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Old 09-01-17, 09:29 PM   #1
edi68815
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26 v 700c for touring - again. Is the 26 still important for touring outside us/europ

I know, I know, I know that this has probably been asked shedloads of times before buuut...

I hear people say 26 is the only tire you'll find in central/South America (I'm planning to tour south Mexico in December). But, on the other hand, I see mtb moving towards 29ers and commuter/hybrid/xc bikes all stocked with 700cs, often 32mm or above. I commute every day to work 30 miles round trip, I sold my car.

Bike speed is super important to me because I am not a punctual person, I am flat out every morning to make work. With that in mind, the slight speed increase of 700c is significant to me. I live in the US but, after Mexico, I'll probably be moving back to Europe (I'm Irish), and will be solely reliant on my bike, wherever I go. No intention of buying another car. I'm utterly torn on the 26' disc trucker, against the 700c marrakesh (although alternator rack propriety scares me)and 700c Kona Sutra.

I want to go everywhere on my bike, tour the developing world etc. with that in mind, 26 inch wheels seem at once essential to a touring future and also not really what I want at all. I only want a 26 inch bike because I'm told it's important for touring less developed parts of the world and I feel kinda silly committing to 26ers just so I can spend 3 weeks in Mexico (although at some point in my life I wanna do India, china, possibly SEAsia, North Africa etc. etc. etc.!!)

My question is: is the 26er dwindling in importance and universality of parts overseas, or only in the US and Europe? Likewise, is the 700c or the 29er increasing exponentially (or likely to next couple of years) in availability of parts so as to bail me out if I'm riding 700c outside Europe? Can I find solutions if I break spokes, run out of tires/tubes on the road side outside of US/Europe whilst riding a 700c bike? And with the increase in 29ers, be able to just stick a 29er tire on my bike if all I ever find in small town stores are road bike tires i,e, 23mm or smth.

Ps sorry this is so long, but I can only afford one do-all bike. These bikes are a ton of money to me. I'll be buying one imminently so this thread will have some denouement. I'm probably asking some impossible questions but... Any help greatly appreciated as I'm torturing myself over this decision!!!

Last edited by edi68815; 09-01-17 at 09:43 PM.
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Old 09-01-17, 10:22 PM   #2
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700c is not faster than 26". I wish this myth would die off. If you want to ride faster make your position on the bike and your luggage more aerodynamic. Bikepacking bags are more streamlined. Panniers are a drag. Then choose tires with lightweight sidewalls. These will be much faster at the expense of less puncture resistance. Carry a spare tire as insurance. Then lighten your load. Carrying less stuff means smaller luggage, which means less weight, which means fewer mechanicals.
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Old 09-01-17, 11:08 PM   #3
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I think you really just have to think about what you see yourself doing most with the bike and pick one that fits. As was said, 700 is not faster than 26 but usually what happens is the rest of the 700 bike is designed to be faster (gearing geometry weight etc...) so it appears 700 is faster. I have really two kinds of bikes; rugged 26 mtbs that are geared low and can carry weight go off road etc... and 700 road style bikes designed to go faster but aren't as rugged.

Personally, if I could only have one bike it would probably be a light, strong 26 or 29 mtb that I could swap out tires for depending on road conditions. I might even have two wheelsets with different cassettes for climbing (off road) and speed (on road). Go one step further and have both an on road (rigid) fork and an off road (suspension) fork. Takes about 10 minutes to convert the bike from one use to the other.

That's probably how one could have one "do it all" bike.
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Old 09-02-17, 12:14 AM   #4
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Edi66815, you have a pile of verbiage going. Consider getting the bike that works and not a wheel size
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Old 09-02-17, 01:35 AM   #5
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Edi66815, you have a pile of verbiage going. Consider getting the bike that works and not a wheel size
+ 1

Hard to improve on this advice.
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Old 09-02-17, 03:58 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by edi68815 View Post
...I hear people say 26 is the only tire you'll find...

depends where you are. even then, the 26 you find may not be suitable for your porpoises.

.....the slight speed increase of 700c is significant to me.....

all things being equal, changing from 700 to 26 will INCREASE your speed due to lighter
weight......shorter spokes, shorter rim circumference, smaller tire body....and rotating
mass is a beach.

....only want a 26 inch bike because I'm told it's important for touring....

if you're only touring in mexico or developing countries for short times, just carry a
spare folding tire, some tubes and spokes.

....but I can only afford one do-all bike. ....

then buy the one that best fits your needs....
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Old 09-02-17, 04:17 AM   #7
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edi68815,

You seem to be looking for a lot from a single bike.

I'm in agreement that there is no speed difference, per se, in 26 vs 700 wheels.

I am in agreement that 700 wheels are not as common in parts of the world. Recently I read a blog on CGOAB of a guy touring South America. He was having puncture problems and burned through all his tubes. Can't remember where, but I think it was Argentina, he limped into a city desperate to find new tubes (at least) for his 700 wheels and could only find cheapy ones that continually failed. I looked up the city - 3 million inhabitants! Now, maybe he just found the wrong bike shops........

But if tyre size is your worry, stick new tyres on before you tour &/or pack a spare.

To be honest, I'd be more worried about using a new, top quality touring bike for all my biking needs. Theft would be my main issue.

I've done what Happy Feet suggested below - One bike with 2 wheelsets, one for touring, one for everything else.

The bike is an old trek hardtail MTB from the mid 90's - it looks like crap so I reckon it's safe enough from thieves, but it runs like a dream.

I recently picked up another Trek for Euro 30 that is now my main commuter.

Of course, the problem now is that in Europe triple chainsets for these old bikes are disappearing Swings & roundabouts!

People have successfully toured on all kinds of bikes with all kinds of wheels. Make yourself aware of the limitations of your choice and plan accordingly.

Happy cycling!

Frank

And I just have to add, that if the bike you get is to get you to work on time rather than tour in all the places you want to go, then I suggest getting up earlier in the morning
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Old 09-02-17, 04:53 AM   #8
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edi68815,
I am in agreement that 700 wheels are not as common in parts of the world. Recently I read a blog on CGOAB of a guy touring South America. He was having puncture problems and burned through all his tubes. Can't remember where, but I think it was Argentina, he limped into a city desperate to find new tubes (at least) for his 700 wheels and could only find cheapy ones that continually failed. I looked up the city - 3 million inhabitants! Now, maybe he just found the wrong bike shops........
That seems strange.

I am currently in Mendoza Argentina after having cycled from Alaska and on my way to Tierra del Fuego and thus have spent most of the past year in Latin America. My bike has 26" wheels but rims that fit Presta tubes. My experience and perceptions:
- 26" is most common, but I see 700C as well. This was true in Mexico as well as Central America, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina. I brought extra tubes since 26" Presta is less common than 700C Presta is less common than 26" Schraeder but I have also been able to find 26" Presta occasionally.
- Larger cities have multiple bike shops. Sometimes "repair" is separate from "purchase" so there may be shops that don't have as many spare parts but if you ask in one shop they can direct to others.
- Finding high-quality 26" tires is tougher. I saw Schwalbe once or twice in Mexico but not much since then. Perhaps they can be found but my simple queries in larger cities like Lima, Salta, Mendoza have not located ones. One can find basic reasonable tires in many places - but like ones that will last for many kilometers. I have some spare folding tires and have gotten ~4000km on rear folding Schwalbe tires before getting problems. I suspect I could probably find a fairly good tire in Santiago, Chile but am actually using it as an excuse for an upcoming short trip back to US where I will also pick up tires again.
- Some of these arid desert regions in northern Argentina have a lot of thorns. I've been fortunate, but if you do much off-road riding or camping beside the road, you need to be very careful.
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Old 09-02-17, 05:04 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by edi68815 View Post
I want to go everywhere on my bike, tour the developing world etc. with that in mind, 26 inch wheels seem at once essential to a touring future and also not really what I want at all. I only want a 26 inch bike because I'm told it's important for touring less developed parts of the world and I feel kinda silly committing to 26ers just so I can spend 3 weeks in Mexico (although at some point in my life I wanna do India, china, possibly SEAsia, North Africa etc. etc. etc.!!)

My question is: is the 26er dwindling in importance and universality of parts overseas, or only in the US and Europe? Likewise, is the 700c or the 29er increasing exponentially (or likely to next couple of years) in availability of parts so as to bail me out if I'm riding 700c outside Europe? Can I find solutions if I break spokes, run out of tires/tubes on the road side outside of US/Europe whilst riding a 700c bike? And with the increase in 29ers, be able to just stick a 29er tire on my bike if all I ever find in small town stores are road bike tires i,e, 23mm or smth.
OK, let us break this one down:
1. Three weeks is really not a long time for riding in Mexico. Bring a spare folding tire and you'll likely be fine. If you have a sidewall failure or some unforeseen event, change to your spare and you should have enough time to find a replacement again. Similarly, bring more than one spare tube.
2. Length of your spokes is affected not only by your rim size but also your hub, the number of spokes and lacing pattern. Bring some extra spokes that are the right size for your wheels.
3. You might find tires in many places but in my experience, I end up in the larger cities anyway when I start looking for higher quality tires and then I usually have found 700C as well as 26".
4. Agree with advice about getting a bike that works and is comfortable. Believe this is more important than fussing over a wheel size (particularly comments on speed).
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Old 09-02-17, 08:35 AM   #10
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Bring a 3rd tire, just in case.
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Old 09-02-17, 09:53 AM   #11
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Buy the bike you like and that fits you. Carry spare tubes and a patch kit. You'll be fine.

If you have some random catastrophic tire failure (which is highly unlikely on a 3 week tour), order a new tire from Amazon and wait a day while FedEx overnights it. It's 2017. The world just isn't that remote anymore.

And if you're concerned about going faster, opt for a salad rather than a cheeseburger.
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Old 09-02-17, 11:29 AM   #12
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...I feel kinda silly committing to 26ers just so I can spend 3 weeks in Mexico
Sounds silly to me, too. I switched from a 700c LHT to 26" Troll and couldn't be happier, but I wouldn't base my entire choice of bike on one, three week trip.

Start out your trip with fresh tires. Carry spare spokes. Ride what you like. If you absolutely trash your wheel and can't get a replacement, I guess you leave earlier than planned. A drag, but not the end of the world.
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Old 09-02-17, 08:19 PM   #13
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If you're looking for a "do-all" bike & also planning on using it for considerable air travel the 559mm/26"-wheel Disc Trucker with S&S coupler retrofit might be a good choice. The Mexico tour in December would be too soon to add the couplers but one could add them later & they might help cut air travel costs/hassle a lot for future tours. IE 559mm/26" wheels fit much easier into the travel cases. I'm not sure but I think the Trucker allows slightly wider tire than Marrakesh & Sutra which could help on tours with rough roads. For smooth roads one can mount zippy tires as narrow as 28mm.
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Old 09-02-17, 08:30 PM   #14
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Me thinks the OP has been spending too much time on the computer.
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Old 09-02-17, 09:53 PM   #15
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OP, if you want to ride fast on your commute, then you want to go with some sort of road style bike and reduce rolling resistance. For any given tire, the wider it is the lower the rolling resistance (albeit with a small weight penalty which may affect climbing and acceleration). High quality 26" tires are available and fit on real bikes in sizes from 1.25" to 2.5" width. If you try to go that wide with 700C, either you're not going to find them, it's not going to fit in the frame or is going to dramatically alter the geometry and toe overlap as well as be noticeably heavier.

Lucky you, production bikes for what is now called gravel grinding (bikes we used to just call touring bikes) are beginning to be made available with 26" wheels.
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Old 09-03-17, 09:59 AM   #16
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Agree with mev. I'm currently in Costa Rica and every major city I've been through in Mexico and Central America has had some higher end bike shops stocking quality components and tubes and tires in all common sizes. Carry a folder in the bottom of your bag for catastrophic tire failure in the middle of nowhere and you'll be all set. Worst case scenario you're never more than a long bus ride from a major city in most places anyway.
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Old 09-06-17, 12:44 PM   #17
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Maybe I have too much time as well because I've also been pondering this question. IMO there are two questions:

1) Selection/Current Tire Availability Throughout the World
I think you have more/better choices with 700c tire size but, at this time, you have more availability throughout the world with 26" tires. So, if I was going on a world tour starting next week then I'd go with 26".
2) Future Trends
This is tougher. My sense is that 26" wheels are dying out (like the 27" tire size for my Schwinn bicycle in the 1970s). 700C has been around for many years and shows no sign of dying. If you look at availability over time then I'd argue for 700C. Of course these trends are slow and it will take quite a while for this shift to roll out to remote regions but if I were buying a bicycle that I wanted to ride the next 20 years then I'd go with 700C.
I don't think the choice is obvious. I'm considering starting a world tour next summer and I can't decide which size wheels to get. Yes, maybe I'm over analyzing this but I think these discussions are fun and none of this is really serious. We're not exactly solving the Syria crisis on this forum.

-Scott
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Old 09-07-17, 04:14 PM   #18
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26" is better!
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Old 09-07-17, 10:03 PM   #19
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My experience has been that 26" is dying out , but in countries outside of N. America and Europe, I think they will be around for a number of years. Remember, in these countries they do not change bikes every couple of years. 700C is also quite popular the world over because of city bikes. Some of the things to consider is the type of tire. You will be able to find 26" MTB tires (knobbies) no problem, but if you are looking for a smoothie, then you will need to find a specialized shop. Instead the 700C tires are pretty much all smooth, which is usually what you want on a touring bike. I presently use a converted 26" MTB with 1.5" Schwalbe Marathons and carry a folding spare. The Marathons can be pumped to 110 PSI, not many 26" tires can go that high. Either way, I don't think you'll have a problem, unless you go to 27.5" or 29"
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Old 09-08-17, 05:16 AM   #20
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my take on the subject is to use 700c around the place we live and if travelling for weeks or months in remote areas then build 26" machine to do the work
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Old 09-08-17, 03:09 PM   #21
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26 in in all villages.
700 x 23 is in all cities where they have bicycle races.

27.5 is winning the mt bike wheel size change. Slowly 29 and 26 are going out. Slowly 27.5 is winning, expanding, all over the Americas.

At this time, 26 inch mt bikes are in all villages.

Above someone mentioned, a bus ride to the capital if you need a part. He failed to mention that it is 12 to 24 hours on a bus to get to the capital, where they sell 700 x 23 only. 700 x 40 is non existant, they do not have 700 touring tires.

If I go to Guatemala this winter, I will take my 1995 Mongoose Alta. It has canti brakes.

If I buy a new bike, it will have 27.5 mt bike wheels. Are 700 x 40 wheels about the same height as 27.5 x 2.3? Hmm, put the solid fork on for road rides, change to suspension for trails?

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Old 09-08-17, 06:55 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chrisx View Post
26 in in all villages.
700 x 23 is in all cities where they have bicycle races.

27.5 is winning the mt bike wheel size change. Slowly 29 and 26 are going out. Slowly 27.5 is winning, expanding, all over the Americas.

At this time, 26 inch mt bikes are in all villages.

Above someone mentioned, a bus ride to the capital if you need a part. He failed to mention that it is 12 to 24 hours on a bus to get to the capital, where they sell 700 x 23 only. 700 x 40 is non existant, they do not have 700 touring tires.

If I go to Guatemala this winter, I will take my 1995 Mongoose Alta. It has canti brakes.

If I buy a new bike, it will have 27.5 mt bike wheels. Are 700 x 40 wheels about the same height as 27.5 x 2.3? Hmm, put the solid fork on for road rides, change to suspension for trails?
I'm curious to know what experience you're basing all of this on. A lot of what you're saying does no match my current experience on tour in Mexico and Central America. Care to add more details about the specific parts of the globe where you feel you can only find 700c tires in 23mm width?
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Old 09-08-17, 07:43 PM   #23
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what part do you think is wrong?
Anyway I will quote myself from last Aprils thread.
http://www.bikeforums.net/touring/11...america-3.html
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I made a point to look in bike shops in central America Colombia and Peru. Not for 700, but for 29er tires. Would a bus ride to the capital bother you? 12 hours over night perhaps? They are not impossible to get, (700), just hard. Touring means riding your bike from one side of the county to the other, no? Well, the villages you will spend most of your time in have 26 inch mt bike tires and rim brakes for sale, all the villages have 26 inch tires and rim brakes for sale.

Let use Guatemala for an example. In gringoopolis, Antigua, there is a bike shop with four 700 and a single 29er tire for sale. Old Town Outfitters. Old Town Outfitters: Antigua Bicycle Co-op!! In Guatemala city the fancy bike shop near the small Eiffel tower has only 26 inch bikes and tires. Eagle claw brake pads are under $5. Disc brake pads are nearly $50. They do not have BB7 pads.

In Oaxaca they have a few 700s to choose from. In Chiapas, no. The rest of Guatemala, no. El Salvador, I did not see any. Honduras, 26 inch mt bike with rim brakes. Nicaragua, (beautifull), I saw nothing but 26 and rim brakes. Cycle to puerto Cabezas. How does a 24 hour bus ride, on dusy roads, to Managua for a new tire souond. Costa Rica and Panama, I did not really look, maybe you could find one; maybe.

Colombia has a pencil thin tires, road race bike set, not much good to a tourist. In the unsafe to cycle, Lima, there might be something to choose from, maybe. The beautiful Andes of Peru, 26 26 and 26, no disc. Obviously I have not been to every bike shop or every city. After searching for 29er tires far and wide, I bought a Ritchey Dahone Flow 26er. A 700 40 will not fit the rear of it. When I get home I might try a 700 on my old Mongoose. Thanks for the idea.

ASk your self a couple of questions.
How good is your Spanish. Can you order a bike part in Spanish, and explain the address? As mentioned above, a few days in a little village could be a good thing.
Do you mind a long bus ride to a city of a millions of people to get the part you need.
I must ask myself. Does wearing sensible shoes, riding a bike with common parts cheat me out of enjoyment I could have on a full suspension 29+ bike?
Can you walk past 5 bike shops, with stacks of 26 inch tires, looking for the tire you want, and not get it?


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZVcRGB1KdQ

I choose a bike with common parts, I do not carry a box of spare parts. A tube and spare brake pads only.
When you get to Peru bad drivers will make you want to take gravel roads. Narrow roads and no speed traps, get it.
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on the disc brake note, I would say that from my experience with Guatemala City, Tegucigalpa and some other larger towns, disc brake stuff is pretty easy to find simply due to pretty much all newly sold mtn bikes having them--in our case, the stores had BB7 useable pads.
I noticed that they do not have centerlock rotors.
I noticed that they do have 6 bolt rotors.

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I had to look that up to know what centerlock rotors vs 6 bolt are. In my ignorance, didnt even know there was diff ways that rotors attached to hubs, thought there might only be diff bolt numbers of patterns....

certainly is another example of having always to keep up on newer/diff technology, at least to be aware of what you have and how this relates to what is more common to find, especially in places more far off.

ps, Gringopolis did make me chuckle. When I was riding by that area, just decided to not bother going to a touristy place/Antigua just for the sake of it, don't really regret it.


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Down in Medellin the scene is changing. 27.5 is pushing out 26. On April 21 2017 I visited 4 bike shops in Medellin Colombia. Five if you count the sporting goods store. Over the last 2 years things have changed. Most of the bikes for sale are 27.5 mt bikes. This is in zona central, downtown. One lady said there are no aluminum 26 bikes any more. She has 700 x 23. Bald racing tires with no tread. I asked for a wider 700 tire. She looked at me as if I was crazy loco, and took a steep back. No. Most bike shops had 1 fat bike, $1,302,300 COP, about $500 usd, 50 27.5 mt bikes with 2.1 tires and rim brakes, 1 or 2 dozen child size bikes. One shop had over a dozen 26 inch mt bikes hanging from the ceiling, and 50 27.5 mt bikes. You can buy a 27.5 x 15 mm front wheel. You can buy a 700 wheel. Does it fit 5mm drop outs? 9mm dropouts are big, this wheel is for racing, it dont fit the Kona, or any other touring bike, (forgot what he mentioned.)

Correct me if you can. You can run 700 x 38 on a 27.5 x 2.1 bike? Buy a 27.5 mt bike, put 700 x 40 wheels on it. If aomething happens, buy a 27.5 x 2.1 if you need to. Is 27.5 x 2.1 the same height as 700 x 42? I think it is closer than changing a fat bike to 27.5.

Many people start a long tour, (first tour,) on their racing bike. Few finish that way. 700 x 23 is a formula for an abandonded tour.

long live 26
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U6VSSSbY0Pc

You can buy a 26 inch tire in every village. 700 comes in the mail, if you are lucky. Sometimes parts do not show up. Do not forget about import duty, this can double or tripple the cost of your parts. 27.5 is slowly winning over the world. All major cities of millions of people have them, or so it seems. 26 is the safest bet right now.

ps you need a spare derailluer hanger.
pss Interjet from Tijuana too Bogota may take your bike for free. Unless they changed since I read the fine print 2 years ago.

Last edited by chrisx; 09-08-17 at 07:49 PM.
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Old 09-08-17, 08:06 PM   #24
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I'm curious to know what experience you're basing all of this on. A lot of what you're saying does no match my current experience on tour in Mexico and Central America. Care to add more details about the specific parts of the globe where you feel you can only find 700c tires in 23mm width?
Where in southern Mexico or Guatemala did you find 700 x 40 or something big enough for a tour? Oaxaca is your only hope.
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Old 09-08-17, 09:10 PM   #25
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Where in southern Mexico or Guatemala did you find 700 x 40 or something big enough for a tour? Oaxaca is your only hope.
Thanks for the detailed reply. I saw a few bike shops in Tuxtla Gutiérrez with signs for major bike brands in the windows, but I didn't actually go into any of these, so I can't say for sure what they might have in stock.

Old Town Outfitters had limited selection but they do have 29" tires. There's also a mountain bike specific shop in Antigua called (I think) Blue Monkey Cycles. They had a good selection of 29" tires. Guatemala City had a few shops that I passed while walking around the city that had all manner of high end bike gear including tires in any size you could want.

Carrying on from there I saw the same level of availability in San Salvador and Tegucigalpa. Nicaragua and Costa Rica have even more high end bike stores, probably due to a better economy and a larger middle class.

In short, for Central America at least I can't see any inconvenience in riding 29er tires.
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