'm concerned about a long trip. Is this wheelset strong enough for a long fully loaded trip? Is the handling going to be problematic due to the frame geometry, or the way the rear rack is attached? Or is that something that can be remedied with better loading?
Perhaps this is just a parent's concern, so I thought I'd see what others on this message board thought about the suitability of this set up for going across the USA.
consider a low rider, no handlebar bag, and gear only on top of rear rack. How much does your son weigh?
08-07-11, 08:56 PM
consider a low rider, no handlebar bag, and gear only on top of rear rack. How much does your son weigh?
He weighs around 175 and is in good shape.
Good suggestions, appreciate them.
OZ, As long as the bike is serviced prior to his XC ride, he will likely be fine riding it. Some bikes when used as tourers, and even some manufactured as a tourer will flex. Your son maybe like many with a bike that behaves this way and simply became accustomed to it's flexiness. I too think that carrying weight, front and rear, as low as possible will aleve some of the flex. Valid concerns would be the brakes as he may encounter longer decents than he's used to, perhaps a pad change is all that's required and along with a low rider front rack a heavier duty rear rack for reliability.
I'm sure it's also a bit of parental concern, it would be for me.
Mavic E2 is a 430g. rim for training/racing. I'd be inclined to have some sturdier wheels for 32mm tires and a cross country trip for 175lb rider and gear. They may well be up for it but those weren't designed to be touring rims. You're right, the bike is better than most folks used for touring back then but keep the emphasis on light touring.
08-08-11, 01:41 AM
One thing I think might also help would be to use p-clips to attach a rack that has two attachment stays to the seat stays. It seems to me that a single mounting point up top using the brake pivot bolt would not provide good stability with those large panniers. The Raleigh Intl. is a very good bike and I m sure it is up to the task given the proper preparation. I might opt for some good new brakes in addition to the other suggestions.
08-08-11, 01:55 AM
I agree with the p-clip suggestion, and that these wheels aren't really designed for loaded touring - though they may turn out fine, he isn't an especially heavy rider. I'd have thought the frame would be fine. I'd have thought the handling problems were most likely to relate to having too much weight exclusively on the back.
08-08-11, 02:44 AM
I read a journal a couple months ago on "Crazy Guy on a Bike" where a father and son crossed Canada. The son got a new bike in Calgary... If your son has bike problems, there is nothing stopping him from getting a new bike mid journey if he needs one.
I think it is great that your son wants to ride across country. Tough thing about being "dad" to a boy is that he is a man and needs your trust and respect more than he needs your advice. I know. My dad always knew what was best for me and interferred in my life accordingly. I'm doing my best to support my boys, age 24 and 26 by holding back on advice, while being interested in what they are doing.
08-08-11, 10:56 AM
If the clips and low riders address the stability issues, that would be great, so he's going to look into that and maybe getting better brake pads. I do have front low rider Blackburn racks that he can use and he can use my Jandd rear rack with the clips (it's somewhat stiffer than the Blackburn rear rack). These are fairly low cost tweaks that could make a big difference over the long haul. And maybe a different wheelset (or at least a different rear wheel) wouldn't be all that expensive, certainly a lot less than a new bike!
The point about getting a bike along the way if all else fails is a good one. That's obviously not anyone's first choice, but at least he's not a hard person to fit -- his height and weight are not unusual.
I really appreciate the help from this board. Our son is the one who asked me what I thought about using the bike on the trip, and while I had some thoughts, I wanted to give him advice or suggestions based not just on what I might think, but on the collective knowledge and experience of people who have been there.
The only problem with bikes made from road tubing in that era is that they really aren't suited for carrying heavy loads and heavy riders. They get whippy. Not filling the panniers up to full loads and putting them on the front wheel will go a long way to taking care of that. It feels totally different having a slower handling front end than loaded rear wheel but there's a reason why low riders came into existence before large tubing mtn/touring bikes. If the load does go forward and sturdier wheels are put on I'd restrain the urge to put more stuff on the bike. I don't think going to the Jandd rack is necessary once the panniers are moved forward. I did all my touring on basic blackburn racks and light rack loads. Once you start loading things up the heavier duty rack is a good idea but a heavier duty frame is an even better idea for heavy loads, ie. LHT or other type touring bikes.
But now that I think of it one of the more heavily loaded touring bikes I saw was a 70's Gitane with steel wheels, carbon steel frame ridden by a French Canadian in his 50's. Oh heck all he needs is a good attitude and strong wheels. He'll clamp his knees to the top tube if things get wobbly.
08-09-11, 02:40 PM
That's a nice bike in my book,I'd take that thing anywhere.
I've been riding a 1978 Shogun touring bike since it was new,basically the same frame as yours.Has Blackburn racks front and back since 1978.Gets ridden everyday and has been all over Hell and Creation in the last 33 years.Still going strong.No wobbles at any speed.
It has newer wheels......and funny handlebars......I wouldn't trade it for anything at any price.
My suggestion is to put panniers/lowriders on the front and put all of the heavy stuff in the front.Sleeping bag,tent,extra water...as much heavy stuff as you can.Next heavy stuff in back and lightest stuff on top of the rack if need be.
The stock Blackburn single brake mount is MORE stable than mounting with 2 p-clips.Triangles(3 points) are much more stable than boxes(4 points).LOOK,I got a new style quadpod for my camera......Wow,look at that cool race car frame,it's made out of parallelograms....If you want to remove it from the brake,use the p-clips to mount a bar across the seat stays and keep the single mount.You can put 10 clamps in the front,it won't keep the back of the rack from wagging from having to much weight on it.The front mount only keeps the rack stable forwards/back,so it doesn't rotate around.All of the weight capabilities and stabilty come from the way main rack is made and attached.
A lightweight rear rack will have 1 sometimes 2 downlegs.A real touring rack will have 3,4 sometimes 5 downlegs.If made well,the rear most downlegs will attach to/near the center of the rack in back,to add extra side-to-side stability,to help prevent wagging.
If you really look at the way Blackburn lowrider racks are made,it's a bunch of triangles put together.The front crossover dissects the main 4 point rack to form.......2 triangles.Same with the rear racks,there's a reason for this.
Whatever rack/pannier combo you come up with,make sure the bottom of the panniers are secure to the rack,no flapping panniers.If the panniers have cinch straps,use them to keep the load from shifting around.Keep heavy stuff as low/towards the center of the bike as possible
If you run a handlebar bag,mount it as low as possible,as close to dragging the wheel as possible.I have a big bag and the whole thing sits below my handlebars.The single most helpful thing I have EVER done to improve handling on my bike was to mount my handlebar bag on a second handlebar mount.It doesn't come off,there's no quick way to remove it,but it's solid as a rock.The difference between that and any other mount I have ever used is NIGHT AND DAY!
In a perfect world,all of our panniers would be under the bottom bracket,second is in between the wheels(can be done if traving light/ultralight)
but for me,that's what has worked well and I didn't just fall of the turnip truck.
Gimme that thing,I'll ride it till I wear through the handlebars.
I owned 2 of these (one was stolen) and I would be careful using it as a loaded tourer, It's pretty flexible by today's standards.
07-16-12, 03:43 PM
So maybe an update is in order.
In the end the Raleigh wasn't used by my son because my wife and I bought our son a Long Haul Trucker (54 cm with 26" wheels) early this year. The Raleigh probably would have worked, and maybe it would have performed flawlessly, but we'll never know, because after buying the Surly, the Raleigh ended up being given to a nephew who is a great kid and who is getting into cycling.
What I do know is that the Long Haul Trucker definitely worked for our son and he likes it a lot and is glad he has it to tour on rather than the Raleigh. He's taken the Surly on two tours without any mechanical problems with the bike whatsoever -- none -- unless you count the 2 flat tires he had after 1000+ miles of riding (he also had a broken pedal, but that didn't come with the bike and it had led a hard life on his earlier bikes, and he had a problem with the front rack which of course wasn't part of the bike, and even that was replaced no problem under warranty by the manufacturer).
He and I did a short 250 mile tour in Illinois (http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/?o=1&doc_id=10337&v=8c) and then he rode the Surly down the Pacific Coast from Vancouver, BC to San Francisco (this is a better read than my much drier journal: http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/?o=1&doc_id=10499&v=9i). I was impressed with the stable feel of the Long Haul Trucker when I rode it fully loaded -- it felt more stable to me than my fully loaded Trek 720, although we do have different front racks and different panniers so that could account for some of the difference.
Our son's friend who toured with him most of the way down the coast used an older Specialized Rockhopper (no suspension). The gearing was a bit too high, he had one broken spoke (and of course some flats), and I think he sometimes had some hand numbness (even with bar ends). But it worked really quite well, so as has often been suggested, if someone wants to get a decent reliable bike to tour on with a limited budget, a good quality non-suspension mountain bike from the 90s would be a good choice.
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