Hey everyone, sorry it has taken me a while to respond, been very busy lately, so I have some new questions and opinions to seek, but I'd also like to respond to some of the comments already given to me. Thanks for all the input!
Ha, so yeah, no kidding this is a can of worms, the logistics are pretty crazy and I'm still trying to piece everything together in my head, which I'm sure I'll need more and more advice the more this goes along, but for now, we'll focus on the bike.
So first of all, I'm still on the fence on whether or not to use a rack or not, but I think for now I'll plan my bike around having one, and then if I get a wild hair to jump on the sewing machine and make some grotesque but functional bags I will. As far as ultralight goes, I shouldn't have used that word necessarily, it's too much of a loaded word these days. By ultralight what I mean for this trip will be as follows. Most of my basic needs are already ultralight (tent, sleeping bag, don't carry a stove because a hot meal is really not that important to me, haven't carried one for a long time now), however I guess I really am going "lightweight", as I'm not going to forego carrying an extra tire, tubes, adequate water, all the things that are essential to get you out of a sticky situation. So I'm not going truly ultralight, I'm just going lighter because I already have a good deal of ultralight stuff that will help me keep my weight down.
So what is everyone's opinion on an aluminum bike. Steel rides amazing there's no doubt about that, but the more I price things out, a steel bike is going to be pricey because completes are either not available readily or not that affordable, and well let's face it, building a bike piece meal is just a costly affair even if you work for a bike shop. Almost always you are better off buying a complete if you can get one that fits your needs. The reason I ask is because REI just released the 2011 Ponderosa and I gotta say that damn, they really stepped it up for this year.
Good drivetrain, good tires, , love the modulation from the shimano mechanical discs, even has a coil shock for worst-case-scenario durability. And I can get one very cheap (also sorry if I seem to flaunt the fact that I get discounts, I don't mean to, but the fact that I do is a driving force behind my decisions because money can be tight for me, atleast during this part of my life) . I've come to realize I can really do this trip on just about anything, and while I started off as an idealist looking for the perfect ride, I'm becoming more sensible and realizing that "good enough" is probably more than enough. So this has become a strong contender just because the price-to-value ratio.
Then I realized that I already had an aluminum hardtail that I like. It is a Scott Expert Racing from, I was told 2005. I have never been able to find much info about it, the gentleman I bought it from had gotten it in Germany while serving in the military, so it might have been a bike that Scott never released in the states (can't recall if they were selling any bikes in the states during that year). Looks like they used this frame for several different levels of builds, here's some pics from various websites that might or might not still exist by the time you read this:
The geometry does lean towards being more aggressive, it is a fast and light (very light) bike, so I dunno how it might handle loaded, but I've held on to this bike because the frame is just a great riding frame, so I'd love to be able to do something with it. There's a few comlications though. First of all, while the drivetrain is good (all LX) it is kind of old, and even though it has always been properly maintained and cleaned, the shifters have started to show their age. A little love can stretch things out for a long way, but eventually things stop working, so I don't know how much longer they realistically have. So that's one possible cost already. Then is the fork, while everything else on the bike is quality stuff, the fork is a cheap RST fork, and it has needed to be replaced for a long time. Now this is one that I wouldn't mind doing because I always wanted to put a good fork on this bike but never got around to it. Next up would be upgrading the v-brakes to discs, but I already have a decent set of disc wheels, and BB7's aren't too pricey in truth. With all this and with the quite possible need of new shifters I'm getting close to the price of the Pondi, and was leaning very much towards it until this morning...
So it seems like the Bike Gods have cursed me right now. I just had to "rebuild" my Marin because I tore my derailer hanger off, finally got parts, put the hanger back on, installed the new derailer, put on a new chain, tuned everything up, and I also finally got to put on my new wheels (Mavic Crosstrails, bought used....). Went out for a ride this morning to test everything out, and low and behold one of the pawl carriers inside the hub gives out and look at me, I have a fixed gear mountain bike threatening to destroy my new derailer if I had stopped pedaling...and so now I'm looking at having to send my wheel to Mavic to see if they'll warranty it, otherwise I have to buy a new wheel because they don't sell their proprietary hubs at all, it's a whole wheel or nothing else. Needless to say, after all this, durability and reliability are starting to reign supreme in my mind...so I began considering the idea of intenally geared hubs. The alfine has already been suggested on here, I did some reading about it, it looks like a good possibility, plus soon enough the alfine 11 will be available. Now I'm considering that if I have to replace the shfiters on my old hardtail, I could instead go for an IGH instead. Price wise I'd wind up in about the same arena as I could get the Ponderosa for, so any one have some opinions here?
So it'd be either:
Basically stock Ponderosa or
Scott with upgraded coil shock, BB7's, and Alfine 8 or 11 (which might or might not have geometry that is suitable for off-road touring...then again the Pondi is standard mtb geo also...)
Thanks everyone, and sorry I'm more than a little long-winded in my posts, just how I am.