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Old 01-17-08, 10:55 AM   #1
diwhy?
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Going on Tour, about 1700 miles.

I'm embarking on this trip of about 1700 miles and have a couple of questions for you experienced dudes.

I have a Schwinn Varsity from Walmart that I bought for $100. It's in great condition and is tuned up pretty well. It has about 300 miles on it. I ride it to and from work everyday (5 days a week). Which is eight miles both ways. It rides great considering the cost and I've only had one flat since my purchase. The reason I ride this bike is because I'm pretty broke and can't really afford a nice, high-end bike. Upon seeing this bike, I did some research and thought I could make this bike worth while. It has been thus far.

Now for my question: Am I a complete and total idiot for even considering touring on this bike? Does anyone have any suggestions pertaining to my situation? Are there any parts upgrades I should be doing? All help will be greatly appreciated.

Keep in mind also that I'm bringing the necessary setup for this kind of trip.
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Old 01-17-08, 11:20 AM   #2
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I'm embarking on this trip of about 1700 miles and have a couple of questions for you experienced dudes.

I have a Schwinn Varsity from Walmart that I bought for $100. It's in great condition and is tuned up pretty well. It has about 300 miles on it. I ride it to and from work everyday (5 days a week). Which is eight miles both ways. It rides great considering the cost and I've only had one flat since my purchase. The reason I ride this bike is because I'm pretty broke and can't really afford a nice, high-end bike. Upon seeing this bike, I did some research and thought I could make this bike worth while. It has been thus far.

Now for my question: Am I a complete and total idiot for even considering touring on this bike? Does anyone have any suggestions pertaining to my situation? Are there any parts upgrades I should be doing? All help will be greatly appreciated.

Keep in mind also that I'm bringing the necessary setup for this kind of trip.
I think its great that you are planning a tour, but 1700 miles on a Walmart bike is a bit of a risk. I'd encourage you if you were doing a shorter tour that didn't take you far from home, but I wouldn't want to be in the middle of nowhere on a Walmart special. I'd be worried about the strength of the frame, particularly the welds. Also an quick look at Walmart's website makes me think that the bike does not have the right brazons or drivetrain for touring.

Its a great commuter, but I'd check out ebay or craigslist to find a quality used bike for such a long tour.
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Old 01-17-08, 12:06 PM   #3
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I have met tourists riding on discount-store MTB-a-like bikes. One 6'6" New Zealander carried all his stuff in a military kit bag lashed to the rear rack and travelled about 500 miles across the UK.
The frames are generally strong enough (but heavy). The main issues are poor alignment of the frame and forks leading to handling problems on descents, poor quality of wheel-build failing under load and low grade cartridge bearings at the bottom bracket (replace with a Shimano UN52 or 72). The rest of the bike and components are surprisingly effective.
Personally I would prefer to use a higher grade used bike and would suggest you keep your eyes peeled for a midrange MTB/hybrid bike from a respected brand from charity shops/skips, police sales etc.
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Old 01-17-08, 12:52 PM   #4
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I am going to upgrade the tires. And maybe the rims. I'll do all the necessary upgrades if need be. The frame is aluminum. Please expand on why the frame probably wouldn't hold up.
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Old 01-17-08, 01:09 PM   #5
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I am going to upgrade the tires. And maybe the rims. I'll do all the necessary upgrades if need be. The frame is aluminum. Please expand on why the frame probably wouldn't hold up.
Well the bike just isn't designed as a touring bike. Its tube walls will be thinner than on a tourer and I don't know about the weld quality. The comments about alignment and shimmy when loaded up are also important. I'm not saying that you couldn't do a 1700 mile tour on the bike, I just don't think its a good idea. Even if you upgrade the wheels etc I still think you'd be much better off getting something like a used Trek 520
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Old 01-17-08, 02:55 PM   #6
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I rode a Walmart bicycle 2,000 miles on my tour from SC to TX back in 2005 with the only problems of a flat and a loose nut from my bicycle rack. I rode a Schwinn mountain bicycle bought at Walmart. I rode a $50 Roadmaster from Lexington SC to Raleigh NC in 2002 with no problems except I had to pad the saddle with a gel cover. Walmart bikes will do well on a tour.

However on the flip side, what you are riding is a roadbike so you should do some long rides fully loaded before going on your tour to see how the roadbike handles & how it stands up. I always recommend a mini-tour of 2 to 3 days for anyone who has never toured before so they can work out the bugs and decide if they really want to do this over 30 days or more.

Ignore the Walmart bashers in here, your bicycle isn't going to fall apart to pieces, you can do a tour easily on a Walmart bicycle. Touring is more mental and being comfortable than anything else.

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Old 01-17-08, 04:17 PM   #7
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Ignore the Walmart bashers in here, your bicycle isn't going to fall apart to pieces, you can do a tour easily on a Walmart bicycle. Touring is more mental and being comfortable than anything else.
Walmart bikes are great for commuting and most times they will survive a tour, but its a crap shoot.
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Old 01-17-08, 04:34 PM   #8
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Like I said, I really can't afford a new one. So I think I'll take my chances. Afterall, along this tour I'm stopping in Tennesee for about a week and staying with some friends. That should give me some time to get everything tuned up and get anything fixed if it's major. So you guys think I'll be ok? Any other advice?

I'm going from Gainesville, FL to Arlington, TN (suburb of Memphis) To Hobbs, NM (small town in the very southeast corner of New Mexico. It's on the border of Texas.)

If that at all helps with giving me advice.
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Old 01-17-08, 04:43 PM   #9
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Like I said, I really can't afford a new one. So I think I'll take my chances. Afterall, along this tour I'm stopping in Tennesee for about a week and staying with some friends. That should give me some time to get everything tuned up and get anything fixed if it's major. So you guys think I'll be ok? Any other advice?

I'm going from Gainesville, FL to Arlington, TN (suburb of Memphis) To Hobbs, NM (small town in the very southeast corner of New Mexico. It's on the border of Texas.)

If that at all helps with giving me advice.
Like I said I'd advise against using the Walmart bike because of its inappropriate drive train, lack of braze ons and questionable strength, but as I see you are determined to use it, have you thought of what you'll be carrying and how you'll be carrying it?

Also from your initial post you appear to be fairly new to cycling, before you set off on a 1700 mile tour I'd advise you to do a few shorter tours or just go out all day on the weekends with the goal of getting comfortable riding 50 miles plus in a day. Beginning a tour with a reasonable level of bike fitness is safer and more fun than riding yourself to fitness in the first couple of weeks.

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Old 01-17-08, 05:29 PM   #10
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I am going to upgrade the tires. And maybe the rims. I'll do all the necessary upgrades if need be. The frame is aluminum. Please expand on why the frame probably wouldn't hold up.

There's no reason why the frame wouldn't hold up. Most Walmart bikes are built like tanks. Your components, on the other hand, might give you some trouble.

When are you going on this tour? Do you have time to do a lot more riding before you go? You currently ride 40 miles a week ... can you start gradually increasing that by riding a bit more some days during the week, and doing a longer ride on the weekends? 300 miles on a bicycle is practically nothing ... as you ride more, you may discover problem areas with the bicycle. You'll also get yourself into shape for the ride.

Before any components or anything like that die on you, I can see that you may potentially have problems with the saddle and handlebar setup. But you won't experience that riding 8 miles a day ... you'll start to experience things like that when you really start riding. And then you'll want to experiment with things like bar ends and a different saddle.

Also, does the bicycle have braze-ons? If not, how are you planning to carry your gear?
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Old 01-17-08, 06:13 PM   #11
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When something breaks, fix it. Like any other bike.
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Old 01-17-08, 06:16 PM   #12
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If you can put a rear rack on it, and can ride it for hours on end I say go for it ! Just do a few test runs to make sure it will hold up to your satisfaction.

I bought a expensive touring bike only to find it fail miserably on tour. Fortunately I had duct tape. You get what you pay for although for $100 you can't go wrong. I've used less expensive "non touring" bikes which have held up much better than my "touring" bike.

A few upgrades, eg, tires, seat will make ll the difference. As a previous poster mentioned, comfort is paramount.
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Old 01-17-08, 06:29 PM   #13
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As I always say, "Go for it with what you've got" and then let us know how it worked out.
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Old 01-17-08, 06:40 PM   #14
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The weak points on my cheap bike were the shifting, the brakes, and the rims. With the brakes, I assume you're riding around flat land without any touring stuff now, so keep in mind they won't be as good once you get out into hilly country with a load. Good luck.
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Old 01-17-08, 06:43 PM   #15
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The weak points on my cheap bike were the shifting, the brakes, and the rims. With the brakes, I assume you're riding around flat land without any touring stuff now, so keep in mind they won't be as good once you get out into hilly country with a load. Good luck.


Precisely why the OP should get out riding more. I'd highly recommend loading the bicycle up and going for a 50 mile day ride ... or a weekend trip. If something goes wrong relatively locally on the practice runs, the OP can fix it quickly and easily.
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Old 01-17-08, 08:23 PM   #16
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I say go for it, my daily driver is a 10 year old Pacific I got at Toys R Us. I'd suggest a tune up, checking everything for proper assembly, lubrication and to check that the nuts/bolts will hold up to the weather and the miles. The biggest problem I've had with X-mart bikes is improper assembly and small parts made of rust after the first day or two in the wet.

As Machka suggests, load it up and take it around local. Run your commute loaded with your expected tour load, it's much better to break down close to home. I'd add get it a little dirty and a lot wet first, simulate the worst condition you'd expect to need it to perform in on the road.
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Old 01-18-08, 12:36 AM   #17
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1700 miles is a long enough ride, but it isn't a long life span for a bike frame. I agree with the idea that generally your wheels components etc... are more likely to let you down than the frame. The average Walmart suspension bike these days would have cost 4000 15 years ago, and you do have to ask whether there are any little bits and pieces that will fall appart. but if the frame is simple, it should be fine.

Check out Ray Jardine's site for an extreme adventurer who has done long hauls on Walmart bikes as well as full custom bikes.

While I like a lot of racks, even when I am going real light, if you do cut the gear down you can easily get by on the rear rack only, and most bikes can mount one in the back. Again Jardine's site will get you on the light path, on the cheap.
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Old 01-18-08, 04:23 AM   #18
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if you think you can do it you probably will, ok the bike is not ideal and you will more than likely get a few issues, but soldier on and you will make it.

You say that you cant afford a new bike which is fair enough but please chek ebay, craigs list as you might be suprised what you can pick up for next to nothing.

have a great trip either way
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Old 01-18-08, 05:42 AM   #19
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Do ya know that funnily enough, you'lll probably find all the spares you need on Walmart and other department stores' bikes in just about any backyard along your route. Try that on a high-end or even moderately priced second hand "quality" bicycle.

The frame is likely to be heavy enough (read strong enough) to last the distance. The critical issue for you in covering this distance is more likley to be FIT... is the bike adjusted sufficiently well enough to ensure you will be comfortable for long periods in the saddle. Wheels are the next critical issue -- take them in off the bike to a bike shop and get a tighten-up job done on them.

Machka has it right. Get out there and try the bike with the gear you intend to take for a weekend trip. It's the only way you will find out the deficiencies (packing gear, comfort levels, gear adjustment, sufficient braking for the load). Then you can make a valued judgment on whether you are silly for the considering the idea, or confident enough to overcome obstacles along the way.
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Old 01-18-08, 06:00 AM   #20
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How is the quality of the components. Think I'd first start by giving the bike a good medical check up. Don't stray too far from bike shops. 1700 miles. Congratulations.
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Old 01-18-08, 11:27 AM   #21
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Thanks, everyone. I seriously thank all of you for your advice. I will be doing everything recommended here. The trip is not until this summer so I have time to get this baby to a touring capability. Thanks you've all been very helpful. How much would brake replacements cost?
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