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Trek 520 questions

Old 12-17-02, 02:39 PM
  #1  
tom cotter
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Trek 520 questions

I'm new to the forum however I've been lurking for some time. I own two Trek 520. The first is an 88 with a Bio-pace crankset and downtube shifters.. The second is a 96 or 97 model with STI shifters. I've primarily used the bikes as day ride road bikes and have never toured with them. That is something I'm now planning on changing. I plan to do some loaded touring in 03. I know from reading this forum that the 520 is held in high regard. I liked my first 520 so much I bought another one. But to do touring I have questions:

1. As much as members of this forum like the bike they don't seem to agree on STI shifters. I like the shifters, is there a problem with them?

2. My reading tells me the bike isn't geared right for loaded touring. What changes need to be made and how much would those changes cost?

3. I've also read that the wheels may not be up to task. What changes there?

4. I'm thinking about pulling a trailer. Either a BOB or Burley. Pro's Con's?

5. The frame of the 88 is in excellent condition. Is it worth updating this bike? Pro and con of the Bio-pace crank set?

That's alot of bandwidth for my first post. I appreciate any and all help. Thanks

Tom Cotter
Cherry Hill, N. J.
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Old 12-17-02, 04:26 PM
  #2  
Rich Clark
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Originally posted by tom cotter

1. As much as members of this forum like the bike they don't seem to agree on STI shifters. I like the shifters, is there a problem with them?
The main objections are that they're not field-serviceable, and they don't have a friction mode as a fallback if the indexing fails. These could be problems if you break a lever and you're miles from nowhere. IMO the solution is to carry a clamp-on downtube shifter as a spare if you'd rather not give up the convenience of STI for everyday riding. Otherwise, consider switching to bar-end shifters, as the current 520 uses.

2. My reading tells me the bike isn't geared right for loaded touring. What changes need to be made and how much would those changes cost?
see www.bgcycles.com for a good example. Also see this thread - http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...threadid=18578 -- for a recent discussion on this very topic. There are a couple of other substantial Trek 520 threads here in the Touring topic as well, particularly this one -- http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...threadid=7090. Do some searching for others.

3. I've also read that the wheels may not be up to task. What changes there?
Not sure which wheels you have; they've changed a few times over the years. The skill with which a wheel is prepared IMO has more bearing on its reliability than the raw parts. With proper high tension, stress-relief of the spokes when newly installed or tightened, and prompt maintenance when they do show signs of distress, any decent set of 36-spoke wheels should be reliable. Poorly prepared wheels will fail no matter how good the parts are.

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Old 12-17-02, 07:21 PM
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Originally posted by tom cotter


1. As much as members of this forum like the bike they don't seem to agree on STI shifters. I like the shifters, is there a problem with them?

520s for the past few years have used barends.Trek must have figured it out or got feedback on what serious touring riders really wanted.
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Old 12-17-02, 08:11 PM
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Hi,
sounds like you have a later version of Biopace. As I remember it, the early versions were kinda egg shaped, and weird. I didn't like them.
The gearing depends on where you plan to tour. If you want to ride in the mountains; I would be sure to have really low gearing. You can use bar ends with a Mtb crank to do that. Or, you can use STI if you get a roadie drivetrain (like 105 or Ultegra) and swap out the rings for smaller ones.
In any case, you can get a Megarange rear derailleur, which can accomodate as big as a 34 tooth rear ring . How's that for low?
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Old 12-17-02, 09:28 PM
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Michel Gagnon
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You may look at http://www.vintage-trek.com to see the changes made over the time to the Trek line.

Generally speaking, over the years, gearing has evolved from 18 speeds to 27 speeds. Alas, while 18 speeders had gears between 25 and 105 gear-inches, current 27 speeders have gears between 25 and 127 gear-inches. In other words, when they increased the number of gears, they put them slightly closer (a good thing), but also raised the top gear instead of lowering the bottom gear.

For touring, I don't know enough of the geometry of the 1988 bike, but I am aware that the 1996 or 1997 has basically the same geometry as the 2000. IOW, the 1988 might be a bit flexible compared to the very rigid 1996. For touring, the 1988 also has two drawbacks: 27" wheels (tires harder to find on the road), and a 6-speed freewheel (spokes harder to replace by yourself).

Gearing wise, the 1996 has, I think, 48-38-28 chainrings, with a 12-28 or 13-28 cassette. If I am correct on the chainrings, it means you could change your cassette for a 14-34 and benefit from lower gears.

Regards,
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Old 12-17-02, 11:42 PM
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The new 520's have bar end shifters, but I think the undesirability of STI shifting for touring is much exaggerated.

Some people worry that the STI systems might have the indexing fouled up on long rides. They might, it's true, but that's what the derailler cable adjustment barrels are for. This is a problem you just fix, the way you have to do on a mountain bike if you crash and bend the derailler.

The STI levers might break in a crash, some worry. Again, that's possible. The position of the levers leaves them more exposed than down tube shifters or bar end shifters. The low chance of this has to be weighed against the convenience of STI shifting to you. The bar ends that came with my bike are fine with me. But if I had a bike that had come with STI instead I don't think I would pay money to switch the system out. If I were touring in remote areas, I would just carry a spare, $10, clamp-on downtube derailler lever set.

I understand that somewhere in the early to mid-nineties Trek started building their 520 frames with significantly thicker walls. The frames now are stronger than in 1988, in other words, if I understand correctly. If I'm right, that's a significant reason to use a newer frame rather than upgrading the old one. I don't think the old one is unsafe, or anything, but newer frames may be more stable at speed. You will likely get more life out of a thicker frame with a lot of miles of loaded riding.

There's a lot more information about the 520, including gearing and wheel information, on two threads on this very Touring forum. The threads are only a few months old, too, and should be only a page or two back in topics listings.
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