So I am a bit of a novice and newbie when it comes to bikes and touring and was hoping to get some advice from the touring pros on here.
I got the idea to do the Transam a few years ago and I've thought about it everyday since....and now that I've graduated I am trying to make it happen before joining the rat race. The challenge is that I'm doing this on a pretty tight budget. If I could keep the actual tour under $1500, and pre-trip spending under 600$ that would be ideal. My plan is to eat lots of pasta and peanut butter & banana sandwiches as well as camp at fire departments, churches, and stealth camp along the way to keep costs as low as possible. As for the tour itself, it is going to be a solo self supported trip, and I think going with a Burley Nomad may be my best bet.
First, I need to put together a dependable bike. I don't exactly want to ride a Bicycle Shaped Object, but I also cannot budget enough to buy any modern touring bike. The idea of building up a bike is really appealing to me not only in hopes of saving money, but also because I'll learn a lot about bike maintenance along the way and that is priceless. Currently I own a 1997 Bianchi Timber Wolf mountain bike and a 1980s? Schwinn World road bike. The Bianchi gives me about a fist full of extra standover room while the Schwinn doesn't afford me any. I was wondering if these bikes are worth working on or if i should go another direction via craigslist, Nashbar, ebay, ect? Any input is appreciated!
I completely disagree, the mountain bike is much more appropriate. The Schwinn has standard road gearing and looks to be in bad shape, and might not even have 700c wheels. It also sounds like it is too big for you.
The mountain bike is recent enough to be able to get replacement parts, and has low gearing. I'd stick some racks on the mountain bike, mounting them with p-clamps or an aftermarket system (like from Tubus, www.thetouringstore.com). Put some slick tires on it, have a bike shop give it a tune, up, done.
By the way, the consensus I've heard here is that building up a bike is usually *more* expensive than buying a complete bike, so unless you already have a lot of parts lying around, tools and expertise, don't go down that road unless you don't mind it being a money pit.
On another note, if you can scrape up some more funds, you'll probably have an easier time of it, all around.
Look on Craigslist, adventurecycling.org and crazyguyonabike.com for used panniers, tents, etc.
I'll agree; you're definitely going to want to build up the Bianchi.
Here's what I would do, but keep in mind that I'm lucky enough to have a Bike Co-op in my city, and I've learned enough in the past 6 months to do all of this myself.
Find a nice, wide (44cm+) set of drop handlebars, and get a nice set of aero brake levers. Your bike is already set with cantilever brakes (ideal for touring), which work perfectly with short-pull road bike levers. Butt-end shifters would be bad-ass, but they are pretty tough to find, so believe it or not, I would use a set of thumb friction shifters, and put them on the drop handlebars. Plus friction shifters are cheeeap. You might not like this handlebar configuration, so plan B for me would be just to add some bull-horns to your current handlebars for the extra riding positions.
You definitely want some slick tires; I have a set of 26x1.5" Schwalbe Marathons on my MTB/Touring conversion and they are perfect. Narrow and smooth is what you're looking for.
Before you do any serious riding, give the bike a serious tune-up:
-Remove the chain, and clean the piss out of it. I'd use WD-40 and a BBQ brush to take off the rust, and then a tooth-brush+degreaser to get off any grease, and then a quick rinse with varsol to make it shiny and new-looking.
-Take off the rear cassette and clean it.
-Repack hubs, inspect the axles, replace bearings.
-Repack bottom bracket, replace bearings.
-Replace brake pads and any rusty cables or damaged housings.
-Inspect your rims. Get them trued.
-Soap/Water + Steel wool on the frame. Remove any rust and thoroughly inspect for cracks or weak points.
-Clean and inspect your crankset; replace any cogs if they are starting to look like "shark's teeth."
-Remove the rear derailleur; check to see if it wobbles. If it seems tight, clean up the jockey wheels and add a little oil.
-Now you can consider replacing your drive-train. If the bike has been abused, you might want to get a new cassette/crankset/chain/rear derailleur. If everything is alright, start re-assembling the bike.
Oil the chain. Set up the shifters and derailleurs. No matter what handlebar configuration you use, I'd recommend thumb friction shifters for accuracy and reliability. Those indexed grip shifters are just awful. Go friction, and get used to it. Set-up the brakes. Cut and cap new cables. Fill up the tires. Pick up 3-4 extra tubes and maybe a tire boot. Get a mini-pump. Zip-tie an extra water bottle cage or two to your frame. Buy racks and panniers. Buy a multi tool and read about other tools you might need on the road. Obviously bring a chain-tool and a backup chain or a few links at least. Bring extra cables. Read the touring forum here, and start scouring Sheldon Brown's website for information on how to set up cantilevers, shifters, how to shift and bike efficiently, and maybe a little inspiration. You'll need a tent, sleeping bag, mat, cooking gear, and a bunch of other crap too.
Now you're ready for serious riding. Start biking in your free time and push yourself hard. Do one or two long rides per week, and one or two short rides focused on interval training. Ummmmm... yeah. Good luck.
I would go with the Bianchi. Better gearing, nice tire clearance and canti brakes. Lots of great 26" slick tire choices. You could leave it with the flat bar or, my choice, would be to get a Nashbar Trekking (butterfly bar) for more hand positions that will let you just move your brakes and shifters over.
Which ever bike you go with, I would do a complete bearing service, new cables and have the wheels checked for true and tension.
I've built 2 touring bikes from old MTB frames. I want to challenge the received wisdom that it is just as expensive as buying a new bike. I think that refers to adding the same new components that a new bike would have. If you're willing to take your time and compromise where necessary, you can do it a lot cheaper. If you can spend months scouring eBay for cheap parts, you can get good stuff. Of course, time might not be on your side here.
BikePedia says that that Bianchi frame is a mix of chromoly and hi-ten steel. Cromoly is great, hi-ten is heavier. Shouldn't be a problem, but be aware that you can get lighter, and the Nashbar (aluminium) would be lighter still. If the bike is stock, then the derailleurs are Tourney. That's the lowest quality Shimano MTB level. Personally, I'd be a bit nervous about them. It's shame you couldn't get one of those Trek 820s. They probably have better components.
The Burley Nomad trailer seems really expensive. That would be most of your bike money gone in one hit. I think I can see a braze-on in the photo, in which case you wouldn't need special mounting p-clamps for a rack as Valygrl suggests. If you can travel light enough to not need a front rack and bags and just use a rear rack, that'll save you some cash.
It looks to me like the chain on the Bianchi is either broken or sagging. For me, what you might need to do first is get that bike in decent running order, and find out if you can ride it long distances with the current setup without wrist pain, neck pain, etc. From there, it would dictate your next move. The Bianchi currently has grip shifters, which I'm not sure you can put on a butterfly bar. Anyone?
Definitely the Bianchi. The Schwinn would be quite uncomfortable. Layladylay covered everything you'll want to service on it, and learn how to do it all yourself. Either from a book, or a local bike co-op. The bike co-op route may work really well or may not, it depends a lot on how well it's set up.
I would keep the flat bars, you can get all kinds of cheap bolt-ons for extra hand positions and comfy grips. I would definitely get rid of the grip shifters. If you have to service those on the road, it's going to suck. Friction (as has been said) is a great way to go.
Start going to the local thrift stores on a regular basis. Look for bike racks and panniers. Check craigslist. You can almost always find used panniers, and I've been touring on a $5 rack from a flea market. If you really want a trailer, get one, but it can be done MUCH cheaper with used panniers.
Me and my buddy went across the country for just under 1000 bucks each. It can even be done cheaper. Camp a lot and eat out of grocery stores. Learn how to dumpster dive if you want to save even more money
Specialized.... schwinn..... enough to fill my needs..
Bianchi, bar ends and tune up along with a tubus logo rear rack. Total cost about $150. Save the $350 for those days when a hot meal sounds better than peanut butter. Some days you'll be cold and wet and this will sound very appealing.
I've seen $50 craiglist bikes doing cross country tours. If you don't like the idea of bar ends for the extra positions.... find a trekking bar. That way all your components will just swap over.
Mentioned above.. get some road slicks or not.. You could always hit the road with what you have and replace them when you wear them out.
1984 Bridgestone 400 1985Univega nouevo sport 650b conversion 1993b'stone RBT 1985 Schwinn Tempo
Your first consideration should be a proper fit. That includes frame size which is the seat tube length and top tube length, saddle height and handle bar style, height and reach. I toured with drop bars and find straight bars uncomfortable on a long ride, but I know some cyclists who can't get comfortable with drop bars. You are the only one who can tell.
Before you set out take a few day long rides to see if the bike is comfortable.
Thanks all for the great responses ! I am fortunate that my town does have a co-op that allows me to use their tools for free 3 days a week so I plan on taking advantage of that. The reason I was considering going with a Burley Nomad is because the chainstays do not seem large enough to keep my feet from hitting loaded panniers?, and I thought cars might give me more room on the road. The bianchi does have an eyelet on the front fork and at the rear dropout...does that mean I would have to choose between a rack and a fender?
A few things about the Bianchi:
I have about an 3 extra 3-4 inches of standover room and I'm not sure if that means the bike is too small for me? I road it on a 30 mile or so ride last summer and I didn't notice it feeling uncomfortable, but I probably do sit a little more upright. Is it more preferable to be more upright on a touring bike?
For handlebars I'm considering the Novara-Safari trekking bars, but they are currently sold out, I may end up going with the Nashbar trekking ones instead.
I was thinking about adding a dynamo and purchasing the Dahon Reecharge for my iphone, does anyone have any experience/ recommendations for dynamos?
Many of the components, a few spokes, and rims have rust on them, which are the most critical to replace and which ones can I get by with?
1997 Bianchi Timber Wolf
Component Group Shimano Tourney TY-30
Brakeset Shimano Altus brakes, Chang Star 278C levers
Shift Levers Grip Shift MRX-170
Front Derailleur Shimano Tourney TY-30, bottom-pull/clamp-on 28.6 mm
Rear Derailleur Shimano AceraX
Crankset SR CW-XR15, 28/38/48 teeth
Pedals Victor VP-893N
Bottom Bracket Victor VPB-32, 120 mm spindle
BB Shell Width 68mm English
Rear Cogs 7-speed, 14 - 28 teeth
Chain KMC HP-70S, 1/2 x 3/32"
Seatpost Steel, 26.6 mm diameter
Saddle Viscount 9702
Handlebar Hsin Lung MTB 110
Handlebar Extensions Not included
Handlebar Stem Hsin Lung MTS 309
Headset 1" Victor VP-H67
If they work, clean the rust off of the components. Take the component off of the bike, wet it with WD-40, and scrub with a wire brush and/or steel wool. Wash down with soapy water to get rid of the WD-40, dry them well, and lube. If there's extensive rust and it has damaged the component, then replace it. If you're willing to teach yourself about mechanics and work hard, you can save an astonishing amount of money on bike stuff.
I've never used dynamos before, but unless you're going to be isolated for long periods of time and require electricity, it's not necessary. They're also quite expensive. I would get your bike rolling before worrying too much about the finer points like that.
I forgot to mention, the one component I would suggest to add to your bike is a good saddle. I love Brooks, but get whatever your patushie likes.
1984 Bridgestone 400 1985Univega nouevo sport 650b conversion 1993b'stone RBT 1985 Schwinn Tempo
You can mount racks and fenders on the same eyelet, although some front racks are easier with two eyelets.
After looking at the photos, I think that one of those bikes doesn't fit you. Either the Bianchi is too small or the Schwinn is too large, or both. When you say you have extra clearance, do you mean you are touching the top tube on the Scwinn? Or is the extra clearance in addition to adequate clearance?
Rusty spokes should be replaced. If the rims are alloy any rust is superficial and can be washed off.
Just like you've probably got shoes and jeans that fit differently... bikes can fit differently and still fit. So yes, fit matters, and a lot. But there isn't one perfect solution.
Sooo... before I did anything on either bike, I'd figure out how long you have for the tour, and what your average daily miles would need to be. Then get out with the bikes and practice. If you can't bike the average distance you'd need to do on either bike without pain... you need to fix them up. If stuff breaks just trying to ride near home, it clearly wasn't in good enough shape for a tour. If something drives you batty on a day ride, it will be worse on a long ride. The more you ride, the better you can judge what you need.
On the Schwinn, I am touching the top tube. My inseam is 32 inches and from the floor to the top tube on the Schwinn is just a hair over that. From the ground to the top tube on the Bianchi is 29.5 inches. The frame size is 17.5 inches and I am 5'11 and 1/2. I think with the Bianchi, it falls within the "fit range" but is pushing it? I'm not real positive though. Also I am a bit concerned that the ground to top tube length will shorten once I put slicks on it.......Which I am considering the Scwalbe Marathon plus.
Nothing wrong with too much stand-over. In fact, once you are sitting in the saddle, stand-over is pretty irrelevant, the reach (AKA Effective Top Tube) from saddle to bars is the most important fit dimension. You can modify it a little with a longer or shorter stem if it's not right. The biggest problem with a too-big bike is too-long reach, which leads to shoulder & neck pain and can also lead to saddle pain.
The Bianchi is probably pushing it for size. Something closer to 19" or 20" would be better for you, however, with the right seatpost and stem combination you can "fake" a larger frame. I toured with an Aluminum 19" Raleigh Ambush conversion for over a year until I finally found a 23" 1984 Raleigh Elkhorn, which is absolutely ideal for me (I'm 6'3"). You should probaby just start riding as much as possible, take the Bianchi to the co-op and start learning how to make repairs. Take the Schwinn to the co-op and learn how to make repairs. Start riding as much as you can, and keep your eye on Kijiji/Craig'slist because the perfect bike will eventually appear, and once you're a more seasoned bike mechanic, you will be knowledgeable and prepared enough to take advantage of the perfect frame.
So I was riding my Bianchi around today and decided the frame would definitely be too small for all day biking. So I could play around with the stem and seat post like was recommended, or find another bike.... I was looking on craigslist and found this ad:
I called the guy and it sounded like he had a dozen bikes, 3 different specialized mountain bikes, a Fuji, a Fisher H2, and a few Trek 800 Antelopes. He also said that they were roughly 19 inches... Here are some pics. I cannot find any information on the Fisher H2 I'll write down as much information about his bikes, and post here and look on bikepedia for the best one
-Proper size. Obvious #1 priority.
-Good crankset!!! That's next for me because cranks are annoying to upgrade. Look for one with removable cogs, ideally, and light crank arms.
-Eyelets and braze-ons for fenders, rack and waterbottles.
-Good rims! Aluminum would be good, light and cheap, and has decent stopping power.
-Cantilever brakes! However, I love drop handlebars, so I go for short-pull systems. V-Brakes are also good, but difficult to synch with short-pull levers. Stay away from caliper brakes on any mountain bike.
-Long wheel base and long chain stays. This gives you more room for racks, more stability going down hills, and more comfort for long days.
I'd probably jump all over the Rock Hopper without shifters. He's asking $50, but you might be able to negotiate him down to $40 or $45. I'm cheap... sorry. You can probably find shifters at the co-op, and as I've already recommended, you can get simple shimano friction shifters for almost nothing.
I have an old Rockhopper as my 26"/mountain touring machine. Great bike, totally worth $50. However stay away from the ones with the rear brake down on the chainstays. That's just stupid.
+1 on trying them for size. Go over and test ride all the ones that fit you. Don't be shy to ask if you can adjust the seatpost, stem, and handlebars. It's difficult to tell the difference between bikes if they're all adjusted differently.
So that didn't go quite a well as expected. He put some really crappy shifters on the bike and went from 50$ to 90$ for the rock hopper. He also had two trek antelopes but even though they were larger frames than my Bianchi(also 90$)...they felt even more crammed..though that is because of the handlebar placement. I'm not sure if 90$ is worth it if I have to replace all the components. I imagine I'd want more than 18gears for a tour...
I measured the top tube on all the bikes and they were all fairly close to the Bianchi, but had an extra inch or so of seat post..wouldn't adjusting my seat height do the exact same thing? Here are some pics and a cartoon of this morning.
now considering possibly buying a better/new bike all together like a trek7.2 or somethin... :/
(btw, I'm not trying to be funny, those were pretty much the first words out of his mouth)
ok, just to confirm. Of the two bikes you have are you riding them with the seats at different heights as measured between bb.(center of bottom bracket) and top of seat? No matter what bike you get the seats should roughly be at the same height and what I'm seeing with your Bianchi is a bike with the seat about 5" lower than the Schwinn, is that how you've been riding it? If that's the case then you still don't know the right place to put the seat. Get that figured out first.
$90 could be a deal but be realistic if you're looking at old bikes some things need replacing and some things can be made to work even if they're cheap. All that really matters is if the drivetrain is in good condition, air in the tires and the bar/seat position is good.
With very carefull shopping you could get out the door with a new bike fully rigged for under $600 just as you could pull together an old bike for $150 plus $150 in outfitting.
What you need is more knowledge and confidence in your chosing.
It may appear that getting a new bike will solve that problem but you'll end up discovering the limits/dimensions on new stuff just as you would on old stuff.
btw, I went by your blog and you mention passing up a $50 auction bike for a Nashbar frame. That means you're passing up a complete bike for whatever that bike went for for a built up bike that probably would cost you at least $600 once all the parts were tallied up.
You don't need more than 18gears for a tour. What you need is a drive train that's in good condition. Whether it's 12 or 27 gears is irrelevant, 6 gears could work if they were the right gears. Any mtn bike will have low enough gears. What you don't want is a drive train that's old and rusty so that the chain is so worn that when you replace it you have to replace the cassette/freewheel at the same time.
Number of gears doesn't much matter. My main ride has a whole... seven. The important thing is not "how many" but "which ones?"
My 7 gears range from a touch under 30" to about 80". That means my lowest gear is a bit tall for fully loaded touring, but not ridiculously so for most riders. The 80" is a bit low on the top end for a strong rider. Since I'm not a super strong rider, and I'm car free, I've put a *lot* of time in on the bike with heavy loads. For a hilly tour with a 50lb load, my bike is geared too high. Knock the weight down to under 35lbs, and I'd be pretty ok. My usual cruising gear is a bit on the low side, so getting stronger would help.
I know all this stuff because this bike is my main transportation. A lot of the traits are ones I picked specifically so I could handle 50lb loads, given my (unfortunately limited) physical abilities. 50lbs of groceries will not be substantially harder (or easier) to ride with than a 50lb touring load, and you can arrange to haul 50lbs of groceries a lot more often than 50lbs of camping stuff.
It's important to have a bike that fits well... but you know your own body and abilities best.
So... you know you've got a bike that's uncomfortably big, and another that's uncomfortably small, because you've ridden them both enough. What else is wrong with 'em? Do you have low enough gears? Do the shifters work well? Be nitpicky, and poke around at what you can and can't do. For example, my first bike had short chainstays. I'm a 5'6" woman, so I ride a small frame, and I don't have a lot of leverage. If I slapped a 45lb load on the back of the bike... my front tire would start to float, like I was riding on ice. It is not fun, and not safe . The bike I have now has much longer chainstays, and laughs at my puny attempts to overload it . (that was by no means the only problem with my first bike either... I had a *lot* of reasons for changing bikes)
The last few weeks I have been looking all over for a cheap 19ish inch MTB frame with little luck. But I am pretty convinced that I will just fix up my Bianchi. I raised the seat to the point that my leg is nearly straight on my down pedal, and now my handlebar height is nearly level with my seat. I'm 5'11 1/2 and the top tube is 21.5" . Perhaps my bike isn't too small but more upright? I bought a black Brooks b67 because from my understanding, the B17 is for more aggressive positions.
Some other stuff I have done to my bike:
lubed the back bearings
scrubbed the rust off the spokes with naval jelly
scrubbed rust off the freewheel with naval jelly (now there is white residue all over them that needs scrubbed off- I am not sure if I'd be better off replacing the freewheel and chain)
added some fenders from the co-op (but I cannot get both rods to fit over the eyelet to secure them)
added Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires and new tubes.
Repairs needed to be done:
replace break cables
add thumb shifters - I was told grip shifters aren't any good
add better break pads
maybe new chain
maybe new freewheel
either add trekking bars or add aerobars to my straight bar if possible
maybe adjust stem/ bar positioning.
Does anyone have any recommendations for a back freewheel if I replace it? My front crank is a 28-38-48. Currently I have a 7 gear 13-28 freewheel. Can I get a good granny gear without replacing the crankset?
Bike is looking sharp w/ the new tires and the fenders. Nice job. Seems to be cleaning up nicely.
I would totally replace the freewheel and chain, esp. the chain, but generally best to replace both at the same time since they wear together. That chain looks FUNKY and RUSTY! Get a SRAM chain w/ Powerlink (makes taking the chain off a lot easier), or buy a Powerlink separately and pop it on another brand's chain.
You should be able to get a freewheel (7 speeds like the one you've currently got on there) w/ a 12 or 13 tooth high gear down to a low gear with 32 or 34 teeth. Only issue might be derailleur, esp. w/ a 34 tooth low gear. Not all derailleurs can do that, but since it's a MTB, I'd probably assume it can. That'd give you a nice VERY low gear. I've got the same sized chainrings as you and my cassette is a 13-34 7 speed cassette. Haven't toured on it yet, but it's a nice WIDE range of gears.