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    touring bike as all-purpose bike?

    I'm posting this here instead of the general forum b/c folks seem a bit more knowledgeable here about technical details...

    I know people say there's no such thing as a single bike that's good for everything, but I think if you're not racing, a touring bike (like a Trek 520, for example) comes pretty close. You can:

    - haul stuff for a commute
    - get around on rough city streets, including hills
    - use it for short weekend rides
    - tour, of course

    Would anyone say that a touring bike is tremendously ill-fitted for any of the uses above? Again, racing is a special case, so let's not consider it for now.

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    The Site Administrator: Currently at home recovering from a couple of strokes,please contact my assistnt admins for forum issues Tom Stormcrowe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hackybiker
    I'm posting this here instead of the general forum b/c folks seem a bit more knowledgeable here about technical details...

    I know people say there's no such thing as a single bike that's good for everything, but I think if you're not racing, a touring bike (like a Trek 520, for example) comes pretty close. You can:

    - haul stuff for a commute
    - get around on rough city streets, including hills
    - use it for short weekend rides
    - tour, of course

    Would anyone say that a touring bike is tremendously ill-fitted for any of the uses above? Again, racing is a special case, so let's not consider it for now.
    Frankly, a well equipped touring bike makes a great commuter/errand/anything you want bike. Strong wheels and forgiving ride. I'd say yes, it's a great all around bike if there ever was such a thing!
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    I have noticed a lot of this attitude that you MUST own 4 different bikes in order to live. Tom , I do not mean to pick on just you, but why would anyone think they need more than one bike? If you are an elite racer, I do understand. But for everyone else a solid bike will do everything. I have a Novara Safari, and I tour on it just fine. It gets me to work everyday. I ride 35 miles to my parents once a month or so with no problems. We are not discussing rocket science, it is simply a bicycle.

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    Senior Member late's Avatar
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    OOOOOOOhhhhhhhhhhhh

    OOOOOOOhhhhhhhhhhhh

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    Senior Member Thor29's Avatar
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    I agree - a touring bike makes a good all-around bike. Depending on you riding style though, I'd go for more of a cyclocross style bike myself. I had both the Surly Long Haul Trucker and the Crosscheck and I liked the Crosscheck more for everyday use because the handling was better (same components). But... sorry kevink159 - it is very nice to have multiple bikes. I couldn't keep up with my roadie friends on the Crosscheck, but on my way too expensive Cannondale System Six I can outrun them and it handles like a sportscar when descending. In the dirt I could probably keep up or even outrun a lot of my mountain bike buddies on the Crosscheck, but I'd get beat up doing it and eventually the bike would break. So I have a dedicated mountain bike for off road. Bike 3 is a Surly Karate Monkey for commuting, and bike 4 is a Surly Steamroller fixed gear for when I feel like, uh, riding a fixed gear. (If you're counting, I sold the Crosscheck and replaced it with the Karate Monkey).

    But if you think 4 bikes is excessive, there are people in these bike forums who have a dozen or more bikes. At least every one of my bikes is very different from the others.

  7. #7
    The Site Administrator: Currently at home recovering from a couple of strokes,please contact my assistnt admins for forum issues Tom Stormcrowe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kevink159
    I have noticed a lot of this attitude that you MUST own 4 different bikes in order to live. Tom , I do not mean to pick on just you, but why would anyone think they need more than one bike? If you are an elite racer, I do understand. But for everyone else a solid bike will do everything. I have a Novara Safari, and I tour on it just fine. It gets me to work everyday. I ride 35 miles to my parents once a month or so with no problems. We are not discussing rocket science, it is simply a bicycle.
    Would you mind telling me where I said you had to have 4 bikes to live? I have a touring bike I ride, I have a bike I beat around off road with because I don't want to trash my road bike, and I have an old Raleigh I use on the trainer and to race with (Different gearing and no racks). The question was if a touring bike was an all around bike, and I answered yes. I didn't say anything more than that and frankly, I'd really prefer that you not add any more context than what I actually said.
    on light duty due to illness; please contact my assistants for forum issues. They are Siu Blue Wind, or CbadRider or the other 3 star folk. I am currently at home recovering from a couple of strokes. I am making good progress, happily.


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  8. #8
    Chief Chef BearsPaw's Avatar
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    I just wanted to say, "Me too!"

    I have a Fuji Touring that I use for all of those tasks. That doesn't prevent me from owning and continually looking at other bikes though.

    The only thing I would say is that if you have a nice-ish touring bike, you might also want a beater if you have to lock up in crappy neighborhoods. I don't know how crazy Seattle is, but I would never lock my Fuji up certain places in/near Philly; I have a rusty 70s Raleigh SS conversion for that.

  9. #9
    Bob Rae for PM! Sadaharu's Avatar
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    +1 although i love my commuter (trek racing bike from 1983 with old 105, campy and shimano 600 hubs, wolber rims and beautiful italian cranks), it is a lot less likely to get lifted than my cannondale t700.

  10. #10
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kevink159
    I have noticed a lot of this attitude that you MUST own 4 different bikes in order to live. Tom , I do not mean to pick on just you, but why would anyone think they need more than one bike? If you are an elite racer, I do understand. But for everyone else a solid bike will do everything. I have a Novara Safari, and I tour on it just fine. It gets me to work everyday. I ride 35 miles to my parents once a month or so with no problems. We are not discussing rocket science, it is simply a bicycle.
    No one has ever said in anything I've read that you MUST own 4 different bikes. Some of us have many bikes because we like bicycles. Period. I tend to like having a variety of bikes for different purposes, it's true but if I were suggesting a single bike, it'd be a touring for road riding or a hard tail mountain bike if you were to want to do more mountain biking than road riding. No matter what anyone says about cross bikes or touring bikes, they don't do well off-road and you are just asking to tear them up if you ride a lot off-road.

    Me, I do have 4 bikes but each one has it's purpose. I have a touring bike built with quality parts and I'd rather not ride it all the time...to keep it in good shape for touring. I have a hard tail mountain bike that I use to ride back and forth to work but I do ride the others occasionally. I have a dual suspension mountain bike that I use for hard core rides (I kept that hard tail because the dually doesn't do well on long flat rides). And finally, I have a road bike (cross bike really) because I wanted it and it was the right color. I have it fendered and lighted and ready for riding in foul weather if I want but that stuff comes off easily and will be off by summer (I don't really like fenders )

    But when someone asks for bicycle suggestions, I nearly always steer them towards a mountain bike (not a hybrid) or a touring bike depending on what they what to do with it. And I always suggest that they start with only one bike...they'll eventually end up with more
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  11. #11
    Crawlin' up, flyin' down bikingshearer's Avatar
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    In answer to the original question, yes, a decent touring bike can make a tremendous all-rounder. If you splurge on a second set of wheels (one for unloaded road riding with relatively skinny tires and another for loaded road riding or unloaded riding on fire roads or other less-than-totally-gonzo unpaved trails) you can extend the utility of that on bike even more.

    Touring bikes tend to handle and ride like what they are, the draft horses of the bike world: solid, dependable, able to take it all but not very exciting. If you want a little more zip in your ride but still want flexibility to do a lot of different kinds of rides on a single machine, a "sports touring" model may do you better. Waterford, for one, makes such things. They will typically have chain stays that are shorter than those on touring bikes but noticeably longer than on racing bikes. Similarly, they usually have head and seat angles that are between the more laid-back touring angles and the more upright racing dimensions. They also often include the rack eyelits on the dropouts and seat stays so you mount a rack. They are not quite as stable under a load as a touring bike, but feel more lively in unloaded riding. Their ride will also be a little less plush than a purpose-designed touring bike, and are likely to be a little more skittish in any off-asphalt riding.

    As far as "needing" more than one bike, it certainly is not necessary. It can a geat deal of fun, though, as different types of bikes, and different bikes within a type, can and do have quite different "personalities." Exploring and relishing those differences is a blast for some people. Others simply want to get from here to there, or can't or would rather not spend what it takes to have multiple bikes. Either is cool. It's really a matter of what floats your boat.
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by kevink159
    I have noticed a lot of this attitude that you MUST own 4 different bikes in order to live. Tom , I do not mean to pick on just you, but why would anyone think they need more than one bike? If you are an elite racer, I do understand. But for everyone else a solid bike will do everything. I have a Novara Safari, and I tour on it just fine. It gets me to work everyday. I ride 35 miles to my parents once a month or so with no problems. We are not discussing rocket science, it is simply a bicycle.
    Damn. I only have three bikes; suddenly I really feel like getting a fourth one.

    But in all seriousness, hackybiker, a touring bike makes an excellent all-purpose ride. For years, my only bike was a Trek 520, which I used for everything from commuting to recreation to groceries to actual tours. Later I happened to pick up a mountain bike as part of a complicated barter exchange, and had fun with it becuase it does go places my touring bike can't...and then got the recumbent bug, so I needed one of those too.

    Although, come to think of it, I now use my touring-designed recumbent for just about everything, just like I used to with the 520. So yeah, a touring bike is still a perfect all-purpose machine.

  13. #13
    Senior Member wahoonc's Avatar
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    Touring bikes will work great as an all around machine. For several years my only bike was a rigid mountain bike, it had fenders, racks and lights on it. It was used as a daily commuter, club road and off road rides on weekends and at least 2 week long tours.

    As far as "needing" to own 4 bikes...I guess I am a very needy person...the count last night was 20 not all of them are ridable at the moment but more than half are and I have 3 more coming.

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    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hackybiker
    I know people say there's no such thing as a single bike that's good for everything, but I think if you're not racing, a touring bike (like a Trek 520, for example) comes pretty close. You can...
    It seems a bit unfair to me to say "a touring bike is a good all-around bike," and then intentionally restrict the discussion from the uses for which you know it is unsuitable.

    I agree with many of the aforementioned comments, namely that because touring bikes are made to be rugged and comfortable, they are excellent bikes for all of your purposes. Even so, there are some reasons to have more than 1 bike.

    The primary issue I'd see is with commuting. My personal preference for a commuter is either to have a junky old beater -- preferably 1 speed, if the route is sufficiently flat -- which requires as little maintenance as possible, won't break your heart (or bank account) if it's stolen, and which you can take out in inclement weather without worries. A beater bike is also a good backup, in case anything untoward happens to your main bike.

    Also, not everyone likes to ride in the same style all the time. I tend to ride at a moderate pace when on tour, but I also like to pour on the speed every now and then. Touring bikes simply are not made for speed.

    Bicycles are cheap, so other than storage space, if you are a regular cyclist there are few down-sides to owning more than one ride. That is, for those of us who are sane enough not to drop $5,000 on a CF road bike.

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    The things that I can think of that my touring bike does not do as well as it might...
    1. It is too nice to leave in a rack in high theft area's. A beater would be a good alternative if that is a factor where you ride.
    2. For fast rides with roadie friends, my road bike is a big improvement. The touring bike would be ok with different tires and maybe all the extra "stuff" taken off. For me it makes more sense to leave the fenders, racks, and wider tires on the touring bike and ride a different bike for the faster group rides.
    3. Sometimes it is fun to get on something sportier. Just because your Corolla will get you where you want to go it doesn't mean that it isn't fun to take a spin in a Porshe. A road bike is a lot more affordable than a sports car.

    That said, it wouldn't be all that bad to use the touring bike as an only bike for all of the purposes you mention.

    Bottom line = ride what makes you happy

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    Tom I do appologize to you. I was trying to address the original poster but got the names mixed up. To clarify my point, why does the question even need to be asked if on bike can be driven to work, weekend rides, tour, and around town? Nowhere did the OP say anything about off-road and specifically excluded racing. So far everyone has said a touring bike is fine for everything, but I have X number of bikes. The reason I started riding bikes and touring is purely for envrionmental reasons so I try to reduce my consumtion of everything. I thought more people shared my viewpoint, but I am in the minority. I was just trying to point out that prevailing attitude here is to owning more than one bike. I have heard all the reasons for it but I still do not understand. Please note that I am not criticizing (I only do that to people with more than one car), I'm just trying to give a different viewpoint.

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    That is largely what 70s-80s era Trek road bikes were, and all of the other road bikes of that era that had cromo forks and eyelets on the rear dropouts. Mtb bikes may have had the biggest change on general-purpose bikes. From Specialized Stumpjumper and onward, they became the tour bike of choice by many tourists (and maybe still are . . . I don't think that many Trek 520s are sold or they would not be so technologically behind the times)--some bike shops actually abandoned road bikes--and, road bikes got more and more specialized, e.g., narrower tires, short chainstay and wheelbase lengths, steeper headtube angles, no room between the tires and brakes for fenders, fewer brazeons and no eyelets for racks, etc.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kevink159
    I have noticed a lot of this attitude that you MUST own 4 different bikes in order to live. Tom , I do not mean to pick on just you, but why would anyone think they need more than one bike? If you are an elite racer, I do understand. But for everyone else a solid bike will do everything. I have a Novara Safari, and I tour on it just fine. It gets me to work everyday. I ride 35 miles to my parents once a month or so with no problems. We are not discussing rocket science, it is simply a bicycle.
    I agree that a touring bike is the perfect 'only' bike...but I own 4 bikes because I can. I like being able to glide along on a lightweight road bike and I don't want to subject my touring bike to the road/trail crap, snow and rain of my commute every single day. I have a swiss army knife that does a lot of things, but if I am building something, I'd much rather use an actual screwdriver, saw, awl, ect. than the knife.
    "Let us hope our weapons are never needed --but do not forget what the common people knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny. If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government -- and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws" - Edward Abbey

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    Wow, thanks for all the thoughtful replies!!

    To clarify, this wasn't a post intended to disparage having more than 1 bicycle. I've got 3 right now. I posted my question because some newbies on these forums often ask, "can X bike do this? I also want it to do that, and that..." It seems these riders have a limited budget, may not necessarily be hardcore enthusiasts, and just want something that can fulfill multiple roles. If they have money, space, and the desire for multiple bikes, they wouldn't ask such a question in the first place--they'd just have a few bikes for each purpose.

    I don't have anything against racing; I excluded it because racing has such high demands that you absolutely can't do without a specialized machine for the job. So it's obvious that the answer would be "no" in terms of the suitability of a touring bike. Again, I think the people who want an "all-purpose" bike would not be racing.

    So far, the only major drawbacks I can see are

    1) you wouldn't want to lock up a nice touring bike in sketchy areas, as pointed out by several folks

    2) a lack of zippyness/handling that would make fast recreational rides more fun

    3) bad for off-road. This was something I hadn't thought about.

    I really like bikingshearer's idea of multiple wheelsets/tires.

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    If I could only have one bike it would be the Karate Monkey. The head and seat angles are similar to a road bike, the major difference being in the length of the top tube which is longer on the KM. The geometry of a 29er which the KM is, is more similar to a road bike than a 26er mountain bike. There is only a 0.7" difference in the chainstay length between a KM and a Pacer, Surly's road bike frame. The head and seat angles are identical.
    I was thinking I'd build a KM with disk brakes and a drop handlebar. I'd use the Avid cable disc brakes that are STI compatible and auxiliary cyclocross levers so that I could brake from the tops. Not using a flat handlebar would be a compromise for mountain biking on really technical singletrack but most of the time I think it would be just fine.
    I wouldn't use a suspension fork, that would be too much of a compromise for the road. This would be somewhat offset by the superior ride of 29" mountain bike wheels over 26".
    As you know, 29" wheels and 700c wheels are one in the same. If you picked the rim width judiciously you could use the same wheels for road and mountain. There are some very light 29er wheelsets. You'd have only to swap the tires. The KM can take the gnarliest 29er tires available and you'd want to use them if you had no suspension.
    On the road I think a strong, experienced, determined rider could hang with most of the roadies. So, some are faster than you, so what?
    The compromise for touring would only be the use of 36 spokes. But, since it is disk braked there is nothing stopping you from using 26" wheels. The KM has no rack provisions but the Old Man Mountain racks don't need any. In addition to the disk brake tabs the KM also has cantilever studs which the OMM racks use. OMM has hardware that enables them to be used with disk brakes. The OMM mounting system has got to be the strongest of all. There might be a heel rub problem since the chainstays are so short on a KM but there's probably a solution for that too.

  21. #21
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hackybiker
    So far, the only major drawbacks I can see are

    1) you wouldn't want to lock up a nice touring bike in sketchy areas, as pointed out by several folks
    I really wouldn't worry too much about theft. Yes, any bike can be stolen at anytime but, to be brutally frank, most thieves are going to pass up a goofy looking bike with racks, fenders and that weird hard saddle...aka Brooks... for a mountain bike. It's tough enough to sell a touring bike new, who would want to fence one?

    I mean, if given the choice, would you steal and sell #1 or #2



    Quote Originally Posted by hackybiker
    2) a lack of zippyness/handling that would make fast recreational rides more fun
    It depends on the ride and the bike. I've had road bikes and touring bikes. If I wanted to go on a fast ride for a long distance, I'd probably take the touring bike. It just doesn't beat you up as much as a road bike. The best comparison I can make is between my Cannondale T800 and a Cannondale 2.8 (like CAAD8 but way older). Both are sort of harsh but the T800 is just a little nicer ride because of it's length. The 2.8 was a kidney buster because it has super short chainstays and absolutely no give. It sprinted well but since I don't race, it wasn't of much use to me. If you want a zippier ride from a touring bike, go with lighter tires and wheels.

    Quote Originally Posted by hackybiker
    3) bad for off-road. This was something I hadn't thought about.

    I really like bikingshearer's idea of multiple wheelsets/tires.
    If you ride mild off-road, any skinny tired bike will do okay. That includes rail trails and bridle paths but once things get steep and rocky or the trail turns sandy, a mountain bike does way better.

    The one place that a touring bike excels over any other bike is at what it was built for, i.e. touring! You can tour on any bike, including the old Cannondale 2.8 I used to have, but for true comfort, handling, ruggedness and just plain ability, you can't beat a 'real' touring bike. If you want to load up and go away for days or weeks or months or even years on end, a touring bike is the only way to go.
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  22. #22
    Chief Chef BearsPaw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute
    I really wouldn't worry too much about theft. Yes, any bike can be stolen at anytime but, to be brutally frank, most thieves are going to pass up a goofy looking bike with racks, fenders and that weird hard saddle...aka Brooks... for a mountain bike. It's tough enough to sell a touring bike new, who would want to fence one?
    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute
    I mean, if given the choice, would you steal and sell #1 or #2
    Both! Seriously, in some places you can't even leave anything easily detachable on your bike. I imagine the pump and water bottles on that touring bike would get stolen immediately in pretty much any city, too.

    I would never lock the pictured touring bike up outside some of the places I go in Philadelphia. My housemate's girlfriend even had her rusty cruiser stolen a block off of Rittenhouse Square (one of the swankiest neighborhoods in the city). I figure I am pretty much unable to prevent someone from stealing my bike if they really want to, so if I have to lock it outside, I ride a bike that won't cost me much to replace. My beater, except for the chain and the brake cables, is made entirely from salvaged parts. I spent more money on the Kryptonite I lock it with than on the bike.

    Anyways, this whole point is extremely dependent on where you live. I grew up in a small town out west, and I never locked my bike up. When I'm on tour, I've never worried about locking my bike in a small town when I go into a diner or something. It's only when I'm in Philly/Baltimore/DC/NYC that I worry about it being stolen.

  23. #23
    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute
    I really wouldn't worry too much about theft.
    Clearly you do not live in the New York City area.

    A friend of mine used to ride her beat-up old junker bike around Manhattan, including on commutes. People tried to steal that thing all the time. One genius even put his own lock onto her bike, and she had to get a locksmith to cut the 2nd lock off. Sadly someone did finally nab it one day, I believe she replaced it with a folding bike. Another friend of mine lost the seat post to her bike from the lobby of her own building.

    If I lived in any big city, I would not want to commute with an expensive bike, unless it was a folding bike that I knew I could store inside the office.

  24. #24
    Prefers Cicero cooker's Avatar
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    I have a "vintage'" Trek 520 as my main commuter/utility/recreational bike, and an old mountain bike as my winter beater/offroad bike as well. I crashed on ice on the Trek last year, so now I tend to ride the mountain bike if there's the threat of snow or ice, and I don't ride at all if the ice is already on the street.

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    Ive ridden my touring bike with 32mm tyres over some pretty rocky mountain trails. On one ride I was accompanied my a newbie rider on an MTB who bottled out on some of the descent. It takes more skill and finesse but is great fun. Touring bikes can make a moderate bit of trail into an adrenaline rush which is a good think for me because I live hundreds of miles from anything like a mountain.

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