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  1. #1
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    Building a bike for The Great Divide

    Alright, so I've decided it is time to start taking seriously my bucket list and knock a few things off. The most feasible (and affordable, Everest or K2 will probably have to come out of my retirement fund.. =-P ) of these is to bike the entire Great Divide Canada to Mexico. My current moutain bike is really not suitable for offroad touring (2007 Marin East Peak, too hard to rig frame bags, etc. or racks, panniers, and no coil shocks for touring durability) so I'm starting to gather ideas for my build. I have some frames in mind already, but I want to clarify a few things first so we don't waste posts discussing irrelevent things.

    So first and foremost, I don't want to hear anything about "you'll have a hard time finding 29er tires in Asia" or "disc brake parts are hard to come by in South America" etc. This point is, to be blunt, annoyingly reiterated, and let's be honest, the common bicycle tourists in general aren't planning their bike purchases/builds for such uses. For me such ideas are waaay too far removed from my circumstances: I'm a broke graduate student who thankfully works for REI so I can barely afford my hobbies, and I'll be in school for years to come, so I won't be taking off to go pedal the Silk Road any time soon, all will be domestic, where worse case scenario I'll have to have someone overnight me a part or what have you. On this note, I am much more interested in off-road touring than on-road, so this bike is being put together with that specific purpose in mind. I know many traditional touring bikes can be set up for the GDMBR, but I want a mountain bike touring bike specifically.

    Second I am very likely going to be following the bikepacking route (frame bags etc., likely homemade) because I'm already set up for it from my years of backpacking ultralight and because to me the philosophy just makes sense, to each their own. So a heavy precedent doesn't need to be given to which bike will carry a significant load the best. Finally I have a preference for disc brakes and drop bars: disc brakes are the preference for the GDMBR from all the trip reports I've read, and I have an affinity for drop bars vs. riser bars with bar ends because I feel that the different positions a drop bar gives you gives a greater variety in posture compared to moving between grips and bar-ends on a riser bar. I'm more than willing to hear suggestions on bar ideas, things such as h-bars, trekking bars, mini-aerobars (I like this idea actually, used to be a triathlete so I'm used to the position). Oh I also don't have a strong preference between riding a rigid vs. suspension fork bike except for the fact that a rigid build will be cheaper (and I kinda like riding rigid in truth)

    So on to the frames (and corresponding completes) I'm considering:
    Salsa Fargo: Seems like the obvious choice, and it definitely tops my list right now. I have read the post about the problem with shimmy, however having worked in the industry for a while, I'm more than willing to give Salsa the benefit of the doubt that it was a dud frame especially considering the multitude of otherwise positive reviews compared to the small percentage of problems. I'm also going to try to avoid front racks if possible as well, so even less of a concern. I also really like the spec on the 2011 Fargo (Apex STIs, 2X10 drivetrain, although I'm not sure if the 40/27 crank with the 12-36 cassette will be enough low end compared to 22-34 for touring, haven't calculated it out yet)

    Novara Safari: So we've changed the Safari into a steel 29er (well except the small size) which is disc and v-brake compatible. I always have liked the Safari and have considered buying one on numerous occassions. They're quite affordable, so I could easily upgrade to disc brakes, but I am not sure about the trekking bars (from what I've read hard to get a handlebar bag to work with them, not the end of the world however). I hate grip-shifters though (just simply personal preference) and that's another thing I'd have to change out. Most the components are a tad cheaper as far as quality goes, that's the only other thing that keeps me on the fence.

    Surly Pugsley/Salsa Mukluk: I've always liked the idea of a fat-tire bike and I have read enough posts now about how people love to tour with their Pugs that this has become a serious consideration for me. High-volume tires would work as mild suspension as well, which would help with the washboard I keep hearing about along the GDMBR. Not sure which I like more. Pugsley is steel and I really like the big front fork spacing that allows me to carry a single speed rear hub on the front wheel, as I recently had to carry my bike several miles out of a trail system. I (believe it or not) got a seed lodged in my chain that locked up my derailer and tore my derailer hanger off...was supposed to be a casual fun ride...anyways, I'm a little paranoid at the moment about that being a possibility. The Mukluk has some winning points however, for one the geometry is optimized for handling at slower speeds, which likely translates to handling better at touring speeds. The rear drop-out spacing options is nice as well, however I'm not sure how much I'd really take advantage of that feature in the long run. The Mukluk being aluminum probably isn't that big a deal considering the fat-tires will take care of a lot of the bumps.

    Surly Troll: Super-versatile, disc or v-brake, steel, geared or specific internal if I ever decide to spend money on that, plus I could set it up as a moderate fat-tire bike (fits 2.7" supposedly) when I want to try that out as well. I could build this bike up as your traditional go-anywhere, do-anything, get parts wherever tourer. Haven't really looked at the geometry too closely but I know it is more traditional mountain bike geometry, so mayhap it wouldn't be ideal as a touring bike after all? Doubtful as many people suggest vintage moutain bikes as a good bike for GDMBR.

    Other considerations that I have some problems with.
    Surly Karate Monkey (and many other 29ers): Probably fine for my uses, but the fact that there is complications using racks with discs on it makes me favor the Fargo more (even though I don't intend to use racks, a little versatility never hurt, just in case)
    Surly Long Haul Trucker: I like the LHT, and price-to-spec it is one hell of a deal, but I really do want discs, so it is for now kind of being overlooked, I enjoy how the bike rides, it'll fit wide enough tires for the GDMBR easily, and it is a stable, bomb-proof bike, but the lack of discs does it in right now atleast, feel free to offer opinions to sway me though, economically it's probably the best choice.

    Obviously there's lots of other choices on the market, but I'm considering bikes that I can fortunately get at a discount because my occupation, so I'd like opinions on the bikes already suggested, personal experiences, grievances, etc. etc. Sorry this is a long post; I wanted to get out as many details as possible so I don't have to clarify things later on.
    Any suggestions throw them at me.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    Ride the Fargo. Be luxurious compared to what many have done it with. About as good a balance between single track and pavement touring as there is. Gearing is too low for road touring, but for the Trail, just about right. Carry a spare dérailleur.
    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

  3. #3
    cyclopath vik's Avatar
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    My buddy and I rode the CDN portion of the GDR on our Pugsleys. They worked great...the 4" tires were like suspension so we could go fast and be comfortable. We were not slow in fact we were as fast or faster than just about everyone we met who where on rigid, hardtail and FS mtn bikes. With full camping gear, food and water we managed 140kms uphill over a pass on our longest day and we are not great athletes. Our IGHs weren't affected by mud and we did fine with just 8 speeds.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/vikappr...th/3684860143/

    http://thelazyrando.wordpress.com/tag/cdn-gdr/



    The only thing I would do different would be to use frame bags and strap sleeping bags/tent to our racks. Lighter bikes would have been even faster and more fun.

    Keep in mind you can fit 2.25" tires [say Marathon Extremes] to the Large Marge rims and/or build up a second 29er wheel set and run any tire you like. However, for the GDR I would run 4" rubber...it's pretty amazing.

    safe riding - Vik
    VikApproved

  4. #4
    Life is a fun ride safariofthemind's Avatar
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    What kind of shape are you in? Those bikes and their accoutrements vary a lot in total weight once you add yourself and the baggage.

  5. #5
    Bicycle Lifestyle AsanaCycles's Avatar
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    the troll looks to be a promising bike.

    Salsa Ti El Mariachi is another win win.

    The Fargo is going to be a rocking bike too.

    KM's are great, if you think you'd want racks you can try www.OldManMountain.com I've used their racks on a variety of bikes, never with any issues, disc brakes, etc...

    Carousel Design Works
    Scott Felter at Porcelain Rocket
    of course Revelate Designs

    I'd pick a set of Titec H Bars or J bars, use Ergon GP1's
    use a filter, like a Sawyer in-line, I'm a fan of Clear2Go bottle filters, as well as Platypus gravity filters...

    the list goes on.

    more than likely you'll want a set of NanoRaptors
    I'd pick BB7's for brakes

    depending on how you think you'd like to eat/cook, you can think about little stoves such as PackaFeather: http://www.packafeather.com/stove.html

    you can look at my website: www.AsanaCycles.com

    you've opened a huge can of worms

    maybe a Garmin 705

  6. #6
    Bicycle Lifestyle AsanaCycles's Avatar
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    really its going to come down to:

    how long are you planning on traveling, and how do you want to eat.

    if you're going to take a lot of time, and do a bunch of cooking, etc... you may end up carrying more gear.

    if you're going to pedal 100 miles every day, and not cook, you could get away with frame bags.

    altho I didn't complete the Tour Divide, what I learned is that logistics, planning, timing and adaptability are a huge part.

    hopefully I'll get together enough cash to give it another shot next year.

    nutrition...
    Attached Images Attached Images

  7. #7
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    I would never ride in loose rocks with drop bars as one can get pitched over the front of the bike too easily. Also the ride has 212,000 f of climbing and every pound is a penalty. Most in the race carry 13 to 16 lbs and nobod used a rack over the rear wheel as weight in that position makes it more difficult to climb.

  8. #8
    Life is a fun ride safariofthemind's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AsanaCycles View Post
    you've opened a huge can of worms
    My thoughts precisely. A GOOD can of worms but a major undertaking. Did you read the journals at crazyguyonabike.com already?

    Check this guy's journal:

    http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/?...c_id=5852&v=e2

    Point is: there are many possible solutions to your problem depending on your "style."
    Last edited by safariofthemind; 11-10-10 at 10:57 PM. Reason: added link

  9. #9
    Bicycle Lifestyle AsanaCycles's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimblairo View Post
    I would never ride in loose rocks with drop bars as one can get pitched over the front of the bike too easily. Also the ride has 212,000 f of climbing and every pound is a penalty. Most in the race carry 13 to 16 lbs and nobod used a rack over the rear wheel as weight in that position makes it more difficult to climb.
    thats not accurate:

    Nicolas Sine (from France carried a freaking caradice trunk bag on a rear rack)

  10. #10
    Bicycle Lifestyle AsanaCycles's Avatar
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    you can also read "Cordillera"

  11. #11
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    I did the GDMBR north to south this year.

    If money is paramount, use your current MTB with a BOB. Plenty of successful riders make do.

    If you want a new bike, first consider what you'll be carrying. Don't forget that you'll need to carry as much as two days of water. If you want to go UL, make sure that you understand what comforts you'll be foregoing. You'll have a greater chance of being cold, wet, and hungry and you'll be at greater risk of being stranded without a spare tire and / or proper tools. I think UL works only if you plan 100 mile + days and frequently stay in motels, similar to the apparent strategies of most Tour Divide riders.

    Personally, I'd have crashed many many times if I had drop bars. But then again I am a lousy mountain biker.

    Other than that, frankly, it just doesn't matter which bike you take. There are only a few technical sections and there's far more pavement than stated in the route's description.

  12. #12
    The Wheel is Turning The Figment's Avatar
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    I ride this...Not as plush as a Pug,but durable as hell...



    As you can see I have changed a few things,New Wheels (Mavic 317/36 spoke on XT Hubs,Upgraded the Deore/Alvio 8 Speed to a XT/Deore 9 speed and went to LX Discs and XT Pads as well as an XT Chain.Added Ergo Grips and Bar ends.
    This is one of the most durable bikes I have had...But it is an '05 the New REI Bonanza is not as well outfitted,since you work at REI keep yer eyes open for one of REI's early Oughts model MT Bikes...Hell of a good deal,and not nearly as expensive as a LOT of other Bikes
    Last edited by The Figment; 11-16-10 at 10:55 AM.

  13. #13
    Life is a fun ride safariofthemind's Avatar
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    Hey Figment, don't you find that much exposed seat post to be wobbly? Looks awful high to my eyes...

  14. #14
    The Wheel is Turning The Figment's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by safariofthemind View Post
    Hey Figment, don't you find that much exposed seat post to be wobbly? Looks awful high to my eyes...
    I've set it about an inch lower since I took that pic,But no not wobbly at all,Very stable in fact,I can No-Hand it fully loaded while pulling the B.O.B

  15. #15
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    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.
    http://www.rei.com/product/807231
    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:
    http://www.btt.com.ar/nota/197/197526.shtml
    http://www.habitamos.com/post/330277...solo_500_euros
    http://usuarios.multimania.es/vadebi...ott_marcos.jpg
    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.

  16. #16
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    If I were going to build a bike for that route (which I plan to ride one day), I'd go with a Niner EMD and Niner steel fork. I'd build up some tough but light wheels, use homemade frame bags, and go as light as possible. The nice thing about that route is that you're never really far from civilization. Apparently you could even do most of the route motel to motel.

    Check out the bikepacking.net forum, which has photos and descriptions of various bikepacking setups. Great resource for that kind of adventure. Good luck and have a blast!

  17. #17
    Godfather of Soul SBRDude's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by musicman1586 View Post
    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.
    http://www.rei.com/product/807231
    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.
    You might also keep an eye on the used market, like via CraigsList. That being said, the Ponderosa looks like a nice bike, especially for the deal you'll get.

    Your comment about "good enough" vs. ideal is spot on, IMO. As long as the bike has the functionality that you need, a lot of the stuff that you/we worry about when making a decision is often forgotten once you're on the bike.
    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:
    http://www.btt.com.ar/nota/197/197526.shtml
    http://www.habitamos.com/post/330277...solo_500_euros
    http://usuarios.multimania.es/vadebi...ott_marcos.jpg
    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.
    For a moment, forget about the cost difference between the Scott rebuild and the Pondi - which bike gives you more confidence and which one would you rather ride? Once you make that decision, then factor the money back in and see if that helps.

    Regarding durability, that can be a slippery slope and lead to all kinds of expenses and things to bring along "just in case." Everyone has to draw the line somewhere. If it were me, I'd want to be able to make the most common and basic repairs, and since the ride is in the US, I would just plan to buy a new wheel/frame/whatever if necessary.

  18. #18
    Senior Member
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    Coincidentally, just saw a Gunnar/Waterford frame on Ebay today - the Rocktour - that according to Gunnar was specifically designed for the Great Divide route. Not mine, don't know the seller, just looked/sounded interesting.

    http://cgi.ebay.com/Gunnar-Rocktour-...item4aa6637888

  19. #19
    Bicycle Lifestyle AsanaCycles's Avatar
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    as far as I know:

    an IGH does not have the gear inch range that a typical MTB drivetrain provides: 581%

    the high end of the IGH world, being the Rohloff SpeedHub, gives something like 526% in range.

    here's a chart for reference: http://www.fallbrooktech.com/Docs/N360_GearInchCard.pdf

  20. #20
    Bicycle Lifestyle AsanaCycles's Avatar
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    check this out: http://monterey.craigslist.org/bik/2079754306.html
    $250, would probably make it all the way along the divide.
    add a thudbuster seatpost, Old Man Mountain racks...

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