So I've been talking to my LBS (Urbane Cyclist) and every time I ask about the Aurora Elite and loaded touring he kinda winces and looks away.
Today when I went in to get my Speed Machine tuned-up, he mentioned that he was thinking about what I had in mind (tour around Lake Ontario next summer) and he thinks that I should upgrade a regular Aurora instead of buying the Elite. He says that the changes needed to make the Elite's drivetrain good for loaded touring, plus the fender difficulties suggest that I should just go with an Aurora and upgrade the sifters to Ultegra 9sp and the rear derailleur to XT. The Elite's drivetrain is Ult/Tiagra 10sp, so there's no easy way to go with a MTB rear derailleur (they're all 9sp) without starting an avalanche of other changes. The only thing he didin't mention that worries ne a bit are the Tiagra hubs. I may ask him to build me a set of wheels with LX or XT hubs.
Does this make sense to you? I test rode a 53 Aurora and I was happy with the feel. It felt really nice actually.
I really like the concept of the Elite as an "all-rounder" type bike - commuting, long day rides, and light-touring. But I don't think it is the best platform for heavy touring - chainstays are short, steering is quicker than a true touring bike, and you know about the drivetrain. Even the base Aurora, while better geometrically, has some serious compromises that result from the price point. Why not buy a used Trek 520 or Cannondale T-series for $5-600 that you can use for touring? Either one would work fine where you are, even with stock gearing.
I have the regular Aurora (2007, 53cm) which is all stock except for the crankset, which was swapped at time of purchase to a 48-36-24. I have done a 150 mile weekend tour (lightly loaded) and a weeklong 300 mile club loop tour (loaded) including some short gravel stretches with no problems whatsoever. I have done over 2,500 miles to date in 2008 and am very happy with the fit and ride, loaded and unloaded. I have no complaints so far with the bike, mechanically or otherwise. The original tires have held up well for over 2,000 miles. Even the stock saddle has worked fine for me on long day rides of 75 miles with no discomfort. In my opinion, there is no compelling rush to upgrade shifters, derailleurs, wheelsets etc. until the stock components are ready for replacement. The Aurora is quite a versatile bike, but seems to be the undeserving of its Rodney Dangerfield status in the touring world.
I know what you mean abou the Rodney Dangerfield status of this bike.
Maybe there's a good reason folks are so focussed on the Trk 520 and the LHT, but the LHT would force me into 26" wheels and the 520 doesn't seem like as good value....going to another shop to check out the 520 now.
IRD makes a 10-speed mountain cassette but I suspect going fully loaded on the Aurora Elite would be much like going fully loaded on my Soma Double Cross. The wheels aren't quite up to it, the frame isn't as sturdy, and combined with the shorter wheelbase, it gets too squirrely when I carry more than 30-40 lbs. Since I already had 90% of the necessary parts, my Aurora received the full monty upgrade shortly after I acquired it and it does much better with a full load from the grocery store. I still haven't done an actual fully loaded tour with it yet though.
At its price point, nothing on the bike beyond butted tubing is particularly special. The Tiagra hubs will get the job done and can be replaced when you wear them out. Same goes for the shifters and derailleurs. The only thing I was dissatisfied with was the narrow 40cm Biomax handlebar. I have broad shoulders for a little guy and having the tops just 38cm wide didn't work for me. I've also got barcons on there with 48-38-24 rings with no ramps or pins. I'd go with ramped and pinned 48-39-26 rings if I were sticking with the Tiagra brifters though.
mtnroads is also right about the geometry. It can be used very effectively for loaded touring but it is no LHT or Trek 520. I suspect its handling would exceed my comfort zone at 50 lbs. on the rear rack and 25 lbs. on the front. Fortunately, as a hiker and backpacker who owns more than his share of ultralight gear, 75 lbs. is far more than I will ever need.
I have a lot of light camping gear too, so 75lbs would be plenty for me I think.
I had no luck checking out a 520 today, but in case anyone's interested, I was told the 2009 model will have an LX drivetrain, including hubs. The shifters will still be DA bar end. Also, there will likely be about a 10% price increase, which would put it in the $1450 CDN price range (at least at the store I was in).
You are underestimating Tiagra level components. They are tough and durable. I changed my cassette to an 11-34 and put on a 24T ring in the front and it works fine even though I am pushing the outer limits of what Shimano says is possible. So I have a range from near-MTB low gears to a road bike level 52-11 high gear. I'm quite happy with it.
Get an Aurora, put on some Schwalbe Marathon tires, a Brooks saddle, slap on a smaller granny gear, and hit the road.
I think the crank was also LX, but I can't remember for sure. The one thing that did get my attention was that it had a chain guard. A bit strange to see.
Can't go with a LHT. I'm not interested in 26" wheels and they come with the frame size I'd need.
As far as shimmy on fast descents, I hadn't heard that about the 520, but a imperfect frame could cause that.
The shimmy I've heard from people going cross country on 520's as well as a shop owner.
I was in a similar position, wanted 700c wheels for touring on a 52cm bike that I could also do road riding with. So I used a Crosscheck for my first tour (2K miles, ~6 weeks) but had to get a frame builder to put on the braze-ons for the front rack. I guess you could use P clamps but I was a little uncertain about them.
Hindsight being 20/20, I should have just gotten the LHT, because the 26" wheels would have required less truing and a 3rd bottle braze on would have been nice, as well as the spoke holder braze-on (even though I didn't break any). I ended up carrying 40 lbs loaded with food and water, which wasn't a ridiculous amount but I still had to true my wheels a bit.
It just seems like you'd be taking a bike and replacing the wheels and drivetrain and probably saddle anyhow, so why not start out with just a frameset?
I'm going to check out a 520 now, but I don't see that the spec difference (except in the hubs) is all that great between the 520 and the Aurora? What have I missed?
You haven't missed much - I just took another look at the specs on the standard Aurora and it is pretty impressive. Still not quite a 520 or LHT, but not very far off - Cachehiker hit most of the important differences. I don't think you can beat it if you want new, espec at that price. For touring it def has better geometry than the Elite. Slap some racks and bags on it and go - I wouldn't even change out the tires - I like the Vittoria Randonneurs.
I just built up an Aurora frame and am very happy with the results. My frame is a 2002 model and has a 1" threaded fork. That is the only thing I would change if doing it again. No front rack on it yet, but I've loaded the back up with 40 lbs and have experienced no handling issues. The stock Aurora is spec'd well at it's price point. With the changes you suggest, I think you'd end up with a great bike that would serve you well.
On another note, I thnk the Tiagra hubs will serve you well. I used them on the wheelset that I had built to keep the cost down. Sheldon Brown spoke highly of them as a budget touring hub. My wife's road bike has Tigra hubs and is pushing 8,000 (unloaded) miles without an issue.
Locally built track bike, Kona mtb, Giant Road Bike, Soon to be Surly LHT Tourer!
I'm not sure why there's such an aversion to 26" wheels. The stouter size makes them stronger and tires are easy to find anywhere in the world. I have the LHT in 54cm size and the wheels don't make it look goofy in the least.
It's not an aesthetic thing, it's the way the ride feels. I like the quicker, more responsive feel of 700C. The cost may be a bit less stability when loaded, but there's no way to make a 26" LHT feelike a road bike when not touring and vise versa. I have to compromise since I can only have the 1 bike.
I have to compromise since I can only have the 1 bike.
Six days around Lake Ontario? Camping or Hoteling or a little of both? If I honestly had to stick with JUST ONE BIKE (I own six), it would be my Soma Double Cross (very similar to the Aurora Elite) that feels a bit overloaded with more than 30-40 lbs. It is an AWESOME day in and day out all around ride but six days would be a bit much for it.
I've done three days in the backcountry with scarcely more than 40 lbs. but I was seriously roughing it. If I was doing six on the bike, camping most every night, and carrying a cookset and food, the Aurora would be the obvious choice as I estimate I would need 55-60 lbs. and would stop to restock at least once. If I were hoteling in most nights, carrying little more than a bivy and some clothes, and dining in restaurants 90% of the time, I'd be on the Soma with 35-40 lbs. It would only be 1 mph faster but that's two hours less riding time over six days.
The Soma will also let me keep up on the more casual club rides where the Aurora works me to death. In any case, I don't think either choice is a bad one. You will find uses for either one.
Cool bike. I took a nice long test ride on one and really dug it. Not so happy about the STI shifters, but they were liveable and I suspect they would begin to grow on me (first time using brifters). Also was a little short in the granny gear dept for my taste, but that would be an easy fix. Mostly I`m not going to get it because I want 26in. to take advantage of the growing wheel and tire warehouse in my shed and for compatibility with my other bikes and my wife`s bike. If I had a shed full of 700 wheels and tires, it would be a different story. Hope you like your Aurora.
Hey Ivan, I got so interested in the Elite after these threads, that I found one in Davis in my size (53cm), liked it, and brought it home. I have been on it all weekend and it is really a sweet ride, as I'm sure your Aurora will be also. It is going to be my new bike for general purpose riding, day rides and possibly some light touring, replacing my older and heavier 520. I am really impressed with the components, comfort and handling, not so impressed with the 10-speed drivetrain. It also seems to have plenty of clearance for fenders and/or a bit wider tire but I love the 700x32 Vittoria Randonneurs that came on it. Very pleased overall. Good luck on your Aurora. Cheers.