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The Touring bike commuter struggle

Old 12-11-10, 08:38 PM
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The Touring bike commuter struggle

Anybody else had as much difficulty finding a "light" touring bike w/ mid-range parts and a steel frame? I think I'm going to settle on a Jamis Aurora Elite tomorrow and finally give up the search. I'm pretty stoked actually but never envisioned just how difficult this would all be. If bikes were cheaper, I wouldn't care so much but alas with their prices, I find it requires much more upfront research (I mean really $1000-$2000 isn't something I can just go out and buy and then buy a new one if I don't like it).

I picked up bike riding again last summer. I wasn't totally convinced my heart was in it so I bought a startup comfort bike to see if I enjoyed it again -- and presto the magic came back! Little did I know that I had moved into an area which has great accessibility to a paved rails-to-trail ride. I remember thinking at that time, that a 10 mile round trip ride seemed fairly lengthy.

Well, it wasn't long before I was riding down that path and exploring it before it eventually became a 23 mile ride each way to work. After many broken spokes, flat tires, unnecessary derailment, lack of frame bosses to secure a back rack (front racks aren't my thing) and pure trouble on a bike that was not designed for the amount of miles and stress I was putting on it, it didn't take me long to realize that I needed to upgrade.

I'm a heavier but athletic guy who can drop weight fairly quickly. I wanted/want a "speedy" touring bike -- in some circles a credit card tourer -- but mainly something that was durable, could withstand my weight and miles I was putting on it, could carry a load (laptop, clothes, etc....), something that wasn't going to take me 2 hours to get to and from work, and something i could take on an extended weekend tour. After researching hard I figured out I wanted three things:

1) at least a mid-level gearset (Shimano 105, SRAM Rival or Apex, etc...) - reliability
2) road disc brakes (Yeah not everyone enjoys these -- but in my mind I think a necessity if you are going to be riding in the dark, rainy, wet PNW winters) - security
3) a steel frame - durability (for fat guys like me who are trying to get skinnier)

Do you know how difficult it has been to find this??

Finding a "light" touring/road bike with disc brakes has not been easy. I narrowed it down to Salsa Casseroll, Civia Bryant Rival (with SRAM Rival gear set), and the Jamis Aurora Elite. Problem is the 2009 Casseroll was the last year to get the Casseroll with the 105 gear sets and I can't find one on the used market. If a LBS has one on the floor somewhere, I don't know where the heck it is. Yes, I thought about swapping the tires out of a Vaya but I'm not keen on their hodge-podge gear assemblies. I would just assume have the entire gearset under one name. As for the Civia, it appears they have scrapped their 2010 Rival addition and stuck with belt stuff that I'm not interested in (slippage anyone???). Besides, I can neither find a new or used one in that either. So after many weeks and telephone calls, I've identified a couple 2011 Jamis bikes in my potential frame size (all manufactures have "their" own sizing -- especially Salsa) across town that I'm going to go down and try to purchase one. The Aurora Elite has a Reynolds steel frame, SS7 disc brakes, and a SRAM Apex gear set and will cost about $1600.

Anybody else have this much trouble? I'm a bit tired of looking and waiting.
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Old 12-11-10, 08:55 PM
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Belts slipping? Don't be silly.

Kona, Salsa, Jamis, Gunnar, Norco, Brodie...everyone makes at least one. Some of those come with Tiagra...you'll find Tiagra to be just fine for reliability. Some of those are CX bikes, maybe the geo will bug you. I very much doubt it.
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Old 12-11-10, 10:17 PM
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I am not sure what the obsession with disc brakes is all about as of late. Don't get me wrong, I have ridden disks and they are really nice. The brake action is feather light and they work well in the rain. However, I would never rule out a non-disk frame when looking for a solid commuter/tourer. If price is a consideration, which it almost always is, high quality V-brakes or Cantis work great. Maybe you had a bad experience with them on your cheap comfort bike? Anyways, if price is an issue and you are not happy with the selection of disc models open up the criteria a little and see what you can get for a lot less money.

I have always been a big fan of the Biancho Volpe, a prove touring rig and excellent light commuter that can be had for about $750. https://www.bianchiusa.com/bikes/gran-fondo/volpe/
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Old 12-12-10, 02:24 AM
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I have seen a lot of Bianchi's on the road and people seem to have good things to say about them. In fact, I've seen many old Bianchi's on the road and that does nothing but give positive marks for the company. I am not entirely insistent on disc brakes -- I have test ridden a couple as well as a high-end linear brake works pretty darn good. In fact, I liked the feel of it a bit better than the discs I rode. But I'm the kind of guy that won't buy a waterproof jacket in an area of the country where it makes sense to own one. So I'm sorta pushing myself to go this route because I do think it will be a better alternative in the long run. I think discs in the Seattle winter make a lot, lot of sense.
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Old 12-12-10, 04:09 AM
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My question would be whether or not your desire for disc brakes is based on personal experience with your current bike's poor brakes, or from recommendations of others in your area who do similar riding.
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Old 12-12-10, 08:54 AM
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Originally Posted by toddles
I have seen a lot of Bianchi's on the road and people seem to have good things to say about them. In fact, I've seen many old Bianchi's on the road and that does nothing but give positive marks for the company. I am not entirely insistent on disc brakes -- I have test ridden a couple as well as a high-end linear brake works pretty darn good. In fact, I liked the feel of it a bit better than the discs I rode. But I'm the kind of guy that won't buy a waterproof jacket in an area of the country where it makes sense to own one. So I'm sorta pushing myself to go this route because I do think it will be a better alternative in the long run. I think discs in the Seattle winter make a lot, lot of sense.
Lots and lots of people rode bikes in Seattle and the PNW long before discs were ever invented. Disk breaks help in some ways but are also a hassle in others. Its a trade off so I wouldn't base my decision between two good bikes on the style of brakes.
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Old 12-12-10, 10:12 AM
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I live in Portland and have gone through three bikes in three years of commuting. I started commuting on my old mountain bike converted with slicks. I made a promise to myself that if I commuted through the first winter, that I would buy a new bike in the spring. After a winter on crappy cantilevers and even crappier pads, I decided that my new mike must have discs.

After I bought my new bike, I fixed up my old commuter for my wife, which included changing the pads to salmon Koolstops. The difference was night and day between crappy pads and good ones.

My new bike was an aluminum Hybrid with discs, and the improved performance of the disc brakes was not enough to outweigh the sacrifices I had made to get disc brakes. I immediately regretted making disc brakes mandatory on my new bike, and that bike only lasted about 10 months before I replaced it with an LHT. The first mods to my LHT was trashing the stock seat and brake pads and putting on my Brooks and Salmon Kool stops.

I realize that it doesn't rain in Portland as much as it does in Seattle, but if I was in Seattle, I wouldn't change a thing on my bike, and I never feel safe or out of control with rim brakes. I'm confident I could throw myself over the bars on wet rims and wet pavement with Kool stops. Before you drop a grand on one of the few bikes that meets your current disc brake criterion, it may be worth seven bucks to put some premium pads on your existing bikes and get the brakes dialed in. It makes a huge difference.
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Old 12-12-10, 10:20 AM
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One other thing you might want to consider, and this was a big deal for me.

A fork designed for disc brakes has to be very rigid to handle the torsional stresses imparted by disc brakes. This will very likely show up in the ride quality on the front end. The disk forks on my hybrid transmitted every bump, pebble and crack to my palms. This got uncomfortable for long rides.

If comfort is high on your list of priorities, make sure you enjoy the ride before you pull the trigger.
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Old 12-12-10, 10:36 AM
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I live in the PNW [sort of - Vancouver Island]. Disc brakes are not a necessity for riding here. I'm building my GF a fast commuter/light tourer with a Surly Cross Check frame and v-brakes.

I've got both rim brakes and disc brakes on my bikes and when it's raining I never give the brakes on a bike a thought I just grab what I want to ride. I'm not seeing excessive rim wear nor experiencing radically different braking from my v-brake bikes.

Disc brakes force you to use a stronger stiffer fork to deal with the different forces they generate. In most cases I'd rather have a classic steel fork with some vertical compliance to absorb road vibration.
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Old 12-12-10, 10:38 AM
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I think you are in the common, give me a bike that doesn't exist dilemma. This comes from specifying a short, seemingly reasonable, list of features that are fundamentally in conflict, or are resolved by an already existing bike, that the searcher has already rejected. Seemingly reasonable features like lightweight, big dude, cheap, complex, reliable. Obviously we are all on the quest for as much as we can get, but it gets tougher depending on how widely spread the poles are for the search. The simple solution to this list is just a plain Jane touring bike. That squares the circle about as well as it can be done.

I agree that discs aren't necessary, and ad more stress to the weight and budget columns, but if you want them... Discs really chine when mud enters the equation, lots of it. Otherwise the standard set up is pretty close to being just a large disc brake, wheel sized. Remember to compare what you get in calipers for the same weight and cost. Keep in mind that discs raise the ante on wheel strength, in conflict with your durability concerns.
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Old 12-12-10, 12:54 PM
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I love these forums because I get to gather the knowledge of a lot of experienced people. The thing with bikes is there are a lot of options available out there and at some point I need to put a stake in the ground. The steel frame and mid-range gear sets are hard commitments. The brakes I'm open too although I'm leaning that way. I guess I will go down in the next hour or two and test drive it (it's an incredibly wet winter day here -- a pineapple express is bringing in heavy rains -- so it's a good day to test drive) and give the Jamis Aurora Elite and it's brakes a whirl. i may or may not come out of there with a new bike.

On another note, how do people feel about high end battery lights versus dynamo hubs and LED lights?
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Old 12-12-10, 02:26 PM
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Originally Posted by zeppinger
I am not sure what the obsession with disc brakes is all about as of late. Don't get me wrong, I have ridden disks and they are really nice. The brake action is feather light and they work well in the rain. However, I would never rule out a non-disk frame when looking for a solid commuter/tourer. If price is a consideration, which it almost always is, high quality V-brakes or Cantis work great. Maybe you had a bad experience with them on your cheap comfort bike? Anyways, if price is an issue and you are not happy with the selection of disc models open up the criteria a little and see what you can get for a lot less money.

I have always been a big fan of the Biancho Volpe, a prove touring rig and excellent light commuter that can be had for about $750. https://www.bianchiusa.com/bikes/gran-fondo/volpe/
I'd be interested in knowing where you got the $750 price from? I just pulled the MSRP from their website and it says:

MSRP:
$1,099

Last edited by toddles; 12-12-10 at 02:32 PM.
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Old 12-12-10, 03:59 PM
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Originally Posted by toddles
I'd be interested in knowing where you got the $750 price from? I just pulled the MSRP from their website and it says:

MSRP:
$1,099
Google Shopping: Bianchi Vople: https://www.cambriabike.com/shopexd.asp?Item=100034048

Presto!
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Old 12-12-10, 10:15 PM
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Well I pulled the trigger and got what I wanted. Only time will tell now...
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Old 12-18-10, 07:56 AM
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Originally Posted by toddles
I love these forums because I get to gather the knowledge of a lot of experienced people.....

On another note, how do people feel about high end battery lights versus dynamo hubs and LED lights?
Hypocritical! Please refer to forum https://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...hing-Questions Everybody has questions....newbie or not! Be nice or just don't reply. Please refer to post #12 at https://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...hing-Questions

WTF? Are you SERIOUS? I can't BELIEVE you dare ask this question in a forum! Just go to your LBS, turn on the lights and compare them for yourself. Then swipe your credit card. It's EASY! FYI, there is a specific forum titled Electronics, Lighting, and Gadgets specifically for such questions if you must ask. I have include the link to make it easier for you: https://www.bikeforums.net/forumdispl...ng-amp-Gadgets
Try a search and see what you find.

Everybody's new to this forum at some time. Don't forget.

Last edited by recreationman; 12-18-10 at 08:41 AM.
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Old 12-18-10, 08:06 AM
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Originally Posted by toddles
Well I pulled the trigger and got what I wanted. Only time will tell now...
Did you get the Jamis Aurora Elite?
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Old 12-18-10, 12:18 PM
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I read disc brakes put more pressure on the spokes so if you built a wheel yourself, I'd be more wary. Also, someone posted a picture once of his finger when he tried working on his disc brakes. That pic was pretty scary.

I'm pretty sure V-brakes with good pads are sufficient.

On the topic of lights, I was doing research on that because I wanted to put a dynamo hub on my front wheel. From what I read, the Deore LX dynamo hub has less resistance than the much cheaper model, can't remember the exact name but it ended in 30. The LX model has also better sealing than other dynamo hubs. Lights, I would go with Busch & Muller partly because they are designed to avoid blinding drivers. The 25, 40 and 60 lux models are pretty interesting to me. If you get a model with the standlight, your light will still be bright when you come to a stop for several minutes.
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Old 12-18-10, 01:16 PM
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The Time and Skill put into the assembly by the Dealer, their employees ,
is the big Unknown.. by this poster..

that is independent of the Brand of the bike, component selection mix , Etc.
and does make a difference.

Good luck with your new purchase ..
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Old 12-19-10, 08:29 AM
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Originally Posted by toddles
Well I pulled the trigger and got what I wanted. Only time will tell now...
Whoops, I didn't even see that post. Are you going to tell us what you got.

By the way, you can choose what you want if you chose a frameset yourself. I know you mentioned steel but I read positive comments about the Nashbar touring frame (even though I'm late in saying this since you say you pulled the trigger).
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Old 12-19-10, 09:40 PM
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Originally Posted by Barrettscv
Did you get the Jamis Aurora Elite?

I did! I've taken out on a short trip but plan on putting the panniers on it and commute into work tomorrow. It was pricey but I've heard nothing but great things about this bike and I love the way it handles. I need to adjust to the geometry a bit but that should become routine shortly. Here it is:

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Old 12-20-10, 04:28 PM
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Enjoy your new bike...
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Old 12-20-10, 04:35 PM
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Depending on the size/weight of your rear panniers, your bike may handle quite differently when loaded. Although my particular bike is described as a "rear loader" by the manufacturer, I much prefer the handling with front panniers instead of rear panniers.

Dynamo lights? See: https://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...ights-and-food... for my comments.
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Old 12-20-10, 08:21 PM
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Adventure/Touring bikes are a sort of a middleweight category. If you're looking for speed, get a road bike. If you need a bike that can haul a lot of stuff on days' long journey, get an adventure/touring bike.
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Old 12-20-10, 11:13 PM
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I rode it with about a 13 pound load and honestly I didn't really even feel it. This bike serves my needs. With the load, I averaged somewhere between 2-4 mph faster. That's all I need. I'm quite happy.
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Old 12-20-10, 11:52 PM
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I think you made a great choice
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