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Bike across Canada, need advice

Old 09-26-10, 04:40 PM
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Bike across Canada, need advice

Hi all,

I just joined the forum and I don't know if this is the right subforum to post this topic, but here goes:

I'm a 19 year old university student from Toronto and planning to bike across Canada next summer.

As of now, I have a hybrid bicycle that's a few years old and cost somewhere around $300 (I think). So I don't really know much about different types of bicycles, companies, and prices.

I'm looking into getting a road/touring bike for the trip next year but don't know where to start looking. I don't mind spending up to $2000.

What are some good bike companies for road/touring bikes?
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Old 09-26-10, 07:11 PM
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If you're a student at the University of Toronto, I would recommend getting in touch with Alex from the University of Toronto Cycling Club ( utcyclingc​lub at utoront​o dot ca ). Most club members, including Alex, have a lot of experience touring (they're a toruing club rather than a racing club), and she's a mechanic at BikeChain (the UofT Bicycle Shop). They'll be pretty happy to give you advice about bikes and gear, as well as training up for a ride across Canada.

That said, there are a whole bunch of variables that will effect your bike purchase - the biggest is probably accommodations. Where you will sleep will determine what you need to carry, which will determine what you need bike-wise. I would advice doing the following: adapt the bike you have now for an overnight trip somewhere, mirror what you expect to do everyday of your trip across Canada in terms of distance and sleeping conditions, and do it as cheaply as possible. A whole bunch of things will go wrong. Afterwards, try to adapt your bike again, considering what you learned. Keep doing this until you're ready to buy a bike. Trust me, after a few trips you'll know exactly what you need from a bike.

If you want to look at some touring bikes anyway (I know I would), I have a Jamis Aurora. You could squeeze it, plus the gear into your price range. I have zero complaints. Whatever you buy, make sure your frame is guaranteed for life by the manufacturer, or get a mechanic to look the frame over before you buy it (if it's used for example). Also, learn some basic bicycle repair before you even buy your bike.
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Old 09-26-10, 09:52 PM
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A few parts bug me about such a trip, nothern ontario is very large and the trans canada shoulders through it narrow... many big rigs will lay on the horn and expect you to leave the roadway.

crazyguyonabike.com will probably have some travelogues, most people start from vancouver and head "downhill" haha

For sure this sort of trip requires you to have many different skills and to know your ride inside-out. So base-miles and practice trips with your actual equipment are required, unfortunately you're almost out of time to test things out, well.. maybe your rain and cold weather gear.
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Old 09-26-10, 10:17 PM
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Originally Posted by seenloitering
If you're a student at the University of Toronto, I would recommend getting in touch with Alex from the University of Toronto Cycling Club ( utcyclingc​lub at utoront​o dot ca ). Most club members, including Alex, have a lot of experience touring (they're a toruing club rather than a racing club), and she's a mechanic at BikeChain (the UofT Bicycle Shop). They'll be pretty happy to give you advice about bikes and gear, as well as training up for a ride across Canada.

That said, there are a whole bunch of variables that will effect your bike purchase - the biggest is probably accommodations. Where you will sleep will determine what you need to carry, which will determine what you need bike-wise. I would advice doing the following: adapt the bike you have now for an overnight trip somewhere, mirror what you expect to do everyday of your trip across Canada in terms of distance and sleeping conditions, and do it as cheaply as possible. A whole bunch of things will go wrong. Afterwards, try to adapt your bike again, considering what you learned. Keep doing this until you're ready to buy a bike. Trust me, after a few trips you'll know exactly what you need from a bike.

If you want to look at some touring bikes anyway (I know I would), I have a Jamis Aurora. You could squeeze it, plus the gear into your price range. I have zero complaints. Whatever you buy, make sure your frame is guaranteed for life by the manufacturer, or get a mechanic to look the frame over before you buy it (if it's used for example). Also, learn some basic bicycle repair before you even buy your bike.
Thanks a lot! I emailed them to set up a time to talk.

Originally Posted by electrik
A few parts bug me about such a trip, nothern ontario is very large and the trans canada shoulders through it narrow... many big rigs will lay on the horn and expect you to leave the roadway.

crazyguyonabike.com will probably have some travelogues, most people start from vancouver and head "downhill" haha

For sure this sort of trip requires you to have many different skills and to know your ride inside-out. So base-miles and practice trips with your actual equipment are required, unfortunately you're almost out of time to test things out, well.. maybe your rain and cold weather gear.
Thanks for the link. That site looks really good. And yes, I'm planning to start from Vancouver and head East. The winds will be with me, that way.
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Old 09-26-10, 10:41 PM
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When I was researching bikes a while back, I wound up with about 8 different brands of steel-framed touring bikes that seemed to have similar features and similar prices. One thing that helped narrow it down was to see what was actually carried locally, as opposed to just "out there" on the internet somewhere.

Regardless, I'd say buy your bike well ahead of time and get quite a few miles on it so you're comfortable with it.

I'm kind of a newbie to geared bikes, and haven't minded running mine into the shop periodically to fool with deraileurs, brakes, etc., but if you're touring, you need to know how to do that stuff yourself. Not necessarily complicated, just takes the time to look into it.

Machka can probably offer a good bit of insight on your trip.

Oh, technically, this should go in the "Touring" forum rather than the "Long Distance" forum.
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Old 09-26-10, 11:59 PM
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moving to touring
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Old 09-27-10, 12:59 AM
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Check out https://www.fullyloadedtouring.com/index.html
Drool over the pictures and check the links.
You will get a real eye full of touring rigs taken all over the world.

The Trek 520 is a bike they have been building for 25 years. It has a good reputation.
Surly Long Haul Trucker comes in 26 inch and 700c wheel models. Good reputation.
Cannondale t2 is in your price range but you will go over as you purchase panniers etc.

Happy trails.
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Old 09-29-10, 12:04 AM
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You really don't need a new bike so long as your current hybrid is in good shape and you know how to keep it that way. The Toronto District School Board runs courses every fall and spring semester on basic bike maintenance. The Toronto Outdoors Club has also run courses on touring and bike maintenance.

You may be better off taking that $2000 and putting it towards good touring gear and an emergency fund. There are few problems on a tour that money cannot solve. Unless of course it's a horrific accident but then the money can help put you up somewhere while you recuperate or pay your way home.

I've seen people tour on some pretty poor bikes; there was one guy who had an old single speed that he'd picked up in a back alley somewhere out west and was heading to the Maritimes. He was making very good speed despite being clad in jeans and a leather jacket.

So, yeah, the bike is not the most important item in a long-distance tour. Having a custom build helps but it's training, it's technical skills, it's time, it's money and it's mindset.
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Old 09-29-10, 03:15 AM
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Given your location, I would also take a trip to urbane cyclist. They have their own touring bike, and I rode one for several years before i took up building frames myself. They are up the street from city tv. They have a lot of goodies also. Their mechanics are top notch and know how to build touring wheels, which is seriously required. MEC also has their own touring bike now, and a lot of gear, same neighbourhood.
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Old 09-30-10, 07:59 PM
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just to forewarn you, the MEC bikes (the 1971 or the other one, with disk brakes--the Cote, are not "toiuring bikes", do not have low enough gearing for a cross canada tour and the hills you will be hitting. Please do a search on the MEC bikes to see what I am talking about. These are more "cyclocross" bikes and not touring bikes and the gearing is just not low enough--I knew this seeing the bike in store and on paper, plus a friends wife bought one and she immediately saw the gearing could be lower--to change it involves a rear derailleur change and cassette--prob $200.

I have done lots of fully loaded touring in mountainous country so do speak from experience.

ps, MEC will very likely come out with a real "tourer" in 2011 (cant promise but it makes sense)

the other bikes mentioned Trek 520, Surly LHT are of course two of many available excellent touring bikes and the diff in price of these compared to teh MEC bikes are completely worth it for such a trip as you are considering.

La Cordee in Montreal here has a 54cm 520 on sale for $1250 regular is about $1400, (or at least as of 2 weeks ago when I went in)


+2 on looking for used, but speak to the right people so you know what you are looking for.

Id also put out word in T.O for looking for a used touring bike, ie bike stores who realize what you want todo, as the last fellow said, you could put the saved money to the travelling expenses as well as bike panniers/bags, tent, sleeping mat, camp stove etc etc.

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Old 09-30-10, 10:45 PM
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Low enough gearing is essential.
I purchased a Cannondale t1 because of their name and reputation. It came with a 50/39/30 crankset and 11/32 cassette. After riding it for a few months I changed it to 48/36/26 and 11/34. The rear derailleur could just clear the 34 tooth cog. This past summer I took it for 4 short trips totalling 1000 km. The bike performed wonderfully. But I could have purchased a bike with the lower gears to start with and saved myself a lot of money.
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Old 10-01-10, 07:32 AM
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solar--do check out this neat webpage thingee that can calculate gearing with diff front crank chainrings and rear cassettes. It is a really good way to understand more about gearing and to relate bikes you are thinking of compared to what experienced tourers here on this forum can tell you about real life experiences.

https://www.sheldonbrown.com/gears/index.html

you need to plug in your wheel size -probably 700, and tire, lets say 32. Crank lenghts tend to be 170, I prefer "Gear inches" just cuz that is what I learned about gearing in books way back, and gear inches, while bizarre in concept , are still a "unit" that people use, so dont worry about what they are, just use them.

I have attached a photo of this gear calculator using my old touring bike specs. I have circled the lowest 3 gears to emphasize the gear inches that a trip like yours should have. My bike used to have a "25 inch" low gear (which is exactly what the Cannondale fellow above had on his bike before changing it) but I changed the granny from a 28 tooth to a 24 tooth to lower it and to get the 21.4 number--effectively one gear lower than what I had before. With my bike fully loaded (tent, cooking stuff, this that and the other for a month long trip) I was very happy to have "one gear lower" than when I first had the bike. This made a real differnece in mountainy, steep areas. Really.

Oh, changing my granny gear to a 24 tooth was quite cheap and easy to do, cost me maybe $20? but even if a store does it, it is teh cheapest way to lower gearing (technical details of derailleurs aside)

So when looking at bikes, do remember for what you want to do, a bike with a low of a MINIMUM of 25 gear inches is what you need, and lower like 22 or 21 is really what you need, and will make a trip so much more enjoyable (or less hell on steep bugger of hills in other words)

new bikes use rear cassettes of 32 and even 34 teeth, so the granny gear up front would not have to be as small as a 24 as on my old bike (which rear cassette largest tooth is 30)

you will see lots of bikes to consider, but what is really important is if a bike has low enough gearing. I had a friend who rode across Canada many years ago, its a big undertaking and you dont want to be killing yourself on hills without low enough gearing.
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Old 10-01-10, 07:40 AM
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Originally Posted by seenloitering
If you're a student at the University of Toronto, I would recommend getting in touch with Alex from the University of Toronto Cycling Club ( utcyclingc​lub at utoront​o dot ca ). Most club members, including Alex, have a lot of experience touring (they're a toruing club rather than a racing club), and she's a mechanic at BikeChain (the UofT Bicycle Shop). They'll be pretty happy to give you advice about bikes and gear, as well as training up for a ride across Canada.

That said, there are a whole bunch of variables that will effect your bike purchase - the biggest is probably accommodations. Where you will sleep will determine what you need to carry, which will determine what you need bike-wise. I would advice doing the following: adapt the bike you have now for an overnight trip somewhere, mirror what you expect to do everyday of your trip across Canada in terms of distance and sleeping conditions, and do it as cheaply as possible. A whole bunch of things will go wrong. Afterwards, try to adapt your bike again, considering what you learned. Keep doing this until you're ready to buy a bike. Trust me, after a few trips you'll know exactly what you need from a bike.

If you want to look at some touring bikes anyway (I know I would), I have a Jamis Aurora. You could squeeze it, plus the gear into your price range. I have zero complaints. Whatever you buy, make sure your frame is guaranteed for life by the manufacturer, or get a mechanic to look the frame over before you buy it (if it's used for example). Also, learn some basic bicycle repair before you even buy your bike.
Great advice for sure, and what a great adventure you are going to take!
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