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  1. #1
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    New to touring, lots of questions

    A bit of background: I'm 22 and next May I'm gonna go on a solo bike tour to Alaska from New York. I'm 6'4" and skinny if that makes a difference. I've been reading a lot about touring recently and I've been lurking here for a few weeks. I've also been to a few bike stores but they knew very little about touring.

    So now I turn to you kind folks.

    Questions:

    1. What's a good bike for loaded expedition touring?
    I was looking at the Surly LHT and Jamis Aurora but I saw the touring bikes on bikesdirect.com were being sold $300-$600 less than those, like the Windsor tourist looks fine.

    2. When should I buy the bike?
    Should I wait until next spring to get it so it's new and possibly cheaper or soon so I can figure out how I like to ride it and switch out any parts I don't like?

    3. What wheels? 700c vs 26" and various widths
    Honestly, I'd probably go with 700c wheels, but no idea what's a good width for touring. I know 26" wheels are more abundant and stronger.

    4. Is it worth it to just build the bike myself? Is it cheaper?
    Now, I'm no expert bike mechanic, but I like tinkering with things and the idea of building my own seems like a ton of fun. Also, would it end up costing more if I do it myself?

    5. Panniers or trailer?
    I can't figure out which one is cheaper, but it looks like panniers are. If I skimp and get the ortlieb PVC bags.

    6. Helmet or no?
    I don't know which is safer, since cars are more likely to get close to bikers if they wear helmets. And helmets protect me from the ground.

    7. Disc vs rim brakes
    It seems the disc brakes are generally better, are they worth swapping out rim brakes for?

    8. If I'm camping and it's raining do I have to cover my bike?
    I don't know how rust proof I should expect them to be.

    I have more questions, I just can't remember them at the moment. Thanks guys.
    Last edited by littlebigbot; 11-04-10 at 03:37 PM. Reason: Spelling

  2. #2
    Senior Member Spudd's Avatar
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    I'm not an expert at all, I've never toured yet (unless you count the dry run we did where we loaded up the bikes and rode them about 20km round trip, then camped in the back yard). I'll take a stab at your questions, though.

    1. Based on the research I've done, people say the Windsor Tourist is fine.
    2. If I were you I'd buy now, because it gives you more time to get used to it and figure out if you want to change anything. I bought a bike in June for my planned tour that's next summer, and ended up deciding the bike wasn't for me and bought a new one. Also, it's fall, so you might be able to get a good deal. If the bike shop hasn't sold anything for the week they'll be more willing to haggle on price.
    3. I have 700cc but people say 26" are better if you'll be away from civilization.
    4. No clue.
    5. Panniers seems easier to deal with, no moving parts. No tires to go flat.
    6. I'm planning to bring my helmet but it's totally up to you.
    7. Disc brakes require a stiffer fork, I believe, and I don't think it's easy to retrofit a rim brake bike to disc brakes. I like disc brakes but I think the rim brakes are fine too.
    8. No clue, I look forward to seeing the answers on this one. My guess would be no, since a bike cover would be extra weight to carry and it doesn't seem worth it.

  3. #3
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    1. What's a good bike for loaded expedition touring?
    I have a Windsor Tourist and have great confidence in it for on-road touring in the US. That being said, I am not sure I would take it on the Al-Can without significant modification.

    2. When should I buy the bike?
    Buy it now. Find out the niggles and tweaks you need to make. Adjust EVERYTHING so that there is nothing that rubs, causes pain or rattles under load. If you get a Windsor Tourist, swap out the front chainrings for better granny gearing. Your knees will appreciate it. The earlier you begin to take 2-4 hour rides under touring loads, the more confident you will be with your bike handling under touring conditions. Also, ride in questionable weather at least a few times - you'll learn things about the bike you otherwise wouldn't. Find some rough sections of road, load up and ride over them. Learn what needs to be checked and (re-)tightened, what needs to be upgraded (racks?), whether or not you want a suspension seat post or aero bars.

    3. What wheels? 700c vs 26" and various widths
    If you're not off-roading, then 700x28c tires should work fine right up through light gravel.

    4. Is it worth it to just build the bike myself? Is it cheaper?
    I've spent about $100 on eBay adding to/changing the basic Windsor Tourist equipage.

    5. Panniers or trailer?
    Panniers can be cheaper but a brand new Bob Yak trailer can be had for under $300. You don't need the best panniers or racks on the market, but don't expect to cheap out either. Remember that $20 saved upfront might result in touring days and more money lost waiting for/looking for replacements. If you plan on riding the Al-Can, you will be on your own for miles/days. You need to be totally self-sufficient, including carrying key spares that would be just show stoppers elsewhere, but could mean actual survival on the Al-Can.

    6. Helmet or no?
    Totally personal choice here. I swap back and forth on both training rides and on tour. I really dislike the helmet, but there are times it seems appropriate.

    Something people occasionally forget to associate with helmet or not is the question of mirror use. Will you use one? Attached to the bike, eyeglasses or helmet? That may affect the helmet or not answer.

    7. Disc vs rim brakes
    Disc brakes are expensive to retro-fit in my opinion. If you want them, get them up front (meaning don't retro-fit). They ARE heavier than rim brakes and for me, aren't worth the added cost/weight.

    8. If I'm camping and it's raining to I have to cover my bike
    A thin sheet of plastic over the bike at night usually suffices. Even smaller/lighter, just cover your seat with a shower cap/plastic bag if you're really weight conscious.

    Some people bring tarps to use for this; others have tents large enough to bring the bike inside; still others just leave it outside. Then again, you can always use available shelter - or just keep riding.
    Last edited by drmweaver2; 11-04-10 at 01:32 PM.
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  4. #4
    Life is a fun ride safariofthemind's Avatar
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    If you haven't already done so, definitely check out the trip logs at http://crazyguyonabike.com

  5. #5
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Alcan highway is not paved, Go with 26" wheels .
    and there are more places in the world that will have a mountain bike tire spare to buy,
    than an adequate 700-35 touring tire , unless you set up air freight supplied spares.

    Rigid fork/ hard tail on the frame.

    even if you buy a complete bike you are the only one you will have to fix it ,
    so a tear down and rebuild will teach you how iyt goes together. to fix stuff, perhaps.

    wheel repairs.. spoke replacements,
    Last edited by fietsbob; 11-04-10 at 02:21 PM.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by littlebigbot View Post
    A bit of background: I'm 22 and next May I'm gonna go on a solo bike tour to Alaska from New York. I'm 6'4" and skinny if that makes a difference. I've been reading a lot about touring recently and I've been lurking here for a few weeks. I've also been to a few bike stores but they knew very little about touring.

    So now I turn to you kind folks.

    Questions:

    1. What's a good bike for loaded expedition touring?
    I was looking at the Surly LHT and Jamis Aurora but I saw the touring bikes on bikesdirect.com were being sold $300-$600 less than those, like the Windsor tourist looks fine.

    2. When should I buy the bike?
    Should I wait until next spring to get it so it's new and possibly cheaper or soon so I can figure out how I like to ride it and switch out any parts I don't like?

    3. What wheels? 700c vs 26" and various widths
    Honestly, I'd probably go with 700c wheels, but no idea what's a good width for touring. I know 26" wheels are more abundant and stronger.

    4. Is it worth it to just build the bike myself? Is it cheaper?
    Now, I'm no expert bike mechanic, but I like tinkering with things and the idea of building my own seems like a ton of fun. Also, would it end up costing more if I do it myself?

    5. Panniers or trailer?
    I can't figure out which one is cheaper, but it looks like panniers are. If I skimp and get the ortlieb PVC bags.

    6. Helmet or no?
    I don't know which is safer, since cars are more likely to get close to bikers if they wear helmets. And helmets protect me from the ground.

    7. Disc vs rim brakes
    It seems the disc brakes are generally better, are they worth swapping out rim brakes for?

    8. If I'm camping and it's raining to I have to cover my bike?
    I don't know how rust proof I should expect them to be.

    I have more questions, I just can't remember them at the moment. Thanks guys.
    1. a good bike is one that works for your intended use. Mailorder bikes like mailorder parts cost less. All you need to know is whether it's assembled and maintained correctly. If you don't know you'll find out eventually.

    2. buy it when you want it. If you've never ridden for multiple days or over 60 miles I'd suggest getting it now and getting used to it. If there's no chance of you riding until spring at least get it a couple months ahead of time to break it and you in.

    3. doesn't matter, width will vary according to load and road conditions. I'd prefer a bike that could take fat tires if conditions warrant it.

    4. unless you have a stock of used parts it's not cheaper and it's only worth it if you want to. You'd be better off buying a stock bike that fits you and fine tuning it if needed. A $3500 Surly LHT built up with Rohloff hub and fancy parts is cool but you won't get form point A to point B any faster or with less trouble than a stock LHT.

    5. panniers and don't overpack

    6.

    7. if they don't make for a weak rack attachment they make sense, but if your ideal bike doesn't come with them it's not a make or break issue.

    8. no but you might want a tarp to set your tent under if it's non-stop rain.
    Last edited by LeeG; 11-04-10 at 02:23 PM.

  7. #7
    Senior Member skilsaw's Avatar
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    Alaska to New York is pretty ambitious.
    Get your bike soon, and plan on a couple weekend tours to solve the little problems that arise.

    Good thing you are skinny. The grizzly bears in Alaska and Canada prefer cyclists with some meat on their bones.
    The one who has the most bikes wins.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    1. What's a good bike for loaded expedition touring?
    One that fits you well. Fit is First. Figure that out before you buy anything.

    2. When should I buy the bike?
    Now. You'll need to ride it a lot to make sure all is working well for you, and to decide what you want to change.

    3. What wheels? 700c vs 26" and various widths
    Either will be fine for this trip, unless you're interested in off road stuff, then 26". The spoke build is very important. Best are hand built, most are machine built. Have your LBS check the spoke tension and stress relieve them. A well built wheel should be trouble free for thousands of miles.

    Tires are very important. You'll want Schwable's($$), but Maxxis Overdrive, Vittoria Randoneer , or Continental Travel Contact will do the job for much less. There are several others. I would not go to Alaska on anything less than 35 mm.

    4. Is it worth it to just build the bike myself? Is it cheaper?
    Depends. If you're an experienced cyclist, and know what you want/need, then a total build out($$$)is the way to go. If you don't fall in this category, then a stock touring bike would be best. With time on the bike, you'll probably want to do some tweaking of the components. Most common are gearing, handle bars, and saddle. But, you might get lucky and find the stock bike needs no tweaking at all.

    5. Panniers or trailer?
    The argument is endless, thus personal preference rules. Should you decide on panniers, go with the largest for the rear, and a couple of sizes down for the front. Load the heavy stuff in the front. A balanced bike is a more stable bike.

    6. Helmet or no?
    Again, the argument is endless. There is a tiny chance that a helmet will protect your noggin one day. Whether that tiny chance is worth the inconvenience is totally up to you. More important is that you be highly visiable, ie brightly colored top wear, maybe a slow moving vehicle sign on the rear. Not only for your protection, but also to protect motorist from the inconvenience of running over you. They really don't want to.


    7. Disc vs rim brakes
    Nothing wrong with rim brakes. Take an extra pair of pads just in case, and maybe a little sand paper to take the sheen off if the pads seem to be losing their effectiveness. The sand paper in your patch kit will do.

    8. If I'm camping and it's raining to I have to cover my bike?
    Nah. If it's raining while you're riding, the bikes gonna be wet. You gonna take the time to dry it off before you cover it? Coat nuts and bolts with clear nail polish when you get the bike to slow rusting, unless you know they are stainless. Oil the chain more frequently in wet conditions.

    Be sure and test all your gear with a few short mini tours before striking out on the big one. I like the suggestion to hit a few really rough spots to shake everything up and see what falls off.
    Last edited by Cyclebum; 11-04-10 at 03:02 PM.
    The bicycle is one of the great inventions of mankind. Delights children, challenges young men to feats of daring, and turns old men into boys again.--Me

  9. #9
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    God damn guys, I didn't expect so much help so fast. Thank you so much.

    *Sets about reading responses*

    EDIT:

    Quote Originally Posted by drmweaver2
    Panniers can be cheaper but a brand new Bob Yak trailer can be had for under $300. You don't need the best panniers or racks on the market, but don't expect to cheap out either.
    Well, panniers cost about that much or a bit more including the racks. The Yak doesn't come with bags (or does it?), though so I'd have to buy some bags for that.

    Quote Originally Posted by skilsaw
    Good thing you are skinny. The grizzly bears in Alaska and Canada prefer cyclists with some meat on their bones.
    Don't worry, I'll bring plenty of snacks for them. Think they like Ho Hos?

    Oh, and I forgot to mention I'm planning at least one "mini" tour in March up to Boston to meet some friends.

    I don't suppose the free rack that comes with the Windsor Tourist is any good. I don't trust it.

    Thanks again!
    Last edited by littlebigbot; 11-04-10 at 03:21 PM. Reason: Responding to posts

  10. #10
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    "1. What's a good bike for loaded expedition touring?"

    I would buy the Surly with 26" wheels at your price point. 700c wheels have a better ride, but getting tires in Canada is impossible even in some provincial capitals with university populations skewing the demographic. The other point is that at that price point 26" wheels are way more durable. At every price point, but with generic wheels all the more reason. If you prefer 700c, then at least carry a folding tire or two.


    2. When should I buy the bike?

    Bikes are normally cheaper in the fall, and Canondale is going out of the touring bike market so there might be a few of those around (700c). There is unlikely to be tech change year over year in this segment, and having the bike is an obvious advantage.

    3. What wheels? 700c vs 26" and various widths

    Consensus view would be 32 minimum, and I would run 35-37, I like a slick tread, and no excessive armouring, so I still get a nice ride.

    4. Is it worth it to just build the bike myself? Is it cheaper?

    For the kind of trip you are planing it would be great to build it up yourself, since you could have the time if you did it now. You can save money. NY is a big market so you have some chance of locating a fleebay frame, and if you already own some kind of bike there could be donor parts, then you haunt the internet. It's possible, but complete bikes are normally very cheap for what you get. If you are experienced enough to know what kind of stuff you need, then there is zero reason other than cost in some cases, to get someone else's take on the perfect blend of product and profit.

    5. Panniers or trailer?

    Panniers are the better general choice, particularly if you have a sturdy touring bike in the first place. But either work, combos work. You don't need to buy the very best gear. You are planing a long tour but it isn't a total gear buster.

    6. Helmet or no?

    I carry one but don't wear it. You run a chance of going through jurisdictions where it is mandatory. I think helmets are always safer for the individual who is sensible and knows all the arguments. If you want to scare drivers there are lots of way that to do it without wearing a helmet. If you feel strongly about helmets, be sure to back it up by buying a strong helmet. Not this Bell foamy crap. All that said, I don't bother wearing them because under normal conditions I am not worried one way or the other. But I strap them on, sometimes, when they are locally mandated, or if it's wet and the hill is extremely long. Remember, where bikes are concerned it isn't just the helmets that are a joke, there are quite a few other parts that are marginal, and can let you down.

    7. Disc vs rim brakes

    Discs are expensive, heavy, and not available on most of the lower priced bikes with some exceptions (nashbar and choose your fork). At best they are a nice to have. However, brakes are a weak point on a lot of touring builds, so you need to take on that subject and get seriously schooled so you are an expert, can make the right choice, and make the ongoing adjustments.

    8.

    I don't cover the bike, I do cover the leather seat. If I can, I lean the bike up against a tree. The fact is the bike gets so wet riding in the rain, and possibly a little salty to boot, you can't stop the water getting at it. You can throw something in the tubes to rustproof them. I've been riding steel bikes for 40 years in a region where they use salt. I've never had a problem. I have never rustproofed the tubes. You need to carry a little oil for the chain, and other stuff, and some crazy glue for paint chips.
    Last edited by NoReg; 11-04-10 at 03:24 PM.

  11. #11
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    $259 Bob Yak-28 Plus - trailer for 700c wheels with fenders - Plus means bag included
    http://www.o2gearshop.com/catalog/pr...oducts_id=2105

    Check the same site for other Bob Yaks.

    For comparison, a pair of Arkel GT-54's is $350....not that these are the only panniers suitable.

    A bit of Internet searching around can definitely reward you monetarily.


    As far as the Windsor Tourist included rack, that's one of the changeable pieces if I were doing your trip. The supplied rack is fine for on-road use here in the US. My Dad drove the Al-Can years ago and said it was bone-rattling. From that, I'd probably go with a heavier rack and definitely use lock-tite (or somesuch) to secure the bolts.
    Last edited by drmweaver2; 11-04-10 at 04:06 PM.
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  12. #12
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    Okay:

    1/2 I'll get the bike as soon as I figure out what to get.

    3 I'll try and get 26" wheels that are at least 35mm.

    4 I won't build my bike but I'll take it apart and put it back together.

    5

    6 I'll bring a helmet just in case.

    7 Disc brakes seem like too much of an uneeded hassle if the bike doesnt have them already.

    8 I'll bring some plastic or a tarp for the bike.


    The Windsor Tourist comes with 700c wheels, so I'd have to replace them if I do any off road stuff. Still researching new wheels. Also researching gearing.


    Ah, thanks for that, drmweaver2. I never did do much looking around for trailers.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by littlebigbot View Post
    Okay:

    1/2 I'll get the bike as soon as I figure out what to get.

    3 I'll try and get 26" wheels that are at least 35mm.

    4 I won't build my bike but I'll take it apart and put it back together.

    5

    6 I'll bring a helmet just in case.

    7 Disc brakes seem like too much of an uneeded hassle if the bike doesnt have them already.

    8 I'll bring some plastic or a tarp for the bike.


    The Windsor Tourist comes with 700c wheels, so I'd have to replace them if I do any off road stuff. Still researching new wheels. Also researching gearing.


    Ah, thanks for that, drmweaver2. I never did do much looking around for trailers.
    In 26" a 35mm tire is around 1.4" , 1.5" is a normal narrow 26" tire equivalent to a 38mm 700c tire. If this trip involves crappy roads I'm guessing the Windsor tourist won't carry fat tires.
    You don't have to carry four huge panniers stuffed to the gills to travel cross country. The less gear you carry the less energy you'll expend or the greater ability to carry your bike over a fence or climb a mtn.

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    Well if you want to spend big bucks on panniers, there are also big numbers you could spend on the bags that go in the trailers. While there are complex panniers, they aren't really any better than simple and cheap ones, just different. To a large degree the differences are marketing, which isn't to say useless, it is just that they are there because of the need to come up with something new and different to sell. If you compare panniers to backpacks, even the simplest panniers probably have a total of 4-6 segments. I've never owned a pack like that, certainly some with a big bag and some pocketst. But what of panniers with 10 divisions per bag and 40 in total, or whatever. What has that kind of segmentation? Elite luggage, Grand touring autos, yachts? I doubt it. It's just bobbles and goo gaws.

    Whatever you decide start by deciding first on the stuff and the amount of it you will carry. Don't start with the bike, go to the racks, then the bags. Start with the gear, decide on the bags, that dictates the racks, and the bike you will need to carry them. Sequence wise, you can buy the bike today if it is a generally plausible touring bike since it will accept pretty much most racks.

    When deciding on the stuff check out Rayjardine.com, and some other ultralite sites just for ballance.
    Last edited by NoReg; 11-04-10 at 05:38 PM.

  15. #15
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    I just went thru a lot of these decisions myself and would echo most of what folks have already weighed in on. If you end up going with panniers, check out Ortlieb--they make a waterproof version. I got them much cheaper by buying in Europe due to exchange rates...check out www.wiggle.co.uk (they ship for free, even internationally!)

    As for helmets, I have a friend who's alive today because she was wearing a helmet (coming down a hill and hit some gravel). Another guy that rides in our group is also alive because of his helmet after being hit by a car. That's enough proof for me. No matter how safe you think you ride, there is still so much outside your control. It's such a small inconvenience.

  16. #16
    Life is a fun ride safariofthemind's Avatar
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    Panniers versus trailers is like religion, everyone has an opinion. People in this forum tend to prefer panniers. If you want to get more data points on trailers, do a google search on BoB or Yak trailers. http://www.bobgear.com/trailers/

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    Key points about the panniers vs trailers debate - in a nutshell.

    Panniers - absolutely must be weight balanced left-right or there will be handling probs
    Panniers - act as sails in crosswinds
    Panniers - front panniers act as boat anchors in headwinds
    Panniers - require racks (so you have to count this weight in addition to the bags themselves)
    Panniers - can be single compartment or many, many compartments
    Panniers - empty weight, still generally works out 3-5 pounds less than a Bob Yak trailer with bag
    Panniers - racks can break
    Panniers - bags can fall off the rack/attachments to rack can fail
    Panniers - can be homemade from kitty litter plastic containers!
    Panniers - rack attachment can be problematic due to frame design/disc brakes/fenders

    Trailers - single or double wheel - choose 1//double wheel does have greater rolling resistance
    ................(but not really noticeable once you get rolling)
    Trailers - generally requires at least 1 bag; most are single compartment
    Trailers - generally have a 50-100 lb capacity
    Trailers - generally have greater cu inch capacity than 4 panniers
    Trailers - easier to carry truly oversized loads that won't fit inside the largest panniers
    Trailers - bike "drags" uphill more noticeably than with panniers (regardless of wind)
    Trailers - require carrying more than 1 lock to secure both bike and trailer
    Trailers - generally have a different size wheel/tire than the bike --- spares issue!
    Trailers - some people find that using a pair of front panniers makes bike/trailer handling easier (adding to the weight/cost issues)
    Trailers - child/infant/pet trailers can be modified into touring trailers (check eBay/craigslist for $$ savings)
    Trailers - double wheel trailers add additional wheel tracks rider must be aware of to avoid road debris
    Trailers - provide additional places to carry water bottles
    Trailers - generally/often come with a safety flag/reflectors

    Costwise - toss a coin. You can spend $250 - $600 on a trailer or $125 - $800 on racks and panniers depending on what you want/need.

    On a just completed tour, I spent half the tour with panniers and half with a single-wheel trailer. Both worked. Both had their plusses and minuses.
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  18. #18
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    Greetings. I'm 6'4" and pretty thin also, but I don't know if that has anything to do with my answers to your questions.

    1. What's a good bike for loaded expedition touring?
    I was looking at the Surly LHT and Jamis Aurora but I saw the touring bikes on bikesdirect.com were being sold $300-$600 less than those, like the Windsor tourist looks fine.

    I have an LHT and I love it. There's no whippiness; it's rock solid with a load. It's very comfortable. I've taken it on three multi-week tours and nothing has broken, not even a spoke. I think you get what you pay for. I met a guy in Glacier who had crossed the country on a Fuji tourer, which is another lower priced tourer. He was doing fine, but he had to replace his wheels in Wyoming. When you added in that cost, his rig was similarly priced to mine, but I hadn't had any troubles. There are several people here who swear by their Windsors. If I had limited funds, I'd buy one and be happy.

    2. When should I buy the bike?
    Should I wait until next spring to get it so it's new and possibly cheaper or soon so I can figure out how I like to ride it and switch out any parts I don't like?

    Buy it as soon as possible so you can start riding it and tweaking the fit. I tried three different stems on my LHT until I felt I had "perfection". I tried two different sets of handlebars. I tweaked the placement of the brakes a couple of times and changed the rotation of the bars in the stem a few times (including once in a motel room in Walla Walla last summer in the middle of a tour.)

    Don't worry about putting wear on the bike - touring bikes last pretty much forever. The only reason I could think of to put off buying one would be to save money. Pricing is pretty constant, but REI does a 20% off deal every year that could save you money. You also find tourers on Ebay. If you're patient you might find what you want and save a little. I don't think you'll save a lot though. Other people are also looking for tourers.

    3. What wheels? 700c vs 26" and various widths
    Honestly, I'd probably go with 700c wheels, but no idea what's a good width for touring. I know 26" wheels are more abundant and stronger.

    I have 700s on my 62cm LHT. That was my only option when I bought it. Now they have 62s with 26" wheels. They look funny to me on such a large frame, but that's not a big deal. From what I've read, 26" wheels make a lot more sense if you're touring in remote locales, because they're more common in many places. My LHT can take up to 700x50 tires (I think) so I wouldn't worry about taking it off road. I think it's a tossup. Either choice should be fine. If you're going to ride mostly on pavement in the U.S. and Canada, I'd go with 700.

    4. Is it worth it to just build the bike myself? Is it cheaper?
    Now, I'm no expert bike mechanic, but I like tinkering with things and the idea of building my own seems like a ton of fun. Also, would it end up costing more if I do it myself?

    It was quite a bit more expensive to build my LHT up from a frame. They weren't offering the complete when I bought it. I didn't want to cut corners, so most of the stuff I put on it was new and high quality. The benefit was I learned more about wrenching. I know everything that's on the bike and how it got there, so I feel comfortable in dealing with any problems which might occur. I even built my own wheels! (I was proud of myself, and I still haven't broken a spoke, so I'm really pleased.) It was also fun. I also had a reason to buy a bunch of tools, which I like. But if money is the determining factor, buy a complete.

    5. Panniers or trailer?
    I can't figure out which one is cheaper, but it looks like panniers are. If I skimp and get the ortlieb PVC bags.

    I've toured with both and I definitely prefer front and rear panniers. I have Ortlieb Classic Rollers, and and Ortlieb handlebar bag. I love the whole set. If I had to tour with my trailer it would be fine, but I'd rather not.

    6. Helmet or no?
    I don't know which is safer, since cars are more likely to get close to bikers if they wear helmets. And helmets protect me from the ground.

    My opinion is that drivers don't even notice if a cyclist has a helmet or not (unless the driver is also a cyclist - I usually notice.) I always wear a helmet. It's better to wear one and not need it than to need it and not wear one. My mom bought me one of the first Bell helmets in the 70s. It weighed a ton and was clunky to put on. I never wore it. When I tried a modern helmet in the 80s and saw how light they had become I realized there was no longer any reason not to wear one.

    That's just my opinion and I know others feel strongly the other way. Let's not turn this into another helmet for or against thread.


    7. Disc vs rim brakes
    It seems the disc brakes are generally better, are they worth swapping out rim brakes for?

    I've never used disc brakes. I'd like to try them someday, but I don't have a frame that will take them. I think they might be worthwhile, but I wouldn't pick a disc brake bike over a non disc brake bike solely because of the discs. But if you have two pretty close choices and one has discs and you want to try discs, go for it. My cantilevers work fine. I'm thinking about switching to V-brakes next summer.

    8. If I'm camping and it's raining do I have to cover my bike?
    I don't know how rust proof I should expect them to be.

    I don't. When you're on a long tour you often have to ride in downpours. A good tourer should have no trouble with rain. I don't want to bring another tarp to put over the bike, though lots of people do.

    I do find that my greasy chain gets cleaned off pretty good in a rainstorm. I usually put more lube on it when it's dry.

    I do put a plastic bag over my saddle every night before I go to bed. If it rains overnight and you have to sit on a wet saddle, you'll wish you had taken such an easy precaution.

  19. #19
    eternalvoyage
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    Quote Originally Posted by littlebigbot View Post
    Okay:

    1/2 I'll get the bike as soon as I figure out what to get.

    3 I'll try and get 26" wheels that are at least 35mm.

    4 I won't build my bike but I'll take it apart and put it back together.

    5

    6 I'll bring a helmet just in case.

    7 Disc brakes seem like too much of an uneeded hassle if the bike doesnt have them already.

    8 I'll bring some plastic or a tarp for the bike.


    The Windsor Tourist comes with 700c wheels, so I'd have to replace them if I do any off road stuff. Still researching new wheels. Also researching gearing.


    Ah, thanks for that, drmweaver2. I never did do much looking around for trailers.
    Sounds like you're getting a handle on it. There is a lot of good information in this thread.

    Regarding The Windsor Tourist comes with 700c wheels, so I'd have to replace them if I do any off road stuff. : Many people seem to underestimate 700c wheels' abilities off-road. There is a lot you can do, especially with the wider tires. Even with mid-range tires, you can still ride a lot of dirt roads, gravel roads, trails, etc. If the wheels are well built, they should hold up.

    That isn't to say that 700c are more desirable than 26" -- just that they aren't as limited as many people think.

    Regarding panniers vs trailers: I've tried both, and strongly prefer panniers. The points covered on this thread, here, about this topic, are not comprehensive. You can find some good discussions on some of the world travelers' websites. One example: http://travellingtwo.com/5850

    I enjoy flying down long grades. With panniers, I'm golden. The bike only gets more stable with speed (note that stiff racks and frame contribute to this). With trailers, I'm ******. When you hit a series of bumps, at speed, with a trailer, especially in a turn, can you imagine what happens?

    Intermodal transportation is much smoother with panniers, in my experience.

    Also, would have to disagree strongly with the statement that panniers must be perfectly balanced. I went through a long phase of researching these sorts of aspects of bike touring, when I first got into it, and was convinced of this necessity (of carefully and optimally balancing the panniers) myself at one time. Now, with a lot more personal touring experience, I have no doubt whatsoever that this is a flaming myth, at least for every bike in my stable. Not only do they not have to be perfectly balanced, but there is tremendous flexibility or latitude. This has been my experience, and I keep pushing the rules and testing them, and breaking them, and it just is not necessary at all, for me.

    I do recommend good, strong, durable, stable racks -- they are an important part of the foundation for me (the Tubus Locc is the tetraploid gorilla) ***properly mounted*** using medium-strength threadlocker plus nyloc nuts, and ***no*** rinky-dink, cobbled together hardware (zip ties, wire, hose clamps, etc.). Good, strong bolts (grade 8 or grade 10 steel, perhaps even in 6mm -- it's easy to drill and tap for 6mm), properly secured (they will loosen over time with all the vibration otherwise), are the sorts of things to use.

    That same principle applies to the rest of the bike as well, and to the gear you carry. Set it up right in the beginning. A good experienced mechanic can go over it with you, and make changes where necessary. An excellent wheel build is especially important. If you stress that you want something that is not going to give you trouble, have failures, etc., someone who knows his stuff can set you up. This is not the sort of thing an inexperienced person is likely to be able to do as well.

    This way, you can set it and forget it, and not be plagued by failures (and the interruptions, delays, repairs, strandedness, letdowns, disfunction, inabilities, etc.) while you are out there. It's also a great feeling to be on a touring bike like this -- one that simply won't let you down.
    Last edited by Niles H.; 11-05-10 at 05:18 PM.

  20. #20
    eternalvoyage
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    Quote Originally Posted by aprosemu View Post
    I just went thru a lot of these decisions myself and would echo most of what folks have already weighed in on. If you end up going with panniers, check out Ortlieb--they make a waterproof version. I got them much cheaper by buying in Europe due to exchange rates...check out www.wiggle.co.uk (they ship for free, even internationally!)

    As for helmets, I have a friend who's alive today because she was wearing a helmet (coming down a hill and hit some gravel). Another guy that rides in our group is also alive because of his helmet after being hit by a car. That's enough proof for me. No matter how safe you think you ride, there is still so much outside your control. It's such a small inconvenience.
    Well put.

    I don't particularly like helmets, but probably wouldn't be here without them. What helped, for me, was finding helmets that were a comfortable fit, and were aesthetically agreeable -- then I wear them. I also like having a good sun-blocking visor that is easily adjusted or removed.

    The times when you really need them tend (strongly tend) to come unexpectedly. This has happened to me. That feeling of being an exception ('it will probably never happen to me') can be very deceptive.

    It can help to review and reflect on the consequences of head injuries.

    Once you find a good one, it's easy to wear.

  21. #21
    Life is a fun ride safariofthemind's Avatar
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    Another vote for helmets. I support choices but they have twice saved my life, once on a motorbike, another on a bicycle. Just ask your nearest ER physician...

  22. #22
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    1) The Windsor Tourist is a decent bike but the wheels might be a little weak. If you go that route, you might want to run the wheels by a wheel-builder for re-tensioning.

    2) If you don't have a bike (and are riding it), sooner is better (and ride it). Keep in mind that you'll do the big trip after some experience. Most people start out carrying too much and carry less when they've been on a few trips.

    3) Keep in mind that 29'er MTB wheels are 700c wheels. It might be easier to get tires and replacement wheels for 26 inch. You might want to carry a fold up tire, regardless.

    4) Get a complete bike and swap things out that you find are problems. Building your own won't be cheaper and it really is a better idea for somebody who really knows what they want.

    5) Panniers. Easier to fly with. (Trailers appear to work fine on the road.) A trailer might have the same problems that the 700c wheels do (hard to repair/deal-with in remote places. In the worst case, it would be cheaper to ship panniers or a rack than it would be to ship a trailer.

    6) Do you wear a helmet normally? There was one study (in England) that suggested that drivers give non-helmeted riders more leeway. No one knows whether it's a universal phenomenon. Don't base helmet use on that one study.

    7) Disk brakes have the same sorts of problems that 700c wheels have (hard to get parts and replace in remote places).

    8) Don't worry too much but if it's easy to do, cover it (at least, cover your seat).
    Last edited by njkayaker; 11-05-10 at 06:53 PM.

  23. #23
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    I'd like to clarify/amplify on something I wrote concerning balancing weight and pannier usage. This isn't written based solely on my experience/as my opinion. It's physics based and rider-proven/attested in numerous trip reports.

    First, left-to-right balance with panniers is far more sensitive than front-to-rear balance. As illustration, try slinging a gallon of milk off your handlebars and riding. Rideable? Yes. Stable? Depends on your definition of stability, I guess. It requires more attention to ride in a straight line than without the gallon -- or even with a gallon hanging off each side of the stem.

    OTOH, too much weight on the rear wheel can cause rim/spoke failure.

    Secondly, if you carry the weight lower, it will be more stable. This is particularly noticeable with front panniers.

    Third, if the weight carried in front panniers is not relatively balanced left-to-right, a couple possibilities are fairly likely in my experience. Handling at speed, especially on descents, may get squirrely. Notice I said may. Also, turning in one direction will be easier than the other - heavier side easy, lighter side harder. You have to pay more attention.

    The left-to-right weight balance is a relative thing - we aren't talking must be within an ounce or two. Tire width, pressure and wheel size as well as bike speed, rider weight and frame size all affect the stability.

    Yes, the more stable/inflexible the rack, the better the ride. However, weight balance is still an issue.

    ---
    Front-to-rear weight balance is harder to pin down with panniers. Some riders prefer a 40-60 ratio while other prefer the reverse - or even 30-70. What that simple ratio doesn't account for is rider position, size or weight or bike frame geometry, rack strength or mounting , pannier positioning (high/low mounts, relationship to front/rear axles) or pannier loading (heavier items low and near centerline - or - high and outside).

    The overall point is, compared to balancing a load with a trailer, the distribution of cargo weight when using panniers is more of an issue than when using a trailer.

    A Lance Armstrong-strength rider may be able to muscle through nearly anything weight-balance related. That doesn't negate the fact that an unbalanced load when using panniers has a more deleterious effect on riding than a similarly unbalance load in a trailer. As I said, it's simple physics.
    Last edited by drmweaver2; 11-06-10 at 10:53 AM. Reason: spelling/typo correction
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    It might seem like I am arguing FOR trailers. I'm not.

    However, I would like to point out that there are collapsible trailers which are as relatively easy to "fly with" as a set of 4 panniers. Not everyone uses a Bob.
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  25. #25
    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    I don't think you can swap the 700c for the 26" wheels on the Windsor. I believe the brake bosses are too high for the 26" wheel. The LHT can be bought with 26" wheels on the larger frames. A good wheel is a good wheel, regardless of size. A 32mm or 35mm on a 700 would probably do fine.

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