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  1. #1
    Member crosscountry08's Avatar
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    Where do I start

    Next summer a couple of friends and myself are going to take a cross country trip from portland maine to portland oregon. We are all fairly new to cycling and have never done any touring. I have been checking this site frequently and am amazed at the amount of knowledge and resource that are available here and know that I will be using alot of your advice over the next year as I begin to plan out our trip. My problem is where to start. Mainly with a bike. Last summer I bought a cheap walmart (i know i know, i'm embarassed by that fact) road bike, mainly because i wasnt sure how long my cycling enthusiasm would last and i didnt want to blow too much money at the start. So I'm definitely looking for a new bike, and would like to get one fairly soon.
    I've considered three main options: (1) buy a new bike (probably fuji since that is what our lbs sells) (2) look for a used bike on craigs list and ebay, (3) or build my bike from scratch.
    The trip is going to cost a lot of money with being on the road for 3 months (we're taking our time and enjoying the trip) so i'm looking for something cheap, but i dont want to sacrifice quality. The idea of building my own bike is appealing to me, although i'm not overly mechanically inclined. Does that save you money? While I said if I'd get a new bike I'd get a Fuji, I'm not overly impressed with our lbs so i wouldnt be upset if i didnt use that one. So any suggestions on another qualified touring bike of resonable price would help. Any other random advice for our trip would be great too. Thanks for the help you've been for me already and I'm looking forward to gleaning from your experience over the next year.

  2. #2
    Forever CLYDE ! cyberpep's Avatar
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    Hi CROSSCOUNTRY08, I wish I was going with you, sounds like a great trip. Glad to hear that you are going to take your time and enjoy the trip. What you you see and do on the journey is more important than your destination. As for a bike look at all the loaded touring specific bikes that you can and ride them for as far as the LBS will allow you to. Fit and comfort is far more important than price, you are going a long way. For me personally I selected a Cannondale T2000. Maybe a little more money than I wanted to spend but out of the box it was ready to tour on without any modifications, the only change was a different stem. The #1 thing that I think is important is a bike with low gearing of around 20 gear inches, remember you are not in a race. Everyone will have their own opinion on the perfect touring bike. Test ride, test ride & test ride!
    Happy touring.
    2003 Giant Cypress R
    2007 Cannondale T2000

  3. #3
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyberpep View Post
    Hi CROSSCOUNTRY08, I wish I was going with you, sounds like a great trip. Glad to hear that you are going to take your time and enjoy the trip. What you you see and do on the journey is more important than your destination. As for a bike look at all the loaded touring specific bikes that you can and ride them for as far as the LBS will allow you to. Fit and comfort is far more important than price, you are going a long way. For me personally I selected a Cannondale T2000. Maybe a little more money than I wanted to spend but out of the box it was ready to tour on without any modifications, the only change was a different stem. The #1 thing that I think is important is a bike with low gearing of around 20 gear inches, remember you are not in a race. Everyone will have their own opinion on the perfect touring bike. Test ride, test ride & test ride!
    Happy touring.
    The Cannondale T800 is probably a better choice for someone on a tighter budget. It's spec is slightly less than the T2000 but it's a good bike. Expect to pay more for the bike than a Fuji (not a bad bike) but you get a bit better touring machine.

    Building a bike, like an LHT which is another good choice, can be rewarding but it's not going to be cheap. Expect to pay about a minimum of $1500 which is what the T2000 costs. Unless you can find an LHT complete. Those are killer deals!

    If you can find one, look at a Rocky Mountain Sherpa. Not bad bikes either.
    Stuart Black
    Solo Without Pie. The search for pie in the Midwest.
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  4. #4
    The Wheel is Turning The Figment's Avatar
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    26" wheels....Novara Safari,$850



    700c Wheels...Novara Randonee$950



    I toured on (And still own) a 05 Novara Bonanza Mtb...Wish I had bought the Safari,but I LOVE my Novara!!!
    You Just Cant beat REI!!!!
    Last edited by The Figment; 08-07-07 at 02:24 PM.

  5. #5
    Spandex free since 1963! HauntedMyst's Avatar
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    Bikes require some special tools to build them from the frame up and if you aren't mechanically inclided, I'm not sure I'd want to risk trying to drive across the country on it. And the thing is, unless you get a good deal on most of the parts on ebay, its not really any cheaper (and can cost more) and you get no warranty. It's better to buy it from a shop and have them do the proper build. Personally, I'm a Cannondale fan for every day riding but have heard great things about the Novara Randonee for touring lately.

  6. #6
    Senior Member slowjoe66's Avatar
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    Don't overlook this time of year coming up. The bike shops are just about ready to begin to slow down and will deal more on their stock. One of our local bike shops just sold the only Jamis Aurora he ever had in stock for pennies on the dollar to move it. He just doesn't have the turnover to sell and stock touring bikes. So, expand your search area. I wouldn't think it would be too much of a hardship to get the phone book out and call any LBS within a two hour drive and see what they have in stock as far as touring bikes go. If one has a touring bike in stock that is your size, take a Saturday and go and test drive. Spend time talking to them. Tell them you want a dedicated touring bike, and don't let them talk you into anything else.

    Keep reading the forums. You are very smart to take a full year to plan your first long tour. I did the same thing and it's an invaluable time to learn and try things out and tweak them to your liking.

    Once you get the bike and most all of your gear, go on a few overnight or 3 day tours; camping at a local state or county park. Check out how everything rides, how everything performs. You will find things out you hadn't considered. When you have all the bugs worked out, and in the mean time, put yourself on a training regimen. Map out how often you want to ride. Consider getting yourself in great shape. It will make your trip soooo much more enjoyable if your lungs, legs, and fanny are seasoned and ready for long days in the saddle. I would suggest commuting to work on your bike for the last few months or more prior to your trip. I found commuting was sooo much easier and more fun for conditioning than trying to get 100 miles or more a week in on rides after work and on Saturdays and Sundays. Commuting is great, give it a try; it will teach you so much about riding in weather, roadside repairs, dealing with traffic and cars and a full range of things that you just learn, by being out there on a bike.

    Good luck to you.
    I don't have a solution but I admire the problem!

  7. #7
    Two Tired Traveler
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    Even if (especially if) you're not mechanically inclined, it's a good idea to be able to change and repair the brakes, power train, and tires. You'll be reluctant to do this with a brand new customized bike (which is possibly the one good argument getting for a cheap/used bike).

    In fact, you might consider buying a dirt-cheap "practice bike" and learn to take everything apart and put it back together before you go. You can find out how to do this from the forums, YouTube, library books and the like.

    The other advice about short rides and practice is spot-on.

    Ultimately, though, you can't prepare for everything, and that's the joy of the adventure. You'll run into situations you couldn't have predicted. But you'll also get a lot of unexpected help.
    Ride out and meet whatever limits you.

    http://www.bicyclefreedom.com/

  8. #8
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    You can tour on almost anything and have a good time, but a good-quality bike will enhance your enjoyment by being more comfortable, better handling, and hopefully, freer from the mechanical issues that can put a damper on your enjoyment of a tour.

    The easy answer, if you can afford it, is to buy a brand new, touring-specific bike. The two Cannondales mentioned are well-thought-of. The Surly LHT seems to be the hot touring bike these days. Trek's 520 is supposed to be a high-quality touring machine, although lots of folks think the stock gearing isn't low enough. I've heard lots of good things about the Novara Randonee - especially how cheaply they can be bought, if you can find one in your size, and if you have the member's discount, and if they're on sale (which they may be soon?) I've also read good things about the Fuji touring bike, which is another model that isn't quite so expensive. Then there's Rivendell and Bruce Gordon, which, I think, are a little higher-priced, "specialty bikes". Rocky Mountain Sherpas are newer models that are getting a lot of positive reviews. I've also heard good things about the Co-Motion Americano. There's the British-made Thorn, and the Waterford. There's a Miyata (Koga?), which I don't know much about. I'm sure there are other good tourers as well.

    Okay, so if you have the money to buy something new, there are lots of choices - just make sure that you get a good fit. Test ride if you can. If you can't ride the particular model you're interested in, study the geometry, ride something similar, and if there are differences in the length of tubes, try to project what those difference might mean. I don't think you can find out much about ride quality by riding something similar, but you might find out something about fit. If possible, find a shop that has a machine for finding optimal fit, or find a salesperson who knows a lot about fit (my personal experience would say to find someone over 30; a lot of the 20-somethings who wait on me seem to only know about racing bikes or hard-core mountain bikes. It seems to be difficult to find a bike-shop-person who has done any touring.) That said, you can adjust fit a bit after you've bought a bike by changing stems, raising or lowering the seatpost, or sliding the saddle forwards or backwards, but it's best to find a bike that fits you well without much tweaking.

    One person mentioned that if you buy a frame and build it up (like the LHT, which is often sold out of the complete bikes), you will spend more money. That's true. That's what I did - I bought an LHT frame. I've spent well over $1,000 to get it ready to ride. I did it as a hobby. I bought a bunch of new tools for the build, because I like owning my own tools. It wasn't a smart economic decision, but it was fun, and I learned a lot.

    Now suppose you don't have a lot of money; what are some good options? Well, good touring bikes come up on Ebay or Craigslist quite often. If you know what to look for, you can get a good deal. Don't expect to get a super deal, however, because there seem to be lots of other people looking for used touring bikes, so you will have some competition, at least on Ebay. But I've seen several Trek 520s, for example, sold for $500 or less, which is quite a bit under the new price. If you're an experienced Ebayer, this might be a good option. (If you're new to Ebay, beware. Make sure the seller has lots of transactions and close to 100% positive feedback.) And make sure you know what size you want, and don't settle for something close.

    I would recommend against buying a "vintage" tourer, unless you're an experienced tinkerer. These often have outdated components which will need to be replaced. If you have plenty of time and have a lot of knowledge about bike components, this would be something you could manage, but if not, it isn't easy. Again, there seem to be lots of other bicyclists competing for the good components that go up on auction. There are also a lot of used components that are worn out, or have some mechanical issues to be addressed. If you have another bike with good components that you can swap out, then buying a vintage frame might be a good option. (If you're around 6 feet tall, I have a vintage Nishiki touring bike I'd be willing to part with for a modest price.)

    A third option might be to buy an old, high-quality, rigid mountain bike. Those old rigids from the 80's and early 90's had sturdy, fairly lightweight frames. The 26-inch wheels are usually quite strong, and with a narrow street tire make for excellent touring. Those bike usually had long chainstays (good to prevent heel strike on your panniers), and lower gearing - good for climbing hills with a load. I bought my son an old Specialized Rockhopper in beautiful shape for around $300 (including shipping.) All I needed to do was swap out the brakes, which worked but were sketchy. I bought him a used Blackburn Mountain rack for under $30. All I have to do is put a front rack on and he's ready to tour. Of course there are no braze-ons for a rack on the fork, but that's easy to get around. There aren't any braze-ons for fenders either, but to me that's a minor inconvenience, not a deal breaker. My point is, for under $400 total, he's got a bike that he could probably ride across the country and have no more worries about mechanical breakdowns than me on my new LHT.

  9. #9
    Junior Member mattygobatty's Avatar
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    crosscountry08: Thanks for starting this post. I am beginning to plan a world tour and I am facing some of the same issues. I want to second some of what BigBlueToe talks about. I'm not an expert biker, but I am a physician and what he says makes complete sense to me. I would also refer you to Andy Pruitt's Complete Medical Guide for Cyclists. Buying a bike is a lot like buying a good pair of hiking shoes. Just because somebody else loves the shoes doesn't mean they are going to fit you too. Touring is a repetitive action and a good comfortable fit has more to do with our own personal geometry rather than some universal body type. Find someone who is experienced and willing to adjust your bike after the initial 'approximation' of a good fit.

    Good luck on the journey!
    Choose your thoughts, change your mind.

  10. #10
    Senior Member lighthorse's Avatar
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    Crrosscountry,
    If I were you, before I decided on a bike, I would decide on how I was going to tour. If you and your friends are going to travel together, are you going to have some kind of suport along the way? If so, then most any road bike will be fine, in fact probably better than a touring bike.
    If you guys are going to be self supported, are you planning on camping along the way, or will you be finding lodging along the way? Again, if you don't need all of the camping stuff then a road bike will probably work just fine.
    Just saying, you need to read a lot of the touring journals and begin studying your route to get information to help you make the basic decisions for your tour.
    My recommendation, based on your comment that "we are all fairly new to cycling" would be to buy an off the shelf bike. You don't want an old beater (ebay) bike on the tour that breaks down and causes problems for all of you. Bike shops can be hard to find sometimes on a cross country. And building a bike from scratch will be harder than you think, and a lot more expensive than you plan for.

    In any event this is all a part of the touring experience for you. Good luck and have a memorable journey.
    Suntree, Fl.
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    crazyguyonabike.com/lighthorse

  11. #11
    Member crosscountry08's Avatar
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    Just a quick update, today after much research and all of your opinions and suggestions i purchased my bike...

    a navaro Randonee (I tried to put a pic in here but couldnt figure out how). I guess I actually didnt do a very good job of following all your advice. I spent 2 hours friday calling all the bike shops i could find within two hours of my house to see which ones had an touring bikes in stock that i could test ride. I ended up with 3 shops. I intended to hit all three, but after I went to REI i was sold. For one thing, I loved the bike when I rode it. but the service at REI is really what made the decision easy. one of the guys spent 3 hours with me figuring out exactly what additions i wanted to make on my bike, and when they didnt have the shoe i wanted in my size they called one of their other stores in the area and had them put on hold, then gave me directions to that store. REI is not your typical "local bike shop" but their service is excellent. And even though they're an hour and half away I'm willing to make the ride. I've only put about 10 miles on my bike thus far, but it rides incredible and i look forward to many, many more miles put on it. Thanks for all your help and I'm sure you'll be hearing from me more over the next year.

  12. #12
    eternalvoyage
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    Quote Originally Posted by crosscountry08 View Post
    ...So any suggestions on another qualified touring bike of resonable price would help. Any other random advice for our trip would be great too.
    Suggestion: learn a lot about bikes and bike mechanics.

    You will be much more self-reliant on the road, and you can save a lot on repair, tune-up, and maintenance costs.

    The most relevant information isn't that hard to learn, especially if you find good teachers.

  13. #13
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    crosscountry08,
    Congratulations. The Novara Randonee is a great bike and REI is an excellent retailer who will stand behind their product. I test rode a Randonee and was very impressed. I own a 20 year old steel Novara Trionfo which is still going strong.

  14. #14
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    their is a story on crazyguyonabike.com about a guy that did the same tour, but on a recumbent trike.

  15. #15
    The Wheel is Turning The Figment's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by crosscountry08 View Post
    Just a quick update, today after much research and all of your opinions and suggestions i purchased my bike...

    a navaro Randonee (I tried to put a pic in here but couldnt figure out how). I guess I actually didnt do a very good job of following all your advice. I spent 2 hours friday calling all the bike shops i could find within two hours of my house to see which ones had an touring bikes in stock that i could test ride. I ended up with 3 shops. I intended to hit all three, but after I went to REI i was sold. For one thing, I loved the bike when I rode it. but the service at REI is really what made the decision easy. one of the guys spent 3 hours with me figuring out exactly what additions i wanted to make on my bike, and when they didnt have the shoe i wanted in my size they called one of their other stores in the area and had them put on hold, then gave me directions to that store. REI is not your typical "local bike shop" but their service is excellent. And even though they're an hour and half away I'm willing to make the ride. I've only put about 10 miles on my bike thus far, but it rides incredible and i look forward to many, many more miles put on it. Thanks for all your help and I'm sure you'll be hearing from me more over the next year.
    GOOD Choice!!!! You will be very happy with your new bike!!! one pice of advice with a Novara...Take the wheels to a lbs after you put the first hundred miles or so on them and have the bike shop retension and true the wheelset,rei wheels are michine built,a quick wheel tune up and they wont give you ant troble The only problem I had with my Novara was a few broken spokes...But my BoB tralier was WAY overloaded...NOT REI's Fault!!! otherwise the bike performed FLAWLESSLY!!!!! And Still Does! I rode from Boston to Wichita with 70-80 lbs in my trailer.

    Edit: The Beast....



    It looks abit differnt now I added new bar ends,ergo grips to help with finger numbness a better rack and commuter bag and a pair of Crossroad Armadillo Tires... Ill post new pics later this week as work is keeping me waaaaaay too busy rite now!
    Last edited by The Figment; 08-13-07 at 01:25 PM.

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