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Offroad Touring Bike Set Up

Old 09-21-09, 01:34 PM
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Miranda
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Offroad Touring Bike Set Up

I plan on riding the Great Divide route next year and saw a few videos of the conditions of the trail and am wondering if the bike I have as it is will be ok? It is a stock 2006 Novara Safari with it's steel fork and stock rear touring rack. Should I have a front suspension fork installed to help minimize wear and tear on my body and equipment prior to the tour? If so, what fork would you advise? If no fork should I just go with wider off road tires?

Would I have been better off purchasing a steel Gunnar Rock Tour for this type of route?

Thank you!
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Old 09-21-09, 01:41 PM
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I think you can pull off most of the route on your Safari. There are miles upon miles of hand numbing descents and washed board roads. Both my wife and I pulled bob trailers behind fully suspended bikes. It was a heavy set up, and going was slower then expected, but the comfort of a fully suspended bike was worth the trade off for us.

What tire are you planning on going with? I love our Marathon XR's, they did fine for everything other then the real muddy and loose rock sections. The 2.1's should offer your hands a bit of comfort.
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Old 09-21-09, 02:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Miranda View Post
Would I have been better off purchasing a steel Gunnar Rock Tour for this type of route?
Not to say that your Novarra won't do but the Salsa Fargo might be a cheaper equivalent to the Gunnar.
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Old 09-21-09, 03:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Miranda View Post
I plan on riding the Great Divide route next year and saw a few videos of the conditions of the trail and am wondering if the bike I have as it is will be ok? It is a stock 2006 Novara Safari with it's steel fork and stock rear touring rack. Should I have a front suspension fork installed to help minimize wear and tear on my body and equipment prior to the tour? If so, what fork would you advise? If no fork should I just go with wider off road tires?

Would I have been better off purchasing a steel Gunnar Rock Tour for this type of route?

Thank you!
rode along the gdmbr from columbia falls, mt to rawlins, wy this summer on a full suspension mtb with a bob yak. i don't know that anyone can answer for you if you want or need suspension or not. the section i was on was mostly gravel roads, and not very technical at all, with the exception of some sections near helena and butte. i was only happy to have suspension on the washboardy bits. my gut feeling is that suspension will not help too much if you are on some fat 26x2.2 or larger rubber.

i was riding with an aussie couple for a good bit of that section, and they are riding rigid steel clunkers from the 80s with schwalbe marathons. they didn't seem to be wanting for suspension, but they are quite strong. they are probably somewhere in central america now...

if you are going southbound from canada, there are quite a few shops along the route. if you start with a rigid fork and decide you want suspension, you could probably call the next shop and arrange to buy a fork with little downtime. dunno about northbound from mexico.
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Old 09-21-09, 04:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Miranda View Post
I plan on riding the Great Divide route next year and saw a few videos of the conditions of the trail and am wondering if the bike I have as it is will be ok? It is a stock 2006 Novara Safari with it's steel fork and stock rear touring rack. Should I have a front suspension fork installed to help minimize wear and tear on my body and equipment prior to the tour? If so, what fork would you advise? If no fork should I just go with wider off road tires?

Would I have been better off purchasing a steel Gunnar Rock Tour for this type of route?

Thank you!
Lots of people ride the GDR on rigid bikes. Pick some big tires [Scwalbe Marathon XR or Extremes in 26 x 2.0" for example] and inflate them so you get a bit of cushion from them. As for your rack that all depends what you put on it. I'd suggest the lighter you can go on gear the more fun you'll have and the less chance of a bike problem you'll have.

You might prefer a suspension fork on your GDR ride, but the only person who would know if it was worth the hassle/cost and potential for a mechanical failure is you....and unfortunately you'll only know the answer on day 7 of your trip.

If you keep your gear reasonable, use some decent high volume tires, get your bike checked over before you leave [especially the wheels] the Safari should serve you well.

I used a rigid bike on my CDN GDR ride this year and would use the same bike [with half the gear!] on a ride of the whole GDR.
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Old 09-21-09, 04:29 PM
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You might check out suspension stems. You could ask at cgob for experiences and recommendations.

Some suspension forks are a lot more reliable than others.
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Old 09-22-09, 12:10 AM
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I rode te Divide on a rigid Bruce Gordon RNR with 700x45 Marathon XR tires and found that adequate for all but the softest conditions on the route. Managing tire pressure for the changing conditions was very important. Use as wide a tire as possible and I expect that you will do well with any of your bike selections. And reduce your base weight to as low as you can which will aid durability of the bike and wheels and rider.
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Old 09-22-09, 07:39 AM
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Lots of talk about rigid vs. fully suspended. What about a hardtail with suspension fork? I have an old Rockhopper with a nice Manitou fork. I think I'd like to try this trail. I also have a non-suspension Bob. How would that work, vs. buying one of the suspension models?
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Old 09-22-09, 08:42 AM
  #9  
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The ACA mantra is that a hardtail (with a coil shock - whatever than is) or at most a single pivot full sus (because of reliablity) is the way to go. Regardless, if you're comfortable on gravel roads then it would seem that most of the GD is doable with a rigid fork.

But what I don't see mentioned above is that drop bars and the consequent inability to slide back behind your seat on steep descents would be a issue. That and the need for wider tires in soft sections point to a mountain bike of some sort rather than a road bike.

Regarding a BOB. The standard Yak would work fine if you don't inflate the tire to the max. If you haven't already, swap out to a better wheel or at the very least a better and wider tire.
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Old 09-22-09, 09:54 AM
  #10  
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Originally Posted by BigBlueToe View Post
Lots of talk about rigid vs. fully suspended. What about a hardtail with suspension fork? I have an old Rockhopper with a nice Manitou fork. I think I'd like to try this trail. I also have a non-suspension Bob. How would that work, vs. buying one of the suspension models?
I saw just about every configuration of gear on the CDN GDR. They all seemed to work okay, but some riders looked happier than others! Based on my ride I don't think I'd want a trailer though. The extra weight and the extra length/handling issues would be going the wrong way in my opinion [I'm a BOB owner]. I used panniers on the bike which I liked as you got a more compact rig and it was fairly agile. When I go back [I will for sure great route] I'll ditch the panniers and use a frame bag with sleeping bag and tent lashed to the tops of my racks.

There is a lot of climbing on this route so anything you can do to reduce weight will make you happier for the majority of your day since you'll spend it climbing. And on the brief downhill runs you can ride faster and have more fun on a less encumbered bike. Not to mention with less weight you'll be less likely to break something on your bike.

BTW - I'd suggest the ACA mantra is what it is because a trailer will work with any bike and it's easy to suggest someone go that route. I don't think it's their mantra because it's the best solution. When dealing with a mixed group of skills and abilities you usually end up going with the lowest common denominator. You say rack and panniers and someone will show up with a $10 Nashbar rack and $4 panniers from a Goodwill Store and the group would then have to deal with the ensuing carnage. If you say BOB trailer there are only two varieties and they are a known quantity.
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Old 09-22-09, 01:05 PM
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I'm glad to hear that a fully rigid setup works okay. I'm planning on doing sections of the GDR of a crossbike with some 40-44c tires. It might be a bit rough, but I figure that is part of the journey.
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Old 09-22-09, 02:54 PM
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Of the bikes I remember on the route last year, there were no trailers, 1 or 2 hardtails, 1 pugsley, 2 rigid 29er's, and one guy on a stock 80's rigid Nishiki mtb which he was quite proud of, having paid $300 for it several decades ago.

If you want to go with what you have, and I think the Safari should be fine if you are comfortable on it, run the widest tires it will fit. 26x2.25 marathon XR's on my rigid tourer served me well, adjusting tire pressure as needed - 30psi unpaved, 65psi paved. I did have some wrist issues early in the trip, but I was able to get past that by adjusting my riding position and getting better at using my elbows/triceps for shock absorption. Personally I wouldn't do the route on a rigid bike if it couldn't fit tires wide enough to safely go down to 30psi while carrying a touring load offroad.

I was also grateful for the XR's when I got to New Mexico, where the roads were full of goathead thorns. The XR's had 3 punctures the whole trip, all from goatheads, while my riding partner's surly endomorphs (no built-in flat protection) had over 100!

I ran drop bars with cross levers and bar-ends, because this setup is far more comfortable for me on long rides than flat bars. I had to stop on some descents to rest my hands from squeezing the canti's from the hoods, but my riding partner had to stop and let his rotors cool almost as often. There were a few times I wished I had a wide flat bar for better control, but I just went a little slower on some rough or soft sections. >99% of the time I was happy with my handlebar setup.

I also had a little comfort help from this janky device (scroll down half a page). It provided enough shock absorption to make a noticeable difference and I was happy to have it. I figured if it broke or I didn't like it I could just get rid of it and I'd still have my regular seatpost. One of the elastomers disintegrated along the way - I fashioned a replacement out of some closed cell foam and duct tape and that still made enough of a comfort difference that I kept it the whole trip. I wouldn't necessarily recommend it, but I might consider a suspension seatpost or a sprung brooks if I were to do the route again.
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Old 09-22-09, 04:12 PM
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>But what I don't see mentioned above is that drop bars and the consequent inability to slide back behind your seat on steep descents would be a issue.

A cyclocross bike solves that problem. But honestly, if I was tackling something like the GDR, I'd want a hardtail 29er. If ever there was a call for suspension on a tour, the GDR would pretty much be it.
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Old 09-22-09, 08:29 PM
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I did the GDR to Jackson Wy in 2008. I used my LHT with 2.1 26in tires. The bike handled marvelously despite the rugged conditions. However, if (when) I do the whole trip I will definitely use a rigid bike with front suspension. And if I were really to do it right I would have a 29er. There are so many roots and the trail at times is so intense the bigger tires would really help. I remember walking my bike down hill about half as much as I walked it up hill.

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Old 09-24-09, 12:07 PM
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Find 50 miles of washboard-from-hell (the kind you can't avoid no matter how hard you try) and see if the bike works well.

Find 10 miles of squishy-gravel - same thing.

Ascend hills so steep the front end starts hopping. Descend similar hills for several miles constant. And it has to be dirt, you're testing in conditions where the back end wants to swing out in front from hard braking or maybe the front wheel wants to wash out instead.

If your bike works well, you're good, otherwise DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT. I won't even mention the jeep trails, because you can usually push through that kind of stuff, but 10 miles of pushing through gravel or 50 miles of washboard might drive you insane. And this is real-life, day-to-day stuff out on the trail.

There's also the sticky mud that stops your bike from rolling, but I don't think they make frames with enough chainstay clearance to help us with that
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