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Absolute Noob to Touring...need advice on what type bike to start with.

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Absolute Noob to Touring...need advice on what type bike to start with.

Old 07-02-15, 05:29 PM
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cyber.snow
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Absolute Noob to Touring...need advice on what type bike to start with.

Hi, Just a quick introduction. I am 69 years old and recently retired. One of the items on my bucket list has always been to do some bicycle touring. It seems that there are two types of touring bikes, ones that are made to run on the road (Surly LHT, Trek 520, etc) and ones that are made to run off the road (Surly Troll/Ogre, Safari, Salsa Fargo, etc.). How much riding/touring is actually done off the road? Should I start out doing credit card touring on a road type bike or go for the off the road solution and take the hit on being a little slower on the road than the other guys? I live in N California and would like to ride up the Coast Line through Oregon into Washington by next summer....lots of small trips and lots of rides with a fully loaded bike to get into shape...but not sure where to start on the bike.
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Old 07-02-15, 05:49 PM
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Really, only you can answer that question. It will depend on where you want to go and what the route is like. You can go up the coast on pavement the whole way, and a road touring bike will not disintegrate the instant it touches dirt--just slap some bigger tires on it if you want to try some rougher unpaved routes.
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Old 07-02-15, 06:08 PM
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on road vs. off road is not a very precise distinction! The road just gets rougher and rougher!

You can ride on some pretty rough tracks even on 28 mm tires. Even better to have say 32 or 35 mm capability. That will go a very long way.

One thing that is really useful is low gears, like below 25 inch. I have about a 17 inch gear on my bike and I think about taking it down still another notch or two. Hauling 100 pounds of bike + gear up say a 17% grade... the gears are really nice!

If you already have a road bike, sure absolutely go out on credit card tours! Push the bike you have to its limits! That'll help you see better what exactly the next bike should have.
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Old 07-02-15, 06:32 PM
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Welcome!

The Pacific Coast Route has been ridden on many types of bikes. You really don't have to get off the pavement unless you want to.

The LHT or similar bike will do a good job in a lot of conditions. As was pointed out, it is more a matter of tire size.

My LHT with 32 mm tires.


On a tour a few years ago my wife and I covered over 400 mile of roads and trails similar to this as part of our route. I had my LHT, and she was riding a similar touring specific bike.


My wife on same tour with 32 mm tires.

Last edited by Doug64; 07-02-15 at 07:40 PM.
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Old 07-02-15, 07:06 PM
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Great Feedback, thanks

My Felt V85 is an OK bike to ride around the neighborhood and I haven't tried anything longer than about 25 miles with it. Was just thinking that if I am going to start touring, it might be a good idea to start building both the bike and myself up to it. It sounds like getting a "touring bike" and then putting a little larger tires on it is more the way to go. Does anyone know how much of a load you can put on a LHT? The pics that Doug64 posted makes it look like it will really take a load.

Also not sure what a 25 inch gearing is vs a 17 inch gearing. I did go look at the Surly website at the LHT and am totally confused when trying to figure out what an inch gear is////????////
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Old 07-02-15, 07:57 PM
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yeah gear inches are funny but we need some way to measure high vs low gears and gear inches has been around a long time! I think it goes back to the days of ordinary / high wheel / penny farthing bikes, when the pedals were stuck right on the wheel. The bigger the wheel, the further the bike goes per rotation. Gear inches are just the effective diameter of the equivalent wheel when you have gears.

Here is Sheldon Brown's calculator: Sheldon Brown's Bicycle Gear Calculator

The stock LHT has a 26 tooth small chainring and a 32 tooth large sprocket. So one turn of the pedals is 0.81 turns of the wheel. From there it depends on the wheel size. 26 inch wheel times 0.81 = 21.13 gear inches in the low gear. The 700C will be a bit higher... I don't actually know the diameter of the typical 700C... call it 27 inches and you get 21.94 gear inches.

21.whatever is definitely a good low gear. Probably possible to knock that chainring down to a 24 or 22 - that should be standard info out on the web.
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Old 07-02-15, 07:59 PM
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A LHT will safely haul more weight than any tourist should sensibly ever attempt to carry for a long distance. If you haven't broken the rear wheel or frame of the Felt then you should be OK on a LHT with perhaps 50 lbs, although you should carry as little as necessary.

Calculate gear inches as follows: Calculate ratio of chainring to cog multiplied by approximate wheel diameter in inches. Example - LHT Complete is equipped with a 26/36/48T(tooth) crankset and a 11-32T cassette. For the 26" wheeled LHT, the low end gearing is 26/32*26= 21 gear inches. Likewise high end is 48/11*26=113 g.i. (which is unimportant to most tourists). Most tourists aim for <20 GI for loaded mountain travel.

If you get a LHT, get the 26" wheeled version if you don't need a frame larger than 58cm. The 700c wheels will not make you any faster when you're going down the road with a load and the aerodynamic profile of a Winnebago RV.
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Old 07-02-15, 08:44 PM
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The LHT is a totally safe bet for loaded touring. So is the Trek. Both are very popular and can be quickly sold should loaded touring turn out to not be your 'thing.' Be careful with the fit. Fit is First. Expect to do a bit of fit tweaking as the ride mileage increases.

Check out crazyguyonabike.com: Bicycle Touring: A place for bicycle tourists and their journals for all there is to know about bicycle touring.

FWIW, most people touring the coast go south due to prevailing winds and a better view.
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Old 07-02-15, 09:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Cyclebum View Post
The LHT is a totally safe bet for loaded touring. So is the Trek. Both are very popular and can be quickly sold should loaded touring turn out to not be your 'thing.' Be careful with the fit. Fit is First. Expect to do a bit of fit tweaking as the ride mileage increases.

Check out crazyguyonabike.com: Bicycle Touring: A place for bicycle tourists and their journals for all there is to know about bicycle touring.

FWIW, most people touring the coast go south due to prevailing winds and a better view.
Agreed. I went with the Disc Trucker (the Disc Brake LHT) because it was well reviewed and a lot of folks loved theirs and I saw why, it is a good stable touring bike that comes (errr came) as a decent build (the newer builds aren't bad but aren't as good).

If you have the money and a little time to wait Co-Motion makes some really nice touring bikes. I have a Cascadia frame which I am building up currently but they do sell complete bikes with good build kits (even some parts that I went with or would go with, which is reassuring)
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Old 07-02-15, 09:37 PM
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Today, I put down a deposit on a '14 LHT after doing some research. Like you I am completely new to touring. I personally choose the standard over the disc because it was cheaper and easier to fix on the road. However, the discs do provide with greater stopping ability, especially in wet conditions. The best thing to do is start reading blogs and journals and take note of the different bikes people use and figure which style suits you. Some people use whatever is laying around, some rehab old MTB's, some have entry level tourers like the LHT/Tourist/920, and others take out a mortgage for a bike built by retired NASA scientists living in Oregon.
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Old 07-03-15, 12:58 AM
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Wasn't familiar with the Felt V85 but it seems like it might work nicely for touring esp credit-card style. Nice & light with some cool features though apparently doesn't include full range of rack/fender/etc mounting attachments. I think there are some workarounds for those issues. I like my Surly Disc Trucker but it's on the heavy side. It allows wide tires if desired & ride is fairly comfortable...it has a long top tube design which I like but is not ideal for some riders. Co-Motion bikes seem pretty awesome; if you have $3,800 to spare I imagine you could hardly go wrong with the Pangea/Rohloff/Gates Co-Motion Cycles | pangea-rohloff .
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Old 07-03-15, 02:52 AM
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I ride tracks and trails fully loaded on 32mm. I have travesed a few mountain trails and get funny looks from MTBers. When the going gets rough there are times when a wider tyre would be nice but my clearance is limitted. 35-38mm is probably the ideal all-terrain touring tyre.
LHT is a good, tough, reliable mount, with generous clearance and you wont go far wrong with one, even if it is on the heavier end of the touring bike scale. If you have the cash, a premium or custom model would give you less weight.
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Old 07-03-15, 08:14 AM
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More than 2, friend .

I'd take my Bike Friday Pocket Llama (it packs down small to fly cheaper) and is perfectly fit for me in their Oregon factory.
(shipped to your door )

[Rohloff, Disc brakes , dyno hub, thud buster seat post, trekking bars, front panniers and a trailer
(could be the suitcase-trailer previously used as the suitcase it shipped in.) ]

and would be feeling like an Old Salmon, always riding against the flow with a Headwind northbound,
while everyone else was on the seaward side of the road , coming south.

no matter what bike you buy ... Take Amtrak to Seattle, then ride back .

Last edited by fietsbob; 07-03-15 at 08:26 AM.
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Old 07-03-15, 08:45 AM
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Originally Posted by cyber.snow View Post
Great Feedback, thanks

My Felt V85 is an OK bike to ride around the neighborhood and I haven't tried anything longer than about 25 miles with it. Was just thinking that if I am going to start touring, it might be a good idea to start building both the bike and myself up to it. It sounds like getting a "touring bike" and then putting a little larger tires on it is more the way to go. Does anyone know how much of a load you can put on a LHT? The pics that Doug64 posted makes it look like it will really take a load.

Also not sure what a 25 inch gearing is vs a 17 inch gearing. I did go look at the Surly website at the LHT and am totally confused when trying to figure out what an inch gear is////????////
Maybe you can dip a toe into touring with your Felt? Judging from its specs, it looks like a capable machine capable of handling a mini credit card tour. Don't know if you can mount a rack on the back of the Felt, but there are handlebar bags you can mount and very large saddle bags that eliminate the need for a rack. https://www.apidura.com/product/saddle-pack-mid-size/

I am considering going with something like this on my Salsa Casseroll should I decide to try some light touring. Now, if you get the touring bug, then a full touring bike like the venerable Trek 520 or Surly Long Haul Trucker may be in your future.

Last edited by MRT2; 07-03-15 at 08:49 AM.
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Old 07-03-15, 09:41 AM
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Hundreds of Cycle tourists on the Pacific Coast every Summer , if they like their road Bike,

They tow a trailer with their gear in it and don't need to fit a rack and Panniers. BoB trailers are Popular.
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Old 07-03-15, 12:21 PM
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Thanks for all the details on how to calculate gear inches. I am planning on keeping my Felt V85 because it is just fun to ride around the local bike paths but it does have limits. I did buy a rear bike rack and am told that it will support up to 50lbs on the rear. So it would be OK to start credit card touring. But I think I would like to start building a no kidding touring bike that can take a heavier load. I did take a long hard look at the Surly Trucker Disc and the geometry page seems to indicate that I need a 50 or 52 cm bike. Both come with 26 inch wheels. The other bike I was considering was the REI bike called the Safari, it has the 700 wheels but seems to have the same gearing, just a little lower quality (but deore is OK, I think??). I did take a short ride on the Safari and it felt good but it had 48mm tires and those I would take off for now, not sure I need something that wide right now.

I did call Surly and talked to one of their folks and he pretty much has me convinced that I really need to look at the Trucker Disc and replace the standard drop bars with a "Jones bar". He said that is what most of the "shop" folks ride. I think that is the handlebar they use on the Surly version of the off the road touring bike. Guess I need to save up my pennies, whoops they may be going away, save up my dimes and get serious about this. Too bad REI stopped carrying Surly bikes, I wouldn't mind getting the 10% rebate or if I waited until November, getting the 20% rebate...heck that would pay for some of the gear.

Does anyone know anything about Salsa bikes? I was talking to the LBS that carries Surly, on the phone, and he started talking about how great salsa bikes are. They don't look that much better on paper, anyone have any experience with them? As for a custom bike, too many other bills to pay $4-5K for a bike. Not sure that you get 3 times the bike for the money....or am I wrong there?

Thanks for all the help and I will go over to that website that was recommended.

Last edited by cyber.snow; 07-03-15 at 12:27 PM.
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Old 07-03-15, 12:53 PM
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Salsa and Surly are cousins, both brands are (TM) QBP, an international Distributor.

Probably both made, under contract, by MaxWay TW.
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Old 07-03-15, 01:06 PM
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I did buy a rear bike rack and am told that it will support up to 50lbs on the rear. So it would be OK to start credit card touring. But I think I would like to start building a no kidding touring bike that can take a heavier load.
We've done quite a bit of extended touring, one to 3 months, and I have never had the need to carry over 40 pounds. My gear, including panniers and full camping equipment, generally weigh about 35 pounds. My wife's gear weighs about 30 pounds. Point is: if you can carry 30-40 pounds on your Felt, it should work fine for a lot of tours.

We've also used our light road bikes to do some light touring (with camping gear) for 1-3 week trips. Another suggestion: don't wait until you get a "real" touring bike to start touring. It will also help you decide what you really want/need when you get your touring bike.

One of our daughters has a LHT and our other daughter tours on her mom's 18 pound road bike. They also carry all their camping gear, about 20-25 pound loads.

Daughter on light road bike.

Last edited by Doug64; 07-03-15 at 01:16 PM.
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Old 07-03-15, 01:13 PM
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Originally Posted by cyber.snow View Post
My Felt V85 is an OK bike to ride around the neighborhood and I haven't tried anything longer than about 25 miles with it. Was just thinking that if I am going to start touring, it might be a good idea to start building both the bike and myself up to it. It sounds like getting a "touring bike" and then putting a little larger tires on it is more the way to go.
My suggestion is to pack fairly light and use the V85. It looks like a great bike for light touring. I'd actually prefer something like the V85 over the something like the LHT for self supported touring with fairly light loads. That would probably be true for base gear weights anywhere from 30 pounds down to ultralight, so it should be OK for camping and cooking as long as you pack carefully.

I'd suggest two small panniers, a tent on top of the rear rack, and a bar roll or handlebar bag. That way you should have plenty of room for enough gear to cook and camp in reasonable comfort especially for moderate climate rides like the Pacific Coast.

If you really must pack heavier, you could go with a trailer, but I suggest just keeping the load light.

BTW, I'd suggest riding down the coast rather than up. The prevailing winds are usually from the NW, the view is better from the southbound side of the road, and the shoulders are typically wider on that side of the road.
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Old 07-03-15, 10:05 PM
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OK, will stick with the V85 for now. I did notice that the rear rack is slanted a little town towards the rear, is this the way it should be?

Also, do understand about going South from Seattle, makes a heck of a lot of sense, thanks all for that one. Amtrak to Seattle and ride home....got it.

Any place to go to get ideas about gear lists? lightweight tent, bags, etc.?

One last question, how about a place to go to find starter tours in the N. California area?

Wow, lots of questions, and thanks in advance.
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Old 07-03-15, 10:45 PM
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How about... start off with a 3-day road bike tour, travel as light as possible, have someone drive you north and drop you off, head south taking advantage of the wind, pick a couple of state parks to overnight at and pedal home from the last one.
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Old 07-03-15, 11:21 PM
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Originally Posted by cyber.snow View Post
OK, will stick with the V85 for now. I did notice that the rear rack is slanted a little town towards the rear, is this the way it should be?
No, the rack should be level. I'm assuming your V85 is also a small framed bike. Mounting a rack on a small frame can be a challenge. Can you post a picture?

Also, do understand about going South from Seattle, makes a heck of a lot of sense, thanks all for that one. Amtrak to Seattle and ride home....got it.
For a little longer tour, and a side trip to the San Juan Islands and Vancouver Island, you can start in Anacortes, WA. This makes a route through the San Juan Islands, and over to Vancouver Island a nice ride before starting south from Port Angeles.

Any place to go to get ideas about gear lists? lightweight tent, bags, etc.?
Check out the packing lists that are included in many of the journals on this site:https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/...octype=journal
Also seach this Forum for information.


One last question, how about a place to go to find starter tours in the N. California area?
Also search the Journals for "Northern California". The Avenue of the Giants is a an excellent area for a short tour.

Wow, lots of questions, and thanks in advance.
Good Luck!
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Old 07-04-15, 05:12 AM
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Originally Posted by cyber.snow View Post
Any place to go to get ideas about gear lists? lightweight tent, bags, etc.?
A few suggestions...
First check out my article on ultralight touring. It is geared toward the very lightest minimalist touring, but has plenty of info on trimming weight that applies even to heavy touring.
Second, browse on the Crazy Guy On a Bike sight. It is pretty easy to search journals for ones with gear lists.
Third, ultralight backpacking gear works fine so UL backpacking sights are a good source of info.

Don't get caught up in the really high dollar weight reducing gear, but rather leave a lot of things home that you think you might want and take only what you actually need. When it gets right down to it you actually need very little.

Originally Posted by cyber.snow View Post
One last question, how about a place to go to find starter tours in the N. California area?
Route 101 on the coast is a good place to tour. Check which state parks have hiker biker sites and string together a few for a tour. While California is great, I actually liked Oregon better so don't rule it out either.
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