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Production Touring Bikes Leave a Lot to be Desired

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Production Touring Bikes Leave a Lot to be Desired

Old 03-17-11, 12:14 AM
  #1  
DropBarFan
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Production Touring Bikes Leave a Lot to be Desired

Brakes for a start, plus comfy ride, super-low gears & the option to mount Rohloff/Gates. I'm currently riding a Novara Randonee (now discontinued AFAIK).

On rough city streets & bike paths the ride is harsh. Rode a loaded tour on the Blue Ridge Parkway & the Shimano cantilever brakes couldn't even stop me going down the final hill during misty weather, I actually had to ride onto the runaway truck ramp.

I've owned a Japanese touring bike & Cannondale T400 in the 80's & gave both of those up since they wouldn't permit fitting fatty tires (40-50 mm) with fenders to give a comfy ride. Replaced those with an 80's Specialized Rockhopper converted to drop-bars: super-smooth ride & plenty of tire clearance but the handling/position was sort of front-heavy & twitchy.

So I've been doing a lot of research & it's really disappointing to see the high prices & poor selection of sensibly-spec'd touring bikes. IMHO disc brakes should be a must & why not go for hydraulic to reduce hand fatigue going down mountains in cold wet weather? Long wheelbase & fork rake for comfort: one shouldn't have to mount slow fat tires to make up for design deficiencies. Drop bars a must, they were standard for decades on quality touring bikes for decades for good reason.

Going further, I'd like to see a production touring bike with a Rohloff/Gates option. Slight efficiency loss with the Rohloff but wow, no worries about how to clean a dirty chain or derailer on tour or at home. My Randonee came with inadequate low gears, replaced the cassette with a 12-32 & the crankset with the Sugino XD 26/36/48 & still couldn't spin up the grueling Blue Ridge climbs.

I've only gone on 2-day tours & I can just imagine the difficulty of cleaning/lubing chain/derailer on longer tours. Jeez, my "needs" are simple: disc brakes/drop bar/tire clearance/559 mm wheels/S & S couplers/nice frame design & tubes/Rohloff/Gates. Co-Motion Pangea fills the bill at a mere $6400! Doesn't include medical insurance for heart attacks after the thing is stolen.

I don't feel that I'm asking for the impossible. $200 Walmart bikes have disc brakes; several nice production commuter bikes also but no drop-bar. Some disc-equipped cross bikes but with tighter wheel clearances. German & Dutch tourers are into Rohloff/discs and sometimes Gates but they love flat bars, those bars give me wrist pain on longer rides.

I must give kudos to Salsa/Surly for making an effort. Considered the Salsa Fargo (disc brakes) but no S & S nor 559 mm wheel option; Surly Long Haul Trucker Deluxe offers the nice S & S couplers along with 559 mm wheel for air travel & tire options (seriously thinking about this) but no discs nor Rohloff/Gates compatibility. A rough calculation of what a production touring bike with such components would cost runs to about $3500. Pricey but comparable to production racing bikes that push $5000 with less technology.

OTOH I have to admit that touring bikes are a tiny market segment. I've toured in world-famous spots like the Blue Ridge Mountains, Eastern Shore (Delaware/Maryland/Virginia) & saw zero other tourers in the mountains & only one couple riding on the Eastern Shore.
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Old 03-17-11, 04:10 AM
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Niche market. Probably less than .25% of the total bike market, if even that much.

Thorn makes Rolhoff ready bikes, not sure about the Gates drive yet. That is still an emerging technology. Discs I can see, but I have ridden without them for years without any major issues. Best tour bike I ever had was a 1976 Bob Jackson Super Tourist.

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Old 03-17-11, 04:54 AM
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I have to say that I wouldn't actually even want the bike you pine for. I suspect that I am not alone and as a result there just isn't enough demand. I tend to agree that touring bikes are geared too high, but the fat tires, gates belt, Rohloff, and disk brakes don't interest me.
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Old 03-17-11, 05:12 AM
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Not quite your blue sky requirements but Civia (part of the QBP fleet of bikes along with Surly and Salsa) offers two tour capable belt drive capable bikes. I think they might be 26" tire capable too but since 26" tires have no sway for me, I never look for that feature. Touring bikes are so different for each of us. I don't think production bikes leave that much to be desired. But my needs are different. Your statement is should say they leave a lot to be desired for "you". I see the LHT with S&S and 26" wheels as a step backwards - I thought the Traveler's Check was better and wish I could have gotten one while possible. I looked into S&S couplers and considered having a bike built with them but for my needs, they really aren't required and wouldn't help me much in my travels. Things could change....
Check with Peter White Cycles and his line of tourers from Tout Terrain. Cheaper than Co-Motion but still pricey but most of what you want is there.
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Old 03-17-11, 05:18 AM
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What you deem necessities, others deem unnecessary. What works for you is a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of what is demanded by the cycling public. I'm afraid that unless a couple of ten thousand people see things exactly your way, you're stuck with building up a custom bike. Manufacturers make money either by high prices or high volume.
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Old 03-17-11, 06:00 AM
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funny, they have everything I desire.
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Old 03-17-11, 06:10 AM
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DropBarFan, just how many 2-day tours have you been on? You seem to have strong opinions on deficiencies in touring bikes for someone who has only done 2-day tours and does a lot of theorising.

Most people's needs are far less than yours.

MO.
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Old 03-17-11, 06:40 AM
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Originally Posted by DropBarFan View Post
Brakes for a start, plus comfy ride, super-low gears & the option to mount Rohloff/Gates. I'm currently riding a Novara Randonee (now discontinued AFAIK).

On rough city streets & bike paths the ride is harsh. Rode a loaded tour on the Blue Ridge Parkway & the Shimano cantilever brakes couldn't even stop me going down the final hill during misty weather, I actually had to ride onto the runaway truck ramp.

I've owned a Japanese touring bike & Cannondale T400 in the 80's & gave both of those up since they wouldn't permit fitting fatty tires (40-50 mm) with fenders to give a comfy ride. Replaced those with an 80's Specialized Rockhopper converted to drop-bars: super-smooth ride & plenty of tire clearance but the handling/position was sort of front-heavy & twitchy.

So I've been doing a lot of research & it's really disappointing to see the high prices & poor selection of sensibly-spec'd touring bikes. IMHO disc brakes should be a must & why not go for hydraulic to reduce hand fatigue going down mountains in cold wet weather? Long wheelbase & fork rake for comfort: one shouldn't have to mount slow fat tires to make up for design deficiencies. Drop bars a must, they were standard for decades on quality touring bikes for decades for good reason.

Going further, I'd like to see a production touring bike with a Rohloff/Gates option. Slight efficiency loss with the Rohloff but wow, no worries about how to clean a dirty chain or derailer on tour or at home. My Randonee came with inadequate low gears, replaced the cassette with a 12-32 & the crankset with the Sugino XD 26/36/48 & still couldn't spin up the grueling Blue Ridge climbs.

I've only gone on 2-day tours & I can just imagine the difficulty of cleaning/lubing chain/derailer on longer tours. Jeez, my "needs" are simple: disc brakes/drop bar/tire clearance/559 mm wheels/S & S couplers/nice frame design & tubes/Rohloff/Gates. Co-Motion Pangea fills the bill at a mere $6400! Doesn't include medical insurance for heart attacks after the thing is stolen.

I don't feel that I'm asking for the impossible. $200 Walmart bikes have disc brakes; several nice production commuter bikes also but no drop-bar. Some disc-equipped cross bikes but with tighter wheel clearances. German & Dutch tourers are into Rohloff/discs and sometimes Gates but they love flat bars, those bars give me wrist pain on longer rides.

I must give kudos to Salsa/Surly for making an effort. Considered the Salsa Fargo (disc brakes) but no S & S nor 559 mm wheel option; Surly Long Haul Trucker Deluxe offers the nice S & S couplers along with 559 mm wheel for air travel & tire options (seriously thinking about this) but no discs nor Rohloff/Gates compatibility. A rough calculation of what a production touring bike with such components would cost runs to about $3500. Pricey but comparable to production racing bikes that push $5000 with less technology.

OTOH I have to admit that touring bikes are a tiny market segment. I've toured in world-famous spots like the Blue Ridge Mountains, Eastern Shore (Delaware/Maryland/Virginia) & saw zero other tourers in the mountains & only one couple riding on the Eastern Shore.
Well said. Nice to read someone who'll actually say what's on their mind. Kudos.

An issue that always humors me is the buyer spending well in excess of four figures for a bike and then FEELS they have to go out and buy NEW wheels for that NEW bike. Most often this a strength issue for heavier riders... how much would a decent rear cost them... probably less than a 20 in manufacturing costs. Whatever... stick at least a decent wheel on the rear and use it marketing.

Maybe someone knows the $$ breakdown.. say on a 1200 bike.

Dealer gets what... 500........

Freight over the pond and to the LBS... 80 a unit.. [?].

Actual build cost to said marketing company... 375 [?].
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Old 03-17-11, 06:46 AM
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Originally Posted by DropBarFan View Post
I've only gone on 2-day tours & I can just imagine the difficulty of cleaning/lubing chain/derailer on longer tours.
I really don't get this. My tours have ranged from 10 days to 73 days and chain maintenance is really a very minor issue. Every few days I apply some Boesheild T9 and wipe the chain off. That is it. Generally no cleaning is required (or desired). I get about 10K miles out of a chain and suspect that the reason is that I don't aggressively clean them.
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Old 03-17-11, 07:16 AM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
I really don't get this. My tours have ranged from 10 days to 73 days and chain maintenance is really a very minor issue. Every few days I apply some Boesheild T9 and wipe the chain off. That is it. Generally no cleaning is required (or desired). I get about 10K miles out of a chain and suspect that the reason is that I don't aggressively clean them.
We do the same - put oil on the chains once a week (at best!). It takes hubby about 30 minutes to clean all the chains with a rag and put new oil on. That's two chains on the tandem, and one each on the single bikes - and that includes the time spent getting the chain lube out of the BOB and putting it back in. It's not a big deal at all.
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Old 03-17-11, 07:18 AM
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my first and only big tour was at age 18 for a month. I took a 3oz flat metal bottle of 3in1oil and used about 3/4oz in one month, mostly up in Washington from riding in the rain. Maybe if the op has done it he could imagine it.
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Old 03-17-11, 08:25 AM
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I haven't done much touring yet, but I have an LHT and want to discuss a few of the issues that OP brings up:

Brakes: For me this is the weak point. I don't need disc brakes, but the low-end cantis are not very good. It'd be nice if Surly included nicer brakes.

Tire clearance: The LHT has plenty and is available for 26" wheels. I have a 700c model and no issues with it.

Low gears: The LHT has a a tiny granny gear and a wide-range cassette. I'm fairly certain it's a lower gear than what you can do with a Rohloff. I rode in North Carolina on vacation. The Blueridge Parkway itself has long climbs that aren't terribly steep. Once you get off on local roads, well, anything can happen. I did fine climbing with my stock gearing.

Rohloff hub: I'd love a Rohloff, but can't afford it now anyway. You can install one on nearly any bike with a chain tensioner, but I think you'd like a Rohloff specific dropout. There are a few manufacturers who offer that, but it is a small market.

Gates drive: I'd like one for a city bike, but I'm not sure it's ideal for touring. The "cutout" frame required could potentially make for a weaker frame. Replacement belts along the way could be an issue. Replacement chains are plentiful. If you do have a Rohloff driven by a chain, chain maintenance becomes simpler.

S&S Couplers: These things are expensive, that's why so few production bikes have them. That said, you can have them added to many frames.

Drop Bars: Nearly all touring bikes sold in the US have drop bars.

Fork Rake: Most non-disc touring bikes have nice fork rake. My LHT does. Most disc forks do not. I guess it's a design issue. Disc forks need to be stronger which makes them less flexible, therefore less comfortable.

Touring bikes are a niche market. The major manufacturers are trying to hit a price point. It always leads to compromises. You can buy your dream bike, or have a frame custom built, but it costs a lot more. It's still a lot less than any new car.

People have been touring on bikes of all shapes and sizes, from custom built high-end kit, to $200 big-box store bikes.

Oh, and what the big deal spending $3500 on a bike when you put $600 worth of panniers on it.

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Old 03-17-11, 08:40 AM
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As others have mentioned: Let's not confuse your needs and requirements with those of the majority or totality.

To be clear, this doesn't necessarily mean you are wrong about what you want, only that what you are looking for turns out to be rather expensive, rare and specialized.

It sounds to me like your ideal bike would be something like this:

• MTB frame
• suspension
• clearance for 50mm tires + fenders
• Rohloff hub
• carbon belt drive
• hydraulic disc brakes
• S&S couplers
• drop bars

If you're routinely flying to do off-road remote tours, most of this makes sense -- though you could also just use a more standard MTB and a backpack and/or frame pack.

But most tourists tend to do longer on-road tours where limited resources are available. For them, a lot of these requirements are overkill.

(The carbon belt, by the way, is very new and as yet unproven, especially for those who want to do extended tours. Tourers tend to prefer reliability and repairability in the field over New Hotness. If your belt is damaged in the middle of nowhere, good luck getting it fixed in a reasonable time frame....)

By the way, the Rohloff is $1700ish for the part alone; S&S couplers usually add $1000 to the price. These two "modest" needs alone bumped up the price of your ideal bike by at least $2000.

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Old 03-17-11, 09:59 AM
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Originally Posted by DropBarFan View Post
Brakes for a start, plus comfy ride
A disc brake compatible fork has to be made so much stiffer that it diminishes ride quality. Either you can have a plush fork or disc brakes but not both.
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Old 03-17-11, 11:16 AM
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I'm so glad I started touring before reading about it. Otherwise I might have believed I would have to spend thousands and thousands of dollars for all the "right" touring gear in order to do a successful tour.
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Old 03-17-11, 11:19 AM
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Compounding the problems with your list of desires, it's not really possible to use hydraulic disk brakes with drop bars, there are simply no compatible levers.
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Old 03-17-11, 11:20 AM
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Originally Posted by simplygib View Post
I'm so glad I started touring before reading about it. Otherwise I might have believed I would have to spend thousands and thousands of dollars for all the "right" touring gear in order to do a successful tour.
Ain't that the truth!?!
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Old 03-17-11, 11:41 AM
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You can gate carbon-belt-drive touring bike, they are well proven and the latest round-world speed record was made on one. The rear frame opening is not a problem.
Most of these "super-tourers" use butterfly/trekking bars rather than drops to use MTB style controls esp Rohloff shifters and hydraulic brake levers.
I believe both Koga Miyata and Santos make them.
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Old 03-17-11, 12:05 PM
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Originally Posted by MichaelW View Post
Most of these "super-tourers" use butterfly/trekking bars rather than drops to use MTB style controls esp Rohloff shifters and hydraulic brake levers.
Nearly every touring bike in the US is sold with drop bars. I've read that it's different is Europe.
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Old 03-17-11, 12:20 PM
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Originally Posted by simplygib View Post
I'm so glad I started touring before reading about it. Otherwise I might have believed I would have to spend thousands and thousands of dollars for all the "right" touring gear in order to do a successful tour.
+1
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Old 03-17-11, 12:50 PM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
+1
This, also.
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Old 03-17-11, 01:15 PM
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At this moment, 25 of 50 threads on the Touring section of BF have to do with gear. I guess there's some interest.
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Old 03-17-11, 01:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Tansy View Post
This, also.
What they said.
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Old 03-17-11, 02:20 PM
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Why not build up your own touring bike? That's what I did. I bought a Bob Jackson World Tour from England, and assembled my own list of components based on my needs. The entire bike cost me much less than a pre-built touring bike would have cost, and I had it built exactly the way I wanted. I saved money by using parts I already had on hand and buying other parts on eBay, on-line shops, etc. My mechanic charged me about $100 to assemble it.
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Old 03-17-11, 02:24 PM
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Sounds like the old affliction, caviar tastes and hamburger budget .

Businesses have to be practical. They know most of us can't afford what we want so they sell us what we can afford and leave the top end to the custom makers and a few boutiques like Thorn, etc.

Seems like economics is working fine in this market.
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