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Touring Bike or ??? for Commuting

Old 08-27-18, 03:55 PM
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Touring Bike or ??? for Commuting

Looking for opinions from people who’ve used certain bikes for commuting – sorry, it’s another of those threads.

I’ve got an old Cannondale CAD 8 that’s been tinkered with over the years so that it’s very comfy for group road rides. Specifically, it’s got a wing bar with an Ultegra 10-speed drive train and a Brooks B17. I experimented with three or four different handlebars before settling on this one, and the Ultegra hoods seem to be wider than some others, which allows me to spread the weight of my hands over a slightly larger surface area, making that aspect surprisingly more comfortable. It’s a 63cm frame and fits a 35” inseam/37” cycling inseam really well.

Anyway, I’d like to be able to put fenders, a rack and bags on the bike and carry rain gear, lunch and a pair of shoes and that won’t work very well with the Cannondale. A number of people have recommended touring bikes, so I went to the LBS over the weekend and rode a Surly Long Haul Trucker. It had an upright seating position, which I liked (as I’m, how you say…old), but the stock bars are very traditional and the Tektro brake hoods felt like something out of the ‘70s. I was surprised how much difference the skinnier hoods made. I know I can change the bars and wrap the shift cables part way up the bars (another thing I found kind of odd – having the shift cables sticking out of the bottoms of the bar-ends) but would rather avoid doing that if possible.

Of course, I kept trying to shift with the brake levers the same as with the STI levers on the Cannondale, and I know I can get used to the bar end shifters, but was expecting to be won over by the LHT and was surprised not to be.

So, has anyone else been through this? I know I’m kind of whining about the small stuff, but don’t really want to put down $1,500 for a new bike, rack and some bags and wish I’d gone another direction.

I also wouldn’t be averse to one of the Trek FX bikes, a Fuji Absolute, Jamis Coda or something similar. I rode a Trek FX2 and thought it might work well. Maybe throw on a Jones H-Bar or something. If anyone has had another touring bike work well for them as a commuter, please feel free to chime in. Maybe a Trek 520, Kona Sutra or Jamis Aurora? I know it boils down to personal preference, but I’d be interested in anyone’s input on any of these bikes or others that have worked well for you, drop or flat bars. The bike will also be used for jaunts to the store and around town. I have vague aspirations to do some medium or long-distance touring in the future, but probably nothing will come of that.

My commute is only about eight miles each way, part residential streets and partly over fairly busy 40 mph roads with shoulders (mostly). I put some skinny tires on my old Gary Fisher Marlin mtb and it was pretty miserable – not too comfy and was able to spin out of the highest gear pretty easily on a slight downhill.

I know there's a lot of threads on this subject, but I’ve been looking through the Commuting and Touring forums and didn’t see much specifically on this group of bikes. If I missed something, please point me in that direction.

Thanks/cheers!
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Old 08-27-18, 05:34 PM
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I'd look for an older Cannondale touring bike. Easily accommodates your racks, packs and everything else.

They're not always that expensive. I picked up a really nice condition T700 recently for $250.
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Old 08-27-18, 06:56 PM
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Any 80s touring bike worthy of the name makes an excellent commuting platform... whether equipped with period correct components or updated to as recent as you please.
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Old 08-27-18, 07:03 PM
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Touring bikes make fantastic commuters! Of course, a Trek Fx series works just fine, too, as it will have mount points and room for fenders, etc.

It will depend on your preference. I mostly commute on a touring bike (Specialized AWOL) and when my wife rides to work it’s on an older Trek FX 2.

If budget is a concern, I agree with the above advice to look for an older touring bike. They make great commuters!
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Old 08-27-18, 10:34 PM
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Quick question. Were the bars on the LHT high enough? Was the steerer tube already cut or can the bars be moved higher?

You mentioned being old ... Im kinda old, too. There is no need to suffer with low handle bars just because that is the fashion, or because a 20-something mechanic bulit up,the bike that way. Hand comfort and better access to the LHT bar end shifters might both be addressed with higher bars.

Related: You sound pretty tall...was the LHT big enough for you?
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Old 08-28-18, 12:15 AM
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The things you mention not liking about the Long Haul Trucker aren't really the things I would expect to separate a touring bike from your Canondale. As you say, you can change the controls any way you like. The more relevant question in my mind is how you like to ride. I used to have an LHT and some days I really liked it but most days I didn't. There was nothing wrong with the bike necessarily. Lots of people love them. It just didn't suit the way I like to ride.

I used my LHT sparingly for commuting because I had other options. The times I enjoyed it were on days when I wanted a slow, relaxed ride. If I was just puttering along in the neighborhoods enjoying the weather and taking in the scenery, it was a nice bike. If I wanted any kind of snappy ride (and let me make clear that I am by no means a fast rider), it frustrated me. It's not that I couldn't make it go fast. I just always felt like it didn't want to.

So that's the question I'd ask, particularly with regard to a Long Haul Trucker. If you just want to carry some bags but you like the bike to be responsive, there are still some great bikes available. I'm a big fan of early-to-mid 80's sport touring bikes for this reason. But if you like a relaxed and comfortable ride on a steady bike that will take just about any load you want to strap on to it, then the LHT is worth the trouble of fine tuning.
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Old 08-28-18, 12:37 AM
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Between the racing bike and the full dress six bag touring bike you should have stopped somewhere in the middle.
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Old 08-28-18, 05:35 AM
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You may want an endurance bike. They're like road bikes but more comfortable with a slightly longer wheelbase and slightly more relaxed geometry. That's what I have, although I call it a semi touring bike. I have a 2015 Charge Plug Performance Bike edition. The All-City Space Horse is also one. The all-City Cosmic Stallion may also work for you.
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Old 08-28-18, 06:41 AM
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I recently had to buy a new commuter because my flatbar aluminum hybrid cracked at the bottom bracket. For a number of reasons I decided a touring bike would be a good choice. I was able to get a Co-op (REI) ADV 1.1 closeout for less than $800. I've got 4 months and about 1600 miles on it so far on a commute that is mostly straight-line on roads. Following is what I've experienced:

1. I find the bar-end shifters easy to use; I'm in the drops 90% of the time. But there are several disadvantages to the bar end shifters. They are easy to tap inadvertently when stopped or snag on tree branches when on unimproved trails. The ADV 1.1 has stops to limit the rotation of the steering tube so the ends don't hit frame; as a result, turning radius is not near as tight as my old hybrid. Another disadvantage is there really is no practical way to fit a handlebar mirror. I'm using only my helmet mirror now.

2. The ADV 1.1 came with 10 speed cassette which I wasn't too excited about (worried about chain life). I do have about 10 stops on my commute so downshifting, braking and upshifting sequence is important. My current practice is to get in the 4-5-6 range as I near a stoplight then dump the front chain ring down to granny when I stop. That gives me a good starting gear and normally I can get back to full cruise by just shifting the chainring.. essentially a three-speed which I can then trim for wind/slope. I am worried that this is putting too much stress on the chain quick link. I've already destroyed the factory chain (quick link failed).

3. I'm hoping the strength/durability of the steel touring frame is better than that of the aluminum hybrid. I often strap 20-40 pound bulky packages to my rear rack (in addition to panniers) so combined with my own fat the load is relatively heavy. However, I'm just relying on reputation of touring bikes in this regard. I had no problem fitting my rack and fenders. Dropbars have limited real estate for lights so I had to install an extension but that is working well.

Bottom line, if my commute were more urban than suburban I'd say the limited turning radius would drive me to either flatbar or brifters on dropbar. If I routinely used unimproved natural surface trails, I'd use a flatbar.
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Old 08-28-18, 09:23 AM
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Thanks everyone, that's very good info and much appreciated!


Originally Posted by Hub Spanner View Post
Quick question. Were the bars on the LHT high enough? Was the steerer tube already cut or can the bars be moved higher?

You mentioned being old ... Im kinda old, too. There is no need to suffer with low handle bars just because that is the fashion, or because a 20-something mechanic bulit up,the bike that way. Hand comfort and better access to the LHT bar end shifters might both be addressed with higher bars.

Related: You sound pretty tall...was the LHT big enough for you?

The LHT was a 60cm/XL, and it fit pretty well. We raised the seat post about an inch so I was able to straighten my leg at the bottom of the pedal stroke and it felt pretty good. Surly also has an XXL (62cm?), and according to their sizing charts, I'm kind of on the cusp between an XL and XXL. I'd probably go with the XL.

The bars were very high, with seven spacers and a high-angled stem, so the ride was very upright, and that part was very appealing.

Originally Posted by Andy_K View Post
The things you mention not liking about the Long Haul Trucker aren't really the things I would expect to separate a touring bike from your Canondale. As you say, you can change the controls any way you like. The more relevant question in my mind is how you like to ride. I used to have an LHT and some days I really liked it but most days I didn't. There was nothing wrong with the bike necessarily. Lots of people love them. It just didn't suit the way I like to ride.

I used my LHT sparingly for commuting because I had other options. The times I enjoyed it were on days when I wanted a slow, relaxed ride. If I was just puttering along in the neighborhoods enjoying the weather and taking in the scenery, it was a nice bike. If I wanted any kind of snappy ride (and let me make clear that I am by no means a fast rider), it frustrated me. It's not that I couldn't make it go fast. I just always felt like it didn't want to.

So that's the question I'd ask, particularly with regard to a Long Haul Trucker. If you just want to carry some bags but you like the bike to be responsive, there are still some great bikes available. I'm a big fan of early-to-mid 80's sport touring bikes for this reason. But if you like a relaxed and comfortable ride on a steady bike that will take just about any load you want to strap on to it, then the LHT is worth the trouble of fine tuning.
I'm keeping the Cannondale for faster group rides, general exercise, that sort of thing. It has a more upright seating position than it used to, owing to a different stem, but nothing like the LHT. The morning commute needs to be pretty casual, as we don't have showers at work and I'm not crazy about showing up in a lather, so I'm looking forward to the slower pace on these rides. It'll also be a grocery-getter and for rides around the city - out to dinner, movies, whatnot, so that'll be slower-paced as well.

Originally Posted by BobbyG View Post
You may want an endurance bike. They're like road bikes but more comfortable with a slightly longer wheelbase and slightly more relaxed geometry. That's what I have, although I call it a semi touring bike. I have a 2015 Charge Plug Performance Bike edition. The All-City Space Horse is also one. The all-City Cosmic Stallion may also work for you.
I'll take a look at the All-City bikes. The LBS that had the LHT also carries those. I guess that's about as close as anyone comes to a new version of the old sport touring bikes mentioned above, right?

Anyway, thanks again, folks!
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Old 08-28-18, 09:01 PM
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Originally Posted by Second Mouse View Post
I guess that's about as close as anyone comes to a new version of the old sport touring bikes mentioned above, right?
You can absolutely get such a bike today, even from the brands you already mentioned. But as a marketing category it's been passed by. You can find plenty of other bikes that do the same thing from all the major brands, but it might be "adventure" or "gravel" or "fitness" or "cross". Trek has four hundred and six models on their website... one will work.
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Old 08-29-18, 11:15 AM
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Originally Posted by Darth Lefty View Post
You can absolutely get such a bike today, even from the brands you already mentioned. But as a marketing category it's been passed by. You can find plenty of other bikes that do the same thing from all the major brands, but it might be "adventure" or "gravel" or "fitness" or "cross". Trek has four hundred and six models on their website... one will work.
If anyone has one of these bikes that's worked well for them, I'd love to hear about it.
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Old 08-29-18, 12:52 PM
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I'm 65 and have commuted on a road bike, a mountain bike, a sport tourer and now an LHT. The LHT, while a heavyweight, is the best by far for me.
The long wheelbase makes it stable and comfortable. I load it up quite a bit with lock, laptop, work clothes and shoes, etc., and it can always handle more. I have come to prefer the bar-ends to brifters and downtube shifters.
When I go for weekend rides on a Specialized Roubaix, it gets old at 25 miles, but I can ride the LHT all day long.
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Old 08-29-18, 08:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Second Mouse View Post
....was expecting to be won over by the LHT and was surprised not to be.
I'd be cautious about buying a bike you were not impressed with and trying to make it to make it work due to what people are saying on the Internet. There are many bikes out there, test ride what you can and find one you connect with.

I commute 10 miles daily with my 1990 Trek 520 (modernized with STI shifters) and a Salsa Vaya. They are both marketed as touring or light touring bikes and they are both are great rides. I wouldn't recommend a 2019 Trek 520 due to the aluminum fork though.
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Old 08-30-18, 06:41 AM
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I used to ride a low end road bike for my commute, but I wanted fenders, disc brakes, a back rack, and wider tires for winter commuting.

After much research, I narrowed it down to touring bikes, dutch bikes, and cross bikes. I really liked the dutch bike I had in mind, but I was worried that it was too casual, and I like to ride fast. The cross bikes looked ideal for the summer, they could fit at most 28mm tires and I wanted wider tires for the snowy months. I was worried about touring bikes being too heavy. I ended up buying a Trek Crossrip, which is advertised as an "adventure bike". I'm not sure what the means but it had all the features I was looking for.

In retrospect, I like the bike but I do have some slight buyers regret, because it is ok for most things, but it is not great for anything. If I had to do it again, I would buy a more specialized bike. Actually I think I would buy a low maintenance cheap fixie (my town is pretty flat). And maybe a cheap fattie for the winter. But from the options I had in mind, I think I would get the dutch bike for days when I have to carry a lot of things or when the weather is bad.

Two things I didn't pay enough attention to: the geometry and the stiffness of the frame. The cross rip comes with drop bars. So, I assumed I would be able to ride fast in aggressive positions. In reality, I am about 5mph slower than with my road bike, with the same level of effort. And much slower if there are many turns. The geometry of the frame is not designed for speed. And the bike is not very good for aggressive turns.
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Old 08-30-18, 04:58 PM
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Thanks you guys. This is really very helpful.

One bike that just caught my eye is the newer version of a Raleigh Grand Prix, but it looks like they're not making them anymore, and the only ones I could find that are still available are 54 and 56cm, which is a little shorter than I need. The ones that are left are selling at a deep discount.
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Old 09-23-18, 10:31 AM
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I use a 2012 Fuji Travere and a 2016 Trek 520. I use the Fuji more because I prefere a flatbar and the mountain bike agility. The Trek is my baby that I only use on very nice weather days. I have the same racks on both bikes so the trunk bag is interchangeable. I also use the Fuji in the winter months because it has fenders too.
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Old 09-25-18, 08:38 AM
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Touring bike is the way to go. Lots of room for panniers racks and fenders. Comfortable position and long stable wheelbase. A speedy bike is not necessary on a commute - your commute times are determined by traffic stops and lights, not the performance of the bike.
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Old 09-25-18, 10:25 AM
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I ride a 2017 Breezer Radar Expert. It is classed as a Gravel bike but I ride it for touring and commuting. I only got it in May and it is pretty much the only bike I ride now - I love it. 2700 Km later it is still going strong. The bars are flared (25 degree) with flatter areas on the top and they are the best thing I have ever used. I ride quite a bit and have lots of touring / commuting bikes and this is by far my favorite. I have had 63 cm Cannondale's in the past so I am roughly the same size. I have the XXL Breezer (60 cm). It has a very long top tube compared to most bikes. I don't seem to mind it though. So I ride this every day to work and have done 2 week long tours this summer with it fully loaded (front and rear panniers).


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Old 09-25-18, 11:44 AM
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Looks like you're set for a cross-country commute! -)
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Old 09-30-18, 09:13 PM
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Here's what I ended up getting:




It's a leftover 2017 Wilier Jareen. There are a few changes between the '17 and '18 models - '17 had an aluminium fork and slightly different chainrings - but the rest of it is pretty much the same. A fairly hefty little number at around 25 pounds, a lot of it due to the wheels and tires, I think. But gravel bikes seem to be where the rack and fender mounts are found these days, I like the gearing, geometry and measurements and think the wheels will hold up pretty well to my commute. Probably flip the stem, throw on some skinnier road tires, like 32 or 35 Schwalbe Marathon Supremes, a rack, fenders and my panniers or maybe a trunk bag.

I got it from Competitive Cyclist, which is a local outfit these days. I didn't expect much from customer service and wasn't disappointed. They did put it together, but communication was non-existent and whoever put it together was obviously concentrating on what he was doing, rather than what he was supposed to be doing, so it'll take some sorting and adjusting, but from a quick ride around the block, I think it will be just the ticket.

Thanks again, folks. It's a fun ride!

Cheers.
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