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  1. #1
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    New kid on the block looking for advice

    I'm looking for a bike that will provide the following:

    Regular, daily 20 mile commutes 1/2 of which are on gravel, the other 1/2 on rough paved county roads.

    Flexibility to expand with longer treks 100 miles plus.

    speed and comfort - No racing, but I'd like to move when desired.

    Can break down for easy storage induring winter months with limited space requirement.

    Can accept fenders and bags.

    A trouble free (not too finicky) mechanical system that is LOW maintenance and durable.

    A bike that has a great reputation and will provide years of trouble free service to its 41 year old owner.

    I'll ride 6-8 months out of the year, primarily to work and back (20 miles - gravel/pavement mix) but want to expand my horizons to short 3-5 day trips.

    Thanks!
    TACAMOJOE

  2. #2
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    Is it 20 miles total or 20 miles each way? How is the gravel part? Rough, loose stuff, sand, mud? The stone dust used on rails to trails can be done with narrow tires, but real gravel needs more.

    I would basically suggest that any touring bike should be a good start, as you may have 700x32 or even 700x37 tires (though in many times it's a tight fit). Get low gears, however.

    One very serious contender for your type of riding is the Bruce Gordon which comes right off the box with good touring gearing, and is very sturdy so your bags won't rattle if you ride fully loaded in gravel. As a bonus, you can use 700x42 or 45 tires with fenders, which means you can have a very decent ride on gravel, and still have a decent bike if/when you ride on asphalt.

    Unless you ride in mud, good wide tires like the 700x37 Continental Top Touring (they don't make it anymore, but I hear good vibes about Schwalbe's Marathon XR) have a smooth surface so they ride well on asphalt and on gravel alike. If your gravel is too rough, you may go a size wider on the back. And if you plan a long tour on asphalt, go to 700x32, or maybe 700x32 front and 700x37 rear.

    If you go with a Bruce Gordon, I'd suggest you take a look at his racks. Steel racks won't crack with vibrations and they are very sturdy. I have no experience with his rear racks, but I just installed two front racks which are nice piece of work and, most importantly, very sturdy. I have yet to tour with them, so, as they say, the acid test will come, but I'm not worrying.
    Michel Gagnon
    Montréal (Québec, Canada)

  3. #3
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    Michel,

    Thanks for the reply. This is a 20mile round trip 1/2 of which is on a grade 5 (sand/clay/small course rock) gravel road. The road packs well in moisture but can become a bit sandy (not overly) when bone dry.

    During the spring, due to frost thaw, it becomes a little soupy. Otherwise, the typical washboarding can occur when it isn't graded.

    I see that Bruce Gordon has two frames that look applicable to my conditions, the BLT and the Rock "N" Road.

    Since I am fairly new to this, I appreciate your advice. I am pretty fit (ex-military type) 185 lbs and 6ft tall. My intent would be to commit to a virtually car free commute to and from work as well as extended weekend trips as I find the opportunity.

    Now it seems that their is a 700c and 26" geometry withing each model category. Reading other strings, it seems that their are some pro's and con's to either geometry, though slight. Of more concern to me is the ability to achieve good traction without sacrificing too much energy as a compromise.

    At 41, I'm beginning to appreciate comfort too!!

    Tacamojoe

  4. #4
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    The BG is a fully rigged load-carrier. If you want to do cycle-camping they are hard to beat but for lighter use, a lighter frame can be used. Many of the cyclo-cross style of bike make useful commuters and light-tourers combining wide tyre capacity with agile handling.
    If you need to break-down the frame for storage then S&S couplers are the way to go but do you reallyy need to split the frame?

  5. #5
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    If you need to break-down the frame for storage then S&S couplers are the way to go but do you reallyy need to split the frame?

    Space is a concern to me since I bought a home with no garage. Every extra bedroom has a child occupying it and the space in my home is limited. My wife get's a little irritated when I clutter it up with "hobbies" so I was hoging to store the bike during winter months in a small closet. The other alternative is to somehow hang it on a high 10 foot wall in a laundry/utility area. I really should take the bike into the come to reduce the condensation that would form on steel in outdoor northern MN temeratures during the wintertime. My children's bikes rust terribly after a single winter in cold storage (I have a cheap tin shed I keep them in) and I'd hate to stash a beautiful touring bike in the same environment.

    Will a Cyclocross bike accept racks without heel interference (I have read about making bikes intended for one purpose but used as tourers?)

    The SS fasteners sound very nice but add a significant amount to the overall price.

  6. #6
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    Most touring-style CX bikes accept a rack and have adaquate heel clearance. It really helps if your panniers have a heel cutout; avoid square-shaped bags.
    Some of the exp tourers have extra-long chain stays, this is to balance the heavy load inside the wheelbase as well as to avoid heel clip but for lighter loads it is not so vital.

  7. #7
    I'm made of earth! becnal's Avatar
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    All bikes require regular maintenance, no matter how good they are.

  8. #8
    Senior Member SteelCommuter's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tacamojoe
    I'm looking for a bike that will provide the following:

    Regular, daily 20 mile commutes 1/2 of which are on gravel, the other 1/2 on rough paved county roads.

    Flexibility to expand with longer treks 100 miles plus.

    speed and comfort - No racing, but I'd like to move when desired.

    Can break down for easy storage induring winter months with limited space requirement.

    Can accept fenders and bags.

    A trouble free (not too finicky) mechanical system that is LOW maintenance and durable.

    A bike that has a great reputation and will provide years of trouble free service to its 41 year old owner.

    I'll ride 6-8 months out of the year, primarily to work and back (20 miles - gravel/pavement mix) but want to expand my horizons to short 3-5 day trips.

    Thanks!
    TACAMOJOE
    Could you clarify your budget?

  9. #9
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    I have to say that for around $1000-1200, a Trek 520 would fit the bill nicely. Comfortable, strong, can take bigger tires and racks, great components for your intended purpose, and fast enough to do some club rides when you want. Many people use them for commuting as well as centuries, credit card touring and self-supported touring. If I could only keep one bike that could do it all, that would be it. Find a place to hang the bike indoors during the winter to protect it.
    Last edited by mtnroads; 02-13-06 at 11:46 AM.
    Specialized Roubaix SL4 Disc, Cannondale T2000 (touring), Stumpjumper M5 (Mtn - hardtail), Cannondale Rize4 (Mtn - full susp)

  10. #10
    Senior Member kbabin's Avatar
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    What about a Surly CrossCheck?
    http://www.surlybikes.com/bikes.html

    Or if you can get to an REI store, maybe the Big Buzz for a flat bar bike?
    http://www.rei.com/online/store/Prod...HP_CYCLING_TOC

    Also for the storage problem, what about this?
    http://www.rei.com/online/store/Prod...HP_CYCLING_TOC

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtnroads
    I have to say that for around $1000-1200, a Trek 520 would fit the bill nicely. Comfortable, strong, can take bigger tires and racks, great components for your intended purpose, and fast enough to do some club rides when you want. Many people use them for commuting as well as centuries, credit card touring and self-supported touring. If I could only keep one bike that could do it all, that would be it. Find a place to hang the bike indoors during the winter to protect it.
    I second the 520 as a great all around bike. The one problem I see in the scenario presented is the need for bigger tires with fenders. At 35cm there is marginal clearance for fenders. I switched out my 35cm tires for this reason. 32cm fit just fine. If the ride doesn't involve loose gravel 32cm tires should be OK. The 520 is a good bike, in the way a Ford or Chevy pickup are good trucks. It's not the fanciest, or most expensive, but, it gets the job done.
    I'm just trying to be the person my dog thinks I am.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by SteelCommuter
    Could you clarify your budget?
    I am considering 2K to 2.5K for a budget.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by tom cotter
    I second the 520 as a great all around bike. The one problem I see in the scenario presented is the need for bigger tires with fenders. At 35cm there is marginal clearance for fenders. I switched out my 35cm tires for this reason. 32cm fit just fine. If the ride doesn't involve loose gravel 32cm tires should be OK.

    Hmmm...The gravel, depending on the weather can get loose. I need a bike that can be fitted with a tire that is "loose gravel ready" but feels equally at home on the road. The 520 recommendation seems like a good one since the price/value relationship is there, on the other hand, the Bruce Gordon sounds like a veritable tank ready for whatever can be thrown at or on it.

    I was reading an article that seemed to praise the bike but slam on Bruce as a difficult man to deal with. Then another person in a seperate article said that he was treated like a real gentleman. It's difficult to know for sure, since even I have my good and my bad days. One thing that seemed consistent in the Bruce Gordon articles is that he would recommend the next smaller size to the size these people felt they needed. Then, when the bikes were received, the people's worst fears were confirmed and they would develop wrist pain, etc.

    I work in product development for a large made to order manufacturer and certainly understand that you can't please all of the people all of the time when it comes to custom sized and optioned products, but one thing we do well is servicing a disatisfied customer without making them feel as if they are the one at fault.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by tacamojoe
    Hmmm...The gravel, depending on the weather can get loose. I need a bike that can be fitted with a tire that is "loose gravel ready" but feels equally at home on the road. The 520 recommendation seems like a good one since the price/value relationship is there, on the other hand, the Bruce Gordon sounds like a veritable tank ready for whatever can be thrown at or on it.

    I was reading an article that seemed to praise the bike but slam on Bruce as a difficult man to deal with. Then another person in a seperate article said that he was treated like a real gentleman. It's difficult to know for sure, since even I have my good and my bad days. One thing that seemed consistent in the Bruce Gordon articles is that he would recommend the next smaller size to the size these people felt they needed. Then, when the bikes were received, the people's worst fears were confirmed and they would develop wrist pain, etc.

    I work in product development for a large made to order manufacturer and certainly understand that you can't please all of the people all of the time when it comes to custom sized and optioned products, but one thing we do well is servicing a disatisfied customer without making them feel as if they are the one at fault.
    Getting the fit right is the most important factor. This is difficult to do with a mail order bike, which is what you've got with BG. I've heard that Gordon can be difficult, but have not dealt with him myself. When i bought my 520 I had no price limit. i tested bikes costing several times it's price. Yet, for me, the 520 did everything I needed.

    The 520 may not be the bike for you, but, spending more money doesn't get you more bike. Another bike to look at is the Cannondale T2000/800 series. Tough bikes built to take a beating. Both are less expensive than the BG BLT and you can be fitted locally. Another suggestion, a bike that gets good reviews on this site, the Bianchi Volpe. Lastly, in the up market expensive bike market check out the Co-motion Nor'wester. High quality, made to order, used by touring cyclist as well as Randonneurs.

    I'm not saying don't go with the BG, it's a good bike, just know what you are getting yourself into, and that you have alternatives.
    I'm just trying to be the person my dog thinks I am.

  15. #15
    Senior Member SteelCommuter's Avatar
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    Everyone is mentioning great bikes. You really can't go wrong with any of them, properly sized.

    That said, I have a few ideas. One, if tire clearance is important to you, especially with fenders, go with a frame that states clearance for 45 mm-or-more tires. Bruce Gordon's bikes will clear these, the Surly LHT and Crosscheck will, the Atlantis will, Co-Motions probably do but I dunno, others as well. You may use only 32 mm tires, but the option to use larger ones and give your bike a different character is very nice to have.

    Second, with your budget (which I'll assume is for everything) and your goals to commute and go on short trips, you could swing a custom TIG'ed frame from a US builder. That is an option to consider. But the parts and equipment will begin to add up, so you may not want to go down that road.

    If you got the Surly ($400) frame, you could invest in a nice custom wheelset. I'd encourage to consider the option of a front generator hub wheel from Peter White, so you have lighting all the time from your own power. There is something very liberating about that, and they work in all weather conditions, with no batteries to worry about. You could buy Tubus, BG, or Nitto racks for the front and rear, or just rear, a set of nice bags (panniers or a saddlebag, maybe a rack-mounted front bag).

    You could do most of these things with a full production bike, too. I know if most of my riding was on gravel roads in Minnesota, it would be important to me to have a bike that could fit 37mm tires and fenders. I do not know which of the production bikes can do that. I mean true 37 mm width, not what it says on the sidewall. I might not even use that width, but knowing I could is important.

    You could also consider the Gunnar Rock Tour, made in Wisconsin, and a touring bike with off-road loaded riding in mind. Plenty of clearance. They can do custom work for an upcharge.

    And don't forget those generator lights, for those shorter days in the winter

  16. #16
    Senior Member ken cummings's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Michel Gagnon
    Is it 20 miles total or 20 miles each way? How is the gravel part? Rough, loose stuff, sand, mud? The stone dust used on rails to trails can be done with narrow tires, but real gravel needs more.

    I would basically suggest that any touring bike should be a good start, as you may have 700x32 or even 700x37 tires (though in many times it's a tight fit). Get low gears, however.

    One very serious contender for your type of riding is the Bruce Gordon which comes right off the box with good touring gearing, and is very sturdy so your bags won't rattle if you ride fully loaded in gravel. As a bonus, you can use 700x42 or 45 tires with fenders, which means you can have a very decent ride on gravel, and still have a decent bike if/when you ride on asphalt.

    Unless you ride in mud, good wide tires like the 700x37 Continental Top Touring (they don't make it anymore, but I hear good vibes about Schwalbe's Marathon XR) have a smooth surface so they ride well on asphalt and on gravel alike. If your gravel is too rough, you may go a size wider on the back. And if you plan a long tour on asphalt, go to 700x32, or maybe 700x32 front and 700x37 rear.

    If you go with a Bruce Gordon, I'd suggest you take a look at his racks. Steel racks won't crack with vibrations and they are very sturdy. I have no experience with his rear racks, but I just installed two front racks which are nice piece of work and, most importantly, very sturdy. I have yet to tour with them, so, as they say, the acid test will come, but I'm not worrying.
    Bruces' rear racks work fine too. I use them on one of his BLTs. I can fill my saddle bags with big rocks for my garden when commuting home. The rear racks are offset from the rear dropouts further than any other rack to keep bags out of the rear wheels. And, uniquely, there are braze-ons on the rack for the rear stays of a set of fenders. He does not like cluttering up the area around the rear dropouts with fender stays. "They get in the way when changing tires" he told me. I have the pleasure of living within bike distance of his shop. He really likes seeing people USE his bikes, not let them sit in storage. Want to ride fast with a BG bike. Change wheels and tires and ditch the racks. Much better he does make light racing and randonneuring(sp) bikes, lugged or welded. Get one of each kind
    This space open

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