Touring - Katy Trail bike and touring advice
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08-21-11, 02:54 PM
Next spring/summer my wife and I want to do a weekend on the Katy Trail in Missouri (crushed limestone surface) probably starting in Columbia and spending a night or two in Rocheport, perhaps with visits to Easley and Boonville.
Background: My wife is getting a new bike and I ride a Specialized Allez - my everyday bike and not one I want to take on the trail. So, we are going to buy two bikes. We plan to tow our two children in a Burley trailer and either pack the gear on the other bike or tow another trailer. The bikes we buy will be dedicated path/rail-trail bikes and for going out with the kids around the neighborhood and county bike path system. Buying two bikes and one or two trailers mean our budget is somewhat limited. My LBS sells Specialized, a brand I'm familiar with and want to stick to. Sure, I would love to buy a Tricross with SRAM Apex groupset, but that's not going to happen.
1) Would you go with a fixed fork or a shock up front?
2) Among bikes with shocks up front, would you think there would be much difference between the Specialized Crosstrail and Rockhopper/Myka?
3) If I do get a Sirrus, do you think an aluminum front fork that will take a rack is much of an advantage or would you go with carbon? (I'd rather not purchase and run a trailer for gear - we are going to stay at a B&B).
4) Either way, what about tires?
5) What about women running a Sirrus? She doesn't particularly care about having a step-through design, but she's about 5'4" and so standover will be something to consider.
Again, we'll be getting into the base model of these bikes and spending the money to buy good tires with puncture protection. Where we aren't going to skimp is on the kiddie carrier, which will double as a jogging stroller for her.
Tourist in MSN
08-22-11, 09:29 AM
I prefer a 26X2.0 tire for rails to trails routes. That extra width rolls better where you have a few mm of loose sand and gravel overlying the hard packed material. I now only use my 700c touring bike (with 700X37 tires) on pavement and my 26 inch wheel touring bike (26 X 2.0 tires) on gravel.
That said, the Katy trail is better compacted than most rails to trails routes, a narrower tire may work ok. I rode that trail with my 26 inch touring bike but I think my 700cX37 tires on my other bike would have performed as well.
There is no advantage to a suspension fork, rails to trails routes are usually well maintained and usually do not have big holes or washouts in them.
08-22-11, 09:47 AM
I'd actively look for a bike WITHOUT a suspension fork. IMO they are not needed most of the time and degrade performance.
Consider looking for a used Burley D'lite trailer on Ebay or local Craigslist. They come up often and you'll save a bundle. Many are rarely, if ever used, and it's not too hard to find them in excellent condition at a significant discount off new. When your kids outgrow it you'll probably be able to resell it at not much of a loss. If you are thinking of two trailers, get one D'lite (seats two) and a Burley Solo (single seater). Gives you a lot of flexibility in kid and gear hauling, and allows you to separate the kids if they start to annoy each other.
You really don't have to buy specific bikes for the Katy trail. It's a flat well maintained trail. You could easely use your Allez (maybe add wider tires) although it will get dusty which might be something to consider if it's your mean lean racing machine. So think how you would use the bikes the other times. There are patches of newly repaired surface. That's where everybody needs to push their bikes because of the fine loose gravel. But that probably only occurs right after flooding when emergency repairs are needed. The sections we encountered were pretty short.
For touring and non-speed pleasure riding I would stick with an aluminum or steel bike. Skip the shocks. If you want racks make sure they have extra mountings for them. Otherwise it's a pain. You might want to consider fenders. It will keep you dryer and cleaner when it rains or on wet surfaces. Don't forget the low gears for hills, heavy loads (two kids in a trailer + luggage), or just to ride slowly beside your kid while you push them up a hill. :)
How old are your kids? We did the Katy trail with our 7 and 4 year old. Both wanted to ride the trail-a-bike but we only had one and a kids trailer. It turned out that this was the best combination as they took turns who would be in the trailer and on the trail-a-bike. Even our 7 year old took naps in the trailer. Usually he doesn't.
Do you plan to camp or stay in hotels/b&B? That will make a difference of how much stuff you'll be taking along.
You might also consider renting one or two trailers, possibly even a trail-a-bike, at a local bike store or at one near the Katy trail. It's a good way to see what works and what you like.
Our 4 day camping ride from New Franklin to Defiance. Her bike is a Trek 520 with the Adams trail-a-bike, I have a Surly LHT with the Burly D'Lite. All gear are on our bikes to keep the trailer light so riding is easier (personal oppinion). We use PB fenders, Tubus racks, Arkle bags, Tarptent Hogback (4lbs tent for 4 people :D ).
08-22-11, 04:29 PM
I would ask if your current bike is sufficient for the trail. What size are those tires? Please forget the shocks if you buy a new bike. Go to the Wheel or Biscari as well as your familiar LBS. I wonder if your bike would work and save the money for the trailers and the bike for the Boss. Keeping her happy and willing to ride the KATY is your key to happiness. Oh, and don't forget Craig's List in KC. It has trailers frequently. Just do enough homework that you don't buy a trailer unsuited to trails. Good luck and a belated Welcome. Have you been to the Missouri thread?
08-22-11, 04:53 PM
Anything works on the Katy trail. 32C or wider tires with smooth tread is ideal in my experience. Tires with small gaps in the tread pick up rocks and make tons of noise if you use close fitting fenders (which I recommend to keep the bikes cleaner.)
Shocks are not needed, wide-ish tires at a slightly lower pressure remove almost all of the vibration, and roll better.
I prefer a rack up front, it seems to aid in smoothing out the ride by dampening the buzz of ground limestone.
I dislike double wheeled trailers on the KATY, since it's tires tend to run in the uncompressed portions, and make it noticeably harder to pull. If using a trail-a-bike attachment or kiddie carrier is feasible, I'd go that route personally. If you do get a trailer, Wike makes a reasonably priced and quality one.
08-22-11, 05:24 PM
I agree with all of the above posters that you don't need suspension (though I'm also of the opinion that you almost never, ever need suspension). Does your local Specialized dealer carry Globe bikes? It's a division of Specialized that makes sensible-seeming, steel and aluminum bikes in the more "city bike" style, the ones I've seen around town for sale are in the $6-800 range, and come stock with fenders and racks.
I agree with MilitantPotato on tire size - you could go as skinny as you want, but with 32mm or wider slicks you will be totally fine. I got a flat one time last fall on the Katy, and you should have a pump with you anyway to allow you to change your tire pressure. Lower is better for shock absorption.
Whatever bike you use, for the comfort of your kids in the trailer, get full coverage fenders (at least 10-12mm wider than your tires), make sure they are adjusted well (as in close to the wheels), and add some big mudflaps. Should be able to minimize dust and grit flying around that way.
My suggestion for the Katy Trail and other similar trails is a hybrid, both for performance and expense. That is what the LBS at the time suggested and it has work out very well, that was in 2003. I believe they generally come with 700 x 38's or 37's, or close to that. I'm on the Katy quite often, the "go to bike" for day trips of 40 or so miles is my Raleigh hybrid, have also used it in the past for 3,4 and 5 day trips on the trail.
Have also done multi-day rides on the Katy, fully loaded, with my touring bike, it has 700 x 32's with a little tread, "Vittoria Aventure Touring", and they work very well. Have read where people have ridden the Katy with 28's, with no problems.
Really the Katy is an easy ride, relative to trail riding, so whatever you feel comfortable on is the one to ride. It's a fun ride, you and your family will enjoy it.
08-23-11, 09:52 PM
Have you been to the Missouri thread? Thanks for the advice. I will check out the thread and the other things you mentioned.
08-23-11, 10:05 PM
I agree with all of the above posters that you don't need suspension (though I'm also of the opinion that you almost never, ever need suspension). Does your local Specialized dealer carry Globe bikes? It's a division of Specialized that makes sensible-seeming, steel and aluminum bikes in the more "city bike" style, the ones I've seen around town for sale are in the $6-800 range, and come stock with fenders and racks. Yeah, I'm really attracted to the Sirrus - I would get the base model, upgrade the tires for this ride then upgrade the rest of the components later. I think it would be a good path/trail bike and good for banging around the neighborhood. I can save the Allez for the roadwork. As for suspension, I did not like the department store hybrid that I bought several years ago because of the suspension, but it was not adjustable. I realize from these comments that it's probably not needed for what I want to do anyway.
My shop does carry Globe. I'll check them out. They look great, but I wonder how comfortable I would be after a day of 30 miles on a trail. Specifically, the handlebar setup. For example, I would imagine the Sirrus would be more comfortable with bar ends to change up hand position. My experience with motorcycles that have bars that sweep back (similar to what appears to be on the Daily and Haul) is that they get uncomfortable after a while.
I've done a couple of long trips on the Katy trail.
Suspension is not needed. It's very flat.
If you aren't camping, a simple rear rack will be fine.
Tires, get something wide, without knobbies. I run Serfas Drifters.
Fenders are a good idea.
There are some long stretches without water, so get plenty of water bottles.
I bring a small paintbrush or toothbrush to clean dust off my derailleurs and stuff when I stop.
Sun protection is a must. I bring a wide brimmed hat and plenty of sunscreen.
10-17-11, 01:45 PM
I just did a weekend on the Katy trail a couple of weeks back. Here is a link to the journal if you're bored.
I would not bother with suspension. It just isn't needed. I rode a drop bar Salsa Vaya with 700X37 all terrain tires and it was perfect for the Katy.
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