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Touring Have a dream to ride a bike across your state, across the country, or around the world? Self-contained or fully supported? Trade ideas, adventures, and more in our bicycle touring forum.

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Old 08-01-10, 11:05 PM   #1
I like free
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Help deciding on a bike

New to the forums and essentially new to the entire road riding scene. I do 20-40 milers now, about 1 a week, on a mid level 80's SR. I want to upgrade my ride and I think I am more interested in eventually touring. So with my budget I can have 1 bike. I'm not really interested in speed, I think a touring bike will be as fast as I want to go. Right now I just do relaxed group rides at about 15mph and I do fine on the old SR, and that is really as fast as I need to go. I'm getting older and healing takes longer. My budget will likely be $6-700 or less if I find a good buy, so to get quality, used is pretty well my only option I think. So here are the questions I have.

What are the compenents I should looking at and how do they rank? I have heard that Tiagra should be the lowest I should consider.

What frame material will suit me? I ride steel now and am not opposed to it at all and it seems you can get some values if you are willing to settle for steel.

There are a bozillion manufacturers out there so is there any makes or models I should stay away from? A big box, or bike direct bike is not something I am considering.

I see a lot of older downtube shifter bikes that are very good quality it seems. Is there any reason not to get one for touring? My current bike has down tubes and I would much rather have index I think but I would settle for a quality friction shift over a junk indexer.

Are all down tube shifters friction?

What about bar end shifters?

Are there road bikes that are capable of touring or do I need a dedicated tourer, and how do I tell?

I think thats enough crazy questions for now, and I am looking forward to hitting the road. Thanks!
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Old 08-01-10, 11:30 PM   #2
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If you're patient, your budget of $600 to $700 should allow you to get a used touring bike. Lots of the touring bikes ridden by members of this forum originally sold (retail) for $1,000 to $1,500, and after a few years of use they are typically available for your budget. If you look at the stickies here on how to buy a touring bike, you'll see their names: Trek 520, Surly Long Haul Trucker, Jamis Aurora, Canndondale T800 or Touring 2, Novara Randonee, etc. etc. Also, don't forget to consider some of the older 80's Japanese touring bikes -- Miyata, Fuji, Univega all had great touring bikes. You can get one for a few hundred dollars, fix and/or repair anything that's too worn, and still be within your budget. For both the newer and older models, you'll have to make a list and keep your eyes open locally, on Craigslist, on eBay and/or at crazyguyonabike.com, where used touring bikes sometimes appear.

As for shifters -- some folks prefer downtubes for their simplicity, ease of fixing on the road, and light weight. Yes, newer downtubes were available with indexed shifting.

Bar ends are a great compromise between modern STI levers and downtubes. You can easily convert a bike with downtube shifters to bar end shifters -- all the parts necessary to do that will cost around $75 to $90. Bar end shifters are a great option for touring; in addition to being somewhat easier to shift than downtube shifters (my opinion) they provide a lot of flexibility when designing your gearing opionts.

You also asked about whether an old road bike can be used for touring. The short answer is: yes, about anything can be used for touring. The longer answer is that it's somewhat simpler to start with a bike designed for touring, as they usually have provisions for allowing you to carry stuff easier (such as braze-ons so you can fit fenders); and are designed to take somewhat wider tires than typical road bikes; and are often designed more for a comfortable, easy ride than quick handling and speed.

A really simple way to see whether a bike is suitable for touring is to look for 3 things: (1) are the chainstays at least 17.5 inches long; (2) are there braze-on eyelets that allow you to attach a rear rack; even better if there are eyelets for a front rack as well and (3) can you mount tires that are 32c tires. This is not to say that a bike needs all 3, nor that you can work to tour on a bike that lacks these; it just helps you quickly assess what the manufacturer had in mind when they were putting the bike together.
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Old 08-01-10, 11:37 PM   #3
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The only part of your question I'll address is the shifter issue. I switched from STI to indexed friction shifters about a year ago. After a few days, I turned off the indexing in favor of strictly friction and haven't looked back. For touring purposes, you don't need indexing. Not sure why it's so popular. Friction shifters are so simple and effective. The only adjusting needed is done with your fingers each time you move the levers. What's not to like?

Mine are bar ends mounted on the ends of a bullhorn.
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Old 08-02-10, 06:11 AM   #4
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Thanks for the information so far guys, I appreciate it. One other quick question: How well do MTB convert to touring bikes and is it economical. My MTB is a 18yo Haro Escape with Altus components. It has a 4130 Frame and I run 26x1.95 Tioga City Slicker tires on it. 3 ring crank (not sure of tooth count yet) and 7 speed hub. Very sturdy great bike but the compenents are near the bottom end and would need upgraded. They have held up for a long time but they can be finicky and I could tell a huge difference when riding a freinds MTB with Deore XT components. The frame has all the necessary braze on's for fenders and racks. Can I put drop bars and road components on this? The bike weighs 32lbs.
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Old 08-02-10, 07:47 AM   #5
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BengeBoy pretty much covered it. I would add that I've used three shifting configurations on my road bikes - downtube friction shifters, bar-end shifters where the front shifter was friction and the rear was indexed, and STI where both were indexed. I think all are fine. Each has advantages and disadvantages, but you can get used to and be happy with any. I love my bar end shifters on my touring bike and STI on my fast bike. If I was building another tourer I'd have to think long and hard about which setup to use. The bar ends are much cheaper, which is a factor.

You can tour on just about anything - especially if you pull a trailer instead of using racks and panniers. My personal preference for self-contained touring is a dedicated touring bike with drop handlebars, racks, panniers, and fenders. If you decide you want to spend a significant amount of time touring, you should consider a dedicated touring bike. However, you can tour on just about anything. I'd suggest trying touring on the bike you already have, rather than spending a bunch of money on something new. If you fall in love with it, you'll probably start considering buying a touring bike, and the more experience you have, the more you'll know about what features you want on yours.
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Old 08-02-10, 01:27 PM   #6
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Well, I've toured on mountain bikes and I'll tell you that I don't like 4x4s on the highway.

I like to cruise and have 3 touring bikes. Two which have 27" and one with 700c. With those three I have downtube index/friction Suntour Sprint levers (this bike has over 50K on it). I have Suntour barcons which are friction (powershifters) and I have Suntour Command shifters which are 7 speed (index/friction/power). The Command shifters I have very little miles on right now, but are proving out very nicely. Of these I prefer the downtube shifters for touring. They're out of the way, cables are short, shifting is crisp and because I have half step gearing, I shift both with one hand.

Mid to late '80s touring frames offer a great assortment of loaded touring frames from double and triple butted CroMo to nice Cannondale aluminum frames. These were all commonly in the weight range of 27 lbs with a rear rack.
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Old 08-02-10, 07:34 PM   #7
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Thanks guys. I'm pricing components and needed items now for the conversion vs a used touring. So far I think I can upgrade my components and get all the needed racks, fenders, and panniers for around $500. That's doing all the work myself. So the hunt and research is on. Thanks for the help.
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Old 08-02-10, 09:14 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by I like free View Post
I do fine on the old SR, and that is really as fast as I need to go. I'm getting older and healing takes longer. My budget will likely be $6-700 or less if I find a good buy, so to get quality, used is pretty well my only option I think. So here are the questions I have.

What are the compenents I should looking at and how do they rank? I have heard that Tiagra should be the lowest I should consider.

What frame material will suit me? I ride steel now and am not opposed to it at all and it seems you can get some values if you are willing to settle for steel.

There are a bozillion manufacturers out there so is there any makes or models I should stay away from? A big box, or bike direct bike is not something I am considering.

I see a lot of older downtube shifter bikes that are very good quality it seems. Is there any reason not to get one for touring? My current bike has down tubes and I would much rather have index I think but I would settle for a quality friction shift over a junk indexer.

Are all down tube shifters friction?

What about bar end shifters?

Are there road bikes that are capable of touring or do I need a dedicated tourer, and how do I tell?

I think thats enough crazy questions for now, and I am looking forward to hitting the road. Thanks!

Is the SR not acceptable as a touring bike?

Your budget determines the components. Once you've set that parameter you don't have a choice over components nor does it really matter.

The frame material is whatever you can find that fits your budget. In new bikes aluminum is common.

What are your general dimensions and how big of a load are you carrying?

If you aren't familiar with bike repair then getting a new bike will save you a lot of trouble.

Nearly any general purpose bicycle can be used for touring.
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Old 08-03-10, 05:58 AM   #9
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Don't think the SR would do well as a tourer. It was thrift store find that I've always just kept it around for when I road ride but it really doesn't fit properly, it's kinda compact. I can spend 2-3 hours in the saddle without issue but I wouldn't want to make a career out of it. And it is only 2 lbs lighter than the MTB. My MTB on the other hand has kind of a sentimental value as I bought it new in the early 90's at a LBS, got one with the proper fit, and it has never failed me.

I am 5"11", 32" inseam, and weigh 170-185 dpending on how the beer treats me over winter. I have always done most of my own bike work. I say most because really I do it all, But once a year I like to take it to my LBS for a tune because that guy can just make it run like butter. As far as weight I really don't know. Until the kids are out of the house I doubt I will be doing any more than 2-3 day trips. When I backpack I can go 2-3 days on about 60/70 lbs of gear so I am assuming it will be somewhere in that neighborhood.

Last edited by I like free; 08-03-10 at 06:11 AM.
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Old 08-03-10, 09:49 AM   #10
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A late 90's, early 2000's Volpe may be just up your alley. Those older models offered mounts for low rider front racks in addition to the standard rear rack. I have a mid 90's model which I'm still using for some of my overseas trips. I've been seeing several of these pop up lately for sale, usually at a decent price.
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Old 08-03-10, 08:44 PM   #11
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Well I think its time to start a build thread. Started the search today to scrounge parts for the Haro conversion. Didn't win the bid on the Deore group but the rest of the day was a score. NIB Brooks b17 off craigslist for $40. Went to buy it and the guy threw in a Xtra long Nitto headstem for free. Don't know if I'll use it or not. And Nashbar had a super sale on waterproof panniers, got the front and rear set for $68 all in. Few more things to go and I'm gonna be stripping the bike down this weekend for paint.
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