Hi all, I'm currently without any good bike that fits me, so I've decided to go get something that I can use for both heavy loaded touring (i.e. front and rear panniers) and casual local day rides, and maybe even some faster training. I can only afford one bike, so I think a road tourer is probably the best all-rounder for me - the most important feature, though, is that this bike should be able to handle a full load for longer tours, on-road in the USA at this point. I won't be attempting Alaska-Argentina on this bike.
It turns out that two different local bike shops have likely candidates in stock: A 2009 Trek 520 for around $1320, and a 2008 Jamis Aurora for about $850. Both are 57cm, which seems to be my size, going from initial test rides. Here are the specs for each:
First impressions: They both feel pretty good on test rides. I have never used STI type shifters before. The Trek 520's steerer is cut, the Aurora's is intact. I think I can get the bars up on the 520 using something like the BHP-21 extender:
So that evens them out a bit, though I may not even need that extender - the 520 feels pretty good as-is. I like the LX groupset on the 520, whereas the Tiagra on the Aurora seems to be more of a road-oriented set, am I right? I don't really care all that much about the stock wheels or tires, I regard those as pretty much consumable items. However the overall groupset does matter more - for example, V-brakes on the 520 seem a little nicer than the cantis on the Aurora. That said, I really like both bikes. The Aurora is $500 cheaper, which gives some scope for improvement.
I've been doing some reading up on what people have to say about the Aurora, and the impression I get is that this is more of a randonneuring or light touring bike. I read comments about how the 520 tubing is not for heavy touring, but then I don't really know what the 520 has for comparison. The 520 has a solid reputation, but they have changed the design this year (sloping top tube for starters) so all bets are off, perhaps. Trek seem to have made slightly better choices with the gearing this year, though the rack and mudguards are a joke (rattle). The chainstay on the 520 is about 1cm longer than the Aurora. I think the 520 might take slightly bigger tires (36 with fenders perhaps). People seem to think the older Tiagra brifters are better (more reliable) than the later models. I don't doubt that many people use them without problems for thousands of miles, but the simple fact is that when STI goes wrong, they don't have any backup option (i.e. friction) like levers do. If I go with the Trek, I would probably try something like Kelly Takeoffs, since I want to use the bar ends for the Mountain Mirrycle mirror, which is the only good mirror option I've found so far for drops.
I know it all comes down to fit, and what I want to do with the bike. I will be doing more test rides, hopefully loaded as well. In the meantime, I was just curious to hear what you people think about these two great touring bikes - they are both very nice, but what about heavy loaded touring? Do you feel like one has any edge over the other? Any thoughts?
Specialized.... schwinn..... enough to fill my needs..
Well I think they are both great bikes.... That being said I would go for the $500 savings. If your going to do group rides it is nice having STI.
Some will chime in and yadda this and yadda that about bar ends being the best choice decided by the touring gods.... STI shifters work well for touring and better than bar ends for group rides and traffic. Sure this will spark debate... Oh well.
My 08 is now well over 10K miles. It has been on group rides and a cross country tour. The only thing that needs to be kept an eye on is spoke tension for the first few hundred miles.... Trust me on this one. Then check it again from time to time like you should anyway.
Other than that.... If you do decide to go touring in the hills I would spend $125-150 on a mountain crank... Not needed if you don't plan on that and if you do it's an easy swap when the time comes.
I'm not partial to the interupter brakes... Removed them. The stem is just OK.. I'm not an adjustable stem kinda guy. After I got it fit that went away.
Tires that come standard on it are pretty flat proof and survived with I think 1 flat in the first 3000 miles. Not to bad. I ditched them both not long after for something else.
My impressions of this bike are as....
Lifetime Frame Warranty is as good as any
One year on parts is as good as any
Like STI better than Bar ends so for me this is better
Lighter than some touring bikes... plus for me
Gearing is OK. Could be better for those that tour in the hills
Paint and finish is nice. Classy looking bike
Saddle sucked.....(for me)
Will fit tires up to at least 35's with fenders(Have not tried larger)
Smooth mounting for front panniers (braze ons)
I'm sure I'm missing something but...... that being said
If the 520 was the same price and it was only used for touring it might be
a harder choice. With the difference being $500 it's a no brainer for me.
Edit: All my tours have been fully loaded with Panniers front and back. Despite the naysayers... It handles great loaded.
If your really worried about a breaking a shifter on tour.... Throw an old bar end friction shifter in your pannier.... The other times your riding with STI will make it worth it.
Thanks, I agree the Aurora is a very classy looking bike. I'm getting the impression from the intarwebs that the Trek 520 might be slightly more suited to heavy touring, if only because of the longer chainstay, slightly thicker tubing (? apocryphal) and the more "mountain" groupset (LX), V-brakes, and of course the non-STI shifters which some think is more appropriate for long tours where reliability is paramount. That last one is a bit of a canard, I know.
Honestly, I think either bike would probably be great, as long as it fits me... I was just curious as to how people compare them in terms of frame geometry and handling. Say, assuming they both fit, and ignoring for the moment components and price, I'm wondering if anyone has any insights on how different these bikes would be handling a full pannier load. My gut is telling me the Aurora might be a nicer bike for lighter touring and randonneuring, and club rides etc, but the 520 might be the better loaded workhorse. Given that my main consideration is a loaded touring bike, the 520 is currently leading by a whisker (conceptually - more test rides have to be done).
Specialized.... schwinn..... enough to fill my needs..
Don't get to crazy about over thinking it.....
Lets put it to you this way..... I paid $800 for mine as well. If I could do it over again.................................................... I would. I have zero regrets and with the amount of miles I've already put on my Aurora it has proven it's more than up to the job it's asked of.
That includes full front and rear panniers and handle bar bag. Full fenders and such. I've had it doing around 40 mph going downhill loaded and it tracks straight and true. I don't care to go faster than my angels can fly.
Chain stay.. 1 Cm... that is what? less than half an inch? 3/8" or so.... If your worried about that much you might as well get a LHT or something similar.
As for the rest... Like you said.. Ride it some more. Make your choice. Either one will do the job your going to ask of it.