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Old 04-14-09, 05:29 PM   #1
bgn6h
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X-country on a Jamis Aurora? Should it be done, or should I drink the LHT Kool-Aid?

Hey bikeforums touring people:
I've read the Touring forums up and down so that I wouldn't have to post one of those "tell me exactly what to do" posts but I still can't quite figure it out, so here goes...

My girlfriend and I are planning on going cross-country this summer- doing the ACA TransAmerica route, modified to start in Washington, DC. From other cross-country tourers we've spoken with, we're planning on using rear panniers and a trunk bag and handlebar bag. We're planning on leaving June 1st, so we're getting to the six-week mark on equipment and purchasing, which means that it's time to act. We've checked out a few LBS's and will likely be going with one that is a Jamis dealer and also stocks a full sizerun of Surly LHT's. I've taken both the Aurora and the LHT for test rides and liked both; however, a test ride is far from conclusive. Here's the kicker through-- the LBS has one Aurora left from 08 in my size which they're closing out for $800. Their price for the complete LHT is $1250-- no, I have no idea why they've gone $150 above MSRP, and I'm trying to look into that with a contact who works at another location of said shop. I've seen all the raves about the LHT on this board and that counts for a lot, but $450 could go a long way...

So it boils down to this: by buying the Aurora, I can get a less optimal touring bike than the LHT, but for $450 less. This leads to two questions:

Will the necessary upgrades to get the Aurora in touring shape be too much to make the huge discount worth it? Based on what I've seen on the boards, I would need to get beefier tires ($70 for 35mm Randonneurs?), a smaller (26 or 28t) granny gear installed for the rockies, and new brake pads for starters. What else to get an Aurora in shape for serious touring?

The deeper question: Even with all this, is the Aurora suitable for a 2-person XC ride? I've seen some issues raised on the board about its crankset, tire clearance, chainstay length, spec of STI instead of bar-ends, etc. I'm trying hard not to imagine a worn-out spring or broken plastic brifter bit in the middle of Kansas...

Not to mention the fact that you can get an LHT shipped for $900 on universalcycling, but without the support of an LBS...

So what do you more experienced tourers think? I am eternally grateful for any advice you might have.
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Old 04-14-09, 05:52 PM   #2
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Hey bikefor
So it boils down to this: by buying the Aurora, I can get a less optimal touring bike than the LHT, but for $450 less. This leads to two questions:

Will the necessary upgrades to get the Aurora in touring shape be too much to make the huge discount worth it? Based on what I've seen on the boards, I would need to get beefier tires ($70 for 35mm Randonneurs?), a smaller (26 or 28t) granny gear installed for the rockies, and new brake pads for starters. What else to get an Aurora in shape for serious touring?
My opinion is that you don't need any of those things. They might help a little bit, but $450 would also help a little bit. Beefy tires are only a necessity if you have a high total weight. If you were a small girl that is sub 200 lbs with bike and gear, 23 or 25s would probably be fine. If your legs are strong, you can hammer up hills in just about any gear. The fastest guy I've met on my tours rode a double. I say go for the cheaper bike. It's the sexier looking one too.
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Old 04-14-09, 07:18 PM   #3
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I think you meant www.universalcycles.com, and not universalcycling, which doesn't exist. At Universal Cycles, they list the LHT at MSRP: $1095. The only thing listed close to your $900 is last year's Cross Check in a 62cm, but even that is listed as out-of-stock. I'm told any dealer can order an LHT from QBP and get it to you for the MSRP of $1095. If yours won't, DC's a big place; walk down the street to another shop and have them order it. Or tell your dealer that and that you'll pay MSRP or walk. Since he let you test ride, I suppose you at least owe him the chance.

Either bike will work, unless you're very large or pack too much. I think you should get the bike you want to own next year, after the trip.

Oh, and don't worry about the *middle* of Kansas. Plenty of good shops and mechanics in the area. It's the middle of the western *half* I'd be thinking about. But folks out there are friendly and a ride to town in a pickup is only the next vehicle coming down the road. I hope you have a wonderful trip!
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Old 04-14-09, 07:34 PM   #4
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Worked fine for me last summer on the Northern Tier 2008. It's a great bike.




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Old 04-14-09, 07:46 PM   #5
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It comes with 32mm Randonneurs on the 2008. Should be plenty good for the first few thousand. That is all I ran going cross country. I've been running 28 conti gator skins for the last few thousand since I returned and I'm pretty happy with them also. My 2008 Jamis Aurora now has approx 10,000 miles. Paid $800 plus tax last summer.

Now for the things to think about. You need to consider either upgrading front chainrings for a few bucks or swap out the crankset. I swapped out the crankset for an LX mountain crank. Cost me $140.00 with shipping. Sold the original FSA for about $40.00 if I remember correct. So net upgrade cost was $100.00. Other than that I didn't do any other upgrade for the trip. Wheels are machine built like most bikes. I would suggest having the wheels checked a few times before departure to make sure they are tensioned well.

I'm a big fan of STI type shifters so this bike came stock better equipped off the peg.

It's also kinda nice riding something a little different. It's a pretty nice ride.
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Old 04-14-09, 07:51 PM   #6
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[QUOTE=kyakdiver;8732270]Worked fine for me last summer on the Northern Tier 2008. It's a great bike.


+1. I have a 2007 Aurora that I use for everything from metric centuries to lightly loaded weekend getaways to longer loaded tours. Only change I had the LBS make at time of purchase was change the crankset to 48-36-24. Everything else on the bike is standard including brake pads, saddle, STI shifters, tires etc. and still doing just fine for me after 4,000+ miles. The only thing I have replaced is the chain and that just last week. As I have said before, the Aurora is the Rodney Dangerfield of touring bikes in a LHT & Trek 520 dominated space.
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Old 04-14-09, 07:58 PM   #7
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[QUOTE=screenwasher;8732427]
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Worked fine for me last summer on the Northern Tier 2008. It's a great bike.


+1. I have a 2007 Aurora that I use for everything from metric centuries to lightly loaded weekend getaways to longer loaded tours. Only change I had the LBS make at time of purchase was change the crankset to 48-36-24. Everything else on the bike is standard including brake pads, saddle, STI shifters, tires etc. and still doing just fine for me after 4,000+ miles. The only thing I have replaced is the chain and that just last week. As I have said before, the Aurora is the Rodney Dangerfield of touring bikes in a LHT & Trek 520 dominated space.
I like it! Well put screenwasher!
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Old 04-14-09, 08:10 PM   #8
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Thanks, kyakdiver. You and I seem to be the founding members of the cheerleading club for the Aurora.

To OP - If you still have misgivings, check out all the journals on CGOAB of folks who have toured with Auroras. If you are going to plunk down $1,250 for a LHT, check out the 2009 Aurora Elite as well for a couple of hundred bucks more.
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Old 04-14-09, 08:14 PM   #9
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OP..... here is a link to my cross country trip aboard the Jamis starting from the West Coast in Washington...http://cid-e00965f6d68a35b2.skydrive...x/New%20folder
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Old 04-14-09, 08:30 PM   #10
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kansaskid-- You were right, it is universalcycles, I mistyped it. Just to clarify, though, I was referring to the coupon mentioned in this thread, which is still valid. Point taken though, thank you for your thoughtful advice.

kyakdiver- that picture is badass. Good call on the crankset, I will inquire about it at the shop.
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Old 04-15-09, 05:06 AM   #11
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The Aurora looks like a fine bike for touring. I would probably spring for the lower gearing for the appalachians more than for the Rockies. I used my 26-32 combination in the Rockies, but could have gotten by with a 30-32. In the Appalachians a smaller ring would be a real plus and since you can buy a 24t for something like $12, why not?

The OEM 700x32 tires are fine.

The STI is a big plus in my mind. They are quite reliable and I like them so much better than barcons. Even if a brifter fails you can still rig it so it is in the middle range and use the full range on the other derailleur until you get to where you can find a replacement. If you are really paranoid just carry a set of down tube shifters as a backup. I think that is overkill given that in my experience derailleurs fail more often than brifters and almost no one carries spare derailleurs.

The Tektro Oryx brakes are fine, pads and all. We used them on our three bikes on the TransAmerica. The pads didn't give a lot or warning before they died so carry a spare set of pads or replace them well before you have to. I needed them in Kentucky on a W-E TransAmerica and my daughter needed them soon after.

I would happily take off on another TransAmerica on a box stock Aurora except that I would probably put a smaller inner chain ring on.
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Old 04-15-09, 05:10 AM   #12
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I am in DC as well and the LBS's around here are horrible. If you want suggestions as to an LBS that wont overcharge, PM me.

Either bike will do you well, I would look for a trucker, personally.
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Old 04-15-09, 07:57 AM   #13
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I use a 2006 Jamis Aurora....14,240 miles on it as of today......5 4-day tours and an 18 day tour on it...along with commuting every day.....
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Old 04-15-09, 08:05 AM   #14
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aurora? Yes

Just my view, but I like my Aurora. I went for the 22 chain ring to boost hill climbing, but otherwise made no mods. STI's are a negligible concern. Yes even in Kansas Barend shifters are available and a shifter failure will be on one handlebar or the other, and thus will not totally incapacitate your bike to keep you from riding to the nearest bike shop. I've had barends on practically every bike I had before this one and so I'm biased toward them, but still find little to fault with STI. I did the Miss River Trail for 670 miles, carrying moderate weight, and my 190 carcuss and felt that the bike gave wonderful performance. As to STI failure, it usually will be just not quite lining up so you get DR rattle, but sometimes the shift won't occur (on the front that will put you on your lowest gear (better than your highest); on the back you can always shorten that cable to get the DR pulled to a more comfortable emergency gear. I'd ride the STI's and when and if they fail 3 years from now, replace them with barends. I'd certainly not let them guide my overall bike purchase. IMHO. Tom

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Old 04-15-09, 08:48 AM   #15
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Now for the things to think about. You need to consider either upgrading front chainrings for a few bucks or swap out the crankset. I swapped out the crankset for an LX mountain crank. Cost me $140.00 with shipping. Sold the original FSA for about $40.00 if I remember correct. So net upgrade cost was $100.00. Other than that I didn't do any other upgrade for the trip. Wheels are machine built like most bikes. I would suggest having the wheels checked a few times before departure to make sure they are tensioned well.
This seems like excellent advice. My experience pulling a load over mountain passes tells me that it's a pain (literally - in my knees) to need a lower gear and not have one. I'd swap out that crankset for one with at least a 24 tooth granny. I also had one tour spoiled by broken spokes, so I now pay careful attention to my rear wheel - especially the tensioning.

I've heard the worriers talk about possible problems with brifters, and I've got barcons on my LHT, but I've recently acquired a bike with brifters and they work fine. I'd guess the likelihood of them breaking on a tour are about as high as anything else (other than rear spokes.) I'd be fine starting a cross-country tour with them.

Having $450 to spend on other things would make this almost a no-brainer to me. The Aurora is considered to be an excellent tourer. Buy it.
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Old 04-15-09, 10:51 AM   #16
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looking at the geometries, looks like the Aurora is a slight bit more sportier, zippy whereas the LHT is a slight bit more stable. If you plan to get a 2nd road bike later on, I'd go with the LHT, or if you only want 1 bike for both loaded touring and unloaded rides, I'd go for the Aurora. As for changing the gearing on the Aurora, just put on some smaller chainrings. You can go as low as 24 teeth on the stock crankset.
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Old 04-15-09, 01:08 PM   #17
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Wow, thanks to everyone for all the advice. The consensus definitely seems to be for the Aurora, with good justification. Especially thanks to Peruano and BigBlue about analyzing the shifter concerns-- it definitely seems that Brifter failure, even if it occurs, would not be as much of a concern while in the US as opposed to the true middle of nowhere.

I already have a Cannondale for fast road rides, so the Aurora wouldn't be filling as much of a distinct slot in my bike collection-- but hey, it's a great deal and should fit my needs perfectly. Now I just have to worry about the other 999 things to take care of.
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Old 04-15-09, 03:23 PM   #18
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Wow, thanks to everyone for all the advice. The consensus definitely seems to be for the Aurora, with good justification. Especially thanks to Peruano and BigBlue about analyzing the shifter concerns-- it definitely seems that Brifter failure, even if it occurs, would not be as much of a concern while in the US as opposed to the true middle of nowhere.

I already have a Cannondale for fast road rides, so the Aurora wouldn't be filling as much of a distinct slot in my bike collection-- but hey, it's a great deal and should fit my needs perfectly. Now I just have to worry about the other 999 things to take care of.
Before you pull the trigger on an Aurora, consider other bikes as well. The Aurora has short chainstays and a short wheel base which put it near the bottom of the heap, in my opinion, for loaded touring. Consider at least looking at some other touring bikes. If you don't want to be riding what everyone else is riding...*cough*LHT*cough...take a look at the Cannondale T2. You won't find a touring bike with a longer pedigree and you are already familiar with the Cannondale ride.

I just ran across the Masi Speciale Randonneur too. It looks like it could give the LHT a run for the money. $1145 MSRP.
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Old 04-15-09, 05:00 PM   #19
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[Aurora versus LHT]
I've managed to have seen and touched both! The Aurora is nice and with a nice price. I think it would be a good choice. The frame on the LHT is cleaner (weld wise) but the Aurora is fine. People say good things here about the Aurora (and nothing bad).

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The Aurora has short chainstays and a short wheel base which put it near the bottom of the heap, in my opinion, for loaded touring.
Yes, the wheelbase is shorter by 25mm or so than a more standard loaded tourer. But many people have toured on similar bikes. It might depend on how much crap you plan to carry.
http://www.jamisbikes.com/usa/thebik...urora_geo.html

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Old 04-16-09, 06:38 AM   #20
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f budget constraints are on your mind, saving the $450 is a no-brainer. However, there's no reason why you can't ask the bikeshop to sell the lht at msrp, which'd drop you down to $300 saved with the aurora. The common advice will be to change the crank to something more trekking (48/36/26) or mtb (44/32/22); depending on your load, your route, and your chops, you might want to do that. I'd try it with a load on a shorter ride, to see how it feels, before I dropped the $100+ on a semi-decent crankset. The only thing I'd HAVE to swap out, right away, if i bought an Aurora complete, is that ridiculous stem. Something for $10 would do the trick; anything that isn't allen-key adjustable, which is going to get shifty/bouncy...

I ride a LHT, and it's a great bike, but i don't know if it's worth the premium to you. I mostly got it because it's the only cheapish tourer that you can easily get as a frameset only with 26" wheels. I'd have loved to build something else, but they were all costly or 700c or both...

hth,
-rob
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Old 04-16-09, 08:39 AM   #21
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Yes, the wheelbase is shorter by 25mm or so than a more standard loaded tourer. But many people have toured on similar bikes. It might depend on how much crap you plan to carry.
http://www.jamisbikes.com/usa/thebik...urora_geo.html
The wheelbase is 45 mm or more shorter than an LHT/Cannondale/Masi. The chainstays are 17mm or more shorter. The geometry of the Aurora is more like a cross bike then a touring bike. That may not seem like a big issue but it can have an effect on the bike's handling under load. Load steer, aka 'tail wagging the dog', becomes much more of a problem with short chainstays/wheelbases. I've toured with a load on such bikes and they don't make for relaxing rides. Instead of paying attention to the scenery, you have to pay attention to handling of the bike. I much prefer a more predictably handling bike with a load.

And heel strike on the panniers becomes much more of an issue, even with relatively small feet. Nothing worse on a tour than your feet hitting your bag on every revolution of the crank. You can adjust for that by moving the load back and using a longer rack but that just exacerbates the load steer problem.

Cost wise, the Aurora isn't much cheaper than an LHT and is only around $150 less than the Masi or Cannondale. Why settle for something that is 'okay' when you can get something that is outstanding for the same price?
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Old 04-16-09, 09:10 AM   #22
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cyccommute, I don't really understand you twitchy comment. After 10K miles on my 2008 I'm pretty sure it's not twitchy. My frame is a 55 and with 45 sidi's my heal does not strike my orliebs. 45's are size 11 US. Have you had a chance to ride the bike loaded on tour? The bike is more than relaxing.

I don't own a LHT. It may be the greatest thing since sliced bread also. At the time I puchased my Jamis it was the best bike for me for the price. It cost $800 plus tax. Lifetime frame warranty and 1 year on componants.

It's a great bike that will serve you well on a cross country trip. Just like a LHT, T2, and many others.

I haven't ridden the LHT or the T2 loaded so I can't really comment on how twitchy they are
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Old 04-16-09, 09:28 AM   #23
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cyccommute, I don't really understand you twitchy comment.
One man's twitchy is another man's responsive.
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Old 04-16-09, 09:41 AM   #24
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I understand the twitchy comment. I have an old Nashbar tourer from 1992. Going downhill fast with a load sets up a shimmy that feels like it's going to shake everything loose from the frame! It's a very large frame with 1" tubing - very whippy. Balancing my load between panniers carefully helped somewhat, but the shimmy was always there and always severe - just a little less severe when balanced.

I now have an LHT and have never felt the tiniest bit of shimmy. What a relief!

I'm not implying any other bike would shimmy, and I certainly don't know enough about bike geometry to make a prediction based on numbers. I listen to anecdotes of people who have lived with and toured on their bikes, and the reports of Aurora owners definitely sound positive.
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Old 04-16-09, 12:04 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
The wheelbase is 45 mm or more shorter than an LHT/Cannondale/Masi. The chainstays are 17mm or more shorter.
Wheelbase differences between the two (Aurora and LHT) for the smallest and largest is 24.6 mm and 34.3 mm. The same numbers for the Aurora and the Cannondale is 39 mm and 26 mm (I used the large, not the peculiarly long "jumbo", Cannondale).

Quote:
Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
The chainstays are 17mm or more shorter.
There is a 20mm difference in chainstay length between the Aurora and LHT and 17 mm between the Aurora and Cannondale.

http://www.surlybikes.com/longhaul.html
http://www.cannondale.com/bikes/09/cusa/model-8TR2.html
http://www.jamisbikes.com/usa/thebik...urora_geo.html

Quote:
Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
The geometry of the Aurora is more like a cross bike then a touring bike.
Maybe, more like an Audax/Randonee or sport tourer. People use cross bikes for touring (and like them for that) too. People use the Aurora for touring and I haven't heard anybody say it doesn't work for that.

The only thing about the Aurora that might be an issue is the wheelbase/chainstay length.

Quote:
Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
Cost wise, the Aurora isn't much cheaper than an LHT and is only around $150 less than the Masi or Cannondale. Why settle for something that is 'okay' when you can get something that is outstanding for the same price?
He can get the Aurora for $800 (and the LHT at his LBS for $1250). Thus, it's not $150 or the same price. The only possible significant disadvantage of the Aurora is the wheelbase.

Last edited by njkayaker; 04-16-09 at 12:41 PM.
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