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  1. #1
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    Road Bike Use and Total Weight

    There's another thread going concerning the use of a (lightly-ish) loaded road bike for a tour. Judging from searches I have down into the forum archives, there seems to be mixed feelings on the topic. My question is this - how much does total weight impact one's choice to feel the need for a touring bike, versus the use of a modified road bike (p-clamps, etc.)?

    Being that many modern road bikes have carbon front forks, it would seem that a four-pannier setup is out. Having never road-bike toured but being that I am seriously considering doing so, it would seem that the use of a road bike for touring would come down to a few issues - comfort, handling, heel strike, total weight.

    There's total weight (of everything being carried by the bike) and rider weight. As rider weight factors into total weight, am I wrong to think that a light-enough load and an on-the-light-side rider would be "fine" doing a tour on a road bike? Sure, some modifications might need to be made, such as increased spoke count/wider tires, but ... I'm beginning to question some of what I read to be apprehension of the usability of a road bike for loaded touring. [Surely, the question here is one of "how loaded"?]

    I guess part of my questioning is in the details. I've had one buddy do two lengthy, medium-load tours on a Specialized road bike and another do a week in Europe on a medium-loaded Trek, so it has to be not only possible but do-able for certain people. Right? Both of these guys are probably 150-160 in weight and were carrying prob 25-35 pounds including racks. So less than 200 pounds on aluminum frame with 32-spoke tires and front carbon fork.

    Being that I weigh 160, and low 150s in good riding shape, I just don't feel that adverse to the idea of going on a major tour on my Lemond Etape. I'd be sure to pack light (but not ultralight), check for heel strike (that would be a deal breaker, obviously), and make sure I'm aware of handling changes.

    Seems there are more than 2 camps (not just do it/don't do it) on this issue, but I'm approaching it from at least five important points - I pack light, I am light-ish, I like road bike geometry, I like going fast, and I think that markets are often created to create need, not to respond to a need.

    To contextualize, I'm talking about touring on paved roads where 700C tubes are available...

  2. #2
    Senior Member foamy's Avatar
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    I ran across a few folks on road bikes (on the TA) with just rear racks, bar bag and light loads. They seemed to be doing just fine. Moved along at a right good clip, I might add. 28mm wide tires would be fine, posh in fact. Just keep the weight down or better yet—spread it around. A frame bag comes to mind.
    None.

  3. #3
    mosquito rancher adamrice's Avatar
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    It depends on the road bike. My own road bike would be inappropriate for touring: there would be no way to mount even moderately fat tires on it and the chainstays are short enough that I'd have major heelstrike with panniers. Other bikes may have squirrelly handling that's fine for crits but would just be fatiguing on a tour. Etc.

    But a bike that's more of an all-rounder—a "sport tourer" as we used to call them before the bike market fragmented into a thousand specialized varieties—should be fine, and for a lightly-loaded rider might be preferable to a bike built for fully loaded touring.

  4. #4
    Velocipedic Practitioner
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    You can pull a wagon with a race horse. You can race with a clydesdale. They can both do the job, but neither will do it as well as the other bred specifically for that job.
    Same with bikes. I could ride my road bike cross country if I wanted to, but it wouldn't be nearly as comfortable nor dependable as my tourer. It has no room for the fenders I want when having to ride after a heavy rain, no attachments for racks, and geared too high for going up mountain passes. My tourer, on the other hand, would handle these tasks with ease, but would be lousy in a sprint finish.

    This is far from creating a market. It's called good design for the task at hand.
    Other forms of transportation grow daily more nightmarish. Only the bicycle remains pure in heart. - Iris Murdoch

  5. #5
    But wait... I AM the man. NoGaBiker's Avatar
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    If you're credit card touring you could check out the Topeak MTX rack with DXP trunk/panniers. I used for a week in France last fall with no problems, other than really changing the handling of my rental Lynskey. I also used a Detours handlebar bag, which worked fine with the Dura Ace 7800 cables.

    But if you want to travel light and fast this is not a bad way to do it. I took a few tools, a few tubes and C02 cartridges, jeans, couple of tees, underwear, big Michelin map in the map holder, snacks, books, journal, camera, wallet, rain jacket (never needed -- YEA!!!), spare jersey. About 18 pounds counting the rack and DXP. Because it ride so high heelstrike is not a concern. And when you get to your hotel the whole thing slides off the rack with a quick release and carries inside easily with a sturdy handle. Great system.
    Stick it to the man.

  6. #6
    But wait... I AM the man. NoGaBiker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by PurpleK View Post
    ... My tourer, on the other hand, would handle these tasks with ease, but would be lousy in a sprint finish.

    This is far from creating a market. It's called good design for the task at hand.
    Excellent points. I agree that for me a long wheelbase upright touring bike makes for more comfortable long days in the saddle than my race bikes. Funny thing is, I just built my first one so I haven't done a loaded tour yet. But man, I loves me some long-wheelbase-bump-soaking-up-load-carrying LHT!
    Stick it to the man.

  7. #7
    Professional Fuss-Budget Bacciagalupe's Avatar
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    Maybe it's just me, but it seems like every week or so someone drifts into this forum with the plan of doing a tour on a road bike.

    IMO it depends a lot on the type of tour. For 1-2 weeks on smooth pavement, especially for relatively short daily distances, you could probably use just about any bike and still do fine.

    For longer tours, or tours on rougher surfaces, the design choices of a true road bike -- narrow tires, less upright position, shorter WB, higher gearing, fewer luggage options, stiffer frame, etc -- will make the bike less comfortable as you add on the days.

    Fortunately many of these can be mitigated without too much effort. Change the stem, use a trailer, use wide tires and get a Brooks saddle and you're most of the way there. Swapping out the gearing may be more complicated, but can be done.

    Or, you could get a more general / versatile bike, like a cross bike, and use it for everything with minimal adjustments. It won't necessarily excel at one specific task, but cross bikes are more than sufficient to do extensive tours, given the right setup.

  8. #8
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    I have a Specialized Allez with an aluminum frame and carbon fork. It has rack mounts so I put my old Blackburn Expedition rack on it. I like to have a rack trunk with basic tools, tube, and room for a sandwich, book, a lock, windbreaker, etc. I weigh 200 lbs. I have "regular" wheels with 32 spokes, 3 cross.

    I have no qualms about the weight of myself plus maybe 15 lbs. of stuff I normally carry - the lock, book, and tools are heavy, and my sandwiches aren't light.

    If you weighed 150 lbs. you'd have to carry 65 lbs. of stuff to get to my normal riding load. That's a lot of stuff!

    My frame is an XXL. Does that affect the equation? I don't know - smarter people will have to weigh in on that one.

    If you have a road bike with eyelets for a rear rack and you don't weigh too much, and you're willing to pack light, you should be fine. If you have more exotic wheels I have no comment. I've never owned any.

  9. #9
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    BBT: Thanks for the response. Your "weight math" speaks to what I am thinking about. If your "normal" ride bike - aluminum frame, carbon fork, regular wheels - can handle 215lbs, I'm thinking mine can handle me (at 150/160) and less than 30 lbs of stuff. And yes, no exotic wheels here. All my riding is for pleasure, so I ride on wheels that stay-true and can take a beating. No advantage there with using exotic wheels.

    My earlier comment about creating markets was out of line. I'm just, given my age, weight, and fitness, considering the possibility of using a relaxed-geometry road bike to do some touring. I've looked at the numbers - my road bike is one of the more "relaxed" geometries available. Not a crit bike at all. What it is missing is the bigger rear triangle that provides longer chainstays and longer wheelbase. I'm only seriously concerned there about heelstrike.

    NoGaBiker: I've read many of your posts concerning your impressions of your road bike(s) v. your new touring bike. Given my limited budget, I think I'm partially guarding against realizing how nice a touring bike can be. A touring bike definitely provides sure advantages, but I'm going to keep considering the idea of a road bike.

    To me, the big disadvantage of a touring bike is that it welcomes loading it up with, what for me, would be needless crap. I purposefully live in a small apartment to guard against the need to buy extra crap to fill extra rooms. I guess I worry about the same thing with a touring bike. The minute I get the touring bike, I get the front panniers, and then I take the extra stuff I don't need. I'd rather think about the road bike with some combination of handlebar bag, rack trunk, rear panniers, saddlebag that allows for light (but not ultralight) packing on the road bike.

    Quote Originally Posted by BigBlueToe View Post
    I have a Specialized Allez with an aluminum frame and carbon fork. It has rack mounts so I put my old Blackburn Expedition rack on it. I like to have a rack trunk with basic tools, tube, and room for a sandwich, book, a lock, windbreaker, etc. I weigh 200 lbs. I have "regular" wheels with 32 spokes, 3 cross.

    I have no qualms about the weight of myself plus maybe 15 lbs. of stuff I normally carry - the lock, book, and tools are heavy, and my sandwiches aren't light.

    If you weighed 150 lbs. you'd have to carry 65 lbs. of stuff to get to my normal riding load. That's a lot of stuff!

    My frame is an XXL. Does that affect the equation? I don't know - smarter people will have to weigh in on that one.

    If you have a road bike with eyelets for a rear rack and you don't weigh too much, and you're willing to pack light, you should be fine. If you have more exotic wheels I have no comment. I've never owned any.

  10. #10
    In the wind mercator's Avatar
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    Last year I did a credit card tour in the Rocky Mountains. Since my touring bike was in need of a rebuild, I took my Lemond road bike (steel frame and fork). I used a rack trunk and handlebar bag. It wasn't too bad but I found the steering was pretty wobbly if I had more than a couple of pounds in the handlebar bag, especially when climbing out of the saddle.

    Now that I have my Miyata 1000 set up to my liking I'll be using it for my tour this year, it is much more stable albeit a bit slower.

  11. #11
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    I just completed my first week long tour on my road bike and think it handled great. I'm a heavier guy...230lbs, ride a Motobecane Grand Record, aluminum frame with carbon fork. I did upgrade the wheels with Vuelta Corsa HD wheelset with is technically a cyclo-cross wheelset, but they work great on road bikes too, 36 spokes, very bomb proof for heavier riders. I mated those with 28mm Conti Gatorskins which are excellent for ANY road conditions you encounter. They aren't as nice for gravel roads as a nice thick knobby 40mm tire would be, but they still got the job done without a single flat the entire trip.

    I carried just about 32 lbs of total weight, 2 rear panniers with tent, sleeping bag and mat on the back rack along with a small backpack that had just under 10lbs in it. For the heel strike issue, I got the Axiom Streamliner Road rack which connects via the QR skewer and is offset about 2 inches behind the axle, my heels never struck my bags. And I have bigger feet, 12.5

    The only "issue" I noticed with handling was that I would occasionally stand up on my pedals to stretch and I could feel the bike "wobble" under me, but this would stop the minute I sat back down. That was it......other then the occasional forgetting how back-heavy my bike was, and almost dumping it over when I would get off it it!!

    It would be nice to have the option of putting front panniers on it as well, as the backpack got tiresome on our 5th day. But I'm sure I could have packed lighter as well. It was filled with mostly clothes so if I was up to doing laundry, I could have brought less.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by do-well View Post
    Seems there are more than 2 camps (not just do it/don't do it) on this issue, but I'm approaching it from at least five important points - I pack light, I am light-ish, I like road bike geometry, I like going fast, and I think that markets are often created to create need, not to respond to a need.

    To contextualize, I'm talking about touring on paved roads where 700C tubes are available...
    If you like going fast don't get panniers, it'll only encourage carrying lots of weight and present a bit extra wind resistance. You are the weight I was when I did most of my ultralight multiple week touring in Ca in my 20's. I didn't carry a tent or cooking gear. Big Army surplus poncho was my tent, groundcloth, but it didn't rain. The other problem with panniers on a road bike is that it'll encourage putting panniers too far aft. Why not break down your gear into three or four compression sacks, one for the handlebars and two or three on the rack in whatever configuration works best.

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