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View Poll Results: Novara Randonee or used Trek 520?

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  • Novara Randonee

    14 87.50%
  • (Used) Trek 520

    2 12.50%
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  1. #1
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    Used Trek 520 ($1100) or New Novara Randonee from REI ($1,199+tx)??

    I haven't seen the Trek 520 yet (it's on craigslist) but I plan to see it this weekend. If it's in good shape (has 500 miles on it, supposedly), I think I will be leaning towards it rather than the Novara Randonee, but is there any reason I should be rethinking the Randonee? My only thought where the Randonee would be superior to a genuine Trek 520 would be maybe the security of buying it at REI, where customer service is fantastic. Please, I'd like to hear some advice!

    It's for an 8 week ride I'm planning in May-July. London to Athens.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bonthius View Post
    I haven't seen the Trek 520 yet (it's on craigslist) but I plan to see it this weekend. If it's in good shape (has 500 miles on it, supposedly), I think I will be leaning towards it rather than the Novara Randonee, but is there any reason I should be rethinking the Randonee? My only thought where the Randonee would be superior to a genuine Trek 520 would be maybe the security of buying it at REI, where customer service is fantastic. Please, I'd like to hear some advice!

    It's for an 8 week ride I'm planning in May-July. London to Athens.
    It would depend on the age of the 520. For several years, Trek was outfitting the 520 with road bike style gearing which is way too high for touring. In more recent years they have been smarter about the drivetrain specification and have a more tour friendly drive train. The bad years are prior to 2009 but after 2002(ish). But $1100 for a model older than 2009 is too much. It's almost too much for a 2009 model.

    The Randonee, on the other hand, has a rather low high gear, in my opinion. A 48 tooth outer would be nicer for those times when you want to take advantage of a downhill. The 44 tooth on the Randonee spins out at a lower speed. But that's only a minor quibble.
    Last edited by cyccommute; 01-23-13 at 11:53 AM.
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    Both the "genuine Trek 520 and the Randonee are made in Tiawan. I was looking at a 520 that a local bike shop found in their warehouse that had one of the last made in USA frames yesterday. Fit is the most important criteria. I don't know the geometry differences, but Trek bikes seem to run a little smaller than other makes of the same stated size. If you are long in the arms and torso you might also consider the Surly Long Haul Trucker. it is also sold at REI.

    I believe the Randonee is set up with better gearing than the 520 with a 44/32/22 crankset vs. 48/36/26 that is stock on the Trek. I'm not sure what the stock LHT is running now but I have a 44/32/22 setup on mine, and find the lower gearing desireable. I did a 3700 mile ride on a Bianchi Volpe with a 48/36/26 crankset and it was the first thing that was changd when I got home. It is now equiped with a 44/32/22

    I think the only thing the 520 has over the Randonee is the percieved bling that a "genuine" 520 might provide. Either bike will do the job. No matter how good the deal sounds, if the bike does not fit right it is a poor deal.

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    REI has 20% off sales at least twice a year, one coming up soon in March. So if you can wait, you can get the Randonee for ~$960+ tax.

    http://www.rei.com/product/816068/no...onee-bike-2013

    Some of the older 520s were made almost as regular road bikes, without longer chainstays that are essential and one of the defining characteristics of a touring frame. I found some pristine 520s on CL, older lugged models. When I looked up their geometry specs at www.vintage-trek.com , I discovered they were 43cm CS models. Beware of CL and eBay "deals".

    Have you considered the Surly LHT? You can buy framesets for $400 shipped, and build them up for another $600 if you're a careful, patient shopper.

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    Senior Member fettsvenska's Avatar
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    I agree that $1100 for a used Trek 520 is too much, but I'm a bit of a cheap skate. I think that in the last 2 or 3 years that the over all quality of the 2 bikes is comparable, the Randonee might even be a little better (things like leather bar wrap).

    If you are willing to wait for the 20% sale, I think that the Randonee is a better deal. Also, if you have an REI credit card you will get an extra 5% in dividends, which lowers the cost another $50 or so.

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    Quote Originally Posted by fettsvenska View Post
    ... if you have an REI credit card you will get an extra 5% in dividends, which lowers the cost another $50 or so.
    Good point that I failed to mention.

    I haven't had this card in years now, but IIRC, it also offered 1% back in dividends on ALL purchases. I used to get $100s of REI merch each March free due to this card.

  7. #7
    Senior Member capejohn's Avatar
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    I have been touring on a Randonee since 2007 and have no reason to change. It's been a good touring bike for me. There is a 2005 Trek 520 I know of that is making it's third trip across the county.
    Both are good bikes but if I were to buy one I would go the the Novara.
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  8. #8
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    I vote rei.worst case you dont like it you can easily return it no questions

  9. #9
    Senior Member Medic Zero's Avatar
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    Have you looked at the Novarra Safari? When I was looking for a touring rig for my girlfriend a year and a half ago we looked at both the Safari and the Randonee, and the Safari seemed better suited for touring. IIRC it was around $800 on sale, which is significantly cheaper than the Randonee too.
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
    It would depend on the age of the 520. For several years, Trek was outfitting the 520 with road bike style gearing which is way too high for touring. In more recent years they have been smarter about the drivetrain specification and have a more tour friendly drive train. The bad years are prior to 2009 but after 2002(ish). But $1100 for a model older than 2009 is too much. It's almost too much for a 2009 model.

    Cyccommute, while I have much respect for your experience I have to take issue with what you've posted here. There are no bad years for Trek 520s. Trek finally reduced the gearing few years ago. The controversy being they didn't get it right. Still, those bikes with the reduced gearing aren't bad bikes, nor are the higher geared bikes that came before. That said, hundreds, if not thousands of Trek 520s have crossed the United States using standard out of the box road bike gearing. The higher gearing is an issue for some folks, not for others. For those who want to reduce the gearing, they can customize the gearing to whatever suits them, and do this relatively inexpensively. They can hand pick the components that are the best match rather than rely on an engineer's best guess for the mass market.

    I agree that $1100 is to much for a used 520. A new 520 can be had for that amount, maybe even a few dollars less. Unless it's new in the box or has some expensive aftermarket parts included I'd offer under a $1000, way under - $700 -$800 for a almost new to $500- $600 for anything else.
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    The security of dealing with REI? I have a love hate relationship with REI. The local REI is is hands down the worst bicycle shop i've dealt with. Top dollar prices for poor quality work with an arrogant attitude to go along with it. I know this is just my local REI, but it's the only point of contact i have with the company.

    A broader issue with REI is pricing. Yes, they have their rewards system which gives some money back in the form of a once a year dividend, but not nearly enough to make up for their inflated retail prices.

    Within the world of retail there is something known as MAP. MAP is Manufacturers Advertised Pricing. When you go on line, ever notice how for some items that several sites have the same item advertised for the same Low price? Yet noone is below that price? That's because they aren't allowed to go below that price. Sony, and Samsung TVs are great example of this. Everywhere from Best Buy to PC Richard same TVs same advertised at te same low price. Even local shops are at the same price. They can match each other but can't beat each other on price.

    The point is this, while retailers aren't allowed to sell below MAP, they are allowed to sell above MAP. REI has this down cold. REI prices generally run 15 to 25% above MAP.

    So that's my gripe with REI. I can only imagine that along with the electronics, and optics they sell, that the bikes are way overpriced.
    Last edited by tom cotter; 01-24-13 at 09:16 AM.
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  12. #12
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tom cotter View Post
    Cyccommute, while I have much respect for your experience I have to take issue with what you've posted here. There are no bad years for Trek 520s. Trek finally reduced the gearing few years ago. The controversy being they didn't get it right. Still, those bikes with the reduced gearing aren't bad bikes, nor are the higher geared bikes that came before. That said, hundreds, if not thousands of Trek 520s have crossed the United States using standard out of the box road bike gearing. The higher gearing is an issue for some folks, not for others. For those who want to reduce the gearing, they can customize the gearing to whatever suits them, and do this relatively inexpensively. They can hand pick the components that are the best match rather than rely on an engineer's best guess for the mass market.

    I agree that $1100 is to much for a used 520. A new 520 can be had for that amount, maybe even a few dollars less. Unless it's new in the box or has some expensive aftermarket parts included I'd offer under a $1000, way under - $700 -$800 for a almost new to $500- $600 for anything else.
    The problem with having to adjust gearing later is that it's an additional expense. Most people who want to ride a loaded touring bike are going to want lower gears, not higher ones. Trek did make the 520 with a touring drivetrain for many, many years prior to the 'bad' years. Then they forget the "Tour" part and went all "de France" on the bikes. It was just poor market research on Trek's part.

    The worst year, 2008, even matched a Tiagra rear derailer to an 11-34 cassette. The Tiagra, being a road derailer, doesn't always play nice with cogs over 29 teeth. That lack of thought just sets the customer up for having to deal with the poor choices Trek made at added expense. For most people, I'd still suggest staying away from those years if you want a tour ready bike. If you are going to buy the bike and change everything, just about any year of Trek 520 will do the job, however. The frames are all the same geometry.
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    Even if the trek fit perfectly, I would always rather have a new bike. You really have no way of knowing the actual wear someone has put on a used bike other than close inspection. 100 bucks difference is worth it to me.

    While I agree REI prices are usually way above average, I don't think the randonee is one of those items. It's on par with other touring bikes in that price range.

    Go inspect it, see if it's worth it to you. There's a lot of choices for 1200 bucks.

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    Quote Originally Posted by tom cotter View Post
    The local REI is is hands down the worst bicycle shop i've dealt with. Top dollar prices for poor quality work with an arrogant attitude to go along with it. I know this is just my local REI, but it's the only point of contact i have with the company.

    A broader issue with REI is pricing. Yes, they have their rewards system which gives some money back in the form of a once a year dividend, but not nearly enough to make up for their inflated retail prices.
    +1. REI has hugely inflated prices and their shops I've dealt with are shoddy at best.

    However... you're considering buying used vs. buying new, which can sometimes be troublesome. If you're familiar with bicycles and repair, and can immediately tell if the frame fits and all components (wheels, bearings, cables and housing, etc.) are in good condition, then I'd go that route. Otherwise you may get something that either doesn't fit or has bum parts you'll need to replace. A shop will replace defective parts, often give repair packages for new bike purchases, and REI will take it back if you don't like it. Just something to consider if you're not real good yet with bike repair and maintenance.

  15. #15
    Senior Member fettsvenska's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tom cotter View Post
    The security of dealing with REI? I have a love hate relationship with REI. The local REI is is hands down the worst bicycle shop i've dealt with. Top dollar prices for poor quality work with an arrogant attitude to go along with it. I know this is just my local REI, but it's the only point of contact i have with the company.

    A broader issue with REI is pricing. Yes, they have their rewards system which gives some money back in the form of a once a year dividend, but not nearly enough to make up for their inflated retail prices.

    Within the world of retail there is something known as MAP. MAP is Manufacturers Advertised Pricing. When you go on line, ever notice how for some items that several sites have the same item advertised for the same Low price? Yet noone is below that price? That's because they aren't allowed to go below that price. Sony, and Samsung TVs are great example of this. Everywhere from Best Buy to PC Richard same TVs same advertised at te same low price. Even local shops are at the same price. They can match each other but can't beat each other on price.

    The point is this, while retailers aren't allowed to sell below MAP, they are allowed to sell above MAP. REI has this down cold. REI prices generally run 15 to 25% above MAP.

    So that's my gripe with REI. I can only imagine that along with the electronics, and optics they sell, that the bikes are way overpriced.
    I have to respectfully disagree with you on this one. REI may charge a little bit of a premium but I have a hard time finding comparable quality products at similar prices at any other brick and mortar retailer. It's too bad that the bike shop at your local REI has bad service because the service at my local REI bike dept. is exceptional. They charge $60/hr for service but only charge by the minute and for real minor things they do it for me for free (like remove headset bearing races). Their prices on parts also tend to be competitive.

    At $1200, I think the Randonee is every bit as good as an LHT and maybe even better. They have made some changes to recent models that make it very touring friendly (SRAM bar end shifters, leather bar wrap, good tires, correct geometry, etc.). Not to mention, the green sparkle paint job looks awesome.

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    I can't say about 2nd hand stuff over the web..
    somtimes I got a good deal..but had to tear it down and put it back together,
    before I was satisfied it would be reliable on a Long Tour..

    Somtimes I have to do that with new bikes, too. , grease dry threads on all the bolts,

    ... but the ones I dont want to come loose, like rack mounts , then I apply thread lock on them.

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    Here's a link to a page of the vintage Trek website; if you scroll down, there is a table that shows chainstay length for the 520 from 1983 forward: http://www.vintage-trek.com/

    Chainstays were 43 cm from 1989-93 according to that table, were 42.5 cm for 1984-5, and were 43 cm for 1983. All other models had chainstays of at least 45 cm.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
    The problem with having to adjust gearing later is that it's an additional expense. Most people who want to ride a loaded touring bike are going to want lower gears, not higher ones. Trek did make the 520 with a touring drivetrain for many, many years prior to the 'bad' years. Then they forget the "Tour" part and went all "de France" on the bikes. It was just poor market research on Trek's part.

    The worst year, 2008, even matched a Tiagra rear derailer to an 11-34 cassette. The Tiagra, being a road derailer, doesn't always play nice with cogs over 29 teeth. That lack of thought just sets the customer up for having to deal with the poor choices Trek made at added expense. For most people, I'd still suggest staying away from those years if you want a tour ready bike. If you are going to buy the bike and change everything, just about any year of Trek 520 will do the job, however. The frames are all the same geometry.
    I must be in a disagreeable mood today. The frame geometry changed in 2009 when the 520 went to compact geometry. The 520 sizing also went from measured in inches to the more bikey measured in centimeters. Agree Trek shortened up on some components. Disagree that there is a such thing as a tour ready bike.

    I don't know that market research played a roll. Considering the gearing miss, how could it have? If anything, the compontent group on the later 520s show that the 520 is a parts bin bike. Lets face it, touring bikes aren't a profit center. That trek changed it up shows that they are starting to pay attention. I'm happy that trek continues to produce the bike. Regardless of Trek's lack of attention they continue on as excellent bikes. How many other 1980s models are still in production?

    As for the REI bike, who makes it?
    Last edited by tom cotter; 01-24-13 at 04:31 PM.
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    Not to get too far down the road tearing into REI - but a prime example of the over price issue is on Binoculars. The Nikon Monarch 5 - a staple of the beginner birding community can be had anywhere for $279.95. That's brick and mortar or online. Additionally, throughout the fall season Nikon included a $50 instant rebate. So out the door your'e paying $229.95. Except at REI where you would have paid $325.00. My local REI didn't know anything about Nikon rebates and the truth is i didn't check REI on line. Still even with the rebate REI is $45 above MAP. On and on this goes - GPS units etc. I don't mind paying a few dollars more to support brick and mortar stores. But there is a line between paying a reasonable up charge and getting hosed. On the big stuff REI, as cool as they are, is over that line.
    Last edited by tom cotter; 01-24-13 at 04:35 PM.
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    Senior Member NCbiker's Avatar
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    LBS had a 520 with a sticker of $995.
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  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by tom cotter View Post
    I must be in a disagreeable mood today. The frame geometry changed in 2009 when the 520 went to compact geometry. The 520 sizing also went from measured in inches to the more bikey measured in centimeters. Agree Trek shortened up on some components. Disagree that there is a such thing as a tour ready bike.
    Going from to a compact geometry is only a minor tweak to the frame. It will essentially ride the same way as the original 520. And going from inches to metric doesn't change anything. It's still the same distance. Only the digits have changed.

    As for "tour ready" bike, the LHT, the 520, the Randonee, etc. are all tour ready. You could start a loaded tour from the showroom floor without any additions. You might want to add stuff but you wouldn't need to add anything.

    Quote Originally Posted by tom cotter View Post
    I don't know that market research played a roll. Considering the gearing miss, how could it have? If anything, the compontent group on the later 520s show that the 520 is a parts bin bike. Lets face it, touring bikes aren't a profit center. That trek changed it up shows that they are starting to pay attention. I'm happy that trek continues to produce the bike. Regardless of Trek's lack of attention they continue on as excellent bikes. How many other 1980s models are still in production?
    First, there is nothing wrong with a parts bin bike, not if the parts all work together. I've owned very few bikes that were made from a single groupset. If I build a bike, I especially don't use one groupset. I agree that Trek is paying attention now but they were letting their attention wander for a few years there. I'd still suggest avoiding those years if you are looking to buying a complete bike.
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    Senior Member juggleaddict's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
    You might want to add stuff but you wouldn't need to add anything.
    lol, well that depends on your definition. Do you consider racks part of the bike? what about bags? : P

    and I would tick fenders on my "need" category. . .

    Arguments can be had both ways. Almost any bike could be "tour ready" given the right amount/correct gear/expectations. lol, walmart singlespeed? sure, look it up on crazyguyonabike.

    I say do what makes you happy. Hop on the bike, if it's comfy and you like it, then go with it, regardless of what other people tell you about geometry/components. Both will be capable bikes.

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    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by juggleaddict View Post
    lol, well that depends on your definition. Do you consider racks part of the bike? what about bags? : P

    and I would tick fenders on my "need" category. . .

    Arguments can be had both ways. Almost any bike could be "tour ready" given the right amount/correct gear/expectations. lol, walmart singlespeed? sure, look it up on crazyguyonabike.

    I say do what makes you happy. Hop on the bike, if it's comfy and you like it, then go with it, regardless of what other people tell you about geometry/components. Both will be capable bikes.
    No touring bike that I have ever seen...and we are talking about touring bikes back to the late 70s...has ever come with the bags. And I wouldn't want the bike to come with them. I doubt many would. Most touring bikes do come with a rear rack and a few come with front racks. The racks might be of dubious quality but they are functional.

    Finally, fenders certainly aren't on my list of 'need' items. I hate the stupid things and would remove them if the bike came with them. Different strokes.
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    Senior Member juggleaddict's Avatar
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    well exactly, different strokes.

    Just saying, it doesn't matter what touring bike you get, it's going to need something before you take off. Even if that something is gear. I grossly underestimated the cost of accessories and gear when building my rig. It's something to be mindful of. A lot of people new to the forum are on budget, and when they say "I can spend $$$" on a bike, my guess is that that usually means half that, because they weren't accounting for fenders, racks, bags, sleeping pad, bag, tent, etc. if they are like me.

    . . . also taxes suck.

    Just curious why you don't like fenders. I thought they were silly til I got them for my LHT. I was in love the first time it rained. They do make it a hassle for maintenance, and I even have to take the front one off to get my bike in the car.

    anyway I think the poll says it all about the bike choice. 13 to 1, we clearly have a majority decision on our opinion now.

  25. #25
    Bike rider alexaschwanden's Avatar
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    Jun 2010
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    2014 Felt Z5 carbon bike
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    Go with the trek 520 it's great and very reliable.
    2013 Felt 960 MTB 1755.6 miles
    2014 Felt Z5 carbon 301.7 miles

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