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retrofit or buy a touring frame?

Old 06-29-08, 03:23 PM
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retrofit or buy a touring frame?

Folks,

Thanks in advance for all of the great advice on this thread. To borrow from the radio shows, I'm a "long-time reader, first-time poster". Some background: I've got a very nice Bianchi San Jose running in its singlespeed configuration. I'm taking a short overnight tour on the Great Allegheny Passage this coming weekend to get a feel for bike camping (I've got some Ortlieb Backrollers on order that will hopefully do the job for storing everything except the tent, which should fit on the rack). On the assumption that this goes well and that a longer tour is possible (potentially Pittsburgh-DC or maybe Toronto-Montreal later this summer), I'm thinking about what I should be considering in terms of bike setup.

The San Jose is good fun, and I've got it set up as a commuter with fenders and a rear rack. There are no eyelets on the fork for a front rack. From what I gather, it is the same frame as a Volpe but with track-end dropouts rather than vertical ones (which is why I figure rear panniers should be OK on it). I've been considering building it up as a touring machine and for longer rides, but I'm pretty slow up hills and 10%+ grades with panniers would probably spell doom for me. My potential options are converting it into a Sheldon Brown (RIP) type San Jos8 with a Nexus-8 hub, considering a Rohloff hub, or keeping it as a commuter bike and looking more seriously at a dedicated touring bike like the Novara Randonnee or the Surly Long Haul Trucker.

The caveat to all of this is that as a student, I'm not what you would call rich; though it would probably be possible to eke together enough to pursue most of those options by summer's end, price is a factor. None of these are super-cheap options, though I think the San Jos8 would require the least outlay (I think I'd need a new wheelset with the hub, a Nexus shifter and a HubBub drop bar attachment) and has the benefit of being converted back to a singlespeed if I wanted. I'm concerned about the relatively narrow gearing, though. For the routes that I'm considering it's probably not so bad (though eastern Ontario can get pretty hilly) but for home base in central PA, it could be ugly, unless I replaced the front chainring, the rear cog, or both, thus giving me low gears but no high ones. The Rohloff seems to solve the problem but is really expensive. I'm not sure if considering how much it costs if I'd be better off just getting a purpose built touring bike. From the threads here it seems like the LHT complete bike seems like the best bet for <$1000 (I'm probably going to have to sell my road bike to fund this). A mild point of concern is how whether having a dedicated touring rig makes sense if the majority of my riding is going to be a waste if I rarely get a chance to use it (sadly during the year, dissertation research and administrative duties usually means working 80+ hours a week).

Anyone have their own experiences or advice with a similar situation? Any comments or feedback are welcome and if you want more information, I'm happy to provide it. Thanks to everyone for your thoughts and for the tonnes of helpful advice that I've spent dozens of hours sifting through (sadly to the detriment of my other work)!
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Old 07-03-08, 08:37 PM
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Hm, maybe my original post was too wordy - let me rephrase for succinctness:

Has anyone tried touring on a Bianchi San Jose frame? If so, have you tried converting it to an internal hub ride, using a Nexus or Rohloff hub? Is the frame (essentially the same as a Bianchi Volpe, just different dropouts) worth investing in a Rohloff + new wheels for or would the money be better spent getting a Surly LHT complete build, which would probably cost the same or less? Thanks for opinions.
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Old 07-03-08, 09:22 PM
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Have you added up the cost of all the components you plan to add to this machine? You could probably get pretty close to having an LHT or certainly a Volpe for the same dinheiro. Then you would have 2 pretty nice bikes instead of one retrofit. Having a single speed as a backup bike would be a good idea I think.
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Old 07-03-08, 11:12 PM
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Have you ridden a bike with the Nexus 8 speed hub yet? Try one out at a LBS so you can get a better impression of the hub. See if you can find a steep hill and ride up it wearing a really heavy backpack...

I think it would definitely be much easier to tour on than with the SS.

Check out my old San Jose

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