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Touring Have a dream to ride a bike across your state, across the country, or around the world? Self-contained or fully supported? Trade ideas, adventures, and more in our bicycle touring forum.

View Poll Results: Would you Recommend the Trek 520 for heavy touring?
Yes without reservation! 7 38.89%
Yes with reservations... see comments 9 50.00%
No - See comments 2 11.11%
Voters: 18. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 12-12-04, 11:11 PM   #1
coldcanuck
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Current and Former Trek 520 Owners - Opinions?

Hi,

My wife and I are looking into buying new touring bikes for some loaded, unsupported touring.

I weigh about 230, and my wife weighs 100 lb soaking wet. One of the bikes we're considering is the good 'ol Trek 520. I'm looking for all current and former 520 owners/friends of owners to share their opinions of the bike (whether or not you'd recommend buying this bike), and what changes, if any, they recommend to get it right for loaded touring.

Also, any other suggestions for other bikes are also welcome... However, at this point I'm limiting my options to bikes available from an LBS in canada or frames made in Canada... I don't want to have to deal with shipping frames through customs (any other canucks have experience with this?).

thanks again.
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Old 12-13-04, 12:05 AM   #2
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I bought a 2005 Trek 520 late last fall and I weigh 235 lbs. The bike came with 700X32 Bontrager Race Lite Hardcase tires and generic spokes which were fine for ripping around the bike paths but for loaded touring I found 300 lbs to be too much for the wheel sets and I broke spokes 2 times and had to have the wheels trued twice in a month.

I had a set of wheels with LX hubs, DT double butted spokes, Mavic T520 rims and Schwalbe 700X35 marathon plus tires on them on my Fisher and I mounted them on the Trek. Made a big difference to me.

The ride of the 520 frame is great when loaded.
Jim
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Old 12-13-04, 08:21 AM   #3
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I wanted a touring bike, didn't want to spend thousands, and wanted to get it from a local bike shop.

That meant a Trek 520.

The modifications began at time of purchase. I wanted an MTB crank instead of the road triple. I didn't like the saddle (common problem). The supplied rack was too flimsy. After 300 miles I dumped the Bontrager tires because they were too easily punctured. Then I wanted straight bars instead of drop.

Then the headset failed (within one year). Then the rear rim developed cracks and had to be replaced.

Since I didn't know exactly what I wanted, I think the 520 was a good starting point.

If I were to get a touring bike now, I'd probably start with a Surly LHT with 26" wheels and have it built up with MTB parts. Or possibly get a Soma steel MTB frame built up and use it to haul a trailer instead of using panniers.

So I say Yes, with reservations.
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Old 12-13-04, 09:33 AM   #4
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Hi.

I own a 2002 Trek 520. I've used it for a number of shorter tours as well as for two longers tours around Lakes Erie and Huron.

Here's a page that discusses what I've changed on the bike since I purchased it:

http://www.bicycletouring101.com/Tou...keUpgrades.htm

If I could only change one thing on the stock bike to make it ready for fully loaded/self-contained touring it would be to reduce the gearing. I've never heard anyone complain about the gearing being too low on a hill but I have seen people have to push their bikes! With lower gearing the problem goes away (at least for me anyway).

I purchased mine from ToWheels in London (http://www.towheels.com)

~Jamie N
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Old 12-13-04, 09:58 AM   #5
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Is your wife short as well as light? How do 520s work in the smaller sizes. Typically, 700c touring frames in small sizes are very long and your wife would be better off with a more proportional frame using 26" mtb wheels. The Surley uses mtb wheels is small sizes.
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Old 12-13-04, 11:18 AM   #6
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She's actually fairly tall... about 5' 8"
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Old 12-13-04, 01:42 PM   #7
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It's a great touring bike, but not a perfect one. Actually, the bike as is is more suited for commutes or day rides, but the frame is perfect for loaded touring. How suitable it is depends on what the bike shop is ready to swap for free or for a nominal cost.

- Gearing. See many other threads and other forums. Either go with LX or XT crankset with 44-34-22 chainrings, or swap the rings for 48-38-24. Then if you want, customize the cassette to your liking.

- Headset and handlebar level. My bike came with a threaded headset, but current 520s come with a threadless one. Make sure the fork hasn't been cut and make sure you can install the handlebars at saddle level.

- Clearance for wide tires. Plenty around the rear wheel (up to 700x42 with fenders), but the fork is too tight for most 700x37 with fenders. Not a problem for summer tours, but finding offroad or snow tires that fit is a problem. BTW, I have Continental SuperTwister (700x32 and 700x37) that are great for winter, but a Nokian won't fit in front.
Interestingly, the Cannondale has less clearance in rear, but more in front.

- Rack. For serious touring, dismiss current rack and buy two new ones.

BTW, I have a 25" frame. Geometry is fairly good from 21" upwards, but I would double-check the 19" and be wary of the 17" frame.

Strong points of the Trek 520: bar-end shifters, road bars (I like), rigid frame.


***********

Other good choices for fully loaded touring: Cannondale T-series, Urbanite Tourer (has a high bottom bracket, but sold in Toronto at http://www.ucycle.com) and DeVinci. All have similar gearing concerns, plus STI shifters which I don't like and could be more problematic on the road.
I'm not sure whether current DeVinci touring bikes use STI with v-brakes and Travel Agents (not a durable combo), or something better.
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Old 12-13-04, 01:44 PM   #8
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I built a Surly Long Haul Trucker for less with better components.
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Old 12-13-04, 02:30 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michel Gagnon
Other good choices for fully loaded touring: Cannondale T-series, Urbanite Tourer (has a high bottom bracket, but sold in Toronto at http://www.ucycle.com) and DeVinci. All have similar gearing concerns, plus STI shifters which I don't like and could be more problematic on the road.
I'm not sure whether current DeVinci touring bikes use STI with v-brakes and Travel Agents (not a durable combo), or something better.
I have a 2004 Devinci stockholm that I use for commuting. IIRC, it is the same frame that was used for the 2004 Caribou touring bike. I'm running the stock tires (32s) with planet bike 'hardcore' fenders, and I think there might be problems fitting 35s. The rear clearance is fine, but there isn't much room left on the fork.

Also, the dropouts have only a single eyelet, which can complicate the installation of fenders and racks, unless you get a rack with built in fender mounting eyelets.

I mounted both a rack and fender in the rear with a little gentle bending of the fender stays, but I don't currently run a front rack.
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Old 12-13-04, 02:32 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by markw
I built a Surly Long Haul Trucker for less with better components.
Brand new frame and all brand new (never used) components for less than $1000?

That's great.
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Old 12-13-04, 02:45 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by markw
I built a Surly Long Haul Trucker for less with better components.
The Surly LHT was one I was definitely interested in. The only thing I'm worried about is how much extra it'll cost to get it accross the border, and finding a bike shop that will order and build it for me.

But I'm also thinking about the Cannondale T 2000. I'm interested in having a look at the Devinci's, but the only Ottawa dealer now only has skis in the shop so I may have to go to Kingston.

Right now I'm thinking seriously about a custom GM Bertrand frame. It's a good local framebuilder with lots of touring experience.
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Old 12-13-04, 04:33 PM   #12
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I bought one last summer and did 2000 miles of touring with it in the Western US.

I agree with the comments about the front fork being tight with wide tires and fenders: the largest I could get on was 35 with fender in front.

I found the 105 triple to be fine gearing wise . . . although loaded I almost never used the big ring. For commuting though I never use the smallest ring.

The only thing that I didn't like about the bike was the frame flex. I would have like a stiffer frame for when I was loaded. . . and sometimes the front fork would oscillate (shimmy) depending on loading distribution and front tire wear.

The 520 is about the perfect match of frugality and quality for a first touring bike though all things considered.
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Old 12-13-04, 05:55 PM   #13
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I have owned a Trek 520 for quite a few years ... I swapped the crankset for a LX one to get some lower gearing for loaded touring, swapped the tyres for Conti TT 2000, and also swapped the handlebar setup from drops to flat bars which I personally find more comfortable.
I am quite big like you are 1.91m, 106kg [6'4", 220-230lbs]. I went for a 25" Trek and have had no problems with flexing while fully laden ... in fact I think it actually feels more stable with a load on.

my website with pics of my Trek 520
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Old 12-13-04, 09:55 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by coldcanuck
Right now I'm thinking seriously about a custom GM Bertrand frame. It's a good local framebuilder with lots of touring experience.

I know that Bertrand is a really fine shop and bike maker. But does he design touring frames or only racing and light touring frames?
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Old 12-13-04, 10:02 PM   #15
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I had a long talk with Gilles about what I wanted, and he seemed extremely knowledgable about touring. He apparently used to do a lot himself. He had pic's up in the shop of guys riding his touring bikes in BC and New Zealand (apparently, without any issues). I don't know that he's well known for it, but, like I say, he seemed extremely knowledgeable.
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Old 12-13-04, 10:32 PM   #16
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Their frames are made by Marinoni according to Bertrand's spec. That's what I was told by them. I was interested in the Marinoni Turismo but with many changes (cromo fork, gearing, bar-end shifters). Marinoni wouldn't do any changes (except color) so I contacted Bertrand and he said he could build a bike the way I want it.

Bertrand will probably be my next bike but I'll extend the life of my current bike for another year (no money!).
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Old 12-14-04, 10:41 AM   #17
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Great to know about that "other side" of Gilles Bertrand.

As for Marinonis, I personnally find them too much oriented towards "light touring" or "racing" frames. For instance, it would be very hard to fit 700x37 tires -- even without fenders -- on a Marinoni Turismo I recently saw, and I think it is totally impossible with fenders.

As far as tires are concerned, I think that a touring bike should accept 700x37 tires. While there is no need to use them at all times, a 700x37 rear tire is useful in soft terrain and two 700x37 knobbies almost transform the bike into an all-terrain vehicle.
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Old 12-14-04, 12:32 PM   #18
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I voted "NO" in that I could not recommend the 520 for heavy touring. Even though I don't own the bike, it's obvious Trek did not want this bike to be used for heavy touring or it's components would not have been designed that way.

The 520 out of the box is designed for light touring, commuting and slow club rides.
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Old 12-14-04, 03:19 PM   #19
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I've had two seasons touring with the Trek 520 and nothing but praise from me. The only change I made was the saddle, went to a brooks BRG Special B-17, and now I have Bob Beckman's bags and racks. FWIW, I was lucky enough before I bought the Trek, to have tried several other bikes and the Trek's ride was the sell for me, and, after several thousand miles of heavy loaded touring, No problems at all.
Epilog; Touring Bikes are an individual thing, what works for some won't work for all, The main thing is just to get out and "Do It", There's no right bike, there's no right handle bar, there's no right saddle, there's no right tyres, etc....................................
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Old 12-14-04, 03:29 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve
I voted "NO" in that I could not recommend the 520 for heavy touring. Even though I don't own the bike, it's obvious Trek did not want this bike to be used for heavy touring or it's components would not have been designed that way.

The 520 out of the box is designed for light touring, commuting and slow club rides.
I think I read the poll right, it's susposed to be for Current and former owners of the 520. Also I see in Trek publications quite the opposite as far as not being used as a heavy tourer.
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Old 12-14-04, 05:03 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by coldcanuck
The Surly LHT was one I was definitely interested in. The only thing I'm worried about is how much extra it'll cost to get it accross the border, and finding a bike shop that will order and build it for me.

But I'm also thinking about the Cannondale T 2000. I'm interested in having a look at the Devinci's, but the only Ottawa dealer now only has skis in the shop so I may have to go to Kingston.

Right now I'm thinking seriously about a custom GM Bertrand frame. It's a good local framebuilder with lots of touring experience.
I looked at the Cannondale T2000, the T800 and the Trek 520 last year when I decided that I needed a new touring bike. The Trek seem a bit "stogy" to me. The ride was okay but the whole component mix seemed uninspired. I'm not a big fan of barend shifters (they tend to get bumped all the time). It also had shorter stays than I wanted. As a big guy, I also felt that it was a bit whippy which was why I was getting a new touring frame. (My 1982 Miyata 610 rides like a noodle and is a handful with a load especially coming off something like Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park)

I looked at the specs on the T2000 but I couldn't find any in my area. The T800 was available on clearance from REI for under $1000 and I couldn't see enough difference between the T2000 and the T800 so I got the T800.

I've been very please with the 800. It performed beautifully over a 3 week trip last fall in the central US on the Lewis and Clark Trail. That included several hundred miles of dirt roads including lofting the 83lbs of bike and gear and my rotund self over more than a few gullies on the Katy Trail in Missouri.

I found the ride to be harsh without a load but it rides like a dream with all of my stuff on it. For me, the gearing is about right with the exception of the inner chainring. I replaced the stock 28 with a 24 and I monkeyed with the rear cluster a bit to get a lower gear.

The bike was not without problems however. One of the biggest problems I had and still have with it is that it is short from the bottom bracket to the front axle. There is some toe overlap with the wheel (I have size 45 or 10.5 feet) that is disconcerting at times. The rear rim broke shortly after returning from the tour but I tend to be hard on wheels anyway. The Cannondale Omega hubs are nice sealed units so I just rebuilt the wheel. The last item wrong with the bike was the pop rivet braze-ons. All of them were loose but REI was able to tighten them up without problem and they haven't been an issue since.

Otherwise the bike is a great touring bike. I plan on getting another one in another 21 years.

Stuart Black
Owner of several "Grandpappy's axe" bikes
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Old 12-14-04, 06:12 PM   #22
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I bought a 2005 520 two months ago, and so far I really enjoy it. I am 6'1", so the dealer recommended the 25" frame to me. I thought it was going to be a bit big, but having the handlebars even with the saddle makes it a truly comfortable ride.

A couple things I plan on changing:

1. Gearing - for everyday commuting, riding, club rides, etc. the stock gearing is fine. When I start getting into some loaded touring, I plan on putting an LX mountain crankset on it. Stock 52/42/30 is more of a racing set.

2. Tires - the stock tires are 700x32, rated to 110 psi. On rough pavement, you can really feel the rattles. I am looking to swap them with Schwalbe marathon tires.

3. Saddle - Eventually I plan on going with the classic Brooks leather saddle.

Overall, I am very happy with the bike - I just wish I had the dealer make these swaps right from the start.

Dan
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Old 12-14-04, 06:19 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve
I voted "NO" in that I could not recommend the 520 for heavy touring. Even though I don't own the bike, it's obvious Trek did not want this bike to be used for heavy touring or it's components would not have been designed that way.

The 520 out of the box is designed for light touring, commuting and slow club rides.
Bike companies have to make decisions about what products to carry. From what I've been told by several bike shops the Trek 520 tends to sell to people for club rides more then anything else. The same shops mention that they are asked about touring bicycles very rarely although in the past year or two the number of people asking has increased significantly.

I've done a lot of riding on the 520 and despite it's gearing it is actually a very nice bike to ride fully loaded. In fact I will state that I find that the bike has a MUCH nicer ride feeling when you are carrying a full load of gear. I actually prefer riding the bike when its loaded to when it's in unloaded mode.

Having said that if the marketing material flags this as a loaded touring bike with no changes then I have to admit that for the vast majority of people lower gears are recommended. It is possible to ride with the stock gears in relatively flat areas. You likely won't use the high gears as much but it is certainly doable and the bike will carry the weight extremely well.

~Jamie N
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Old 12-14-04, 08:04 PM   #24
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sorry to be jumping in later here.... I tour with a 520 and i like it.. my road bike is a 5200 and a 2120 the 520 is a 2000 modle so it still had a quill stem that i can adjsut as my bad back needs on different days the gearing has already been mentioned out of the bos is not good. the bike shop swaped even up for a 11-34 cassette and a LX triple up frount i got the gearing i like and the bike has held up well.. the problems ont he road have been few and the ones i had i can get parts in local hardware stores to fix

there are other worthy touring rigs out there just as good and maybe even better the 520 fit my buget $900 at te time and after 3 long tours i still like it.
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Old 12-14-04, 09:06 PM   #25
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This is my tenth year with my 520. No big problems, just a couple of different stems & seats to get "comfy". As best that I can tell, I'd rather have one that's built before '01. After that they seemed to get wimpy & the owners have changed several parts to get them more tour (loaded) worthy.
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