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Old 03-14-10, 12:13 AM   #1
lifebybike
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Advice Needed for building an expedition touring mountain bike

I've been doing lots of research about expedition mountain bikes because I want one real bad. I alreading have a good cycle-cross bike for road/fire road tours.
This bike needs to be able to handle the abuse of long-distance touring in remote locals. Durability and realibility are paramount!! I don't plan on jumping off a cliff with this bike, but it will have to be able to carry lots of camping gear for days on the trail. I'm budgeting no more than $1,500 for this build. Since I'm trying to be thrifty this bike would serve as both my expedition touring bike and mountain bike.



This is some of my criteria for bike selection:
  • Steel is a must
    26 inch wheels a must
  • Front suspension a must
  • Linear pull brakes a must, but would really like the option of disc
  • I wear size 15 shoes so long chainstays are necessary because I'm using panniers
  • Price moderate
  • Frame only or complete bike is an option
Here is a list of the possibilities. I'd love to hear your take on these bike or suggestions on other options.

Soma Fabrications Groove
Thorn Ripio
Salsa Ala Carte (pre-2010)
Kona Explosif
Voodoo Wanga or Bizango
Jamis Dragon Comp
Gunnar Rock Tour (nice, but expensive)

Last edited by lifebybike; 03-14-10 at 08:13 PM.
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Old 03-14-10, 12:40 AM   #2
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Bilenky Midlands
Co-Motion Pangea
Rodriguez W2
Surly Long Haul Trucker (now comes with 26" option for all sizes)
Roberts Roughstuff
Tout Terrain Silkroad

Edit: Sorry, some of these are probably quite a bit more than your $1500 budget.
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Old 03-14-10, 06:25 AM   #3
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I haven't been in the market for a new tour bike in years. But the Surly LHT seems to be the most common tour bike of this era. It is available for ~$1100 which leaves some money for component swapping if you need/want to. Everyone that I have met that has one seems to be very pleased with it.

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Old 03-14-10, 06:53 AM   #4
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Salsa's Vaya may work and is available in 26" in the smaller sizes. Takes pretty wide tires, made to carry a lot. The LHT, Vaya and the Bruce Gordon Basic model are the only one's I can think of that take 26" wheels and support larger off road type treaded tires.

Most mountain bikes you mention were not designed for touring so performance when carrying a load in back and up front is going to be mixed. The only one I know of designed to do what you are looking for is the Fargo (I can attest to it being a touring capable mountain bike) but its a 29" wheel bike. I'm very biased about the Fargo too - its simply one great bike on or off road. Check the web but Fargo's are running around Asia, Africa, the US - pretty much all over the globe in some rough terrain.

I've been on half the MTB's you mention, and own one close in dimensions to those mentioned and will just say touring is possible on anything but your work is cut out for you using any of those as a platform. In MTB's I'd also consider the Singular Hummingbird and in touring bikes the Tout Terrain Silkroad frame which might be out of your budget range. If you can expand your budget the same companies Panamericana looks to be the ticket in 26" wheels. Good luck on your project.
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Old 03-14-10, 08:36 AM   #5
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Honestly...I don't see why you wouldn't just buy an older used rigid steel MTB from the 80s or early 90s for $100-$200. My 1991 Diamond Back Apex has full rack capability, double butted cr-mo, shimano deore DX and the only thing on your list it doesn't meet is front suspension. I even tossed a B-17 on it and will eventually switch it to straight bars. I also question whether front suspension is really something you'd want if you intend to tour anyway...there is plenty of suspension in the tires and I honestly think that front suspension is really only useful for jumps. You lose a lot of torque and the weight makes it unattractive to me. If you're just touring on uneven terrain, I would think FS isn't really a priority.

I just bought a steel 1990 Specialized Stumpjumper with DX components for $50 for my brother in law...it needed a little bit of work, but for $150 it's going to be amazing. You'll come in so under budget that you'll have a fortune to play with racks, bags, etc.

One of the older MTBs that immediately jumps to mind as perfect for you is the Miyata Ridge Runner.

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Old 03-14-10, 09:24 AM   #6
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Seems to me the answer is right on your list: Thorn Ripio (frame, or frame + their dedicated rigid fork). Your post's title says it all: expedition touring mountain bike -- that is precisely what that frame was designed for. Very high-quality steel, tough as h_ll, all the braze-ons you could ever need, long chainstays, v's or discs. With some judicious parts-picking, should pretty near fall in your budget range. If it were me, end of search.
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Old 03-14-10, 09:45 AM   #7
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groove

I went through this recently and settle on the Soma Groove. It's not fully built yet though!
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Old 03-14-10, 07:33 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by KonAaron Snake View Post
Honestly...I don't see why you wouldn't just buy an older used rigid steel MTB from the 80s or early 90s for $100-$200.

One of the older MTBs that immediately jumps to mind as perfect for you is the Miyata Ridge Runner.
I second this. Look for something from the mid-late 80s with really long chainstays. I have size 12 feet and the chainstays on my '86 Stumpjumper Sport are long enough that I clear my panniers with plenty of room to spare.

The Ridge Runner is a very good candidate. Also, if you spend some time searching through the "show me your vintage MTB" thread on the Classic and Vintage forum, you come up with some makes and models you could then search for on craigslist all over the country and get the sellers to ship. I've done this with great success.
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Old 03-14-10, 08:22 PM   #9
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Thanks for all the advise. I really appreciate it. Please keep it coming. Please remember my "must have" criteria when making suggestions. I don't want a 29er disc-only ubber expensive bike. I have also ruled out older mtb bikes because of lack of quality front suspension. I have a cycle-cross bike that can handle tough stuff.
This new bike will be an expedition mountain bike where burly is the order of the day.
Again I really like the feedback.
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Old 03-14-10, 08:28 PM   #10
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26 inch wheels with 2 inch tires are plenty burly. I went through 3 blizzards in Philadelphia and commuted every day on an old steel MTB with no suspension. I got through snow that cars were stuck in. A cyclocross bike doesn't handle crappy road as well as a properly set up mountain bike. Honestly, I think you'd be surprised at how effective they are...anything it can't do you wouldn't want to do while touring anyway. Suspension is really only for technical mtb riding.
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Old 03-14-10, 08:36 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KonAaron Snake View Post
26 inch wheels with 2 inch tires are plenty burly. I went through 3 blizzards in Philadelphia and commuted every day on an old steel MTB with no suspension. I got through snow that cars were stuck in. A cyclocross bike doesn't handle crappy road as well as a properly set up mountain bike. Honestly, I think you'd be surprised at how effective they are...anything it can't do you wouldn't want to do while touring anyway. Suspension is really only for technical mtb riding.
With respect, and bearing in mind the OP's original brief, surely the question of suspension or not is open? If by 'expedition touring' the OP means to include road/rough road/off-road, then there is a place for front suspension at least. Best current example I can think of is Cass Gilbert, currently heading through Mexico (blog is 'While Out Riding' -- sorry, no good with links!). He's currently using a Thorn Sterling (Rohloff touring mtb with suspension), and does know a thing or two about expedition touring.
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Old 03-14-10, 09:40 PM   #12
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Best current example I can think of is Cass Gilbert, currently heading through Mexico (blog is 'While Out Riding' -- sorry, no good with links!).
http://whileoutriding.wordpress.com/
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