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  1. #1
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    Tell me what I need to know about touring bikes

    I am SO confused! I'm looking to buy a touring bike in about 1 year. I want to re-live younger days and go on short tours, long tours, cross-Canada, France, and do it SELF-CONTAINED, meaning LOADED UP (although not too much, cuz I think panniers on the front look dumb...)

    But anyway, I don't even KNOW what "chainstay" means! Same with "geometry, wheelbase, crankset..." Can anyone recommend a BOOK I can read so that I know WHAT to look for and what all this stuff means?

    From what I've gathered so far, the most promising bikes seem to be (these include both the mainstays and the new kids on the block, so to speak):

    TREK 520
    CANNONDALE T800 (& now T2000)
    JAMIS Aurora
    DEVINCI Caribou 1 & 2
    SURLY Long Haul Trucker

    Talk at me, folks. I'm awaiting yer replies...
    Last edited by mike-on-a-bike; 06-16-07 at 10:19 PM.

  2. #2
    Dances a jig. Mchaz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mike-on-a-bike
    and do it SELF-CONTAINED, meaning LOADED UP (although not too much, cuz I think panniers on the front look dumb...)
    Great reason. I too would forgo practicality in favor of aesthetics on a cross-country tour.

    My recommendations are:

    Read the forums. Just read posts that may intrigue you, you'll learn through answers to other's questions.

    Use the bicycle glossary at www.sheldonbrown.com for any terms you don't know.

    Pick up a good repair book, like "Zinn and the Art of Bicycle Maintenance", to learn the mechanical workings of a bike.

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    It would be a tragedy to wait a year to get started out of confusion sowed by the expensive gear fetishists. Find a bike that's roughly the right size for $50 at a thrift store or garage sale or on Craigslist and start riding. You'll learn more in a week of gentle rides than a year of reading product reviews. Pay attention to what's making you comfortable and happy (and what's making you uncomfortable and unhappy) and make minor adjustments, slowly. In a year you can upgrade . . . if you want to. The baddest-assed bike tourist in this history of bike touring rides a three-speed -- not out of masochism, but because it's comfortable all day/week/year for him and makes him feel like riding again the next day. That's the only important criterion for a successful touring bike. Enjoy!

  4. #4
    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mike-on-a-bike
    I am SO confused! But anyway, I don't even KNOW what "chainstay" means! Same with "geometry, wheelbase, crankset..." Can anyone recommend a BOOK I can read so that I know WHAT to look for and what all this stuff means?
    You don't need a book. There is one out there called "Long Distance Cycling" iirc, which discusses fitness and training etc and spends like 2 pages on bikes.

    Basically, what you need to look for in a touring bike is:
    • is it comfortable when you ride it, particularly for long distances
    • a solid frame with lots of spots for racks, fenders and water bottles
    • are the tires wide (700 x 32c or wider)
    • is the gearing low enough for touring

    The bikes you listed should do the trick; I'd test-ride the LHT, Trek and Jamis and see which one you like better. I tend to like sitting more upright when on tour, mostly to get a good view. One nice touch about the Jamis is it has an extra pair of "cross brakes," so you can ride in the tops and still brake.

  5. #5
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mike-on-a-bike
    I am SO confused! I'm looking to buy a touring bike in about 1 year. I want to re-live younger days and go on short tours, long tours, cross-Canada, France, and do it SELF-CONTAINED, meaning LOADED UP (although not too much, cuz I think panniers on the front look dumb...)

    But anyway, I don't even KNOW what "chainstay" means! Same with "geometry, wheelbase, crankset..." Can anyone recommend a BOOK I can read so that I know WHAT to look for and what all this stuff means?

    From what I've gathered so far, the most promising bikes seem to be (these include both the mainstays and the new kids on the block, so to speak):

    TREK 520
    CANNONDALE T800 (& now T2000)
    JAMIS Aurora
    DEVINCI Caribou 1 & 2
    SURLY Long Haul Trucker

    Talk at me, folks. I'm awaiting yer replies...
    Here's what I've gleaned. The word "tube" is used when there's just one; the word "stay" is used when there are two paired up. The seatstays are the two tubes that connect the rear wheel hub to the seat tube (which hold the seat post and, hence, the seat, or saddle) The chainstays are the two tubes that connect the rear wheel hub to the bottom bracket (the thing that holds the cranks, chainrings, and pedals.)

    You want long chainstays so that there's room for your heels to clear your panniers (saddlebags) when you are using them. Also a longer wheelbase makes for a more stable and comfortable ride - good when you're riding long distances and not speeding around corners (like in a race.)

    Here are some other bikes to add to your list:
    Fuji Touring
    Novara Randonee
    Rocky Mountain Sherpa 10 and 30
    Co-Motion Americano
    Thorn (I don't know much about these - they're British. I've heard good things.)
    Bruce Gordon
    Rivendell

    There are others. Everything I've read leads me to believe that these are all legitimate touring bikes which would be able to handle long, fully-loaded tours.

    The cheapest is probably the Fuji.
    The Novara Randonee, Trek 520, Surly LHT, and Rocky Mountain Sherpas are in the $800-1,000 range, I think.
    The Co-Motion, Rivendell, and Bruce Gordon are more - maybe much more.
    I don't know about the price of a Thorn. I think Harris Cyclery sells the frames, and would probably be able to build a complete bike for you.

    A cheaper alternative would be to buy an old, rigid mountain bike from the 80's or 90's - Rockhopper, Stumpjumper, etc. - put some narrow slick tires on it (like Tom Slicks), a couple of racks and off you go.

    Good luck.

  6. #6
    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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    • Simplicity
    • Relaxed geometry
    • Strong wheels
    • Racks
    • Braze ons
    • Multiple bottle cages
    • Comfort




    Don't sweat grams building a touring bike, you are basically going to be building a 2 wheeled truck anyway!
    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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  7. #7
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    Mike,

    Buy something you will feel comfortable riding every day. Nothing else matters as much as this.

    Everything else and I mean everything is secondary.

  8. #8
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    Read the sticky at the top on touring bikes. My local library had the adventure cyclist book which is probably the best out there at the moment. It is more oriented to people who cycle to places well off the main tiurist track, where dogs are dogs, and goatherds are likely yhe local mayor. You don't necesaraly want to set up you bike along those lines to tour on hardtop in the first world

    http://www.amazon.com/Adventure-Cycl...2104786&sr=1-1

    Lovett's book may be the best if you are mostly touring on roads, and are more beginer oriented. It's pretty complete, but it covers bike handling and traffic issues that an inexperienced cyclist might need

    http://www.amazon.com/Essential-Tour...2104444&sr=1-4

    Where do you live, most local markets have their own makers, like there are a number of Canadian options that are going to be a better option than the one's you listed, though there isn't anything wrong with those either. If you lived in Souther California there would be local options that are internationally known.

    Here in NA most of the touring bikes are either old fashioned, or they are improved by being made inappropriately racy, or they are mountain bikes. Little new technology has made it into them, except in terms of better modern components. Great option what I personally ride (olde).

    There are other options out there that are appropriate to road touring and they mostly consist of european models like thorn, continental mountain hybrid with suspension like

    http://www.tout-terrain.de/cms/front_content.php.

    IN NA these would be some Gordon, Sakkit, Arvon, etc...

    A third option are folding bikes like Bike Friday, if all your rides start with a trip by plane...

    And there is the whole recumbent thing.

  9. #9
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Takara
    It would be a tragedy to wait a year to get started out of confusion sowed by the expensive gear fetishists. Find a bike that's roughly the right size for $50 at a thrift store or garage sale or on Craigslist and start riding. You'll learn more in a week of gentle rides than a year of reading product reviews. Pay attention to what's making you comfortable and happy (and what's making you uncomfortable and unhappy) and make minor adjustments, slowly. In a year you can upgrade . . . if you want to. The baddest-assed bike tourist in this history of bike touring rides a three-speed -- not out of masochism, but because it's comfortable all day/week/year for him and makes him feel like riding again the next day. That's the only important criterion for a successful touring bike. Enjoy!
    Bad advice. Just 'find a bike...for $50 at a thrift store...etc" can lead to a very poor choice that might just leave mike-on-a-bike stranded in the middle of no where with a hunk of broken junk.

    While you can tour on just about anything, you can also run a marathon on your hands. It's tough and everyone will be amazed at your ability but your hands are going to hurt like hell in the morning! Most of those "expensive gear fetishists" have learned the hard way that inappropriate bicycle choices makes for a far less enjoyable tour. If you spend your whole vacation white knuckling the bars because the bike wants to dump you in the ditch, you're less likely to try it again.

    The bikes suggested by the OP and by BigBlueToe are state of the art touring bikes that will give years of service. Yes, they cost more then $50 but they also ride and work better than a $50 bike. And just about any one of them will last a minimum of 15 years.
    Stuart Black
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  10. #10
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mike-on-a-bike
    I am SO confused! I'm looking to buy a touring bike in about 1 year. I want to re-live younger days and go on short tours, long tours, cross-Canada, France, and do it SELF-CONTAINED, meaning LOADED UP (although not too much, cuz I think panniers on the front look dumb...)
    Don't knock it until you've tried it. There's lots of discussion here on front panniers. You'd be amazed at how much it helps handling.

    Quote Originally Posted by mike-on-a-bike
    But anyway, I don't even KNOW what "chainstay" means! Same with "geometry, wheelbase, crankset..." Can anyone recommend a BOOK I can read so that I know WHAT to look for and what all this stuff means?
    Look here and here for all you need to know in general. For touring bike specifics, look here, here and here.


    Quote Originally Posted by mike-on-a-bike
    From what I've gathered so far, the most promising bikes seem to be (these include both the mainstays and the new kids on the block, so to speak):

    TREK 520
    CANNONDALE T800 (& now T2000)
    JAMIS Aurora
    DEVINCI Caribou 1 & 2
    SURLY Long Haul Trucker

    Talk at me, folks. I'm awaiting yer replies...
    Any one of these bikes (and the others mentioned by BigBlueToe) would make good touring bike choices. My personal ranking of the bikes would be:

    Cannondales/LHT: It's a tie really. Both bikes are well thought out touring bikes with the proper gearing and rack attachment points you need in a touring bike. Either would make for an excellent choice. I have a T800 and find it an excellent bike. Very stable and handles a load very well. It is an aluminum bike (one of the few you'll find) which some people don't like but it does have a longer pedigree than the LHT.

    Trek 520: Just slightly worse then the first 2 bikes. It's only real failing is the gearing (easily changed but it shouldn't have to be ) The high is too high and the low is too high. Not a bad choice.

    Jamis Aurora: Almost as good as the Trek but if suffers from the same gearing issues. It's also a little short for a touring bike.

    Devinci: It's too bad that this bike is almost right. Gearing too high, chainstays too short. Too bad.

    Of the bikes that BigBlueToe suggested, the last 4 in the list are legendary but are a whole different level in terms of price. The Gordon BLT is slightly more expensive then the Cannondale and 520. The others are much more expensive.

    The Rocky Mountain is almost a tie with the LHT but it's got gearing issues. The Fuji is on a par with the Jamis but a bit better...the geometry is better.

    Hope this helps. Keep plugging, it's not as hard as it sounds to find a touring bike. There aren't that many choices really.
    Stuart Black
    Solo Without Pie. The search for pie in the Midwest.
    Picking the Scablands. Washington and Oregon, 2005. Pie and spiders on the Columbia River!
    Days of Wineless Roads. Bed and Breakfasting along the KATY
    Twisting Down the Alley. Misadventures in tornado alley.
    An Good Ol' Fashion Appalachian Butt Whoopin'.

  11. #11
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    whoa!

    Hey, to everybody who took time and thought to reply my query, thank you very, very much!

    [ SIDE NOTE TO PETERPAN1: I live in the Greater Toronto Area - there seems to be a healthy bike market with plenty of choice - just about everything I see advertised / being written about on these forums is available here, although I'm quickly learning that touring ain't quite as popular as racing or mountain biking - understatement, to be sure! ]

    You provided your recommendations of bikes, website links, what to look for in a touring bike, what certain terms mean and how they affect one's choice of a touring bike, and above all, the fact that it all comes down to comfort, since it's the long haul we're all after, aren't we?

    As for my quip about panniers on the front, ya, I do think they look dumb and I knew I would elicit a reaction such as I received. I mean, I do wanna make it look good, ya know...


    ...but seriously, after having read a few blogs, etc, the thing that recurs over and over is "don't over pack" and eventually came across a guy who crossed Canada with a grand total of 35 lbs - totally self-supported touring, and loaded everything on the back.

    A few of you mentioned that front panniers might HELP with handling, whereas I would have assumed it would hinder it. In any case, those are my reasons: 1. Vanity; 2. Practicality (not over-packing).

    Nevertheless, I shall heed your advice and "not knock it till I try it".

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by mike-on-a-bike
    I live in the Greater Toronto Area - there seems to be a healthy bike market with plenty of choice - just about everything I see advertised / being written about on these forums is available here, although I'm quickly learning that touring ain't quite as popular as racing or mountain biking - understatement, to be sure! ]

    A few of you mentioned that front panniers might HELP with handling, whereas I would have assumed it would hinder it. In any case, those are my reasons: 1. Vanity; 2. Practicality (not over-packing).
    Since you're in Toronto you might want to check out Urbane Cycle. They build their own touring bike, called the Urbanite: http://ucycle.com/bikes/item.php?nam...r&cat=urbanite

    Loaded bikes definitely handle better with front panniers. Which is not to say that you can't tour without them.

  13. #13
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mike-on-a-bike
    Hey, to everybody who took time and thought to reply my query, thank you very, very much!

    ...but seriously, after having read a few blogs, etc, the thing that recurs over and over is "don't over pack" and eventually came across a guy who crossed Canada with a grand total of 35 lbs - totally self-supported touring, and loaded everything on the back.

    A few of you mentioned that front panniers might HELP with handling, whereas I would have assumed it would hinder it. In any case, those are my reasons: 1. Vanity; 2. Practicality (not over-packing).

    Nevertheless, I shall heed your advice and "not knock it till I try it".
    If I were to tour with only 35 lbs (which is monastic touring by the way ) I'd put all of packed gear on the front and the tent, etc. on the back. Front bags are generally about half the size of rear ones so over-packing is even less of an issue...you just don't have the room!

    I carry all of my small but dense stuff in the front - stove, cook ware, fuel, food, etc. The rear bags are for large bulky but lighter items.

    The issue I've had with rear bags only is that you get a 'tail wagging the dog' effect, especially on high speed corners. With front bags, that's just not an issue.
    Stuart Black
    Solo Without Pie. The search for pie in the Midwest.
    Picking the Scablands. Washington and Oregon, 2005. Pie and spiders on the Columbia River!
    Days of Wineless Roads. Bed and Breakfasting along the KATY
    Twisting Down the Alley. Misadventures in tornado alley.
    An Good Ol' Fashion Appalachian Butt Whoopin'.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute
    If I were to tour with only 35 lbs (which is monastic touring by the way ) I'd put all of packed gear on the front and the tent, etc. on the back. Front bags are generally about half the size of rear ones so over-packing is even less of an issue...you just don't have the room!

    I carry all of my small but dense stuff in the front - stove, cook ware, fuel, food, etc. The rear bags are for large bulky but lighter items.
    That's what I do. My gear weighs 38 lbs without food and fuel. By using four panniers, I then have plenty of room for the food I pick up along the way.

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    Bike Friday, xooter swift, Dahon Mu XL. Moulton if you are rich.
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    Strida 3, I recommend it for rides < 10mi wo steep hills.
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  16. #16
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    Well, folks, you've all definitely helped - I've got to simply get out touring and try different methods of packing.

    But back to buying a bike - I've located a DeVinci Destination (last year's touring model) still new which a bike shop is trying to unload - price is $1200 CDN. Someone made a comment about the Chainstays being too short, but other than that, this is looking pretty good...

  17. #17
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    Well, if the chainstays are short, you could always get a longer rack in the back. Or buy a trailer to haul your stuff

  18. #18
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    Think about singlespeed bike. It's simple, energy efficient, durable and lightweight solution.

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    with a longer rack, you mean something that keeps the panniers further back from my heels, correct?

    would this affect how the bike is balanced - negatively, that is?

  20. #20
    tuz
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    would this affect how the bike is balanced - negatively, that is?
    I would not think so. Balance is mostly affected when you move stuff up and down (i.e. changing your center of gravity). So it would be ok.

    However another caveat of short chainstays is tire clearance. Try to find out what's the limit on tire size with fenders. If it sports cantilever brakes you will be fine.

    And also check the gearing. From what I saw the lowest gear is 30x34 (24") which could be just a bit too high. Maybe you can put a 22 or 24T chainring in front. Ask the shop.
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