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  1. #1
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    Touring bike choice, 26" on tarmac, converting a mountain bike, etc.

    NB:
    > I suppose a lot of this is a 26" vs. 700c discussion. Be warned...
    > As is often the case, this thread aims mostly to help me get my head around my decisions. But replies are still welcome!

    The background to this broad question is that I'm not especially wealthy, and, more importantly, I don't have the space or inclination to keep many different bicycles. Well, that's not true; I have the inclination to do so but I think it should not be indulged in my case. So I'm looking at the purchase of a single new bike.

    My only current [complete] bicycle is a nice, light skinny old racer from the 80's (24" frame) and it does everything you'd expect that sort of bike to do. I would very much like a touring bike of some sort, and after well over a year of waiting and watching classified ads I'm prepared to just spend a lot of money and get one new. A few years ago I enjoyed a 24" Galaxy (from the '70s, I think) for UK road touring and inter-city rides, as well as commuting and general transport. It's this that I'd be replacing, and I'm now turning my attention towards 26" heavier-duty tourers, for two main reasons:

    1) I have a nice bike that's light and speedy for anything not requiring panniers, so I don't necessarily need another one like that.
    2) I have intentions to take the bike to regions where, I am reasonably convinced, 26" wheels are beneficial and sensible. But in today's world that doesn't strike me as very important - I feel that anywhere I could get 26" spares I could also order 700c gear online.

    However, the vast majority of its use, realistically - both now and in years to come - would be in the UK on good roads, for short camping trips or longer tours - and probably winter commuting. I've never ridden a 26" tourer - I've read all about the supposed differences or similarities to a 700c ride, when the 26" is set up appropriately. But I will need to try it for myself.

    Do we ever hear of people who for reasons other than being short and wanting a smaller bike (I'm about 6ft and slightly long legs) chose a 26" tourer along the lines of a Thorn Sherpa over something in the style of a 700c Galaxy, for intended good-roads touring? Would that be stupid?

    If I had no ambitions to tour in harsher regions I wouldn't hesitate to stick to 700c, because it's what I know. I'm also quite sure that a 700c tourer would suit most of my purposes, most of the time, better than a 26" tourer (which will be slightly over-built in other aspects, no doubt). I may never even get around to taking it into rougher terrain, but the choice of bike will affect my later decision to do so. If I have a bike that can handle it, then I might. If I don't, then I probably won't.

    One idea I have is to acquire a large mountain bike frame and try to make it a bit roadier, and see how I like the feel of it. That might cost me 200 or so but I can probably sell it for half that once I'm done with it.

    Do you think that would give me a decent idea of what a good 26" tourer might feel like, or will it not be the same?


    Thanks,

  2. #2
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    i have the thorn sherpa 26inch wheels, also have a couple top end road bikes,
    for touring give me the sherpa any day, it's a class bike to ride super smooth over any kind of surface built like a tank but rides like a dream when loaded up.my raleigh is also a great bike i use it now for lightweight touring overnighters only.guess it climbs better than the thorn tighter angles and all that
    so would you be disappointed buying a thorn emm i very much doubt it it will last forever as long as you look after it , put a set of slicks on it for around town and day rides and it's as fast as road bike .
    well that my 2cents worth best of luck in your hunt but choose wisely,
    btw i bought the sherpa frame and built it up myself mostly shimano m770 groupset brooks hand built wheels marathon supreams tires are excellent.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by 33112 View Post
    NB:
    ... ... the vast majority of its use, realistically - both now and in years to come - would be in the UK on good roads, for short camping trips or longer tours - and probably winter commuting. I've never ridden a 26" tourer - I've read all about the supposed differences or similarities to a 700c ride, when the 26" is set up appropriately. But I will need to try it for myself.

    Do we ever hear of people who for reasons other than being short and wanting a smaller bike (I'm about 6ft and slightly long legs) chose a 26" tourer along the lines of a Thorn Sherpa over something in the style of a 700c Galaxy, for intended good-roads touring? Would that be stupid?

    ... ...

    One idea I have is to acquire a large mountain bike frame and try to make it a bit roadier, and see how I like the feel of it. That might cost me 200 or so but I can probably sell it for half that once I'm done with it.

    Do you think that would give me a decent idea of what a good 26" tourer might feel like, or will it not be the same?
    I have a 700c Surly Long Haul Trucker (LHT) and a 26 inch wheeled Thorn Sherpa. (I am in the USA, Thorn Sherpas are extremely rare here.)

    A couple months ago I did a tour of about 500 miles carrying a load of camping gear, almost all on pavement. On the LHT I had 37mm wide tires that take 87 psig and I bought some Schwalbe Marathon tires for the Sherpa that were 40mm wide and took over 90 psig. To decide which bike to use on the tour, I put four loaded panniers on one bike and rode it 5 miles, when I got home I transferred the panniers to the other bike and rode it over the same 5 miles. My goal was to decide which bike to take based on which bike felt "better" with a load. The problem is that both bikes felt very good to me.

    Regarding ride, I could not really tell any difference between the two bikes that I would attribute to the different wheel sizes. I really think that the very slight ride differences are specific to the frames and geometry.

    I have used each of the bikes for a loaded tour in the past, so I already knew that both bikes were good for it.

    I decided to use the Thorn for the trip because I had new tires on it, the tires on the Long Haul Trucker are several years old.

    Some claim that the 26 inch is a much stronger wheel due to smaller diameter. Some claim that the 700c wheel being bigger smooths out the bumps better. Some prefer the slightly lower gearing with a smaller 26 inch wheel. But quite frankly I do not think any of these are important issues.

    The Long Haul Trucker is sold here in both 700c and 26 inch in the larger frame sizes. A friend of mine bought one a few months ago and he asked me which was better. I told him that a 35mm or 37mm tire on a 700c bike is considered a wide tire. Thus, if he wanted to ride around town on narrower tires, that was a better bike for him. But the same width tires (35mm or 37mm) on a 26 inch wheel bike are considered narrow tires and if he might want fatter tires for gravel or for a softer ride, to get the 26 inch.

    In your case, if you buy new I think that you will find touring on a 35mm or 37 mm wide tire to be just fine and wheel diameter will not really matter as much as how the bike fits you.

    Why do I have two touring bikes? Right now I have 28mm tires on my Long Haul Trucker for faster riding around town and 2.0 inch (50mm) tires on the Thorn for gravel.

    I am not familiar with the Galaxy so I have no opinion. One big advantage to the Thorn is they make different frame sizing for drop bars or flat bars (their short or long frame sizes, respectively). Thus, it may be easy to get a Thorn that fits you better depending on your choice of handlebars. (I prefer drop bars, the 610S size fits me great.)

    Older mountain bike? They often have short chain stays that cause heel interference with panniers. Some racks put the panniers farther back than others, so that can partially be resolved with rack choice. I have an older steel framed Bridgestone MB-6 that I use to go shopping and for short errands. The grocery store type panniers on the cheap rear rack have a severe heel clearance problem, when I ride with those panniers I have to put the arch of my foot on the pedal because if I put the ball of my foot on the pedal, my shoe hits the pannier. Also some mountain bikes do not have the mid-fork front rack mounts which would limit rack choices. But you might get lucky and find a great cheap bike that would serve you quite well.

    Bottom line: I think overall bike fit is more important that focusing on wheel size for touring on pavement. Those are my thoughts. Good luck.
    Last edited by Tourist in MSN; 09-15-12 at 05:35 AM.

  4. #4
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    Thanks very much for the replies, quite helpful.

    I just had a look around a local second-hand/bike recycling sort of place and considered some options. There was a relatively cheap (twice what I paid for my Dawes six years ago...) 24" road tourer (27 x 1 1/4 inch wheels) that could cheaply satisfy my immediate "need" for a UK tourer and winter commuter (it has mudguards) and leave my money mostly untouched for when I might want to get something rather better for a much longer tour. It had a much more compact frame than my Dawes or my current old racer, which felt comfortable actually - since I'm more legs than torso. I fear that pannier heel-strike could be an issue, though, so I've come home to get some other racks and my panniers and I will go and see what I think.

    Oh, and would you believe it, as I was cycling just now a bright red bike caught my eye, locked up outside a house, and the blurred shape of the downtube logo made me stop and go back. Sure enough, it was a Thorn Sherpa! I might have to leave a note on it asking the owner if I can come and have a look at it.

  5. #5
    Senior Member irwin7638's Avatar
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    I switched from a LHT to a Riv Hunqapillar frame for exactly that reason: more versatility. I have a series of posts about it on my blog, scroll through them and see if that makes sense. It was well worth it to me. I makes a great touring bike on 40-622 Marathons
    IMG_0389.JPG
    and an awesome 29er with Schwalbe Albert's.
    IMG_0635.JPG
    I plan to use Nokian Extreme's this year to play in the Michigan snow.
    The prototype for this bike was tested by riding the Continental Divide, solo, unsupported from Canada to Mexico. It works!

    Marc
    Read Simply Cycle

    "I can still do everything I used to, but now I'm mature enough to take a nap without being told." - Me

    "You don't deteriorate from age,you age from deterioration" --Joe Weider

  6. #6
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    this is a used bike I got, 26" wheel Koga Miyata WTR.. the R is for Rohloff.
    there is another R thread so Ill leave that out..

    TRekking bars are a good way to make a straight bar bike into a touring rig,
    because the tube bent around into the multi-position figure 8 is also 7/8"

    Being in the UK Thorn is a good pick , ive mostly seen rim brakes on those..

    My Koga came with Magura's HS33 hydraulic rim brakes.. already a long time Touring favorite ..


    though lots of cable operated brakes get the job done..


    German Tout Terrain looks great in the Made for disc brake category..

    they thought out a welded onto the rear, rack , and using a different
    blade on the left fork blade than the right,to better cope with disc brake forces..
    Silk Road.. very Marco Polo touring idea..

  7. #7
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    33112, If the bike fits and is comfortable for extended stretches, wheel/tire size isn't so important and for your projected use any of the three common (26", 700C, 27") sizes should be fine. The 27" equipped bike can also be converted to 700C with little trouble and moderate expense if desired. There is less of a choice of tires with 27", but good tires are still available.

    Brad

  8. #8
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    The only problem with 26” wheels on a road bike is the tires. Many tires in 26” seem to me to be more suitable for use on the family tractor. Fast roads tires are less common in 26” but they are available. I have had good luck with Conti Sport Contact 26x1.6”. They seem to be fast and comfortable. Vittoria Randonneur Pro 26x1.5” should also be good. There are more, but I am not familiar with all of them.

  9. #9
    Senior Member juggleaddict's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ClemY View Post
    I have had good luck with Conti Sport Contact 26x1.6”. They seem to be fast and comfortable.
    Also have these and loving them on my LHT : )

    I can't really tell a difference between 700c and 26" wheels unless I'm starting to go up a hill, the 700c's always felt like they held their momentum a little better, but the bike I was riding those in was almost 10 lbs less than my LHT. ; ) So I don't buy that anybody could tell a difference on a equivalent bike. Maybe trivial differences, but nothing worth debating over.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Chris Pringle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ClemY View Post
    The only problem with 26” wheels on a road bike is the tires. Many tires in 26” seem to me to be more suitable for use on the family tractor. Fast roads tires are less common in 26” but they are available. I have had good luck with Conti Sport Contact 26x1.6”. They seem to be fast and comfortable. Vittoria Randonneur Pro 26x1.5” should also be good. There are more, but I am not familiar with all of them.
    This is generally true. You build/get a 26" bike because you might be interested in the comfort factor wider tires will give you, and as indicated earlier, more availability of tires in less developed countries. Most 26" rims are good for 1.5"-2.3" tires while 700c have more availability between 23mm and 37mm. As far as speeds with tires of the same brand/make/width, the penalty is said to be a wash between 700c and 26". The premise is that 700c might roll faster but 26" wheels, being smaller, tend to be a little lighter carrying less rotational weight (alloy, spokes, etc.) Therefore, most people can't notice any difference in speeds. My 700c and 26" touring bikes seem equally fast, but there is a big difference in comfort (26" being more comfortable.) If you're a tall rider and care about aesthetics (most people do!), touring frames above 60 cm start looking a little funny with smaller 26" wheels.

    To the OP: I'm built almost like you - 5'10"', longer legs, 58 cm frame. I recently built a rando/touring bike. My #1 priority was comfort for longer distances, plus 26" makes total sense living in Mexico. There are no drawbacks taking this bike anywhere else in the world. The 26" wheels combined with a frame with S&S couplers makes it convenient to fly anywhere. BTW, I mostly ride on paved roads, but w/ 26"x1.75" Schwalbe Marathon Racer tires this bike is ready to go off-road, which I've done many times already. My 700c tourer (an 83 Miyata 610) was salvaged after it suffered a car accident with his previous owner, so I was told it was only good for light touring. It is now my beater bike. I use it around town, commuting, market errands, etc.

    Since you already have a faster 700c bike, adding a 26" touring bike to your stable sounds like a good decision given your future travel plans. Converting a 26" MTB is a sensible idea, but whether it will give you the same feel of a true 26" touring bike is really hard to tell. This is due to geometry, as others have mentioned. You can try with a careful frame selection, but if you want drop bars la LHT while maintaining a good fit and without disrupting the bike's maneuvarability (BTW, butterfly bars might work better), the ability to fit larger panniers lower without heel strike and other features inherent of touring bikes, you might be in for a disappointment. Another caveat is that if you spend too much money converting an old MTB, you might not be able to recoup most of the costs should you decide it's not exactly what you were looking for. I would suggest not to do it just "to try and see."
    Last edited by Chris Pringle; 09-16-12 at 09:06 PM.

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