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  1. #1
    Junior Member
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    Building a touring bike

    I have been riding a mtb on my tours for the last few years, and am thinking about upgrading to a "real" touring bike. I am thinking that it would be best to build one from the ground up, but first I have a few questions...

    1. Is it really worth all the money to upgrade?
    2. How difficult is it to build the bike?
    3. Am I better off buying something like a Bianchi Volpe (that is about where my budget is)

    Im sure Ill have more questions as the project progresses, but I thought Id ask these before I begin.

    Thanks everyone!

    John

  2. #2
    jon bon stovie
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    any reason to stop touring on your mountain bike? if it is comfortable, fulfills requirements (gearing, tire availability), and has any longevity, why ruin a good thing?

    the volpe hovers around the $800-$900 dollar range. just keep in mind how far $800 or $900 dollars could get you on your next tour...

    granted, this is all coming from someone who wants to build up his own touring bike. the reason that want "a real touring bike" is mostly because my road bike (which i dearly love) would probably not last a full tour. and if it did, it would certainly be it's final ride. plus, i never felt very comfortable on a mountain bike, i just prefer road/touring geometries. (if you like how your mountain bike feels and works, it may be worth holding onto.) and to top it all off: i am definitely a do-it-yourselfer. i'd build my own house if i had the chance...

    just my thoughts...

  3. #3
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    It's not upgrading, you are changing the paradigm. In the reverse direction if you had a touring bike and wanted to get into MTB riding at Slick Rock, would it be worth going to an MTB? Well of course the MTB is more versatile so it can handle the touring also, but there is a reason for specialized bikes.

    Assuming your threads are clean or you have friends at a bike shop who will do the work if there is any taping or chasing to do, then the basic questions you face assembling a bike are the same questions you face either in selecting any bike (sizing, component mix), or fixing your touring bike out on the road. Stuff you should know so even if you found it difficult you would be wise to pass that way at some point.

    You can do low budget touring bikes, like the Nashbar frame or an ebay project. Maybe you already have a donour bike in your MTB. Builds can be more expensive than buying not so much because it's more expensive to do it that way, but because one probably talks oneself into better components. Like if you look at the sub 1K touring bikes, most of them don't come with a B17, but how many of the LHT builds don't include a Brooks or something similar.

  4. #4
    Junior Member
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    The reason that Im looking for a new bike (rather than sticking with the mtb) is that I just moved across the country with only what I could take on the plane with me. It came down to bike vs. clothes/school books...unfortunately the bike had to stay home. Now I know that I could have the bike shipped to me, but Im thinking that I could work a bit extra and be just like a little kid at Christmas time with a shiny new toy.

  5. #5
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    You are probably going to come out money ahead to buy a ready built bike and accessorize it to suit. Unfortunately when you the consumer buys parts they cost quite a bit more than when a manufacturer buys them, so you end up spending more money for an similar bike. However there is nothing quite like the satisfaction in knowing you built up the bike you are riding. I have built several over the years and they always seemed to ride better than the ones "off the shelf"

    Aaron
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  6. #6
    Sasquatch Crossing mycoatl's Avatar
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    I'm asking similar questions for my wife's bike. Do I upgrade her Giant Innova hybrid, buy a Volpe-level bike or build a LHT?

    The problem with the sub-$1000 bike (Bianchi Volpe/Jamis Quest/Fuji Touring/Windsor Tourist/Novara Randonee) is that none of them have the right components. Some get the crankset wrong (road triple), all of them come with brifters (which I don't want), the wheelsets are often sub-par, and some come with wierd seats/seatposts etc. My wife also doesn't want a dropbar or flatbars, so that'll be an upgrade to trekking bars too. At a minimum, this sub-$1000 bike starts to get expensive with the upgrades, or becomes a hassle haggling with my LBS over how much credit to give me for the brifters, etc. I don't want on the bike.

    OTOH, I spec'ed out a LHT for her with every component exactly as I want it and it came to just over $1200 with a handbuilt wheelset. That's a much better value than the Volpe IMHO. You just have to avoid "ultimate-itis" on every component. Figure out where you want to spend for top-shelf and where it doesn't matter so much. LX derailers, Sugino cranks and SRAM Cassettes all save money and don't compromise that much on quality. Spend the big bucks on your frame and wheelset.

    In the meanwhile, there's nothing wrong with touring on a hardtail mtn bike. You can even make several upgrades to it and eventually switch those components over to a dedicated touring frame when money allows. This is probably the direction I'm going to go for my wife's bike--replace the entire drivetrain on her Innova, change the rapidfires over to barends on Thumbies with mtn brake levers on trekking bars.

  7. #7
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mycoatl
    The problem with the sub-$1000 bike (Bianchi Volpe/Jamis Quest/Fuji Touring/Windsor Tourist/Novara Randonee) is that none of them have the right components. Some get the crankset wrong (road triple), all of them come with brifters (which I don't want), the wheelsets are often sub-par, and some come with wierd seats/seatposts etc. My wife also doesn't want a dropbar or flatbars, so that'll be an upgrade to trekking bars too. At a minimum, this sub-$1000 bike starts to get expensive with the upgrades, or becomes a hassle haggling with my LBS over how much credit to give me for the brifters, etc. I don't want on the bike.
    I agree on somethings (and disagree on others ) but I will say that some of the problems with the less expensive bikes are overstated. I bought a Fuji Touring for my daughter last year and everything on it performed admirably. I did change the chainrings to a lower ratio and replaced the rack with a stronger one (about half way into our tour after watching the original sway back and forth as she pedaled in front of me) and we replaced the saddle but I expect that on every bike I buy.

    The wheels on the other hand performed like champs and this is on the 2001 model (we got a killer deal on a NOS bike) which is known to have wheel problems. The only issue we had was that the bearings were too tight and I forgot to check them before we went. That made her kind of slow for about 300 miles but, hey, she's young and strong

    All of the bike listed can be great bikes as is. There are others that are better but you pay for that.

    Quote Originally Posted by mycoatl
    OTOH, I spec'ed out a LHT for her with every component exactly as I want it and it came to just over $1200 with a handbuilt wheelset. That's a much better value than the Volpe IMHO. You just have to avoid "ultimate-itis" on every component. Figure out where you want to spend for top-shelf and where it doesn't matter so much. LX derailers, Sugino cranks and SRAM Cassettes all save money and don't compromise that much on quality. Spend the big bucks on your frame and wheelset.
    Building a bike can be rewarding but, unless you are very careful, it's easy to get way over budget on it. Sure there are places to cut costs but realize that each part you buy you have the additional cost of taxes and/or shipping to pay on the part. That can quickly...and sneakily...add up. As an example, I recently built a bike from a frame. Starting with a $990 frame and, admittedly, having a couple of Ultimate-itis parts like a King headset and a Tubus rack, but using lots of parts from another bike or ones I had on hand, the project quickly got to $2427, of which around $1800 was directly out of pocket. $240 of the total was for cables, housing, tires, tape, and other nonmechinical stuff. And that doesn't include taxes or shipping. Those things can add up even faster when you don't have old parts you want to reuse.
    Stuart Black
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  8. #8
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    Building a bike doesn't really cost you money, it's specing the components out of your price range. If you look at what is on a cheap bike you can buy that stuff cheap also. I just rarely see anyone who does that bottom of the barrel when it comes to a ground up build, unless they have a donour, and then it can be very cheap.

    Also, Stuart, I have heard you say how every bike you tried prior to the Canondale was whippy, so while a girl may be perfectly happy with all the stuff on a stock bike, there are other stress levels out there. That doesn't take away from your point.

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