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  1. #1
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    Biking Across US

    I am going on a cross-country trip next spring from Seattle to San Diego. I am needing to buy a good road/touring bike, am 5'1", and will be packing probably about 50 pounds, maybe not that much. I have narrowed it, I think, down to a Specialized Comp or a Giant Avail. Can anyone give me any suggestions as to these, or of others that might be a good ride? I would like to spend around $1200. Thanks all! I will have lots of prepping questions as time goes on too!

  2. #2
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    If you are going to be carrying 50lbs, the road bikes you mentioned are probably not the best choice. They will work, but I would recommend something with more tire clearance, longer chainstays (so your heels don't hit the panniers), and possibly mid-fork braze-ons so you can put some of that weight on the front wheel. There are a lot of options in your price range: the ever-popular Surly Long Haul Trucker, Trek 520, Raleigh Sojourn, and Novara Randonee are all in that area. Also keep in mind cyclocross bikes (the Specialized Tricross has mid-fork braze-ons now) and the possibility of converting an old MTB. Doing the latter on a $1200 budget could get you a really nice ride.

    You can look through previous conversations for extensive discussions of the pros and cons of each particular bike, but those are some ideas to get you started.

    One thing you should do before you buy any bike is test ride it.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    After proper sizing, gear ratios are something to look closely at in a touring bike. For strong riders, the standard gear ratios that come on road bikes work fine. For tourers with average strength and conditioning, mid range ratios are best. For less conditioned tourers, anticipating rides on routes with lots of climbing, mountain bike gearing might be in order.

    Standard road combo - 52/42/30 with a max 26 tooth cassette
    Mid range combo - 48/36/26 with a max 32 tooth cassette
    Mountain bike combo - 44/32/22 with a max 34 tooth cassette

    If you find a bike you really like, but the gear ratios aren't right for you, they can be changed to whatever you prefer.
    The bicycle is one of the great inventions of mankind. Delights children, challenges young men to feats of daring, and turns old men into boys again.--Me

  4. #4
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gorshkov View Post
    If you are going to be carrying 50lbs, the road bikes you mentioned are probably not the best choice. They will work, but I would recommend something with more tire clearance, longer chainstays (so your heels don't hit the panniers), and possibly mid-fork braze-ons so you can put some of that weight on the front wheel. There are a lot of options in your price range: the ever-popular Surly Long Haul Trucker, Trek 520, Raleigh Sojourn, and Novara Randonee are all in that area. Also keep in mind cyclocross bikes (the Specialized Tricross has mid-fork braze-ons now) and the possibility of converting an old MTB. Doing the latter on a $1200 budget could get you a really nice ride.

    You can look through previous conversations for extensive discussions of the pros and cons of each particular bike, but those are some ideas to get you started.

    One thing you should do before you buy any bike is test ride it.

    Good advice. I think the best way to carry a big load is with four panniers, a handlebar bag, and the tent and sleeping bag across the rear rack. A tourer is designed to carry such a load. I've toured with a big load on regular road bikes and the handling wasn't good, and my heels hit my rear panniers.

    The west coast is very hilly. Make sure you have a wide range of gears with a small granny.

  5. #5
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    You will probably be much happier with a bike more suited to touring especially if carrying 50 pounds. There are a lot of choices in that price range, I spent half that on my Windsor and am happy with it. The LHT, Trek 520, Fuji Touring, Jamis Aurora, Cannondale Touring, and others can probably be found in your price range.

    BTW: Everyone has their own idea about what to pack, but I'd recommend setting a limit of 30 pounds including panniers and shoot for 25 pounds. I carried 40 pounds or so on the Trans America, but have found that as I tour more I really need less and less of the stuff I used to carry. Last tour I carried about 30 pounds and there was a lot of stuff that I could just as well have left home. For me I think the sweet spot is probably about 25 pounds (camping and cooking) unless there will be exceptionally cold weather. That still allows a few luxuries like a small pillow.

  6. #6
    Crazyguyonabike
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    You need to get a good bike shop to fit you professionally to the right bike. Good fit is more important than anything else. You could be riding a bike that costs $8000 but if it don't fit, you won't want to be riding it all day every day for months at a time.

    If you're 5'1" then I would suggest first looking at 26" wheeled bikes, since that wheel size will work better with frames in your likely size. It's difficult to make smaller frames in 700C (the larger "road" wheels) without compromising the geometry and creating problems with clearance (e.g. toe overlap and other issues). Besides, 26" wheels are stronger anyway, and such a bike will likely be able to take larger tires - a boon for comfort and ability to take trails that a pure "road" bike might balk at.

    Take a look at the Surly Long Haul Trucker - that's a bike in your price range, and it's made from the ground up for carrying a load. Most important thing, though - good fit! People tend to overlook this and focus instead on components or other inconsequential details. Even if you have to drive for a day to get there, it's really worth finding a good bike shop that has the bikes you want to try in stock, and in different sizes so you can compare if you happen to fall between two sizes. Find a bike shop that knows something about touring - a lot of people who work in these places are just road racers and know nothing about touring. But they will still pretend they know what they're talking about! It's human nature. Have a long chat with the owner and ask lots of questions about what they think you should be seeing in a touring bike.

    Things to look for include:

    o Mount points for front and rear panniers. This includes lower mount points on the front and rear dropouts, and up on the seat stays, and holes halfway up the forks.
    o Long chainstays - this will allow you to mount the rear panniers far enough back to avoid heel strike.
    o Fender mount points in addition to the ones for the racks - some people don't like fenders, but they are very useful for keeping road muck off you, the drivetrain and the panniers.
    o Good gearing for touring - that means three chainrings in the front, usually with something like 26-36-46 teeth, and a good range in the back too. Some people call this "mountain" gearing, since it's often found on mountain bikes. You need low gearing for getting all that weight up the big mountain passes. Even a lot of purpose-made touring bikes have too-high gearing.
    o Ability to get the handlebars up around the saddle height - most tourists like the bars a little higher than the racing bike.

    If the bike shop guy or gal is talking about this sort of stuff, then that's good. If they seem like they are just trying to sell you whatever they have on the shop floor, then that's not a good sign. If their idea of fitting you is telling you to just take it outside in the parking lot for a spin to "see how it feels" without first measuring your bodily dimensions (leg inseam, arm length etc), then that's not a good sign. Different people with the same height can have different proportions - longer legs and shorter torso and arm reach, or shorter legs and longer torso. These two people of the same height might be comfortable on different size frames, since the length of the top tube determines how "long" the cockpit is. You don't want to be too stretched out, or too hunched up. And it's difficult to tell this stuff sometimes if you're not experienced and just riding a bike around the parking lot. A bike may feel very different after 8 hours in the saddle - any small problems with the fit will become amplified over time.

    Get a good bike shop. Find one that stocks the Surly Long Haul Trucker - it sounds perfect for what you're doing, since it comes in 26" wheels and is built for load, the steerer tube comes uncut (allows for getting the bars to the height you want) and the complete bike is around your budget price. See the Surly website for where to find dealers:

    http://www.surlybikes.com/dealers/dealer_locator/

    Good luck,

    Neil

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