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  1. #1
    Member toolguy's Avatar
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    Touring bikes & equipment?

    My wife & I are planning a cross country tour next summer. We are hoping we can semi retire next summer. We currently ride a Merlin solis and a Trek 2200. We would like to buy top quality bikes to make the touring as enjoyable as possible. I've done some week long tours in the past. Multi-day touring will new to my wife. We live in southern Illinois. We are considering custom Merlins or Seven Vacanzas. How do I find out what brakes, wheels, shifters, tires etc. to put on the frames? Every bike shop recomends different parts. I am 58 and she's 56. Were in good condition. If we go top of the line, these could be the last bikes we will need.

    Toolguy

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    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by toolguy
    If we go top of the line, these could be the last bikes we will need.
    Oh, I'm sure you can find a reason to buy yet more bikes....

    The main thing to consider is what kind of touring you want to do: road, off-road, or a little of both. (I assume road, but you may want to do more than one tour.) That will have a big influence on some of the specifics, including tire choice, geometry and so forth.

    Generally speaking, though, you will want:
    - wide tires (at least 28's for road touring)
    - strong wheels
    - canti or v-brakes to accommodate the wider tires
    - rack and fender mounts, front and back
    - a relaxed and stable geometry
    - long enough chainstays to ensure proper heel clearance
    - low gearing, 20" if you can swing it

    Since it sounds like you have decent resources, I'd seriously consider getting S&S couplers on your bikes -- or possibly even a Bike Friday. The couplers allow you to break down the bike for better air travel and are very secure.

    If you're looking for high end, some of the good builders include Co-Motion, Waterford, Mercian, Thorn. Seven only recently started in with their touring bikes; not sure what Merlin does for touring. Bike Friday does full custom folding / separatable bikes and specializes in touring.

    Another option to consider is a mid-range touring bike, like a Trek 520, Surly LHT, Cannondale Touring 1. Those run $1000-1500 per. They are fully capable of a cross-country tour -- every bit as a high-end bike, unless you really need a custom fit -- and will make great utility / commuting / all-around bikes when you're done with the tour.

  3. #3
    Senior Member late's Avatar
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    Loaded, lite or sagged touring?

    (and did you see my reply to you in Introductions?)
    Last edited by late; 05-11-08 at 05:24 PM.
    We are as gods, we might as well get good at it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe View Post
    Oh, I'm sure you can find a reason to buy yet more bikes....

    The main thing to consider is what kind of touring you want to do: road, off-road, or a little of both. (I assume road, but you may want to do more than one tour.) That will have a big influence on some of the specifics, including tire choice, geometry and so forth.

    Generally speaking, though, you will want:
    - wide tires (at least 28's for road touring)
    - strong wheels
    - canti or v-brakes to accommodate the wider tires
    - rack and fender mounts, front and back
    - a relaxed and stable geometry
    - long enough chainstays to ensure proper heel clearance
    - low gearing, 20" if you can swing it

    Since it sounds like you have decent resources, I'd seriously consider getting S&S couplers on your bikes -- or possibly even a Bike Friday. The couplers allow you to break down the bike for better air travel and are very secure.

    If you're looking for high end, some of the good builders include Co-Motion, Waterford, Mercian, Thorn. Seven only recently started in with their touring bikes; not sure what Merlin does for touring. Bike Friday does full custom folding / separatable bikes and specializes in touring.

    Another option to consider is a mid-range touring bike, like a Trek 520, Surly LHT, Cannondale Touring 1. Those run $1000-1500 per. They are fully capable of a cross-country tour -- every bit as a high-end bike, unless you really need a custom fit -- and will make great utility / commuting / all-around bikes when you're done with the tour.
    Great advice. I would add Bruce Gordon (RockNRoad) and RIvendell (Atlantis) to the list.

    but... think about whether you will be happy leaving your full custom, titanium, gorgeous custom-painted bike locked up in a town for several hours at time, while you go sightseeing, or leaning against something and falling over an chipping your custom paint, or putting it in a cardboard box and flying it overseas.

    The tour bike is the pickup truck or camper van of the bike world - functionality is the top priority, it's gonna get beat up by the baggage handlers and it's gonna fall over a few times, the paint is gonna get scratched, and you are going to need to leave it locked up in less-than-ideal places. Don't let it own you - think Toyota Tacoma, not BMW X5.

    My $.02, FWIW, YMMV, etc etc
    ...

  5. #5
    Senior Member ken cummings's Avatar
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    Even if you do not select a Bruce Gordon bike ( www.bgcycles.com ) his web site has detailed parts lists for his bikes. If you want durability He is the way to go.
    This space open

  6. #6
    Member toolguy's Avatar
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    material

    Thanks

    I'm thinking titanium to avoid rust. Loaded road touring.

  7. #7
    Senior Member late's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by toolguy View Post
    Thanks

    I'm thinking titanium to avoid rust. Loaded road touring.
    Rust isn't an issue with most bikes. That's why you see so many bikes from the 70's around. Waterford treats their frames to make them even more corrosion resistant.

    Sleeping bags are very light these days. You can prob get by with a 3 pound bag.
    Tents tend to be optimistic in their sizing. I suggest getting a good quality tent that is easy to setup and light... but to get a 3 or 4 man tent. You can get real tired of being in a 2 man tent.
    http://outside.away.com/outside/gear...ction=showgear
    We are as gods, we might as well get good at it.
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  8. #8
    Senior Member robow's Avatar
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    Have you found the frame builder forum here at bikeforums? Run that titanium idea by them and I wonder if they will say, unless you intend to really beef up that titanium in gauge or diameter tubes, you might not find it rigid enough to handle loaded touring without some difficulties in flexure

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    Get some good wheels, Mavic a719 rims, Phill Woods Hub and Schwalbe marathon plus tires with some DT Swiss spokes. They are expensive but you will be happy when you have a zero maintenance super tough wheel, I am. I took my Devinci Hybrid (aluminum frame), replaced the carbon fork with a Surly LHT and put those wheels on the bike. Personally, I think the wheels matter the most (they cost more the 1/2 the price of the bike and the bike wasn't cheap).

  10. #10
    nun
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    If you want top quality I'd just call Waterford and tell them what you want. Get your cheque book out
    as yo'll have to send some cash, but you'll get a great bike.

    Buy the best hubs, headset and BB you can so, Phil Wood, Chris King and Phil Wood respectively.
    For a crank go with a TA Carmina and pair it with a Shimano touring cassette and shimano
    XT derailleurs. I like SRAM chains. If you go with sidepull brakes get Shimano long reach or the even bigger clearance Tektro silver sidepulls. If you use cantilevers get Paul component's canits. Get some 36 spoke wheels, I've had good service from Velocity Dyad rims. Tyres are very personal things. I use Ruffy Tuffy's
    and I've heard good things about Schwalbe Marathons

  11. #11
    Inebriated Ninja Hatters BMonei's Avatar
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    If you're willing to push the check book, I think you will be 100% satisfied with Seven. Our shop has done dozens of them; everything from Road to Tri-Bikes, Touring and 'Cross, even a few Fixed Gear. We also do Waterford and Lynksky (Both custom companies).

    Seven has the most sophisticated custom system I have seen so far. They outsource their products to excellent companies such as Vicious Cycles (for their forks) and will work with you until you get exactly what you want.

    In terms of componentry, Shimano XT der. (front and rear) with Downtube or Bar-Con shifters would be ideal. You definitely want to avoid STI shifters (typical Road bike shifters) because they aren't the most affordable to replace nor are they designed to hold up to much abuse with touring. Bar-Con and Downtube shifters are much easier to fix as well.

    I will post more later when it isn't the middle of the night.

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    If you want top-of-the-line touring bikes right now and money is no object, then congratulations and go for it.

    However, I think you already have nearly top-of-the-line bikes and that touring on them first will allow you to answer the questions you pose based on your own experience.

    I would strongly suggest doing a number of weekend or week-long tours near home before you embark on your cross-country tour -- especially if your wife hasn't done any touring yet. Whatever anyone thinks of Rivendell Bicycle Works's peculiar "velosophy," I think their encouragement of frequent, modest, overnight bike trips emphasizing the camping over the mileage is really great, and I think we'd all get a lot more satisfaction from our interests in bike touring if we pursued these more. I know I would, anyway.

    If you do that, you'll probably find out that 1) you hate your camp stove, 2) you wish you had a larger handlebar bag, 3) you're interested in finding a single pair of shoes that's good for both cycling and walking, 4) your wrists are killing you and you want to see if a bike shop can help you adjust away the pain, and 5) other than that, you really haven't noticed anything wrong with the bike itself -- which, as valygrl quite nicely puts it, is just the pickup truck taking you through the adventure.

    If you fix the small stuff, and build a base of experience and expectations from small tours before tackling the big one, you'll be far better prepared for it than you'd be if you just bought superbikes and took it from there. Of course, there's nothing stopping you from buying superbikes after you gain more touring experience . . . but they're more likely to be the right superbikes for you than if you run right out and buy them now.
    Last edited by Takara; 05-11-08 at 10:43 PM.

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    A couple of decisions to make:
    700c vs 26" wheels size. For ambling along it makess little difference and 26 may have the advantage in terms of tyre availability esp if you travel.
    STI vs bar-ends: decent integrated levers are reliable but bar ends give you compatability with any replacement rear mech including cheapie Shimano SIS. I just carry a spare plastic downtube lever for the rear.
    Brake style: calipers limit tyres to 32mm which is tight for rough roads. Cantilevers permit up to 40 ish which is plenty. Cable disc brakes are starting to appear on some tourers.
    Derailleurs vs Rohloff hub gears. Cost and weight are comparable. Rohloff are very reliable, easy to maintain and resistant to damage but not very fixable if something goes badly wrong (which almost never happens).
    Trailer vs panniers. You can tour on lighter weight bikes with trailers but panniers are easier to handle.

    There are plenty of high quality touring-bike frame-builders in the US so if you have the cash you are spoilt for choice. Ti vs steel is one apsect. The roadside repairability of steel is over-rated but I like it because you can jig around with braze-ons, adding and re-positiong for better cable runs, accessories etc.

  14. #14
    Caffeinated. Camel's Avatar
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    Don't forget to look into bikes with a Rohloff hub, or building ones up around Rohloff hubs.

    -That would be my choice for top of the line, and I own a Waterford adventure bike.
    mmmm coffeee!

    email: jfoneg (_"a t symbol thing"_) yahoo (_"period or dot"_) com

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    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Takara View Post
    I would strongly suggest doing a number of weekend or week-long tours near home before you embark on your cross-country tour -- especially if your wife hasn't done any touring yet. Whatever anyone thinks of Rivendell Bicycle Works's peculiar "velosophy," I think their encouragement of frequent, modest, overnight bike trips emphasizing the camping over the mileage is really great, and I think we'd all get a lot more satisfaction from our interests in bike touring if we pursued these more. I know I would, anyway.
    Not bad advice, but...
    Let me give a few counterpoints to consider. First is that really short trips are an entirely different thing than long distance touring. I loved riding the TransAmerica last summer, but don't find overnight bike touring to be much fun. If I had done a bunch of overnighters first I might have quit before I realized that I really like a long tour. This doesn't mean that you shouldn't do a few short tours, but merely that you need to remember that they are an entirely different experience.

    Next, short trips to prepare for a long tour are not an absolute necessity. Three of us took off on the TransAmerica with no prior experience and did fine. We all had lots of camping experience or maybe it would have been tougher. If you aren't already pretty comfortable with the logistics of camping, shakedown trips may be more important.

    BTW... Not the same topic exactly, but on a longer trip it is easy to train as you go. If you are going for 8-12 weeks, short mileage for the first week or 10 days doesn't matter much so you can ease into it.
    Last edited by staehpj1; 05-12-08 at 12:30 PM.

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    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by toolguy View Post
    If we go top of the line, these could be the last bikes we will need.
    By all means buy top of the line if that makes you happy, but... You will never *need* anything more than a normal middle of the road touring bike. The exception would be if you need custom due to fit issues. Otherwise an LHT, or 520 or whatever will get the job done in a more than adequate fashion and probably last as long as a top of the line bike. On a touring bike I doubt that doubling, tripling, or quadrupling the amount spent increases the performance or longevity of the bike to that of a significant degree.

    Just something to think about.

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    no one cares -holiday76's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by robow View Post
    Have you found the frame builder forum here at bikeforums? Run that titanium idea by them and I wonder if they will say, unless you intend to really beef up that titanium in gauge or diameter tubes, you might not find it rigid enough to handle loaded touring without some difficulties in flexure
    I toured for several years fully loaded (the bike, not me..mostly) on a titanium Litespeed. Great bike and I'd probably still tour on it were it not for switching over to a touring only recumbent.

    It did have a carbon front fork that kept me from using a front rack, but aside from that it was a great touring bike. I don't know if I'd buy one for touring just because of price, plus I love steel bikes, but if it's what you already had and you wanted to tour on it, I certainly would do it.

  18. #18
    Senior Member BengeBoy's Avatar
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    Toolguy didn't ask whether he should buy an expensive bike. He didn't ask what kind of trips to take. He didn't even ask *which* components to buy; he asked:

    " How do I find out what brakes, wheels, shifters, tires etc. to put on the frames?"

    I think you have 3 choices to figure out your components:

    1. Trust the shop that sells you the bike. All you really need to do is find the right shop to help you build out the frame you're getting. Don't think of it as buying a bike -- think of it as buying a shop. The advice you're getting varies because there are a number of good ways to outfit a top-flight touring bike. If you don't want to do your own research, just focus all your energy choosing the right shop, ask them to explain/justify every choice they make, then trust their recommendation. You're spending a lot of money...see if they'll agree to swap out anything you don't like within the first 90 days or so, or at least give you credit on a trade in on parts.

    2. Copy the configurations of the top-line bike builders. I mentioned this as an answer to your earlier post on this -- look at the websites of Bruce Gordon, Co-Motion, or Rodriguez (there are others). Any of those bikes come beautifully equipped...you can do a lot worse than writing down their component choices, giving them to the shop where you are ordering the Merlin or Seven, and then asking the shop to explain any deviations.

    3. Finally, do lots and lots of research on your own. Learn what other people have used, liked and disliked. Realize that not all parts are going to be compatible with one another, so you have to sort that out. There is a ton of information on the Internet -- some good, some bad. Go for it!

    BTW, I agree w/most of the above posters -- you can get a great touring bike for a lot less money than you're considering spending....and you certainly wouldn't have to worry about rust for a very, very long time on a steel bike that is well maintained. But, if you get a couple of Ti bikes, post photos!

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    Quote Originally Posted by toolguy View Post
    We would like to buy top quality bikes to make the touring as enjoyable as possible. [...] If we go top of the line, these could be the last bikes we will need.

    Toolguy
    It's quite possible that you will get no benefit out of spending so much over a good quality/good repution non-custom touring bicycle like the Surley LHT, Trek 520, Rocky Mountain Sherpa 30, Cannondate T. These would last as long as any custom option. All of these would easily last many, many years.

    There are two things to concider: 1) the frame and 2) the components. It's the components that will be the most-likely thing to fail. Very, very few people have frame problems.

    If you have some sort of specific issue that non-custom frame can't address, it would make sense to look at a custom frame. Beyond that, a custom frame won't increase the likelyhood of success by any measureable degree.

    If you are fabulously wealthy, by all means buy a custom frame (and keep the frame makers in business). If you are not so wealthy, you might find better uses for your money.

    Regarding components, you could quite reasonably start out with what comes with a good non-custom touring bicycle. The only components that people really complain about with the stock configuration are the seat and the gearing.


    Quote Originally Posted by BengeBoy View Post
    Toolguy didn't ask whether he should buy an expensive bike. He didn't ask what kind of trips to take.
    So what? It appears that he thinks he "needs" an expensive bike (which isn't true) plus OTHER people might be reading this thread.
    Last edited by njkayaker; 05-12-08 at 02:38 PM.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by BengeBoy View Post
    Toolguy didn't ask whether he should buy an expensive bike. He didn't ask what kind of trips to take. He didn't even ask *which* components to buy; he asked:

    " How do I find out what brakes, wheels, shifters, tires etc. to put on the frames?"
    Well, a lot of us are suggesting that the best way for Toolguy to get an answer to that question is to build some more experience as a tourist on the great bikes that Toolguy and his wife already own. Even if Toolguy is infinitely wealthy, we do him no favors giving him advice about what "top quality" bike gear to buy when he and his wife don't yet know what quality of touring experience they prefer.

    We're just sort of hinting that now is not the time to drop a load on really, really fancy "top of the line" bikes. Let Toolguy and Toolguy's wife learn what they prefer first! Otherwise we may just be setting up a pair of stupendous estate sale finds a few decades down the road. I think we can safely infer that Toolguy doesn't want that.

  21. #21
    Member toolguy's Avatar
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    Thanks

    Sounds like good advise to me.

  22. #22
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    I have different slant on this thing. I think many of the posters (and me too) have been impressed with your willingness to spend money for a top-quality touring bike. Since we're tourers we congratulate you on your good sense! We dream about what we'd get if we had more resources than we do. (Am I hitting the nail on anyone's head?)

    However, bicycle touring seems to bring with it a myriad of choices, decisions, conundrums, etc. There are so many things to consider and tradeoffs to make: weight vs. comfort vs. durability vs. convenience vs. warmth vs. ....... well, it goes on.

    What I'm suggesting is that you buy good quality (but not top-dollar) touring bikes that you think you want, and go touring on them. After you've spent a few months on the road and logged a few thousand miles, you'll probably have a REALLY good idea of what suits you, (and what suits you probably won't be just right for me) and you can buy them then.

    If I were you (and you're looking for an upright, non-folding bike) I'd buy a Surly LHT, or a Trek 520, or a Cannondale tourer (they make two, right?), or a Novara Randonee. Go for a tour or two. Learn about stoves and tents and sleeping pads and what clothes to bring and what crankset to buy and what shifters and what brakes and what racks and panniers, etc., etc., etc.

    After you've formed some strong opinions, THEN consider buying a tourer that will last the rest of your lives. If the bikes you have aren't the ones you want, you can sell them for a decent price. Tourers seem to be pretty durable and pretty timeless - the ones I've watched on Ebay always bring a good price; you almost never find a killer deal, because there are enough people who want them. However, I'm not sure what the resale value of high-dollar bikes is. I'd guess fewer people would be looking for them. My guess is that people who want really high-priced bikes would want to buy them brand new. (I'm not a marketing genius by any means - I'm just talking here.)

    I'm 56 with limited funds but enough to buy a new Surly LHT last year (I bought the frame and built it up with components of my choice.) I love it! I think it could last me the rest of my life, though I don't think it will. There will always be something new that excites me. One day I'll probably find myself buying something else, even though the old Surly still rides fine. (My last touring bike - a Nashbar - lasted 16 years and it would be good for another 16, but the Surly is just so much nicer!)

    Good luck!

  23. #23
    Senior Member BengeBoy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by toolguy View Post
    Sounds like good advise to me.
    Toolguy,

    Lots of good advice in this thread.

    Just to be clear:

    - Two Seven touring bikes, fully fitted out: $15,000 to $16,000

    - Two Co-Motion Americano bikes, fully fitted out: $6,600 (Bruce Gordon, Rodriguez - about same price).

    - Two Surly Long Haul Truckers, fully fitted out: $2,000.

    The price difference is huge....you can definitely get across the country on the Surly's in fine shape.

    BB

  24. #24
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BengeBoy View Post
    The price difference is huge....you can definitely get across the country on the Surly's in fine shape.
    Well said.

    I would add that for me at least, the difference in the resulting touring experience would be very small or even close to nonexistent. That assuming a good fit on whatever bike is chosen.

    Some folks are more into brand loyalty, having the best, and pride of ownership. If that enhances their touring experience it is probably worth it to them. It wouldn't be to me. That just isn't what touring is about to me. I tour on the least expensive dedicated touring bike available and when I think back on my summer on the TransAmerica, very few of either my fond memories or my regrets have anything to do with the bike itself.

  25. #25
    Member toolguy's Avatar
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    Thank you all for your much appreciated adsvise. We are going with the Bruce Gordon Rock N Road. I've already spoken with Bruce. We did our measuring tonight and we're ordering tomorrow.

    Toolguy

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