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  1. #1
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    Upgrading commuter bike to touring bike...with 300 bucks

    Hi everyone, I have been reading this forum a while and have learned quite a lot. I would now like to request some specific wisdom from you guys

    I have a Kona Dew Delux bike. So far I have put a rear rack on it, and a couple mec 40l panniers (not water proof). I also have a Hennesy hammock to sleep in, I am looking at getting a better sleeping bag (mine is +5c), it gets chilly in the hammock

    I am planning a cross continent bike tour and need some advice on upgrading my bike. I would love to go out and buy a Long Haul Trucker or equivalent but I have only a few hundred bucks to spend. So I am wondering what the most cost effective upgrades might be. I am also ok with ruffing it and going as light weight as possible.

    Some ideas I got from reading was a Brooks Saddle, about $100 bucks. A front waterproof bag for camera and ereader about $150 bucks. Some more ergonomic bar grips with bull horn ends...or possibly a new bar with some variety of places for my hands. I am limited in my choices though because I can't afford to replace the break system (or have convinced myself of that fact). I have disk breaks so if that is a big nono...perhaps I might need to re-budget and have them replaced, I was thinking of getting really long lasting pads or something. The bloody things rub off and on all the time though, this bugs me, but it might not affect performance...I don't know about that one.

    I have a 32mm tire in the back, a conti touring tire, and a 35mm conti country ride in the front...is it worth replacing the front one...or should I just grab a spare. I would like to do mostly roads, but backcountry riding would be nice...and perhaps necessary, dirt roads in mexico etc.

    Also is it worth upgrading the pedals to clips and going that route, or is that more of a luxury...basically should I spend money on it or re-direct funds to other things. I am looking at spending about 300 bucks in total, but will consider more if really necessary.

    What do you guys think?

  2. #2
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    Can you do your own work?

    I would concentrate on making sure what you have is in excellent condition. You don't say how old the bike is, but maybe replace cables, pads, chain, cassette, etc. as needed.

    Fenders seem like a pretty good upgrade as well, especially because your bags aren't waterproof.

    Plenty of people tour with sandals and platform pedals. I like doing that because then I don't need to carry two sets of shoes. If you are happy with the current saddle, then no need to replace.

    Paul

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    Check out trekking bars for more hand position (won't have to change brakes). They are really comfortable for a lot of people and are only $22.99 at Nashbar right now. I have a set on one bike and they are indeed comfortable with several good hand positions. Also, Banjo Brothers makes a very nice waterproof handlebar bag for less than half the amount you mention (see it here). SKS fenders are under $50. Bags that aren't waterproof are fine. Just put what's inside of them in large ziplock bags or other plastic bags. I like using toe clips with regular shoes. I just carry flip flops too. Your $300 should be enough to make sure your bike is in order if it has been cared for.
    Last edited by Ciufalon; 04-28-11 at 10:05 PM.
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    First of all I would like to thank you guys for your comments and advice

    Here is my bike btw...I replaced the rear casset, the chain, the front detrailer, cables, and added some fenders. I can do some of my own work, but a lot of it I need a shop for, I want to fix that of course I need a good pair of long lasting all weather pads to use with the disc breaks, any advice? It is a hydrolic system...so maintaining that, I am not sure, I just hope it keeps working

    http://www.bikepedia.com/quickbike/B...luxe&Type=bike

    I have done a couple 160km days in the saddle using sandles and those things that hold your feet on the upstroke. Unfortunately those broke off...that is why I was thinking of a clip system with some multi purpose shoes...but of course the cost comes into play, so the other idea would be to get another set of toe holders and use locktight maybe?

    I checked into that bar, I really like the idea of that. I have two questions about that one, would my breaks and shifters fit on that bar? Do I need tape to go with it?

    That bag looks neat too, it looks like it doesn't need a frame! and I love the price...thanks on that one!

    http://www.nashbar.com/bikes/Product...1_10000_202348

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    also, what do you guys think of this?

    http://www.nashbar.com/bikes/Product...5_10000_202363

  6. #6
    Canadian Chick Aquakitty's Avatar
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    I've used power grips on and off for years, only downside is if you use different size shoes/boots you have to readjust them (They don't work well with sandals).

    The general consensus with touring is to use mechanical and simple drivetrain/brake systems so you don't have to find weird parts on the road, or are not at risk for catastrophic failures (like ripping a hydraulic hose). However the chances of failure of a maintained system are low. I don't know I would use hydraulic for world tours to exotic locals but for 1st world tours it's no big deal.

    I'd be more concerned about that cheap hub if you are going to go fully loaded, my m525 hub failed under load and that M475 is even crappier.

  7. #7
    "bikes bikes bikes" mbcharbonneau's Avatar
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    Go on some long (50mi+) rides, maybe even a weekend tour! You'll figure out what you need most quick enough. As you're already thinking about, the contact points (saddle, pedals, bars) are a good place to start. Consider clothes and other accessories too, if you don't already have them. I bring a few pairs of good padded shorts, jerseys and base layers, and a good hardshell rain jacket when I go on tour.

    PowerGrips are nice, I recently did an 800 mile tour with them. Keep in mind they work best with a shoe that has a stiff platform. The trekking bars are also good. You can use your existing brakes and shifters, unlike trying to swap in drop bars where you'd pay a fortune swapping out components. You will need bar tape. Search Google Images for some examples. Bar ends are also a good, cheap way to add another hand position.

    I would keep your disc brakes, other than the weight they should be fine. Lots of tourers would love to have them. I know I missed the disc brakes on my old MTB commuter the first time I took my new Long Haul Trucker with the stock brake pads out in the rain! A little rubbing is normal, but you might be able to improve it by making sure the wheel is centered in the dropouts and adjusting them a little bit. I'd also wait to buy new tires, as long as your current ones have life left in them.

    Make sure you have everything you need for camping, buying a stove and all the miscellaneous gear you'll need can get expensive. Even things like sun block, bug spray, and medical supplies can add up quick. I have a Henessey Hammock too, and I know what you mean about it getting cold. Instead of buying a new sleeping bag you can consider a sleeping pad to help keep the heat in, or a sleeping bag liner. Wool undergarmets will help a lot too.
    ThatBlueBike.com - On bike commuting and touring.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aquakitty View Post
    I'd be more concerned about that cheap hub if you are going to go fully loaded, my m525 hub failed under load and that M475 is even crappier.
    Thanks What hub do you recommend? I was thinking of buying a few things from this nashbar site (thanks ciufalon) to save shipping, good prices here! I hope they stock your recommendation!

    Also in regards to the power bar foot thing, I was wondering if there is a good set of cheap...stiff, sneakers that would work with it. I am thinking lightweight, can be used off the bike (hiking even), and good in a wide range of temperatures. For cold weather...-5C with wind chill etc, perhaps some kind of overboot that would fit over the system...

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    First, I would definitely use LocTite when installing toe clips. I have them on all my bikes and use it. None have fallen off.

    With the trekking bars, you will need to use either tape, foam, ergo grips, or some combination of them. I would suggest the ergo grips (where the short foam grips are on mine) with tape on the sides and front of the bars (where the longer foam tubes are on mine). If you do search for trekking bars in this forum you will see many examples. Most people hate foam, but that is what I have on my commuter/townie bike. Here are a couple of pictures that I think will show that your shifters and brake levers will work with the bars.

    Also, inquire with Banjo Brothers and make sure that handlebar bag will work with the trekking bars. It will be close, based on how far our the bag is from the bars. It definitely has a quick release mounting system.
    Trekking bars (2).jpgTrekking bars (1).jpg
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    Canadian Chick Aquakitty's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Abdar View Post
    Thanks What hub do you recommend? I was thinking of buying a few things from this nashbar site (thanks ciufalon) to save shipping, good prices here! I hope they stock your recommendation!

    Also in regards to the power bar foot thing, I was wondering if there is a good set of cheap...stiff, sneakers that would work with it. I am thinking lightweight, can be used off the bike (hiking even), and good in a wide range of temperatures. For cold weather...-5C with wind chill etc, perhaps some kind of overboot that would fit over the system...

    XT level is sufficient for hubs.

    Sneakers are fine with power grips you just don't want anything with splayed soles (like some running shoes or sandals) cuz it may not grip your foot properly.

  11. #11
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    I agree that XT hubs would be great, but Deore LX and even DX are also good and dependable. Generally, the Shimano Deore mtn. bike hubs are reliable good for touring.
    Be the person your dog thinks you are.
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  12. #12
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    Sneakers are fine with power grips you just don't want anything with splayed soles (like some running shoes or sandals) cuz it may not grip your foot properly.
    I have a pair of keds but they dont seem stiff enough, or perhaps breathable enough for a longer trip. I was thinking of some stiff soled trail runners (light and breathable)...for hiking and biking in. Do these typically make good multi purpose shoes?

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    I wear trail runners around a lot and bike in them on any given day I am wearing them and I see no problem with them. I say don't get too caught up in trying to do everything "right" and just do what works best for you. I remember Russ had an article on pathlesspedaled.com some time ago about a guy he and Laura met along the way on their tour. The guy was young, riding a very heavy, non-touring bike, wearing the wrong shoes, clothes, etc., etc. and he was having a great time and an adventure to remember. Don't get caught up in having to have or do the right things. Get it together so it works for you and have fun. If I find that article I will edit this post and add the link.

    Here's the link to the article.
    Last edited by Ciufalon; 04-30-11 at 10:06 PM.
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  14. #14
    Canadian Chick Aquakitty's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ciufalon View Post
    I agree that XT hubs would be great, but Deore LX and even DX are also good and dependable. Generally, the Shimano Deore mtn. bike hubs are reliable good for touring.

    I used to say that too until my Deore failed catastrophically! Of course no way to know why this happened or if it was a one off, but better safe than sorry, don't think I would feel good anymore loading a bike with hubs even lower end than Deore, at least on the back where most of the weight is.

    My early '90's LX though are awesome.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aquakitty View Post
    My early '90's LX though are awesome.
    my touring bike from early 90s has these hubs and over the years with maintenance, they have lasted quite well, well worth the price bracket of hubs.

  16. #16
    Senior Member garethzbarker's Avatar
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    I can honestly say that the most improvement I've felt on my bikes has been from putting Brooks saddles on them. I can ride all day on my b17 and I can ride without padding all day on my flyer. So I'd say look into a the saddle upgrade if you think the mechanical end of things are all set.

  17. #17
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    Thanks Ciufalon, I read that article and it is really good advice, it put my mind at ease

    I am considering getting a new rear hub, as well as the b17 saddle. I have heard all kinds of good things about it. Since I am planning on riding 3 days in the saddle for every day off, that is probably a good investment. I have the default saddle the bike came with, I find after a solid 10 hour 150km day my ass is rather stiff and soar, the next morning it is tricky to get back on the bike, once riding though it feels alright.

    I was reading that to install the Trecking bars (which I am completely sold on now thanks!) one might need a different sized stem. I was looking at this one.

    http://www.nashbar.com/bikes/Product...1_10000_202347

    Is that overkill? Or should I just stick with the stem I have...and hope for the best?

  18. #18
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    this looks like a decent enough bike to me
    my advice would be, if you have a tight budget don't go spending money on stuff that still works! just go with the flow and upgrade parts as they break (if they will ever even break at all!)
    unless you're driving in some REALLY remote places.. but even then, there's always a way

    so i wouldn't bother upgrading much, a good saddle is still important (not necessarily 'brooks', a big 20eur womans saddle with springs does fine), good handlebars that don't make your hands fall asleep on rough terrain (i just put soft covers around mine for 2 euro's), some spare inner tubes, a spare chain (if you can still exchange it with the current one, you can do 2x as much distance with the same gears), and maybe some good exterior tubes that don't go flat so easily

    this way you will keep about 200$ of your initial budget that you may or may not spend on the road
    ..and maybe for the trip after this one, you have a bigger budget and some experience to build your dream bike, with every component hand picked!
    Last edited by wiiiim; 05-03-11 at 03:02 AM.

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    That stem looks fine. The stem on mine is something like a dirt drop. Allows for putting the bars higher. But I am not sure you need a new stem. If you have mountain bike bars and stem, I think the one you have will work. Maybe the one you have is already the right length and fit for you and will fit the bars. Just check out the size of your current bars and stem and be sure before going for a new stem too. I will say that the forward position on the trekking bars, with the hands flat or sort or in the corners of the trekking bars is really comfortable.

    I also think what wiiiim says has merit. No reason to go for more things than just a couple things that get you comfortable and insure your bike is sound for the road. Then, like wiiiim says, you can change things as you decide you want to or need to.
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  20. #20
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    With all due respect, if you are planning a cross continent ride, you are going to need about 35 to 40 dollars a day to tour with. If your finances are so tight that you can only afford 300 in improvements, how are you going to deal with the inevitable glitches and break downs on the road? A single spill can yield hundreds in a repair bill. Not to discourage you, since adventure is the spice of life, but you ought to rethink your margin for mishaps.

    It may be wise to work backwards from your goal, see what you can afford, and if indeed you can only afford a few hundred, scale back your goal until you have more funds. Just my 2 cents. Vaya con Dios amigo.

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    Now that you say that...I realize my margin for mishap is even worse than that I am planning on touring on $15/day using a combination of stealth camping and self cooked meals...breakfast oats

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    15$ a day is perfectly doable, even without living like a bum
    some stuff i learned:
    - always freecamp, avoid getting stuck in cities (either stop 30km before or 30km after)
    - stick to basic food, i can recommend:
    *big bowl of spaghetti with a few drops of spicy sauce for flavor (from a ketchup bottle thingy, lasts a long time), sometimes with some rasped cheese, not bad
    *bread, lots of it
    *never buy water
    *onions are one of the cheapest vegetables, and absolutely great when cooked in some olive oil, then add to spaghetti
    *oatmeal is the best! don't buy the instant kind, its more expensive and it doesn't seem to get swollen as much as 'normal' oatmeal
    *eggs.. eggs are a fantastic luxury, a nice omelet with some veggies, wow.
    - get a 'universal' stove kind of thing, one that burns petrol etc, gas bottles are much more expensive ..or you could just cook on woodfires
    - alternate between 2 chains every 2000km, this way the gears (or whatever they are called in English :-)) last twice as long (they wear out as your chain gets longer)

    either way you do need some 'backup' funds no? just in case :-)

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    Thanks for the advice on touring cheaply! I agree with you and Safari on funds in case stuff happens, I will try to get as much as possible for that before my deadline to go.

    For bike stuff this is kind of a summary that I gathered from everything you guys have said.

    - I want to get power bars for my feet so I can use any old shoe (hoping to find a cheap trail runner with a stiff sole...failing that, my keds

    - I want to go with the Brooks Saddle...but am still balking at the $90 bucks, so I am really leaning to the 'womens saddle with springs' for $20 right now

    - The trecking butterfly bars, taped with some kind of 'ergo' piece of metal taped in there. My own weekend warrior experience showed my standard MTB bars are just plain uncomfortable over any length of time > 4 hours. I will follow your advice Ciufalon and just forgot the adj. fork...save more there!

    - Mechanically everything feels pretty sound, in regards to the chain idea...do you mean swapping between 2 chains every 2000k between each other or getting a new chain every 2000k? If new chain is the case is there a cheap place to re-supply chains? For the rest I am going for the praying approach...and keeping my gear as light as possible to not stress the bike...aiming for < 50 pounds total weight with food and water and bags...no more than 40 in the back

    - For stoves I was thinking of cheap version of the bush buddy...it can put out a lot of heat with just kindling...so less harm to the evenronment and an alcohol pop can for when there is no kindling...or wet times...and I have a hammock to make stealth camping realistic though my bike is bright bronze!

    - Are cycle shorts really necessary? I could save a lot of money just getting padded underwear and using some normal shorts and / or pant, long underwear, depending...

  24. #24
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    regarding the chain thing, no, you basically travel with just 1 extra chain and alternate between the 2 chains
    the idea is like this: as you bike for miles and miles the chain gets longer because of the tension, therefore your 'casette' (not sure if thats English) gets worn out (the distance between the teeth of the casette get bigger because they need to match the chain), so the idea is to replace the chain on the bike with a spare every 2000k so ultimately the chain length deteriorates only half as fast
    the catch is that you can't just swap between any two chains, they have to be around the same length, so you need to alternate between two chains that end up getting worn out about the same

    in other words, if your chain and casette are already too old and worn out (and you don't have a matching chain), this trick won't work, you need to buy both the chains and the casette at the same time

    the 2000k thing is just a guideline that worked for me, you can swap sooner (but you should be in a city if you do so, you never know something could break), but i wouldn't swap much later than that or the difference between the two chains becomes too large
    ..and then your gears start skipping

    as for bike shorts, personally i never got into that, besides who needs pants with cushions when you have a womans saddle with springs
    i did 8000 km with my 20eur saddle, no butt pains, still using it every day for work, and i'll use it again for my next tour

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    also, good list!

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