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  1. #1
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    Cross country questions: components, equipment, route

    Hey all, been postponing this thread for too long. 'Ere goes.

    So I'm in the latter stages of planning and preparing for a cross-country tour. I'll be starting in Austin, Texas and leaving for Santa Fe, New Mexico within the next 15 days. From Santa Fe I'll turn to Tuscon, Arizona, at which point an assessment of funds will be made and the rest of the trip planned. I've got a few questions concerning my route (for example, should I head west from Austin and cut up through the mountains to Santa Fe or head north initially and cut west around lubbock?). Before I go and post a huge thread I'm wondering if this is the appropriate forum to consult. Should that discussion go in the regional forums? I also have a few questions about my bicycle and the supplies I'll be taking with me. I think this is the right forum for that so I'll go ahead with those.

    I'm still finishing my bicycle, but so far this is how it's shaping up:

    I started out with a late 80's (roughly dated by the presence of U-brake bosses underneath the chainstays) Nishiki Cascade mountain frame, no fork. Its measurements are 60cm top tube (c-c), 50cm seat tube (c-c), and 42mm chainstays (c-d). I'm 6'1 with a pubic bone hight of 86cm and wear a size 10.5 shoe. Since then I've acquired the following (starred items came from my other bikes or the Austin Yellow Bike Project):

    *Nameless, cheap fork. No suspension. Cantilever bosses and double eyelets. Brings it to a 110.5mm wheelbase.
    *Random Shimano cantilevers
    Dia-compe 990 U-brake
    Shimano barcons -- they were advertised 7-speed, but the part number (SL-B550) suggests 8-speed
    *Nice wide, deep “anatomic” drop handlebars
    Sugino XD300 cranks 26/36/46
    Kalloy 25.8mm seatpost
    *Some old Lyotard quill pedals, or cheap Wellgo SPDs
    Topeak rear rack with that handy slide-and-clip mechanism
    Rivendell Nitto Big Front Rack
    Arkel T-42 panniers
    *Ritchey Logic saddle
    *32-spoked asymmetrical bontrager corvair rim with a shimano C201 freehub
    *36-spoked Weinmann 519(?) with a Shimano HB-RM40
    *Nameless 28/24/21/18/15/13/11 cassette (seems to be really nice though)
    *Deore rear derailer
    Topeak MTX trunk bag (without the fold-out panniers)

    I acquired the Rivendell Nitto rack because I plan on forming my front panniers out of chloroplast and shaping them into some type of fairing. All of those triangles should provide enough lashing points and strength to support it. However, the rack isn't really fitting “properly” on my nameless fork (blades are too wide). I've sort of made it work, but I'm considering picking up a Surly Long Haul Trucker fork.

    Anyone actually used one of the Solio solar chargers? I was considering setting up a solar panel until I found this. I'm not going to be using a laptop, but it would be very convenient to keep the phone and mp3 player charged. I'm just about certain I'll skimp on other things to get this. Anyone have exceptionally negative or positive experiences with it? I figure I won't have a lack of sunshine where I'm riding...

    Also, I was thinking about converting an old palm pilot to use as a trip computer, as described in this link. Anyone done this?

    I'm still making a decision about the saddle: Brooks Flyer, B17, or save my money? Also still figuring out the lights, the fenders (SKS P50, perhaps?), and whether or not I want to keep the drops. I'm toying with the idea of putting some moustache bars on it because I tend to have lower back pain in drops on extended rides. Maybe I'll pick up some “aero” handlebar extensions to rest on. I need to figure out the handlebars before I figure out the stem.

    I scour the archives most of the time but I need to bounce some ideas around. Thanks!

  2. #2
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    are you one of the Gatlin Brothers?
    You are welcome to stop in Glen Rose if you head north to 55 miles southwest of Fort Worth (between Stephenville and Cleburne).
    FrankB

  3. #3
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    ah, alas, I am not. Just a coincidence in name. But thanks for the invitation!

  4. #4
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    I would definately stay well west of the metromess. I'd make a b-line for New Mexico....that whole area of Texas is beautiful and sparsely populated. There's no need to go through Lubbock...have you ever BEEN to Lubbock?

  5. #5
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    Nope. Most of what I've heard about it (I've got some old friends who go to Texas Tech) isn't great. My initial instinct was to head west, but some concerns have been brought to my attention. First, the difference in distance could be as much as 100+ miles if I chose to go west. Second, like you said, the west is more sparsely populated. Much more sparsely populated. Which isn't too big of a problem, but there are definite pluses to being in an area where you're never more than 75 miles from (at least) a house.

  6. #6
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    It's good to know you're using the Yellow Bike project to help with this journey.

    From the Austin area heading towards Amarillo, that trip was sparsely populated just as well. Most of that west and northwest area of Texas is going to be like that even as you head into New Mexico (or Oklahoma).

    As for your bike, it appears you will be carrying both rear and front panniers, and with a 26-28 granny gear, that will be tough with that amount of gear. You also start in a very hilly part of Texas, which doesn't give you much time to build up your legs if you aren't fit already. My first suggestion would be to par down on gear before changing gearing. I was able to make all my climbs with 24-28, but I only had rear panniers with full camping gear. If parring down is not an option or not enough, then exchange the cassette with one with at least 32T or 34T large cog, and Shimano does (or did) make 7-speed cassettes with a 32T large cog. I have an old Deore rear derailleur and it doesn't support more than 28T because the B-spring is so weak.

    As for the saddle, I favor a channeled one because my bottom feels that's one of the better innovations in cycling.

    I didn't have fenders or kickstand.

    If you want great parts and cheap prices, visit the monthly Frankenbike swapmeet in Austin. When there's a good turnout (that's the key), you'd be amazed at how much you could save on quality used parts. (For example, XT rear derailler $10; XT front derailleur $5; wheel with XT hub $20; XT cassettes $5; Avid SD-7 V-brake $5; bike computer $3; XT hollowtech crankset with bottom bracket $45; chainrings $3-5; LX rapid fire brakes/shifters $15;....) I had a chance to buy a Surly fork there last summer, but it was so heavy there was no way I would use it.

    I also had a solar power charger, but that didn't work very well while riding because it was mounted to the handlebars and much of time my shadow blocked it. I didn't mount it on the rear of the bike because I was afraid it would fall off and I wouldn't notice. Next time, I'm using a lightweight compact 1-hour charger (for both AA and AAA).

    -Lance

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by lancele View Post
    It's good to know you're using the Yellow Bike project to help with this journey.

    From the Austin area heading towards Amarillo, that trip was sparsely populated just as well. Most of that west and northwest area of Texas is going to be like that even as you head into New Mexico (or Oklahoma).

    As for your bike, it appears you will be carrying both rear and front panniers, and with a 26-28 granny gear, that will be tough with that amount of gear. You also start in a very hilly part of Texas, which doesn't give you much time to build up your legs if you aren't fit already. My first suggestion would be to par down on gear before changing gearing. I was able to make all my climbs with 24-28, but I only had rear panniers with full camping gear. If parring down is not an option or not enough, then exchange the cassette with one with at least 32T or 34T large cog, and Shimano does (or did) make 7-speed cassettes with a 32T large cog. I have an old Deore rear derailleur and it doesn't support more than 28T because the B-spring is so weak.

    As for the saddle, I favor a channeled one because my bottom feels that's one of the better innovations in cycling.

    I didn't have fenders or kickstand.

    If you want great parts and cheap prices, visit the monthly Frankenbike swapmeet in Austin. When there's a good turnout (that's the key), you'd be amazed at how much you could save on quality used parts. (For example, XT rear derailler $10; XT front derailleur $5; wheel with XT hub $20; XT cassettes $5; Avid SD-7 V-brake $5; bike computer $3; XT hollowtech crankset with bottom bracket $45; chainrings $3-5; LX rapid fire brakes/shifters $15;....) I had a chance to buy a Surly fork there last summer, but it was so heavy there was no way I would use it.

    I also had a solar power charger, but that didn't work very well while riding because it was mounted to the handlebars and much of time my shadow blocked it. I didn't mount it on the rear of the bike because I was afraid it would fall off and I wouldn't notice. Next time, I'm using a lightweight compact 1-hour charger (for both AA and AAA).

    -Lance
    Thanks for the insight Lance. If going north is just as sparse...then I'm going west.

    I'm trying to be as light on the gear as possible but I'm not going to be credit-carding it (at all) and I've got some big books I have to carry with me (finishing a Statistics class remotely). So changing the gearing is probably going to be it.

    I had originally planned to use this sunrace 7-speed freewheel with a 34T "Megadrive." BUT, lo-and-behold I didn't even think to check and see what type of hub the wheel had until I went to remove the preexisting cassette, which I thought was a freewheel. Maybe I'll take the 11T cog and replace it with a 32T or 34T. The hub was originally designed for 8 speeds so I could even look for an 8 speed cassette. But thanks for that heads-up.

    How heavy was the Surly fork? 10 pounds? The one I've got now looks straight from Wal-Mart and clocks in at 3lbs. It's a strange one, too. Something is acting up with the fork crown race.

    Do you know when the next Frankenbike is?

  8. #8
    Senior Member late's Avatar
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    I don't remember seeing tires mentioned. You want really, really, good tires.
    I like Schwalbe for touring.
    Old Man Maine

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by late View Post
    I don't remember seeing tires mentioned. You want really, really, good tires.
    I like Schwalbe for touring.
    Ah, yes. Any model in particular?

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by late View Post
    I don't remember seeing tires mentioned. You want really, really, good tires.
    I like Schwalbe for touring.
    I'm planning on picking up a pair of marathons, after what I've read. Thanks.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by JGatlin View Post
    How heavy was the Surly fork? 10 pounds? The one I've got now looks straight from Wal-Mart and clocks in at 3lbs. It's a strange one, too. Something is acting up with the fork crown race.

    Do you know when the next Frankenbike is?
    The fork I didn't buy was about 3-3.5 pounds (guestimation from holding it), which is significantly heavier than my Bridgestone MB fork at roughly 2 pounds.

    The next swap meet is Feb. 23 @ Alltournative Pedicabs located @ 902 E. Cesar Chavez (12pm - 4pm). You can get information about each swap meet at www.frankenbike.org. At the December one I was able to put a complete 1991 Rockhopper together for about $75. Someone sold me the frame and fork with LX biospace crankset, headset, stem, handlebars, and LX front derailleur for a whopping total of $15. Originally, he wanted $20, but I just couldn't buy it for that price because my heart wasn't really into having it.

    As for the cassette, you have a lot more options with an "8-speed" hub (I'm guessing that's 135mm spread and a 9-speed cassette will also work). Performance has 8-speed 12-32T cassettes for $15, which is a good price if you're on a tight budget.

    -Lance

  12. #12
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    Another question: considering the long top tube and short seat tube of the bike, should I be looking for a stem with a geometry like the Nitto DirtDrop?

  13. #13
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    Thanks for the links Lance. I'll definitely be there at the swap meet Feb. 23.

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