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Touring bike vs load weight

Old 07-19-10, 09:48 AM
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Touring bike vs load weight

So I've tried to read everything I could on these forums on touring bikes and equipment and how they relate to how much you carry.

It seems that touring exists on a continuum.

You can do credit card touring where you carry almost no load (couple water bottles and maybe a energy bar.) This type of touring you can do on almost any bike.

The other extreme of touring is totally self-supported touring. Here you carry a tent, food, water, etc. With this type of touring it seems best if you have a specially designed bike. This type of bike usually has 36 spokes, a longer chainstay, etc.

Where I'm a bit confused is with the idea of ultralight touring or bike-packing.

Is there some rule of thumb that says, 'If you are carrying more than X pounds you should have 36 spoke wheels?

At what point in the tour planning should someone say, 'Ok, I better get a 'real' touring bike.'
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Old 07-19-10, 10:55 AM
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I don't think there are rules. Your wheel situation is going to depend on your own weight as well as your stuff's weight. The more you and your stuff weighs, the more impact on handling you're going to have, and the lower gears you'll want. (edit - and the more the total weight, the stronger the wheels need to be, obviously)

Check out squaraway's blog linked here https://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...irst-tour-blog! to see someone who toured on a race bike.

The whole decision making process around touring gear is a big cost-benefit optimization problem, where costs and benefits are measured in money, comfort on the bike, comfort off the bike, handling of the bike, speed on the road, ease & cost of transport. Factors that affect the analysis are duration of tour, terrain, road surfaces, distance between services (food, shelter, water), availability of replacement parts, weather, budget available for replacement gear, touring style (cook, camp, hotel, restaurant, amount of clothes needed...), personal style, equipment used by companions... it goes on and on. On top of that, consider what equipment you already own vs. what you will need to buy, and the utility of the bike in other contexts (race, mountain, grocery-getter, cyclocross)

There's no one right way, there are a thousand good-enough ways and a few that will make you suffer and hopefully just learn and do it a different way next time.
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Old 07-19-10, 10:58 AM
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This is pretty common sense stuff and rules of thumb aren't going to help. Your existing training wheels should be up to carrying the extra 15 lbs of an ultralight load. If they aren't you probably need tougher training wheels or at least a tougher rear wheel to begin with. There are too many variables on rider weight and wheel construction to reduce the decision to 32 or 36 spokes. If you're riding with good training wheels you can ride with a light load. If you don't want ANY wheel problems you might go for a tougher rear wheel. If your road bike doesn't feel comfortable with a particular load you go for a bike that can carry a heavier load.

When I did ultralight touring with basic steel road racing bikes I weighed 145lbs and carried less than 20lbs. Basic 36hole straight 15g spokes front and rear on narrow Rigida rims that are not as strong as rims nowadays. Nowadays I'm 60lbs over that and a Cross-Check with 36spoke OC synergy rear wheel and 32 front wheel are stronger wheels and stiffer bike (larger top tube and I'm guessing slightly heavier tubing) that feels about similar in handling security. I'm confident I could carry more on the CrossCheck than I could on those old road bikes but I'd be more inclined to use a LHT.
Now people have much lighter carbon bikes where attaching racks is problematic and crashes might end a trip whereas a steel bike might just get a dented top tube so simply saying "is a road bike ok?" doesn't cover all the parameters.

the most meaningful point is when you've tried out a particular set-up and discover for yourself. "well I guess that rear wheel wasn't up for it" or "that decent just wasn't fun with this load" or "darn, looks like there's a ding in the carbon chainstay"
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Old 07-19-10, 11:00 AM
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Originally Posted by valygrl
I don't think there are rules.

There's no one right way, there are a thousand good-enough ways and a few that will make you suffer and hopefully just learn and do it a different way next time.
+1
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Old 07-19-10, 11:31 AM
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Thanks for the input.

I'm probably over-thinking this. Just get tweaked to be good enough. Do some local touring to see what works. Adjust. Rinse and repeat. Hopefully get it tuned in prior to the big ride.
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Old 07-19-10, 11:45 AM
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Spooner, when I had my shop in 80's on Hwy1 I saw a LOT of over loaded road bikes. From basic steel rimmed Peugeots and Schwinns with Pletscher racks to road bikes with sewups and Blackburn racks. Heavy guys broke rear wheels, heavy rear loads broke rear wheels, small tires and heavy loads caused more flat and rim damage than bigger tires. People who did their own bike repairs didn't overload, road carefully or had durable wheels. Nowadays entry level bikes have stronger wheels and the big tubed aluminum frames on entry level bikes are better load carriers so you're probably starting off with more leeway than riders in the past.
Just ride and see what works, don't let anything get loose that's supposed to be tight or tied down.
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Old 07-20-10, 09:35 AM
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Last summer while on tour I saw a couple old guys touring on bikes that probably cost less than the cost of my LHT frame, and a LHT frame does not cost very much. One of their bikes had a large steel basket type of rack on the back instead of panniers. One of the guys was 85 years old and he said that he likes to go on a several week long tour every year.

From that I concluded that (1) I hope that I am in good enough shape to go touring when I am 85 years old and (2) you can tour on almost anything.
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Old 07-20-10, 10:29 AM
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As the OP said touring styles are on a continuum from credit card to fully loaded expedition touring. I wrote something recently that tried to categorize these styles, but in the end there are as many as there are riders.

https://wheelsofchance.org/2009/08/19/touring-taxonomy/
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Old 07-20-10, 11:25 AM
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I think overthinking things is part of bike touring, at least for me anyway. But if I make it through a tour with no major problems it's worth it. And planning is part of the fun.
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Old 07-20-10, 11:50 AM
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Originally Posted by nun
As the OP said touring styles are on a continuum from credit card to fully loaded expedition touring. I wrote something recently that tried to categorize these styles, but in the end there are as many as there are riders.

https://wheelsofchance.org/2009/08/19/touring-taxonomy/
Excellent post. I've admired nun's lightweight set-up before.

I think nun's own set-up (see his Rivendell set-up) illustrates one of the tipping points. If you can get your gear down small enough to fit in a big seat bag and a handlebar bag, you have a lot of flexibility in the kind of bike you are using.

Once you go beyond that, you're talking about a rack w/panniers (either front or rear, depending on your bike - a topic for another thread). But then, if those 2 panniers get heavy, the next tipping point is you will need to distribute your gear across 4 panniers to balance the weight out and prevent handling problems. Now you're really in the territory where you need to be thinking about high spoke count, heavy rims, etc. By time you get to four panniers, two racks, and maybe a handlebar bag, you're carrying around 10 pounds or so *just* in the panniers and racks themselves.

*Plus*, when packing, there is a rule that always come into play: your gear expands to fit the available space. Once you have that room, you'll be inclined to use it.

Last edited by BengeBoy; 07-20-10 at 02:02 PM.
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Old 07-20-10, 12:09 PM
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Originally Posted by BengeBoy
Excellent post. I've admired nun's lightweight set-up before.

I think nun's own set-up (see his Rivendell set-up) illustrates one of the tipping points. If you can get your gear down small enough to fit in a big seat bag and a handlebar bag, you have a lot of flexibility in the kind of bike you are using.

Once you go beyond that, you're talking about a rack w/panniers (either front or rear, depending on your bike - a topic for another thread). But then, if those 2 panniers get heavy, the next tipping point is you need 4 panniers to balance things out. Now you're really in the territory where you need to be thinking about high spoke count, heavy rims, etc. By time you get to four panniers, two racks, and maybe a handlebar bag, you're carrying around 10 pounds or so *just* in the panniers and racks themselves.
It's funny you mention this; I just started touring last year and did a nice long credit card tour in Europe on a racing bike. I have since built a great LHT and fitted it with 4 Ortlieb panniers and a handlebar bag. I have WAY more room than I need for any kind of bike-packing I imagine doing, since I'm an experienced backpacker and make do with about the carrying capacity of the 2 rear panniers.

But I LOVE gear, and couldn't stop myself buying all the "right" gear! So I want to use it. But I don't need it. But if I don't use it, I will have bought this big, beefy touring bike for no reason.

I guess technically all I needed was a relaxed geometry road bike with brazeons for a rear rack. But alas, I'm already too far gone! My LHT weighs 40 pounds in commuter configuration, with only one of the 4 Ortliebs installed (and loaded with multi-tool, cable lock, some snacks, spare tube, microfiber towel, etc.)
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Old 07-20-10, 01:56 PM
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Originally Posted by BengeBoy
If you can get your gear down small enough to fit in a big seat bag and a handlebar bag, you have a lot of flexibility in the kind of bike you are using.
Excellent point. I've tried to get away from racks as much as possible. I still use a Carradice Expedition Bagman as at 14lbs my saddlebag needs some support, but my setup could be installed on any bike, even if you don't use a Brooks saddle it's easy to buy some clamp on saddlebag loops. I also got really frustrated bolting on racks through the brake mounting hole and doing up P-clamps. The bikepacking approach of compression sacks that are self supporting is attractive, but their major disadvantage is that it's hard to get at stuff.
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Old 07-20-10, 03:32 PM
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Originally Posted by valygrl
There's no one right way, there are a thousand good-enough ways and a few that will make you suffer and hopefully just learn and do it a different way next time.
Agreed.

The "few [ways] that will make you suffer" are usually done because someone is trying to save money. If you have to spend money twice to make things work...i.e. buy 'real' touring bike because that Unobtainium bike just isn't working...you aren't saving money at all. You can tour on anything but look around to see what other bicycle tourist use. There's a lot of history, trial and error, mistakes made/lesson learned, etc. built into those touring bikes. Reinventing the wheel seldom results in a better wheel
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Old 07-20-10, 11:19 PM
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Originally Posted by nun
As the OP said touring styles are on a continuum from credit card to fully loaded expedition touring. I wrote something recently that tried to categorize these styles, but in the end there are as many as there are riders.

https://wheelsofchance.org/2009/08/19/touring-taxonomy/
love the layout. All the touring I did when younger was ultralight and the one time I used panniers they were like the skinny ones shown on your site. Riding where it didn't rain in the summer helped and I tried to find camp spots where I could get under cover.
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Old 07-26-10, 05:15 PM
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Originally Posted by LHT in Madison
Last summer while on tour I saw a couple old guys touring on bikes that probably cost less than the cost of my LHT frame, and a LHT frame does not cost very much. One of their bikes had a large steel basket type of rack on the back instead of panniers. One of the guys was 85 years old and he said that he likes to go on a several week long tour every year.

From that I concluded that (1) I hope that I am in good enough shape to go touring when I am 85 years old and (2) you can tour on almost anything.
gives me a flashback of during one of my trips in France, dont remember which one and wehre, a German fellow about 70 was going along on a sit up style bike, with stuff kinda tied onto it, old pop bottles for water, very eccentric looking. We stopped together for a while, but he had practically no english, french or spanish, and I only knew a few words of german, so I have no idea of his story. But he appeared to have been touring around for quite a while, going from his leg condition and speed on this old old rickety thing.
I was faster than him and had to get going to get to the campground I had planned to get to that night, so we seperated, but the funny memory stays.

as someone said, common sense says that youwill have less problems on a bike in good shape and that can take weight on it, but realistically one could tour on all kinds of bikes today. Comes down to comfort and minmizing the chances of stuff breaking or not working well that can ruin a trip.
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