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  1. #1
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    Rando bike advice for an old tourer?

    Guys. I recently discovered this forum and am totally intrigued at the Randonneuring concept. I'm working back into cycling after marriage, kids, career changes and relocation put me out of serious cycling for the past few years. Now I'm finally working my way back into shape and trying to lose 40 lbs with a combination of running, rowing, and mountain biking. But I want to get back on the road.

    On my last move from Alaska to Texas I kept the Cannondale F2000 mountain bike and sold the Cannondale R800 road bike, which was a little too racer boy for my tastes. But I did a lot of long training rides on it. Now I'm riding the mountain bike around here with semi-slicks on and wishing I had a more appropriate road bike for fitness and long distance cycling. I had thought about training for a marathon as a way of getting back into my old shape. But now I'm thinking Randonneuring sounds much more down my alley.

    I'm 46 and I've been riding since I was a kid so you'd think I would know exactly what I want by now. But bikes have changed so much since I last shopped seriously so I'm at a bit of a loss.

    Back in HS I owned a Peugeot PX-10 and Raleigh Professional. I did some Cat3 and Junior racing in Oregon and a lot of long tours through eastern Oregon with my dad on those bikes with racks and fenders strapped on. In college I did some recreational riding and one insane tour with two friends. Rode that Raleigh Pro from South Bend IN to the Florida Keys to attend a summer marine biology course doing the 1800 miles in 14 days, stealth camping all the way because that was all the time we had and we had even less money. Also did various other long tours like the Pacific coast from Seattle to LA. All on a somewhat inappropriately geared full Campy Record road bike loaded down with panniers.

    In the 90s I did a 1000 mile tour on a Bridgestone MB0 mountain bike with slicks and then marriage and relocation to Juneau (limited roads) put me out of the serious biking and into boating. And I spent much of the 80s and 90s bike commuting somewhat serious distances in Portland and Seattle.

    Now here I am in Central Texas with 3 decades of riding experience and really not much clue about what kind of bike to get next. I've got one local shop in Waco that sells mostly Specialized and Cannondale. Of all the bike they stock, the cross bikes, specifically the Specialized Tricross looks to be the closest thing to what I *think* I want. A relatively light and high performance bike that will be fun to ride for the primary purpose of weekday and weekend fitness riding and the occasional century with the objective of working up to some serious Randonneur rides over the next year. My wife isn't into bike touring and we have 3 young girls so my long distance touring days are probably over for the time being. So I don't need a load bearing bike. But I do want the option of putting on racks, handlebar bags, fenders perhaps (not really needed in Texas but I don't plan to always ride here) and so on.

    Am I going to be happy with a cross bike converted over to road use? My local shop is pretty small and they don't have anything else that comes close. My budget is probably in the $2 grand ballpark which I think should buy me quite a nice bike appropriate to my needs. Am I going to be happy with something like the Tricross Comp? Our should I look past the Specialized and Cannondales at my LBS and go the internet/mail order route?

    Basically I just want a modern version of my old Raleigh Pro that I sold in 1986 when I joined the Peace Corps. A lightweight comfortable road bike that can still take larger tires, fenders, racks, and that sort of thing.

  2. #2
    Randomhead
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    The Raleigh Pro was a racing bike, although it was a little on the relaxed side. I was perfectly happy riding an '80s racing bike for an SR series and an R12. I really don't know about the bikes that you list, but people do use cross bikes for road.

  3. #3
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    Yeah, the mid-70s Raleigh Pro was sold as a racing bike but it was nothing like today's bikes. I don't know what the geometry was but I had no problem with heel strike when using panniers and it was relatively stable when loaded with front and rear racks and panniers. I also did not have any trouble running fenders and larger size tires. On some of the bikes I see today I don't think you could fit a credit card in between the tire and the seat tube, much less a fender. I've never owned a real touring bike but I probably put 4000 miles of fully loaded touring miles on that bike when I was young and tough. The main drawback was that the campy record rear derailleur (wow, had to look up that spelling) severely limited the size of the rear freewheel forcing me to gut out some long stand-up grinds over mountain passes. At least I kept the OEM Brooks Professional saddle that came on that bike and it's been my main seat for 30 years now.

    I think what I'm looking for today is a fun high-quality road bike for 95% of my riding which will be long solo fitness rides and the occasional local club ride but that will also be an appropriate serious Rando bike should I decide to actually give it a try. I want to get back into club riding to have others to ride with but couldn't care less about keeping up with the kids on their racerboy bikes playing Lance Armstrong. I have my mountain bike with slicks on for commuting (I teach at a local HS that is 2 miles from my house so I don't have much of a commute anyway). This next bike will be strictly for fun and sport.

    Ultimately I think my question comes down to this. If I decide to support the nice guys at my LBS that means buying a new Tricross off the floor or ordering something out of the Specialized, Trek, or Cannondale catalog. I'm really not interested in the dedicated touring bikes from Cannondale or Trek so unless I'm missing something obvious, it pretty much leaves me with a choice of cyclocross bikes.

    If I'm not going to buy local then really, I'll probably just order something online as i don't really have the time or patience to chase around the shops in Dallas or Austin to buy something at retail from a LBS who's doorway I'll never darken again. The higher-end motobecane cross bikes from bikesdirect actually look like an intriguing alternative to the tricross. and perhaps even better set up for what I want to do. Or there are all the high-end specialty frame builders who build this style of bike. But I don't think my wife will support me dropping a few large on one of those at this point.

    What do you guys suggest. Stay with the LBS and get a stock cross bike or widen my horizons?

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    Sorry to follow up on my own post, but one thing I've seen mentioned on this forum is that some dedicated Rando bikes are designed to take front bags. What is not clear to me is what exactly are the design features that make a bike appropriate for front handlebar use? I assume the cross top brake levers that come on cyclocross bikes would have to go to fit a front bag. But what else makes one bike appropriate for a front bike and another one not?

    Are there some obvious features related to the fork design, head tube, handlebars, or brake levers that make handlebar bag mounting more appropriate?

    Or is it a more subtle frame/fork geometry sort of thing that you can't really tell by looking but have to actually try with a loaded bag.?

    I'm just guessing that the higher-end brifters that send the brake cables down the handlebar rather than out at a right angle would make for a cleaner handlebar bag install. Beyond that I'm not sure what else to look for.

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    the main concession to front bags is lower trail/more rake. Without the bag it makes the bike a little more of a handful to keep on an exact line. It has a nice, lively feel to it though. You should be able to tell that the bike has a little more rake than the 43/45mm you see on most bikes.

    Depending on the mounting, it may be possible to have the cross brakes on the tops of the bars. The brifters with the cables going out to the side are pretty much a no-go. If the bike comes with cantis, you should be able to mount a rack.

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    Senior Member lonesomesteve's Avatar
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    Checkout this thread for a discussion about handlebar bags and what makes a bike suitable for carrying a front load: http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...=handlebar+bag. I think there have been other recent threads on the topic that could be found with a little clever searching.

    As far as what bike to get, just about anything can work for randonneuring. You'll see Randos on carbon fiber race bikes and mountain bikes and recumbent trikes and everything in between. When I started getting into randonneuring two years ago, I thought I knew what I wanted out of a randonneuring bike. Every time I do another brevet I learn a little more about what makes a good brevet bike and my idea of the perfect bike is now very different than it was two years ago. My point is that all the internet forum opinions in the world aren't worth a season or two of randonneuring experience.
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  7. #7
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    Personally, I wouldn't worry about buying a bike specifically to handle a large handlebar bag. Smaller bags are available that don't require the trail or support necessary for one of those large French picnic baskets.

    Check out bikesdirect.com and particularly their cyclocross bikes. I think the Ti cyclocross is a screaming deal and it should do all you want.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Richard Cranium's Avatar
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    Well - at least one concern would be deciding if you will indeed ever want to "load up" the bike with some over night gear. One sticking point surrounding hi-tech bikes of today is that many require 700x25 or even narrower tires.

    So that is at least one "angle" to consider. If you go high performance, you may rule out occasional use of a 700x28 or fat 700x25. This would be a deal breaker for me. However, I've "raced" many 400 or 600 on the same bike I rode in a state road race so its all up to what comfort level you want when you "go long."

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by RFC View Post
    Personally, I wouldn't worry about buying a bike specifically to handle a large handlebar bag. Smaller bags are available that don't require the trail or support necessary for one of those large French picnic baskets.

    Check out bikesdirect.com and particularly their cyclocross bikes. I think the Ti cyclocross is a screaming deal and it should do all you want.
    Yes, i was actually looking at that exact bike. Frame geometry seems pretty decent and relaxed. Has all the braze-ons or eyelits one could want for racks, fenders and even disk brakes. And will fit monster tires. To my eye it also has several advantages over the comparably priced Specialized Tricross model. The TI frame should be more forgiving than AL for really long rides. And I think the carbon seatposts on the Tricross will be problematic for mounting racks and accessories to the seatpost. At least I understand you shouldn't clamp onto carbon. And I like the idea of an unpainted TI frame. I found an old 50 page "Show your Titaniums" thread on the road bike forum and now am lusting for TI. Some gorgeous bikes on that thread.

    If I don't buy from the local guys then I really have no issue with going mail order.
    Last edited by texasdiver; 06-01-10 at 09:15 AM.

  10. #10
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    Wow this thread was something I was also wanting to ask.

    The BD Tourist looks like a great deal for now, But I live in India & up here I don't have the luxury of so many choices or steal deals like such. I wish I could buy the BD Tourist online & ship it.

    Anyway the best choice I have close to home is a Volpe... it's also a very nice do it all bike & its definitely well under your $2k budget.
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  11. #11
    Senior Member canopus's Avatar
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    I would look outside your local bike shop there (I used to live in Waco a long time ago). With a 2k budget I would look at something like the Homer Hilsen from Rivendell. It has a sportive nature to it but can also do some light loaded weekend jaunts. It can handle fenders if you want (I use them also even down here in Houston) and racks and seems to be a very nice all around bike if your not going Cat racing. I rode with a guy on the MS150 that had one and he loved his.

    Whoops, that still might be out of price range. that might be 2k for F&F. sorry. However it could be built a little cheaper if you don't use them to source the parts. And there is always the Sam Hillborne.
    Last edited by canopus; 06-01-10 at 10:35 AM. Reason: add
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  12. #12
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    The Home Hilson is a pretty bike but I don't like the 650B wheels for frames up to 59 cm. Seems foolhardy to use a non-standard wheel size for serious distance riding.

    But if I had a summer house on Cape Cod or Hilton Head and wanted a bike to tool around the countryside with, that one would be perfect I think.

  13. #13
    Randomhead
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    Quote Originally Posted by texasdiver View Post
    The Home Hilson is a pretty bike but I don't like the 650B wheels for frames up to 59 cm. Seems foolhardy to use a non-standard wheel size for serious distance riding.
    I have the same opinion, but when I've expressed it before all the 650b aficionados vehemently disagreed. Big tires are much less likely to have a failure that makes them unusable, but I still think carrying a spare is a good idea. And if you were so unlucky as to need a second spare tire, it's almost guaranteed you would not be able to get one from a fellow rider or a bike shop

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    Quote Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
    I have the same opinion, but when I've expressed it before all the 650b aficionados vehemently disagreed. Big tires are much less likely to have a failure that makes them unusable, but I still think carrying a spare is a good idea. And if you were so unlucky as to need a second spare tire, it's almost guaranteed you would not be able to get one from a fellow rider or a bike shop
    Or if you're in a supported ride situation, it makes it impossible to borrow a spare wheel.

  15. #15
    Senior Member canopus's Avatar
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    they have 700c starting at size a 57cm.

    Then again the more a I think about it I would probably just go this route

    http://www.merciancycles.co.uk/frame_audax.asp
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    Senior Member canopus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by texasdiver View Post
    Or if you're in a supported ride situation, it makes it impossible to borrow a spare wheel.
    The problem with this argument and the tire argument is that there can always be a case of this with 700C wheels also. Someone might not bring a spare or whatever so i don't consider this a real valid argument. Similar to how many shops carry tubulars any more, or even the glue for them, so why ride them.
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    Senior Member lonesomesteve's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
    I have the same opinion, but when I've expressed it before all the 650b aficionados vehemently disagreed. Big tires are much less likely to have a failure that makes them unusable, but I still think carrying a spare is a good idea. And if you were so unlucky as to need a second spare tire, it's almost guaranteed you would not be able to get one from a fellow rider or a bike shop
    Depends on who you ride with. On a typical Seattle International Randonneurs ride, you'll see dozens of riders on 650b equiped bikes. Maybe not as many as on 700c wheels, but close. Same with Oregon Randonneurs from what I've seen.
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  18. #18
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    I'm sure this is covered in other threads, but what is the appeal of the 650b wheels? Does it provide a different/better choice of rims and tires? Does the smaller diameter provide a more comfortable gear ratio with standard cranks and clusters? Are people doing it to gain more clearance on racing bikes?

    Because I'm detecting an advocacy of 650b while at the same time lots of people cringe at the thought of long road rides with 26" wheels which is the next step further in that direction.

  19. #19
    Senior Member canopus's Avatar
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    26" wheels and tires are used and are more available outside of the U.S. So if your touring in other countries you have a better chance of getting parts (tires, wheels, tubes) than if your running 700c. Also on smaller frames the 650b's allow the frame builder/manufacturer to maintain the geometry of the bike instead of making compromises to fit the 700c wheels. 650b's allow better/easier clearance if you are going to run fenders or larger tires. It "typically" isn't used for road racing.

    And it isn't an advocacy, its just a different size for different applications..
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    My two cents would be the Velo-Orange Rando frame if you don't mind building your own frame and or having a shop build it up for you. It is advertised as halfway in between a racing frame and a touring frame. http://www.velo-orange.com/vorafrcoso.html

  21. #21
    babylon by bike Standalone's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by unterhausen View Post
    the main concession to front bags is lower trail/more rake. Without the bag it makes the bike a little more of a handful to keep on an exact line. It has a nice, lively feel to it though. You should be able to tell that the bike has a little more rake than the 43/45mm you see on most bikes.

    Depending on the mounting, it may be possible to have the cross brakes on the tops of the bars. The brifters with the cables going out to the side are pretty much a no-go. If the bike comes with cantis, you should be able to mount a rack.
    So, forks being equal, a HT that is steep is better???



    would this bike work well with weight on the front?



    Somewhat steep HT angle - I think it's 74 or 75, with a fork that has what looks to me to be an average offset. I don't have the measurements, I just looked at the proportions on the picture.

    Bike's in the shop for a new rear wheel build and upgrade to cassette. (right now, it's 700c up front and 27" in the back... :/ )

    The trail seems fairly short. I'm pretty sure the old Atala behind it, with its shallower HT angle, has more. The Panasonic does not ride well no-hands as it is now.
    Last edited by Standalone; 06-03-10 at 09:05 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by canopus View Post
    26" wheels and tires are used and are more available outside of the U.S. So if your touring in other countries you have a better chance of getting parts (tires, wheels, tubes) than if your running 700c. Also on smaller frames the 650b's allow the frame builder/manufacturer to maintain the geometry of the bike instead of making compromises to fit the 700c wheels. 650b's allow better/easier clearance if you are going to run fenders or larger tires. It "typically" isn't used for road racing.
    700c wheels are common in countries like almost any in Europe and Canada. 26'' wheels are easier to support in more-remote countries.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Standalone View Post
    So, forks being equal, a HT that is steep is better???

    would this bike work well with weight on the front?
    It looks like it would work fairly well with a front bag. I have used a handlebar bag on a high trail bike without issue, so it isn't absolutely critical. Not sure about the no-hands issue. A low-trail bike is a little twitchier, so maybe that's what is going on no-hands.

  24. #24
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    As far as I can tell, most of the LSR guys just ride regular road bikes and don't carry a lot of baggage. On the last brevet, I think I was one of three riders that had fenders, out of maybe 30 riders total.
    "be careful this rando stuff is addictive and dan's the 'pusher'."

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    Quote Originally Posted by StephenH View Post
    As far as I can tell, most of the LSR guys just ride regular road bikes and don't carry a lot of baggage. On the last brevet, I think I was one of three riders that had fenders, out of maybe 30 riders total.
    Yeah, well Texas riding is different from say the Pacific Northwest in both weather and terrain. I don't think I'd ride with fenders here either unless the forcast was for rain.

    By regular road bikes are you talking about modern aluminum/carbon road racing bikes that require 700x23 tires and use ultegra/dura ace type road gearing?

    Ultimately I guess going out and riding the bike you have is always better than not riding. But in my case I actually need to go buy one anyway so I might as well get it as right as possible out of the box.

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