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Fastest/Most Responsive Tourers?

Old 09-25-10, 02:19 AM
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Fastest/Most Responsive Tourers?

Hi all, this is a pretty stock question, but that's how we like to waste our time, right?

I'm in the market for a new bike. I'm looking for a bike that can:
-handle some fairly extensive touring - nothing cross-country, but maybe loaded with 35 lbs. AND
-go fast for a brevet or multi-centry weekend

If it's not clear, that rules out bikes like a Surly Pacer, which I'm not sure I trust to carry too much weight, and a Surly LHT, which I think is more comfort-oriented than I'm looking for (the fact that my examples are both Surlys is total coincidence).

Right now, I'm looking most seriously at Cannondale ST frames from the mid-80s to the early 90s, late-80s Miyata 610s and 1000s, Surly Cross Checks, Soma Double Crosses, and Trek 520s.

So what does everyone think about a bike that can handle some touring but can also make the guys in the "Long Distance Cycling" forum drool a bit?

PS, I'm not actually this picky, but it's a fun mental exercise to identify this middle ground (or middle bike, as it were). So let's talk about it (pics welcome of course)!
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Old 09-25-10, 02:32 AM
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Originally Posted by kingpee
Right now, I'm looking most seriously at Cannondale ST frames from the mid-80s to the early 90s, late-80s Miyata 610s and 1000s, Surly Cross Checks, Soma Double Crosses, and Trek 520s.

So what does everyone think about a bike that can handle some touring but can also make the guys in the "Long Distance Cycling" forum drool a bit?!
You've got it covered with those bikes... but to make the LDC guys drool, try something more like this
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Old 09-25-10, 03:18 AM
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Look for a sport-touring or audax bicycle.
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Old 09-25-10, 04:30 AM
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if ever i get the money to go custom but until then you would be hard pushed to better the dawes ultra galaxy 853 light tubing xt groupset 700 cc wheels.
a friend opf mine bought one last year i couldn't believe how light it was ,he loves it.
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Old 09-25-10, 05:33 AM
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Yeah, there's lots of bikes that can do this. Part of it is that long distance and sport touring bikes share many of the same optimal characteristics: low gearing, wider tires, rugged components, relatively upright position, the ability to use fenders, some rack mounts.

Cross bikes with slick tires can fit the bill quite well; the Jamis touring bikes, for example, are essentially cross bikes with a few parts changed out. You may want to use slightly wider and beefier tires on tour, although I'm sticking to high-quality 28c's for both uses.

As far as "drool factor" goes, that's obviously a personal choice, but I'd say the Kona Jake the Snake looks pretty sweet. It's not quite ideal for touring but can definitely do the job.
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Old 09-25-10, 06:07 AM
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fastest one would be the one with the fittest rider riding in an aerodynamic posture. That's said I'd look at two sets of wheels. 35lbs requires a strong rear wheel and fast only requires wheels to handle your body weight and the road. For "extensive touring" I'd want gear well secured with some of the weight forward. The Cross-Check is solid enough to carry the load. If you can't go fast with a stripped down 25lb steel touring bike you won't go fast with a light 20lb cross bike.
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Old 09-25-10, 05:32 PM
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The Specialized Tricross would also work very well for your purposes.
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Old 12-01-10, 05:32 PM
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i drool on my t400 from '95 only complaint is the paint color/quality (Don't like RED, and too thin so bubbling after 15 years.).
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Old 12-01-10, 11:38 PM
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Originally Posted by Enthusiast
The Specialized Tricross would also work very well for your purposes.
I second the Tricross Sport! I was in exactly the same quandry as you this year.
After looking at many bikes, went with a Tricross Sport. About 25 lbs, the Canadian version comes with 50-39-30 and a 11-32 cassette, so about 25 gear inches low gear. I have toured with 25 gear inches, but fully loaded its not low enough, but a change to a 26 granny would get you down to a 21-22 gear inch which is perfectly fine (for me) as I have toured a lot with these low bottom gears.
I stuck a rear rack on it immediately, I always have one bag on it, and have had two with a fair amount of stuff in them and it handles fine.
You can lowrider front rack it (although cf fork, so one cannot really load it up)
Geometry, wheelbase, chainstay are all fine for bags (no heel probs)
Its stable at all kinds of speeds (so no "high bottom bracket" concerns making it squirrely)
Its steering is slowish, quicker than my touring bike, which is fun, but entirely stable for all day rides (did a 6 day trip with it this summer, was great)
unloaded, its fun, sti Tiagra are fun and work fine.
I have 28 road tires on it and its definately faster than my touring bike (combo weight, is stiffer, more sprightly overall) My touring bike is an old steel frame. You could easily put 25's on it to be faster, but 28s are a good compromise comfort/speed in my opinion.
I put a Brooks seat on it and as the bike fits me rather well, I am very comfortable on it. (leather saddle takes the edge off the rear over bumps)
It has three bike bottle spots.

Other cross bikes are great too, but the tricross has lower gearing, and I knew from where I ride, that I wanted a 32 cassette and the possibility to go lower with a granny change if need be.

Im sure there are other sport tourers out there in the same weight range, as this sounds like what you are looking for. I would however be wary of bikes with a max 25 or 27 rear cassette (with 105 comonents for example) as your low will not be low enough for touring with hills)

ps, I am 5'10 and the 54cm frame fits me really well, with stock bar stem. the reach is just right.
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Old 12-02-10, 01:42 PM
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Old 12-02-10, 02:01 PM
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something else to think about too are the wheels. Tricross have 32 spoke wheels, although made for cyclocross, and probably pretty tough, time will tell how they hold up to my use, and how they would be with a load on top of rider (rider weight being a factor too, Im a lightweight so can get away with more plus Im careful always with my wheels in general) but I have always toured on 36 spoke wheels (with nary a problem)
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Old 12-02-10, 02:35 PM
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Originally Posted by djb
something else to think about too are the wheels. Tricross have 32 spoke wheels, although made for cyclocross, and probably pretty tough, time will tell how they hold up to my use, and how they would be with a load on top of rider (rider weight being a factor too, Im a lightweight so can get away with more plus Im careful always with my wheels in general) but I have always toured on 36 spoke wheels (with nary a problem)
The solution to this dilemma is to use the stock wheels until the rims go, then replace with what you like. Factory wheels aren't all that great anyway and many people just have a custom set made for long trips at the time of purchase and keep the originals for use around home. Win-win in my opinion and you always have a spare set if something breaks badly.
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Old 12-02-10, 06:06 PM
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to be honest, I was just trying to be even handed about mentioning 36 spoke wheels. Personally, as I weigh 140lbs and generally am very mechanically sympathetic with my equipment, not to mention I look where I go and dont bash into stuff, or slow down properly and/or unload my wheels properly by going up on pedals, lifting the front wheel and or lightening the back etc etc.
If I ride in the rain, I clean up my rims quickly and easily, as well as my pads, when I get home, so I keep the abrasive grit down on my wheel braking surfaces---so my rims last a long long time, I dont mistreat them they just last--
In all the years I toured and commuted on the same touring bike and set of wheels, I never ever broke a spoke. Had to realign wheels a few times , but over 15 years of only using that bike, with factory wheels (yes, 36 spokers) and getting them looked at once in a while by a good wheel guy, they lasted great.

i mention this simply because you said "until the rims go", Ive never had rims go. The idea of having a second set of "touring" wheels is a great idea though. For me, I would be more inclined to get a set of lighter wheels and slap 23s or 25s tires on them to have a faster bike for faster rides, and use the stock 32 spoke wheels for everything else. (I am hoping that my cross-inspired 32 spokers are as tough as my 20 year old 36 spokers---time will tell.
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Old 12-02-10, 07:16 PM
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Originally Posted by djb
something else to think about too are the wheels. Tricross have 32 spoke wheels, although made for cyclocross, and probably pretty tough, time will tell how they hold up to my use, and how they would be with a load on top of rider (rider weight being a factor too, Im a lightweight so can get away with more plus Im careful always with my wheels in general) but I have always toured on 36 spoke wheels (with nary a problem)
maybe a touring newb question, but do 4 spokes really make that much difference?
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Old 12-02-10, 07:40 PM
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adg, there are others who have much more knowledge of building wheels etc than me, but what I can tell you is that traditionally, 36 spoke wheels have always been on bikes made for touring, ie made to have extra weight on them, and ideally, they will be able to handle the extra weight of luggage and have less chance of any problems over time. You get into stuff like rim strength, hub strength and spoke strength , and not to mention how and who puts the wheels together and do a good job.

I'll leave the tech talk to others who know more of that stuff, but as I said, I personally never had problems with my 36 spoke wheels when touring fully loaded.

I have heard from numerous sources that todays rims are stronger than 20 years ago, so perhaps my new 32 spoke cyclocross wheels are as strong as my 20 year old 36 spoke touring wheels, but I suspect as iwth everything in life, there are varying degrees of quality, and it really comes down to the details of the parts and how well they were put together and also how they get checked over once ina while.

generally, a heavier sturdier wheel made for touring is going to be heavier than on a bike that will never have panniers on it, and lighter bikes are lighter because of the sum of all the various parts are lighter than heavy duty/cheaper stuff on a touring bike or a less expensive bike.

My take on this topic is that it is a lot more fun riding a lighter responsive bike that "may" and "can" handle a tour that doesnt involve carrying an absolute ton of stuff. Especially when with the case of my bike, 90% of its life will be ridden with one bike bag on it for day trips. I used to carry about 40lbs of stuff on my trips, and I see my new bike being fully capable of safely carrying 20 or 30 lbs of stuff in two rear panniers easily, even if it isnt a quote unquote touring bike built like a tank.
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Old 12-02-10, 08:29 PM
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You know, i didn't really think it through, there is probably an exponential growth in strength for each additional spoke or something. I meant to ask about tradition i suppose, because it leads to the question of wouldn't a 40 spoke be equal degrees better than a 36 than that one is to a 32?
As far as moder wheels being tougher, i am certain that is mostly true, except maybe the wheels on the old Schwinn (Speedster, i think...) anyway 1964 3spd cruiser, that i will get around to restoring someday, has doublewall SOB's that must weigh 10lbs each...

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Old 12-03-10, 06:37 AM
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Originally Posted by kingpee
I'm in the market for a new bike. I'm looking for a bike that can:
-handle some fairly extensive touring - nothing cross-country, but maybe loaded with 35 lbs. AND
-go fast for a brevet or multi-centry weekend
How about a bike that's been used for world tours and world speed records?

Here ya go.
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Old 12-03-10, 07:21 AM
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I also bought a TriCross, but the Expert model. It weighs about 20 lbs. I plan to carry less than 16lbs for a CC tour, and if I ever want to camp and tour, I'll have to add another 10 lbs or so. IMO, one requirement for using this bike is to keep my own personal body weight to a minimum.
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Old 12-03-10, 07:41 AM
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Re wheels: at your weight and touring loads you can easily use light low spoke count wheels and 23mm or 25mm tires.
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Old 12-03-10, 09:07 AM
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Audax, Randonee, Sport Tourer

The Riv Rambouillet is the perfect fast tourer, pity they don't make it anymore.

+1 on the Mercian, you can spec them how you like, but the audax looks just right
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Old 12-03-10, 09:16 AM
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OMG, this is the best frame spec tool I've ever seen. If you know what you want this is amazing

https://www.merciancycles.co.uk/frames/57/frame-builder
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Old 12-03-10, 09:48 PM
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I've been lurking around the Mercian website too, but there isn't much on the site to differentiate between the various frame models. What's the difference between the Audax and the Strada Speciale for example? I'm looking for something with a club racer geo. Gotta love the flexibility that Mercian gives you with ordering braze-ons, etc.
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Old 12-04-10, 06:05 AM
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Back to the OP, 35lbs is not a heavy touring load. My last load was about 50lbs.
An Audax/brevet style of bike can handle this without any issues.
For a stock frame, the Soma ES looks to be about right. I think the chainstays are a bit longer than the Pacer. The chromoly construction is strong enough. If you are happy touring on 28m with fenders (or 32 without) it will do the job.
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Old 12-04-10, 09:12 AM
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Originally Posted by dbh
I've been lurking around the Mercian website too, but there isn't much on the site to differentiate between the various frame models. What's the difference between the Audax and the Strada Speciale for example? I'm looking for something with a club racer geo. Gotta love the flexibility that Mercian gives you with ordering braze-ons, etc.
With Mercian you can tweak the geometry on all the bikes and add braze ons and choose tubing, but the frames fall into definite categories, ie track, tourer, racer and have styling differences too, like how fancy the lugs are. I too wish that mercian gave a description of the frames, so here's my attempt

Velocita - modern racer, mix of carbon and fillet brazed tubing
Pro Lugless - fillet brazed can be built in any style
Vincitore & Vincitore Special - fancy lugs, can be built in any style
Professional - special lugs for added stiffness, race bike
Strada Speciale - cast lugs with a clover leaf cut out and "fastback" seat stays
King of Mercia - cast lugs with heart cut out, generally a tourer, but can be built in any geometry
Miss Mercian - Mixte (step through) frame
Audax Special - cast lugs no cut outs, standard geometry is good for long distance rides and light touring
Super Vigorelli - cast lugs, track frame
Super Tourist Tandem - tandem
Mercian 60th Anniversary Ltd Edition - oversized tubing and fancy lugs, only 60 to be made
Paul Smith - colaboration with designer, two styles, track or tourer limited color choice
Rohloff Dropouts and S&S Couplings - if you want that miracle hub, I'd spec S&S fro traveling
953 Stainless Steel Frame - if you want a shiny lugged bike
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Old 12-04-10, 11:11 AM
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Originally Posted by kingpee

If it's not clear, that rules out bikes like a Surly Pacer, which I'm not sure I trust to carry too much weight, and a Surly LHT, which I think is more comfort-oriented than I'm looking for (the fact that my examples are both Surlys is total coincidence).

Right now, I'm looking most seriously at Cannondale ST frames from the mid-80s to the early 90s, late-80s Miyata 610s and 1000s, Surly Cross Checks, Soma Double Crosses, and Trek 520s.

So what does everyone think about a bike that can handle some touring but can also make the guys in the "Long Distance Cycling" forum drool a bit?

PS, I'm not actually this picky, but it's a fun mental exercise to identify this middle ground (or middle bike, as it were). So let's talk about it (pics welcome of course)!
I'm using a Soma Double Cross for Century & 200k rides. I also will do light credit card touring on the bike. To keep the bike fast, I only carry a 20 lbs load on the rear rack. The load reduces the handling and stability from an "A+" to a "B-" grade, but it works well as both a long distance bike and a lightly loaded touring bike.

Gearing, wheelset & tire selection will determine the performance of the bike as much as the frame. Use a 50, 39 & 26 road triple with an 11-28 cassette, 32 spoke Shimano hubs with Mavic Open Pro or Velocity A23 rims. 700 x 28 tires make for a fast build that will climb hills with a light load.

I'm 210 lbs and use a well made 32 spoke wheelset with Shimano 105 hubs & Open Pro rims. These have held up well for 8000 miles in the last 2 years.

Just don't expect an all-purpose bike to handle real touring loads, and you will be ok.


Last edited by Barrettscv; 12-04-10 at 12:40 PM.
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