I have never done a loaded tour, although I typically ride several supported tours every year. This year I decided I wanted to try some loaded trips, and this weekend was supposed to be the maiden voyage -- 160 miles over two days from Raleigh to the NC coast. The weather was ideal -- sunny and mild with favorable winds.
So I finally got my Bob Jackson World Tour back from the bike shop, where it was being rebuilt for loaded touring. I added a Sugino triple crank, a Shimano long-cage mtn bike derailleur and 12-32 cassette. Put the old Brooks B17 saddle back on it, as well as a Tubus Cargo rear rack and Nitto M12 front rack. I tried to keep my load fairly light, and ended up with about 40 lbs of gear including the Ortlieb panniers in back and a Rivendell Lil' Loafer bag on the front rack. Most of the weight was in the back, but I tried to put some heavier small items (eg, bike tools, wallet, flashlight, etc.) in the front bag to better distribute the weight.
However, when I headed down the driveway and up the street, it soon became apparent that something was wrong. The whole bike was handling very strange, with the fork very wobbly and the entire frame feeling like it was flexing. It felt like the frame was made of rubber. There was no way I could ride it like that, it just felt unsafe. Needless to say, I called off the trip for now.
What could have caused the flexing/wobbling problems? The frame is Bob Jackson's touring frame made of Reynolds 631 with stouter tubing designed for touring. The load I was carrying certainly shouldn't have been too much -- after all there are plenty of cyclists who weigh as much as the total weight of me, the bike and the load on it (about 236 lbs loaded). In fact, I have lost about 32 lbs over the past year, so the total weight of my bike with the load was not much different than the total weight would have been a year ago with my typical commuting load. The bike never handled like this before.
Here are some photos of the bike as built and loaded up for the trip. It has 36H Velocity Dyad/Ultegra wheels with 28 mm Conti GP 4 Season tires.