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Old 04-17-17, 07:44 PM   #1
roseml
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What's the latest on 700c supplies availability in South America?

Hi, I'm planning a tour later this year in South America and I've been researching what tire size I should get on my bike - 700c, which is really common and easy to get where I live, or 26 inch, which has far more limited options on anything but mountain bikes, but it should still be possible to find something suitable, and more expensive.

I've scoured the internet and the information is conflicting, some say that the idea that you need 26 inch in developing countries is a myth and that 700c tires are getting far more available in recent years and that it is 26 inch supplies that are stocked less and less but some swear by 26 inch tires and tell of horror stories where their 700c bike broke down and it was a huge pain in the ass to find replacements. So which is it?

Anyone with more recent experience? I'd rather go with 700c, for comfort and also because I'm tall and need a large frame anyway, but I'd get 26 inch if it significantly simplified getting replacement parts. But the reports on that are contradictory.
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Old 04-17-17, 08:00 PM   #2
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If you want to go 26", look for a Marin Muirwoods 26". If you go outside the USA, its far easier to get parts for a 26" than for a 700c touring bike.

You can tour on 700c but be aware in 3rd world countries, you might have to wait awhile to get repair parts.

In any developed country, touring on 700c shouldn't be a hassle.
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Old 04-17-17, 09:00 PM   #3
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my view on this came from years of reading trip reports, my real world experience is in Central America, and I can say that 26in stuff is certainly more readily available than 700, in the bike stores I saw in smaller places. In larger cities, 700 stuff is around, but I think this is the key thing--where you are.
In the end, I just decided to go with a 26in bike, and still took a spare tire to not have to find a reasonable tire if a weird thing happened to a tire.

Here is my take on the 26in vs 700 for speed and comfort--at touring speeds (that I do anyway) I really cant see the difference. I have never toured on identical type bikes , 26 vs 700, ie my 700 touring bikes have had 28mm slicks, and my 26 tourers have had 1.5in (38mm) and 2in, 45-50mm , so while there may be a slight difference, I really cant say that on reasonable roads there will be really anything in it, not real world for me anyway.

I am sure you have read the same stuff I have, that 26 is the way to go, and I guess in the end if you have good strong wheels, good tires, and a spare tire, spare spokes or whatever, 700 will be fine.
I must say I did think of 26 being slightly stronger, although I did use 32 spoke wheels, but the 2in tires at lower pressures (45-50psi rear, 40-45 front) went a long way to making things easier for my rims and spokes.

I would make the suggestion of using at least 1.5in 38mm tires, all the times you will be on rough roads you will appreciate wider tires, as will your bike. And you will be on rough roads often.

anyway, some things to consider.
Also, a larger or XL frame with 26in wheels will still work fine, and with all the baggage on, doesnt look that diff in my opinion--plus you come back to 26in wheels being that much stronger than 700, which will be a help if you are a big person, and carrying a heavy load.
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Old 04-18-17, 12:51 AM   #4
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So, terrible availability of 700c supplies in developing countries, especially in Latin America where I am going first, is true even today? This is not just based on accounts from 1-2 decades ago and changing?
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Old 04-18-17, 04:47 AM   #5
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my view on this came from years of reading trip reports, my real world experience is in Central America, and I can say that 26in stuff is certainly more readily available than 700, in the bike stores I saw in smaller places. In larger cities, 700 stuff is around, but I think this is the key thing--where you are.
In the end, I just decided to go with a 26in bike, and still took a spare tire to not have to find a reasonable tire if a weird thing happened to a tire.
Did you use that spare tire or just carry it around for the entire tour?
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Old 04-18-17, 05:36 AM   #6
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So, terrible availability of 700c supplies in developing countries, especially in Latin America where I am going first, is true even today? This is not just based on accounts from 1-2 decades ago and changing?
I would recommend reading as many South American trip journals as you can, to get specifics. My experience in cities like Guatemala City or Tegucigalpa showed that 700 bikes are out there and tires wheels are available in some specific shops--i didn't go out of my way to really see what 700 tires were available, so my view is still just an opinion and you need to find details from folks who traveled with 700 in South America.
Columbia has a strong bike culture with road biking, and I suspect that Argentina and Chile will have more things available as well.
Good researching.
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Old 04-18-17, 05:45 AM   #7
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Did you use that spare tire or just carry it around for the entire tour?
In the touring that I have done in my life, I've always had tires in very good shape and was traveling in North America and Europe in places with bike stores, so never took​ a spare tire.
Never had any tire problems.

On this trip, because of the unknowns, I took a spare, but, touch wood, again did not have any tire issues, so carried a spare with me for two months in the bottom of a pannier and didn't touch it.
I also didn't use my spare brake pads, or the more than extra patches and glue, but given the circumstances, I would carry all of this stuff again as I decided it would be wise to have this stuff with me.
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Old 04-18-17, 06:18 AM   #8
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I took a spare, but, touch wood, again did not have any tire issues, so carried a spare with me for two months in the bottom of a pannier and didn't touch it.
I also didn't use my spare brake pads, or the more than extra patches and glue, but given the circumstances, I would carry all of this stuff again as I decided it would be wise to have this stuff with me.
This is why it makes little sense to carry spares for things that very rarely fail when in reasonable condition. Tires, brake-pads, chains, and cables are easily inspected. As you've pointed out, most places in the world have large-cities where common bike parts are available.

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Old 04-18-17, 06:47 AM   #9
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I have not toured in S America, but I have done most of my touring on 26 inch wheels. For pavement I like the Schwalbe Marathons (with Greenguard) in 1.5 (40mm) width. I have also used the 2.0 width (50mm) Duremes for mixed pavement and good quality gravel. But the older non-tandem Duremes that I used are almost impossible to find now.

I carried a spare 1.5 width Vitoria Randonneur Pro folding tire. Although my touring on narrower tires was in USA and Canada where it is easy to find a 26 inch tire, the most available 26 inch tires are usually knobbies that are wider, thus I carried a narrower road tire as a spare.

The tandem version of the Dureme is very stiff and would likely be slow riding. That said, if you were on really rough roads, maybe that would be preferable?
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Old 04-18-17, 07:27 AM   #10
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This is why it makes little sense to carry spares for things that very rarely fail when in reasonable condition. Tires, brake-pads, chains, and cables are easily inspected. As you've pointed out, most places in the world have large-cities where common bike parts are available.
Don't know if you have lived or bicycle toured in Latin America, but stuff can happen. I certainly agree with you on things rarely failing when in good shape, that's certainly my overall biking experience, but I do disagree with you on your view of relying on large cities, and or the unknown availability of a 700 high quality touring tire that can live with running over glass and thorns and whatnot. Especially when taking into account being on smaller roads in the countryside.

Ultimately, plan a given trip as you wish, I can only give reasons why I personally feel a spare tire would be a wise thing to carry for a Latin America trip.
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Old 04-18-17, 08:28 AM   #11
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OP, have you searched online for tires? Here's a shop in Colombia which is selling at least one 700C tire:

Corazas y llantas - bicicletas rubiano la primera bicicleteria de colombia en internet - BICICLETAS RUBIANO

I have toured in South America, but not on 700C tires. (I have toured in Mexico on 700C tires.) All of my touring in recent years, however, was on my Bike Friday with 20" tires. I never needed to buy tires in Latin America, however. FWIW, I saw a fair number of cyclists training on road bikes in Colombia.
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Old 04-18-17, 08:43 AM   #12
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Ultimately, plan a given trip as you wish, I can only give reasons why I personally feel a spare tire would be a wise thing to carry for a Latin America trip.
In my case: for those of us who only get a week or two of vacation at a time, who try to maximize the use of that time, the relatively little extra weight/space a spare tire takes is very much peace of mind against losing a substantial portion of our vacation time getting to somewhere that may have spares. Remote possibility I'll need it, for sure, but if I do I go from losing substantial time to being out of commission for 20 minutes.
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Old 04-18-17, 08:51 AM   #13
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This is why it makes little sense to carry spares for things that very rarely fail when in reasonable condition. Tires, brake-pads, chains, and cables are easily inspected. As you've pointed out, most places in the world have large-cities where common bike parts are available.
Tires: Rarely fail, but fail catastrophically (i.e. do you aren't riding your bike anymore). And they fail more when on crappy pavement/gravel/dirt.

Brake-pads: Rarely fail catastrophically. Anticipate wear. If you have rare-ish pad type, take an extra set.

Cables: Fail even less often than the others, but fail catastrophically. Weigh almost nothing, take up almost no space. Take a spare of each.

Chains: Fail catastrophically. But can be solved by either shortening your chain a link or a master link.


I live / tour a good bit in CO. There are "large cities" here -- and ones very well equipped with bike stuff. There are still tons of places where I wouldn't want to be stranded, esp if I didn't have a cell phone and people I could call for help. A large city doesn't help if you're 150mi away over a couple of mountain passes.

OP -- it depends on entirely where you are cycling and what kind of terrain you're on. Yes 26 is more common than 700c. But there is lots of 700c available where I have traveled in larger SA cities (Colombia, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile)
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Old 04-18-17, 09:11 AM   #14
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other factors that come into play is your specific tires. I went on this two month trip with Schwalbe Supremes, 26x2, that I had bought a number of years ago on sale but hadnt ridden that much, hardly at all fully loaded. They were in great shape, but as I figured I'd be on mostly paved, or reasonable dirt/gravel, I didnt go the Mondial route (a much tougher expedition tire, a lot heavier and slower riding also).

Supremes are neat tires, I will do a post trip bike/equipment review at some point, but I was very impressed with them--BUT, and a big but, is that their sidewalls are thin (gives them thier nice ride) so while I decided to stick with them, I knew the chances were more of a surprise sidewall damage situation happening to me--ESPECIALLY given a certain amount of unknowns in my trip.
All that to say that ordering a spare supreme at a good price was worth it for me.

as mentioned, even if 700 stuff is around, a 23 or 25 or 28 Rubino Pro or Gatorskin might not be a help to you if you are riding on loose or bumpy roads on your heavy touring bike that you've been using perhaps 35s, or 40s or wider.
There might be a Marathon tire in the size you need, or not.

I guess that for me, in the big scheme of things, carrying a spare tire wasnt a big deal, sure more weight is more weight, but sometimes you need to carry extra food and water too, and you just live with it.

to me its about making informed decisions about what real life environments you will be in, balancing the small risk of tire damage with being able to find a good tire, or just going with what you are comfortable with (whether that is the right thing or not).

also being realistic about how your communication skills are in Spanish if you need to deal with getting a lift or on the phone finding what tires are available somewhere else, or whatever. Or the potential hassle aspect.
Or just not worrying about it, as I do admit a fatal tire damaging incident is probably unlikely....but they do happen sometimes to folks....

you pays your money, you takes you chances.
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Old 04-18-17, 09:22 AM   #15
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also being realistic about how your communication skills are in Spanish if you need to deal with getting a lift or on the phone finding what tires are available somewhere else, or whatever. Or the potential hassle aspect.
Or having one blow out at 6PM on a Friday, and realizing that the shops aren't open again until noon on Monday. Not everywhere has extended night and weekend hours, I've been burned by that traveling in general in the past.
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Old 04-18-17, 10:10 AM   #16
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Thanks all for the input so far lots of useful info. What I am going to do is basically tour most of the countries on the continent, except Venezuela and those tiny 3 countries that are sandwiched between Brazil and Venezuela, over the span of about a year. Will spend a lot of time on paved roads but also dirt roads and probably just dirt and sand, since I'll be doing a lot of wildcamping. After that I'll tour every country in Central America.

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But there is lots of 700c available where I have traveled in larger SA cities (Colombia, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile)
Are you talking cities that number in the millions like Buenos Aires and Santiago or also cities that number (a few) 100k, like Bariloche, Puerto Mont, Valdivia etc? If you can only get them in the really huge cities, that may not be enough, since they are often thousands of miles apart in that part of the world.

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Old 04-18-17, 10:16 AM   #17
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Well, I sure wouldn't take any tire but Schwalbe Marathon Plus, are good for 9,000 miles. My 36c ones went 4200 miles in Vietnam and China with not even a flat, plus 3,000 miles since at home. I did end up buying a full spare in Vancouver and carrying it, mostly because one had 2800 miles on it. I also carried 4 tubes not used. But there were NO tubes this size anywhere AFAIK, I saw one tire I would use, a plain Marathon. No tire gauges for sale either.

I saw that 650B is actually the predominant size on new bikes. I'm now putting this size on an old bike that was 590. There are 38 mm SMP tires available and Dyad rims, just hard to get.

It is likely way more important starting with solid wheels. Dyad rims, Wheelsmith 2.3/ 2.0 drive side at least spokes, locking nipples, hubs with pawls that don't break. Or Rohloff14 like mine of course.
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Old 04-18-17, 10:36 AM   #18
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Thanks all for the input so far lots of useful info. What I am going to do is basically tour most of the countries on the continent, except Venezuela and those tiny 3 countries that are sandwiched between Brazil and Venezuela, over the span of about a year. Will spend a lot of time on paved roads but also dirt roads and probably just dirt and sand, since I'll be doing a lot of wildcamping. After that I'll tour every country in Central America.
....
Based on this, I assume you are taking a bike with a pretty heavy load. I mentioned above that I used 40mm wide tires for pavement, 50 mm for mixed pavement and good gravel. But last summer in Iceland where at one time I had two weeks of food on my bike I used 57 mm wide tires. Don't try to go too narrow, you want a bike that will take the tire size that you will need.
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Old 04-18-17, 10:37 AM   #19
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A bunch of people have toured South America on fatbikes and had tires shipped through the bus system as they wore them out. If you can tour a place on a fatbike, a 700c bike should be fine. Just be prepared and know how to get what you need.

Being stuck for 3 days waiting for a tire in such a beautiful part of the world sounds fine to me!
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Old 04-18-17, 10:38 AM   #20
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In Chile, 26" is still pretty predominant, you can find tires and tubes in large supermarket chains. However, 700c is easier to find than it was a few years ago, tubes and tyres are available at most LBS in larger cities (I wouldn't count on it on smaller towns).

You'll find more variety in Santiago, obviously. I live in a city in the north and though I sometimes have trouble finding what *I* want there's always an alternative if you're in a pinch.
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Old 04-18-17, 11:23 AM   #21
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In a total emergency and far from ideal.. Chances are you can retro fit a 26 on a 700 bike but not the other way around.
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Old 04-18-17, 11:31 AM   #22
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In a total emergency and far from ideal.. Chances are you can retro fit a 26 on a 700 bike but not the other way around.
I just had a PITA-plus-a-half time of getting my 26" tire on my 26" rim. No way that is going on a 700c rim. I'd rather fix the tire with duct tape than try that.
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Old 04-18-17, 01:09 PM   #23
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Thanks all for the input so far lots of useful info. What I am going to do is basically tour most of the countries on the continent, except Venezuela and those tiny 3 countries that are sandwiched between Brazil and Venezuela, over the span of about a year. Will spend a lot of time on paved roads but also dirt roads and probably just dirt and sand, since I'll be doing a lot of wildcamping. After that I'll tour every country in Central America.
without knowing what sort of touring experience you have, the type of riding you describe will be much more enjoyable on minimum 1.5in 38-40mm tires. There are all kinds of tires out there, but for rougher roads and whatnot, wider is the ticket.
I know Im not a 20 something anymore, but I really really appreciated the 50mm tires on the rough stuff I regularly encountered, it was just more comfortable.

again, read as much as you can on the various countries you would like to go to. CGOAB journals are a great resource generally.

have you toured at all, and on what? and where?
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Old 04-18-17, 01:55 PM   #24
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I just had a PITA-plus-a-half time of getting my 26" tire on my 26" rim. No way that is going on a 700c rim. I'd rather fix the tire with duct tape than try that.

He's talking about the whole wheel.

And yes, a lot of 26" mountain bikes do fit a 700c wheel. So, it may work both ways just fine.

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Old 04-18-17, 02:20 PM   #25
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He's talking about the whole wheel.
Ah. In that case, I still doubt my 26" wheel is fitting in the fork of my road bikes. Also, if 700c spares are rare, how common are disc brakes there, that one will have a functioning brake on any patch job?
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