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Choosing sport touring: Palo Alto vs. Trek and Miyata

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Choosing sport touring: Palo Alto vs. Trek and Miyata

Old 04-20-10, 09:30 PM
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Choosing sport touring: Palo Alto vs. Trek and Miyata

Hi All, finally taking the plunge into steel, and want a nice comfortable frame that'll last me decades. Will prob only do light touring. Wondering how Palo Alto stacks up against Trek 520/620/720 and Miyata 610/1000. Any other suggestions? Or are those more dedicated touring bikes when I should be looking at lighter versions?
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Old 04-20-10, 10:08 PM
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Hmm - I've never heard of a Palo Alto, but Trek and Miyata are legendary.

Don't be afraid to look at some of the other 80's Asian tourers - Univega, Fuji, and Shogun all had very respectable higher-end touring bikes that are still highly sought after. Sure, they're not Miyata 1000's, but they'll still knock the socks off of any modern aluminum tourer.
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Old 04-20-10, 10:27 PM
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As I recall, Palo Alto was a mail order bike equipment and clothing company. They had some nice frames manufactured for them, but I don't recall who made them. I think you'd be hard pressed to beat an American-made Trek, but I am biased since I sold them long ago. The early '80's models are very nice touring frames. Do some research on which frames were made with various tubing types. For example, the (1984?) Trek 520 used Reynolds 501 straight-gauge tubing, while more expensive models used Reynolds 531. Happy shopping!
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Old 04-20-10, 10:58 PM
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bigbossman has a palo alto. he speaks highly of it.
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Old 04-21-10, 01:17 AM
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Very true in terms of other brands (Univega Specialissima, Fuji Club Touring, Shogun... not sure...I've only seen an Alpine GT but not sure if it's good). Maybe I should be looking at "light tourers"? Any specific brand/models I should be looking at? It will be nice to run fat tires with fenders so some clearance is definitely welcome. Very confused at this point.
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Old 04-21-10, 08:45 AM
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All the above is good advice, looks like you really need to decide what style of riding you'll do, if you really need the load-handling and features of a true tourist, then a "Sport Tourist" won't cut it. If all you need is clearance for fatter tires and fenders then you'll have dozens of worthwhile choices.
Don't know who might have built Palo Alto touring frames, but their road bikes were built by (among them ) Tom Ritchey and BMZ (in Italy, which is the one BBM has), both of which would be outstanding frames if you're considering a Palo Alto.
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Old 04-21-10, 11:04 AM
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I want a casual comfortable ride, upright with swept back bars, with the chance of some light touring. I may go for a 650b conversion too. Thanks for all your suggestions and advice. The palo alto I was looking at is way out of my price range now, just the frame and fork is already nearing $500 (That seems a bit much to me despite it's build). I will most likely end up with a lower end Trek to mess around with while I scout for higher end stuff =). I'll post a picture if it comes to fruition.
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Old 04-21-10, 11:06 AM
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Originally Posted by unworthy1 View Post
Don't know who might have built Palo Alto touring frames, but their road bikes were built by (among them ) Tom Ritchey and BMZ (in Italy, which is the one BBM has), both of which would be outstanding frames if you're considering a Palo Alto.
A few points, with the most important point first - I'm the last one you want to listen to regarding what touring frame is right for you.

Palo Alto Bicycles wasn't mail-order only, it is and was a popular local bike shop that carries a lot of higher end inventory. I never found proof the Ritchey made any Palo Alto frames, but they do show a Ritchey Team Comp mtb in the 1984 catalog scan on Velobase - so you never know. Of course, they also list Vitus 979 and Eddy Merckx frame sets, too. My frame (and every other one that I've seem with my own eyes) is clearly marked BMZ on the BB shell (Biemmezeta), which was a house in Italy the built contract frames for many labels - Palo Alto Bicycles being one of them.

While my bike is decidedly not a touring frame, there is a touring frame pictured next to it in the catalog, and the frame/fork retailed for $340 in 1984.

Now all that being said...... and keep my first point in mind ............. a full touring bike would be overkill and a waste of money for light and/or credit card touring. Just about any sport geometry will be comfortable and handle well with light loads.

And in conclusion, the ride quality of my Palo Alto is through the roof. Again, it's not a touring frame....but I wouldn't trade it for any two or three Treks or Miyatas. I like it better than my Cinelli, and it is at least on par with my Pogliaghi. It is a thrill to ride every minute that I'm on it, it is a thing of beauty, and it is a one-off. No one else has one like mine.

Trek and Miyata both make fine bikes, but I cannot imagine a day when I would sell my Palo Alto. Never, ever.
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Old 04-21-10, 11:55 AM
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Well I'm a total newb, so perhaps I shouldn't be offering advice, but I just bought an '84 Trek 620, and am very happy so far. It's actually in the shop right now, getting a bit of an overhaul, but my initial impressions were very favorable. My understanding is that the '83 and '84 models of the 620 had somewhat shorter chainstays then the 720, which most serious tourers seem to consider a con, but which might be more along the lines of what you are looking for (a little less flex, and a little snappier handling). And you get 531 (for the main triangle at least) as opposed to with the 520. I'll be posting as soon as I get the thing set up the way I want, but I'm thinking it's going to be an ideal commuter/all around bike. The only thing I don't like is that it has 27 inch wheels.

Can't comment on Trek vs Miyata, or anything else for that matter...I'll leave that to the more experienced among us.
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Old 04-21-10, 12:20 PM
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And in conclusion, the ride quality of my Palo Alto is though the roof. Again, it's not a touring frame....but I wouldn't trade it for any two or three Treks or Miyatas. I like it better than my Cinelli, and it is at least on par with my Pogliaghi. It is a thrill to ride every minute that I'm on it, it is a thing of beauty, and it is a one-off. No one else has one like mine.

Trek and Miyata both make fine bikes, but I cannot imagine a day when I would sell my Palo Alto. Never, ever.[/QUOTE]

Hi BBM, I've heard alot about you! So then you think the $500+ on an 85' palo alto touring would be worth it then? I have no idea what price it will reach... Ok maybe touring frame is overkill for me then... But now I really want a PA!
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Old 04-21-10, 01:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Soma Roark View Post
Hi BBM, I've heard alot about you! So then you think the $500+ on an 85' palo alto touring would be worth it then? I have no idea what price it will reach... Ok maybe touring frame is overkill for me then... But now I really want a PA!
Oh, really? Who's been talking........

I paid $250 just for my frame and fork. All told, it cost me about $1100-$1200 to build out my Palo Alto, and to me it was worth every penny and more. Its' ride quality is the standard by which I judge all other bikes I ride.

To answer your question: $500+ for a complete bike in good condition? Yes. $500+ for just a frame set? Not so much - seems a little expensive to me. But if I wanted it, I'd spend it and forget it - the pain in your wallet will fade well before the joy of riding it does.

Maybe the PA touring frames are scarce and/or desirable. I know I never see any like mine, and I live in the area where they were sold. I've seen one other (kind of rough) frame on CL locally that sold before I could get to it for $300, and I saw a complete pristine 49cm one with SR sell on eBay a year or two ago for over $1400. In addition, one or two posters have popped in here to say they have one, but frankly it's not a commonly found frame set.

Again - please keep in mind that I have no experience with the touring frame.

Here - take a look:



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Old 04-21-10, 04:12 PM
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[QUOTE=bigbossman;10703866]Oh, really? Who's been talking........

I paid $250 just for my frame and fork. All told, it cost me about $1100-$1200 to build out my Palo Alto, and to me it was worth every penny and more. Its' ride quality is the standard by which I judge all other bikes I ride.

The comments have "mostly" been good =) I think there is a whole discussion about you actually... but I'm sure you already know that =) MAJOR DROOL btw, nice photos. I think the PA frames are pretty rare, and I'm not sure what I like about it, I think it's the simplicity in the lines, the bird/raven stamp, the tree. Or maybe it's a local frame with its own history... It's just beautiful and now additionally beefed up by you! So... I'm still 99% sure I won't get it but who knows when the impulse will take over...
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Old 04-21-10, 04:43 PM
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my 2cents.... the "sport touring" frame was the most common (as far as i know) geometry in the 80s. Almost all companies made nice examples, and for what you want they make great bikes. If I was you and I was looking for a nice bike for light touring I would keep my eyes peeled in the local used market (Craigslist, flea markets, thrift/vintage shops etc) for a bike that fits you, instead of just looking for a specific brand.
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Old 04-21-10, 05:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Soma Roark View Post
......the bird/raven stamp...
That bird is the Columbus trademark dove. Columbus SL db tubing was used to build the bikes. My particular bike was probably repainted, as is sports no decals at all. I am sure it is a Palo Alto, though - they left subtle clues here and there.






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Old 04-21-10, 06:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Maddox View Post
Don't be afraid to look at some of the other 80's Asian tourers - Univega, Fuji, and Shogun all had very respectable higher-end touring bikes that are still highly sought after. Sure, they're not Miyata 1000's, but they'll still knock the socks off of any modern aluminum tourer.
How so?

I'd suggest you do look for a light touring frame rather than a full touring frame, as they often offer a more spirited ride. 'Sport Touring' frames tend to have slightly shorter chainstays (~43) and sometimes a slightly more aggressive seat tube angle. They also often have lighter tubing.

One advantage of modern dedicated touring frames today is chainstay and fork clearance for wider tires and oversize tubes which offer greater stiffness (important when carrying heavy loads, and preferable if you'll be doing a lot of climbing). Oversize tubes are even more of an advantage if you ride a larger size frame (58cm +), at least in my experience.

A problem with some of the later generic Japanese sport touring frames is that while they have eyelets for fenders, the brake bridge is often placed very low on the rear and fork clearance isn't great. I've just recently build a Panasonic DX-3000 for a friend who had hoped to run fenders and at least 28c tires (encouraged by the eyelets). However, it won't fit 28c at all, and 25c with fenders would be an extremely tight fit.

I've built up a 60cm '78 Trek TX 500. It fits 700x32c tires with fenders (it was built for 27" rims). It might be able to fit 35c, but that's probably it because the width between the chainstays at the BB shell is a limiting factor. The chainstays are 44.5 cm, which even with the slightly stiffer Ishiwata 022 tubing, really drags up hills. I'm 185 lbs, and I tend to mash more than spin, so factor that in.

So how wide are the tires you want to run? Will you be riding many hills?
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Old 04-21-10, 06:54 PM
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Now I feel silly, I didn't realize that was the columbus bird lol even though I've seen it a bunch of times. But it's still a nice bird. Ok maybe a lighter/sport tourer is better for my vision then. I was planning on running 32-35's tires with an option of fenders (the roads are terrible here). Am I stuck with early 80's bikes with 27" wheels that I can change to 700? I've thought about 650b as well and just using long reach brakes like the dia compes Grant is selling. Not many hills. One huge one I can avoid by going the long way (The Disney Music Hall Hill...). So now I'm looking at lower end Treks =7. I will check out yard sales and swap meets this weekend, but to be honest, my past attempts have come up pretty empty. Wish i could just afford a rivendell, but that's something else =D
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Old 04-21-10, 07:02 PM
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I just think if you're looking at a vintage frame, be prepared to run more narrow tires. Yes, you can find some that will fit 35s, but I've also found lots that can't. Also, if you plan to go 650B, be sure to find a frame with a high bottom bracket.
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Old 04-21-10, 07:30 PM
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Originally Posted by JunkYardBike View Post
I just think if you're looking at a vintage frame, be prepared to run more narrow tires. Yes, you can find some that will fit 35s, but I've also found lots that can't. Also, if you plan to go 650B, be sure to find a frame with a high bottom bracket.
I'll definitely make measurements before doing anything. I'm hoping big tires will alleviate the BB concern, or else change crank length. This is all way ahead of everything though, first a bike...
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Old 04-21-10, 09:01 PM
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As lovely as the Palo Alto is, it sound like you're expecting rough terrain so you might be better off with a lesser bike - you won't feel as bad when you stuff it into a ditch. I use an old Specialized Crossroads as a commuter and I'm not afraid to jump curbs when necessary or take it off road. I certainly wouldn't call it a sport tourer though, I'm afraid the H word is more accurate...

As an interesting aside, I was browsing the Fully Loaded Touring gallery and noticed that Surly Long Haul Truckers and Trek 520s seem to outnumber the rest, but there are a fair few Miyatas as well.

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Old 04-21-10, 10:30 PM
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Wow where do you live??? LA streets are not THAT rough haha. But yeah I probably should pick a bike I would actually ride and feel safe locking up. Ebay is so not the way to go, a low end Trek with shipping is still going for $300+. O woe is me...
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Old 04-21-10, 10:53 PM
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What size are you looking for? If I knew that, I'd be happy to browse through CL in your area to give suggestions.
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Old 04-21-10, 11:09 PM
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O I've been combing. Too bad CL people don't ship bc I see some possibilities there =)
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Old 04-22-10, 08:06 AM
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Don't get stuck on a brand name. There are zillions of bikes you'd like, given your criteria. For instance, a very old Raleigh Super Course (or higher), is a wonderful frame. I have a 1971 Super Course. I thought it would ride similarly to the UO-8 it was replacing. I was wrong. It is far and away better in every way. It is comfy yet nimble. It climbs eagerly.

I put upright bars on it because it's my city bike. Also, it's a bit small for me, and I was too bent over.

chris in miami, are those turkey vultures?

junkyardbike, seat angle doesn't affect handling, it affects seat position. To my tastes, a slack angle makes me more aggressive, because I like my seat all the way back. It's a matter of taste. A steep head tube angle makes handling aggressive for all riders, but not a steep seat tube angle.
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Old 04-22-10, 08:31 AM
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Originally Posted by Soma Roark View Post
Now I feel silly, I didn't realize that was the columbus bird lol even though I've seen it a bunch of times. But it's still a nice bird. Ok maybe a lighter/sport tourer is better for my vision then. I was planning on running 32-35's tires with an option of fenders (the roads are terrible here). Am I stuck with early 80's bikes with 27" wheels that I can change to 700? I've thought about 650b as well and just using long reach brakes like the dia compes Grant is selling. Not many hills. One huge one I can avoid by going the long way (The Disney Music Hall Hill...). So now I'm looking at lower end Treks =7. I will check out yard sales and swap meets this weekend, but to be honest, my past attempts have come up pretty empty. Wish i could just afford a rivendell, but that's something else =D
A friend here in Michigan converted a 1983 (I think) Trek 610 from 27" to 650b, and I think he's running 38s or 42s, with fenders. He went for long Weinmann brake calipers, I think 750s? No problems.
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Old 04-22-10, 08:40 AM
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Originally Posted by JunkYardBike View Post

(snipped)

A problem with some of the later generic Japanese sport touring frames is that while they have eyelets for fenders, the brake bridge is often placed very low on the rear and fork clearance isn't great. I've just recently build a Panasonic DX-3000 for a friend who had hoped to run fenders and at least 28c tires (encouraged by the eyelets). However, it won't fit 28c at all, and 25c with fenders would be an extremely tight fit.

I've built up a 60cm '78 Trek TX 500. It fits 700x32c tires with fenders (it was built for 27" rims). It might be able to fit 35c, but that's probably it because the width between the chainstays at the BB shell is a limiting factor. The chainstays are 44.5 cm, which even with the slightly stiffer Ishiwata 022 tubing, really drags up hills. I'm 185 lbs, and I tend to mash more than spin, so factor that in.

So how wide are the tires you want to run? Will you be riding many hills?
I'd agree with this '80s sport-tour caveat, though I doubt it's universally true. It's clearly not limited to Japanese bikes. My 1984 Wisconsin Trek 610 came new with very skinny 27 inchers, probably 1 1/8 (28 mm). I now use 700c, both tubular wheels and clinchers with 28c. Both look pretty good with SKS 35 mm fenders installed. It's slightly tight with 28c and really nice with 21 mm tubulars. I could use 34s, but not with fenders.
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