I have the chance to buy a lightly/hardly used 1999 or 2000 Trek 520 for $450. I intend for the bike to serve as a light weekend ride bike, day-touring, and lightly loaded multi-day touring (will need to work up to this level).
How far can one dial in reach with stem changes? I felt like I was fairly stretched out and more forward when I was riding the hoods but again, I've never really ridden drops before. I'm not sure whether the stretched out reach is the result of the newness of the experience or whether the frame is slightly too large for me. I'm about 5'6" with a 30" inseam and my hybrid bike is a 17.5" Jamis frame. The seller states the frame is 18" and the Bikepedia description only gives it as "medium" for 2000 and for 1999 it's either 17" or 19". The seller is 5'11" he claims although the seat height on the bike seemed appropriate for me when I rode it around (i.e. I wasn't getting maximal knee extension on the pedal downstroke) and he never really rode it that far.
Given the age of the bike what types of replacement parts am I looking at? Off the top of my head it appears tires, brake pads, tubes (existing tube stems do not look good), bar tape, and saddle. With the 1" threaded stem should I perhaps get a threadless adapter and then get some type of multi-position stem so I can adjust it until I get used to riding drops?
Any issues with the 8 speed cassette vs. the 9 speed cassette of newer Treks for light/medium load touring? I can't imagine myself loading the bike with more than 75 pounds or even 50 pounds and adding my weight in that'd be well under 250 pounds total.
I would definitely go with threadless adapter if you feel the reach is too long. On the road most of your saddle time will be in the drops. Too long of a reach will affect your comfort, especially in your neck and back. As to the size if the standover height works for you, at least 1" clearance to your jewels, the other components can be adjusted. Completely self contained I carry 42 lbs. of gear, any more than that you're taking along too much stuff.
The 520 is a great frame, wheels questionable, changed my crankset to Deore LX, added softride stem and 35 tires.
Changed rear shifter to STI to keep hands on drops most of the time.