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  1. #1
    Senior Member TonyS's Avatar
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    How To Hack Together A Touring Bike?

    Ok, here's the deal: I currently ride a 1992 Trek 1200 in 58cm with downtube shifters for all of my road duties. I should be riding 56-57cm, but 58 works just fine for now. Downtube shifters are fail, but again, beggars can't be choosers, and I got the whole bike for < $300, so no complaints.

    I would like to get into touring and commuting to work, but have very little extra cash to spare. So I'm looking for a way to get into a touring bike for cheap, and I figure I have a couple of options:

    1: I could ghetto-rig a rear rack to my 1200 (it has bottom braze-ons in the back, but not top ones), and just upgrade a few things as I get the money... get some bar-end shifters, then a set of 36 spoke wheels, etc. It's cheap, but keeping the panniers off my heels is likely to be difficult, and fenders will probably be a pain.


    2: Nashbar currently has a touring frame for sale for $125. I think I could buy that, gank all the parts off of my 1200, sell the 1200 frame, and put everything back together with the Nashbar frame. That would be cheap for now, solve sizing issues, leave me with a usable bike, and I'd be equipped with a frame that will grow beyond 7 speeds once I have the cash. I'm not sure if I buy parts one at a time on eBay if I can get this option to be cheaper than option 3, but if I can, that's what I am thinking I should do. I can do all the work myself besides pressing in a headset and installing a bottom bracket. Those two I've never done so I would probably have the bike shop do it.

    3: I could save up for a LONG time and buy a Long Haul Trucker, Trek 520, etc. Probably the most expensive route, some of them don't come in my size (the Windsor Tourist looked nice until I saw it only comes in 54 or 58), but it would make sure I end up with all components that work together. Plus, I like to tinker, and I don't get to tinker with this option.

    What are some of your thoughts, as people who have faced these kinds of decisions before?
    Last edited by TonyS; 01-26-10 at 01:41 PM.

  2. #2
    It's true, man.
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    Build up the Nashbar frame, ride it while saving your money. Once you get some saved up, sell the Nashbar tourer and buy* you a 520 or whatever.


    *Assumes you aren't totally content with the Nashie and demand an upgrade..

  3. #3
    Senior Member TonyS's Avatar
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    Hey thanks for the response!

    Also, one thing I saw over in the thread about that Nashbar frame was that due to the higher BB (which... why would the BB be HIGHER on a touring bike? I thought they were supposed to sit lower...) I should probably get the next size down from my normal road bike size, so probably a 54? That would mean that the Windsor Tourist is an option, if their 54 would fit me.

  4. #4
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    Or option 4

    As you enjoy tinkering watch for a used older touring or sport tourer in your size.

  5. #5
    Senior Member cyclist2000's Avatar
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    the cheapest way to go is to attach a rack to the rear of your bike. it has eyelets and most tracks come with p-clips to attach to seat stays without braze-ons. Why would you think that your feet will hit the panniers? do you have size 13s and ride a 56 frame? I have size 12 and have toured with a road racing frame with a rear rack attach with no problems of heel hitting the panniers. Tubus also make a little bracket that will hold the rack a little further back if heel clearance is needed.
    I don't do vintage, I bought them new, rode them, kept them. Now they are just old bikes
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/bustercrb/sets/72157623483647522/

  6. #6
    Senior Member TonyS's Avatar
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    I have size 11 shoes and ride a 58 but should be riding a 56... the chainstays are pretty short on the 1200 though... I attempted to mount my rack on there and not only were there no braze-ons for the top (although that's easy enough to fix... hose clamp from home depot + section of old bike tube) but the first 3-4 inches of the rack sit underneath the saddle. So the panniers I have would be completely unsuited for the task... and I had assumed that new panniers would be too expensive. But looking at Nashbar, I think I could get some cheap enough, or go to the army surplus here and ghetto-rig a map bag.

    So I think that's what I'm going to do... that will get me into commuting by bike until I've saved enough money by not owning a car to buy a Raleigh Sojourn or whatever on eBay.

    @iBike2: One reason I've ruled out buying a vintage model is that I don't want to have to keep watching eBay for parts that rarely if ever show up, as I have been watching for a seven speed Sora shifter to show up for my 1200. I want to get new kit, so I can at least know that I'll be able to find parts for it. That means at least 9 speed cassettes on whatever bike I get next.
    Last edited by TonyS; 01-26-10 at 10:37 PM.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    Depending on your future plans, using your present bike might be an option to consider. I toured for a couple of years on a Trek 1000, and it was fine. I ssed an older Jim Blackburn rack that had a single mounting point at the rear brake bolt (plus those at th rar drop outs). I used this rack for 30 years on numerous "non-touring " bikes and it worked well. It was stable and sturdy. I wish I could send you a picture of it, but I welded an aluminum plate to it so I could use it on my mountain bike with canti brakes. The suggestions above are should also work. I also made the panniers in the picture with more taper for heel clearance. Those are size 10 shoes, and there is quite a bit of heel clearance.


    What may be an issue is gearing. Your present setup may not meet your needs. FWIW-- I would go with what I have, and get a new bike when I could afford it. Things don't have to be fancy to get started. I would just use the wheels I had (if the are in reasonably good shape). Until this year I've only toured on 32 spoke wheels. It was not a problem. I wish I could find the picture of the start of one of my earlier tours in the 70's. Most folks would get a good chuckle.

    Building a bike is not usually cheap no matter how you do it. The main problem I see with the Nashbar touring frame is that it might have 135mm rear dropouts, and your 1200 has 130mm. You might need a new rear wheel right out of the chute. Also, your brakes are sidepulls and the Nashbar is probably rigged for canti's. New brakes. And chance are that the bottom bracket have the wrong axle lenght for the correct chainline. I'm not trying to be negative, just realistic, because it is fun putting a bike together. Sure you can get the parts on e-bay but a piece at a time can take a longtime --time without a bike.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    ps. Does anyone know what cause the narrow column width in my post above?

  9. #9
    Senior Member robow's Avatar
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    At one time I had a Trek 1200 that was about a 92 model (black) and there wasn't enough clearance for any tire larger than a 25 so you might want to check on that first before you spend a lot of money trying to upgrade or change over.

  10. #10
    Senior Member TonyS's Avatar
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    (WARNING: Nerdiness ahead) I think black means it was a 91 (saw something like that in a vintage trek catalog)... mine's green, and according to vintage-trek.com that means a 92. Does anybody else know a better way to tell?

  11. #11
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    I picked up a 1993 Rockhopper Expert on my local CL for $75. Bike is in great shape, came w/ a suntour Microdrive crank on it (yep, a 20t ring up from). All I did for mods was swap out the back wheel for one w/ a 34t cassette on it and put on some trekking bars. I ride it fully loaded included a low rider front rack. It will meet all my touring needs for years to come I'm sure.
    1997 Terry Classic

  12. #12
    Senior Member robow's Avatar
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    Tony, you could probably take the serial number to a local Trek dealer and they might be able to tell you the exact model year. Mine was black in color, with bonded aluminum and lugs. It did have a cro moly fork though. I don't remember exactly but I think the lack of clearance was with the seat tube in the back or maybe it was the brake hanger up top, how's that for lack of memory. They were some of Treks earlier aluminum bikes and they bonded or glued the lugs which held the tubes. Supposedly it was a rare problem when one of the bonds failed according to Trek but I do know that imo, my bike's ride was terribly harsh and forever "rattled". Best of luck.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doug64 View Post
    ps. Does anyone know what cause the narrow column width in my post above?
    The forum seems to have some formatting issues at the moment. If your post is the last one in a thread, it will often end up very narrow. Might be related to the stuff that adds ads to the first post in a thread. Often, the formatting will fix itself if other people add additional posts to the thread.

    Going back to the topic at-hand: I've been very happy with my Nashbar Double-Butted Aluminum Touring Frame. Honestly, I'm not sure what I'd gain by buying a LHT or Trek 520 other than some additional weight and a bunch of logos. The Nashbar frames are frequently on sale for $125 or less and are a decent place to start if you want to build a touring bike on the cheap. Installing a bottom bracket is easy, BTW. You need a specialized tool specific to your BB, but most are $20 or less.

  14. #14
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    You could put panniers on the front instead of the back.That's where I put them if only using one set.Have a rack on the back for bulky stuff,panniers on the front for the rest.No heal strike issues and it will handle better.
    Everything should be as simple as possible...But not more so.---Albert Einstein

  15. #15
    Senior Member TonyS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sstorkel View Post
    Going back to the topic at-hand: I've been very happy with my Nashbar Double-Butted Aluminum Touring Frame. Honestly, I'm not sure what I'd gain by buying a LHT or Trek 520 other than some additional weight and a bunch of logos. The Nashbar frames are frequently on sale for $125 or less and are a decent place to start if you want to build a touring bike on the cheap. Installing a bottom bracket is easy, BTW. You need a specialized tool specific to your BB, but most are $20 or less.
    If you don't mind me asking, how much am I looking at to build the entire thing up from a Nashbar frame, assuming I'm willing to do darn near anything to get cheap parts? For instance, I was thinking I might find a friend with a CF mountainbike with frame damage, buy it from them, and then bam, I have a cheap groupset for maybe $300.

    If it's realistic to build the thing for ~ $1000, then I'll go ahead and do that, otherwise I'll just keep watching eBay until I see a decent Sojourn, 520, LHT, or BLT show up.

  16. #16
    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    A guy posted just recently about how his $4 frame blew up into a $900 touring bike project: http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...it-Your-choice

    Now, I won't say it wasn't worth it for him. But I will say that putting together your own bike is unlikely, in the long run, to save money -- unless you already have most of the parts available already. Getting a used bike up to snuff can easily turn into a money pit. It's also going to chew up a lot of your time. I don't know your options or priorities, but perhaps doing more work for pay can shore up your funding, both for the bike and future tours.

    Also, I wouldn't go for cheap parts on a touring frame. That's a sure-fire route to getting stuck on the side of the road, miles away from civilization, in the rain, cursing Suntour for making crappy components (rather than yourself for buying 'em).

  17. #17
    Senior Member TonyS's Avatar
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    Yeah my budget is about $1000 for the project, so $900 sounds about right...

    Same price as I'd pay for a Sojourn on eBay, so there we have it! I'm going to start saving my pennies and then decide whether I want to custom-build something, or go with the pre-built stuff. I'm really heavily leaning towards building my own, as the knowledge I would gain by doing so would prove very valuable further on down the road.

    And thanks for the warning about discount parts... I was thinking I'd need to do that to get the thing under $1k. But if buying decent parts will only cost me in the neighborhood of $900, then I'll consider this an option in the future.

    Right now, I think I'm gonna have to keep hitting Craigslist looking for free or dirt cheap broken dept store bikes, fixing them up into decent commuters, and throwin' em back up on the old CL to make a (VERY) slow buck!
    Last edited by TonyS; 01-27-10 at 05:08 PM.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by TonyS View Post
    If you don't mind me asking, how much am I looking at to build the entire thing up from a Nashbar frame, assuming I'm willing to do darn near anything to get cheap parts? For instance, I was thinking I might find a friend with a CF mountainbike with frame damage, buy it from them, and then bam, I have a cheap groupset for maybe $300.
    I paid around $110 for the frame, $40 for cables, $100 for brakes, $400-500 for high-end wheels (Shimano XTR hubs, Velocity Synergy OC rims, DT Swiss Competition spokes, brass nipples, and Shimano XT centerlock brake rotors), and then used a groupset I had sitting in a box. If you want to buy brand-new parts, I expect it'd probably cost $800-1000 by the time you're done. And that's for relatively low-end stuff. If you're willing to accept used parts, you can save a ton of money. Buying a used bike and stripping components from it can be a great way to get a new bike going, assuming you're starting with quality components in decent shape. You could also move components from your current bike over, perhaps with a few upgrades (e.g. shifters, front derailleur, crank) along the way, and save money.

    Best thing to do is put together a parts list and start shopping: handlebars, bar tape/grips, stem, headset, headset spacers, shifters, brake levers, cables, front derailleur, front brake, rear derailleur, rear brake, bottom bracket, crankset, pedals, cassette, wheels, chain. Don't forget all the "accessories": bottle cages, fenders, racks, etc.

  19. #19
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    My first road bike was a 1993 Trek 1200. I loved that bike so much!!!! Til it was stolen a few months ago I'd still love it today had it not been stolen. Anyway I've since replaced it with a CrossCheck and have a recommendation for you. Just ride what you've got! Depending on where you want to go and your commute, your 1200 may be just fine as is. You don't need a specially made bike with all the braze-ons in the world and a 11-34 cassette, and a 22t granny to go on a tour! I recently rode a couple hundred mile mini-tour with my buddies who don't have the right bikes at all (older roadie similar to your 1200 and one on a single speed road bike) and they made it just fine!

    This option costs you nothing (except for racks/bags - both of which you'd have to buy regardless) and you really get an idea of what you want to save up for (if at all). Run what you have and go from there.
    Next Cruiser from Wal-Mart (hells yes)
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  20. #20
    Birds Exist heyisforhumans's Avatar
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    I toured 500 miles on a bike built from scrap parts found in a college bike shop's used parts bins. I'm about to go another 500 on it around southern new england this coming week. The most I paid for anything was $7 for brake pads and $30 for lights. For other bikes that I have I was able to order parts straight from QBP through this non-profit bike shop at wholesale prices. If you can do this, do it, because most bike shops have 200-300% profit on accessories, which is disgusting if you ask me.

    I am touring cross-country leaving this march

    What I'm doing is I have a bike in mind that I want to get (Surly LHT) and acquiring all of the accoessories now - panniers, racks, lights, waterbottles and cages, yadda yadda, just got a brooks saddle, and have acquired all necesarry tools, pump, spare tubes and tires and brake pads, about to make saddle bag and handlebar bag, and then when I have everything except the bike, I'll buy the bike (or frame).

    Budget tactics: have a plan of what you want, start buying it piece by piece and you won't even notice the money flowing because you'll only get what you can afford and when you can afford it and you'll save since you can find individual components at lowest prices (sometimes free!), and on top of that a great part is getting to learn and research about exactly what you want and have a better knowledge base of what's available, rather than buying a generic package.

    Step by step, starting with parts and tools that you can use on your bike now and snagging up good deals that you find along the way, it's extremely pleasing when it all comes together how you want it. It makes really you start thinking about what you spend your money on too when you are constantly putting little bits and pieces into the bike, rather than just trying to save.

    BTW headsets and BBs are really easy with the right tools, and it really helps to know about them while on the road. Headset cups can be pressed in without special tools and BB tools are not that expensive. Usually i have been able to do BB with a screwdriver and hammer if I was in a pinch - though that doesn't happen that much. ebay has BB tools ending between $0.99-$20 - may be useful to have one in the long run
    Last edited by heyisforhumans; 01-30-10 at 06:56 AM.

  21. #21
    Senior Member Nigeyy's Avatar
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    Depends on your finances. If I had little to no money, this is what I'd do:

    i. trawl Craigslist and find a cheap (but quality) early 1990's mtb with good condition drivechain. Budget: $100 (at least in my area, they do come up)
    ii. keep all the original drivechain. Put 2 slick tyres on. Budget: $80 (let's say you go with Schwalbe Marathons and new inner tubes)
    iii. buy some cheap bar ends (budget: $10) or put trekking bars on (budget: $30 for bars, $30 for stem, $10 for bar wrap).
    iv. put front and rear racks on (budget: $60)
    v. fenders (budget: $20)
    vi. front and rear panniers (budget: $60)
    vii. front shelf rack ($10)
    vii. front handlebar bag ($50)

    Even then, that would make a touring bike that would be reasonable for $390 -$450 including racks and panniers (I included front as well as rear as let's assume the wheelset will only have 32 spokes and it might be a good idea to spread the load more) and depending on some options. You may even be able to get it lower depending on the cost of the bike, not having fenders, etc. If I didn't have that much to spend, I'd just p-clamp a rack to your current bike and just go, though given the gearing and wheelset, I'd probably want to be touring very light.

    if you have more of a budget of $800-$1000, personally I'd shy away from the Nashbar frame and building it up UNLESS you currently have spare components AND the tools and mechanical know how to do it yourself. Really the Windsor/Fuji/LHT full built bikes just make more sense from a financial point of view. If I had a $1,000 budget, I'd be tempted to get the prebuilt LHT, though if it really was only $1,000 I'd go for the Windsor/Fuji and buy the racks and panniers to go with it (as a prebuilt LHT won't include panniers, front rack and handlebar bag -and they are certainly an expense)

    Good luck!

  22. #22
    Senior Member bhchdh's Avatar
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    You can check the serial number here:http://www.vintage-trek.com/SerialNumbers.htm
    And you could get a trailer for touring. Might not help on the commute, but would be fine for touring.

  23. #23
    Senior Member DVC45's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by erbfarm View Post
    I picked up a 1993 Rockhopper Expert on my local CL for $75. Bike is in great shape, came w/ a suntour Microdrive crank on it (yep, a 20t ring up from). All I did for mods was swap out the back wheel for one w/ a 34t cassette on it and put on some trekking bars. I ride it fully loaded included a low rider front rack. It will meet all my touring needs for years to come I'm sure.
    Best workable option, IMO.

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    I'm in a similar situation.

    I'm a graduating college in May and want to go trans-America before starting work in August. I'm pretty low on cash so I want to keep my bike expenses as low as I can. I am in Pittsburgh so I have access to my local bike coop, Free Ride, which has bins of old parts and some new things for good prices. It also has older mountain bikes coming through from time to time.

    I also have a few bikes and parts, none of which are terribly well-suited for the job at hand:
    -a Univega Alpina Pro with mostly 1990ish Deore parts, but which I have ridden through winter and thus with a bit of corrosion on some parts. It's also a bit too small on me.
    -a busted (broken frame) Diamondback ~1990ish bike with some Deore XT parts on it
    -a set of touring wheels built on Record hubs with a 6speed Suntour freewheel
    -various other parts

    I guess my big questions are, for reliability's sake, what's worth buying new, and where do old parts do fine? It seems to be best to have a new drivetrain and wheels, since those are where a lot of force goes through and would be bad news trying to hack together a fix for deep into the Great Plains. Used frames, brakes, bars, stems, and so on seem fine though. Is that reasonable?

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    ditto what Nigeyy said

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