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  1. #1
    Fat Bottomed Fredwina Heifzilla's Avatar
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    Please help me figure out what I am looking for :)

    I am looking for a new bike at some point. My goal is to do some touring. I want to ride some distance, not just overnight tours, but I need to work up to that.

    I am looking at touring bikes, however, I am also wanting a bike that is just for using around town, too, and possibly do some commuting on it. I currently have a 1998 Raleigh SC200, which is my do everything, go everywhere bike. The problem is that she's a tank and handles like a tank, and when I load her up she's not the best ride. I want just one bike. It would be great to be able to afford bikes for each thing I want to do, but that isn't feasible.

    Now, in doing research, I have read that touring-specific bikes, while wonderful under load, are not great when not under load. I do not plan to keep a new bike in constant full gear, so I want something that handles nicely when not loaded. I also want a little more nimble than my SC200, and I want to remain fairly upright, none of this bent in half, staring at the road 5 feet in front of me stuff.

    Would a cyclocross bike work for me? I do need something more hefty than a road bike, since I am not the lightest girl. Also, while I know some people feel cyclocross doesn't make a good touring bike, I am planning on probably touring with a trailer and small panniers, if I use them, so I'm not worried about heel strike.

    I guess I want something like a heavier-duty road bike, and isn't that what a cyclocross bike essentially is?

    Any other suggestions are appreciated.

    Help? I'm really starting to get confused by all this.

    "A bicycle does get you there and more. And there is always the thin edge of danger to keep you alert and comfortably apprehensive. Dogs become dogs again and snap at your raincoat; potholes become personal. And getting there is all the fun."

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    test rides reduce confusion but maybe you only need to distribute the weight on your bike better for touring? In other words how do you "load her up"?

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    Touring bikes come in light, medium and expedition grades.
    A light-touring bike (called variously:sport/rondanneur/audax/clubman/winter training) has a frame about as heavy as midrange road bike but more tyre clearance through the use of long-drop caliper brakes and full set of threaded eyelets.
    Soma ES is a typical example.

    I have used long drop calipers and cantilevers and they both stop with similar power. Calipers have better control, and easier to setup and better matched to modern brake levers. If you want tyres up to 28mm then I recommend them. My own sport bike can take 32mm + fenders.

    The classic US touring bike, Surly LHT is toward the heavier end of medium.
    CX bikes make good all-rounders and are fine for touring.
    Getting an upright position is a matter of selecting a short enough top tube and stem with enough rise.
    Some riders do away with drop bars entirely and use trekking style butterfly bars. This allows the use of flat bar controls which are better matched to touring brakes and derailleurs.

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    If you do club rides, you can always blame your bike if/when you get dropped. If you ride alone or with someone on a road bike in worse shape than you a light touring bike would be fine. If you don't mind dropping the coin, the Norwester Tour would be the way to go if you plan to do "fully loaded" touring on asphalt. The regular Norwester with a compact crank and a wide cassette would be better if you plan to travel lighter.

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    Heifzilla, While the weight difference between a road (racing framed) bike and a touring bike is noticable when simply lifting, it isn't so noticeable when riding. Because of it's longer wheelbase, in particular chainstay length and slacker rake/increased trail, a touring bike just doesn't corner as well as a road frame. This is easy enough to become accustomed to, and I really like bending a bike into a turn.

    A CX bike is a jack-of-all-trades bike when used outside of it's intended role and surely would serve you well, but so will the tourer.

    Brad

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    Quote Originally Posted by Heifzilla View Post
    I currently have a 1998 Raleigh SC200

    I have read that touring-specific bikes, while wonderful under load, are not great when not under load.
    I want to remain fairly upright, none of this bent in half, staring at the road 5 feet in front of me stuff.

    Would a cyclocross bike work for me?
    I guess I want something like a heavier-duty road bike, and isn't that what a cyclocross bike essentially is?

    Any other suggestions are appreciated.

    :
    If you ride with your bars a few inches above your seat and like the riding position of your Raleigh then a cyclocross bike is probably not a good choice. A CX bike is still a racing bike where ones position has some weight on the front wheel and ones posture is optimized for power output. That some folks adapt CX bikes to upright riding doesn't mean they're optimum.

    If you're riding fairly upright with a majority of your weight on the rear wheel and the CX bike has shorter wheelbase/chanistays than your Raleigh I don't see an improvement except for unloaded weight. That's why I asked how you "load up" your Raleigh.

    Consider a Globe Haul 1.

    http://www.globebikes.com/us/en/glob...?pid=11HaulUS1

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    LeeG, There's actually a lot to like about the Globe, I've just learned. Looks to be aligned with Specialized following a dealer location check.

    Brad

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    Quote Originally Posted by Heifzilla View Post
    Now, in doing research, I have read that touring-specific bikes, while wonderful under load, are not great when not under load.
    I don't think this is necessarily so. I use my Rocky Mountain Sherpa for day rides and it's quite fine for that. The Salsa Vaya has a very similar geometry to the Sherpa but uses different tubing (the Vaya also uses disk brakes, which might be an advantage).

    Quote Originally Posted by Heifzilla View Post
    I do not plan to keep a new bike in constant full gear, so I want something that handles nicely when not loaded. I also want a little more nimble than my SC200,
    You might need to clarify what you mean by "nimble". You could be referring to one or a mixture of three things.

    1) Steering/tracking.
    2) Frame stiffness/comfort.
    3) Weight.

    Since you can use nearly any bike with a trailer, you can look at bikes other than "true" tourers (a cyclocross bike might be a good choice.

    1) Racing bikes have responsive steering; touring bikes have more tracking. Many people like the steering of racing bicycles and associate that feeling with being "fast" (but it has nothing to do with the bike speed). Most people don't really need this sensitive steering. Since adding a load often increases steering sensitivity, touring bikes are typically designed with less sensitive steering (that is, they track better). I believe it would be difficult to find a touring bike that has too much unloaded tracking.

    2) Some touring bike frames are designed to be very stiff (to be stable when carrying a load). These might be more stiff than one would like for day riding. Some of that stiffness can be offset by using wider/lower-pressure tires).

    3) Touring bikes are heavier than a road/racing bicycle. You can still find ones with reasonable weights. While riding a heavy bicycle is not exactly pleasant, for bicycles of reasonable weight, the small differences in weight don't effect performance very much.

    Quote Originally Posted by Heifzilla View Post
    I want just one bike. It would be great to be able to afford bikes for each thing I want to do, but that isn't feasible.
    There is no reason that one bike wouldn't work very well for everything you describe. You don't need multiple bikes. Yes, there will be some compromises but they will be relatively small ones.

    I would suggest demoing some sort of touring bike so you have some idea how it would perform for you.
    Last edited by njkayaker; 06-03-11 at 10:39 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LeeG View Post
    Not "nimble".

    It actually looks decent but I don't think it's very suitable for "riding some distance". (I wouldn't want to ride it on a double century.)

    As long as dropped bars are acceptable (and they don't require being "bent in half, staring at the road 5 feet in front of me stuff"), a touring bike would be a very good compromise for all the things she wants to be able to do.
    Last edited by njkayaker; 06-03-11 at 10:37 AM.

  10. #10
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    I sort of miss my Specialized Expedition, a decent Japan factory frameset.

    In the middle of a UK part of my tour I upon invite, joined a local club ride ,
    minus panniers.

    the club culture was to keep the hind most rider in mind, so It all went well.

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    Quote Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
    I sort of miss my Specialized Expedition, a decent Japan factory frameset.

    .
    yep, for a medium weight person the Expedition was very nice.

  12. #12
    Fat Bottomed Fredwina Heifzilla's Avatar
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    Hey, thanks for the replies

    When I said more "nimble" I mean just less like riding a tank My SC200 is a good all around for riding groomed trails, or having to ride through a field (which I have done on my old commute), but it's just kind of a dog on the pavement.

    I haven't ever really totally loaded my bike up except for some very small rear panniers and a large handlebar bag. The bag just adds to the tank-like feel of the bike and makes the steering kind of skittish. And not in a responsive way. I'm used to it, but...eh. Also, the bike rides hard. It's a very stiff, unforgiving ride, and after awhile it gets really uncomfortable to feel every single jarring impact of the road surface. I have 26 x 1.95 tires on it, and still it's jarring. The good part is that the rims and spokes seem to be bullet proof, and I swear I could ride the bike through just about any terrain and it would be fine.

    I have recently ridden a Kona Sutra, and it was ok. I don't care for being in the drops much, I really preferred being on the hoods, but the way this particular bike was spec'd in the shifters and brakes was not something I liked. I have smallish hands, and the Sutra's brakes and bar end shifters were impossible for me (I know this is fixable, but I don't want to drop $1200 on a bike and have to change out expensive components immediately), and I don't know. It's hard for me to try out a lot of bikes, too, because bike shops in general don't usually have smaller bikes in stock, on display (that's been my experience, anyway). I wanted to try a Salsa, but nothing was in my size. Same for a LHT. I wanted to try a Jamis Aurora, but again, nothing in a size I could ride. My husband, however, was able to try out all the bikes I wanted to try out, since they had them all in his size. Very frustrating.

    Anyhow, as for a bike, I don't want a Thoroughbred. But I don't want a pack mule, either, if that makes sense. Maybe a slightly high-strung Quarterhorse?
    "A bicycle does get you there and more. And there is always the thin edge of danger to keep you alert and comfortably apprehensive. Dogs become dogs again and snap at your raincoat; potholes become personal. And getting there is all the fun."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Heifzilla View Post
    My SC200 is a good all around for riding groomed trails, or having to ride through a field (which I have done on my old commute), but it's just kind of a dog on the pavement.
    This?

    http://www.bikepedia.com/QUICKBIKE/B...C200&Type=bike

    Quote Originally Posted by Heifzilla View Post
    I haven't ever really totally loaded my bike up except for some very small rear panniers and a large handlebar bag. The bag just adds to the tank-like feel of the bike and makes the steering kind of skittish. And not in a responsive way.
    Lots of weight on the handle bar tends to increase steering sensitivity. There are some kinds of bikes that are designed for this but they aren't common. Weight on panniers on a front "low rider" rack decreases steering sensitivity.

    Quote Originally Posted by Heifzilla View Post
    I'm used to it, but...eh. Also, the bike rides hard. It's a very stiff, unforgiving ride, and after awhile it gets really uncomfortable to feel every single jarring impact of the road surface. I have 26 x 1.95 tires on it, and still it's jarring. The good part is that the rims and spokes seem to be bullet proof, and I swear I could ride the bike through just about any terrain and it would be fine.
    It's hard to imagine what you are expecting regarding comfort from a road bike. What pressure are you running the tires at?

    Wider tires run at lower pressures is going to make the ride less jarring. Road bikes (with narrower/higher-pressure tires) require riders to be more active in dealing with bumps/etc.

    One difference is that, on a road bike, you are sitting lighter on the seat (and can use your arms to absorb shocks more easily).

    Quote Originally Posted by Heifzilla View Post
    I have recently ridden a Kona Sutra, and it was ok. I don't care for being in the drops much, I really preferred being on the hoods,
    Most people ride dropped bar bikes on the hoods. Otherwise, how comfortable was the Sutra?

    In my opinion, people don't work enough to get used to riding in the drops. For a racing bike setup (better aerodynamics than a typical touring bike), you'd go 16 mph riding on the hoods compared to 18 mph riding in the drops for the same effort.

    Quote Originally Posted by Heifzilla View Post
    but the way this particular bike was spec'd in the shifters and brakes was not something I liked. I have smallish hands, and the Sutra's brakes and bar end shifters were impossible for me (I know this is fixable, but I don't want to drop $1200 on a bike and have to change out expensive components immediately), and I don't know.
    The small-hand thing is going to make things harder. That makes you on the fringes of things "out of the box" working for you. That is, it might be reasonable to change things out in your situation.

    I can see a small hand size being a problem with the brakes but I don't quite get how that would be an issue with the bar end shifters. Some brakes have shims that make them work better for people with smaller hands.

    Quote Originally Posted by Heifzilla View Post
    It's hard for me to try out a lot of bikes, too, because bike shops in general don't usually have smaller bikes in stock, on display (that's been my experience, anyway). I wanted to try a Salsa, but nothing was in my size. Same for a LHT. I wanted to try a Jamis Aurora, but again, nothing in a size I could ride. My husband, however, was able to try out all the bikes I wanted to try out, since they had them all in his size. Very frustrating.
    Growth hormone!! It's understandable that it's frustrating. You are stuck having to be more patient. Touring bikes are hard enough to find in a normal size. (I bought my Sherpa without trying one.)

    Quote Originally Posted by Heifzilla View Post
    Anyhow, as for a bike, I don't want a Thoroughbred. But I don't want a pack mule, either, if that makes sense. Maybe a slightly high-strung Quarterhorse?
    The horsey references are a bit obscure to me but I think what you are saying makes sense. I ride a touring bike for everything (outside of rough trail riding) and I think it works quite well.

    You should try a cross bike.
    Last edited by njkayaker; 06-03-11 at 09:56 PM.

  14. #14
    Fat Bottomed Fredwina Heifzilla's Avatar
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    My hand size wasn't an issue with the bar-end shifters, I just didn't care for them. I could shift just fine. It may be just something I would need to get used to, but I am leaning more towards STIs.

    The Sutra was ok, but I think I need a size smaller than what they had for me to ride. I was on a 52cm and the top tube was just a bit too long for me, and the standover was a smidge too high as well. Otherwise it felt pretty good and responsive.

    I don't know what I am expecting comfort-wise. I have heard steel is a nicer ride, but I can't remember the last time I rode a steel bike (maybe when I was 14?). I just don't recall my 12-speed from back in the day being so rough to ride. However, I am a bit older these days
    "A bicycle does get you there and more. And there is always the thin edge of danger to keep you alert and comfortably apprehensive. Dogs become dogs again and snap at your raincoat; potholes become personal. And getting there is all the fun."

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    Heifzilla, what height are your bars relative to your seat? ie. measure from floor to top of your seat then measure from floor to the top of your grips. The rough riding part is curious given the large tires and front shock. I recommended the Haul because it's long chainstays will provide some riding comfort and the step through design might be to your taste. Also the Specialized bikes seem to be on the light side, even the Globe bikes. Do you know what psi your tires are at?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Heifzilla View Post
    I have heard steel is a nicer ride. I just don't recall my 12-speed from back in the day being so rough to ride. However, I am a bit older these days
    ride quality is more a function of geometry and tires. 38lb Schwinn Varsity doesn't have a nice ride and it's steel. "being so rough to ride" makes me wonder about your ability to relax and absorb shock through your arms. be patient, you'll dial it in.

  17. #17
    z90
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    Quote Originally Posted by Heifzilla View Post
    Hey, thanks for the replies
    I have 26 x 1.95 tires on it, and still it's jarring. The good part is that the rims and spokes seem to be bullet proof, and I swear I could ride the bike through just about any terrain and it would be fine.
    Have you tried lowering your tire pressure? Look for the bicycle quarterly article on tire pressure. You can find it online.
    Edit:http://www.bikequarterly.com/images/TireDrop.pdf

    I have recently ridden a Kona Sutra, and it was ok. I don't care for being in the drops much, I really preferred being on the hoods, but the way this particular bike was spec'd in the shifters and brakes was not something I liked. I have smallish hands, and the Sutra's brakes and bar end shifters were impossible for me (I know this is fixable, but I don't want to drop $1200 on a bike and have to change out expensive components immediately), and I don't know.
    The brakes are an easy, cheap fix. I actually did this on my LHT. Even though I have large hands, I like smaller brakes. The bar-end shifters were new to me, too, but I got used to them very quickly, and now I love them. When you say they were impossible, what do you mean?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Heifzilla View Post
    My hand size wasn't an issue with the bar-end shifters, I just didn't care for them. I could shift just fine. It may be just something I would need to get used to, but I am leaning more towards STIs.
    That is easier to understand.

    Quote Originally Posted by Heifzilla View Post
    The Sutra was ok, but I think I need a size smaller than what they had for me to ride. I was on a 52cm and the top tube was just a bit too long for me, and the standover was a smidge too high as well. Otherwise it felt pretty good and responsive.
    That's useful information from the demo.

    Quote Originally Posted by Heifzilla View Post
    I don't know what I am expecting comfort-wise. I have heard steel is a nicer ride, but I can't remember the last time I rode a steel bike (maybe when I was 14?). I just don't recall my 12-speed from back in the day being so rough to ride. However, I am a bit older these days
    Most of increased comfort is going to be from using wider/lower-pressure tires. Any frame material can be made to be comfortable. If steel is more comfortable, it won't be by a large amount. (Carbon might be a bit better at absorbing higher frequency vibration, ie, "road buzz").

  19. #19
    Fat Bottomed Fredwina Heifzilla's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LeeG View Post
    ride quality is more a function of geometry and tires. 38lb Schwinn Varsity doesn't have a nice ride and it's steel. "being so rough to ride" makes me wonder about your ability to relax and absorb shock through your arms. be patient, you'll dial it in.
    I think I'm just old and intolerant
    "A bicycle does get you there and more. And there is always the thin edge of danger to keep you alert and comfortably apprehensive. Dogs become dogs again and snap at your raincoat; potholes become personal. And getting there is all the fun."

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    "Most of increased comfort is going to be from using wider/lower-pressure tires."

    ^ ^ ^ ^
    [SIZE=1][B]What I like about Texas[/B]
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGukLuXzH1E

    Set F1re To The Ra1n ( NY Night Rain Ride)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7jfcWEkSrI

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    Heifzilla, This would be a lot funnier if we were all sitting at the same table... In your inaugural post you wrote "My goal is to do some touring. I want to ride some distance, not just overnight tours, but I need to work up to that.". Any bike worthy of any type of touring is going to be stiff in order to handle the weight of gear expected to be loaded upon it without becoming 'hinged' in the middle. Whether steel or aluminum when riding unladen run 80% of max tire pressure or if a range is given, the lowest pressure in that range. All done, have fun.

    Brad

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    Fat Bottomed Fredwina Heifzilla's Avatar
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    I know the best thing for me to do is just go out and ride the bikes I like but since I need to ride a smaller size, this isn't looking feasible unless I want to spend the next month driving all over Illinois and Wisconsin to (hopefully) find some LBS that carry the models in my size I am wanting to test ride. Right now I am 0 for 3 on that account.

    Of course the other thing is I am blinded by the gorgeous lines of the road bikes. I keep gravitating towards them even though I know they aren't really what I need for touring. But they are oh so pretty.
    "A bicycle does get you there and more. And there is always the thin edge of danger to keep you alert and comfortably apprehensive. Dogs become dogs again and snap at your raincoat; potholes become personal. And getting there is all the fun."

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    Quote Originally Posted by bradtx View Post
    Any bike worthy of any type of touring is going to be stiff in order to handle the weight of gear expected to be loaded upon it without becoming 'hinged' in the middle.
    Many people have no problems riding touring bikes unloaded. It just doesn't seem like the "stiffness" is generally a issue.

    Quote Originally Posted by bradtx View Post
    Whether steel or aluminum when riding unladen run 80% of max tire pressure or if a range is given, the lowest pressure in that range.
    Yes, using tire pressure is a simple way of changing the comfort.

  24. #24
    z90
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    Quote Originally Posted by Heifzilla View Post
    Of course the other thing is I am blinded by the gorgeous lines of the road bikes. I keep gravitating towards them even though I know they aren't really what I need for touring. But they are oh so pretty.
    Have you tried supported touring? It's great fun, and you can bring a fast light bike.
    Last edited by z90; 06-05-11 at 01:15 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Heifzilla View Post
    I know the best thing for me to do is just go out and ride the bikes I like but since I need to ride a smaller size, this isn't looking feasible unless I want to spend the next month driving all over Illinois and Wisconsin to (hopefully) find some LBS that carry the models in my size I am wanting to test ride. Right now I am 0 for 3 on that account.
    You shouldn't be driving "all over". You should call first. It's possible that it would make more sense to locate one/two touring specialty shops (in a big city) and go to them. Touring bikes are a very small market. Very few shops carry them and many of the few shops that do have one to look at and try.

    ================

    Basically, every touring bike has the same basic features and capabilities.

    The big problem is figuring out the size of the bike that would work for you. Once you figure out the basic size, it would not be completely unreasonable to order a particular model without trying it. Now, it clearly would be better to be able to try it, it just might not be possible in your case.

    Finding the basic size that you need is harder in your case because (it seems) you might be on the short side.

    In terms of frame geometry, the most important number is the effective horizontal top tube length. Once you figure out what that number should be for you, you can use that to compare different frames. You can compensate a little for different top-tube lengths by changing the handle bar stem.

    The particular stand-over height isn't too important as long as you have some space between you and the top tube. (In my opinion, the more angled the top tube is, the smaller the stand-over height should be. The reason is that this number is measured in the middle of the top tube and people tend to stand over the bike forward of that where the standover is higher.)

    ================

    Keep in mind that people tour on bikes that are not strictly touring bikes. If you can avoid heel strike issues and you try to carry less crap than you could, then other kinds of bikes might work for you too.

    As an illustration, while you might be able to get away with just "large" rear panniers on a "true" touring bike but you might be able to use front and smaller rear panniers on another kind of bike.

    ================

    What you are trying to do is find the "perfect" bike, which makes your task pretty much impossible. You seem to want to avoid things like swapping out brake handles when, instead, being able to do that actually makes finding a bike easier.

    The dirty secret is that basically "all" bicycles are very similar. For example, the major important difference between a road bike and a touring bike is that the road bike is a bit lighter!
    Last edited by njkayaker; 06-05-11 at 11:57 AM.

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