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Old 12-11-06, 07:05 AM
Join Date: Aug 2005
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These aren't stupid questions, really. If it is the same bike in a target or local bike shop then there probably isn't a difference. But I have never seen that myself. You don't need an expensive bike to go a long way, but you do need a good one. My wife, not to mention my parents, did all their touring one 1 speed or 3 speed hub bikes. These were rock solid bikes. It is often worse traveling with a bike that doesn't work than walking, you need solid stuff to do a long tour or you will soon find out that a cheap bike is an anchor. On the other hand it doesn't have to be fancy. Look up Hans Stuch (try looking up Hans here), he has traveled further and to more countries and longer than anyone. He uses a really basic bike.

The problem appears when you want to spend a few hundred bucks for something that really cost about 1000. Mountain bikes with proper brakes gears frames and rims are not cheap. But second hand etc... may well get you what you want.

So what do you need?

1) you need to do enough cycling now to figure out what size of bike you fit. And to discover whether you are an off the rack suit kind of guy or someone who needs a more challenging fitting. You could start also by checking out online bike fit calculators. I find the French fit calculators are pretty relevant to touring. Google google.

2) You need to find a seat that is comfortable. Many seats are terrible. Comfortable for 2-4 hours, but bike touring is long 10-16 hours days of low speed cycling over and over. I like the B-17, but whether that's a good choice for Africa...

3) You need some serious drive train components. These need to have the right gears for your terrain. While not my favorite, I think you have half a hope of finding, 46, 36, 26; 11-32. These need to be good quality I don't know what the cheapest here is but I would not go below Shimano LX myself. You need a quality chain.

4) Brakes are real important, but every mountain bike I owned had decent brakes, touring bikes are tougher to outfit with drop bars and sometimes narrow forks. A good cheap brake is the Nashbar canti for 16 dollars a pair, you are probably more likely to find replacement parts for this slightly old fashioned unit.

5) Wheels are a money pit, really important but probably not in your budget, just go with what the bike had on them, but get a serious bike shop to go over them for you. You need 26" and some good tires.

6) Frames are where you find them. As mentioned the older MTB frames are perfect. Larger centers often have some cheap bike sources, stores that specialize only in second hand bikes or play it again sports places. Charities. There is probably a Target quality bike thrown out every month in your neighbourhood, check the garbage. Garage sales. Remember cheap is meaningless unless it fits, or provides needed parts. Look at bulletin boards at places like MEC or REI.

(7) Cycling shoes for trekkers. Really a lot more efficient, but also a big step in ensuring you don't get sore feet in a progressive way. Stiff hiking shoes aren't bad, but the bike shoes aren't much more expensive so who cares.

8) Learn now how to fix it, how to tear down hubs, bottom brackets, adjust brakes, repair punctures, etc... Looking through a book isn't enough, you will need some tools, and practice.
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