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View Poll Results: Which Bike?

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  • Airborne Carpe Diem

    3 4.76%
  • Trek 520

    35 55.56%
  • Bruce Gordon BLT

    25 39.68%
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  1. #1
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    Plase Take my TOURING BIKE POLL

    Please Take My Poll. I am Buying a new bike and am trying to decide which to go with. Which one and why?

    Airborne Carpe Diem
    Trek 520
    Bruce Gordon BLT

    Thanks!
    Manderax

    I ride. I fall down. I get up.
    Meanwhile, I keep dancing.

  2. #2
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    I, too, am rather interested in this question.

    If you vote for this, ccould you also leave a message explaining the reasoning behind your vote? On concern I have heard repeatedly is that some bikes don't allow BOTH fenders AND a rack. And everybody I have heard from seems to insist on fenders.

    But any thoughts as to your reason for liking/disliking a bike would be very helpful.

    andy

  3. #3
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    Which bike depends on how much heavy camping style touring you will be doing.
    The Bruce Gorden is a tourists' touring bike, if you want a bike for a coast to coast, look no further.
    The Trek is odd, a good touring worthy frame, but a light-touring transmission. It just doesnt have the low gears for expeditions. You could go and customise it for touring, but that could get expensive.
    The Airbourne, like most cyclo-cross style tourers, is a good all rounder, if you want to take off for a week or 2 of hostelling. It is probably a bit too high off the ground, and short in the rear to be a good expedition bike. Take care with fork and component selection. Are Airbourne bikes thief magnets in everday commuting use?

    Integrating rack, brakes, fenders and lighting on a bike can cause problems, but standard bits seem to work together OK.
    I have no problem fitting rack and fenders on my Bob Jackson touring bike. Im replacing the fenders on my light touring commuter, it only has one set of eyelets, and doesnt seem to work with SKS V-shaped fender stays.

  4. #4
    have bike will tour catfish's Avatar
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    trek 520 is not odd and goes for just $999 you can change the cassette and crank when buying the bike new for less then 100 dollars and get the gears you need i got 11-34 cassette and 22 32 44 up frount I waltz right up the mountian passes fully loaded. Also have some get up and go in the flats too

    the bike has held up just fine got 10,000 loaded miles on it. Parts for this rig are available at every bike shop. any bike you get will require new cables , chain, cassette, and rings after a long tour as well as regular prevent maintenance But ui tell ya this 520 is a dream on a tour

  5. #5
    sandcruiser thbirks's Avatar
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    I did quite a bit of research on touring bikes before deciding to just convert an old MTB. Anyway, If price isn't an issue I would go with the Bruce Gordon. Why? Firstly, touring bikes are all Bruce Gordon does. The BLT is designed to be a loaded touring bike. Another reason is that the wheels are handbuilt by the Bruce Gordon crew. Good wheels are very important on tour.

    The Trek 520 is a classic design and from what I hear an excellent long distance machine. The price is quite appealing, but you may want to change the gearing, as Catfish mentioned. The 520 is the best bargain in loaded touring bikes.

    I wouldn't even consider the Airborne. It's not a touring bike, more of an all-purpose bike. I also question the longevity of the Chinese made titanium frame. Plus the thing is $2000.
    "only on a BIKE"

  6. #6
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    The Bruce Gordon is sweet and I would love to have one.

    However, with lower gearing added as suggested by Catfish, the Trek got my vote because of best all around value.

    Since I don't have enough money for either this is certainly a moot point for me.

  7. #7
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    Catfish,
    are there any problems going from a road triple to an MTB triple on the Trek ?
    Can the front mech handle the small chainwheel?
    Do you need an MTB front mech ?
    Is the STI lever compatable with MTB mech ?

    Are STI mechs tour -worthy components. Ive meet long distance tourists using Ultegra STIs with no problems, but I wonder if something does happen (bent hanger, change a damaged rear mech for non-compatable type, drop the bike in a muddy puddle) how they would cope.

  8. #8
    have bike will tour catfish's Avatar
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    MichaelW:
    to make sure we are talking about the same bike the 520 IS a dedicated touring bike built by Trek for for loaded touring.

    I met Many tourists on the road riding the bike as it comes from the factory. Myself I wanted a better choice for climbing mouintian passes.

    The bike comes with a shimano 105 T for a frount derailer, and Shimano Deore LX rear derailer. My '99 moudle came with a 8 speed cassette rather then the 9 speed. The LX hub accepted both a 8 and 9 speed so there was no problem there. the stock crank set was a shimano 105 with 52 42 and 30 tooth rings. It came with Shimano dura ace bar end shifters. the frount is friction and the rear is indexed and friction. The Rims are Bontrager fairlane 36 spoke but i opted to build a bontrager clyde for the rear (probley over kill) it came with continental top tour tires but i see they have switched to some other tire for this years issue.

    The changes were no problem at all the 9 speed XT 11-34 cassette sliped right on, the crank set i changed to a Shimano Deore XT with 44,32,22 toth rings this set up sliped right on. The derailors and shifters work like a hot knife going through butter.



    I do know that the Bruce Gordon rig is a very nice ride, but after 10,000 loaded touring miles on my 520 i have no reason to get a new bike right now. Ive had real good luck out on the road and have met many others touring on 520's That have had good luck also. I see people touring on every kind of bike from road bikes touring bikes mtn bikes

    Hope I answered you question
    catfish
    Last edited by catfish; 02-03-02 at 09:42 PM.

  9. #9
    Junior Member prairie dog's Avatar
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    I ride a 520 when on tour, I have had the bike for five years and about 15000 miles. Three thousand loaded tour miles. It's the best bike in my paddock!
    I searched for a mid priced bike before I bought the bike, stopped guys I would see on tour and visited with them. They convinced me! The ride is good and the gears will handle anywhere that you'll be headed loaded.
    Trek, american made, is a great choice!

  10. #10
    A Heart Needs a Home Rich Clark's Avatar
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    [I'm new here, hi!]

    I own a Carpe Diem and a Novara Randonee, which a steel touring bike along the lines of a Trek 520.

    I love the Carpe Diem. Mine is set up as a light tourer/commuter with 36-spoke Mavic T519's and 700x32 Conti TT's, and I commute on it and use it for most of my 50-100 mile road rides as well.

    It can be set up any way you want it, including MTB gearing and cranks, bar-cons, etc. But it will still have the tall drop of a cyclocross bike, and the chainstays are still going to be short if you have really big panniers, and Airborne still doesn't offer a good steel touring fork with front rack braze-ons.

    So it's really not the best choice for loaded touring, IMO.

    I've used my Randonee those few times I've gone off into the wilds on camping trips, and if it had lower gearing it would be perfect. The same would be true of the stock 520, except that I hate bar-cons. I don't agree with the STI-haters; I love STI, and if I were worried about a failure I'd pack some downtube shifters as a backup.

    So my answer to your question is I'd pick the Gordon, but I'd wish it had STI shifters. Or I'd pick the 520 and have 'em put a smaller granny on the triple.

    RichC

  11. #11
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    No one has mentioned the two Cannondale touring models, the T800 and the T2000. They are $1200 and $1400 for the 2002 models in Northampton Mass.

    Any one have any opinions on these bikes? They look good to me, and felt like a more responsive ride than the Trek 520.

    They are alumninum CAD3 frames, with STI shifters.
    RDS

  12. #12
    A Heart Needs a Home Rich Clark's Avatar
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    Any one have any opinions on these bikes? They look good to me, and felt like a more responsive ride than the Trek 520.
    When I was auditioning touring bikes I looked very closely at the Cannondales because they offer the combination of touring geometry and STI shifting that I wanted.

    I didn't buy one because most of the time I'd be riding unloaded or lightly loaded, and the T800 I tried seemed punishing to ride. I was comparing it to the steel Novara I already owned, which is much more compliant, as was the Trek 520 I tried.

    I imagine that loaded there'd be less difference.

    Ultimately, I went a different way with the Carpe Diem and I'm glad I did. But if I ever decide to go on a long loaded tour, I'll probably just do some upgrades on my Novara and take that.

    RichC

  13. #13
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    I too am on the verge of buying my first touring bike. I have done as much homework as I can, and everything that I have seen and read says the TREK520 is the best for the money.

    Catfish mentions the crank upgrade and he is probably right. Website roadbikereview.com lists 8 reviews for the 520 and gives it 4.88 stars out of 5. In 6 of the 8, the reviewer complained the gearing was too tall. 4 of the 6 swapped out the crankset for a Deore 44/32/22. Even up here in the Great White North that will only cost me $100 CDN or less. Even the dealer agrees that it is proabably a good idea.

    I asked Trek but no answer yet. Will post it if it comes. I will buy my 520 this month. Good hunting.

  14. #14
    put me back on my bike stewartp's Avatar
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    Airborne Carpe Diem

    Why? Coz I've got one.

    I bought it 2 months ago. I opted for Carbon fork, because the Ali fork would be great for cyclocross racing, but maybe too harsh for touring. The fork I got was Woundup. Has the lugs for canti brakes.
    Groupset is Campag Centaur. Triple ring on front. Wheels are Mavic Open Pro. Front wheel has Nexus Dynamo hub for night riding.
    Ive done 2 200k rides on it so far and its lovely. Very comfy, irons out all the road surface. But its also light and nippy, a pleasure to ride. The only luggage I carry is a Carradice 26litre SQR bag, a funky thing with a quick release.

    The only caveat is that the front forks have no lugs for front racks, so perhaps not the bike for heavy touring - tent, sleeping bags & the whole works. but for light touring and Audax its ideal.

    Cycling+ review and vote it best Audax bike 2001 made up my mind for me.

    And the Campy ergo shifters are also delicious. click, click, up the gears, down the gears, what a pleasure.

    Stew
    The older I get the better I used to be.

  15. #15
    opinionated SOB cycletourist's Avatar
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    MichaelW,

    STI shifters will work with MTB cranksets but NOT with MTB front deraillers. I don't remember the reason but I have been told this by more than one bike mechanic, read about it, and even tried it. And it's definitely true - STI shifters get flaky with MTB front deraillers. (rear deraillers are ok tho).


    Robert Shycon,

    Aluminum bicycles are not suitable for carrying heavy loads because of aluminum's poor fatigue resistance. Sooner or later an aluminum touring frame will break.
    Last edited by cycletourist; 03-26-02 at 03:44 PM.

  16. #16
    Senior Member AlanK's Avatar
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    Restarting an old thread...

    Wow! had to dig through the archives to find this thread! It is a great one, though, so I thought I'd re-animate it.

    Why is this a great thread? Because these are three excellent, great value bikes. I've done quite a bit of research and here's my take:

    - The Carpe Diem is a great all around bike. Please ignore the guy who said he didn't trust the frame because it's made in China. Everything I've read indicates it's an excellent quality frame. Besides, techniques for welding titanium are very uniform, so just because it's made in China does not mean the quality is compromised. I really love the Airborne web site and order process; you can configure the bike any way you want, which is absolutely wonderful. As others have mentioned, the CD is a light tourer; the semi-compact frame and shorter chainstays make using larger panniers somewhat difficult. If you like using a trailer, perhaps the CD might work for longer tours.

    - The BLT is a no B.S. loaded touring machine. Everything about it is designed to reliable and functional, not flashy or superfluous. The frame is excellent and should last at least two decades if well cared for. The wheels are also very durable and specifically designed for loaded touring. And while some people don't like the barcon shifters, they are the best choice for long tours. While they do take some getting used to and aren't as smooth as STI shifters (because they aren't connected to the brake lever), they offer greater reliability. I also like that Bruce Gordon is a small, independent company, but that's just me; I'm always partial to the little guy

    - The Trek 520 is arguably the best value of the three. As is, it can work as a loaded touring rig, but as others have mentioned, overall it is inferior to the BLT, and here's why: While the 520 has a good frame, I believe the BLT's is a little better; both are Chro-mo, but the BLT frame is higher grade. This might not make a huge difference, but it's something to consider (I've also read the geometry of the BLT is a little better, but have no first hand experience) Secondly, the BLT wheels are superior. As someone else mentioned, custom-made, loaded-touring specific wheels are tough to find. The 520's wheel are fine, just not as good as the BLT. Lastly, the 520 gearing is more well suited for light touring/commuting than loaded touring. So in summary, the 520 will work just fine, but to make it on par with the BLT would cost more than the BLT itself (after all is said and done).

    So ultimately, it depends on what type of touring you'll be doing. If you only plan on doing light touring (no camping equipment), I'd go with the Carpe Diem. If your plans include loaded touring, I'd probably go with the BLT, though the 520 is an excellent value. Another thing to consider is that if you are patient you will probably eventually find a 520 for 20-30% less than retail. On ebay, I've scene them go for about $700 new (retail is $999). As much as I like the BLT, I'll admit, if I saw a 520 in the $600-700 range, that'd be very difficult to pass up. All three bike are great, I hope you enjoyed whichever bike you decided.

  17. #17
    X-Large Member Istanbul_Tea's Avatar
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    I'll chime in on this since this thread has been brought back to life...

    I am in the process of researching fully loaded touring bikes for the next "phase" of my life-that being a fully loaded tour that my wife, daughter and me will be embarking on for 5 years.

    If money isn't an issue-but it usually is-then what I have found to be King is the Thorn eXp which you can check out HERE
    To me the eXp just makes sense... bombproof, excellent geometry, built to have any amount of abuse heaped on it and 26 inch wheels which I feel is really important for durability and availability(especially if you're touring in third world countries).

    Just a notch down from the eXp and virtually identical except a slightly less Sherman Tank-like frameset is the Thorn Nomad which depending on riders weight and the amount of gear you're hauling has garnered rave reviews from everyone that owns one with the exception of people-like I mentioned-that are carrying over 100lbs in gear and/or are very tall(therefore creating the possibility of shimmy with a high center of gravity). The Nomad can be seen HERE .

    To me the 2 bikes mentioned above are THE top shelf bikes for touring. My next catagory would be The Still Niche Made But Not Entirely Custom catagory. I say that because while supposedly great touring rigs these next bikes are made and offered to you as a customer but NOT made for YOU based on either your spec or needs specifically.

    The high end of this catagory would be the Bruce Gordon bikes and the more common, mid-priced level would be the Cannondales and Trek 520. Out of these certainly the BG bikes are closest to being custom-made in that the customer will have a say in stem selection and a few other areas but(especially if you've heard stories about conversing and dealing with BG himself )not in something as basic as requesting a lowrider on a 26 inch bike, etc.
    And obviously with the C-Dales and Trek you're dealing with major corporations so, "You get what they decide is best"... the advantage to this is twofold-
    1. Price point(but that can be debated after swapping out transmissions, buying better quality racks, buying a lowrider-which neither the Trek or C-Dale come with, etc)

    and...

    2. Availability... you want another or have a problem with your current one... many of them exist-used and new.

    The disadvantages have been mentioned in other peoples posts... they range from swapping transmissions to construction materials to too few amenities(e.g. no lowriders/not enough braze-ons)and not being built up with tried and true touring philosophies-padded saddles(?!?!), etc. Also, if you "almost" love the feel of your bike but just need something slightly different... too bad, unless you have a good LBS to deal with you're on your own to pay for and make the swap.

    I haven't mentioned another top-shelf bike because I have heard just truly hidious stories about "turnaround time" from order to delivery... and that's the beautiful Robert Beckman Sakkit bikes that while amazing looking you will probably be a very old man by the time the thing arrives at your doorstep after placing an order. It can be seen HERE .

    For rock solid, bombproof touring wheels no one gets higher praise than PETER WHITE .

    Also, there are tons of other possibilities that I haven't even touched on here... from converting a good steel framed mountain bike to framesets like the Rivendell Atlantis, Waterford, Vanilla and more. I just endlessly search the Internet and ask tons of questions and then whittle it down from there.

    My last two thoughts are these-

    I have heard lots of stories of folks touring thousands of miles on bikes that cost 20(yes, twenty... that's not a typo)-400 dollars that were NEVER intended for such a task(and most had NO problems ever)so it's just about, "What you want to do".

    And remember, these are MY opinions... I could be wrong.


    But I doubt it!
    Last edited by Istanbul_Tea; 11-07-03 at 09:41 AM.

  18. #18
    Senior Member AlanK's Avatar
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    Carpe Diem with a Trailer?

    I really like this thread; great discussion of three very good to great bikes. After doing some research on trailers, I'm now leaning towards the Carpe Diem. Why? Because it's easily the most versatile of the three. I'm looking for a "do it all" type bike for daily commuting, club rides, and possibly loaded touring. The CD is a light, quick, versatile machine. By itself, it isn't as well suited as for loaded touring as the BLT, 520, but with a trailer, it would work just fine. After doing research on both panniers and trailer, I think I prefer the trailer anyway (I know this opens up a whole area of dispute...).

    Of course you can use a true loaded touring bike for daily commuting, and other more general types of riding, but it isn't going to be nearly as efficient. For commuting, and just getting around town, you want something faster and more nimble than loaded tourer, don't you think?

    As a side note, I find it very interesting what polarizing figure Bruce Gordon. Many seem to like dealing with him because they think he has a forthright, no B.S. approach, while others find him difficult to deal with (like Istambul_Tea). He definitely seems like a no B.S. kind of guy, but also very old school. For instance, if you check his web site, he mentions nothing about trailers. He may or may not like them (I'm guessing he doesn't), but it's surprising that nothing is mentioned. Great discussion, let's keep it going...

  19. #19
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    I have a Carpe Diem, had a Trek 520 (destroyed when hit by car), and test rode a BLT at Bruce's shop.

    In my opinion...
    The Carpe Diem is the best credit card (lightly loaded) tourer. Smooth and very FAST.
    The Trek 520 is the best choice for the money when touring fully loaded on streets only (and not in Africa or Asia). (as of 2000 model, was geared way too high. Not sure if that problem still exists)
    The BLT is ideal when touring fully loaded on or off road, or international (26” wheels). The BLT's geometry didn't fit me so well, so i bought a Thorn Nomad instead.

  20. #20
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    Have you looked at the Giant OCR Touring? I have that one and love it! I use it for both touring and commuting. You have disc breaks and a spoke holder. I can't say enough good stuff about mine!

    Note: I would not recommend it for touring out of the states because the availability of parts would become less and less

  21. #21
    Sarcastic Member Urbanmonk's Avatar
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    I just picked-up my Trek 520 this weekend--so I'm partial to the Trek. I had an early 80s Motobecane Tourer for 15 years, and the Trek felt much more solid comparing the two. It rides like a Cadillac on cruise. I haven't taken it on a long tour yet, so I can only comment on the commuting experience now. I'm perfectly pleased.

    Cheers,

    Urbanmonk

  22. #22
    Senior Member late's Avatar
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    Hi,
    you have 3 different types of bikes there. While they are all touring bikes, the Carpe Diem is a lite touring bike, the 520 is a loaded touring bike, and the BLT strikes me as more of an expedition tourer. I have a Carpe, have ridden the 520, but not the BLT. So take my remarks about the BLT with a grain of salt. You can use the search engine to look at old posts that have discussed these bikes. I would first settle on the sort of bike you want. I'm gonna assume you meant tradtional touring....tents, stoves. The 520 is one of the cheapest good touring bikes. There are certainly cheaper ones out there, but I feel they make too many compromises.

  23. #23
    Cycling is Self-Therapy pdxcyclist's Avatar
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    I've test rode a 520, done several loaded tours on a Randonee, and recently bought a used BLT.

    We all like different riding geometries, and therefore the same bikes should feel different to each of us (different body sizes, etc.).

    The 520 I test rode (many years ago) felt pretty terrible handling wise. Too "dead on" for my tastes and wants for a bike that was also fun to ride unloaded. I haven't rode a 520 since, so that impression may have been only a factor of that year's model (1994?). Others feel it handles great.

    The Randonee was fine for a $550 bike (year end), but always had a stiff, somewhat awkward ride feel. Possibly an alignment problem, possibly geometry. Again, it was about a 1994 model, and has likely/certainly changed since then.

    My used 1999 BLT, in contrast, has a remarkable ride and feel. Exceptionally smooth power transfer and alignment, and very comfortable, yet fun, handling. I use it on club rides as well as touring, and I can cruise all day on it loaded or unloaded.

    Part of the problem of this issue for buyers is that it's really hard to "test ride" a BLT unless you know someone with one in your size. I was lucky that I could test ride mine before I bought it locally. It is the nicest touring bike I've rode, though, and if you get a chance to try it you should.

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  24. #24
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    pdxcyclist,

    when you say “dead on”, do you mean you can feel every bump? I'd have to agree with the tires that came with the 520, riding on dirt roads was like riding on a jackhammer. I'd be interested to hear from others if the 520's ride on dirt was improved with fatter tires.

  25. #25
    Cycling is Self-Therapy pdxcyclist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bokes
    pdxcyclist,

    when you say “dead on”, do you mean you can feel every bump? I'd have to agree with the tires that came with the 520, riding on dirt roads was like riding on a jackhammer. I'd be interested to hear from others if the 520's ride on dirt was improved with fatter tires.
    I'm certain the 520's have changed a bit (or a lot) since the model I test rode, but the one I tried felt very unresponsive in handling, because the rake or some other geometry aspect seemed to be maximizing the straight-line riding stability of the bike. This can be an excellent thing for a heavily loaded bike, as the 520 was desgined to be, and once loaded that aspect of the handling could diminish. To me, having the bike handle so stiffly unloaded was a drawback, because I also wanted a bike I could enjoy unloaded for wet club rides, rides with serious climbs, and other times I wanted a tough road bike with a triple crank.

    As noted, we might all feel different trying the same bike, because we all have different riding styles and handling desires (not to mention different torso lengths, etc.).

    '99 Bruce Gordon BLT
    '96 Canondale T700 (wife's)
    Two kids bikes (Giant, Performanc)
    '03 Bike Friday Traveller "Q" (everyone's)
    2007 Birdy Light (my London machine)

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