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  1. #1
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    Reasons one should buy a dedicated touring bike.

    There are always lots of posts by people who have a bike that isn't a tourer and want to know if they can tour on it. Other people want to buy a bike to tour, but want it to do other things as well. They're considering a "compromise bike" - one that can tour, but also commute, do centuries, etc. - so they're considering a non-tourer that can be used to tour.

    I've opined many times that you can tour on almost any bike, because I've done so at various times in my life, for various reasons, and had some wonderful trips.

    However, I thought it might be interesting for people to state why an actual "touring bike" is best for touring, provided you agree with me that this is true. If you don't agree, feel free to weigh in - I'm not trying to prove anything, just get some discourse flowing.

    * * * * *

    I love to take long, self-supported tours - enough so that I invested in a "real" touring bike. I bought a Surly LHT frame (before they offered the complete) and built it up. I chose it based mostly on the number of positive comments on this forum, as well as the reasonable price. There are many other tourers that I've read about that I'd consider as well if I were buying one today.

    When you get a true touring bike, such as the LHT, you get all the extra fittings. It has eyelets for racks and fenders front and rear, three water bottle mounts, a fitting for carrying a couple of spare spokes on the chainstay, a chain hanger, and even a pump peg. Just those fittings alone make it desirable for a tourer; you don't have to worry about how you're going to attach things.

    Another feature a tourer gives you is longer chainstays, which means the rear panniers will be a little further back, which means your heels won't hit them on each revolution. I have size 14 feet, so this is important to me. On an old 10-speed I toured on in the 70's I had to keep my feet steady. If they slid backwards a centimeter, they hit the panniers.

    Another nice feature on tourers is the ability to take wider tires. 23cm tires might be nice on a road bike, but on tour you need cushioning - both for your body and for the bike, to prevent pinch flats, broken spokes, etc. I have 32cm tires on my LHT which roll nicely but are very comfortable. If I was touring on a softer surface (the Katy Trail, dirt roads that are part of some routes, etc.) I might even go larger. I think I can put up to 50cm tires on my LHT.

    I had issues with broken spokes on a road bike I used for touring in the 90's. I started out fine, but broke my first spoke halfway through the tour. Towards the end the wheel was completely worn out and I was breaking spokes every couple of days. I think it's vital that a tourer, have strong wheels, especially for someone carrying a big load. I like 36-spoke wheels with excellent hubs, strong rims, and double-butted spokes. Most of the good-quality tourers have strong wheels

    Handling is another issue. On the non-touring road bikes I've toured on, there has been some whippiness (exacerbated by the fact that I have large-framed bikes - I'm 6'4".) Unloaded they've been fine, because that's what they were designed for, but load them up, get going fast (like down a hill) and they've shimmied so badly that I thought something would break. My LHT exhibits none of this, no matter how fast I've gone, and I'm sure other tourers are similar.

    Another aspect of handling is how "twitchy" the steering is. You want to be able to keep a straight line, which can be difficult when you're climbing a mountain pass with a big load, going only 4 or 5 miles per hour. When I first road my LHT unloaded around home, the handling felt just a little weird. I was used to my road bike. However, on tour I love how it handles.

    Comfort is big on tour. At home I go on long rides, but seldom on successive days, and never day after day for weeks. On tour that's exactly what I do. Discomfort starts to mount with each passing day, until you might be forced to take a rest day just to give your body a chance to stop hurting. I set my LHT up so that it's as comfortable as possible. One thing I can't change is the geometry of the bike. On the LHT the geometry choices are made in part for comfort; on my road bike they're made for quick handling and speed; comfort isn't much of a concern.

    The brakes on my road bike work fine for stopping me and the bike; they wouldn't fare as well stopping me, the bike, and 30 pounds of stuff. My LHT has cantilever brakes, which have more stopping power. I'm considering switching to V-brakes before next summer, because I love them on my mountain bike. I couldn't do either on my road bike.

    One last factor to mention is the peace of mind. I'm a worrier on tour; I can't help it. I'm almost always by myself, which adds to my worrying. I worry about whether my bike will break. I worry about finding a campsite. I worry about finding a place to buy food before nightfall. My LHT has completed three long tours with nothing breaking. Since I trust my bike so much, my worrying has diminished considerably. If I was on a less-sturdy bike I might worry that something would break (something unrepairable) in the middle of nowhere. It's nice not to worry so much.

    * * * * *

    So, I think my touring bike is best for touring. Can it do other things as well? Sure. I think it would make a great commuter. It can carry a load, either on the racks or in panniers. It has fender mounts for commuting in inclement weather. It's a little heavier than my road bike and the gearing is a lot lower, so I can say it's not as fast. However, for commuting I don't think that's a big deal.

    I've ridden my LHT in centuries, and on recreational rides around home. It's fine for both, and very comfortable. Sure, I prefer my road bike, but if I could only afford one, the LHT would be very acceptable.

    If I were a racer, I certainly wouldn't want to ride my LHT, so that's about the only thing it's highly unsuitable for.

    * * * * *

    To sum up, you can tour on almost anything, but if you're going to do much loaded touring, there are good reasons to consider a "real" touring bike.

  2. #2
    Life is a fun ride safariofthemind's Avatar
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    Good post. I vote for this to be a sticky. It is wise to help people transitioning from racing to touring to consider these points. I also support the point of view that touring on any bike is better than not touring at all but that a good fit between kit and job is a good thing. Peace.

  3. #3
    Senior Member deepakvrao's Avatar
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    My LHT has cantilever brakes, which have more stopping power
    Really? My experience is just the opposite.

  4. #4
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    Well thought out post.

    My Americano (as configured with S&S couplers, B17, SKS fenders, BB7's, XR's) weighs in at 29.8 lbs, considerably more than comparably "high" end road bikes. Yet I prefer it while riding solo because it is comfortable and incredibly stable.

    So I guess I compromised too. But from the perspective of starting with a purpose-built touring bike.

  5. #5
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    A frame made of substantial steel will be solid and predictable,
    when the rear mass wants to bend the top tube and things start shimmying
    going too light will make the trip less comfortable..
    Well Set Up cantilever brakes which have the caliper and lever working together
    have excellent stopping power.

    My Cantilever favorite uses older parts, a lever with the cable coming out the top.
    which pulls more cable, from Modolo, and a set Of Scott-Peterson Self Energizing cantilevers.

    .. On pretty thick wall tubes on frame and fork, so the braking forces dont torque
    the tube the bosses are mounted onto.

    Lighter tubes with thinner wall benefit from booster arches to resist that torque.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Nycycle's Avatar
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    Big Blue Toe
    I just got a new LHT in 58cm with 700c wheels, After riding it, I am selling my other bikes, It will get a lot more miles going to the store and to visit family than it will touring, but I too love self supported l o n g rides, more days the better,

    I need to add, to ride it empty is a lot more like riding in a luxury car compared to my Allez which is like a sports car,.

  7. #7
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    Basically, can you tour on something other than a touring bike, obviously you can. Is a touring bike better, goes without saying, to the extent you can define a need that is solved by a touring bike, rather than some other type. You have to be able to define the use accurately, and distinctly. So an obvious one would be a Bike Friday New World Tourist for a trip where you need to pack your bike. You can't stash a full frame in a suitcase if the bike is not designed for it. Heavily laden touring is another. The facts are though, that one can get by on extremely light gear these days, and such gear does not require heavily constructed bike, or even panniers. At that end of the spectrum a bike might not need to be all that different from a non-specialized for touring bike.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peterpan1 View Post
    Basically, can you tour on something other than a touring bike, obviously you can. Is a touring bike better, goes without saying, to the extent you can define a need that is solved by a touring bike, rather than some other type. You have to be able to define the use accurately, and distinctly. So an obvious one would be a Bike Friday New World Tourist for a trip where you need to pack your bike. You can't stash a full frame in a suitcase if the bike is not designed for it. Heavily laden touring is another. The facts are though, that one can get by on extremely light gear these days, and such gear does not require heavily constructed bike, or even panniers. At that end of the spectrum a bike might not need to be all that different from a non-specialized for touring bike.
    +1

    Defining a "touring bike" puts the cart before the horse (so to speak...)

    We'd resolve alot of bike choice dilemas by first determining what we intend to carry. If we think we can get away with a tarptent, quilt, and alcohol stove rather than a 2-person tent, synthetic sleeping bag, and multifuel stove, respectively, we can get away with some framebag / saddlebag configuration rather than panniers / trailer. Carrying less reduces the different utility of the dedicated touring bike.

  9. #9
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by deepakvrao View Post
    Really? My experience is just the opposite.
    Interesting. I admit, I haven't done any testing to determine the accuracy of this statement. I've relied on people's reports. I have tested cantilevers vs. V-brakes though, and I'm convinced the V-brakes are easier on the hands.

  10. #10
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nycycle View Post
    Big Blue Toe
    I just got a new LHT in 58cm with 700c wheels, After riding it, I am selling my other bikes, It will get a lot more miles going to the store and to visit family than it will touring, but I too love self supported l o n g rides, more days the better,

    I need to add, to ride it empty is a lot more like riding in a luxury car compared to my Allez which is like a sports car,.
    Hm. My road bike is also an Allez. I'm not selling it though. I love having both it and the LHT (along with my mountain bike and my shopping bike with the Bob trailer.)

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    BBT, you were saying cantis are more powerful than road brakes, not V brakes, right? Maybe that is the confusion. It's true Vs with MTB levers are more powerful than cantis with road levers, but it gets a lot more interesting when comparing cantis with road levers to Vs with road levers, on different fork geometries. Either is a good choice.

    I'm wondering if when I ride a road bike with side pulls if I don't impose more load than the average person loaded. Yet I don't need special brakes. I think a lot of this stuff is just conventional thinking. The 140 pound guy who wants a Sakkitt for loaded touring vs the 270 pound guy on the road forum who wants a twinkle toes special in unobtanium. I've done 4500 posts, mostly on this forum, and we aren't any further ahead in quantifying real needs. It's like radio with various formats. We ought to be able to say what a person needs based on their actual load, body size etc... As a framebuilder I'm kinda embarrassed because that kind of tailoring is something we could do. It is done to some extent, but still within the formats, and it isn't a quantified thing it's people with various opinions, or relying on their tubing supplier. I know some folks might disagree, but you walk into an archery shop and they can quickly match your arrows to the kind of shooting you do, relative to: draw weight; head weight; release type; bow type and performance level; arrow type brand and material; and your size. It's all on a chart.

  12. #12
    Senior Member robow's Avatar
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    I'm in the camp that you can tour on almost any bike as long as:

    1. You can ride it for long hours comfortably, meaning it needs to fit you well
    2. It will handle the loads that you intend to put on it.

    With so many rack options today, you can retro fit almost any bike with front and rear panniers and have acceptable heel clearance.

    The two greatest problems I see with so many "can I tour on this bike?" threads, is the gearing low enough for where you intend to ride and will it accept a wide enough tire? The rest is fluff. Unfortunately many people that have not done much touring, think that because they can climb a few hills on their lightweight road bike that they can easily do it all day long with an additional 35-40 lbs attached and it just doesn't work that way. Remember also that riding into the wind with those panniers is a lot more work than without and those lower gears come in handy then as well. Same thing with tire widlth, you may cook along on those 23's and low spoke count wheels but get a rough road and a heavy load on the rear and you're going to see more flats, more spoke and rim damage (assuming you're not a flyweight) than if you use at least a 28 on the rear.

    Of course this is just one man's opinion but I've toured on enough dedicated and non-dedicated touring bikes to arrive at these conclusions. YMMV

  13. #13
    Senior Member skilsaw's Avatar
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    I'm convinced "You can tour on anything!"

    Back in the 1960's my buddies and I tried a few weekend tours.
    We toured on the one and only bike we had.
    They were mostly one speed, with a rat-trap carrier.
    We thought the best bike was the delivery boy's because he had a huge steel basket up front.
    Nobody had heard of panniers so we all carried backpacks.
    Tents were cotton,
    Stove was a two burner coleman.
    cycling specific clothing didn't exist in our part of the world.

    And we had a blast because we didn't know any different.
    The one who has the most bikes wins.

  14. #14
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    I miss my "compromise" very much ... my sport touring bicycle. I could put panniers on Machak and tour, then ride a 1200K randonnee (without panniers), then put the panniers on again tour some more all very comfortably. My touring has usually surrounded long distance events ... 1200K randonees, 24-hour races, etc.

    Since Machak was stolen, we have decided to go with a titanium long-distance bicycle and a dedicated touring bicycle. But the question is ... if we are going to the PBP next year, and of course going to do some touring around France if we do ... which bicycle do I use?

  15. #15
    Bicycle Lifestyle AsanaCycles's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peterpan1 View Post
    BBT, you were saying cantis are more powerful than road brakes, not V brakes, right? Maybe that is the confusion. It's true Vs with MTB levers are more powerful than cantis with road levers, but it gets a lot more interesting when comparing cantis with road levers to Vs with road levers, on different fork geometries. Either is a good choice.

    I'm wondering if when I ride a road bike with side pulls if I don't impose more load than the average person loaded. Yet I don't need special brakes. I think a lot of this stuff is just conventional thinking. The 140 pound guy who wants a Sakkitt for loaded touring vs the 270 pound guy on the road forum who wants a twinkle toes special in unobtanium. I've done 4500 posts, mostly on this forum, and we aren't any further ahead in quantifying real needs. It's like radio with various formats. We ought to be able to say what a person needs based on their actual load, body size etc... As a framebuilder I'm kinda embarrassed because that kind of tailoring is something we could do. It is done to some extent, but still within the formats, and it isn't a quantified thing it's people with various opinions, or relying on their tubing supplier. I know some folks might disagree, but you walk into an archery shop and they can quickly match your arrows to the kind of shooting you do, relative to: draw weight; head weight; release type; bow type and performance level; arrow type brand and material; and your size. It's all on a chart.
    I think the comparison holds true with bicycles.
    the subjective measure, is spending the time with the client, on the bike.
    that is... to know how a person rides, requires spending time on the bike with them...

  16. #16
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peterpan1 View Post
    BBT, you were saying cantis are more powerful than road brakes, not V brakes, right? Maybe that is the confusion. It's true Vs with MTB levers are more powerful than cantis with road levers, but it gets a lot more interesting when comparing cantis with road levers to Vs with road levers, on different fork geometries. Either is a good choice.

    I'm wondering if when I ride a road bike with side pulls if I don't impose more load than the average person loaded. Yet I don't need special brakes. I think a lot of this stuff is just conventional thinking. The 140 pound guy who wants a Sakkitt for loaded touring vs the 270 pound guy on the road forum who wants a twinkle toes special in unobtanium. I've done 4500 posts, mostly on this forum, and we aren't any further ahead in quantifying real needs. It's like radio with various formats. We ought to be able to say what a person needs based on their actual load, body size etc... As a framebuilder I'm kinda embarrassed because that kind of tailoring is something we could do. It is done to some extent, but still within the formats, and it isn't a quantified thing it's people with various opinions, or relying on their tubing supplier. I know some folks might disagree, but you walk into an archery shop and they can quickly match your arrows to the kind of shooting you do, relative to: draw weight; head weight; release type; bow type and performance level; arrow type brand and material; and your size. It's all on a chart.
    Hardly anyone gets this. It's all so extremely complicated. It's not simple at all. There are so many little tweaks, that added together, can completely change the characteristics of any bike of the same geometry. Then there are tweaks in the geometry! Add that all together and the possibilities are endless. That's one of the fun things about bikes. They're all different. We're all different. Diversity lends spice.

  17. #17
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    I miss my "compromise" very much ... my sport touring bicycle. I could put panniers on Machak and tour, then ride a 1200K randonnee (without panniers), then put the panniers on again tour some more all very comfortably. My touring has usually surrounded long distance events ... 1200K randonees, 24-hour races, etc.

    Since Machak was stolen, we have decided to go with a titanium long-distance bicycle and a dedicated touring bicycle. But the question is ... if we are going to the PBP next year, and of course going to do some touring around France if we do ... which bicycle do I use?
    You're talking singles here? I understand PBP is quite tandem friendly. Can you get the ti bike with touring mods in the rear triangle? Touring together, you won't need 4 panniers.

  18. #18
    Bicycle Lifestyle AsanaCycles's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
    Hardly anyone gets this. It's all so extremely complicated. It's not simple at all. There are so many little tweaks, that added together, can completely change the characteristics of any bike of the same geometry. Then there are tweaks in the geometry! Add that all together and the possibilities are endless. That's one of the fun things about bikes. They're all different. We're all different. Diversity lends spice.
    interestingly enough, the more experienced the cyclist, seemingly the more specific the knowledge.

  19. #19
    Senior Member xizangstan's Avatar
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    I'm probably hung up on my titanium mountain bike. But because I get bored so easily now that I'm in my "Old Geezer" years (I'm age 63 and probably have developed ADD), I can't stand to ride the same route more than 3 or 4 times. I think that puts me into touring. Okay - so I'm ready for touring, and I love the snob-appeal of titanium. What do I do? Who builds a decent titanium framed touring bike that won't fall apart?
    Who is John Galt?

  20. #20
    Bicycle Lifestyle AsanaCycles's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by xizangstan View Post
    I'm probably hung up on my titanium mountain bike. But because I get bored so easily now that I'm in my "Old Geezer" years (I'm age 63 and probably have developed ADD), I can't stand to ride the same route more than 3 or 4 times. I think that puts me into touring. Okay - so I'm ready for touring, and I love the snob-appeal of titanium. What do I do? Who builds a decent titanium framed touring bike that won't fall apart?
    I've seen a handful of these: http://www.habcycles.com/cross.html

    they are nice. and I've seen some pretty funky builds too. that is to say, I've seen some guys over 6'2" with back problems, who have specifically asked for a certain build to accommodate them which in turn keeps them on the bike.

    I don't have any personal experience with these guys, but I'm always impressed when I see one. (Typically I come across guys on these bikes around Ventura, Santa Barbara, SoCal)
    Last edited by AsanaCycles; 10-31-10 at 10:55 PM.

  21. #21
    Bicycle Lifestyle AsanaCycles's Avatar
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    FYI:

    here's another really nice forum : http://www.velocipedesalon.com

    here's a thread I searched: "touring" http://www.velocipedesalon.com/forum...ras-17626.html

    this website is full of swank bikes

  22. #22
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy View Post
    You're talking singles here? I understand PBP is quite tandem friendly. Can you get the ti bike with touring mods in the rear triangle? Touring together, you won't need 4 panniers.
    Yes, singles. And no, the titanium won't modify very easily for touring. We have toured together on a number of occasions, and we do seem to need 4 panniers all up. I keep clothing in one and bedding and kitchen stuff in the other. I'm not sure Rowan is quite as structured as that, but he carries more kitchen stuff than me, plus his bedding and clothing in his panniers.

  23. #23
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    There is no doubt that any bike can be used for touring. It depends on how far, how much, and what terrain.

    In Europe, from my understanding, trekking bicycles have flat bars and are more MTB in configuration. The English style of touring bike is the one on which the Surly, Trek and Fuji touring variants are based.

    And it is true that the more experienced the cyclist, the more defined various aspects of design have to be to make the bike more touring specific. Robow also makes excellent points about gearing and tyre size.

    Gearing is still an issue that most companies that offer touring models have failed to understand. An article in the most recent newsletter of the Melbourne Bicycle Touring Club profiled touring bikes on display at a recent bicycle expo. With one or two exceptions, the majority still sported 30-42-52 chainrings.

    I've also found that the additional features some companies put on touring frames, such as spoke holders and pump mounts, and dynamo mounts... really aren't needed. I used to use the spoke holders on my Fuji Touring because the OEM rear wheel, an Alex rim that broke spokes regularly. Once I replaced it, there were no spoke breakages. So, I have to ask the question, why pay to have something that's redundant, when it's a solution for a problem that shouldn't exist in the first instance.

    We are tossing around seriously what to do with our touring plans into the future. I still have my Fuji, but it has a design flaw in the front geometry which makes it quite difficult to ride loaded or not and to keep a straight line -- it's difficult to watch the scenery when the bike is veering off line.

    Machka's issues with Machak being stolen are well documented, and while it would be possible to modify the Ti bike with two simple holes being drilled and tapped in the rear dropout, and insertion of two Rivnuts in the upper chainstays, it's not something I want to do -- not through any engineering aspect, but because we'd be uncertain of how the frame might handle the touring load.

    So we are looking at getting two new frames -- from Thorn, the bike-building arm of St John St Cyclery in England -- and building those up. They are well equipped steel frames with all the "obligatory" braze-ons and eyelets, and they have a good reputation for build quality and value.

    We are enjoying the borrowed tandem a lot, but it's ride is a little harsh for my liking and the sizing is not quite right for either of us. We also haven't really toured loaded -- the front fork has eyelets for a rack, and the rear rack already is the wonderful Topeak model with lower rack bars. We also have a trailer that we could tow -- so accommodating our gear would not be an issue. Plus, its standard gearing -- that 30-42-52 chainset that keeps bobbing up -- already is cauysing us issues when climbing.

    So it has been mentioned once or twice that we could get a steel Thorn tandem, complete with S&S couplings and braze-ons/eyelets for a great price, and build that up.

    We're both experienced touring cyclists, and that might be a bit of a handicap right now. Simply, we are going to have to make a decision one way or the other pretty soon if we are to get used to touring and randonneuring on them before August.

    Who knows, we could end up with all three...

    At least the Brooks saddles will be broken in!
    Dream. Dare. Do.

  24. #24
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    On brakes, remember that V brakes are a canti brake that was designed by Shimano. The issues with mechanical advantage and cable pull on V brakes attached to standard road levers are well documented. The late Sheldon Brown's pages have a good explanation of mechanical advantage and adjusting brakes to improve power.

    My personal jury is still out on rim brakes versus disc brakes for touring purposes. Discs really do have their attractions for me when it comes to touring in dirty conditions. And if I were to go with discs on any touring bike, they would be the cabled variety, not hydraulic.

    And, of course, the front fork dropouts and braze-ons do have to be designed with disc brake mounting in mind.

    Interestingly, the Thorn frames don't come with disc brake braze-ons.
    Dream. Dare. Do.

  25. #25
    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rowan View Post

    Interestingly, the Thorn frames don't come with disc brake braze-ons.
    That's because they won't fit them even if you wanted them to. They use bladed Reynolds forks and believe (rightly, I think) that the asymmetric forces that a disc brake applies will twist the fork - thus compromising the bike's handling under braking and greatly increasing the risk of the fork failing. The only way to deal with this is to use a more rigid fork, with the obvious implications for ride and feel.

    Anyway, V-brakes work fine. I've just bought a Thorn Nomad, which is a heavy bike made a lot heavier by me and my gear. The Deore V-brakes stop me better than any brakes I have previously used and they seem pretty good in the wet, too.
    There have been many days when I haven't felt like riding, but there has never been a day when I was sorry I rode.

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