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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 06-26-06, 11:58 PM   #1
rp macpherson
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1st Touring Bike: Volpe or Aurora (or..?)

Hey everyone, I'm relatively new to biking and a first-timer on the forum. Ive slowly caught the bug over the past 3 years, fluctuating between excitement for finally being on a bike again and being sometimes frustrated with my unwieldy, uppity Giant Cypress hybrid. I'm now in the market for something faster and sleeker, and I'm determined to do some touring in the next year. Since I am a novice cycler and a broke college student, I can't commit more than $900 to my next bike. I've done some research and it seems like the only touring bikes that consistently fit my specs and price range are the Bianchi Volpe and Jamis Aurora (though I've also seen the Novara Randonee and the Windsor Tourist on some sites.) What are the pros and cons and which do you recommend? Am I overlooking a good candidate? Keep in mind that I would like the bike to be my primary for short local rides (20-30miles) but also one that will withstand a tour of 1000+ miles next summer. Thanks in advance for any advice, I'm pretty lost.
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Old 06-27-06, 12:12 AM   #2
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Find a dealer with a 520 that they can't move in August.
If you need to special order, you'll pay retail, but 520s are very hard to move, sometimes they last in stock more than a year. You won't pay retail. I got mine for near $900. Remember the bike shop buys em at wholesale, which on the 520 is 50% of MSRP. You'll have to work for this, might be worth calling trek to see if they know who has any in stock.
Also, get em to switcfh out the cranks for an LX. It should be a straight swap, new 105 cranks move fast, but the minute you buy it and they're no longer new, you'll pay for the change.
Look at the wheels at all the bikes.
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Old 06-27-06, 06:27 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rp macpherson
Am I overlooking a good candidate? Keep in mind that I would like the bike to be my primary for short local rides (20-30miles) but also one that will withstand a tour of 1000+ miles next summer. Thanks in advance for any advice, I'm pretty lost.
Yes, you are overlooking the used bike market. Of what's new out there, the Aurora and the Volpe are among the few touring bikes under $900 - the Fuji Tour and Novara Randonee also come to mind. In fact when I was at REI last week, I saw a Randonee with a clearance tag on it. However, you could probably find an old Trek or Miyata (or other) for under $500 and change any components to suit yourself.

Of the two choices you list I am partial to the Volpe as my girfriend just got one and it's great. It's ready to go right off the rack, whereas the Aurora and Fuji Tour come with big 52-42-30 chainwheels. I think the Randonee comes with a smaller set of chainrings like the Volpe.

Finally, if you want to be dealing with an LBS and a warranty and not a used bike, I'd base my decision between the Volpe and Aurora (or others) on which shop you like best as much as the bike. Of course the geometry may be a limitiing factor. The Volpe fit my gf better than any other touring bike (in fact only a Trek Pilot WSD road bike was as perfect in fit), but ymmv.

Last edited by pHunbalanced; 06-27-06 at 08:39 AM.
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Old 06-27-06, 07:44 AM   #4
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Craigslist is also a great resource. I got my 70s-80s Raleigh touring bike with front and rear racks plus a handlebar bag and a spare stem for $50. Of course, then you have to figure out what you need more on your own, and have a lesser chance of not getting exactly what you're looking for (i.e. my bike was sized a bit under what i was looking for, so i got a bigger stem and jacked the seat up). But for me - who doesn't want to spend 500-2000 on a bike, it was perfect.

www.craigslist.org -- big cities (for me, Boston) have 100s of bikes on there a day
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Old 06-27-06, 09:14 AM   #5
rp macpherson
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pHunbalanced
Finally, if you want to be dealing with an LBS and a warranty and not a used bike, I'd base my decision between the Volpe and Aurora (or others) on which shop you like best as much as the bike. Of course the geometry may be a limitiing factor. The Volpe fit my gf better than any other touring bike (in fact only a Trek Pilot WSD road bike was as perfect in fit), but ymmv.
Part of the reason I am more inclined to get a new bike is that I know little about bike maintenance and I would feel a little more comfortable knowing the bike I'm riding has a warranty, mechanical support, etc. I've seen some interesting used bikes on Craig's List and eBay but I just don't feel like I know enough about them to determine if they are worth the money. I'd hate to make the hour drive into DC or the suburbs to discover that a bike is too small for me, or rusted, or not worth the money. Is their a particular time of year when my LBS is more likely to have sales or be talked down?
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Old 06-27-06, 09:36 AM   #6
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Where do you live

Up here in the northern tier of states (other than OR & WA) bicycling is regarded by most folks (silly as they are) as a 6-8 month activity and many bike shops are "bike and fitness" shops that clear out half their bikes for skis or indoor excercise equipment in Sep-Oct. You can find great deals as the season ends. In the rest of the country it's a function of when the new models start to sell and the old ones are hanging around too long (usually the early part of the year). From what I'm told, bikes are in greatest demand in FL in winter, so maybe it would be late spring before prices drop. I dunno for sure about that though.

It can be pretty random. Right now a nearby shop has all their Specialized bikes (the main brand they carry) at 20-30% off. Last year, midsummer, the LBS where my mom lives had a Trek 520 on clearance for $800! it had a small nick in the top tube. If only I'd had the $$$$ at the time.

Among new models, I think you are on the right track, but if you can be patient, just watch the prices for a while. Of course your size makes a difference. If you are like me, shops carry your size in many models right there. If you are very large or small, you are unlikely to find any clearance bikes unless somebody returned one they were unhappy with.

Last edited by pHunbalanced; 06-28-06 at 10:21 AM.
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Old 06-27-06, 09:46 AM   #7
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Just noticed you're near DC. You have more a of a year round cycling climate, so I wouldn't bank on as much fall clearance activity. Still, after the new models come in (December? January?) you should be able to deal. Based on the positive buzz and the demand that caused them to sell out last winter, it may be hard to find deals on Volpes, but the Aurora and the Randonee (both are nice bikes) seem to be getting less attention. Like I said, right now REI seems to be clearing out the 2006 Randonee for some reason.
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Old 06-27-06, 11:31 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pHunbalanced
Just noticed you're near DC. You have more a of a year round cycling climate, so I wouldn't bank on as much fall clearance activity. Still, after the new models come in (December? January?) you should be able to deal. Based on the positive buzz and the demand that caused them to sell out last winter, it may be hard to find deals on Volpes, but the Aurora and the Randonee (both are nice bikes) seem to be getting less attention. Like I said, right now REI seems to be clearing out the 2006 Randonee for some reason.
Bikes further south are cleared out to make room for the next year. This happens august to january depending on the manufacturer and the shop.
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Old 06-27-06, 01:07 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pHunbalanced
Of the two choices you list I am partial to the Volpe as my girfriend just got one and it's great. It's ready to go right off the rack, whereas the Aurora and Fuji Tour come with big 52-42-30 chainwheels. I think the Randonee comes with a smaller set of chainrings like the Volpe.
I have both bikes and your observation is pretty spot on. The Aurora has a larger frame than the Volpe and feels like a bigger bike because it has a conventional geometry which is why it's actually too big for me. However, I've become accustomed to the larger size and I shift around all the time so I'll never really feel uncomfortable. It's odd but I like the feel of the larger Aurora more than the Volpe.

I still think the hubs on the Aurora 2002 aren't too good and the Specs on the Volpe were much better. However, this may have changed on the 2005 Aurora version. Overall, both are good bikes but I've never really put bags on them. If I did do this, I would say the Volpe's wheels are better overall.

By the way, the Trek 520 has the same gearing as my Aurora and I struggle up some of the steepest hills without bags! A change of the cassette will be in order if you purchase the Aurora or 520.
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Old 06-27-06, 07:21 PM   #10
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Bad experiance with jamis customer service

I own two Jamis bikes a Dakar Comp and a Quest. I have had warrenty issues with both bikes and Jamis has not been easy to work with. I had a defective seat post on my dakar that took 6 weeks and about 15 emails to get resolved (and I ended up buying a cheap replacement seatpost so I could ride) I have been happy with the bikes other than this issue but it would need to be as great deal for me to buy another Jamis
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Old 06-27-06, 09:32 PM   #11
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the aurora is still using Reynolds 520 while bianchi has switched to it's own version of cro-moly, "Bianchi DB CrMo", which no one to my knowledge has yet been able to find anything about. the aurora geometry is actually a bit better for touring than the volpe, with longer chainstays and wheelbase. the aurora comes with sora hubs and the volpe with tiagra. other than that the components are basically similar.

my own bike is an old bianchi, which i love. but if i were to choose between these two, i might lean toward the aurora.
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Old 06-28-06, 07:34 AM   #12
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The Volpe has slightly better hubs. The Aurora has better handlebars and an adjustable stem (which can be nice). The Volpe has more sensible gearing. Looking at the Aurora's geometry, it seems that it is more of a dedicated tourer than the Volpe, so it might be a little more sluggish, but also more stable and less squirrelly. Not that the Aurora seems to be a slug or the Volpe a squirrel. The Aurora has interrupter brake levers, which are nice if you like to ride on the tops of the bars.

So the Aurora is geared more towards touring and the Volpe is marketed more as a do-anything type of bike. The Volpe can fit up to maybe 35mm wide tires - not sure how wide the Aurora goes.
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Old 06-28-06, 09:31 AM   #13
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What is the tubing on the Trek 520?
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Old 06-28-06, 12:48 PM   #14
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520's tubing is True Temper OX.
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Old 06-28-06, 03:02 PM   #15
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Aurora

I traded a Felt for the Aurora last year as I was doing more commuting/touring than fast riding.
It is actually an older Aurora frame with some non-standard components:

Deore Rear
Sora front (I think?)
Bar-End shifter
Tektro brakes (calipers... I wish that was different)
Nitto Technomics stem
Nitto Randonneuring bars
Brooks B.17 seat

so this was not a stock bike

But I just got off the road from a week tour, and it performed flawlessly and was comfortable (Steel is real!)
The newer Auroras are a tad different, but not too much so (mostly components)
To be honest, over some pretty good Wisconsin hills, the gearing was not so bad (I think it is 52-40-30)
That may change next year

if you are touring later this year, perhaps buy now and spend the summer tweaking if needed.
side note: one big THUMBS UP for the Nitto Randonneuring bars. The down position is actually USEABLE -- almost more comfy than up
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