I use a hardtail mtb for off road touring and I use a suspension fork. I don't use a rear rack but a large seat bag, a frame bag, stem bag and bar bag. I found that keeping weight off the back wheel and trying to keep weight in the front close to the steering axis makes for a better ride.
I can lock out the suspension fork for long climbs and smooth roads but it sure adds a large degree of comfort on rough ground.
Rocky Mountain Solo 30, 2007 REI Novara Safari and Cannondale MTB
Hey thanks that was a useful reply. I am new to this forum and would like to bike to Alaska. I have not done any touring so the option of having a MT bike with a lockable fork is another option to consider.
To the OP... suspension forks bring in a whole new set of things that can go wrong, and with the type of ride you intend, that is the last thing you want.
A fixed fork is something that I definitely would recommend. If the bike fits you properly, you should be comfortable, and that includes hands. Stick with steel and stay away from aluminium (too harsh in my opinion) and carbon fibre (too finickity or "fragile"). To cover yourself, try to get a fork with mid-fork brazeons to make fitting of panniers much easier.
If you do decide to go with a suspension fork, check the quality through experience of people on the MTB forum here, and the reviews section of mtbr (mountain bike review forum). In the end, you will probably need to spend quite a bit of money (up to $1000, maybe more) to get the quality that will give you reliability.
Thanks rowan, Hub first definately. then wheels and spokes and then fork. when i get the hub ill try to get it off ebay or is that a bad idea.
As for a bar im thinking of getting either drop bars or a butterfly bar. not aero as i dont really want to be bent foward to much while ridding as on this tour ill be ridding for a while. ive got the same problem with drops (i think) if so to lesser extent (i think again)
The guy who auctions the hubs on ebay seems a pretty cool character to deal with. I've bought stuff from him, and have no problem at all with his communication and delivery and prices. I think the last hub went for tad over $1,000, so you might have to be patient. But they are worth it, if what I have been told by a very reputable user is a guide.
My dealings in cycling stuff on eBay generally have been excellent. It's the people who dabble in bicycle stuff outside their own primary interests that have caused me most grief (second-hand dealers, camping shops). I think you will find that if anyone puts up a Rohloff hub here on Australian eBay, you will find it a good deal.
Also... look up the mail order joint, www.chainreactioncycles.com. It's an English company, and its prices are great, and freight is free if you order over a certain amount (currently around $AUD550). They don't do Rohloff, but they do a heap of other stuff, including good frames, and all the sorts of accessories you might want. Disclaimer: No interest, other than being a once-only recent customer who references their pricing a lot when bidding on eBay).
Handlebars are a personal preference along with saddle. Stem length and bike fit (including saddle setback) are integral parts to this. The type of bar you get also may dictate the type of shifters you choose to use. So, it's not really as simple as it appears on the surface.
My personal preference up to fairly recently has been drop bars, but with my fixed gear tourer, I put on cowhorn/bullhorn bars (a bit like MTB flat bars with bar-ends and used by time triallists for power pedalling rather than aero bars).
I figured I very rarely used the drops on my original touring bike, even with the bars at seat height and when riding into strong winds. The variation in hand positions is still enough for me on the horn bars. I haven't tried fitting STI shifter/brake levers to them, but I figure they would work OK. Or I could fit bar end shifters to go with the aero brake levers already on there. I have a second set to try on my touring bike eventually.
I used aero bars on my very first touring bike, but didn't use them that much. Much again depends on the fit of the bike and aero bars force a compromise in some aspect of that fit. They really are designed for competition, and while some touring cyclists use (and love) them, they are in a minority.
In choosing drop bars, for instance, measure straight across your shoulder from outside the joints (don't run the tape measure *around* your chest -- measure in a straight line). That will give you an indication of the width of bar you should choose.
For me it is 420mm measured from the centre of each tube at the end of the drops. If you pick up a set of bars in a shop an put the ends up against you shoulders, it should be a very tight squeeze to push them past your shoulder joints. My cowhorn bars are the same width. I am not so sure you have the same measurement options with butterfly bars. Again, however, this is a ballpark measurement option, and you won't know if it works for you until you fit it to your bike and go riding! But once you do know, you can order with confidence on-line.
As I say, the choice on handlebars become a personal one, and unfortunately, it comes down to experimenting with each one until you find the one that suits you.