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"Custom" touring build... (Long and speculative)

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"Custom" touring build... (Long and speculative)

Old 03-18-09, 11:59 AM
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"Custom" touring build... (Long and speculative)

Just thought I'd share my project. I've been a roadie for 26 years, always with racing bikes. Never toured. Decided to try my hand on a 350-miler this spring, then doing a longish tour around Provence in September with a friend.

I had planned to spend a lot of time testing both the LHT and the Randonee and then get whichever one of those floated my boat the most. But honestly, while both bikes initially delighted me, after test riding a few I've come to see a few of the compromises that allow them to be so very, very inexpensive (at least in high-end road bike terms.) But I don't have enough of a "personal education" (that is, miles in the saddle of a touring bike) to really choose a higher end solution. I really don't even know enough of the players to do that.

So... I've decided to build my aluminum Marin Belvedere commuter https://www.marinbikes.com/2008/ca/bi..._belvedere.php into a sub-entry-level tourer to get me by in the near term. It has a respectable frame with nice welds and a relaxed geometry that is surprisingly close to the Randonee 55mm (Med). The chainstays are about a half-inch shorter than Randonee, and about 1.5 inches shorter than LHT, but the effective top tube length is very close and the total wheelbase is the same (I suspect because the fork has a larger bend to it, pushing the front wheel hub out farther.)

Anyway, I have ordered a mix of new and used parts to upgrade the shifting, braking, and address the flat-bar problem (I don't like flatties for more than 10 miles.) I spent $325 yesterday on:

FSA Wing Alloy bar 42mm -- I ride the carbon version on my Merlin and it's the most comfortable bar I've ever felt. I ride it naked above the shifters and the lack of tape is unnoticable.

Tiagra 9spd Brifters -- These come on the Randonee and I like them just fine. Kinda hard going from the Campy movement I'm used to, but once I'm on the bike a few minutes they become second nature. It may be dweeby but I like the little orange gear indicators in the shifter heads. Sometimes I just have no idea what gear I'm in!

105 triple front der -- Never used one but my racing roots wouldn't let me pass up a good price on a used piece of respectable roadie gear like 105.

Deore GT-M750 rear der -- The bike sits now with a front der. called Shimano Nexave and a rear 8spd Sora. The shifting is horrifically bad despite frequent tune-ups by me. It's possible the problem lies in the chain, the crankset (it's kinda wobbly compared to higher end cranks), or the cassette (doubtful), but I thought I'd start with the der. This Deore piece is just sooo much sexier than the stamped pot-metal Sora that I had to change it. It's used so I don't feel too bad.

SRAM 9spd 11-32 -- The bike is 8spd now so I had to change this out anyway. 34 is a little tall for me in the small chainring so we'll try this one. My first SRAM anything ever.

Cane Creek Cantilever brakes -- The Techtro V brakes on the bike now are terrible. The long upper arms flex visibly when squeezed hard. They really only send an email to the bike suggesting that it might want to slow down sometime soon. The cantis on the LHT and Randonee were noticably better. While I'm on the subject, though, I've always read that cantis stop waaaaaay better than dual-pivot caliper brakes. Perhaps this is just a function of pads needing to break in or something, but I've found it to be just the opposite. I'm used to exerting a certain amount of pressure on Dura-Ace or Record brakes to get phenomenal stopping; the touring cantis I've been riding have not been anywhere near as reassuring in feel, nor as short in stopping distance. And this was on unladen bikes. Sure the bike itself is much heavier than my other bikes, but that 12 pounds or so is a tiny percentage of the total weight to be stopped, including my 180 pounds. So I'd be interested in any further explanations of what I'm missing here. Perhaps the advantage is only really experienced on a fully loaded bike vs. an unloaded one. (But if that were the case, I weigh 50 pounds more than a lot of roadies, so you'd think I would need cantis for my unladen bikes also! I am, after all, the equivalent of them carrying a full 3-month tour load )

Anyway, my thinking with this build is that one of the following will happen:

1) I'll grow to love touring and start doing several a year (I'm an avid backpacker so I could see that happening) In this case I'll learn more about what suits me and enjoy building exactly what I want. The Marin will be pressed into service as a second touring bike to loan to friends I talk into going with me.

2) I'll enjoy it but find the limitations of the Marin too great to put up with, yet not really want to do a big-time build, so I'll buy a LHT frameset and move most of my stuff over to that. Out of pocket would still be lower than a new OEM LHT at $1100 and I'd have a great bike.

3) I don't really enjoy touring and relegate the Marin back to commuting duty, in which case I'll just have a much better touring bike than I currently have.

For the one or two of you who have read this far (perhaps I flatter myself even with that estimate?): any ideas or coaching you could give me?

Thanks!

Matt

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Old 03-18-09, 12:16 PM
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Sounds like you know what you want, I don't see any problems with that build, I would throw a new chain on there, that might be your shifting issue and it's a cheap part. It might also be the crankset, wobbly is not a good thing in my opinion.

Just looked, it has an 8 spd chain, definitely change it.
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Old 03-18-09, 12:36 PM
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Oh yeah, forgot to mention that. The chain is a must change because of the 9speed. I'm getting a new one at the LBS once the parts get here.

Also, as I re-read my post it may have sounded like I was disparaging the LHT and Randonee -- far from it. I just found that the "factory build" of each makes some compromises in the interest of hitting the remarkable price targets of $1100, and in the end I doubt I'd be happy with that.

Thanks,

Matt
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Old 03-18-09, 02:17 PM
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Originally Posted by NoGaBiker
. . . the "factory build" of each makes some compromises in the interest of hitting the remarkable price targets of $1100, and in the end I doubt I'd be happy with that.
The LHT is a tank. I think the factory build is fine if you're going to carry 40+ lbs of gear. In that case the additional weight of the bike isn't much of an issue.The price point was achieved, I suspect, by using really cheap heavy parts for things like seatpost, stem, cranks, etc. It's actually got high quality parts where it needs them -- hubs, rims, rear derailleur. But if you would like to do some lightweight, i.e., "ultralight" touring, which is great for putting in lots of miles, then you might be disappointed indeed with the LHT. Also the factory build comes with pretty wide rims, so you're limited as to how narrow a tire you can run.

I think you are doing exactly the right thing. You will learn a lot about what you do and don't like. Sounds like your frame has approximately 42 cm chainstays. This length is borderline for touring. If you really load up the rear of the bike, you might have some handling issues, but nothing you can't deal with for one tour.
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Old 03-18-09, 02:41 PM
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Thanks for the input. Your last paragraph is new info to me. Does the length of the stays impact stability of handling? I mean independent of wheelbase. In other words, if 2 bikes have the same wheelbase of X, but Bike A has chainstay length of Y, while Bike B has chainstay length of Y+3cm, are you saying that Bike B will be more stable under load? See, I was under the impression that stay length was only germaine to heel clearance; didn't realize it affected handling as well.

Thanks for all the input.

I think my main complaint with LHT factory build at this point is less about capability, since I wouldn't stress it all that much with what I'll be doing. It's just that I have a real "thing" for precise mechanical stuff, and some of the shifting and braking feel wasn't what I was used to. Perhaps that's more a function of the nature of touring/MTB equipment and I'm just not used to it yet. When I get some experience with this new setup I think I'll have more idea what I'm talking about.

Thanks,

Matt
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Old 03-18-09, 05:18 PM
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Originally Posted by NoGaBiker
Does the length of the stays impact stability of handling? I mean independent of wheelbase. In other words, if 2 bikes have the same wheelbase of X, but Bike A has chainstay length of Y, while Bike B has chainstay length of Y+3cm, are you saying that Bike B will be more stable under load? See, I was under the impression that stay length was only germaine to heel clearance; didn't realize it affected handling as well.
Here's my own theory, based solely on my experiences -- and my hunch as well:
Shorter stays mean that the load has to be placed further back on the bike relative to the rear axle in order to provide for heal clearance. The further back the load relative to the rear axle, the less centered the load is between the front and rear axles and the more pronounced the tail-wagging-the-dog-effect. This can manifest as front-end shimmy when you try to ride no handed or with only a light grip on the bars. It probably won't be horrible, but it's worth loading up your bike and giving it a test ride at various speeds.
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Old 03-18-09, 07:26 PM
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Ahhh, that makes perfect sense. You turn it into a Porsche 911, in other words.

Matt
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Old 03-18-09, 09:22 PM
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I think most veteren tourers load the front panniers to balance the load. I've heard 40/60 front/rear up to the reverse, 60/40. I do know that my lowly Diamondback Century is very stable and balanced with a lot of weight on the front.
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Old 03-18-09, 09:44 PM
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correct me if I'm wrong but I have read that while you changing cassette you also should change chain.is this also correct for the opposite (changing cassette will require chain change)? Also if you have shorter chainstay and larger volume tires wouldn't this be somehow better for handling? and one more...I've seen some people using panniers riser in order to have enough heel clearance. this would resolve the problem of moving panniers back and affecting the ride. thnx
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Old 03-18-09, 10:52 PM
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NB. You also need longer chain stays for your heels to clear the rear panniers.

I have an LHT built up from the frame. The first thing you will want to do is put "frame saver" in the frame. This will reduce rust over the long term when you are inevitably caught out in the rain.

For brakes, I use Avid Single Digit Ultimate linear pulls. I have four reasonably high-end bikes (including Juicy Seven hydraulics on my mountain bike) and these combine the best of stopping force and modulation. The down side is that they are not directly compatible with cantilever brakes so you would need a converter (like the Problem Solver Travel Agent) or use non-brifter levers like the Diacompe 287V aero levers.

For cranks you could try the Race Face Deus XC triple which will work with your Shimano 105 front derailleur, has a low Q and will get you to the low gearing of a touring bike.

For the rest (stem, handlebars, seatpost, seat), just slowly build up quality parts as time, taste and money permit. I used mainly Salsa parts and have a Brooks B17 saddle.
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Old 03-19-09, 12:10 PM
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My comments:
N Ga, I had the same idea about the reason for long CSs (except that I thought part of it was also for a smoother ride), but the thing about keeping your load between the wheels makes sense. Somebody mentioned that raising the panniers helps with heel clearance too- I`m sure it does, but it also raises the center of gravity.

From what I`ve heard, modern double pivot sidepulls and cantis are very comparable in terms of stopping power and modulation (I`ve never used good sidepulls, so can`t say from my own experience) but touring bikes now mostly use cantis in order to fit bigger tires. I have mid level Avid V-brakes (linear pull cantis) and Avid levers on my mtb and I love `em. I also have a few different models of regular (not V) cantis on a few other bikes, including the touring bike I just finished and haven`t yet toured on, and the only complaint I have against them is that it`s a little more hassle to adjust. I wouldn`t mind having V-brakes in place of traditional cantis on any of my bikes, but it isn`t a big issue and I certainly wouldn`t do it if it involved changing out the levers or setting up one of those Travel Agent gizmos. You DO have good cable and housing, don`t you? All the way around? If not, that`s a good starting point to troubleshooting your braking and shifting.

Keep in mind when you talk about precision action that precision means everything needs to be in almost perfect adjutment to keep working. Touring bikes have reliability as a high priority, so a little "slop" means that rather than having things either work like magic or not work at all, the goal is for them to work just plain "well", always. No dinking around.

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Old 03-19-09, 02:38 PM
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Rodar, thanks for your thoughts. I agree on the cables and will be changing all of those out when my new stuff comes in. The bike has been like this since I bought it (in other words, the shifting/braking performance hasn't degraded) but it could be that the cables/housings were low quality to start with.

Your explanation of "sloppier" tolerances makes sense, also. I probably need to retrain my "expectometer" a little bit!

Hey, one thing I haven't seen much discussion on here is the FSA Wing-type bars. (others make this also). Essentially it gives you a big flat upper bar that transitions into the standard round tubing shape in the center (where the stem grips it) and from the brake levers down. I first discovered this type bar in February when I rented a racing bike in California for a day and it had the carbon version of the bars. I thought nothing of it, since my bars had never bothered me enough to think about them. Then, about 40 miles into an 80+ mile ride I suddenly noticed that my palms felt great. I was riding on the upper flats, which I don't do much of on my other bars, staying on the hoods more often. So I bought one when I got home and now I love the shape.

A good visual of why it feels so much better: Picture yourself doing pushups in the traditional manner, with palms flat on the floor. Now lay a piece of one-inch conduit on the floor and put your palms on it to do your pushups. That's why a flat bar feels better (at least to me!)

Thanks, Matt
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Old 03-19-09, 03:04 PM
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Originally Posted by NoGaBiker
Hey, one thing I haven't seen much discussion on here is the FSA Wing-type bars. (others make this also).
I think you see more of that on the Road Bike section than here is due to the difference in mindset. My observation is that racers and racer wannabes are all for "new", "better", and "latest technology", whereas tourists and wannabe tourists are more set in tradition and with a mind towards economy. For example, if you look at the pictures that members post in the Road Bike forum, when`s the last time you saw a bike NOT specifically labeled as "retro" or "vintage" that still sported a quill stem? How many without STI or Ergo? Taking a wander through the Post Your Loaded Rigs thread, you`ll see everything under the sun, but a definite preference towards tradition. Like I said, just my observation- I could be wrong.
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