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  1. #1
    Junior Member urbanrider's Avatar
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    Climbing and the Trek 520

    Based on the many posts in this forum the 520 seems to be a good contender in touring bike choices.
    I'm considering buying one this spring but I have one major concern.
    I have average ability to climb hills with an XC. I live in a very hilly part of Canada. (Nova Scotia)

    Given that the 520 is fairly heavy, how does one conquer hills with the added weight of touring gear? It seems to me that walking the bike uphill happens regularly unless I'm missing something here??
    Are all touring riders fit enough to climb with this additional weight?

    Please comment
    Thanks in Advance

  2. #2
    Year-round cyclist
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    Practically speaking, the weight of the bicycle isn't an issue unless you carry it around. Then the issue is that the rear end has beefier stays, 9 gears and that it is rear-end heavy (at least when I compare to my 1980 Vélo Sport Alpin). For climbing, what's the difference between having a 25 lb bike and a 30 lb bike with similar geometry and bearings? Almost none. Add 40-50 lb of gear, however, and that becomes a significant issue.

    The general problem with the Trek 520 gearing, however, is that it is geared like "road" bikes, with the idea that one would push hard or even stand up when climbing hills. While that work in town (providing you don't wear your Sunday's best) or on light dayrides, it doesn't work on loaded and/or long rides.

    The "concensus": negociate with the bike shop to have lower gears... which is something many shop oners are willing to trade for free or at a relatively low cost as they may "recycle" what they take off your bike.

    Option 1 is to keep the Shimano 105 and replace ring(s) by 52-40-24 (or 26, take the smallest). Eventually, when the cogs wear, you might replace them with Sheldon Brown's Century special (14-34 -- see http://www.sheldonbrown.com/harris/k7.html)

    Option 2 is to ask the shop to replace the crankset and bottom bracket with a LX or XT MTB crankset. This is what I have done and I now have 44-34-22 rings. Now that, 2 years down the road, I have replaced the cassette with a custom 12-14-15-16-17-19-21-25-32, I have gears between 18,5 and 99 gear-inches.

    For a gear calculator, see http://www.sheldonbrown.com/gears and compare with what you have on your current bike.
    Michel Gagnon
    Montréal (Québec, Canada)

  3. #3
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    Michel is right about the bike weight not being that big a deal.

    We NOW own a couple 520s. Heavy?? They are MUCH lighter than the Peugeot UO-8s we toured with for years with several long trips through the Canadian Rockies and adjacent mountains.

    My bike was set up as a 10-speed with a high gear of something like 82" and a low of 27". We were fully loaded camping-every-night-touring, even pulling our 3 year daughter in a bike trailer for six weeks on one trip. I never had to walk any grade. My wife's bike had a triple but with similar high and low, just more in the middle.

    Fitness and gears are more important. A couple extra pounds of bike weight are not. Besides you want a bike able to stand up to the rigors of you and all you gear on it as you go over hard bumps, now and again, without being able to jump the bike over them.

    We went with the Shimano XT (which also requires a different Bottom Bracket, BTW) and the cassette that came with the bike. I'm not sure I'll ever use the 19" gear, but I have it. I KNOW I'd NEVER use the 128" gear (absurd on a touring bike).
    Mike Sakarias
    Juneau Alaska

  4. #4
    thv
    thv is offline
    Non-motorized revolution. thv's Avatar
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    There is another option for the gearing:

    You can change the front three chainrings to 24/38/48, made by Specialites TA, and the rear cassette to a 11-34 or a 12-34. You will get better gearing then. Peter white (http://www.peterwhitecycles.com/chainrings.asp).

    The greatest thing with just swapping out the chainrings is that you need not change anything else and your low gear will be something like 19", pretty damn good for touring (according to the touring mailing list).

    I also purchased a 2002 Trek 520 on Friday, and am waiting for my customizations to be done. My chainrings (ordered from Peter white) are coming in this friday., and I expect to have my bike on Monday.

    You may also want to consider rim upgrade to something like a Mavic T520, which has a much better reputation than the Bontrager Fairlane rims that come on the Trek 520. Read some pretty nasty stuff about it on rec.bicycles.tech a while back and have been leery of them ever since.

    Cheers!
    ----------------------------------------
    Tourer: 2002 Trek 520
    Commuter: 2004 Novara Randonee
    http://www.arclight.net/~thv/bikes.html
    ----------------------------------------

  5. #5
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    I feel the 520 is an excellent choice in bicycles, My advice to you is to ride the bike for a while before changing the gearing. I ride a mid 90's bridgestone RB-T that I re-fit with a dura-ace 30-39-53 tripple in the front and an XTR 12-34 in the rear, I find this drive trane combination works very well in the hills of new england, I am loaded most of the times and quite often very heavy, I always seem to find a comfortable gear and I NEVER walk the bike. The benifit of the gearing is that you can ride the bike like a road bike if you want to. As far as distance riding goes, that's all I do, tthe shortest ride I take is my 18.5 mile (1 way) ride to work then back home in the afternoon. When I ride for pleasure, It's never under 50 miles. I found the part of the bike that helps you the most is the saddle, once I installed a Brooks swift saddle on the bike and broke it in, distance riding became much more fun and relaxing. Good luck with your bike puchase, you won't be disappointed if you choose the Trek.
    Achieve your goals: Attitude is everything:

  6. #6
    Year-round cyclist
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    Originally posted by thv
    ...
    You may also want to consider rim upgrade to something like a Mavic T520, which has a much better reputation than the Bontrager Fairlane rims that come on the Trek 520. Read some pretty nasty stuff about it on rec.bicycles.tech a while back and have been leery of them ever since.


    I would suggest you use the stock wheels for a while before changing the rims (unless you plan to use your new bike to tour the world). I too read some nasty things about the Bontrager Fairlane rims, but I only read these things in the last few months... and I have my bike since December 2000.

    So far, I have travelled approximately 6000 km on that bike, including 3000 km with a 6 year old on a trailercycle (adds approx. 30 lb to the rear wheel) and about 1000 km with a child trailer also. I did a little over 1000 km of loaded touring with the oldest child, and the total weight of the bike + trailercycle + gear was 140 lb. Almost all my travel was on asphalt and pothole-infested streets, but still...


    I must say that in the first 2 weeks I trued the rear wheels a few times and I retensioned the wheel (some spokes were loose -- read Sheldon Brown's page on wheelbuilding -- but I haven't touched the wheels ever since. And in spite of Winter riding, the wheels still look great.

    From the bad -- and good -- reports I read, I suspect that either there was a batch of defective rims or that if the poor machine wheelbuilding done by Trek goes unchecked, the rims "disintegrate" prematurely.

    Regards,
    Michel Gagnon
    Montréal (Québec, Canada)

  7. #7
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    I like to have a low gear which can take me up the steepest hill with the roughest surface, at the end of the hardest day. Pushing a loaded bike up a steep hill is much harder than pedalling. Ive had to bail out and push once, when I was using a Campy road triple. Since I switched to an LX chainset, I can ride up any road , no matter how steep. I can even do some pretty extreme off-road riding when I leave the luggage at home.

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