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Thread: Swift on Tour

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    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    Swift on Tour

    I've just gotten back from a 6-day tour of the California coastline on my slightly upgraded Xootr Swift, and thought I might as well discuss the folding-bike aspect of the ride....

    For those who are not familiar with Route 1, most of it is hilly and winding. The hills aren't particularly steep but they can be on the long side, especially a monstrous 1000'+ climb just south of Gorda. Plenty of campsites, but in some areas not too many services; there are several 15+ mile stretches with no buildings at all in sight.

    I had basic camping gear and some energy food with me, but didn't bring cooking gear (I wussed out and ate at restaurants). In total I had about 40 lbs of gear, and averaged 60 miles a day.

    The setup on my Xootr Swift was as follows:
    - flat bars with Ergon grips, and bar-ends wrapped in cork bar tape
    - Marathon Slick tires
    - racing-style saddle
    - 42T chainring + 12-32T cassette
    - Ortlieb handlebar bag, and 2 Ortlieb Sport Packer Classic panniers (~1800 cu in)
    - standard aluminum rack
    - kickstand
    - no fenders

    So, on the plus side: I made it. The gearing was low enough to handle the hills, the frame had no problems handling the weight, wheels held up very well, and at the end of the trip, and it was a good conversation piece. I wasn't worried about the bike getting wet, as I might with a steel frame. At the end, I was able to fold the bike down, stash it in the back of a Mustang Convertible, and drive back up north.

    On the con side, though:
    - harsh ride
    - not enough high gears for descents
    - packing is less than stellar
    - the bike squeaks a lot
    - drop bars > flat bars

    Handling is kind of an open issue. I was OK with the handling when loaded; it's a little sluggish, but the 5-10 lbs on the front helped out more than I expected. I suspect / assume Swift's geometry is as optimized for loaded touring as, say, a Bike Friday New World Tourist, a Surly LHT, Trek 520 and so forth. I don't have any experience yet with a true touring bike though, so I'm not sure if the difference is really that significant.


    So, I'm a little on the fence about the aluminum Swift for touring. In my case, it's slightly complicated by needing yet more maintenance (I'll need a new BB and derailleur hanger) and wanting drop bars.

    Any other Swift tourers care to chime in, especially if they have experience with other touring bikes?

  2. #2
    Eschew Obfuscation SesameCrunch's Avatar
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    Bravo! That's quite an achievement! Congratulations

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe View Post

    So, on the plus side: I made it. The gearing was low enough to handle the hills, the frame had no problems handling the weight, wheels held up very well, and at the end of the trip, and it was a good conversation piece. I wasn't worried about the bike getting wet, as I might with a steel frame. At the end, I was able to fold the bike down, stash it in the back of a Mustang Convertible, and drive back up north.
    Route 1 from SF, that's beautiful riding.... I've ridden sections of 1 north of the Golden Gate... hilly and narrow, but certainly scenic.... how far south did you end up?

    My Swift is set up for fast day rides, not touring, so I can't comment on the touring aspect... if I were going to go touring on the Swift, I'd install a Schlumpf Speed Drive, leave my Pantour hub on the front, and probably look into seat/seatpost suspension..

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    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    I made it to San Luis Obispo, ~350 miles total. Big Sur rocks, if you live out there I highly recommend you spend some quality time there (on or off the bike).

    Oddly enough, this tour never struck me as much of an accomplishment -- even less after I met the insane Brits who are going from Alaska to Argentina.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe View Post
    I made it to San Luis Obispo, ~350 miles total. Big Sur rocks, if you live out there I highly recommend you spend some quality time there (on or off the bike).

    Oddly enough, this tour never struck me as much of an accomplishment -- even less after I met the insane Brits who are going from Alaska to Argentina.
    San Luis Obispo is my home town... I know the area well... especially the costal routes north (but by motorcycle many times)... 60miles/day for 6 days along 1, it's definitely an accomplishment .... lots of hills, winds can be brutal, although coming south, you might have lucked out with them at your back often.... did you manage to get the Hearst Castle tour?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe View Post
    On the con side, though:
    - harsh ride
    - not enough high gears for descents
    - packing is less than stellar
    - the bike squeaks a lot
    - drop bars > flat bars
    You can run drops on the Swift no problem. It doesn't cause any problems.

    I'd run better tires if the ride was too harsh. The Avocet Freestyle tires are low rolling resistance and comfortable at around 50psi due to their wide profile and good casing.

    My old Swift Folder went on two overnight tours, but I was only on one of them (the other was from a friend borrowing the bike -- he now owns it). I carried less than you, about 20#, in a saddlebag and handlebar bag. I didn't have any problems with handling, but there steel swifts and xootr swifts might have different geometries.

    My tour involved a train ride and I did find packing the bike for the train to be a bit cumbersome. I removed the front wheel, seatpost, bags, and put it all in a Dahon bag. The whole thing was pretty heavy.



    40# is a lot for touring without any cooking equipment and probably limited food. What all were you carrying?

    I've also toured on my Bike Friday NWT and a variety of touring bikes and a few recumbents. The Bike Friday NWT handling isn't perfect either, but after a few miles you get used to it.

    It sounds like a fun trip, do you have any photos? I've driven that road, but haven't biked along it.

    alex

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    jur
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe View Post
    On the con side, though:
    - harsh ride
    - not enough high gears for descents
    - packing is less than stellar
    - the bike squeaks a lot
    - drop bars > flat bars
    As you probably know, I toured with my R20 along with my wife on a Yeah/Dahon Helios.

    Harsh ride:
    I have my Xootr set up with hard pumped (100psi) Comets, and I have the opposite experience - not harsh at all. I am in fact pleasantly surprised by the lack of road buzz coming in thrugh the saddle. There is road buzz coming in via the bars, though. Those forks are very burly and non-compliant.

    Not enough gears for descents: +1. I have a 60T on the front now. I would like even higher. Maybe a Schlumpf with a narrower range 9sp cassette, say 11-26T or 11-28T if such a beast exists. I don't see any in the standard lineups. May have to mod one. OTOH, on tour freewheeling is allowed.

    Squeaks: I have found creaks/squeaks in the seat tube interface where they rub together, and at the steering riser where it sits on tke headset nut.

    The Swift is less stable ie has less trail/too much rake so can't be ridden no-hands. Unlike my R20 which after I modded it, is quite stable no-hands.

    New BB & RD hanger: Why?
    My folding bike photo essays www.dekter.net/

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    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    I had a very heavy camera with me, which I didn't really end up using. So that was responsible for 7-10 lbs. Otherwise, not much -- 3 sets of bike clothes, 1 set of regular clothes, tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, 1st aid kit, toiletries, 1 spare tube, and standard maintenance stuff.

    Ultimately very few photos. If I had to stop every time I got to a scenic view, I'd never get anywhere.

    I did take one of the bike, in front of the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. No bikes allowed btw!



    I had a Camelbak, hence the lack of an actual water bottle in the cage. And yes, that is a sock drying in the sun, on top of the tent.

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    jur
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    Looking at your chainwheel, no wonder you were running out of gears on the downhills.
    My folding bike photo essays www.dekter.net/

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    Eschew Obfuscation SesameCrunch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe View Post
    I made it to San Luis Obispo, ~350 miles total. Big Sur rocks, if you live out there I highly recommend you spend some quality time there (on or off the bike).

    Oddly enough, this tour never struck me as much of an accomplishment -- even less after I met the insane Brits who are going from Alaska to Argentina.
    I live along Hwy1 in Half Moon Bay. You passed right by my street!

    Are you willing to share your route sheet? I have always been interested in riding along the coast, but am not sure of the roads south of Santa Cruz.

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    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    Re: gearing, yeah kind of a necessary compromise given the single chainring. The hills were rather ginormous, there's no way I could've done it with more standard gearing. Delorme Topo claims that my "Big Sur to San Simeon" day was 12,000 feet of climbing with a 6% average grade. Even if it's off by 50%, that's a damned hard day, I tell ya.... Much more challenging than my previous tour in Ireland (which I did with a 52 x 12-28, but only 20 lbs of gear). And just about every day had a few big rollers, so the only real alternative would be a double, or DualDrive or something.

    RD keeps getting bent, and BB has too much play after only ~3000 miles.


    Sesame: I just used the Adventure Cycling map. Highly recommended. 90% of it is just on 1, although it goes off that route in some of the towns (Santa Cruz, Monterey etc). I also heard that 1 / 101 near San Luis Obispo is pretty dangerous, and the AC maps take you through some smaller roads 'round there.

    There are very few services between Carmel and San Simeon though, so make sure you're stocked up on water, food etc. for those stretches.

    The AC maps also list a lot of resources, including the hiker-biker campsites (which worked out very well by the way). Almost makes the trip too easy.
    Last edited by Bacciagalupe; 09-06-07 at 09:46 PM.

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    Squeaks

    I was getting creaking noises from my Aluminum Xootr. Tracked the culprit down to the interface of the seatpost and the top and bottom halves of the frame.
    Nothing was breaking, just that after tightening the QR skewers, a week or so later the noise would start again.
    Tried grease on the frame intersection(Boeshield on the post itself, as recommended by Xootr), this helped for a couple of days, but what's stopped it completely is a 0.5mm thin washer of stiff plastic cut from a yogurt container top. It's 34.5 mm inside diameter, 44 outside diameter, and fits between the top and bottom of the frame, over the seatpost.
    Blissfully quiet now.

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    Senior Member jnb-rare's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe View Post
    I had a very heavy camera with me, which I didn't really end up using. So that was responsible for 7-10 lbs. Ultimately very few photos. If I had to stop every time I got to a scenic view, I'd never get anywhere.
    An impressive ride! The camera thing is something I'm trying to figure out. Was your camera a digital, and if so, how did you actually carry it? I've been afraid to carry my DSLR in any bag attached "to" the bike, and have resorted to a camera backpack or slingpack. But that's a real pain, both for access and for the weight being in the wrong place.

    While a smaller camera may seem like a solution, there are compromises that I find irksome: smaller sensor, less direct control of camera operations, and just plain TOO SMALL. With most compacts, I have to put on reading glasses in order to see what I'm doing.

    Whoops, forgot this is about bicycles... sorry about the digression.

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    I often carry a digital SLR with me while riding. I've been doing this for about 10 years (using a film SLR previously of course) with no problems.

    Ortlieb makes a nice insert that fits into most handlebar bags. You can setup the insert so that the SLR body is well suspended. There is enough space for a couple of lenses (more if you use primes, maybe only one if you use a large zoom). I can easily fit my 10-17 fisheye, 21mm, 35mm and 70mm primes.

    For touring I have switched to a compact camera. The Panasonic LX2 has good manual controls (that are easy to access) and it takes very nice photos in bright light. It lets you shoot in RAW, so I can ignore white balance while shooting, just like with my SLR. It is nice saving a couple of pounds.

    I've also toured with just my SLR and a 21mm prime lens. It is pretty compact and light and I don't generally need much more.

    alex

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    Senior Member jnb-rare's Avatar
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    Thanks for the personal experience, Alex. A handle-bar bag makes most sense for "least shock" and access. I suppose my DSLR and one well-chosen zoom lens would cover the majority of my shots (for my Canon 300D it would likely be the 17-40L). I sometimes travel with just a single prime (35mm) or two (24 and 50).

    I had been eyeing the LX2 as a possibility as well. The Canon G9 looks good on paper (RAW is back!), 35-210mm equivalent is good, but 28-something would be better.

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    The Nikon D40x kit (two zoom lenses included) is $949 at Costco. I couldn't resist. As my notebook PC and PDA get lighter, my camera gear gets heavier. Oh well, touring is not a race, and photography is part of the tour.

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    Part-time epistemologist invisiblehand's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jur View Post
    Not enough gears for descents: +1. I have a 60T on the front now. I would like even higher. Maybe a Schlumpf with a narrower range 9sp cassette, say 11-26T or 11-28T if such a beast exists. I don't see any in the standard lineups.
    Sheldon Brown/Harris Cyclery sells them

    http://sheldonbrown.com/harris/k7.html#9

    -G

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    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    OK so getting back to bicycles...

    Can anyone compare, based on experience, a Brooks saddle to a standard or racing-style saddle for a Swift? I still haven't unpacked the sucker to see how much it was damaged in transit , but if it did survive I'd much rather put $150 into tires & saddle than $1000-1500 into a Bike Friday.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe View Post
    [...] RD keeps getting bent [...]
    Bacciagalupe, may I ask whether your Xootr Swift has the newer SRAM SX4 derailer? Is the RD getting bent during transport when the bike is folded, or during rides because of limited ground clearance?

    Regards
    T

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    SERENITY NOW!!! jyossarian's Avatar
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    I have a B17 and a Brooks Swift. The B17 is all day comfy and compliant. The Brooks Swift is less compliant, but still comfortable, even when in the drops which is why I got it.
    HHCMF - Take pride in your ability to amaze lesser mortals! - MikeR



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