I'm looking for a bike for bike path rides, mostly 20-ish miles, some longer, some unpaved. Maybe some very very light touring (credit card, weekend type stuff, not really long days). And also easy family rides with the inlaws and eventually kids. I want the ability to use say 700x35c tires and fenders if the mood strikes me. I don't want an agressive riding position like my old racing bike. I don't want to spend piles of money, say << $1k. I am thinking of fitness bike (Trek 7.5 FX or similar) with bar ends, and with the possibility of switching to trekking bars if I need more hand positions later. But I'm still not 100% sure I wouldn't be better off with drop bars.
The Novara Randonee is sticking in the back of my mind as a possibility. It seems like it's sturdy enough and has enough clearance for dirt paths, and might be good for all but really go-fast road riding (which I don't want to do anyway). But it also has braze-ons for spare spokes, which suggests that it is a serious touring rig, and I am not a serious tourer. Still, it seems like it might be the least expensive drop bar bike that will let me do all of the kinds of rides I want to do and it has a friendly riding position. I hear that the REI bikes are going on sale in about a week, making it even less expensive than a Volpe or an Aurora (which I have looked at and for reasons that I can't quite put my finger on didn't excite me).
Is the Randonee a great idea for me, or is it too much of a heavy duty tourer for what I want to do? Thanks for your advice!
Bruce Gordon BLT, Cannondale parts bike, Ecodyne recumbent trike, Counterpoint Opus 2, miyata 1000
Sounds like a good idea to me if that is your price range. I have gone thru MTBs, road bikes, and 4 tourers. The tourer can do light off road, on road short of flat out racing, and touring/commuting. A widget to hold spokes is a bit silly. If I did want to carry spokes I would just duct tape them to a chain stay. A full on heavy duty tourer has attachments for 3 water bottles, fenders, and front and rear racks. It would also have heavier tubing than road bikes for racing and Sunday bike path rides with your club. Look at the specs for the BLT and Rock and Road bikes on www.bgcycles.com . A Novara would be fine for credit card touring.
I think it's a great choice for what you want. Just because you *can* tour with it doesn't mean you *have to* tour with it. Because it's designed for long distance riding, it will be a comfortable bike to ride, no matter whether your'e going 50 miles, or going to the cafe.
I own a randonee and it is a great bike. I use it for commuting 45-60 miles a day and recreational rides with my son in his trailer ranging from 6-20 miles a day. I am approaching 800 miles on my odometer and have owned it for a little over a month. No problems to speak of. Unless you count the crappy bar end plugs that keep falling out. That is such a minor issue I probably should not even bring it up.
I went from a hybrid to this bike. The randonee is my first drop handle bike and I could not be happier. Now I am really bitten with the bug. Currently, I am planning on building a straight road bike. My wife is going to kill me soon.
I plan on taking this bike up into the rockies for a nice mountain pass ride or two.
The Randonee is a good bike for the price, to be sure. The Fuji touring bikes offer similar bang for the buck if there is a dealer in your area. If you are not going to do any heavy touring you might find that the heavier frame and the geometry of a "touring bike" is just a bit sluggish. Absolutely give it a test ride, at the same time, give a test to the Novara Element, the K2 Enemy, or some other similar bikes too. I went from a Trek 520 to a Surly Cross-Check and I'm totally sold on the cyclocross thing for a bike that can take larger tires, fenders, and a bit of abuse, yet get down the road faster and easier than a hybrid or MTB. Most cyclocrass bikes do come with a double instead of a triple chainring setup, tho. This may be a drawback for you.
Take as many test rides as you can and do what feels best.
I have ridden the Randonee and the 520, but not at the same place and time so it's hard to compare. Any idea how they compare in terms of weight, geometry, and serious-touring-ness? I liked them both, I'm just not sure what will work best for me long-term. Thanks for all the great advice already given!