Bike Forums

Bike Forums (
-   Touring (
-   -   The Newbie's Guide To Touring Bikes (

BigBlueToe 08-16-06 11:14 AM

Old Mountain Bike
A real newbie might discover they don't like touring. (It could happen!) Spending a ton of money would end up being a waste. For someone like that, or for kids who will outgrow their current bike, I'd recommend a non-suspension mountain bike. It should be from a reputable manufacturer, DEFINITELY NOT A DEPARTMENT STORE BIKE. Mountain bikes usually have more robust components - frame, spokes, hubs, etc. They have low gearing - necessary for a tourist to carry a load up hills. Used ones are cheap - check ebay - because they have been so much more popular than road bikes that there are thousands of them out there. In fact, I'll bet a newbie could find an aunt or uncle who has a nice old mountain bike sitting in the garage that they would let you have for a song.

My opinion is that suspension adds unnecessary weight for tourists who are going to be riding on roads so they are undesireable. However, they are very desireable for mountain bikers, so non-suspension bikes typically sell for cheaper on Ebay, Craigslist, garage sales, etc.

I would buy some higher-pressure, road-style tires. I'd add bar ends (if the bike didn't already have them) for some added hand positions.

After that there would be lots of options to think about, but the basics would be there.

jibi 08-18-06 06:51 AM

As long as it has Rohloff gears, a B.O.B. Ibex trailer, lock out forks and is made by Thorn in the Uk

They made mine and it performed perfect during my 6 month tour Patagonia.


cup 09-15-06 11:35 AM

vw vagabonds tour by bike
Here's a link to a good site for inexpensive bike touring and other good touring tips.

aphatrider 10-25-06 07:56 AM

i've been away from serious cycling for 30 plus years,and have deceided to try touring again.i would like to do a build-up and am looking at a used specialized expedition frame [4130 specialized cr-mo] i'm really not familiar with specialized bikes,could i have some advice?thx

NoReg 11-03-06 12:51 PM

One thing is that I'm told that 26" wheels were developed to be similar radius to 700c with the different size tire installed. so the attempt was not really to create a difference in the first place.

26" have more tire options toward the fat end, so if you are a 1.25 tire or larger person, this is your rim, 700C is the reverse, perfect for the person who wants loaded touring at 37mm through to say 28MM for light touring.

Beyond tires, the smaller wheel is stronger. You can go to 36 spokes and have the effect of a 700c at say 40 spokes while using relatively standard components. In addition for the same hub the rigging angle is more favourable, again stronger smaller wheels. The smaller wheel is lighter, and the distance from center is lower, which means it's esier to spool up and keep spooled up, a big factor in quickness and energy overall. The larger wheel is better rolling relative to roughness in the road, which is present even in a fairly smooth road; and rolls better relative to hub friction, might be a factor with a generator a pro on the downhills, an con for spooling up. Large wheels roll over bumps more easily and are easier on your body because the ride is smoother.

Gearing wise the smaller wheel has a natural abilty to deliver lower gears, while maintaining a tighter gear spacing, and less problems from chain suck and so forth. On the other hand you would have to choose the lower gearing, it's worse for you if you want a high gearing.

The smaller wheels take up less space on the frame leaving room for fenders, racks and for the whole machine to be lower in the wind. Of course this assumes that the frame was built to take advantage of these features... Smaller wheels provide more fit options since a large rider can easily ride 26" wheels, while 700c can be worse for small riders.

Parts for smaller wheels are easier to carry, so your extra tire and tubes weighs less. And parts are generally easier to find in most place in the world. Often seems as though for the same rim the smaller wheel is easier to change tires while fixing flats, though that sounds wrong so maybe the rims aren't really the same.

Larger wheels brake more effectively with rim brakes, but less effectively with disc.

Smaller wheels have less trouble with toe overlap on the front wheel or fender. The perfect storm in this regard is when an oversize touring shoe, like The popular sandals that tend to have extra material at the toe, overlap with the fenders or even fender wires, and crash you. This can hit at a bad time like slow maneuvering in traffic.

ibimus 01-11-07 06:56 PM

Hey, I have a dumb-ish question about sizing.
Okay, on REI, it says that an X-Small bike is fit for people 5'0"-5'3", and a Small is 5'3"-5'6".
I'm exactly 5'3". Which size?!

Hocam 02-06-07 08:26 PM


Originally Posted by ibimus
Hey, I have a dumb-ish question about sizing.
Okay, on REI, it says that an X-Small bike is fit for people 5'0"-5'3", and a Small is 5'3"-5'6".
I'm exactly 5'3". Which size?!

That's REI's attempt at mass marketing its bikes. Bike fit is something to be done by a mechanic and is a function of your inseam (or distance to pubic bone), torso height, arm length and what type of riding it will be.

It's something you'll be doing thousands of repetitive motions on, not a t-shirt.

Skewer 02-07-07 08:36 PM

How important is wheelbase for load stability? Does it make a huge difference? I am trying to choose between using a 1982 model year steel bike that I have toured with before, which I know carries a load well, but has very old components, including 27 inch wheels and down tube shifters, and another 1998 model year steel bike I have which has newer components but a slightly shorter wheelbase. The 1982 bike has about a 40.25 inch wheelbase and the 1998 bike has about a 39 inch wheelbase. For comparison purposes, I noticed that the wheelbase on the new Trek 520s are about 41.5 inches.

I know there are lots of other considerations besides wheelbase, but I am wondering how much differerence wheelbase makes when it comes to stability?

cyccommute 02-09-07 08:25 AM


Originally Posted by dietrologia

I have a 2006 Kona Dr. Dew that has the stock Sun ME14A rims and I'm finding that I'm occassionally breaking spokes when I pack any significant weight. I'd like to do some light touring (overnighters) and extended commuting, but I'm a bit nervous about my current rim situation. I had the rear spokes replaced with sturdier ones, but I'm wondering if 28 spokes is just too few on a 700C rim.

I'm riding on 700 x 37C Continental Country Rides, have disc brakes and run with front/rear panniers. I weigh ~160 lbs.

What rims could someone recommend to put on my current bike?

(I'd kind of like to keep with my current tire sizing)

Thank you for any suggestions.

Spoke problems aren't related to the brand or quality of the rim. They are related to the quality and number of the spokes that make the wheel. The rim may flex a little on each rotation but the spokes do all the work. Your problem is that you are asking 28 spokes to do a whole lot of work that they may not be up for. For an unloaded bike with a pretty lightweight rider, 28 spokes would do just fine but as you increase your load much past your normal weight, you really should use a higher spoke count wheel.

It's doubly important because of the disc brakes. To see why, look at a rim brake wheel. It's still a disc brake, just one with really large rotors. As you apply braking force to the rim, the spokes can wind up a little because of their springiness. The amount is minute but they do flex a little. With a hub mounted disc, as you apply braking force it has to translate to the tires through the hub and then on to the rim. This will put much more force on the spoke heads than a rim brake will. Add to that the fact that the wheel is now dished on both sides for a rear wheel and on one side for the front. Dishing causes the spokes to have a shallower angle of attack towards the rim. If the wheel were solid, this wouldn't be a problem but because you are depending on the strength of a narrow wire, a shallower angle makes it weaker. Triangulation of the spoke helps it share the load better. That's the major reason that the front wheel seldom breaks spokes.

You best bet would be to replace the wheels with at least a 32 spoke wheel and preferably a 36 spoke wheel. My favorite spokes are the DT Alpine III. They aren't that much heavier than a normal double butted and they make for a super strong wheel.

cyccommute 02-09-07 08:51 AM


Originally Posted by Skewer
How important is wheelbase for load stability? Does it make a huge difference? I am trying to choose between using a 1982 model year steel bike that I have toured with before, which I know carries a load well, but has very old components, including 27 inch wheels and down tube shifters, and another 1998 model year steel bike I have which has newer components but a slightly shorter wheelbase. The 1982 bike has about a 40.25 inch wheelbase and the 1998 bike has about a 39 inch wheelbase. For comparison purposes, I noticed that the wheelbase on the new Trek 520s are about 41.5 inches.

I know there are lots of other considerations besides wheelbase, but I am wondering how much differerence wheelbase makes when it comes to stability?

Think of the bike as a rather elaborate leaf spring. The longer the leaf, the smoother the ride and the better able the bike is to handle loads. The cost of this better ride is quickness. For example, a short wheelbase bike will respond quickly to rider input and will steer and ride like a bug-eyed Sprite (an Austin Healy sports car). It's going to be a lot of fun for zipping around town and for short trips. A long wheelbase bike will ride more like an old Cadilac. It won't respond that quickly to corners and it certainly won't be a sports car but it also won't beat the crap out of you.

To continue the car analogy, if you are going across the country with all of your stuff, the sports car isn't going to be comfortable. With all your stuff, the car (or bike) will need constant attention to keep it going down the road and not running off into a ditch. Hit a bump and that sporty ride is going to translate it right up your spine and you'll be worn out by the end of the day.

The Caddy is going to glide over the bumps and soak up the roughness. It may not have sporty handling but the handling will be predicable and not need constant attention to keep it moving down the road. In other words, you can relax and enjoy the trip.

For touring bike, a 39" wheelbase is pretty short. You probably have 16" chainstays on the bike. If you don't hit the bags with your heels, you must either be mounting the bags as far back as possible or you have tiny feet;) Moving the bags rearward will move the center of gravity of the bike further back and make your bike even quicker steering...not something you want on a loaded bike:eek:

cyccommute 02-09-07 08:08 PM


Originally Posted by dietrologia

Thank you for taking the time on that response -- it was very enlightening.

I've had my rims rebuilt with heavier-gauge spokes, but if I have further probs I will move up to higher spoke-count rims.

Thanks again for the great post!

If the spoke is a straight gauge, it's not a strong as a butted spoke. Here's what Sheldon Brown has to say about them

Double-buttedspokes are thicker at the ends than in the middle. The most popular diameters are 2.0/1.8/2.0 mm (also known as 14/15 gauge) and 1.8/1.6/1.8 (15/16 gauge).
Double-butted spokes do more than save weight. The thick ends make them as strong in the highly-stressed areas as straight-gauge spokes of the same thickness, but the thinner middle sections make the spokes effectively more elastic. This allows them to stretch (temporarily) more than thicker spokes.

As a result, when the wheel is subjected to sharp localized stresses, the most heavily stressed spokes can elongate enough to shift some of the stress to adjoining spokes. This is particularly desirable when the limiting factor is how much stress the rim can withstand without cracking around the spoke hole.

Triple-butted spokes, such as the DT Alpine III, are the best choice when durability and reliability is the primary aim, as with tandems and bicycles for loaded touring. They share the advantages of single-butted and double-butted spokes. The DT Alpine III, for instance, is 2.34 mm (13 gauge) at the head, 1.8 mm (15 gauge) in the middle, and 2.0 mm (14 gauge) at the threaded end.
Single- and triple-butted spokes solve one of the great problems of wheel design: Since spokes use rolled, not cut threads, the outside diameter of the threads is larger than the base diameter of the spoke wire. Since the holes in the hub flanges must be large enough to fit the threads through, the holes, in turn are larger than the wire requires. This is undesirable, because a tight match between the spoke diameter at the elbow and the diameter of the flange hole is crucial to resisting fatigue-related breakage.

Since single- and triple-butted spokes are thicker at the head end than at the thread end, they may be used with hubs that have holes just large enough to pass the thick wire at the head end.

Muyperron 02-23-07 11:31 AM

Touring Bike Advice in Japan
Hello All,
I'm am determined to do a month long tour while I am in Japan. I have read that the road and safety conditions are ideal. The problem is I don't yet have a touring bike and all the research I've done on American bikes doesn't really apply because those bikes are not offered in my part of Japan (Kyushu).
I would like to buy a Trek 520 type of bike but have only found Trek bikes that are out of my price range (as far as I know, Trek doesn't really offer touring bikes in Japan). The bike my nearest shop recommended is a Louis Garneau. I realize that it is probably not the best bike, but realizing that this will be my first tour & I may have to leave/sell the bike once I leave Japan, will this bike be sufficient? The gear information tends to confuse me, does this bike offer competent gearing? Is the aluminum Frame and Fork a deal breaker? The bike is about $950 U.S.
Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Also if anyone else in Kyushu, send me a note.

grolby 03-07-07 09:50 PM


Originally Posted by top506
Like a Miyata 210/610. Outstanding touring platforms, and better frames than you can buy today.

I disagree. Having owned and toured on a Miyata 210, I can say without any hesitation that my Surly Long Haul Trucker is a better frame, period. The fork is stronger, the tubing is stiffer, the handling is better, the bike is more stable, there are more touring-appropriate frame braze-ons and every component that I buy for the bike fits correctly. And yet, the bike has the same weight. It feels a lot more sturdy than the old ride, though. The constant need to jury-rig components to get them to play nice together on my Miyata gave me fits.

That said, building up my LHT cost me around $1,000. Purchasing my 210 cost about $250. Stock, it would have been acceptable for touring, minus the brake pads. Still, I wanted things to be more to my personal taste, so I spent another $350-$400 or so altogether up until my first tour on it. I had a great touring bike for ~$600. I highly recommend going this route to anyone on a budget. There are better "vintage" touring frames out there than the Miyata 210, but not a whole lot of them. Most are roughly equivalent in quality. The fact is that modern touring frames and bicycles are generally technically superior to their older counterparts. How much better does that really make them? Well, when it comes to doing what a touring bike is supposed to do, not much. I only "upgraded" when my 210 bit the dust in an accident with a car (I'm fine - I hit HIM!).

I guess the point is that just about any bike can make a touring bike and that vintage touring bike are especially good choices, but if you can afford to buy new or can get a bargain on a used but more recent vintage of touring bike, well, maybe you should. They usually ARE better, and that makes it easier to enjoy the trip, in my opinion.

nun 04-12-07 09:58 AM

If a newbie is in the market for a touring bike I think the obvious answer is to get a Surly LHT
from jenson. Built with ok components and touring gears its $900.

telf 04-16-07 09:49 PM

I came very close to buying the LHT at Jenson but in the end went with my LBS. The Jenson price is great, but if you explain your siutation to your fav LBS, they might be willing to work with you. The LBS that I'm loyal to originally quoted me about 1200+ for a LHT. I explained that I wanted them to get my money but couldn't afford a 300 dollar difference. They managed to crunch some numbers and let it go for $950. This will make things much more convenient if something goes wrong with your bike while still in town.

wheel 05-05-07 10:13 PM

I suggest go bicycle camping first. You can usually do this with a back rack and backpack. My self I can even bicycle on city bus to several camp grounds.
One you will get a feel for it, and how your equipment does or doesn't work.
Two you get a taste for the great outdoors.

David in PA 05-06-07 11:43 AM

Here's a quick one: If a tourer is not going to do self-contained touring (with all the extra camping/cooking gear), in other words he or she will be staying at motels/hostels/b & bs etc., I'd like to suggest the following:

* Attach a front and rear rack. (My definite choice for the front rack is Old Man Mountain.)
* Use medium or small-sized front panniers. (My choice is the Ortliebs.)
* Carry a trunk on the rear rack.
* Attach a handle-bar bag.

This setup would provide all the carry-space you'd need, places to keep your valuables/more delicate items, and save you a few bucks by not purchasing rear rear panniers.

David in FL

Trufance 05-25-07 10:32 PM

don't know if it has been answered
but is modifying a Road bike into a touring bike something that's done?
or is it silly

DukeArcher 05-27-07 10:29 PM

depends on the bike, the shape, and what it's made of...

Adagio Corse 06-02-07 03:50 PM

Trufance, modifying a roadbike is hard because most roadbike frames do not have the rear chainstay clearance to hang panniers without striking your heal against the pannier. Also, the tubing is made to be light not strong. A touring frame doesn't care about lightweight or speed, it cares about balance and strength, which is a completely different priority from a roadbike that's all about handling at the limit and using the lightest components possible. A road frame is fine for unloaded touring, but it is strongly advised against converting a road bike frame to a touring frame simply because the frame was not made to balance and carry the additional 60 lb. of odd weights all around the bike.
Also, most road bike forks are not made to allow clearance for tires larger than 28mm.

akatsuki 06-02-07 04:25 PM

My understanding was the Miyata 210 is not really considered to be superior to current offerings. The 610 and, more so, the 1000 were considered to be serious tourers that were just about perfect off-the-shelf.... Not sure as I never rode one....

ken cummings 06-02-07 04:51 PM


Originally Posted by ink1373
Probably not to be counted on if you are young, pierced, tattooed, non-white, or in any other way "different".

I 'd count on it. I did a little touring in South Africa and found the police would rather have the wierd stranger right where they could see them. Police have seen worse then you can imagine. Play by their rules and you will be fine.

ripponfalls 06-14-07 12:46 PM

Broken spokes: memoires of a cycle tourer
The first real pain (after the line of blisters at the seat contact line turned to calluses) was knees:

Get low gears and use them! 80 - 90 revs per minute is required: no, you won't set any land speed records, but you will avoid trouble. And if you can't peddle that fast, then you are using too big of a gear. The first night I slept in a sitting position (night ferry from Shearness to Vlissinden) my knees went out within 20 km of the terminal; it felt like I had a nail driven through each of my kneecaps. It took a week of visiting friends before I could climb stairs without pain. When I slept in my tent, with my legs straight, I had no problem, but it returned after a night on a train. The second time I immediately halted and camped, and was able to proceed after 4 days. There appears to be a connection between these two observations (gears and knees).

Broken spokes: carry spare spokes, check your wheels regularly and replace them as soon as they happen. All I would do was tighten them to what the neighbouring spokes were and start riding; and the wheel would pull back into shape. So you need a spoke key as well.

Oil will not stop the squeeling of the bulls-eye pulley on the rear derailer (which for me started at about 3000 km coming south through the Ardennes). They have to be dismantled and greased.

Front and rear paniers also act as cushions in a side impact. My crank was bent and I was flung sideways, but my legs were uninjured.

Get a cycling cape and leggings as opposed to pants and a jacket. The ventilation is so much better...

I also endorse the Brooks leather saddle...

susanbb 06-19-07 09:12 PM

Bianchi Volpe or Surly LHT
I am getting a new bike, getting into touring again....planning to do some onger rides but also commuter too...
I have narrowed it down to
Bianchi Volpe or Surly LHT

any ideas on what would be the best choice?

the Bianchi Volpe doesn't have holes in the fronk forks for bags....but other than that?

Susanbb... newbie

Sigurdd50 06-20-07 08:03 AM

Jamis Aurora
(oh that was not on the list!)

Definitely get frame with braze ons and screw holes... if you want to add things later, you can

All times are GMT -6. The time now is 06:46 PM.