The plan is to use the "Bicycling the Pacific Coast" by Tom Kirkendall guide to make our way from San Francisco to Rancho Palos Verdes (south of Redondo beach) at the beginning of August. With any luck, we'll only have to battle fog, letting us travel light.
We want to make this trip as cheaply as possible, seeing that we are poor college students who feel a road trip in a car would be boring and expensive. We would have a place to stay in LA (free is good). The trouble is getting down and back up.
I've got a Schwinn Le Tour 12.2 that has it's (as far as tell) original Shimano 60 front derailleur and Shimano 600 rear derailleur. It has a doublecrank, 52-39 and the back is 28 to 14.
Would these gears realistically get me down there?
We plan to buy food along the way and not carry more than a loosely approximated 25lbs. I've got some panniers off craigslist.
We're relatively fit college students so we ambitiously plan to ride 100 miles a day.
Is it realistic, or even necessary, to fit a triple crank on there? I definitely do not want to walk my bike.
The difference between making it on a triple crank or a double crank is fitness and desire. Sounds like you've got both.
It'll be tough, and I wouldn't do it without at least a 1:1 ratio for the lowest gear (like a 30T front/30T back, or 28T/28T, etc.) But that's just me (a few decades older....) If you can pick up a cheap cassette at a bike shop (SF must have bike co-ops???) and/or a smaller front chainring, it'd be worth it. You might be able to do a 36T/34T without much trouble; a bike co-op would have "used" gears to pick through.
This is where having some fix-it knowledge comes in, cuz you have to check that the derailleurs can handle it, if the chain is long enough, if the "new" gears are in good shape.
Hwy 1 has some pretty good climbs. That's where the low gears help, but if you can make it up Twin Peaks with your 25 lb load, then you'll probably be OK on the trip. Nobody has fun climbing, low gears won't make it enjoyable....
>> We're relatively fit college students so we ambitiously plan to ride 100 miles a day.
Oh, yeah, this is ambitious. If you do make it 100 miles for 2 or 3 days, expect to want a day off on the fourth. Might be better if you plan on 60-80 so you can recover each night.
1984 Raleigh Kodiak Touring, 1992 Scott MTB, 2004 Fuji Touring
EmmCeeBee has good advice about cheap gearing changes! To reiterate: Your route along the Coast Hwy is hilly, but there aren't any major passes to climb, just lots of short, steep stubborn ups and downs, especially around Big Sur. A triple chainring is not necessary, but you're going to be mighty glad after a long day you if you decide to switch out to slightly lower gearing.
My additional comments...
You'll probably be camping out at the plentiful hiker/biker sites along the way. The weather should be mild, but just in case, I would at least bring a tarp, decent sleeping bag and foul weather gear.
You said the magic word--cheap--so plan on loading up on groceries and making your own grub. If you only eat out (and will burn calories for 100 mile days), you're going to rack up a large bill. Also, sometimes there aren't any convenient restaurants along the way. (A soda can alcohol stove would be a cheap, light addition.)
Remember...on the return trip, you'll be battling headwinds--get an early start in the mornings.
PS--I live about 6 miles from Redondo and RPV and I'm also planning a trip "down" the coast this summer to visit my brother in Watsonville...Good Luck!
The easiest gear change is to swap the small chainring for a 36T or so. Make sure you know the BCD (Bolt Circle Diameter -- the diameter of the imaginary circle connecting the bolt holes on the chainring). Chainrings are categorized by BCD and number of bolt holes (4 or 5). If you go this route, expect some glitches in your shifting until you work out the adjustment bugs.
Next easiest is to swap the rear cassette. New ones are in the $20-$40 range (or much higher for XTR or Dura Ace quality...). I frequent a bike co-op in Portland where I can pick 'em up for less than $8, especially 6 or 7 speed, which are "old technology" now. But a used cassette is iffy, you gotta inspect it really close to make sure the teeth aren't worn. Probably better to just get a new one. Swapping freewheel/cassette is easy, but you need a special tool (itself about $10). A bike shop should do it for you for a couple bucks.
I don't know the components you have (5 speed? 6 or 7? Freewheel or cassette?) You can get clusters up to 34T, which might be all you need as far as gear swap. But only a long-cage rear derailleur can handle this, so you might get into a series of upgrades if you're not careful. Whenever you put on new gears, you should get a new chain; your chain needs a few extra links anyway if you upgrade from a 28T to a 32T or 34T. If you haven't put on a new chain in the past couple of years, do this before your trip, it's cheap insurance.
Upgrading to a triple crank is mucho expensive -- new ones are $70-$200. No guarantee that it would work with your frame and bottom bracket, the inner gear might interfere with the chainstay. The solution is to get a longer bottom bracket..... And the front derailleur might not handle the increased range.... All of a sudden you're into major money. There's an attachment on the market which adapts a double to a triple, but you've still gotta solve the other problems above.
If you're comfortable with your fitness, and only intend on this one long ride -- and want to keep it cheap -- then I wouldn't convert to a triple. Definitely look into a smaller chainring. The cassette swap might be $20 or it might be $100, depending if you need a new derailleur, and if you need a shop to do all the work. Poke around on the Harris Cyclery site for lots of good information on parts swapping and availability.