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  1. #1
    Senior Member BikeManDan's Avatar
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    Looking at getting an S&S frame, suggestions?

    I'm just getting into serious touring and looking at purchasing a touring frame to build up. I figure if I'm throwing money at this I might as well go all out and get an S&S equipped bike so I can easily pack the bike for flying.

    Any suggestions? (besides the Surly Travelers Check which I've seen and am considering)

    I'm 5'9, looking at a 52-54cm, seem to like a shorter top tube



    Also just did my first long single day ride of 80 miles and found that my neck bothered me by the end. Will this go away with more riding or is it a matter of adjusting stem height and reach and such?

  2. #2
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    With the new airline baggage charges, the economics of the S&S decision is less favorable than it once was. $15 or $25 for the first bag plus $30 to UPS the suitcase back home is not that much less than $75 for the bike (declared and packed as as such in a cardboard box).

    It is not a big deal to pack up a standard bike in a cardboard bike box and then throw away the box at your destination. In fact the reassembly of the S&S-equipped bike is a little more difficult. Unless you have the hard case for the S&S-equipped bike, you take the same chances with damage.

    I'd take the money you would have spent on the couplers and instead upgrade your frame to an Americano or Independence.

    I have S&S couplers on my bike but I just pack it in a cardboard box. What a waste of money!

  3. #3
    nun
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    take a look at Co-Motion and Waterford, not cheap, but they do S&S and make great bikes

  4. #4
    Bike touring webrarian
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    I have a Waterford with S&S couplers and, as nun said, it is a great bike.

    It is easy to think that the main benefit of the couplers is to pack the bike in a box when you fly. But, far more often, I uncouple the bike and stick it in the car trunk for easy transport in cars without bike racks, such as, friend's cars. I've also uncoupled the bike when I was at someone's house and there was a lack of storage space for the whole bike.

    I have also taken the bike apart and put it into a suitcase and flown with it. This is not an easy task and takes anywhere from 90 minutes to 3 hours, depending on how long its been since you did it last. This thread provides a look at packing my bike in a suitcase: Putting my bike in a suitcase

    The idea that airlines now charge for suitcases defeats the cost savings of S&S couplers is completely wrong in my experience. I feel my bike is much more protected in its case then it would be in a cardboard box. I have never had to UPS my bike box anywhere. Either I store it at a hotel when I land and where I most likely will fly from (outside US) or my wife flies with me to my starting point and takes the box back with her and then flies it to my ending point and brings it. This way we both get a bit of vacation and I don't have to UPS the bike box. I would UPS it if I had to but I never have.

    What's more, there are going to be more airline expenses in the future and there will always be a wide difference between the cost for a regular suitcase and a bike in a cardboard box. It is worth noting that how ever you pack your bike, you will still need another case for your gear, so you are paying the airlines suitcase fees no matter how you transport your bike.

    Lastly, having a coupled bike means that you always have the option to bring your bike with you when you tour instead of having to rent one.

    I am very glad that I have a coupled bike and wouldn't want to fly my bike anywhere without them.

    Ray
    Visit the on-line Bike Touring Archive at www.biketouringtips.com

  5. #5
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by raybo View Post
    I have never had to UPS my bike box anywhere.
    That depends on how and where you tour. I am inclined to fly in to one place, tour to another and probably fly home in most instances. That would complicate using a case beyond what it would be worth to me. I just don't see a case or couplers being worth the trouble for touring, for me at least.

    For example we flew to Oregon and rode out of the airport when we did the TA. If using a case I would have needed to ship it home. That would have been an extra expense and would have prevented us riding out of the airport because we would have needed to deal with shipping the case home.

    A similar thing could happen on the other end. As it was my wife met us in Virginia, but if we had needed to fly home we would have had to figure out a way to get to the case from home to the airport in Virginia if we wanted to ride to the airport.

    My point is that it may work well for some types of trips, but adds too much complexity to others.

    OTOH, it would be nice to be able to take a bike along on non-touring travel by using the case and a bike with couplers. For me that probably would be a road bike rather than a touring bike.

    I guess the potential buyer really needs to figure out how and where they will be traveling to know if it would work out for them.

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    Thorn make a couple of S&S bikes which are available as (expensive) framesets:

    Raven Nomad

  7. #7
    Senior Member bikebuddha's Avatar
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    Surly Travelers Check?

    http://www.surlybikes.com/travelerscheck.html

    {edit** My reading comprehension skills need some work {edit**
    Last edited by bikebuddha; 07-23-08 at 10:55 AM.
    The few, the proud, the likely insane, Metro-Atlanta bicycle commuters.

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    The other benefit of a separable bike is that it can be stowed inside a vehicle, instead of being on a carrier.

    For flying, shipping the bike whole versus separated, savings will always favor being able to take the bike down in outside dimension, whether it is sent as checked luggage or freight. If you were going to tour one-way, you could always have your empty case forwarded to a depot or hotel at your tour final destination for pickup on your arrival.

  9. #9
    Senior Member BikeManDan's Avatar
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    What about the Panasonic touring frame?
    http://www.yellowjersey.org/posd7.html

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    If you are new to serious touring there is a fair chance you won't find the perfect bike out of the box. I would be loath to double the price of that frame through instalation of couplers. There are tons of upgrades that can make a better touring bike, and couplers are near the end of the list. Also, for what SS costs you can purchase another frame even possibly a Bike Friday. Doesn't make sense to me. If you were dropping a ton of change on a custom bike, it might make sense to do the couplers and get it all. But in a cheap first frame I can't see it.

    My neck hurts the first day or two and is fine as time goes by.

  11. #11
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    compact geometry, 26" wheels.

    I happened to find a used pair of fillet-brazed custom 'Roughstuff' touring bikes made by Chas Roberts in the UK with couplers installed, and somehow walked away with both for just under 1200 US dollars.
    http://www.robertscycles.com/largeviews/tour2.html
    I absolutely love the bike (as does my girlfriend, who got the other one) and they are exactly our size. I use the couplers semi-frequently, but I would likely not pay to have them installed were they not already there. However, as someone who moved between england and the US a number of times, it was very handy to have the couplers.

    One thing that I had not thought of (but am glad I have) is the use of 26 versus 700C wheels. The smaller diameter of the 26's is very useful, basically allowing me to pack the bike without removing the tires. Also, the frames have compact geometry with sloping toptubes, which might be a design consideration you would consider as it minimizes the size of the pieces.

    Basically, breaking down the bike is not something you will do often, as it is not exceedingly convenient... but it is very useful at times. As someone who cannot afford (monetarily) everything i want in life, I would have to say that i would spend the money on kick***** racks and panniers first, followed by nice camping gear etc. etc.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by positron View Post
    fillet-brazed custom 'Roughstuff' touring bikes
    Handsome-looking bike!

  13. #13
    Aging Gearhead
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    +1 on what Raybo said. There's more to break-down frames than flying with them. Besides the fact that some destinations are only served by small planes that cannot accommodate a full-sized bike box, other modes of public transport are also much more readily-accessible with an airline-standard case.

    The 26" wheel idea is a good one, too. Two less things to assemble/disassemble.

    On another note, one doesn't have to store the empty case or ship it home. The airline-standard case I use with my folding bike (Dahon Speed P8) converts to a cargo trailer so I don't need to use panniers. It's not as aesthetically pure as the touring method some prefer, but it gets me where I want to go.
    Last edited by toodman; 07-24-08 at 07:05 AM.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Al Downie View Post
    Handsome-looking bike!
    Oddly enough I was living in Cambridge at the time (down near Cherry Hinton). Bought them off a guy from the tourist's club of Leeds...


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    I've been thinking about this as well as part of my consideration of touring bikes to buy. I think the idea of a separable bike is great. Anyone know how much success Surly has had with the Traveler's Check? Any word on whether they are considering doing something similar for the Long Haul Trucker? I also wonder if going to a reputable shop like Bilenky for the couplers on an LHT would void the warranty, now that Surly themselves seem to be giving at least tacit approval for their installation.

    Quick question for those of you with S&S frames: can you get away with taking them on a train or other public transit that only takes folding bikes if you break them into halves? Presuming that you have cable splitters, how long does just the separation and reattachment (not breaking them down into a box) take?

    BikeManDan: those Panasonic frames are beautiful and the same price built up as the LHT complete. How are they, does anyone know? How do they compare to the LHT, for example? Also, how does their coupling system compare to S&S?
    Last edited by inunnguaq; 07-24-08 at 09:45 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by positron View Post
    near Cherry Hinton
    Blimey. Small world! I live in Cherry Hinton. I've had postcards sent to me (which arrived!) addressed to:

    Al Downie
    Hairy Chinton

    No city, no postcode, but the Post Office still delivered it through my letterbox! Cool.

    Anyway - back to bikes - I went for a look at the Roberts website - have you seen the prices now??? 1,700 for frame only! What a bargain - you lucky geezer!

  17. #17
    Bike touring webrarian
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    Quote Originally Posted by inunnguaq View Post
    Presuming that you have cable splitters, how long does just the separation and reattachment (not breaking them down into a box) take?
    Breaking them down means unscrewing the two couplers and unscrewing the three cable splitters. The whole operation is maybe 2 minutes.

    Putting it back together is a bit more effort. First, you have to line up both halves of the bike. This requires two hands. Then, using your third hand, you screw one of the couplers to hold the bike together. You use the special wrench that comes with the couplers to tighten them. Getting the cable splitters connected requires getting the shifters in the right position and then using force to get the two halves of the splitters close enough so you can thread them.

    If I don't have someone to help me, I turn the bike halves over and set them together that way and then thread the couplers together.

    Putting the bike back together is about 5 minutes.

    Ray
    Visit the on-line Bike Touring Archive at www.biketouringtips.com

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    Yeah, thats about right ^^ a couple of minutes, dead easy if a bit awkward. and the 'special wrench' is just a lockring tool.... the trouble with splitting it to carry onto a train or whatever, is that now you have two relatively unwieldy pieces of kit to negotiate. easy enough for a long ride where you set it and forget it, but would be a pain for e.g. a commuter train or metro. This is not akin to a brompton folder with which to hop on and off the tube, but on the flipside it can actually be ridden with a load and handle normally. Perhaps a large sack could be useful?


    One potential issue with Japanese frames for export (like the panasonic) is that they often top out at about 54 cm, or sometimes have very short toptubes. There are a number of amazingly cool Japanese randonneuring bikes (there is an araya which comes to mind) that are geared towards shorter people, and unavailable for us lanky ones. I dont know if that panasonic (which ive always thought was cool and a good deal) has this issue, but it would certainly be worth checking the top tube length and sizing before buying. In the 1980's I recall that it was not uncommon for a 56/58 cm touring bike to come out of japan with a 52/54cm toptube... I have no idea if this is a problem anymore, just something i thought of.

    I have nothing but good things to say about my 1983 Panasonic pt5000 sport tourer though. Their company motto was basically if you cant be #1 or#2 in a certain product line, its time to get out of that business.


    EDIT: I just looked at the yellowjersey link again, and they have added more photos and info. since a year or so ago... It seems based on the geos. chart that the biggest frame size for that panasonic is a 53 cm (with 54.5cm toptube). This is what i expected , and is common among many of the cool japanese bikes that are not really designed for export to western markets.
    Last edited by positron; 07-24-08 at 10:52 AM.

  19. #19
    Senior Member BikeManDan's Avatar
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    Damn, you're right about the Panasonics. The 53 may fit me though... (I'm 5'9)
    I currently ride a 50cm c-c and its on the small side for me. Its top tube is 53cm and I like the short top tube

    I like that the frame is lugged, has separable connections and has down tube shifter bosses. Only things I don't like are nit picky stuff like not having a third water bottle mount, has high lowrider mounts, not having a chainstay spoke holder and having a slightly shorter chainstay than others

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by BikeManDan View Post
    Damn, you're right about the Panasonics. The 53 may fit me though... (I'm 5'9)
    I currently ride a 50cm c-c and its on the small side for me. Its top tube is 53cm and I like the short top tube
    That panasonic has up to a 54.5 cm top tube. It is a 'compact geometry' (ie the seat tube is shorter than the top tube) so the 53 is effectively a 54-55cm frame. The reach (toptube length) is the measurement that actually matters, not so much the seat tube which is effectively lengthened by having a bit more post showing. Quoting seattube lengths is a convention from the days of 'square geometry' frames, which had the same length top and seat tubes.

    Quote Originally Posted by BikeManDan View Post
    I like that the frame is lugged, has separable connections and has down tube shifter bosses. Only things I don't like are nit picky stuff like not having a third water bottle mount, has high lowrider mounts, not having a chainstay spoke holder and having a slightly shorter chainstay than others
    what follows is my opinion, since its a slow day at work:
    The third water bottle mounts are really not important. chuck a third bottle in a pannier, or replace one of your two bottle mounts with a cage that holds a 1.5 litre bottle (essentially two standard large bottles in one) Ill grant that they look nice, but functionally replaceable, more of a selling point feature.

    The high lowrider mounts are actually pretty neat. Again, midfork lowrider mounts are not neccessary, the u-clamp method works equally well if a bit less elegant; and for that matter tubus makes very elegant bolt on mounts too. So for example you could use the Jandd expedition front or Tubus Tara front racks and have the loads be far in excess of what you will ever need. The high brazeons allow you to add a small bolted on top shelf that can actually bear quite a bit of weight, or perhaps a Sakkit midrider/highrider/topshelf rack system if your feeling splurgy. dunno if this would work, but is an interesting possibility. Alternately, use a dynamo system and bolt headlights to those spots...

    I Agree with the lugs, they are nice. Also agree with the downtube bosses, they are very useful. and the connectors are great *provided* they dont flex... I have no way to really guess about this, other than to say that they look more or less beefy, and the design is reasonable. Ask about the return policy based on this one issue.

    Extra spokes go inside your seatpost, or taped to the stay, the braze-on is cool, but sometimes in the way of things like kickstands, see selling point idea above^.

    Finally 43.5mm chainstays are plenty long (in my opinion/ limited experience) I have owned a 1985 trek 620 (47 cm), a 1982 Kuwahara (44 cm, with two sets of extra spoke brazeons- double the sellability!) and a roberts 26 incher (42 cm) and the roberts is by far the most stable of the rides when bearing a heavy load, the Kuwahara and Trek being so similar with the same racks, loads, and bags that I found them hard to differentiate at all, other than steering issues because of different amounts of trail of the forks. My size-10.5 dogs don't bite the bags on the roberts, and it just works- despite the 'short' stays. I'm of the opinion that the long stays are nice, but are an over-hyped feature of touring bikes (on forum discussions at least), probably less important to stability and handling than rack stiffness, bottom bracket drop, tubing size and other factors... If your feet don't hit your bags, and your load/weight is centered, or slightly forward of the rear axle, you're pretty good to go regardless of that extra cm or two. That said, putting alot of weight behind the axle is basically going to screw up your handling and should be avoided at all costs. I put the vast majority of the weight up front, or on top of my back rack under my seat anyway.

    Are we sure that those frames aren't designed around 26 inch wheels? I can't tell. Ideally, they would take 26's and have clearance for schwalbe big apples. Thats the setup I run, and will basically never go back to a tourer with less than 45mm tires fast on the road with 70-80 psi, cushy off the road with 30-50 psi, and no flats.

    so, I know you didn't ask for my opinions and parantheticals, but as I said I'm bored at work today, and just waiting to head off for a weekend tour in wild, wonderful, W VA

    Be well!

  21. #21
    More Energy than Sense aroundoz's Avatar
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    I have to agree with cyclesafe in that I regret having paid for S and S couplers for my Thorn Nomad. In retrospect, I wished I would have purchased a BF. The complete BF would have cost about the same as the Nomad frame alone. I tried breaking to down once for packing but then realized that the front half wouldn't fit in the box due to the long steerer. I just couldn't see pulling the fork off for packing. Also, since we are talking about touring bikes, I also would have had to removed the fenders and racks. I ended up just putting it in bike box the usual way and shipping it ahead via purolater. But if I never would have tried, I would still be wondering if BTCs were a good way to go.

    According to Surly, the LHT has a slightly oval top tube (and maybe downtube also); therefore, you can't install BTCs. However, I know Bilenky has no problem doing it and yes, the downside is you would be voiding the frame warranty. I wouldn't worry about that too much considering the thickness of the tubing on the LHT.

    If you do go the BTC route, strongly consider the 26" wheels as recommended above. I have heard of folks actually having to remove the tires on their 700c bike to make the wheels fit.

  22. #22
    Senior Member BikeManDan's Avatar
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    As always, bikeforums comes through with lots of sound advice, thanks everyone

    Im heading away from the separable frame route now; from reading everything I've realized it may not be all its cracked up to be.

    I test rode a 55cm Novara Randonee today. The adjustable stem it had was all wrong for me; I'd swap it for a 0 degree or 15 degree short stem. I would've liked to test ride the 52cm model but they didnt have any. I had standover clearance on the 55 but reach was maybe a bit long given the stem. Hard to tell

    I like the Rocky Mountain Sherpa too but no one in a 50 mile radius has a single one in stock, not one. Its hard to pull the trigger on something sight unseen with no idea what fits right

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    Quote Originally Posted by BikeManDan View Post
    As always, bikeforums comes through with lots of sound advice, thanks everyone

    Im heading away from the separable frame route now; from reading everything I've realized it may not be all its cracked up to be.

    I test rode a 55cm Novara Randonee today. The adjustable stem it had was all wrong for me; I'd swap it for a 0 degree or 15 degree short stem. I would've liked to test ride the 52cm model but they didnt have any. I had standover clearance on the 55 but reach was maybe a bit long given the stem. Hard to tell

    I like the Rocky Mountain Sherpa too but no one in a 50 mile radius has a single one in stock, not one. Its hard to pull the trigger on something sight unseen with no idea what fits right
    Are you within range to come to Livermore to try out my 54 cm LHT (with the 26" wheels)? Custom built up from the frame. Wonderful bike which I would highly recommend.

    I also have a 54 cm Gunnar Sport with the S&S couplers. My opinion on the S&S is mixed. The main issue is that they are incredibly expensive--a $750 plus up from Gunnar when the bike was built. Oh, and the hard side suitcase and accessories cost another $550+! This is all in addition to the frame itself. Ouch!!! But there is no downside to bicycle performance that I have detected and I have used the couplers as Raybo has suggested for getting it into small car trunks or back seats when a rack is not available and that is pretty handy at times. They really are pretty fast to assemble and disassemble. Putting it into the hard case does take some extra time--a lot if you have fenders or your bike is a larger size so that more disassembly is required. I travel by air quite a bit and I can take this wonderful bike along in its hard case without hesitation. But, overall, if this wasn't a retirement present to myself (so now I can travel a lot for pleasure) I might not have gone for it.

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    Another factor in favor of the S&S connectors and of traveling with your bike in a manageable-sized case is that when you arrive at some foreign airport you can take a taxi or public transit with your bike in a suitcase. I think you would have a hard time finding a taxi in most places that could carry a full-sized bike box.
    2006 Lemond Sarthe
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    I'm a big fan of folding bikes-- much cheaper than the S&S connectors. It's also possible to find an old MTB, box it up and tour with it. I left one in Germany with friends. Now I have a bike waiting for me in Europe if I go back. Bad stuff happens bikes duing travel-- I like to try to find sturdy, fuctional bikes for not too much $$. If they get damaged or lost, oh well.

    But then I like travel first...and bikes second. I.d rather spend my money traveling (without or the bike) than spend $3000 on a bike, although I can't say anything negitive about a nice top shelf touring bike with S&S couplers and hardcase. I just don't live in that income bracket....

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