Touring - bike shopping and gut check
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08-10-11, 02:42 PM
I've had the thought of getting a dedicated legitimate touring bike floating around in my head for decades, just never got one. I've also had the dream of doing some self contained touring some day, again I just never got around to doing it. Well, the desire to get the bike has become more prevalent (sp?) lately so I'm looking for thoughts and comments on a couple of things.
There is a 2009 Fuji Touring posted for sale about an hour or two west of me, I've sent the seller an email asking for the frame size. My concerns about it are the front gearing, the brifters, and the chainstay length.
The small chainring should be able to be swapped out assuming the rear derailleur has enough wrap to handle the chain slack when dropped to the small chainring.
The brifters are, well, brifters, and not a very high level at that. I could convert to barends at a cost, or just throw a set in the panniers along with cable/housing in case the brifters fail but who wants to do that on the side of the road, so I'd either live with the brifters until they broke or just convert to something else right away.
Which brings us to the chainstay length. I'm currently just under 6' tall but usually wear a size 13US shoe, which means I hit any panniers with my heels unless the rear rack is set well back, or unless the bike has long chainstays. I could just tow my BOB around, but I want the option to use panniers if that makes more sense for wherever I end up going (if anywhere).
I've got no problem working on bikes for the most part so getting an older bike isn't an issue, but newer bikes often have nicer more modern components that might be nicer on a longer ride. But older bikes have gone on longer rides for decades, so whether I get a newer bike or an older bike will functionally just equate to tire size and gearing options, and geometry.
I've got a variety of bikes currently and have been slowly pruning down what I could, but my local market hasn't been too purchase happy for the past year or two so stuff hasn't been selling. So I've been thinking of working a swap with someone, but usually people with touring bikes aren't looking to going back to a sportier road bike (except for the guy with the Fuji Touring).
I'm thinking I want to find something made after 1989 or so since that is when the more modern era for bikes seems to have shifted. I see a Trek 620 posted for sale in the sales section, but I'm not sure I want to limit myself to that rear gearing restriction, and I'm not big of the idea of spreading the stays to fit a 130 spaced wheel. I do want to go with a cassette and want to avoid a freewheel setup. I'm also thinking of a dyno hub of some sort on front, but don't really want to go IGH on the rear.
I typically ride a 56cm frame and start to squeak a bit if the standover gets much above 32". I'm thinking maybe a 54cm frame with a 56cm top tube would work. I'm not decided on 26" versus 700c wheels, am thinking I'd be happier with the 700c, but might be more reliable with wider 26" rims, tire size somewhere in the 32-45 range depending upon what eventually works with whatever I get. I currently weigh over 200Lbs so I know I'll want strong wheel assemblies and decent tires, especially if I set the bike up fully loaded.
I may just end up going for weekend fishing and photography trips, but I want the option to be able to go longer should the opportunity present itself.
Random and rambling thoughts, just thinking outloud. Feel free to comment, or not, I'm just sorting out ideas and such. Thanks for reading.
I commute daily on a Fuji Touring with size 13 shoes. As you suggest, I must mount the panniers (Ortlieb Sportspacker) towards the back of the rack, but I've had no issues with heel strike. If the bike fits, I suspect you'll be happy with it.
Looks like a good bike if the price is reasonable. Only reason to go to something like the LHT in 26" is if you are thinking of carrying 40+lbs as it's a particularly good load carrier for the money.
08-10-11, 05:44 PM
Treebound - Take a look at a Surly LHT in 56cm - a new frameset can be had for under $400. If you get one in black, this leaves you with the option of substituting an aftermarket disc fork (almost always in black, too, with an a-t-c of 395-400mm) for a not-too-expensive brake upgrade. All LHTs have 46cm chainstays, the longest you can get in a new (non-custom $$$$) touring frame nowadays. The rear dropouts are spaced 135mm even on 700c frames, so you can build wheels with mtb hubs for a little less dish. This is a very good tourer for relatively low cost.
For ~$200 more you can get a Salsa Vaya, which will cost about the same to build up, using more powerful Avid BB7 brakes in place of cantis or Vees. The Vaya has an advantage over the LHT in that it's offered in 54 55 56 57 58 cm sizes (LHT is 54 56 58) so a better fit may be possible. The Vaya has 45cm CSs. This is a more costly option than the LHT, but it is a pretty fancy tourer in the end.
From what I can tell, the Fuji Touring has 44cm CSs, just so you know. It appears to be identical to a couple models offered by BikesDirect, a reputable low-cost bike e-tailer. You can get a 54cm Motobecane GT (55.5cm ETT) shipped for $700. This is a pretty good deal considering it includes Tektro Oryx cantis and levers, Sugino XD600 crankset, Shimano DA barcon shifters, Shimano HG50 cassette, Wellgo pedals with clips and straps, Shimano Tiagra FD and Shimano XT RD. These items alone cost $500 as parts. So you're getting the frameset, wheels, stem, hbar, tape, saddle, seatpost, BB, headset, rack, cables and housing for $200. Again, this bike has 44cm CSs, as do many bikes sold as "tourers" these days (42.5-44 is common). Not an ideal solution, but probably your best deal unless you're willing to wait for a highly motivated seller with the perfect sized, good condition used bike. The LHT or Vaya would cost you an additional $200-400 to build.
Bear in mind that decent racks, panniers, clothing, camping gear, safety items etc necessary for touring will add several hundred dollars cost. It basically costs you >$2,000 before you ever hit the road, which shouldn't surprise you. Since you already own several bikes and a BOB trailer, you're already basically equipped to tour for no additional expense, right?
08-11-11, 11:10 AM
Thanks for the inputs.
I've heard back from the Fuji seller and it turns out the bike is a 58, and I've set 56 as my max for a touring bike, possibly a 54 to increase standover comfort. Another Fuji just showed up on the local market, I'm waiting to hear back from the seller via email as to what exactly it is since their post didn't include a pic or a size or a price. Edit: just heard back on the second one, turns out it is a 25"/63.5cm frame which is waaaaay toooooo tallllll for me.
I've checked out the LHT, and while they are nice they just don't do much for me for some reason. I can't put it into direct words, and I wouldn't kick one out of the garage if a deal came my way, but I don't know, sort of oh well. Maybe riding one would change my mind.
I'll check out the Salsa Vaya. I'm also reading a little about the Soma Saga. And my ears always perk up when I hear or read about a Thorn for some reason. I'm in no real hurry though. Maybe I should wander back to the bike shop and see if my part timer discount is still in place from a couple of years ago when I last part timed there.
I'm starting to think my approach will be round-a-bout and accumulate the components and accessories while waiting and deciding for the frame to hang them on, and waiting for the bike budget bucket to get a little fuller as things slowly sell off.
Another piece of the big foot puzzle is the shape of the panniers you use. These are an example of tall, narrow panniers. They are made for MTBs having shorter CS. Narrow panniers can solve your foot strike issue.
08-11-11, 01:19 PM
Nice bag, I like the Arkel stuff. I think I'm leaning more towards their GT54 though, I just like the looks and function of it better. I will keep that XM model in mind though, like you said it could solve the heel strike issue. Thanks.
08-11-11, 03:17 PM
I am not a tourer, so can't speak to load capacity, but Nashbar sells some very nice aluminum frames for cheap (like $80 on sale) that if you have a stable of existing bikes to pilfer from, you might be able to make something quite reasonably.
I ride a Nashbar road frame and carbon fork that cost me $140 together and have been very pleasant. With a steel fork, you would be looking at less. They have a touring frame and a drop tube shifter version as well.
08-11-11, 04:17 PM
Unless you have absolutely huge feet, the heel clearance issue won't be much. If the bags are repositioned a little differently, the problem would likely go away. On my bike, I mount the panniers a little farther back on the rack, maybe a centimetre or two. It adds just a little heel clearance, but that little bit is enough for me.
It may also be worth your while to build your own rear rack, to suit your specifications. I've heard of people doing this and I've seen pictures of homebuilt racks, although I don't have a link handy.
Another option is to make the transition to a trailer. I've toured with panniers and I've toured with a trailer. Both methods have their own advantages and disadvantages. When using a trailer, heel clearance is no longer an issue.
08-11-11, 06:48 PM
The current Fuji has a 11-34 cassette,. If the 2009 is the same the derailleur would have enough chain wrap but you would probably have to take a link out of the chain.
I don't like "brifters" and wouldn't hesitate to change them long before they're worn out. My favorite is downtube shifters but the Fuji doesn't have the right kind of braze on.
A seatpost rack places the panniers higher, farther away from the feet.
I'm 6' with a 32" inseam and I like a 58cm top tube or longer. Maybe my arms are longer than yours.
I have no trouble straddling a bike with a 58cm seat tube and a level top tube.
700c wheels ride better. If you're worried about wheel strength get some 29er rims.
08-12-11, 08:05 AM
I have the Windsor tourist / pretty much a clone of the Fuji Tour I'm 6 ft and it’s a 56 frame. This photo might help you with gauging heel clearance. I run bike-bins and have them set back a ways. they do have an angle to them that allows for heel clearance.
A lot of these bikes came with 52-42-30/ 11-32 type gearing. I did the 30,26 drop first with a chain minder. That’s a minimum to consider if you get that range. I also did a 12-36 in the back, both wont hinder shifting or chain length, or didn’t for me. I still don’t like the tall gears and plan on changing out the whole crank to a 44-32-22 mtn bike crank, SRAM S600 as the bottom bracket is a Power Spline.
Hope the photo gives you a point of reference.
I wasn’t keen on the STI shifters at first ether. Everyone rides different and what I did wasn’t for everyone. My hands are not huge and it was a awkward shift from the hoods going between the drops and the tops to shift was a pain also. I changed out the stem to a upright and raised the bars much higher than what I would have on a road bike. That made the drop position a semi drop for me and quite comfortable to ride in for longer periods. I lowered the STI's and leveled the drops. They are too low now to ride in the hoods but who cares the drop position is now comfortable. The top position is pretty upright and an easy position also for grinding out miles resting lower back. When loaded I don’t ride fast enough to need to be very aerodynamic and if there is a head wind the drops get me low enough. With this setup I absolutely love the STI setup now. I haven't seen any durability problems yet with them.
08-12-11, 08:39 AM
Is that a homemade rack on the Windsor? Interesting.
I'm going to swap racks hopefully this weekend between a road bike and a different rack I currently have on a MTB and see how far that will set the bags farther back. I currently have a small pair of Cannondale bags with the zipper-to-tuck bottoms on them. I also have a Raleigh branded set of panniers (no idea if they were branded for or made by Raleigh, nor how old they are). I'll see how far back the bags will go once I swap racks. I know that on the Schwinn I would have had to hang the rear hook of the bag off the rear of the rack to give me enough heel clearance. Maybe I should look into swapping cranks, currently mostly have 175's, might check if I have any 170's to try out, but I'd probably have to go down to 165's to see any appreciable heel relief.
I'm also going to have to look at my road bike options again and measure some chainstay lengths. I've currently got a late 80's Schwinn LeTour and a Univega Sportour, both in ridable condition. I've never really compared their measurements. I've also got a Motobecane Grand Jubile undergoing a major overhaul/rebuild that when done will bump a couple of other bikes out of the garage and onto the local craigslist. I was thinking the Moto might work as a light tourer.
Sizing wise, I wear 29"-30" inseam length pants, so I am more torso length and less leg length. Bikes with a 56cm top tube seem to fit me best, and those with 32" or less standover seem to feel better as well.
08-12-11, 08:45 AM
Also check out the Soma Saga. For my money, the Saga or Salsa Vaya are better bikes than the LHT. Not only are they lighter, but their geometries would fit me much better (but that is an individual preference).
08-12-11, 09:30 AM
Is that a homemade rack on the Windsor? Interesting.
Yep a DIY project, all aluminum and pretty light. I should take a few new photos it now has two supports coming up from each lug on the frame. Holds a lot of weight and is really rigid. The top is a thin piece of royal-lite plastic. The reason I built it was to see if it could be done and also I wanted a larger platform than most I was looking at. I have used the bike-bin as a stool and the top of the rack as a makeshift table, great place to set the stove for a roadside meal. The front rack holds my MMS military sleep system on top with a strap. The two side rails are for mounting two homemade panniers also GI repurposed black special forces fanny packs. The MMS is a little heavier than most sleep systems but covers a huge range of conditions and has a water tight bivy. I will have to post the fanny packs when I get some photos.
As to the back rack it was semi DIY also to get started and I have plans of building a companion rear rack to match the front. one trick I did and this photo kind of shows it was to extend the rack back more I bent the lower leg right above the attachment point, the angle is such it meets the flared out other support. That did two things moved the rack back maybe a inch and also lowered it about a inch. the space between your fender and rack is pretty much wasted space and the lower you get your load the better. That’s one of the reasons I never liked the seat post racks they end up being too high and most are on the heavy side. Great for a quick setup to strap a day bag to but not what I would want for heavier gear.
My rear rack the DIY part was to extend it out making room for the center wire basket that stays on all the time. The basket acts as a tombstone to attach anything and everything to. and when the bike is in commuter mode it’s the grocery basket. also the perfect size for the cooler shown (6 pack and lunch).
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