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Old 02-04-11, 09:20 PM   #1
Hangtownmatt
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What is it about those rootbeer brown Trek 520's ?

Today I test rode a 57 cm Trek 520 and a 56 cm Surly LHT. On paper the LHT wins with better wheels and better derailleurs. But there was something about that Trek 520 that put a bigger smile on my face. The ironic thing is that the LHT actually fit better. I'm long legged with a short torso and the 100mm standard Trek stem had to be swapped out with a 90mm riser, and I still felt a bit stretched. I think the problem was that we couldn't get the handlebars level with the seat and the lower seat required a bit more of a stretch. I'm 53 years old and not getting any younger so this is important. The 56 cm LHT didn't require a stem swap. This was exactly the opposite of what I expected going in. I thought for sure the LHT would have a longer reach.

So my questions are these: (1) What is it about the Trek geometry that makes if more fun? And (2) I've read on the internet where the Trek can be ordered with an uncut steering tube. Does anybody know how far an uncut Trek 520 steering tube will extend above it's head tube? I measured the uncut LHT steering tube and it extended 5.5 inches.

Matt
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Old 02-05-11, 01:28 AM   #2
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No one really knows? I'd guess the Trek has shorter chainstays, shorter wheelbase, sightly quicker handling? It's OK to like the 520 more than the LHT. I like the Surly bikes for value, but honestly, they are far, far from the greatest bikes ever made. The truth is that many of the things that make a good loaded touring bike also make a crappy bike unloaded. The trick of the bike company is to cheat a little each way on the loaded/unloaded side and make a quality all around riding bike. Trek has been doing long before Surly. Trek made a great touring bike before some of the guys working at Surly were even born. But you can't go wrong here.... these are 2 nice, higher value bikes

As far as the steering tube and over bike fit.... that's between you and the LBS. A good shop can make get the right size frame and set it up for you. Relax, buy the Trek and never look back or feel remorse for it. Good luck!
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Old 02-05-11, 02:07 AM   #3
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I'd be very cautious about getting a touring bike because it feels more "fun" than another one. Two cautionary tales:

1. In 2005 I was shopping in Oregon for a mountain bike, and didn't really know much about mountain bikes. I test rode a few, including a Kona Lava Dome. I thought it felt very lively in the parking lot, because when I pedaled hard, it seemed like it wanted to just take off, even popping wheelies. The other bike I tested felt rather slow and dull by comparison. So I got the Kona. Later on, I discovered that it really wasn't a good fit - that aspect which made it want to pop wheelies in the parking lot also meant that whenever I was going up a very steep hill, the front wheel would want to come off the ground, making the bike very difficult to control. I would enviously watch other people as they seemed to pedal effortlessly up the same hill where I had to lean forward almost with my chest to the handlebar simply to stop the front wheel from flying up. So, in this case, the more "staid" bike which didn't feel so lively popping wheelies in the parking lot was probably actually the better one for the stuff I'd really end up doing - i.e. not popping wheelies, but rather going up steep hills offroad around Corvallis.

2. In 2007 I had both a Novara Safari and a Surly Long Haul Trucker, and was trying to choose between them for my next tour - one would have to go. I was living in St Louis at the time, and did lots of test rides around Forest Park. The Safari, with its trekking bars and 26" wheels, felt a lot more lively and fun than the LHT, which felt kind of dead and slow in comparison. Eventually I decided to keep the Safari, and I sold the LHT. However, I had made a big mistake: All my test rides had been unladen (i.e. no full panniers). Once I got out on my tour, I found that the Safari felt quite different - it seemed to flex a lot, and eventually I noticed it would shimmy at the worst moments (e.g. going down a huge hill into Deadwood SD, in rain that was turning to snow). I think the LHT probably wound have been the more stable bike, I made the wrong decision based on wrong thinking - a touring bike isn't about being lively, it's about being stable under load.

So if I were you, I would get a pair of racks, front and rear, and a set of panniers, and load up the panniers with books or similar, and load up both bikes and take them for test rides of at least 20 miles. Then you will find out which one is the better touring bike. Doing test rides of touring bikes unladen is just a waste of time - test them the same way you'll use them.

Neil
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Old 02-05-11, 11:47 AM   #4
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As usual, everything seems to be a compromise. I'm always trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. For example, I agree with both of the above posts even though they are in somewhat disagreement. I think I need to provide a little more background:

I've never toured or even camped on a bicycle. It's posssible I never will. I have, however, done plenty of motorcycle camping/touring so I have an idea about what I'm getting into. My choices in motorcycles were also a compromise. I wanted basic transportation, a fun commuter under a variety of weather conditions, something that could handle loaded touring on and off road, and something that was dead simple. I never have been much for group/club rides and don't need the latest technology. I suppose this is also what I'm looking for in a bicycle. And for the record I'm not a newbie bicyclist. I've been commuting off and on since the early nineties racking up about 18K miles. My two vehicles are a 1983 Nishiki that's been upgraded to fit my aging body (i.e. Nitto Technomic stem, Salsa Bell Lap bars, Triple Crankset, etc) and a rigid 1997 Trek 950 Singletrac Mountain bike, also modified for comfort; primarily with a Nitto Dirt Drop handlebar stem. Both of these bikes, with the steering modifications I've made, are on the edge of bad handling. So in consideration of this I'm leary of trying to "make" a bike fit. But I really liked that 520!

This will probably be another case of paralysis-through-analysis. I agree with Neil that I should test both these bikes fully loaded, but that is unlikely to happen. I'd hoped that the proven track records of both the Surly and the 520 would be enough. I've sent a question to Trek asking about the uncut steering tube but my hopes were squashed when I found the following on the internet last night:

"No, unfortunately the steer tubes are not able to be ordered uncut. There is a maximum amount of steer tube that can be showing above the headset, so for liability reasons we cannot recommend a longer one than what comes stock on the bike."

Will
Trek HQ Waterloo, WI
Answered at 1:35 PM on Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Can anybody vouch for the viability of using a steering tube extension? Is this just wrong?

Matt
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Old 02-05-11, 03:34 PM   #5
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I do not own either one of the bikes under discussion, but I have ridden a little bit on both (unloaded). An LHT is very heavy, even by touring bike standards, and the Trek is a few pounds lighter. That is part of the difference. The 520 also has a somewhat stiffer frame, which results in a livelier "feel". I agree that the 520 is more fun to ride unloaded, but Neil's advice is good: try them loaded.

My touring bike is a Raleigh Sojourn, which is closer to the LHT in terms of weight and handling. It is not a particularly fun bike to ride unloaded, but handles beautifully under load, especially with the front wheel loaded heavily.
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Old 02-05-11, 11:32 PM   #6
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Maybe I'm off topic but most every year Canondale changes colors, one year their top model was brown and I liked it best. Touring bikes should be very conservatively colored in my opionion. Who wants a candy apple red station wagon or a yellow touring bicycle ?
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Old 02-06-11, 01:01 AM   #7
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I think the trail on the Trek makes it faster handling than the Surly making it more responsive.
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Old 02-06-11, 01:04 AM   #8
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This season Ortlieb offers a Brown Cordura Plus fabric color option,
good bag match with those root beer brown frames.
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Old 02-06-11, 05:44 AM   #9
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Several years ago I was in the same quandary. LHT had recently been introduced and 520's were still made in the USA. Tried both, plus a Cannondale [USA also]. Have an odd body shape & size; short legs and arms, long torso. The LHT specs fit me better than 520. I was fortunate to have bike shops not too far apart stocking both.
I rode the LHT, it was nice - this was the bike I though I should get. Then I rode the 520 - wow it felt nice. Then I rode each on the same afternoon, loaded and unloaded. I went home with the 520, still going well thousands of km later. I did get steerer tube extension for the 520, raised the handlebars about 3 cm to a very comfortable spot for me - it has worked well.
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Old 02-06-11, 10:22 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by martianone View Post
Several years ago I was in the same quandary. LHT had recently been introduced and 520's were still made in the USA. Tried both, plus a Cannondale [USA also]. Have an odd body shape & size; short legs and arms, long torso. The LHT specs fit me better than 520. I was fortunate to have bike shops not too far apart stocking both.
I rode the LHT, it was nice - this was the bike I though I should get. Then I rode the 520 - wow it felt nice. Then I rode each on the same afternoon, loaded and unloaded. I went home with the 520, still going well thousands of km later. I did get steerer tube extension for the 520, raised the handlebars about 3 cm to a very comfortable spot for me - it has worked well.
martianone - This is good to know; especially about the steering tube extension. Does anybody else have an opinion about these extenders? What guidelines need to be followed so I don't destroy the handling? Is everything OK as long as the handlebars stay over the front axle or thereabouts?
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Old 02-06-11, 12:27 PM   #11
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Local TRek dealer says the steel 520 frames are still US made ,

those and the High end CF race frames are It.

.. everything else is a contracted supplier, imported.
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Old 02-07-11, 04:41 PM   #12
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After lots of trying-out of everything from LHT to Co-Motion bikes, I just purchased a rootbeer 520. Best fit for the money, and best value. I think the real difference between it and the LHT may be minor, but how a specific size configuration fits you may make a bigger difference. The 520 fit me better than the corresponding LHT, but I hear tell, there are people who have the opposite experience.

The 520 is much less responsive than my Trek 1.2, but is easier to ride and for the long stretches, just drives itself. I haven't done a loaded tour, but I do my farmers market and grocery shopping using rear "grocery" panniers, and with 20lbs or so, it got steadier on both up and downhills.

Happy Camper
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Old 02-07-11, 06:25 PM   #13
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I like my rootbeer 520. It is the 48 cm frame and as it sits with front and rear rack, three different lights, Planet Bike fenders, generator hub, studded tires, and a few small accessories weight is 42 Lbs. I use it as an every day commuter, club ride, and tourer. It is my first bike that fits and with mid or higher quality build parts. I am enjoying my commutes and rides even more than ever.

Last edited by Blues Frog; 02-10-11 at 06:51 PM.
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Old 02-07-11, 08:05 PM   #14
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I'm jealous. I want one bad, but I can't bring myself to purchase a tourer/all-rounder which is designed to have the handlebars lower than the seat. I'm still waiting to officially hear back from Trek whether or not the 520 can be ordered with an uncut steering tube. I find it hard to believe the LHT can accommodate this but the 520 can't. I'm also holding out for more personal opinions on steering tube extenders.

And regarding the comment about the 520 still being manufactured in the USA I'm sorry to say that it is not. I hope this thread does not get sidetracked on this issue but here it is from the horses mouth:

Q:
I know some of your models are made in Wisconsin and some in Asia. Where is the 520 made? Asked on 2/3/2010 by Anonymous
Know the answer? Answer this question
1 answer
  • CUSTOMER CARE

    A:
    At Trek, we design and develop each and every bike that bears the Trek name at our world headquarters in Waterloo, Wisconsin, and manufacture more bicycles in the U.S. than any other company. While many of our higher-end bicycles and all of our OCLV carbon fiber frames are manufactured in Wisconsin, select Road, Mountain, Hybrid and Kids’ bicycles are assembled by Trek-specific vendors overseas. This bicycle is currently assembled overseas. Bicycles assembled outside the U.S. must meet the same stringent quality standards as our domestically manufactured bikes and carry the same Limited Lifetime Warranty. No matter where your bike is produced, quality comes stock on every Trek.Answered on 2/3/2010 by Chris from Trek HQ in Waterloo, WI
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Old 02-07-11, 08:26 PM   #15
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Kinda of a bummer to see production of the 520 moved overseas, but not surprising. I have an 04 520 that I built up from a frameset. Great bike. Anyone with an opinion on the 520 since they went with a sloping top tube as opposed to the more traditional geometries of older 520s?
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Old 02-07-11, 08:37 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Hangtownmatt View Post

And regarding the comment about the 520 still being manufactured in the USA I'm sorry to say that it is not. I hope this thread does not get sidetracked on this issue but here it is from the horses mouth:
Mine says made in Taiwan
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Old 02-08-11, 07:04 AM   #17
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What is it about the official factory marketing photograph Trek takes every year for those rootbeer brown 520s? You know, the ones that show the seat post pulled waaaaaay up and the bars set down real low?
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Old 02-08-11, 08:48 AM   #18
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Have you tried the next side down in the Surly? If you compare the Effective Top Tubes off their geometry charts, the 54cm LHT is closer to a 57cm Treck than the 56cm Surly is.

I'm a Trek owner, by the way, and I really like mine - but I do prefer the handlebars slightly lower than the saddle.
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Old 02-08-11, 04:37 PM   #19
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So much for what you like...

I have a 1988 C'Dale with Suntour Superbe Pro and it makes me smile everytime I get on it. Have/had another dozen and it eels "right". Had my local LBS fit them all to this spec, close but not ever quite like the older one.

Whatever make you happy! Granted, like most things in life, first impressions can be wrong. And for the record I still have/tour on my 1996 520!

Best, John
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Old 02-08-11, 06:33 PM   #20
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Wonderful weather this weekend, so I took my brand new 520 with Brooks saddle for some break-in in the Santa Cruz Mts. So smooth and steady that the normal road and wind noise was replaced by music ;-)
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Old 02-08-11, 07:12 PM   #21
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^^^ Why did I move to CO from there???????????
Snowing with a high of 14*F here... Sigh.
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Old 02-08-11, 08:32 PM   #22
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Well, I got a response from Trek:

On 02/04/2011 you asked the following question at Trek

"Is it possible to have a Trek Dealer order this bike with the steering tube uncut? If so, how far above the head tube would it extend?"

Will from Trek HQ Waterloo, WI said:

"No, unfortunately the steer tubes come at the maximum recommended lengths for each size."



Valygrl - it's been in the mid-70's in the Sacramento "Valley" lately.
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Old 02-10-11, 01:55 PM   #23
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I've owned 520's for over 22 years. Had three of them. This bike's rep speaks for itself. That said, the LHT also has a solid, no surprizes rep. Both will do the job well. No shaky shimmies here. The 520 might be better as an all around bike. Buy the bike that offers the better fit.

You keep coming back to the uncut steerer tube. I get it, buttttt, most likely once you get the bars set the first time, you are never going to touch them again. Why not go down to the LBS for a serious fitting on the bike and see where you stand? See if the bike can be set up to your liking. Neither of these bikes are custom fit. Both are off the rack-literally! The magic of customized hardware allows thousands of these bikes to be dialed in to perfect fit every year. If you can't get the Trek dialed in, well then, the choice just got a whole lot easier.

Good luck!!!!!!
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Old 02-10-11, 03:52 PM   #24
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keep testing other bikes
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Old 02-10-11, 09:00 PM   #25
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You keep coming back to the uncut steerer tube. snip Why not go down to the LBS for a serious fitting on the bike and see where you stand? See if the bike can be set up to your liking. snip
I did. The LBS swapped out three different stems. I took it on a 15 mile test ride. There really is only so much you can do without destroying the ride characteristics of the bike.
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