Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: Montréal (Québec)
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All great advice. What you need is not a typical "road bike", but a "touring bike". While it looks like a road bike, the touring bike has the following features:
- a beefier rear triangle
- longer chainstays (45-46 cm)
- room for fenders and large tires (700x32, 700x37 with fenders), which also means cantilever brakes rather than sidepull brakes;
- much lower gears than on the typical road bike and even lower gears than what manufacturers of touring bike provide.
The bad news is that these bikes (Trek 520, Cannondale T series, one or 2 models by Bianchi, Volpe...) are not popular with bike shops, so you probably won't get too many good deals on them.
The good news is that most of the "10-speed" bikes sold in the mid-1980s make better bikes for touring -- especially light touring --, so you might find your future bike amongst students selling their stuff at the end of the school year. The problems I see with a 1980 bike vs a modern touring bike are:
- less frame rigidity: a problem if you weight 200-250 lb or if you carry the kitchen sink, probably not a problem if the weight you carry (yours and your stock) is less;
- brakes: Until 1982-1984, most tourers had centrepull brakes. Great if you want to brake with a lot of brute force. After that, they had cantilever brakes, which feel closer to what you have on your mountain bike (1- or 2-finger braking);
- 27" wheels. They disappeared at the end of the 1980s. As there still are quite a few new tires around, I would not dismiss a bike with 27" wheels , especially if there is room to lower the brake pads by 4 mm if and when you decide to switch to 700c. Buying 2 used but good 700c wheels later doesn't sound like a stupid expense.
- low gears. Get a triple, unless you plan your trip along the coast. It's possible to change the drivetrain later and get the low gears you always dreamed of, but if you plan your Summer trip via the Blue Ridge, you need a low gear in the high teens or low 20s (i.e. 20 gear-inches, which means 24 front to 32 rear, for example); it's possible to tour with higher, especially when young, but I still recommend a low of 27 gear-inches maximum (same # of teeth front and rear).