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Old 11-12-07, 01:49 AM   #1
fmarchetti4
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Did I just buy the wrong bike?

In January 2008 I will be going on a 3.5 month touring trip through Chile and Argentina, including the remote southern areas (Patagonia). Knowing this, the local bike shop recommended the 2008 Kona: Jake the Snake, which from my own research appears to be a highly regarded bike. They did say that I would have to get a second fork (steel) to allow the attachment of a rack for panniers. But now that I have been conversing with some serious bike travelers, I am beginning to realize that I have to make quite a few modifications:
  1. A mega-range cassette for climbing those mountains, esp. since I will be heavy with my gear.
  2. A "granny" chain ring, for the same purpose. Problem is that the crank only allows for 2 rings (36 & 46 teeth come with the bike).
  3. As mentioned above, change the forks to steel ones.
  4. Perhaps even change the seat post to a steel one, for durability and reduce the risk of breakage if it gets somehow damaged. Also more comfortable.

On top of that, since I will be going to "not first-world" countries, if I have a problem with my frame no one will be able to repair (weld) the aluminum frame. Steel frames are much easier to work with. On top of that they are more forgiving for those long, bumpy rides.

So what do you think? In my situation, did I buy the wrong bike? I just got it and haven't really rode it, so I think that they would be open minded to exchanging it for a similar priced bike. So if that is the case, which bike(s) would your recommend for my situation?

Yes, I should have come here before i bought the bike to do my homework, but i just found out bikeforums.net exists.

I would appreciate all sincere comments. Please keep in mind that I am a "newbie" to bicycle touring.

Thanks in advance,

-Frank-
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Old 11-12-07, 03:08 AM   #2
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It looks like a very nice bike for commuting but i'm not sure for touring over rugged tarain loaded with panniers. I think your best bet would be to pull a trailer.
About the gears you definitely need to get the lowest possible.
Personaly, after reading many journals about south america and the road conditions there I would take a mountain bike with panniers.
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Old 11-12-07, 03:49 AM   #3
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I don't have the experience base to give a qualified response to your question, but my reading has lead me to a couple conclusions. I wouldn't worry too much about frame breakage and finding a welder. Of all the jounals I've read, I have not heard of anyone experiencing an aluminum frame failure. Aluminum is not so exotic that you couldn't find someone to weld it back up, though it might be a little harder. Most people that travel remote regions of third world countries do recommend 26" rims/tires as they are much more common worldwide and much more likely to fail.

You might wish to look at a few touring websites for additional tips.

www.crazyguyonabike.com
www.downtheroad.org
www.adv-cycling.org
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Old 11-12-07, 03:51 AM   #4
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-I didn't look at the bike-

If you are going to return the bike for another, don't be too concerned with using a rigid fork for racks.
Get a fork that can be "locked out" of suspension.

Take a look at Old Man Mountain racks, they are specifically made for suspension forks. I haven't used them, but have ridden with folks in Tibet who were on severe expedition type tours who did without troubles.

-as for the bike, get a MTB with 26" wheels that use tubes. See if you can find one that uses rim brakes. Don't be too concerned with steel, as far as I know you can't buy a steel MTB ready to go at a shop-you'd have to have something built up (and you don't have time).

I suggest rim brakes over discs due to the possible damage which might be incurred in normal transport of your bike on such a trip. Also because they are "simple".

Get your new bike soon, and start riding it as much as you can.
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Old 11-12-07, 09:05 AM   #5
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Well, I had light touring experience with jake the snake (2005 model)...as far as I know it is a cyclocross...but a touring machine....which implies its geometry wont be very comfortable and stable when fully loaded...and if you are going to tour with it anyway you will need:

1 you will need to upgrade the cassette for sure to get lower gear range
2 The chainset as well for the same reason.... double speed derailleur is fine....just get a 22T to 24Tand a 40-44T...as you dont need high gears anyway for loaded touring in remote mountain route...but pay attention to compatibility of the bike parts...better ask experienced bike shop to check and order them for you....
3 yes you will need a new fork...better to get one with lowrider mounting....
4 a steel frame is not essential, the jake the snake frame is quite strong (apart from being not touring oriented)....as alu frames especially from well know brands are well built and strong enough, it is not very likely for a frame to brake, unless you carsh it very very badly.....and "easy to weld a steel frame" is really a myth...it is not as ease as you think and if you do have a steel fram broken, I m sure the "third world country re-welded" frame wont enable you to carry on touring (you will know what I mean if you have ever try a re-welded frame..), it may just be able to get you to the nearest transportation then you are heading home .....So a strong alu frame will be fine...but for the jake the snake, you will need to pay attention to the load limit...well just reduce weight of stuff you take with you...
5 Now, this is the real problem, while the myth of "steel frames are way better then Alu frames" is not so important, the statment of "26" are prefered" is ture....the kona jake the snake come with 700x32/35 tyres...which...
a. you will need fatter tyres for mountain areas
b. 700c rims and tyres are "hard to fine" in third country...and a broken rim is more likely to happen than a broken frame!!!...so you'd better get some really good hand built 700c frame...change to fatter tyre of higher quality and spare tyres and tubes to take alon (700c version of marathon XR for example).....and dont forget to take some spare spokes as well.


Well....in conclusion, yes you did buy the wrong bike for patagonia touring....try if you can return it to get a refund or exchange to some thing else.......or just keep it as a cyclocross..and get a new expedition bike......as upgrading your kona to a expedtion ready bike wont be cheap....and you will have to EBAY all parts you dont wont after the upgrade as well....well just not worth doing it....
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Old 11-12-07, 11:51 AM   #6
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That certainly would not have been the bike any knowledgeable shop would have recommended, but then again shops that have staff who know anything about touring are few and far between.

I wouldn't worry about the aluminum frame so much as the wheel size [tough to impossible to find replacement parts] and the geometry. If you can return it I'd go for something like a 26" wheeled Surly LHT [assuming it fits], REI Safari or maybe buy a Thorn frame and build it up.

If you can't return it at least build up some bomber [36H or 40H] touring wheels so you won't have to worry about wheel problems and throw some 40-50mm Marathon XR tires on it. You can mount OMM panniers on the front of your existing fork if you want to keep it.

Have a wonderful trip.
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Old 11-12-07, 11:57 AM   #7
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That's quite a tour you have planned.

My thinking on your bike choice is along the lines of what xilios said. Given you're concerns, I'd see if the bike shop will take the Kona back and refund your money. It might help to ensure them that you'll try finding the right bike for the tour through their shop. That said, I wouldn't get my hopes up too much. Most bike shops probably wouldn't take the bike back. You might be able to sell it for close to what you paid.

Now, people have toured the world on all kinds of bikes that were "less than ideal". You could change the gearing, order a set of expedition worthy wheels from Peter White Cycles, pull a BOB Trailer and that would put you in pretty good shape. If I did the same thing with my cyclocross bike I'd feel I could go just about anywhere with it. That said, on the trip you're planning, I'd almost certainly take one of my other bikes because I prefer using panniers.

Another place to look at touring journals is The Trento Bike Pages and of course the FLT Gallery is where to go to see over 200 examples of how others have gone about expedition loads.

Good luck getting the bike sorted and have a great time on your tour.
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Old 11-12-07, 01:15 PM   #8
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I agree with vik that if you really want /have to use this bike for the trip, dont worry about the frame...but you will need solid hand built 700c wheels whith good rim, hub and spokes...(did I say hand built 700c frame?..sorry that was just a mistake..I meant wheel, I was out of my mine...)...

and I dont think using your current fork is a good idea...since as far as I know the jake the snake is fitted with carbon fork..which is not designed to be loaded...yes the OMM rack can be mounted without braze-ons, but mounting one of these on a carbon fork is still questionable..

and dont forget..you will still need lower gears for mountain climbing...

best cycling

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Old 11-12-07, 01:54 PM   #9
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Let's not say the wrong bike but it will definitely need significant modification if you want to reduce (not eliminate) your chances of problems. I would try and return it if possible and think about what others have said above, 26" wheels and a strong stiff frame, and no discs. And while you're at it, definitely a triple crank with a decent cassette.
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Old 11-12-07, 02:21 PM   #10
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I would agree with others here: if it's at all possible, try to return/exchange. You 'could' do it on the Jake, modified, but it's really not the right tool for this job. For loaded touring, that duration, in those areas, I would have thought minimum requirements:
1. 26" wheels
2. front/rear rack
3. rim, not disc brakes
4. no carbon
5. 'mtb'/expedition type ride position/handling/stability
Here in Ontario, might take some looking around, but you should be able to find something that would work. If you can't find anything set up this way stock, and time presses, best bet I would think is to buy a Marin Muirwoods, or something like a Trek 4500 (v-brake mtb), chuck the suspension fork for a steel/lo-loader one (Marin has that), and beef-up/grade components and especially wheels to something really tough, with Schwalbe Marathon or equivalent tires.
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Old 11-12-07, 04:46 PM   #11
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the shop may be more willing to take the snake back if they get you a LHT frame or complete bike. The smaller frames have 26 in. wheels, and 700 c 's arn't the end of the world. your waight may have a lot to do with the wheel situation. A LHT with Jandd expadition racks, the ft one is a b---h to mount, this would be a fine blue coller touring bike.
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Old 11-12-07, 08:38 PM   #12
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i don't know about this specific bike, but we must always remember: Perfection is Not a Necessity. Many people have bicycled from hither to thither without dream gear and a flawless preparation routine. Many people did it before dream gear existed. (Frames in 1926 were not necessarily scientifically calculated for "individualised" geometry). So if you cannot return, use a big heart to make up for the loss. i'm no seasoned tourer, but my bike isn't THE ultimate for the task either. So at least i'm with you.

But anyway, i'm writing more to add some patagonia experience to your considerations. Yeah, there are some huge obstructions between the two lands. But most of civilisation didn't want to live in them any more than you want to bike through them. So most roads, most towns, most everything is not in the middle of the andes. The majority of Argentina, particularly, is flat. And roads were built, it seemed at least to me, with good attempt at finding the most level path. So for most of your trip, you'll be cruising. But even when you make the great passage, there are roads that aren't so extreme. i don't remember it perfectly, and i didn't bike it, but i crossed at Bariloche, and don't remember the trip to be all that awe-takingly steep. a few tough days, oh yeah. but reserved for rambo and arnold schwatzeneger, no way.

And here a few last thoughts:
- thorn resistant tubes might be a good investment for parts of a dry argentina.
- might you ride one land, and take a bus or boat across the mountains to the other?
- if not, don't be afraid to shed some junk before hitting the hills. there'll be a few (not many, but a few) wanting neighbourhoods that'll be glad to have some gifts from a gringo visitor. and the exchange rate ensures that repurchasing on the other side won't drain your funds reserve too much.
- both countries are nice, but chile is BEAUTIFUL! if you grace one land with more of your time, i would stay west. this is a very personal thing, though, based primarily on scenery.
- MATE contains nearly every vitamin and mineral necessary for human life. never turn down an offer to share some. once you get the taste for it, you'll love it for life.

best wishes with decisions and everything else, brother! keep us updated on stuff.
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Old 11-15-07, 05:40 PM   #13
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Thank you everyone for your useful comments. In the end, I took the bike back to the shop, and seeing that it was still in mint condition, they accepted it back and I have a Trek 520 on order. The 2008 version is an improvement over previous models, as now the BB is external. It has everything on my checklist, and you can't beat the lifetime guarantee. I also like that it is built on the same land mass as me!
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Old 11-15-07, 10:20 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by fmarchetti4 View Post
Thank you everyone for your useful comments. In the end, I took the bike back to the shop, and seeing that it was still in mint condition, they accepted it back and I have a Trek 520 on order. The 2008 version is an improvement over previous models, as now the BB is external. It has everything on my checklist, and you can't beat the lifetime guarantee. I also like that it is built on the same land mass as me!
You dodged a bullet there, the Kona was not the right bike for your tour. The Trek 520 will be much better as long as you change the front crank, I don't know why Trek persists with 50/39/30, swap it out for a Sugino XD 300 or 600 with 46/36/24 rings
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Old 11-16-07, 06:38 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by fmarchetti4 View Post
Thank you everyone for your useful comments. In the end, I took the bike back to the shop, and seeing that it was still in mint condition, they accepted it back and I have a Trek 520 on order. The 2008 version is an improvement over previous models, as now the BB is external. It has everything on my checklist, and you can't beat the lifetime guarantee. I also like that it is built on the same land mass as me!
I'm not familiar with the stock wheels on the 520. At the very least get them re-tensioned by a good mechanic. Consider how much you'll be carrying and what the road surfaces will be like where you intend to tour in SA. You won't be able to get replacement 700c touring rims or tires so I'd err on the side of caution with your wheels.
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Old 11-16-07, 07:29 AM   #16
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I've always had the feeling a Kona Smoke would build up to a good expedition bike...
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Old 11-16-07, 12:00 PM   #17
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To add to what nun and vik have said, for your planned trip I'd also look to set the 520 up with the widest tires as possible (allowing for a little wiggle room in case a wheel comes out of true). Wider tires won't slow you down noticeably but will make a big difference when the pavement fades away.

I don't know if the 520 frameset was changed to address this for the new year but it used to be a challenge getting big tires and fenders on the front.

Have fun planning for your tour!
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Old 11-16-07, 03:23 PM   #18
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I live in Argentina, and know Patagonia roads in Argentian and Chile. As long as you stay on paved roads Argentine roads are decent, but once you are off the pavement you get into gravel roads with very coarse gravel. And there are many tousands of Km of unpaved roads that you might like to cover. I would think a suspension fork would be nice to have. And get as low a gear as you can, you will use it, specially if you go to the Carretera Austral in Chile

Check out this travel log:
http://www.waterdropfilms.com/travel...004/diary.html.

700c wheels would have been wrong, you would not be able to get adequate tires. I see that was taken care of. 36 h wheels I think would be better, you will find rims if you need to replace them. 40h would be stronger, but 36h can be built plenty strong and you can replace if you crash or something major happens.

Wheels are you main concern, next is racks, these are the two main failure points I have read looking at various travel logs. Make sure you take your new wheels on some trail rides and see how they hold up, get a good wheel builder to go over them. I have not done any touring myself. PM me if you have any questions, I am only in this forum by chance, usually I am in the Tandem forum.
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Old 11-16-07, 07:04 PM   #19
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OP "I have a Trek 520 on order"

Xanti "700c wheels would have been wrong"

Me "Uh-Oh "
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Old 11-17-07, 09:39 AM   #20
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OP "I have a Trek 520 on order"

Xanti "700c wheels would have been wrong"

Me "Uh-Oh "
Ideed I now see that a Trek 520 is 700c. My advice is that you bring with you at least one foldable replacement tire, (which you would want to take anyway) and stock a pair of replacement tires somewhere in your route. I have 700c in our tandem in Buenos Aires, and cannot find decent wide tires (even in Buenos Aires let alone Patagonia), only road racing tires and beach cruiser tires available, I bring them from the US, and keep a spares at home.
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Old 11-17-07, 10:28 AM   #21
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Xanti Andia looks like the only poster who knows the local conditions. Better see if your bike can handle the rim types mentioned. I rode for three years in southern Africa and the only rims available in the Transvaal were 27". Learn Angentine Tango before you go so you will have something to do when not on the bike.
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Old 11-19-07, 09:13 AM   #22
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Just called the Trek shop in Buenos Aires to see if they would have a 700 c x 30 - 38 tire which is the sort of tire you would want on a 700c for touring Patagonia, I though they must sell what they call the 29" MTB bikes, which is a 700c, and would have tires for them. Just wanted to reconfirm my previous assertion. Answer is they do not, they don't sell the 29" wheel MTB bikes because people can't source the tires. So here is the definitive answer, no wide 700 c tires available in Buenos Aires, even at Trek with all their marketing for the 29".
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