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  1. #1
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    Mountain Bike for Touring South America

    I am planning a tour through South America, Argentina, Chili, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Columbia, etc. Lots of rough roads so I was thinking of taking my mid-1990's Trek 7000 mountain bike instead of my Surly LHT (56cm, 700C). The Trek has decent mid range machinery, and I think I can install F&R racks and fenders. It is essentially a free bike to me, so no great loss if it is destroyed/stolen in contrast to the LHT into which I have a lot of recent $$$ invested.

    Question: any reason NOT to do this.

    I'm sure I would have to customize it a bit (new wide tires, etc).

    All thoughts appreciated.

    Larry
    Last edited by lhendrick; 12-21-13 at 04:48 PM.

  2. #2
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Just eschew any thing with a suspension fork.. 1 less thing to fail ..

    559 tire size is really widely available..

    continental travel contact was made as their ride past the end of the pavement tire ..

    Id bring at least 1 more tire along..
    Last edited by fietsbob; 12-21-13 at 04:44 PM.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
    Just eschew any thing with a suspension fork.. 1 less thing to fail ..

    559 tire size is really widely available..

    continental travel contact was made as their ride past the end of the pavement tire ..

    Id bring at least 1 more tire along..
    Right, thanks, It is a non-suspension bike. How about a folding spare tire?

  4. #4
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    I'm especially interested in attaching racks and fenders. I have a set of Tubus racks on the LHT, and it would be great if I can make them fit and use the extra mounting holes they have to mount fenders, as the Trek only has 1 set of mounts per axle. No mid fork mounts, but I can get P clip type mounts.

    I am also probably going to replace the quill stem with threadless and go for a more comfortable handlebar solution to get more hand positions and adjustability.

  5. #5
    don't try this at home. rm -rf's Avatar
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    Check out the Bike Grease and Coffee blog. He was in Maine a year ago, rode to Florida, and is now in South America.

    It's a fat tire bike, and he sometimes goes way off road with it.




  6. #6
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    Hi Larry
    I'm curious as to why you dont believe in your LHT?
    If the Trek gave out on you, you'd still be out of pocket due to the expense of getting it up to scratch.
    I wonder what that money might do for the LHT.
    If you replaced the cassette, bottom bracket, free hub, chain and front rings, serviced the wheels (spoke tension and bearing grease), in what way might the LHT prove to be unreliable?
    I understand spares for 700c might be thin on the ground in some of those places but you'll be touring and not mountain bike racing.
    Oh and repack the pedal grease and tension bearings as well as repack the headset bearings.
    Has the Trek more spokes than the Trucker?
    The trucker is purpose built and I'd lean toward trusting that build if you've done the above which is what I'd do for any upcoming tour of greater than a months duration.
    Are you familiar with Cass Gilberts blog http://www.whileoutriding.com/
    Lots of South American stuff in there and Cass favors 29 types of bike although he's also done 26er.
    Good luck with your choice and look forward to hearing more about it.
    Last edited by rifraf; 12-22-13 at 08:53 AM.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by rm -rf View Post
    Check out the Bike Grease and Coffee blog. He was in Maine a year ago, rode to Florida, and is now in South America.

    It's a fat tire bike, and he sometimes goes way off road with it.
    Good link.
    Gotta laugh reading the first page to find mention of Cass Gilbert whom I linked to in my above post prior to reading your link.

  8. #8
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    How about a folding spare tire?
    I've made a near figure 8 out of wire bead tires, and draped the resulting curve over my rear Panniers

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by rifraf View Post
    I'm curious as to why you dont believe in your LHT?
    If the Trek gave out on you, you'd still be out of pocket due to the expense of getting it up to scratch.
    I wonder what that money might do for the LHT.
    If you replaced the cassette, bottom bracket, free hub, chain and front rings, serviced the wheels (spoke tension and bearing grease), in what way might the LHT prove to be unreliable?
    I understand spares for 700c might be thin on the ground in some of those places but you'll be touring and not mountain bike racing.
    Oh and repack the pedal grease and tension bearings as well as repack the headset bearings.
    Has the Trek more spokes than the Trucker?
    The trucker is purpose built and I'd lean toward trusting that build if you've done the above which is what I'd do for any upcoming tour of greater than a months duration.
    Are you familiar with Cass Gilberts blog http://www.whileoutriding.com/
    Lots of South American stuff in there and Cass favors 29 types of bike although he's also done 26er.
    Good luck with your choice and look forward to hearing more about it.
    Your points are very well taken, and are the reason I posted here.

    I like the LHT I built. It served me well across Europe last year, getting me from UK to Budapest, almost all on hard sealed roads. I did bend a rim on a very rocky trail when I went too fast with the fully loaded bike, and had to buy a rim to continue. I was in France, lost while navigating the Loire, on a detour. The rim was one I had purchased with a dynohub as a package and was not of high quality, and has since been replaced.

    Finding a shop and getting the rim installed took a day, and actually added to the interest of the trip - but this was France, and I suspect it could be a different story if I were halfway up a mountain in the Andes.

    I keep reading about using 26 inch bikes for remote locations due to availability of rims and tires. I suppose I could build or buy a true expedition quality 26 inch based bike ($$$$) and equip it fully, and would actually enjoy the build. Sitting here in my home though is this 1995 Trek 7000 non-suspension mountain bike. Add tires and racks and go.

    Lets assume that servicing on both bikes is equal, as I can just as easily do the maintenance on either. I can carry spare foldable tires for each. Rims are another matter though, and I do not imagine carrying a spare is practical. I have visions of a donkey with FEDEX on its flanks, trudging up a dirt mountain road while I develop an extended relationship with the locals.

    I'll read the material you referred to and think about it some more.

    Thanks.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by lhendrick View Post
    Your points are very well taken, and are the reason I posted here.

    I like the LHT I built. It served me well across Europe last year, getting me from UK to Budapest, almost all on hard sealed roads. I did bend a rim on a very rocky trail when I went too fast with the fully loaded bike, and had to buy a rim to continue. I was in France, lost while navigating the Loire, on a detour. The rim was one I had purchased with a dynohub as a package and was not of high quality, and has since been replaced.

    Finding a shop and getting the rim installed took a day, and actually added to the interest of the trip - but this was France, and I suspect it could be a different story if I were halfway up a mountain in the Andes.

    I keep reading about using 26 inch bikes for remote locations due to availability of rims and tires. I suppose I could build or buy a true expedition quality 26 inch based bike ($$$$) and equip it fully, and would actually enjoy the build. Sitting here in my home though is this 1995 Trek 7000 non-suspension mountain bike. Add tires and racks and go.

    Lets assume that servicing on both bikes is equal, as I can just as easily do the maintenance on either. I can carry spare foldable tires for each. Rims are another matter though, and I do not imagine carrying a spare is practical. I have visions of a donkey with FEDEX on its flanks, trudging up a dirt mountain road while I develop an extended relationship with the locals.

    I'll read the material you referred to and think about it some more.

    Thanks.
    I'm in no way knocking the Trek.
    I just think the LHT has already proven itself to be a capable and comfortable(?) bike to tour on, hence you having to think about it.
    I cant remember the size off the top of my head but I was actually impressed with the tire fatness the LHT could manage without fenders.
    I think big tyres are good for comfort and go a good way towards rim protection given enough air in them.
    I utilise Velocity Dyads which are narrow by current mountain bike standards but I still happily use a 50x622 (28x2.00) tire on them.
    In fact for around town day to day stuff I use a 60x622 (28x2.35) but prefer the former 2 inch wide and lighter tire for touring (marathon supreme with back up of 2 inch Mondials for rough stuff).
    I stick with approx 30-35psi which appears ample with out coming close to pinch flats nor too much drag whilst being easier on the rims than high pressure in high volume tires.
    Rims tend to suffer failure from too much pressure with high volume tires, pinch flat impacts from too low pressure or high impact more common with mountain bike style of aggressive riding as main culprits, from my experience and forum reading.
    Running wider tires and lower end pressures seem easier on them from what I've gleaned from personal experience and reading of others opinions and stories of failures.
    Serviced hub and properly tensioned spokes tend to go a long way toward longevity in wheels and theres plenty of people touring on 700c wheels where prudence might suggest angels fear to tread.
    Terminal failures are not impossible but I think rarer than many fear.
    A good collection of appropriate sized spokes taken with you and perhaps more left with someone able to post may alleviate some of the stress of the unknown with its accompanying paranoia.

    Edit: I just checked out the Surly site which claim:
    "700c: 42mm with fenders, 45mm without fenders Individual tire and rim combos affect tire clearance"
    Which offer a good range of fat tires to help protect your rims in off road conditions with the caveat of a cautious approach to loaded touring on less than ideal surfaces.

    Oh and good call with the dynohub.
    I wouldnt be without mine and its B&M E-werk to keep my speedo/gps, my phone and lights going.
    Currently in the process of building up an extra-wheel trailer with a second dynohub to act as both water carrier and laptop and camera gear charging unit.
    Last edited by rifraf; 12-22-13 at 10:06 AM.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by rifraf View Post
    I'm in no way knocking the Trek.
    I just think the LHT has already proven itself to be a capable and comfortable(?) bike to tour on, hence you having to think about it.
    I cant remember the size off the top of my head but I was actually impressed with the tire fatness the LHT could manage without fenders.
    I think big tyres are good for comfort and go a good way towards rim protection given enough air in them.
    I utilise Velocity Dyads which are narrow by current mountain bike standards but I still happily use a 50x622 (28x2.00) tire on them.
    In fact for around town day to day stuff I use a 60x622 (28x2.35) but prefer the former 2 inch wide and lighter tire for touring (marathon supreme with back up of 2 inch Mondials for rough stuff).
    I stick with approx 30-35psi which appears ample with out coming close to pinch flats nor too much drag whilst being easier on the rims than high pressure in high volume tires.
    Rims tend to suffer failure from too much pressure with high volume tires, pinch flat impacts from too low pressure or high impact more common with mountain bike style of aggressive riding as main culprits, from my experience and forum reading.
    Running wider tires and lower end pressures seem easier on them from what I've gleaned from personal experience and reading of others opinions and stories of failures.
    Serviced hub and properly tensioned spokes tend to go a long way toward longevity in wheels and theres plenty of people touring on 700c wheels where prudence might suggest angels fear to tread.
    Terminal failures are not impossible but I think rarer than many fear.
    A good collection of appropriate sized spokes taken with you and perhaps more left with someone able to post may alleviate some of the stress of the unknown with its accompanying paranoia.

    Edit: I just checked out the Surly site which claim:
    "700c: 42mm with fenders, 45mm without fenders Individual tire and rim combos affect tire clearance"
    Which offer a good range of fat tires to help protect your rims in off road conditions with the caveat of a cautious approach to loaded touring on less than ideal surfaces.

    Oh and good call with the dynohub.
    I wouldnt be without mine and its B&M E-werk to keep my speedo/gps, my phone and lights going.
    Currently in the process of building up an extra-wheel trailer with a second dynohub to act as both water carrier and laptop and camera gear charging unit.
    OK. Good thoughts. The balance is swinging back towards the LHT with fat tires. I'm still running the original Conti Contacts 37mm, 700C, now with 3000 miles on them, so was going to replace anyway, probably with fat Mondials/Supremes/Etc.

  12. #12
    Senior Member simplygib's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lhendrick View Post
    How about a folding spare tire?
    Worked well for me in Nicaragua a few years back. Had new Marathons but split one open on some nasty glass. The folding Marathon went on easy and worked well. I wouldn't tour in any 3rd world country with 700s especially if I have a perfectly good bike with 26" wheels ready to go. Taco one wheel and you're in for a major inconvenience. Probably unlikely to happen but I'd rather not even have to think about it. Even ran into a bit of trouble with that here in the U.S. a few years back with my gf's bike (blowout, no spare, small town, plenty of 26" tires but no 700s).

  13. #13
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    Maybe I should take the LHT and strap the 26 MTB on the back as a spare....

    A serious question tho, the Trek is an aluminum framed bike, big tubes - any issues with that?
    If the aluminum is a liability, I guess I could buy a steel frame and fork and transfer all the running gear over.

  14. #14
    Senior Member pasopia's Avatar
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    As long as the parts are solid, I would go with the trek. Decent replacement parts for 700c wheels are hard to find, especially if you want big tires. Getting new parts fedexed can be a nightmare. I had a set of v brakes stuck in customs in chile for two weeks.

    Also, does your lht have drops? Do you like riding dirt roads on drops? I don't, I used a drop bar 26"' lht for my 7 month trip through South America. Pretty much the only thing I would have changed was using flats bars instead of drops. I don't find hoods to be comfortable on rough roads, of which there are many.

    Either way you'll have a great trip.
    My 2010-2011 tour from Argentina to Ecuador:
    http://awesomebiketour.tumblr.com/

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by pasopia View Post
    As long as the parts are solid, I would go with the trek. Decent replacement parts for 700c wheels are hard to find, especially if you want big tires. Getting new parts fedexed can be a nightmare. I had a set of v brakes stuck in customs in chile for two weeks.

    Also, does your lht have drops? Do you like riding dirt roads on drops? I don't, I used a drop bar 26"' lht for my 7 month trip through South America. Pretty much the only thing I would have changed was using flats bars instead of drops. I don't find hoods to be comfortable on rough roads, of which there are many.

    Either way you'll have a great trip.
    Thanks! Great website for your tour, reading now. I know this will be a great trip.

  16. #16
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    steel is easier to weld than aluminum

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by aztarget View Post
    steel is easier to weld than aluminum
    Do people really break frames? Does this happen on tours such that I should plan for it or is it urban legend? At age 65 I suspect that any event likely to cause frame breakage would have killed me anyway. If breakage is something that happens often enough riding down rough roads slowly, please tell me and I'll order a new steel frame and transfer over all my running gear before I go.

  18. #18
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    People do break frames, but like wheels, its not common.
    For more than anecdotal evidence I could offer you more blog reading but you already have heaps of reading material been given.....
    To hell with it, I'll offer up one of the most inspirational blogs for me that got my traveling mojo worked up enough to kick start my across Australia tour:
    http://www.cycletrailsaustralia.com/
    Instead of me searching out his pictures showing bike frame as well as trailer frame breakages and how he dealt with them, I say get your reading goggles on and get perusing GJ's "Three Bike Touring Bloggs" starting with "Heading West"
    http://www.cycletrailsaustralia.com/7b-blog/ click on http://www.cycletrailsaustralia.com/...g/heading-west
    As for catastrophic failure, the GJ approach suggests.........
    Nah, you read it!

  19. #19
    Senior Member pasopia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lhendrick View Post
    Thanks! Great website for your tour, reading now. I know this will be a great trip.
    Thanks! Feel free to contact me if you have any specific questions.
    My 2010-2011 tour from Argentina to Ecuador:
    http://awesomebiketour.tumblr.com/

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by lhendrick View Post
    I am planning a tour through South America, Argentina, Chili, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Columbia, etc. Lots of rough roads so I was thinking of taking my mid-1990's Trek 7000 mountain bike instead of my Surly LHT (56cm, 700C). The Trek has decent mid range machinery, and I think I can install F&R racks and fenders. It is essentially a free bike to me, so no great loss if it is destroyed/stolen in contrast to the LHT into which I have a lot of recent $$$ invested.

    Question: any reason NOT to do this.

    I'm sure I would have to customize it a bit (new wide tires, etc).

    All thoughts appreciated.

    Larry
    I'm in the opposite camp.

    I built up two 80s mountain bikes for my South American tour in March, but I'm likely going to buy an LHT frame (26") and switch the parts over. The geometry just doesn't feel quite right on my Jamis Dakota.

    http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...-touring/page3

    I do think the 26" wheels are a big deal, and if the LHT is a 800 the Trek may definitely be the best option. Or sell the 700 and buy a 26

  21. #21
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    I agree the 26 wheels are a big deal.

    ** Update **

    I have decided to take the old Trek hard tail mountain bike to South America, and just ordered a set of new 26 inch wheels to replace the stock that came with the bike (they were 32 spoke, in OK shape, but I don't need any surprises on tour this year as bike plus gear weight is 78 lbs and I am 188.

    I ordered this custom build wheelset from Peter White (Great advice from them):

    Velocity Rims 559 Aeroheat silver 36h MSW
    Wheelsmith DB14 stainless Spokes
    Velocity hub r SH 8/9/10 135mm 36h black
    Schmidt SON28 36h polished
    Velox rim tape 17mm
    Build new wheel, labor

    My thinking with this order is to use these wheels as the basis of a new touring bike build with a new steel frame next year, but for now they will go on the Trek.

    I mounted my Tubus racks from my LHT
    I mounted Front and Rear dynamo lights and a USB charger all from the LHT build of last years tour.
    I mounted Planet Bike 65mm plastic fenders.

    I took the fully loaded bike out for a ride test and it is handling the load very well so far on paved roads.

    Now I have to order some Schwalbe Marathon Mondial or Plus Tours 26 x 2 F&R. Heavy but strong.

    Thanks to all that advised here. I'll post pics of the final build.
    Last edited by lhendrick; 01-10-14 at 02:30 PM.

  22. #22
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    Happy Days! Thanks to all for helping me with the decision on what bike to take to South America, my trusty 700C LHT or my 18 year old Trek 7000 mountain bike, suitably modified.

    I decided to build up the Trek 7000 mountain bike for this trip. Major improvement was to install a set of 26" custom wheels from Peter White. Strong and stout, with Schwalbe Marathon Mondial 26 x 2.15 monster truck tires.

    I upgraded the cassette to 11-34 8 speeds from the original 7 speed. No other changes needed. All other running gear is original midrange Shimano STX, except the Brifters never worked so replace with new old stock.

    All the luggage, lights and gizmos came over from the Surly LHT. I installed a Trekking handlebar and love it. Seat is Selle Anatomica Titanico.

    The front wheel was built with a Schmidt SON28 dynamo. It powers the B&M LED headlight and tail light that I carried over from the LHT, and provides power to charge up a battery pack that I use to top off my Garmin Edge 810 GPS and smartphone as needed.

    The wheels arrived yesterday, and I worked all evening to get the tires on, cassette installed, deraileur adjusted for the extra gear and even installed new orange KoolStop brake pads. It was 11:30pm and pouring rain in Florida last night when I finished, but I took the beast out of a test ride, made some adjustments and loved it.

    Here's the completed build waiting for the Ortliebs:
    Trek7000Touring1.jpg

    I enjoyed the build so much, and really like the new wheels and tires combination. So much so that I think I may buy a new steel frame, thinking Surly Troll or LHT 26, and move the components except for the 700C wheels over from the LHT in the stable, since I can only ride one bike at a time while I am adventuring across South America. The Trek looks good to go, but I will always have that aluminum frame to keep me up at night.
    Last edited by lhendrick; 01-30-14 at 10:17 AM.

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