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Thread: Touring bikes

  1. #1
    0^0 fubar5's Avatar
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    What kinda bike does one use for touring? It seems to me that road bikes wouldn't be durable enough for bike racks and touring bags loaded with stuff. Would a MTB work?
    I went looking for touring specific bikes but didn't come up with any results.

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    Best bike for touring is, surprise, surprise, a touring bike.
    They are also the most difficult bikes to design, being a careful compromise between speed and stability.
    There are a few below $1000 (REI, Jamis). Most off the shelf models are $1200. Fuji, Canondale, Trek. The best is probably Bruce Gorden.
    Above that, you get a stock frame from a small framebuilder and build it up with your choice of components.
    If you have lots of money or an odd shped bod, then you get a custom sized frame built for you.

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    0^0 fubar5's Avatar
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    Thanks, I looked at the the bikes you mentioned but they are all out of my range. Do you think a modified MTB would work?

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    Carfree since '82. Grrr! JonR's Avatar
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    Even an unmodified mountain bike will work, and the reason I know is that I happened to come across a cyclist eating a sandwich at the City Market one day; everything about him said "Long distance." So I introduced myself and heard his story. He had just graduated from Boston College, and his mountain bike was a graduation present. He was on his way to California on it, where I believe his brother lived. So he was halfway there when I met him here in Kansas City.

    He was carrying a bedroll, of course had panniers, I don't remember what else, but was doing just fine on his good quality but not super expensive mountain bike.

    He mentioned that he hated the handlebar-mounted mirror. I gave him my Third Eye mirror and advised him to get some sunglasses to put it on.

    I got a postcard from him later, from Utah, saying he really liked the eyeglass mirror, and that the sunglasses had kept a lot of bugs out of his eyes.

    I never heard any more--but at least we know he made it from Boston to Utah!

    But it's also possible to find old road bikes with a pretty relaxed frame geometry, and fix one up with heavier tires and whatever else you want, and tour that way. That could be cheaper than a mountain bike, and if you found a good sound old bike, I'll bet it would do the job just fine.

  5. #5
    Senior Member mike's Avatar
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    The fact is, it is possible to ride just about any bike anywhere. The question is how much effort you have to put into it and how comfortable you are doing it.

    Touring generally means going long distances. When you dedicate yourself to the saddle for four or five days of ten hours per day of riding, suddenly you are thinking about every possibility of shaving off some of the energy requirements.

    Mountain bikes have come a long way and have gotten a lot lighter than they used to be. Thus, using a mountain bike for long trips is not so crazy. We have all gone on bike tours and seen people doing the tour on mountain bikes.

    The fact still remains, however, that mountain bikes have wider tires which have more rolling resistance than skinny tires.

    When I go touring with friends on mountain bikes, they almost always end up "Trying out" my touring bike. Sure enough, the rest of the trip ends up with me taking turns with them so they can ride my touring bike while I muscle their mountain bike for them.
    Mike

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    in my most humble opinion, it's all about comfort, when you spend 8-10 hours a day on a bike the smallest annoyance or inconvenience grows exponentially( i can use big words but i'm not sure i can spell them) i toured for 6 months on a relatively cheap mountain bike and it performed quite well, i probably carried 60-70 pounds(a mistake) with me, only complaint is that my fingers were numb for probably a year later, drop bars or at least bar-ends are necessary

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    oh, i almost forgot, charlize theron is a total babe, i just rented "cider house rules" , she is awesome, i would trash my stupid bicycle for her eternal love

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    NOT a weight weenie Hunter's Avatar
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    I agree with JonR go find something used. There are less expensive alternatives than a custom build. You should do a search on bicycle classifides and look around. I will tell you this. Touring bicycles like a true MTB, or road bike are build specific. Meaning that they are designed for touring. They are made to hold weight, have good longevity, and be comfortable. You could modify a MTB however I feel that a good road or hybrid would suit the task better. In a road just stay away from the ultra lightweight frames that cannot hold weight.

  9. #9
    0^0 fubar5's Avatar
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    I was thinking about getting a Giant OCR 3 road bike, but now I'm kinda leaning towards a MTB again. The OCR doesn't look like it would hold much weight.

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    Senior Member mike's Avatar
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    Hunter and Mr. Funball make excellent points about bike design.

    Road bikes and mountain bikes are mechanically designed for entirely different purposes and different stress loads, as Hunter points out. Of course, department store cheap bikes rarely deserve stress load considerations as they will be prone to failure no matter what the design.

    Mr. Funball points out the ergonomic considerations. If you plan to tour, the touring bike puts your body into a better ergonomic position for distance riding AND FOR RIDING AGAINST THE WIND. The numb hands that Mr. Funball mentions is a serious consideration. I too suffered from this "bikers palsy" due to riding a lot on in an upright mtb posture. It is a maddening feeling. A similar phenominon can happen with drop style touring handle bars, but it is not as bad or as common.

    The reality is, Fubar5, you are a young dude. Mountain bikes are the fashion statement of your generation. I say get the mountain bike. Use it for off-road and for hangin' with your friends. The more proud you are of your machine, the more likely you will be to use it.

    If you think you want to try some distance, get yourself a good quality old road bike from a yard sale; $25.00 should get you a nice lightweight.
    Last edited by mike; 05-06-01 at 12:02 PM.
    Mike

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    0^0 fubar5's Avatar
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    I guess so mike. There's this place called Carl's(not a restaurant), the guy goes to estate sales and stuff and he usually has a couple bikes sittin' around outside. He's kinda close to Columbia, so next time I'm headed that way I stop.

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    Senior Member mike's Avatar
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    If you see somthing interesting, but aren't sure if it is a good bike or a good deal, contact me.

    Mike
    Mike

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    Senior Member Bubba's Avatar
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    I've had really good luck with my old MTB (see "What does everyone ride" thread for a description).

    It was built before anyone had a clue how to build a mountain bike which worked out well for me. It has angles that are close to those of a road bike and nice long chainstays to keep panniers off my heels. I've also outfitted it with a tri-bar and bar ends to alleviate the numb hands problem. I'm big (6'1", 215 lbs) and I ride a lot of unpaved roads/trails and it has held together really well. I also use higher pressure tires with a smooth bead along the centre line that work well on both paved and unpaved surfaces. I'm not as fast as most, but I don't tour to get someplace fast - and camp is often set up when I get there.

    Basically it comes down to where do you want to go? and how do you want to get there?

    At any rate, touring is the most fun you can have on a bike. Enjoy!:thumbup:

    Bubba

    Oh yeah, if you do go with a lighter bike and are concerned about the load, you can use one of those BOB type trailers. I've never used one, but a lot of people think they're the only way to travel.
    Last edited by Bubba; 05-15-01 at 10:53 PM.

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    jah
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    Quite by accident I found a great touring bike at about half the price of a normal touring frame. I purchased a Cannondale hybrid. I added a NEWK bar end which gives me dropped bars and replaced the stock saddle with a Specialized saddle. The wheelbase is 109" which, coupled with the 35mm tires and shock absorbing seat post, gives a very pleasant ride that is stable under load. I have $580. in the bike, but feel it is producing a ride quality similar to touring bikes in twice that price range.

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    0^0 fubar5's Avatar
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    Very cool Jah, bikes customized by bike lovers are the best ones!!! Way better than bikes 2-3-4 times the price.
    Booyah!!

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    I went into my LBS to inquire about a touring bike. I currently own a Bianchi "Brava" road bike. The LBS said all I had to do was get wider tires and I would be all set with the bike I own.
    The "Brava" has all kinds of dohickies to attach panniers, etc all over the bike frame. Anyone agree or disagree with this

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    Member SteveF's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Rider72
    ...The LBS said all I had to do was get wider tires and I would be all set with the bike I own. The "Brava" has all kinds of dohickies to attach panniers, etc all over the bike frame. Anyone agree or disagree with this
    Maybe. Depends on how heavily you're going to load the bike and what terrain you'll be riding.

    I understand that many "real-touring" riders have two complaints about bikes that are not truly designed from the outset for full-touring duty.

    1. the gearing is not low enough. Think about climbing a steep hill fully loaded with panniers front and rear. You really don't want to stand and hammer, you need to sit and spin smoothly in the granny gear when you've got a full load. This usally means a less than 1:1 ratio in the bottom-most gear.

    2. brakes--think about riding the other direction, and going down that steep hill you just climbed. Are the brakes powerful enough to keep your speed in check with a full load? Cantilevers or V-brakes rule on touring bikes, for good reason.

    Now the above items are definitely issues for full-on touring, where you're carrying everything with you and camping along the way. Lighter-duty "credit-card" touring places less of a demand on the bike so these issues are not as critical.

    My road bike (Specialized Sequoia), although the manufacturer classifies it as a "touring" bike, would definitely not be up to the full-on touring job. While it has appropriately low gearing, and has braze-ons for racks and mudguards, it's equipped with road-style caliper brakes, not cantilevers, plus the frame geometry is more compact than a full tourer. I'd do credit-card touring on it, but anything more serious would need a completely different bike.

  18. #18
    Senior Member mike's Avatar
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    Great points by SteveF. If you are planning to tour weighted down in mountainous or hilly areas, you really need to consider gearing AND brakes (often the last thing considered).

    Weight makes such a huge difference on hills that it is almost inconceivable to the flatlander.

    For those who are unaware, brake pads are not all created equal. Check to make sure the pad material is appropriate for touring. Some brake pads made for the demands of mountain biking have great hold-power, but get gobbled up in a short time.

    Good points SteveF.
    Mike

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    I have toured extensively on "road" bikes that are set up for touring as well as mountain bikes and true touring bikes. The true touring bike is best. Look for a used bike such as a fuji, Specialized Expedition (a real nice bike), Trek 520 or other machine. An older quality road bike with a long wheelbase (once referred to as sport touring) works well also. An early 70's Raleigh Competition, International, or Pro are my favorites but any bike with a 40" wheelbase or so works fine. You can have modern "braze-on's" added for extra bottles, racks, and even cantilever brakes. I toured cross country on a Raleigh Pro and it worked out great. My latest touring bike is a hybryd Schwinn Crosscut that is set up with drop bars and it has served me well also (most recently riding across Montana).
    In any case, used is the best value. Any decent stable bike with the proper setup for multiple hand positions will work. What's most important is to get out there and do a trip!

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    In my opinion, Cannondale make some of the best touring bikes available. Mine is 12 years old (so much for the fragile frame myth), and it is built like a tank! The old Dia-compe pads are no longer available, but 105 screw-on pads work just fine. Mine is set up with a 54-50-34 ringset, and 13-28 cogset, with a 14-30 sitting in a box at home for truly "loaded" touring. I'm riding on 27 x 1 1/4 tyres, too.
    Je vais à vélo, donc je suis!

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    The Flying Scot chewa's Avatar
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    How do you manage to push a 54-13 combo. Different strokes I suppose.

    In Europe a typical touring triple might be 48-38-28 with a 14-28 or 14-30 or even 34.

    My own bike is a double 48-36 with 14-28 but might change to a 14-34.
    plus je vois les hommes, plus j'admire les chiens

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    The 54-13 combo gives me about 110 gear inches, which is good for flat, fast, lightly loaded riding. I don't use it often, but it sure helps the miles roll quickly when I do.
    Je vais à vélo, donc je suis!

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    Member SteveF's Avatar
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    Originally posted by GERJ
    ...Look for a used bike such as a ... Specialized Expedition (a real nice bike)...
    Yep, sure are ... I took my 1986 Specialized Sequoia in to the LBS for servicing last spring, and the owner mentioned he had Expedition for sale and was I interested in adding it to my stable.

    I wasn't, but an office mate was looking to upgrade from his even older almost-department-store bike, so I turned him on to it. He's been very happy with his "new" toy!

    Everyone knows about Specialized's mountain bikes, and their more racing-oriented road bikes. The Expedition and Sequoia are virtually unknown, outside of people who own or have owned them -- undeservedly so.
    SteveF
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    A late addition to this discussion... but I'm just recently going through the threads on this forum.

    I've gone on long solo tours with my mountain bike, and it performed really well. In some ways it was clearly preferable to a dedicated touring bike. Here's why.

    My off-road rig is a Specialized Stumpjumper hardtail. The frame and wheels are bomb-proof. 26" wheels, heavy spokes, heavy rims. However heavy the load there's no problem. No broken spokes, no broken axles, nothing. The largest share of my riding was on pavement, but some of the country I rode into had dirt or gravel roads, with ruts and rocks. I knew everything was going to hold together, no sweat. I'd have been more concerned on a dedicated touring bike.

    The low granny gears. My touring was in a very hilly country and I went alone. Long days in the saddle, long and frequent hills, and a heavy load. I was hurting on my very lowest gears more than once. V<3 mph on long climbs. Sometimes standing on the granny gear! My low gear is 20x30, with 26" wheels, too. I think a standard touring bike's gears would have been uncomfortably big for me.

    As a point of information, too, I'm not Jan Ullrich but I'm not a wuss, either. I ride somewhere like 4 - 5 k miles a year. I often ride 19 miles in an hour on my road bike on solo recreational rides, and can go significantly faster when provoked. I'm not saying you should email any cycling coaches. I'm just saying I'm not a blob. Yet low gears were important in my hauling my arse up long hills. Something to keep in mind.

    Also, the brakes on a mtb are better than on a tourer, and this may be an important advantage if you're doing a lot of descending with a heavy load. I can't say I ever thought it was important to have the additional braking power, though.

    The tourer's got advantages with the drops and the more road worthy geometry. But you can make up for the mtb's problems somewhat-- and, I think, you can do this more easily than you can make the tourer as bomb-proof as the mtb.

    You have to make some changes to a mtb. I put thinner tires on the bike, and added racks front and back. (There's a company in MASS that makes racks for front-suspended bikes. I forgot their name. I ordered the parts mail-order. Worked out great.)

    I had bar ends that helped a lot with my hands. If I had it to do over again I'd put drops on the bike with some sort of bar-end style extension or an aero bar. But I was comfortable all day in the saddle as it was.

    A mtb with some modification is a perfectly serviceable touring machine, in other words! The mtb will be significantly cheaper than a tourer, too, especially if you avoid a lot of suspension (or even any suspension whatsoever).

  25. #25
    Every lane is a bike lane Chris L's Avatar
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    I like the MTB for touring simply because it can go more places. It wouldn't have been wise to attempt the border ranges on anything else a few weeks back.
    "I am never going to flirt with idleness again" - Roy Keane
    "We invite everyone to question the entire culture we take for granted." - Manic Street Preachers.
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