This summer my friend and I are planning a 3.5 month, 5000 mile bike tour through the Western U.S to celebrate his college graduation. This will be our first tour and we are doing everything we can to get trained, prepped, and ready for this trip. Equipment and gear wise we are planning pretty meticulously to be as lightweight and efficient as possible- except for the most important part- our bikes. As relatively poor college students we don't have proper touring bikes. He has a decent intro Triathlon bike (can't remember the model/brand) and I have a Giant Defy 2 Road bike. Both are excellent bikes for there respective purposes but I have a feeling they will be unsuitable/too fragile for such a long intense journey. So here are my options for the trip right now; I'm hoping you guys can weigh in on this.
1) Modify- Is there a way to modify my current Defy 2? It has an aluminum frame on it and I have attached a rear rack system but it doesn't have a front rack mounting system. The wheels/tires would also obviously have to be replaced to be stronger and more durable for more rough road conditions. The fork is also carbon fiber and I'm skeptical to out any extra strain on it with front panniers Is it possible to change out the fork for a wider, steel one? If anyone has any experience in this, let me know please!
2) Mountain Bike- My dad has an older Giant Mountain bike he bought in the 80's. Pretty sure its all steel and its incredibly durable. He has kept it in very good condition and maintenance over the years and rides it frequently to work most days. The only thing I don't like about it is that obviously heavier and it has a straight handlebar system whereas I would prefer a drop system. But all in all it is a very solid bike.
3) Build- A friend of mine who toured from Georgia to Texas one summer has offered to sell me his touring frame for $250. He has worked in a bike shop for a number of years and knows his stuff pretty well and has told me if I buy all the parts to build a new bike from scratch he would do all the labor setting it up for free. I like this option a lot except that I am currently saving all my money for this trip already and I am not sure if I will have enough to buy food/supplies/gear on top of a frame and new bike parts for $1000+ or so.
4) Rent- This is where you guys would come in. I've been wanting to do a tour for a number of years and now and I finally have the chance this summer. The only thing is after it is completed, I will go back to being a student for a while and won't have a lot of time to do any tours in the near future after this summer and hence why I am skeptical of forking out an extra grand on a bike I might not get to use. So if anyone living around me (Texas- Dallas, Houston, Austin, S.A) areas wouldn't mind making an arrangement with me where I could rent your bike for this summer tour I would greatly appreciate it. Obviously I know this seems sketchy to ask a bunch of strangers on the internet to borrow their bike, but if will I'm sure we could reach an agreement that is both fair financially and respectful to your equipment.
Thanks guys, let me know what y'all think!