I'm planning my first tour this summer: Northern Tier eastbound Seattle to Chicago. I'm still unsure what the right bike is for me. My persistent dream bike has been the Bilenky Midlands with S&S couplings. I know there are less (and more!) expensive solutions but I keep telling myself that the value of handbuilt steel and the couplers is an investment that will pay for itself. Price is a limiting factor as I'm a fourth year college student, that's why I linked to the cheapest touring bike BCW makes!. Any experience with BCW or S&S couplers, or even northern tier?
I had an older Mercian converted to S&S by Bilenky as well as some other braze-ons done and a new paint job with new decals. Stephen was great to work with. I also had a friend order an S&S frame from them that he's very happy with. Go for it!
I purchased a Tourlite with S&S couplings from them last year, and I couldn't be happier. I feel the fit is spot on, and the bike is great looking and functional. I did my first tour on the Blue Ridge this past year, and with 25-30lbs on the rear I never once felt like the bike was unstable or I had to hold back while descending. I've also used it for group rides and some commuting with no issues.
Coupling are nice although packing is fairly involved, and not something I would want to do if I travelled a whole bunch.
If I have one knock I think the paints a little soft. It seems to chip and scratch easily, although I had a rush order and I'm wondering if the paint was fully cured. Personally if I got another coupled bike I'd have it powder coated.
Bottom line is if I get a dedicated touring bike it will be from them.