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Touring Have a dream to ride a bike across your state, across the country, or around the world? Self-contained or fully supported? Trade ideas, adventures, and more in our bicycle touring forum.

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Old 12-10-05, 03:01 AM   #1
giantrobot
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off-road touring- Where to start?

Im interested in learning more about off road touring. Right now im trying to grasp all the new costs that it would involve.( something I tend to do first, even when the actual trip is off in the distance) Looking at what other people ride, it seems hardtails w/ BOB trailers are the preference. So, as far as frame material goes, steel or aluminum? I suppose, though the ideal ansewer is steel,
Im factoring in what I have read about the BOB deforming rear triangles ( any comments on that?)

I Know that steel is pliable, but more expensive. With aluminum, if i got 5 years out of the frame I would be happy. Then upgrade to a Surly or something.

Secondly, Full suspension or hard tail. A F/s would be good if I could find a manufactuer that sells spare reartriangles with their bikes. (know of anyone?)

Third: BOB or something else. I would be riding a bit of single track. So single wheel?

4thly: Front racks w/ small panniers w/ a suspension fork?

Thanks for you comments. I used to post here w/ a different screen name, and was helped out many times building a bike and organizing tours.
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Old 12-10-05, 03:34 AM   #2
BearLite
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For offroad touring, you have a lot to gain by going ultralight, even more than for road touring. Big and heavy panniers get a lot more in the way when it gets a bit technical. Riding on singletrack trails with a trailer sounds cumbersome. Have a look at the products made by Carradice. They have a front carrier system that works fine with suspended forks and their SQR seatpost bags are nice. (I have the SQR tour, my brother the SQR Slim). A large seatpost bag and handlebar bag+a small bike backpack if needed should do. For a compact load, singlewall tent/tarp/hammock+small downbag+short inflatable pad+topgas stove+small ti kettle is a good basic setup.

http://www.carradice.co.uk/sqr-saddlepacks/index.html
http://www.carradice.co.uk/panniers/...panniers.shtml

How my bike looks like: http://img513.imageshack.us/img513/3757/minhoj6rn.jpg
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Old 12-10-05, 07:24 AM   #3
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Adventure Cycling Association offers an Introduction to off road touring course. I understand that it is 3 days classroom and three days off road touring.

Old Man Mountain makes racks for suspension forks.

Hope this helps
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Old 12-10-05, 09:05 AM   #4
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I'll toss in my three cents worth. I'm guessing you mean trail riding - although routes like the Great Divide Trail are mostly dirt road - not trail. I've done considerable off-pavement touring in places as extreme as Alaska, the Yukon, and the NWT and all over the West. I have an 18-year-old aluminum frame Trek 8000 that I modified for touring - drop bars and a Flexi-stem.

Although it's time to get a new bike - I have never had one problem with the aluminum frame and I really put it to some extreme tests under weight - like Schofield Pass in Colorado or Heckman Pass in BC where the rims were smoking. I use high-rider racks in front. I used to have basic Performance panniers that I had to stop and collect every now and then as they would fly off even with extra bungie cords. My Arkels have never done that.

I am a BIG believer in dirt. I have lived in Wyoming for 15 years and know that the really good stuff is off the pavement. The Canadian national parks in the Rockies have old fire roads that you can ride back to remote campsites. There are great forest roads on the BC side of the border - Elk Lakes is superb! Then there are the Dempster and Denali Highways in the North Country. In fact, you have me thinking about a new thread.

Best - J
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Old 12-10-05, 04:20 PM   #5
Michel Gagnon
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What do you have and where do you want to ride? Fully loaded, touring with hotels, etc.?

If you already have a real touring bike, you already have an adequate bike for most situations. Install 700x37 knobbies (wider knobs if you expect mud, smooth centre if you mostly expect gravel or similar hard surface), or install 700x35-37 in front and 700x37-40 behind. If you doN't have a touring bike capable of wide tires, a cyclocross bike, Surly LHT or Bruce Gordon would be great for touring on the rough. The fully suspended mountain bike is an overkill except for technical trails. A suspension seatpost will do a decent job for less weight.

Panniers vs trailer? The real advantages of the BOB trailer are:
- Narrower footprint that bike with panniers : important on narrow trails but not otherwise;
- Tracks directly behind the bike: good on twisty trails;
- Allows one to use a compact mountain bike, which has a very sturdy rear triangle anyway, and which is too short to install rear panniers comfortably;
- Less weight per wheel, which may be good on very soft terrain.
- Allows one to carry more load... too much perhaps.

All to say that if none of the above applies, you don't need a BOB and you may even be better with panniers than with a BOB. One aspect to take note with panniers is that you shouldn't use a front lowrider rack if you are on technical terrain, because the front panniers will grab a few rocks...
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Old 12-16-05, 12:20 AM   #6
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I did he Adventure cycling Great Divide route the first year it was open ( half of it)

Full Suspension with a Bob trailer- we camped, and carried ALL our gear for the 3 weeks we were out, while occasionally dropping into town to restock and sometimes grab a motel room.

There is virtually NO single track. It's dirt roads pretty much, and fairly scenic.

I have done some other off road tours as well.

The Bob is a drag to portage if you need to. It's really easy to overload it- pack light!
If your talking about off road, point to point touring, I think the best way to approach it is two rear panniers, and a LIGHTLY loaded BoB. Even better if you can split it up between a couple riders, and resupply often.

don't worry about the bike so much.... steel, alum whatever. Just about anyting you'd be able to buy now adays is going to handle it.
Just make sure you gear it for stump pulling.
I had a 20- 34 and used it on MANY OCCASIONS.
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Old 12-16-05, 09:26 AM   #7
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I've done some "offroad" bike camping on VERY rough unpaved roads in Big Bend national Park. I use an aluminum MTB and tow a BOB. I've used a hardtail twice and FS once. Both bikes worked fine with the trailer, though the FS makes for a much nicer ride of course.

I've had both heavy and light loads in the BOB. You have to carry a lot of water in Big Bend so it's hard to get truly ultralight. Nonetheless, the trailer tracks very well and after a while you don't even think about it. I have the BOB without the rear suspension.

Having done it both hardtail and FS, I recommend using a FS bike. I used a Trek Fuel EX 7 and found the rear triangle to be quite stiff enough for the trailer. If you go with a hardtail, consider getting a suspension seatpost or a Brooks Conquest sprung saddle to help smooth out the bumps.
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Old 12-16-05, 09:38 AM   #8
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I just want to share personal experience with a regular (road) touring bike with fat tires and retying to use it for off-pavement. I have had to turn back twice on two rides to test this option. And this was on roads, not trails. I was riding a Trek 520 with 700x37C Huchinson Globetrotters. The first problem I faced was hills so steep that when climbing standing up in first gear, the tires were being bounced around by rocks and I couldn't keep balance and/or traction. On the second ride, I encountered gravel so loose that the tires cut right into it and wouldn't roll. Also, one added experience: fat tires on a road bike with fenders leaves vary little clearance and a little bit of mud can lock up your wheels.

Sometimes and in many places a touring bike with fat tires is fine on the dirt but if you want to be ready for anything, I personally don't recommend this option. Or, if you choose this option, I don't recommend riding in Arizona or any place with mountains.
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