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Old 08-21-08, 09:15 AM   #1
spaceholiday
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Relatively inexpensive frame for touring

Hey guys,

Recently, I've become pretty interested in bike camping/touring, and I'm starting to think about building up a nice touring bike. First things first, the frame. I've heard good things about the Long Haul Trucker, but it's a little on the expensive side, especially considering all the other gear I'll need. However, it's probably not a good idea to skimp on quality if I'm going to be on the bike for days/weeks at a time. I like the simple styling of the LHT, and I guess it's a complete bike, so I wouldn't have to worry about buying/upgrading parts (although I hear getting a slightly smaller chainring is a good idea). Should I just suck it up and get the LHT, or are there other bikes to consider? The Trek 520 is another one that comes up in conversation, it seems, but I haven't really looked into it that much (it does seem like the LHT has some better components). I guess the question is, is there a well eqipped bike with similar simple stylings, but slightly less expensive than, the LHT, or should I just suck it up and get it? Thanks.
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Old 08-21-08, 09:34 AM   #2
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Lht.
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Old 08-21-08, 09:39 AM   #3
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The LHT complete is hard to beat. If you build up a frame and buy parts one at a time you will pay a lot more.

The most cost effective way to get a nice touring bike is probably to find a good deal on a lightly used LHT/520 or similar rig.

If your purchase coincides with one of REI's 20-30% off coupons the Novara Randonee is a good choice at a lower price.

If you want to get rolling for the least $$$ and don't mind doing some leg work an older steel MTB cam be converted to a nice touring bike at very low cost if you are a good bargain hunter. If you buy an older MTB and then buy new parts at retail the cost makes it a bad idea compared to a LHT or Randonee.
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Old 08-21-08, 09:43 AM   #4
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The LHT complete is a very nice bike for the money.

Others to consider if you want to keep costs down:
Fuji Touring
Windsor Touring
REI Randonee
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Old 08-21-08, 10:10 AM   #5
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There are lots of good touring bikes out there. LHT is very good, the full bike is pretty much set for touring & commuting - no need to change the gears. You won't get a much better deal than the LHT overall.

The 520 is also an excellent bike, though some folks like to lower the gearing.

What else do you plan to do with the bike? Commute? Recreational rides? Club rides? Centuries? Off-road? Haul 50 pounds of stuff? Also, do you prefer bar-end or STI shifters?

By the way, if money is tight and you don't need drop bars, you could also tour on a hybrid bike. I'd look for one that does not have suspension, has rack eyelets, and can take wide tires.
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Old 08-21-08, 10:12 AM   #6
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If your purchase coincides with one of REI's 20-30% off coupons the Novara Randonee is a good choice at a lower price.
I'm not so sure about that anymore.... Unless this is temporary:

http://www.rei.com/product/744804
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Old 08-21-08, 10:40 AM   #7
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How about some older road/sport touring frames? I've been scouring eBay, but nothing good has come up in my size (52-54cm). Of course I'd swap out most, if not all of the components, but if I could score a good frame for ~$200, would that be worth it, or would the LHT still be the better deal? That'd give me a nice $800 buffer for the components, but then again, new wheels (most likely), chainring, cassette and derailers can add up.
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Old 08-21-08, 10:42 AM   #8
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There are lots of good touring bikes out there. LHT is very good, the full bike is pretty much set for touring & commuting - no need to change the gears. You won't get a much better deal than the LHT overall.

The 520 is also an excellent bike, though some folks like to lower the gearing.

What else do you plan to do with the bike? Commute? Recreational rides? Club rides? Centuries? Off-road? Haul 50 pounds of stuff? Also, do you prefer bar-end or STI shifters?

By the way, if money is tight and you don't need drop bars, you could also tour on a hybrid bike. I'd look for one that does not have suspension, has rack eyelets, and can take wide tires.
It'd mostly be used for touring, as well as foul weather commuting and grocery shopping. I've ridden hybrids before, and I really don't like the feel of them. Money's not particularly tight, but the less I spend on the bike, the longer I can tour (:
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Old 08-21-08, 11:16 AM   #9
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I'm not so sure about that anymore.... Unless this is temporary:

http://www.rei.com/product/744804
This shows the bike as "unavailable" now. They had a good sale on the last few sizes in stock last week. If you could find one at your local REI store, you might get a good deal right now. Otherwise, I think you'd have to wait and see what the 2009 prices are.

Surly recently announce price increases coming on their LHT. Of course you can still get good prices on the ones already in stock. I ordered one after the price increase was announced, and still got it at the pre-markup price.

The LHT complete is a fabulous bike. Just put a Brooks saddle on it.
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Old 08-21-08, 11:35 AM   #10
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I picked up a Randonee off Craigs List earlier this year for $200. The bike was lightly used, in excellent shape.

If you want to save, are flexible on brand, and are patient, you will find a good bike used.

A $200 frame might be OK, if you can also score a reasonable donor bike. But when you can find a complete bike for $200, why mess with building one up.
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Old 08-21-08, 12:05 PM   #11
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My local Craigslist isn't the best, so there probably won't be too many deals like that. I'm checking daily, though. One can hope.
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Old 08-21-08, 12:24 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by spaceholiday View Post
How about some older road/sport touring frames? I've been scouring eBay, but nothing good has come up in my size (52-54cm). Of course I'd swap out most, if not all of the components, but if I could score a good frame for ~$200, would that be worth it, or would the LHT still be the better deal? That'd give me a nice $800 buffer for the components, but then again, new wheels (most likely), chainring, cassette and derailers can add up.
My two stories:

1. I own a new-ish Trek 520, but got bored with its utter reliability, good manners, and predictability, so decided to find and restore an 80's touring bike.

I bought a beautiful Univega for $180, and have thrown a bunch of money at parts, upgrades, tires, tubes, cables, and even some silly cosmetic frou-frou stuff you don't really need (e.g, beautiful Honjo fenders instead of perfectly adequate SKS fenders, NOS Dia-Compe brake levers, fancy handlebar tape, etc.). I even paid a mechanic to go through the bike (and I hate doing that...) and look at stuff I was unsure about and wasn't comfortable doing on my own.

Even after spending like a drunken sailor I'm only at $650. I have a few more upgrades in mind (like converting from downtube shifters from bar-ends, replacing the chain rings, upgrading the rear derailleur), but I'll still end up at well under $1,000. A more disciplined and frugal and approach, with a greater focus on used parts, could have gotten me there for 500-ish.

2. This summer my son wanted a bike, and after exploring several options we got him a beautifully maintained Panasonic Touring bike for $275 off Craiglist. High price for an old bike, but it was in *great* condition with some very nice upgrades. We didn't spend any additional money on his bike, but if he were going to take it cross-country he would probably need to spend another $100 or $200 to make it tour-worthy.


At the end of the day new is the safer bet, used is more fun.

Financially -- if you're going to upgrade an old bike to as-new, rugged, reliable status -- you have to be careful or you'll match the price of a new bike. Really good touring wheels can be expensive unless you build them yourself or find them used...so that's a critical part of the equation.

Last edited by BengeBoy; 08-21-08 at 02:00 PM.
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Old 08-21-08, 01:34 PM   #13
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For the price of a new bike, the LHT can not be beat (IMO). And I say "can not" instead of "can't" because it is that important to emphasize the price/quality ratio being in favour of the buyer (what with the formalities and all). The stock LHT complete is a great deal, although the MSRP went up to $1050 USD recently, it is still worth it.

That said, if you (or anyone else reading) are thinking of buying, the stock LHT complete has a couple of (potentially) weak points.
1. Saddle
2. Handlebars
3. Stem
4. (Potential for those with extremely steep hills) Low chainring.
5. Tires

...etc. Things that many people seem to change "off the bat" as it were. It's a great bike in its original complete condition. I have yet to change a single component after nearly 1000 miles. I even have the stock saddle!!
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Old 08-21-08, 01:39 PM   #14
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I think you have 3 alternatives (assuming you don't get a touring bike magically given to you):

1. Buy a new touring bike......
Usually you'll be better off buying a complete bike -and the LHT complete is hard to beat if you are buying new. You should be able to find the bike in the right size now (or at least relatively quickly) and you'll know the pedigree of the frame and know that all components are new.

2. Buy used.....
A much more economical option -that is of course, assuming you come across a suitable bike in the right size in the right condition at the right price (not necessarily easy!). Further, components will be used. Though probably the best solution, I think the real issue here is the fact you don't know if you'll find a suitable bike tomorrow, next week, next month, or next year!

3. Buy a Frame (new or used) and build.....
Even assuming you could buy a frame for an absolute bargain -i.e. $0 -this might not be as economical as buying a new or used bike. Not only will you have to have all the components (never as cheap to buy them separately versus a group on a bike already) but also either pay for installation or you have to have or pay for all the tools you need. You could wipe out any savings very quickly.

I've usually gone the way of 3. -but that's because I have all the tools and a good amount of spare components in a drawer somewhere. My touring bike has cost about $1200 in total -even though I did get the frame for only $200 and I do think it's much better specced than an LHT and it was fun and customized to me. If I didn't have tools, spare components to offset cost or the expertise to build a bike, I think buying a used bike is the way to go.... If I had a little extra cash or a deadline, I'd buy a new touring bike -and the LHT seems to be the best value at the moment.

If you haven't the tools/access to tools/expertise and are on a timeline, I'd say suck it up and buy the LHT complete.
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Old 08-21-08, 02:37 PM   #15
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Just a quick side note: if anyone has a used LHT they're looking to get rid of, you know who to PM (:

I'm not on a timeline (well, no set timeline, but it'd be great if it were done by October for some nice fall tours), and it would be really great to have a project bike to work on, so a frame isn't that bad of an option, it's more of just finding the right frame. I'm a sucker for the vintage lugged steel frames, too, so all the better. I'll keep on looking, but the LHT is definitely in the back of my mind. I'm heading to the local Surly dealer this weekend, so I'll be able to get a good look at it (if they have any in stock). Thanks for all your help, and definitely keep the anecdotes/advice running! It makes the slow times interesting
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Old 08-21-08, 02:44 PM   #16
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Windsor Tourist @ $600 with Free shipping.
http://www.bikesdirect.com/products/windsor/tourist.htm




Independent reviews claim it's the same as a Fuji touring bike.
http://www.fujibikes.com/2006/bikes.asp?id=143

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Old 08-21-08, 04:09 PM   #17
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Windsor Tourist @ $600 with Free shipping.
http://www.bikesdirect.com/products/windsor/tourist.htm
Independent reviews claim it's the same as a Fuji touring bike.
http://www.fujibikes.com/2006/bikes.asp?id=143
Lots of great bikes are available and I don't think you will go wrong with any of the ones mentioned. They all have been used for successful multi month tours.

The Windsor Touring is probably the cheapest. My companions and I rode three of them across across the US last Summer and were quite satisfied.
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Old 08-21-08, 04:13 PM   #18
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The Bikes Direct is the almost the same as the Fuji -- same frame, some of the same parts. However, you have to assemble it yourself, warranty service is spotty, sometimes BD will swap in crap parts (Chin Haur BB, anyone?), and you don't get the traditional 1-3 years of free tune-ups that you get at an LBS.

If you are already a good bike mechanic, BD is a good deal. Otherwise, well... not so much.
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Old 08-21-08, 04:22 PM   #19
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The Bikes Direct is the almost the same as the Fuji -- same frame, some of the same parts. However, you have to assemble it yourself, warranty service is spotty, sometimes BD will swap in crap parts (Chin Haur BB, anyone?), and you don't get the traditional 1-3 years of free tune-ups that you get at an LBS.

If you are already a good bike mechanic, BD is a good deal. Otherwise, well... not so much.
Sorry if I have missed this in one of the 10,000 previous threads mentioning these same 5 bikes (LHT, 520, Randonee, Windsor, Fuji....)....but, what is the price of the Fuji these days? And does it go on sale?

I am just wondering how big the price difference really is, if you buy the Fuji, and:

- get the store to give you one free tune
- get clipless pedals at dealer cost
- get them to swap out the inner chainwheel at dealer cost
- get a brooks saddle (or other) at dealer cost
- get them to go through and true up the wheel after the first 1,000 miles
- get two water bottle cages, two water bottles, a patch kit, two spare tubes and multitool at dealer cost

These are all the things that (IMHO) are reasonable to ask for when you buy a bike in a store. Especially if they sell you the house-brand stuff.
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Old 08-21-08, 04:37 PM   #20
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The Bikes Direct is the almost the same as the Fuji -- same frame, some of the same parts. However, you have to assemble it yourself, warranty service is spotty, sometimes BD will swap in crap parts (Chin Haur BB, anyone?), and you don't get the traditional 1-3 years of free tune-ups that you get at an LBS.
As far as I can tell our's were all identical in all of the parts to the Fuji at the local dealer except for the saddle. That said they did look like the same saddle except the Fuji name and the fact that the Fuji saddle was two tone gray and black versus all black for the Windsor. Most manufacturers do swap parts depending on availability so it wouldn't shock me if there were sometimes differences. Ours were purchased a year and a half or so ago, so it could possibly be spec'ed differently now, but I doubt it.

I have heard that there have been warranty problems, but don't know first hand. We found them good to deal with, but never had to worry about warranty issues.

One thing you don't get by dealing with Bikes Direct is the ability to swap parts at purchase. Local dealers will usually swap things for you at purchase. That wasn't a big deal for us but might be for others.

Quote:
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If you are already a good bike mechanic, BD is a good deal. Otherwise, well... not so much.
I agree. We felt they were a good deal for us, but they might not be for everyone for the reason you mention. Then again if you are going to do long tours it is a good idea to learn to be a good mechanic if you aren't already.
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Old 08-21-08, 04:46 PM   #21
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Sorry if I have missed this in one of the 10,000 previous threads mentioning these same 5 bikes (LHT, 520, Randonee, Windsor, Fuji....)....but, what is the price of the Fuji these days? And does it go on sale?
I have heard prices all over the place on them. You would have to check the local dealer.

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I am just wondering how big the price difference really is, if you buy the Fuji, and:

- get the store to give you one free tune
- get clipless pedals at dealer cost
- get them to swap out the inner chainwheel at dealer cost
- get a brooks saddle (or other) at dealer cost
- get them to go through and true up the wheel after the first 1,000 miles
- get two water bottle cages, two water bottles, a patch kit, two spare tubes and multitool at dealer cost

These are all the things that (IMHO) are reasonable to ask for when you buy a bike in a store. Especially if they sell you the house-brand stuff.
If you want all of the things that you listed it might well make the Fuji cheaper depending on what your LBS is charging for the bike. In our case we didn't really care about the tuneup and wheel true because I would have done them myself any way. We liked the stock saddle fine (no complaints in 4244 miles in 73 days on the TA). You really need to compare and evaluate based on what you need.

Bottom line? Any one of the 5 bikes mentioned could be the best deal depending on your preferences and the deal your dealer offers.
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Old 08-22-08, 04:12 PM   #22
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ebay link

Would that work? Thing's I'd change out:

The chainrings (if they're too high)
The cassette (if it doesn't go high enough)
The brake levers so I can get some aero levers on there
The shifters to bar end (maybe, the stem mounted ones seem nice, I'd have to try those out first)

Other than that, it seems really nice. Good wheels, it looks (maybe I'd get some new tires), and I'd consider sanding and powdercoating it a flat color. What do you guys think?

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Old 08-22-08, 05:03 PM   #23
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Space Holiday, I'm sure you can make it work, but it's likely to become more expensive than what you initially think. BTW, this type of bike is a dime a dozen at garage sales and Goodwill stores and you won't spend nearly that much. Just food for thought.
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Old 08-22-08, 05:05 PM   #24
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My Windsor Tourist Clone (07 Fuji Tourist) came with a chinhaur sealed bearing bottom bracket and headset. Not high end but quite adequate for intended use. Bike cost me $650 at LBS, They were asking $750.
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Old 08-22-08, 05:18 PM   #25
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ebay link

Would that work?

Lots of bikes will work for touring.

However, the easiest used bikes to modify / change are those that were *designed* for touring in the first place. A couple of quick-and-dirty rules of thumb you can use:
- Are the chainstays at least 17 inches long?
- Are there eyelets on the rear and the front that allow you to attach panniers?
- Are there braze-ons for at least two water bottles?
- Is the wheelbase at least 41 inches long?

From my personal shopping around, the most numerous bikes that fit these requirements are Japanese touring bikes from the 80's. You can search here at BF for a number of threads that discuss vintage Japanese touring bikes. Some model names include: Univega Gran Turismo, Univega Specialissima, Miyata (I think it was the 610); Fuji Touring, Panasonic DX3500 (confirm model number), etc.

A bunch of European bikes are out there that would also work - e.g., Dawes, but they do not appear to be as plentiful.

Some old Trek frames will work as well - you can also research the right model numbers on the web.

Another way to go is to get an old steel MTB frame and convert that...that's a great option. IMHO, though, for the best selection of ease of upgrades, supply, price, etc. finding a Japanese tourer is a great option (unless you buy new).

(Personally, I wouldn't choose the Schwinn...)
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