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  1. #1
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    Recommended Touring Bike

    Okay, here is the thing I am going to be doing the Trans American Bike Trial from East to West. I am currently just training with a Trek 7.2 FX because I am not going to buy another bike till I know exactly what to look for in a touring bike. I have been browsing around for touring bikes and reading other pplz journals about their trips and going over equipment lists. In the end, what I am asking is what everyone recommends and if they could do it in the format it would be much appreciated and easier for others to refer to:

    Bikes:(Poormans touring Bike[avg. $], Most Bang for your Buck[avg. $], Best out there[avg. $])*

    Additional Comments:**


    ---------------------------------------------------
    * It's really no big deal if you know the average price, but it would help to have another reference.
    ** You can add any additional comments or advice here
    ---------------------------------------------------
    Thank you so much for the advice,

    Dylan
    Future TransAm'er 2010

  2. #2
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    any bike that'll rack and roll... $?....... novara safari $849 Surly LHT $950?........Bruce gordon, Rivendell, Thorn, Co-motion etc... $$$$^

  3. #3
    Senior Member Thulsadoom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dkroy View Post
    Okay, here is the thing I am going to be doing the Trans American Bike Trial from East to West. I am currently just training with a Trek 7.2 FX because I am not going to buy another bike till I know exactly what to look for in a touring bike.
    What's wrong with the Trek 7.2 FX? There's no reason that it wouldn't work fine for a run across the country, and you already own it....

  4. #4
    jcm
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    A poor man's touring bike is not the same as a poor touring bike, first of all. I highly recommend an old school MTB, with a rigid frame, touring style fork, and double eyelets in both front and back. Get a tall one because you will use it mainly for roads, yes? So, fit it like a normal touring rig. The geometry is very similar to a production tour machine like a Trek 520 (a very good example of an off-the-shelf bike).

    You can get a 1987 - 1992 MTB for less than $100 on C-List. A quality example will weigh about 28-29lbs, factory. Lower priced models will weight about 2lbs more because they will have heavier frame tubes.

    Compare that to a factory weight on a Trek 520 of 27lbs. Not much diff. The price of the Trek wil be around $1200+/-

    For another $200 - $350, you can outfit the old MTB for bombproof touring. I know there are bikes out there that are new and pretty, but for under $500 total investment, I don't think you can get a better bike. Those better quality old MTB's are excellent machines.

  5. #5
    Senior Member carkmouch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jcm View Post
    For another $200 - $350, you can outfit the old MTB for bombproof touring. I know there are bikes out there that are new and pretty, but for under $500 total investment, I don't think you can get a better bike. Those better quality old MTB's are excellent machines.

    If you want to save money and DIY, I'd probably recommending going this route. Most mtn bikes with triple chainrings come equipped with decent touring gearing already and 26" wheels are sturdy and easily replacable. Make sure you get a drivetrain with nice low gears for those times you have to crank all that touring gear up those hills. A granny gear of a 24/26 tooth chainring on the front with a 34 on the back will give you sufficient gear inches for crawling up those hills.

    I ended up finding a good deal on a lightly used Surly Long Haul Trucker off of craiglist last year and the bike is amazing for loaded touring, grocery shopping, or longer road rides. I can vouch that the LHT is a solid machine, and it's rock solid stability allows for carrying larger loads over long distances in comfort. So if you want to spend a little more money and get a nice touring bike with lots of good stock parts, you can't go wrong with the Surly. However, I think it'd be fun (and a bit more satisfying) to build up a custom mtn bike tourer for less.
    Last edited by carkmouch; 01-26-09 at 08:42 PM.
    Touring is in tents

  6. #6
    nashcommguy
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    Quote Originally Posted by jcm View Post
    A poor man's touring bike is not the same as a poor touring bike, first of all...I know there are bikes out there that are new and pretty, but for under $500 total investment, I don't think you can get a better bike. Those better quality old MTB's are excellent machines.
    Agree w/this statement on every level. Though my preference is 'drop style' handlebars an mtb w/barends accomplishes much the same in terms of hand positions and rider comfort. On a tour of any length the amount of time one spends in the 'drops' is minimal, anyway. Regardless of what bike you select I'll give a list of accessories and online stores where they can be purchased.

    Tires: Schwalbe Marathon Plus http://www.biketiresdirect.com or do a price search and look for a no shipping deal. But get THESE tires. You'll be VERY glad you did.

    Tubes: whatever fits your bike wheels' diameter...but get them a size SMALLER than what's called for on your tire size. Makes for easier roadside change over, but w/t SMPs your chances of flatting are diminished by a large percentage. Get 3 or 4 tubes and a patch kit. Same web address as above.

    Mounting tool: Kool stop...10.00US and worth EVERY dime. Will save on maddening 'pinch flats as one goes through the experience of mounting SMPs the first time. Trust me...I know... Liguid soap in moderation helps, also.

    Frame Pump: Topeak Road Morph w/gauge This is the BEST commuter/tourer frame pump on the market, bar none. Just go to chipcom's bf page and check out the fleet of his and wife's bikes. They ALL have TRM frame pumps. He's got 7-8 bikes. He's a great guy and knows his stuff re commuting/touring/utility cycling, etc. Plus he's VERY photogenic... http://www.bikeisland.com no shipping...may be a good source for tubes as well. Get a back-up frame pump that's smaller...Topeak Mini Morph or a Serfas T-handle w/gauge are good.

    Park MTB-3 Multi-tool. It includes a chain tool, spoke wrench, phillips, straight, torx and a full selection of allen wrenches. It's beast and takes a minute just to figure out how to get it apart. Some may think it's over kill, but I've used every attachment on mine at one time or another. bikeisland.com

    Fenders: Planet Bike, Freddy Fenders, SKS all make hard mount, full coverage. It's your choice, they're all reasonably good.

    Metal tire levers: Plastic are crap, especially if one tries to use them w/SMPs...forget it. Pryramid makes a good cheap set availabale @ http://www.bikepartsusa.com Get a couple of sets as they're cheap and it's always good to have extras in case of a night repair and losing a lever or two. Just remember to file the edges smooth to save on your rims. Speaking of night repairs, get one of those 'head strap' hands free light...they're a lifesaver...again I KNOW from experience...in 15-20F temps.

    Rack: Delta Universal Mega Rack in silver or black. Adjustable and strong. http://www.AEbike.com or http://www.lickbike.com

    Lights: I'd go w/a 10W Halogen(Niterider Trailrat)w/a Cateye Opticube Sport for the front and at least 2 Planetbike Superflash blinkies for the rear. 3 woud be better w/one in reserve. All available from amazon.com for cheap and no shipping.

    The bike I'd recommend is a 90's Specialized Hardrock hardtail w/a solid fork. You may want to upgrade to V-brakes, but not necessary...the CP cantilevers are fine. Just change out the cables and pads.

    Bags: You know what you need in terms of size, waterproofness, etc. Jandd, Ortleib, etc all make 'industry standard' systems. A detachable hb bag is very handy for carrying personal valuables, camera, Id, etc. I've got a ten year old 'Klik It' I still use on tours.

    One more thing...very important. Get a 'potable water' kit JUST in case...one never knows.

    Have fun! Being over prepared is FAR better than the alternative. And a small garden spade...
    Last edited by nashcommguy; 01-26-09 at 11:43 PM.

  7. #7
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    Thanks for the great responses and the alterations to my equipment list.

  8. #8
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Thulsadoom View Post
    What's wrong with the Trek 7.2 FX? There's no reason that it wouldn't work fine for a run across the country, and you already own it....
    I agree. Maybe a few tweaks (a 24T chain ring for one). Personally I wouldn't go with flat bars, I would use drops, but that means different shifters and levers so maybe think about trekking bars or at least bar ends. If the budget is tight Nashbar Waterproof panniers, a Blackburn EX-1 rear rack, and Nashbar or Performance front lowrider racks (Blackburn clone) are good choices. I'd buy them again even if the budget wasn't tight.

    The Schwalbe Marathon Plus tire recommendation is one I disagree with. They weigh a ton and still get flats (yes less flats than most, but...). Changing a flat once in a while isn't a big enough problem to warrant using these boat anchors, they weigh as much as two similar sized tires. I have them on my bike and hate them, they are so slow. I would maybe use them for an urban commuter.

  9. #9
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dkroy View Post
    Okay, here is the thing I am going to be doing the Trans American Bike Trial from East to West. I am currently just training with a Trek 7.2 FX because I am not going to buy another bike till I know exactly what to look for in a touring bike. I have been browsing around for touring bikes and reading other pplz journals about their trips and going over equipment lists. In the end, what I am asking is what everyone recommends and if they could do it in the format it would be much appreciated and easier for others to refer to:

    Bikes:(Poormans touring Bike[avg. $], Most Bang for your Buck[avg. $], Best out there[avg. $])*

    Additional Comments:**


    ---------------------------------------------------
    * It's really no big deal if you know the average price, but it would help to have another reference.
    ** You can add any additional comments or advice here
    ---------------------------------------------------
    Thank you so much for the advice,

    Dylan
    Future TransAm'er 2010
    If you want to know what to look for in a touring bike, look at touring bikes. The Cannondale T2 and the LHT complete are the best examples of production touring bikes you are going to find. Both have a lot of thought put into their design and parts spec. Both are in the $1000 to $1200 range but they are also bikes that you will be riding 30 years from now. Look at the parts list and the geometry for an idea of what you should look for if you go a cheaper route.

    Your Trek will probably do but the flat bar is a bit of a detriment. You could change to a drop bar (expensive) or trekking bar (relatively cheap). The 32 spoke wheels aren't my favorite for loaded touring either.

    If you want to repurpose an old mountain bike, just be aware that it may not be that cheap. Nor will it be that simple. First you have to find one that fits. If you are a male of approximately average height, an 18" or 19" mountain bike is fairly easy to find. Outside that 'norm' and finding something can be frustrating either larger or smaller.

    You also need the right kind of bike. It needs rack mounts and it needs to have long stays. Bikes from before about 1997 are good, after that the geometries changed radically and they become less useful for touring.

    If you do find one...that fits and has the stuff you need...you'll need to decide on parts. Drop bars? New crank, new wheels, new shifters, new derailers, etc? It adds up. Do you do your own work? If not, expect the cost to go even higher. And how much time do you want to spend chasing down deals? Your time (and shipping) are worth something. If you need (or want) a lot of new stuff on the bike and you don't do your own work, your $100 CL bike could end up costing you several times more than what you paid for it. I'm not saying that you can't do it or that it will necessarily be more expensive than a new bike but go into the endeavor with your eyes open. Forewarned is forearmed
    Stuart Black
    Solo Without Pie. The search for pie in the Midwest.
    Picking the Scablands. Washington and Oregon, 2005. Pie and spiders on the Columbia River!
    Days of Wineless Roads. Bed and Breakfasting along the KATY
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  10. #10
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    my $.02 is to modify the Trek to do the job or spend $900-$1500 for any of the touring specific bikes. Once you have the pedals and bars on the Trek to meet your comfort and cycling needs you've got a touring bike. By the time you've adapted the Trek you're either happy with it or you know what else you want when you've got $1000burning a hole in your pocket. Sorry that isn't the format you asked for. Once you have the hand/seat/pedal position dialed in it's pretty much making sure you have enough air in the tires and the wheels are strong enough.

    My daughter and a friend went off on their tour with their mtn. bikes they'd had for years. I added front racks. One of the them was prepared to use cat box litter panniers but I gave her my old set.

  11. #11
    jcm
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    Cyccommute knows his medicine.

    But, I would say that his cautionary advice on old MTB's might be tempered by these words:

    Many mountain bikes from 1986 to 1991 had vitually all the right hardpoints to attach racks and fenders. They had slender, tapered touring type forks - many with mid-fork rack bosses (this very desirable feature began to dissappear by 1992 and later). Long wheel bases were the norm, like a touring bike. Long chainstays were also common, another touring bike essential. The gears were perfect for general road touring and most hills, with the excellent and robust Shimano Deore or Deore XT groups (now only considered entry level).

    In short, and if it's all in decent shape, there is not that much to do to prepare the bike to go. Just add the racks, lights, fenders, a comfortable saddle, good tires, and maybe, maybe different handlebars. Only if I weren't pleased with the stock bars would I bother with that, although drops are the preferred bar set. Lots of people tour with a variation of the straight bar. Most all of them will accomodate your stock brake levers and shifters.

    Without the drops you can easily outfit one of these for under $500, or, half the price of many new bikes. And, I maintain that a good quality MTB is a stronger bicycle all around than most touring models.

  12. #12
    Senior Member juggleaddict's Avatar
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    I will say this, for certain, it may be ridiculous to think this way, but if so many people have done it on a surly, it can be done, and it will do the job well, i guarantee that. as for the parts, that's all up to your budget. get a B17, slap it on a LHT, build it up with a mix of components and ride on.

    if you really want spend extra dough for flattery, get a moots frame, it'll run you ~$3000 bucks (frame only)

    i would go with the LHT, i'm doing the same tour next summer as my first "major tour," and i've researched multiple dozen recumbents, at least a dozen uprights, and every single time, i come back to the LHT, it's proven, it works, it's good equipment, and i realized after all this searching that the bike just needs to do it's job, and being picky about the very specific touring bike will keep you off the road longer!

  13. #13
    nashcommguy
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    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
    ...The Schwalbe Marathon Plus tire recommendation is one I disagree with. They weigh a ton and still get flats (yes less flats than most, but...). Changing a flat once in a while isn't a big enough problem to warrant using these boat anchors...
    I'll make sure they save a bed for you when I get to the hostel...

  14. #14
    Senior Member sonatageek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
    The Schwalbe Marathon Plus tire recommendation is one I disagree with. They weigh a ton and still get flats (yes less flats than most, but...). Changing a flat once in a while isn't a big enough problem to warrant using these boat anchors, they weigh as much as two similar sized tires. I have them on my bike and hate them, they are so slow. I would maybe use them for an urban commuter.
    I have found them a bit heavy but tough. I just picked up a set of the Marathon Supremes (tough or tougher and significantly lighter) and I have high hopes for them. They cost a bit more (the set I got was cheap at Niagara Cycle Works - but that was only the 700x35c size) but I have high hopes. Only the upcoming riding season will tell.

  15. #15
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nashcommguy View Post
    I'll make sure they save a bed for you when I get to the hostel...
    Don't bother, I'll be camping and if getting there first is your priority then the Marathon Plus is a poor choice.

    Seriously, if changing a flat is a huge ordeal for you then maybe the Marathon Plus makes sense. Personally I don't find spending 5 minutes to fix a flat once in a while to be a big deal. Flats aren't all that frequent even with an unbelted tire and with a lighter touring tire it should be pretty seldom.

    There are lots of tires that are pretty flat resistant that offer much lighter weight and a better ride. Schwalbe, Continental, Bontrager, and others make other tires that weigh better than a pound and a half less for a pair in 700x32 and offer better ride, speed, and grip.

    As an example look at the Schwalbe Marathon Supreme which is 1.6 pounds lighter for a pair of 700x32. The ratings for different categories make it look better compromise to me.

    Marathon Supreme HS 382



    Marathon Plus HS 348

  16. #16
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jcm View Post
    Cyccommute knows his medicine.

    But, I would say that his cautionary advice on old MTB's might be tempered by these words:

    Many mountain bikes from 1986 to 1991 had vitually all the right hardpoints to attach racks and fenders. They had slender, tapered touring type forks - many with mid-fork rack bosses (this very desirable feature began to dissappear by 1992 and later). Long wheel bases were the norm, like a touring bike. Long chainstays were also common, another touring bike essential. The gears were perfect for general road touring and most hills, with the excellent and robust Shimano Deore or Deore XT groups (now only considered entry level).

    In short, and if it's all in decent shape, there is not that much to do to prepare the bike to go. Just add the racks, lights, fenders, a comfortable saddle, good tires, and maybe, maybe different handlebars. Only if I weren't pleased with the stock bars would I bother with that, although drops are the preferred bar set. Lots of people tour with a variation of the straight bar. Most all of them will accomodate your stock brake levers and shifters.

    Without the drops you can easily outfit one of these for under $500, or, half the price of many new bikes. And, I maintain that a good quality MTB is a stronger bicycle all around than most touring models.
    I agree that 83 to 91 mountain bikes are probably the best ones for touring (I'd go back to the original Stumpy). However, just like land, they are making them anymore. And the ones that were made weren't quite up to the standards of construction and ruggedness of today's mountain bike. Many of the oldest ones were ridden, literally, into the dirt. You really need to be extra careful and inspect the bike thoroughly for evidence of hard riding, i.e. cracks and gouges. If you find a good one, by all means make a go of turning it into a touring bike
    Stuart Black
    Solo Without Pie. The search for pie in the Midwest.
    Picking the Scablands. Washington and Oregon, 2005. Pie and spiders on the Columbia River!
    Days of Wineless Roads. Bed and Breakfasting along the KATY
    Twisting Down the Alley. Misadventures in tornado alley.
    An Good Ol' Fashion Appalachian Butt Whoopin'.

  17. #17
    jcm
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    "I agree that 83 to 91 mountain bikes are probably the best ones for touring (I'd go back to the original Stumpy). However, just like land, they are making them anymore. And the ones that were made weren't quite up to the standards of construction and ruggedness of today's mountain bike. Many of the oldest ones were ridden, literally, into the dirt. You really need to be extra careful and inspect the bike thoroughly for evidence of hard riding, i.e. cracks and gouges. If you find a good one, by all means make a go of turning it into a touring bike"

    I actually had one of those and didn't know what it was. Sold it for pebbles. That was before I really started cycling

    Good advice as usual, Cyccommute.

  18. #18
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    I just got an old panasonic mtb for 40 bucks. Using mostly new parts its just about done on a budget of $340ish. The only things I need to buy are fenders and a rack or two.

    It would be even cheaper if I wasn't so picky about what the bike looks like. My budget included

    Frame and Fork (came with decent crankset and brakes, trashed the rest) $40
    New Wheelset (Deore laced to Mavics, nothing too fancy, but not bad) $140
    A used set of stx deraileurs $15
    New stem and seatpost $30
    New bottom bracket $25
    Tires and tubes $40
    used bar end shifters $50

    Really the only parts I had laying around was a set of handlebars and small stuff like cables, housing and bartape.

    Like I said I could have gotten some other parts used, but I'm picky and all the components have to be silver. Theres alot more 26" black wheelsets on ebay than silver. Also I already have a decent rack, but it's black. Also I've found silver racks are either really cheaply made, or only available in Europe. I'm planning on ordering the racks and fenders from europe.

    Anyway, when it's done I'll have a pretty decent touring bike with mostly new, or barely used parts on it for under $500.

  19. #19
    DRF aka Thrifty Bill wrk101's Avatar
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    Most bang for the buck? Easy, a used touring bike. Here is a summary of ones I got off of Craigs List in the last six to nine months (most of these were on Craigs List for several days, so it is not like I pounced on a deal 5 minutes after it was posted):
    83 Trek 520: $140
    83 Trek 620: $115
    83 Univega Gran Turismo: $120
    84 Fuji Touring Series IV: $100
    97 Novarra Randonee: $200

    The Fuji and the Trek 620 are particularly sweet bikes IMHO.

    The Randonee is a modern brifter bike, if that is your desire/interest.

    If you are patient, you will find similar to better deals.
    Last edited by wrk101; 02-01-09 at 09:06 AM. Reason: clarification

  20. #20
    Senior Member xilios's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Thulsadoom View Post
    What's wrong with the Trek 7.2 FX? There's no reason that it wouldn't work fine for a run across the country, and you already own it....
    I agree with Thulsadoom, nothing wrong with this bike. Spend some money on changing some things and it'll be fine.
    This is my wifes Trek 7.2 FX. List of what we've changed is in our page.
    Attached Images Attached Images

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    I'd agree with xilios--- you could just ride your Trek FX and be happy. Lots and lots of tourists tour with and like your bike.

    Here's the skinny. Don't mess around with used bikes unless you know what you're doing. Don't order anything cheap over the internet. (Wayne and The Touring Store is a good internet source, but he's not a cheapie-- just good stuff at reasonable prices) Don't believe 50% of the stuff you read here.

    Go to REI, if there's one near you, get racks and panniers for you bike. Look into GOOD camping gear, because a high priced bike with sketchy camping gear isn't a good plan. Ride your current bike loaded, see if you like it. With butterfly bars and a couple of other changes, you bike is more than ready to make the trip.

    If you want a new touring bike, stay at REI and test ride 3 bikes. A Cannondale touring bike, and Novara Randonee and LHT. The store might have to order them for you, so it's going to take a little time. Take that time, it's worth it to get the right bike. Remember that REI has a 100% money back return policy. Listen to what the REI shop fellows tell you! Because they have the power to give you your money back if it doesn't work. The nice folks on this board, well, they do give a lot of good, (and free!) advice, but they cannot get your money back.

    I'd pick the cheaper C'dale touring bike, quality alu racks, Orlieb panniers, and REI camping gear (the UL stuff), If I was starting out. It's going to cost $2000 and that's a lot of money, but that's a lot of value. You could save money riding your Trek and taking any lightweight camping gear you already have.

    good luck,
    tacomee

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