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?