I've been wanting to do some touring for a while now, starting out with short 'weekend trips' and moving up to several hundred mile trips eventually, so nothing really demanding. I would also love to have a decent road bike [the bikes in my sig are the bikes that are mine, in our garage we have a number of other bikes spanning from old Motobecanes to an unconventional Klein -but those are not mine and I really don't want to be riding them because of that and other reasons, plus there is always the N+1 rule to consider. Must be careful not to break the rules, right?]
Since I have been commuting on my Dawes -11miles each way usually- sometimes with a heavy load, sometimes very minimal load, I would like to aim for a medium-light load with touring. I really want to avoid going the route of a full touring bike because I would load it up with useless junk and it would weigh 100+lbs in no time, and going ultra light is not that attractive to me as I like a bit of comfort when camping and cooking/ eating and am fine with hauling it.
What I have been thinking was to get a decent road bike [$0-1000+ for the bike itself -not including add-ons like bags and stuff. I've been looking at new $800-1000 bikes, with discounts later in the year/ soon they would be closer to $600-900], the problem is most don't have rear rack mounts [and rear racks on road bikes have heal strike on my size 12's, plus the weight sits a bit high], and they usually have carbon forks. I think If I get a road bike like that I can replace the front fork with a steel one that has low-rider mounts and add a decent front rack [one with a 'top' so I can put things like a duffel bag with random stuff and a sleeping bag/ blanket and mat on there], then panniers in the front as low riders for normal stuff [the lower center of gravity should help], and if that isn't enough a medium sized saddle bag could be attached to the seatpost.
I have never ridden with front rack/ panniers so I don't know how viable it is to tour like that, and how that would change the handling [it should just 'dampen' the steering, right? and the lower center of gravity should help handling compared to rear rack/ panniers]. I also have not ridden on a 'cheap' aluminum road frame, is the ride difference going to factor into it with a medium front load, me, and maybe a saddle bag; and would there be any conceivable issue with switching the fork out that I wouldn't know about?
I plan to go to a LBS today to test ride a few Fuji's and whatever else they have, but a few minutes around a parking lot does not equate to a few miles of riding, let alone a tour. Would steel be the way to go, or should the [cheaper] aluminum road frames do fine in terms of feel/ ride with a front load?
And how could I not consider the Salsa bikes like the the Fargo -I don't want to rule out off-road touring and trails, who wants to breathe exhaust all day? I could probably use my K2 for that if I upgraded it a bit [I'm already planning on overhauling it so I can do winter commuting on it -new tires, new disc brake pads, new chain, saddle, maybe a new bar and some other stuff] and I have a halfway decent rear rack for it, plus it has disc brakes...
And while I could get a front rack for the Fargo, the viability of traveling off-road with panniers could be, shall I say, questionable... So I may need to keep it to handle bar bags, seat bags, or maybe a trunk bag on a front/ rear rack stuff stacked on the rack. I think it could work almost as well, though panniers could be a viable option as well.
The problem with the off-roaders is they wouldn't be as sporty/ fast on the road as a decent road bike because of the geometry and gears, and to a small extent the tires. But then again they can go off pavement without throwing a fit.
I realize I'm talking about two ends of the spectrum above, I'm really just overwhelmed with the options out there and am looking for advice on a bike primarily for medium length/ weight touring [mostly road for starters; but road and unpaved would be nice in the future], and secondarily for riding around/ with friends/ ect as my Dawes is ok, but with one gear option it can be a bit hard on me when the wind or hills show up unexpectedly, and with me sustainable speed is capped to 22-24 and max sprint is just over 30... Ideally I would get a Salsa Fargo and a road bike, but the Fargo's price is already a bit more than I want to spend exactly... my spec's are: 160lbs, 6ft tall and size 12 or 13 wide shoes, 32.5" inseam if I remember right.
1) new road bike [probably aluminum, also I'd add wide-ish tires eventually] plus after market steel fork and some touring gear for it + minor winter update to my K2
2) new Fargo or similar mountainbike/ touring machine and a very small amount of extra stuff [its a bit expensive] + minor winter update to my K2
3) basically #1 but with several hundred more in the K2 later down the line
4) ***write in an option***
With option 3: I love the idea of using my K2 as a off-road touring bike, and maybe a remodel budget of $400 wouldn't be too bad, plus I could use most of the gear from my road touring bike. But I don't know how it would fare as a off-road touring bike [though riding it into the ground would be a much more dignified life for it than just sitting there]. With option 2: I don't know how a Fargo would fare as a road touring bike [probably, not as fast/ nimble on roads as a road bike would be] and as a geared bike riding with friends on the road it won't fare as well.