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Touring Have a dream to ride a bike across your state, across the country, or around the world? Self-contained or fully supported? Trade ideas, adventures, and more in our bicycle touring forum.

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Old 07-29-08, 08:09 PM   #1
MickeyKriza
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Few questions from a Newbie...

Hey all,

So I want to build a touring bike for some upcoming trips (Northwest) and have been tossing around a few different frame builders and ideas. I would love some feedback from you more experienced riders out there.

First of all, let me say that I would like to build a "general touring bike" (mostly tarmac, some fire-roads and a touch of dirt), but one that could be used for more extensive adventure touring later on.

I am planning on running a Rohloff.

here are the questions...

1) 700's or 26's?
2) what do we think of Rodriguez bicycles?
3) Disc brakes or rim brakes?
4) what about IF Steel Independence? (worth the wait and $$$?)
5) Seven?
6) LHT? seems like a good knock around frame, but how does it compare?
7) Those Big Dummies look amazing. is that completely impractical?


That's about all I have for now. Really appreciate the help.

Mickey
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Old 07-29-08, 08:52 PM   #2
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Don't think the LHT can take discs. I'm a disc fan myself and looking at the Salsa Casseroll.
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Old 07-29-08, 09:07 PM   #3
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I'd recommend building up using 26" wheels, esp if you might be doing off the beaten track/2nd/3rd world touring.

Others will say 700c is fine, and in fact I made it from Europe to Asia on 700's-but way too much headache getting tires. If I had a rim/spoke problem, I likely would have been seriously put out.
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Old 07-29-08, 09:30 PM   #4
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1) 700's or 26's?

I'd pick 700's.
Pros: More comfortable ride, longer wear on tires, better selection of road-appropriate tires
Cons: Weaker wheel, especially off-road tires are less available in 3rd world

2) what do we think of Rodriguez bicycles?

No experience

3) Disc brakes or rim brakes?


Mechanical (cable) disks:
Pros: Better stopping power in rain and mud, no wear on rims, no overheated rims
Cons: Just slightly more complicated and heavier than V brakes

4) what about IF Steel Independence? (worth the wait and $$$?)

Not necessary for touring. I personally would certainly wait and spend the money for the bling. I have an IF Deluxe that is a work of art. If you are willing to go the IF route, your should also consider the Americano and offerings from Waterford and Rivendale. I have an Americano that has tandem tubing and dishless 145mm drop outs. Certainly bombproof - maybe more than what is needed.

5) Seven?

Another good brand.

6) LHT? seems like a good knock around frame, but how does it compare?

Everything you need in a tourer. Assuming high end components on the LHT, anything more expensive is for the bling.

7) Those Big Dummies look amazing. is that completely impractical?

This could be a good option. They are very popular. Personally, I'd stay with a standard diamond frame and attach racks.
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Old 07-29-08, 09:32 PM   #5
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I own a Big Dummy and it makes a great touring rig with the one downside being the length which can be hassle when flying, but not a deal breaker IMO. I wouldn't use discs for long tours overseas. They are more hassle than v-brakes and the benefits are marginal for most touring applications. I run both so I speak from experience. If I was taking my Big Dummy to South America one change I'd make is swapping in V-brakes. 26'' wheels make the most sense if you are starting from scratch. I have a Rohloff on my Big Dummy, but I'd be tempted to swap in a MTB drivetrain before taking it to South America.

Frankly if you fit on a 54cm or smaller LHT I'd say that is the best value for an adventure touring bike available. My next choice would be a Thorn Sherpa. The Big Dummy can make a great adventure touring bike if you are open to something a bit different than the usual options. You could also add an Xtracycle to a rigid MTB to get a more transportable longtail bike with many of the benefits of the Big Dummy.

I've looked at custom bikes and I just can't see anything (useful) that you could get custom that isn't available from the bikes I mentioned above.
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Old 07-30-08, 12:16 AM   #6
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Thank you all for your opinions and the information. Though, now I feel like I am back at square one. I may just end up being one of those guys who has 500 bikes.
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Old 07-30-08, 01:48 AM   #7
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1) 700's or 26's?

With good tires, it hardly makes a difference. There are a few slick 26" tires (ex.: 26x1.2" - 1.4") and these will perform as well as the typical 700c tires. As long as your bike clears 26 x 2" tires, you will be able to cope if you need to buy a tire in a small town.

Apart from issues in the third world, 26" wheels work better on smaller frames (no toe clip overlap), while 700c wheels look better on larger frames.


3) Disc brakes or rim brakes?

Disc brakes are great in the mud or if you commute a lot in drizzle. But rim brakes with Kool Stop pads work well in the rain or snow. And rim brakes have a few advantages:
– all types of racks fit on the bike (instead of only a few models)
– the fork doesn't need to be as rigid, and therefore is more compliant: more comfortable.


4) what about IF Steel Independence? (worth the wait and $$$?)
5) Seven?

Those two are doing racing and performance frames. Their "touring" models don't seem designed for anything but for hopping from one hotel to another. While you might get something different if you give them the specs you want, I think you should order a custom bike from one that specializes in touring bikes, not in go-fast bikes.

Is it worthed? If you are 7' tall or have very unusual proportions, definitely. Otherwise, it's highly subjective. A high-quality bike finely tuned to your body geometry and designed by a great builder will look wonderful and will be a bit better. But it's like comparing a Lexus to a Honda: you have to decide if the added cost will bring you anything significant.


6) LHT? seems like a good knock around frame, but how does it compare?

I think the frame design is very good. However, the most interesting part is the LHT Complete.


7) Those Big Dummies look amazing. is that completely impractical?

If you need it to carry other stuff, maybe. I think it is an interesting option for tours out in the barren land, where you need to bring gear for all sorts of weather, food for 5-10 days, tools for all kinds of emergencies... or if you tour with a weaker partner and carry some of their stuff. But for touring in more "standard" conditions, I prefer a standard touring bike. Now if I had to choose between touring on a Big Dummy and on a go-fast bike with 700x25 tires, I would take the Big Dummy without hesitations.
Bear in mind that I don't have a Big Dummy, but I have a single and tandem bike and have toured on both.
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Old 07-30-08, 07:30 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by MickeyKriza View Post
So I want to build a touring bike for some upcoming trips (Northwest) and have been tossing around a few different frame builders and ideas. I would love some feedback from you more experienced riders out there.
You titled your post "Few questions from a Newbie". How much of a newbie are you? New to cycling? New to touring? Or just new to this group?

My comments that I think may be relevant follow. They are just my opinion, but I think they are worth considering before making an expensive purchase.
  1. Folks are way too hung up on needing the ultimate touring bike. As long as a bike functions reasonably well for the task at hand, differences in the bike will have little or no real effect on whether your tours are a success or not. If most of your enjoyment comes from building, owning, and fiddling with bikes. Ignore this and don't bother reading any further.
  2. Bikes like the LHT, Novarra Randonee, Novara Safari, Fuji Touring, Windsor Touring, and Trek 520 to name just a few are VERY capable to the point that no one *needs* anything more.
  3. Custom is a waste of money unless you can't achieve a good fit with an off the shelf bike.
  4. Both Rohloff and disc brakes are a dubious choice in my opinion. They may make more sense for extended third world touring, but are not a requirement even there.
  5. If you are rolling in dough and just want custom because of a gear head mentality. Then you will probably get enough enjoyment out of pride of ownership and should go ahead with a custom. If just you want a good tool for touring the Northwest at an appropriate price, then one of the off the shelf bikes listed above will do what you want it to.
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Old 07-30-08, 08:28 AM   #9
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I have a bike with 26" wheels, 2" tyres, 140mm front suspension, mechanical disks, Rohloff - all the things that diehard LHT users look upon with scorn! But I built it up myself, love it to bits and can't wait for the tour to start (23rd Aug)! It's worth noting that, with sliding dropouts, Rohloff and disk brakes, my rear hub is quite densely populated with 'things', and fitting the Tubus rack was a bit of a challenge. I had to flatten the end of one of the rack's legs, and use 1cm spacers on either side to allow the disk brakes to function and also allow the sliding dropouts to move freely. Now it's done, bombproof, tested, and I'm ready to go wherever it'll take me.

As others have said above, the list you've described doesn't contain any obvious lemons, so you can buy whatever your heart tells you and you won't be sorry. Whatever you end up with, enjoy the trip!
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Old 07-30-08, 08:30 AM   #10
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I have a bike with 26" wheels, 2" tyres, 140mm front suspension, mechanical disks, Rohloff - all the things that diehard LHT users look upon with scorn! But I built it up myself, love it to bits and can't wait for the tour to start (23rd Aug)! It's worth noting that, with sliding dropouts, Rohloff and disk brakes, my rear hub is quite densely populated with 'things', and fitting the Tubus rack was a bit of a challenge. I had to flatten the end of one of the rack's legs, and use 1cm spacers on either side to allow the disk brakes to function and also allow the sliding dropouts to move freely. Now it's done, bombproof, tested, and I'm ready to go wherever it'll take me.

As others have said above, the list you've described doesn't contain any obvious lemons, so you can buy whatever your heart tells you and you won't be sorry. Whatever you end up with, enjoy the trip!
Can you post a pic????
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Old 07-30-08, 09:01 AM   #11
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Here's the beast...

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Old 07-30-08, 09:11 AM   #12
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Here's the beast...

Nice looking bike do you have any issues with heel clearance on the panniers?

Is that an air sprung fork or coil/oil?

Have you thought at all about covering your drivetrain with a chaincase?

If you expect wet/muddy conditions bring several sets of disc brake pads on tour. I've burned through 50% of a set of front pads in less than 2 days of riding in those conditions and that's without a crazy amount of braking. That's using the stock Avid BB7 pads. I'm hoping I can find some pads that lasts longer or the amount of spares I'd have to carry gets a bit absurd.
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Old 07-30-08, 10:12 AM   #13
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Hi Vik,

Heel clearance is fine - with that particular rack (Tubus Logo) I can mount bags on the lower bar, as far back as I need to give me freedom of movement. That does make the front end feel a wee bit light, but when I'm fully loaded the bags at the front will restore the balance.

It's a coil-sprung fork (Fox Vanilla RLC). Slightly heavier than the air-sprung models, but more robust/reliable/maintenance-free.

It hadn't occurred to me to put a chaincase on, but I'm a bit skeptical - I expect I'd find the noise annoying and the appearance a bit.. um.. ugly.

Yep, I'll be carrying 4 sets of disk pads for me (sintered gold, extra durable), and 4 sets of brake blocks for my partner's v-brakes. It shouldn't be wet where we're going, but it's likely to be very dusty/dirty, so I reckon if we do encounter any water the dirt will turn into a pretty good grinding paste!
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Old 07-30-08, 11:06 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
You titled your post "Few questions from a Newbie". How much of a newbie are you? New to cycling? New to touring? Or just new to this group?[/LIST]
I am not a newbie to cycling. I'm 40 years old and have been riding for as long as I can remember. My father used to own a bicycle rental in central park in new york and cycling was my primary means of transportation for the 38 years that I lived there.

While I have done quite a bit of motorcycle touring, I have never bicycle toured.

And finally yes, I am new to this group.

Thanks for all good advice folks.
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Old 07-30-08, 11:49 AM   #15
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One thing seems true: there are almost as many opinions about touring equipment as there are tourers. I've been touring for over 30 years. My equipment choices reflect a lot of experience and careful consideration, and yet other tourers with as much experience would find some of my choices odd, to say the least.

I'd recommend that you buy a good, solid, mainstream tourer - like an LHT, Cannondale, Trek 520, Novara Randonee, etc. - and get out and try it. You'll probably be 90% happy with your ride, but have a few ideas for things you'd like to try - tweaks here and there, etc. I still take notes on every tour and try different things.

Eventually, if you want to try a whole new bike, touring bikes hold their value pretty well; you'll be able to sell the old one and recoup a good portion of your money.

I wouldn't go for something "exotic" like a Rohloff or a custom bike to start. It may be a waste of money. But if, after taking a few tours, you still think you'd like to try some of those things, go for it!

One of the most valuable things I've done is take notes while I'm on tour. Once the tour's over I start forgetting things. The urgency is still there while I'm still on the road. I bring an mp3 player with a voice recorder and dictate my thoughts. I always take notes on my bike setup, the stuff I brought, etc. I've always had things I wanted to change, but they've gotten more and more minor as the years have gone by.
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Old 07-30-08, 12:48 PM   #16
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i've personally never had any problems with rim brakes so long as they are adjusted correctly. although disc brakes will allow you to bend your rim and have your bike still function reasonably well.
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