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  1. #1
    I'm made of earth! becnal's Avatar
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    Why Trek 520 for touring?

    I'm in Europe, and Treks aren't popular here since we have so many European bike companies. But why does it seem like the Trek 520 is the most popular touring bike in America? What differentiates it from other bikes and from other Treks that makes it great for touring? Is it the gearing? Thanks for the replies!

  2. #2
    Senior Member halfspeed's Avatar
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    It's one of the most reasonably priced complete purpose-built tourers from a reputable manufacturer available in the US.

    None of the other Trek road bikes has the tire/fender clearance, braze-ons or carrying capacity to do loaded touring well. Some of the hybrids might work, but the flat bars are suboptimal for most tourists.

    Going only by the posts on this forum and perceived availability, the dominance of the 520 may be getting eclipsed by Surly's LHT.

  3. #3
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    The American market is different than Europe, and there hasn't been as much demand here for practical touring-style bikes, so it is a small market, and most manufacturers stopped making this type of bike. The Trek 520 stayed around for many years, and at around $1000, is very versatile - you can use it to commute, do centuries, club rides, and loaded touring with a few mods. Sold at the local bike shop, and extremely comfortable and durable in use. The only direct competitors, and even harder to find, are the Novara Randonee and the Cannondale T800, often not stocked by dealers. The LHT is excellent, but a recent entry into the market. So I suppose the answer to your question is that in addition to being very capable, the Trek has been the most readily available on a consistent basis, for people to ride and buy.

    You have to understand that most Americans view bicycles as recreational toys, unfortunately. So for the past 20 years the bicycle market here was defined mostly by Mountain bikes, and there were few LBS that even sold much selection of road bikes, Trek being an exception. More recently (thanks Lance), road cycling has become popular again, but even there the emphasis is on road sport and hybrids for recreation, not so much touring or commuting. So the Trek 520 gained popularity by simply being there, and being a good bike. I know I like mine.
    Last edited by mtnroads; 02-22-06 at 03:20 AM.
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  4. #4
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    The Trek 520 is tops on the short list of off-the-rack touring bikes sold in America.

    Very versatile and solid. I like that the frames are still made in Wisconsin.
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

  5. #5
    Senior Member Thulsadoom's Avatar
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    I agree with the posters above. In what is a relatively small market for touring bikes, the design and simplicity of the 520 is hard to improve on much. Plus, Trek is a large company, so the 520 is very visible, in that it's the first touring bike most people will hear about when they ask for a touring bike.

    I've put a lot of miles on my 520 over the last 5 years or so, and only changed a few things around. It's a very good, solid, all around bike.

  6. #6
    I'm made of earth! becnal's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtnroads
    You have to understand that most Americans view bicycles as recreational toys, unfortunately.
    Oh yeah, I get that totally. I'm from New York. And by the way, my name is Lance. You wouldn't believe how much flack I get about that over here.

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    Banned wagathon's Avatar
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    I think that the use of mtn-type 26" bikes sort of pinched off the use of road bikes for loaded touring. They're easily up to the task, except for lacking an efficient posture for up to 70 mile/day treks. Even years ago, there were towns along the Oregon coast where bike shops probably would look at you funny if you asked about having a 700c wheel repaired or replaced.

    The 520 is interesting in a retro sort of way. Ok (even ideal) to keep the steel frame but Trek should ditch the friction bar end shifters for STI and use mtn bike triple cranks to accommodate a wide range of closely-spaced gears, weighted to the low end.
    Last edited by wagathon; 02-22-06 at 06:13 PM.

  8. #8
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    I agree with most of the posts. I am on my second Trek 520, first one lasted thirteen years. It's very reliable, built to accommodate touring (fenders, front and back braze-ons, rugged). The gearing should be lower but Trek generally puts on the standard chainrings and cassettes, rather than custom-make something just for the touring bike. And the price is right at about $1000-$1100. I also have a high-end Waterford touring bike. It's also a great bike, but too pricey for many folks. I like the bar-end shifters on the Trek 520 because they can easily be fixed on the road, or by a an inexperienced bike mechanic that one is more likely to find in a small town.

    Dave

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    Very few companies make and market touring bikes any more. While Cannondale makes a touring bike you almost never see them in the dealers.

    But you can find Trek 520's very often. Schwinn used to make a similar touring bike called the Voyager that wasn't quite as good as the 520 but since they were so visible in the marketplace they sold a ton of them.

    I would buy a Trek 520 LONG before a Surly. Buy American whenever possible.

  10. #10
    More Energy than Sense aroundoz's Avatar
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    Not to be negative because I think the 520 is the best value out there, but I wished Trek made it w/ a longer head tube and longer steerer tube like the LHT, for example. Such a simple improvement would make it much more comfortable for taller riders and you wouldn't have to put a high angle stem on it.

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    The 520 is so popular because it is damn near the ONLY widely available, reasonably priced touring bike available in North America. It's not like it's a fantastic bike, it just fits the bill in enough ways and has few enough competitors to be on top of the pile.

    But I mean, come on Trek - all I want you to do is replace that Road triple with a nice LX (or even Deore) mountain triple and the status of the bike in my mind would be much higher. (I have a 2003 520.)

    This year's 520 is an especially nice color, though. LHT color pretty much.

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    Buy American??

    Not exactly an economist, are we?

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    Uh, no, most of us here probably aren't economists, but some of us do prefer to support American workers when we can, assuming comparable products and given the choice.
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    Quote Originally Posted by awc380
    The 520 is so popular because it is damn near the ONLY widely available, reasonably priced touring bike available in North America. It's not like it's a fantastic bike, it just fits the bill in enough ways and has few enough competitors to be on top of the pile.

    But I mean, come on Trek - all I want you to do is replace that Road triple with a nice LX (or even Deore) mountain triple and the status of the bike in my mind would be much higher. (I have a 2003 520.)

    This year's 520 is an especially nice color, though. LHT color pretty much.
    Look at this crank: http://www.nashbar.com/profile.cfm?c...eid=&pagename=

    I'd prefer a 24 tooth granny but at this price you can buy one and still come out ahead.

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    half man - half sheep Doggus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by awc380
    Buy American??

    Not exactly an economist, are we?

    Bikes don't qualify as economy purchases anymore. When's the last time you went into the LBS and looked at price tags. The Trek 520 in this thread doesn't even quailify at $1k. My coworkers can't see how I paid over $200-$400 for a bike. Maybe if you purchase from Wallmart you can claim such.
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    The 520 is like the Jeep Grand Cherokee of touring bikes. For almost 3x the money you could buy a Range Rover or Lexus LX 470. You wouldn't be getting three times the vehicle, comfort, or utility. That's not to say that the Rover and Lexus aren't fine vehicles, they are, just not worth the dough. Same goes for touring bikes. There are a raft of more expensive, but, not necessarily better touring bikes than the 520 available. Yes, some may actually be better bikes, but not enough to justify their price tags at 2x to 3x the 520 price.

    Their are some who would like to see Trek change the 520. They should probably buy another bike.

    I don't think anyone has ever done a count, but if they did it wouldn't surprise me if more 520s had crossed the country than any other bike.

    Durable utility with off the rack availability that can't be beat.
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    Quote Originally Posted by becnal
    I'm in Europe, and Treks aren't popular here since we have so many European bike companies. But why does it seem like the Trek 520 is the most popular touring bike in America? What differentiates it from other bikes and from other Treks that makes it great for touring? Is it the gearing? Thanks for the replies!
    The only reason the Trek 520 sells here is because we don't have St. John's cycles! in the U.S.! I also don't believe the average person looking for a touring bike knows how high geared the 520 really is or that a mountain bike transmission is most desirable. In addition, most people are not aware of alternatives like the Surly LHT and didn't Giant discontinue their tourer?

    Having said that, I like the 520 as someone pointed out due to its low center of gravity. I looked at my Univega hybrid and wondered why it felt good even though it's heavy. It's due to the long wheel base with a low center of gravity just like the 520. I didn't think this was so important but it is since this bike does NOT need a suspension seat post but my Jamis Aurora does! The Aurora has a higher center of gravity and does not absorb the road grind as well over a long ride even though it has a low Reynolds frame. I suspect the 520 would probably feel just like my 80's Univega because they look just like each other with that low center of gravity due to the frame construction!
    Last edited by Dahon.Steve; 02-23-06 at 04:34 PM.

  18. #18
    jcm
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    Quote Originally Posted by tom cotter
    The 520 is like the Jeep Grand Cherokee of touring bikes. For almost 3x the money you could buy a Range Rover or Lexus LX 470. You wouldn't be getting three times the vehicle, comfort, or utility. That's not to say that the Rover and Lexus aren't fine vehicles, they are, just not worth the dough. Same goes for touring bikes. There are a raft of more expensive, but, not necessarily better touring bikes than the 520 available. Yes, some may actually be better bikes, but not enough to justify their price tags at 2x to 3x the 520 price.

    Their are some who would like to see Trek change the 520. They should probably buy another bike.

    I don't think anyone has ever done a count, but if they did it wouldn't surprise me if more 520s had crossed the country than any other bike.

    Durable utility with off the rack availability that can't be beat.
    Good analogy and point well made on price/value. I'm on my fourth week after buying a '98 520. I have run up over 800 miles on it. I simply can find no real issues that are anything more than pure personal preferences. I've been using the wrong saddle, the wrong bars, the wrong levers and the wrong tires, and it still feels like a bike to keep forever.

    Two days ago, I put North Road bars with Avid MTB levers on it. A Brooks B-67 is in the mail. After that, a set of Nimbus 32mm Armadillos will replace the Bontrager 28mm Race Lites. The morph is on. I know this bike will take to it beautifully.

  19. #19
    Cincinnati Rider
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    Check out the Specialized 2000 and the 800. Both are wonderful touring bikes.

  20. #20
    biked well well biked's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wagathon
    I think that the use of mtn-type 26" bikes sort of pinched off the use of road bikes for loaded touring. They're easily up to the task, except for lacking an efficient posture for up to 70 mile/day treks. Even years ago, there were towns along the Oregon coast where bike shops probably would look at you funny if you asked about having a 700c wheel repaired or replaced.

    The 520 is interesting in a retro sort of way. Ok (even ideal) to keep the steel frame but Trek should ditch the friction bar end shifters for STI and use mtn bike triple cranks to accommodate a wide range of closely-spaced gears, weighted to the low end.
    If they switched to mtb cranks, then a mtb front der. would be needed. And my understanding is that STI (brifters) won't work with mtb front derailleurs. I agree, though; the main complaint you hear about the 520 is that the stock gearing is too high for a dedicated touring bike. The answer is clear: a crankset with lower gears, but stick with the bar-ends!

  21. #21
    Banned wagathon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by well biked
    If they switched to mtb cranks, then a mtb front der. would be needed. And my understanding is that STI (brifters) won't work with mtb front derailleurs. I agree, though; the main complaint you hear about the 520 is that the stock gearing is too high for a dedicated touring bike. The answer is clear: a crankset with lower gears, but stick with the bar-ends!
    an Ultegra front dr works just fine with LX triple cranks, and with a 10-spd cog, there's no hill too high and no gear lacking (except for pedaling downhill at about 25 mph)

  22. #22
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    My 1995 Trek 520 came stock with full Shimano LX - LX crankset (46-36-26), front der, rear der, hubs. Cogset was 11-28, easily switched to 13-30 (7 spd). I changed my front inner to a 24t, outer to a 48t, giving 24-36-48, and the gearing is perfect.

    I don't know why they made the switch to the road triple in front.
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    My 2005 Trek 520 had the stock 105 crankset that I had the LBS swapp out for LX 44-32-22 and new BB 121mm BB-spindle length ES51/ES30 but kept the 105 front derailluer. Not one problem at all. No need to swap that out.

  24. #24
    jcm
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    Earlier I wrote that I could find no real issues with the 520. I simply forgot to say, "except for the gearing." Once I install the bigger Armadillos, it may indeed come to the fore, especially when loaded.

  25. #25
    Bring That Beat Back Old Dirt Hill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyclintom
    I would buy a Trek 520 LONG before a Surly. Buy American whenever possible.
    Isn't Surly an American company?

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