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Start with frame or buy complete bike (-$)?

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Start with frame or buy complete bike (-$)?

Old 03-27-11, 09:10 PM
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edapp
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Start with frame or buy complete bike (-$)?

Hello everyone! I am new to this forum and new to touring in general. I had been lurking here for a while and trying to find information on which touring bike to get while on a pretty tight budget. I have narrowed my options (for now) to either a surly LHT or cross check. I think they are both great bikes and would be nice for touring but the cross check might be more fun to ride unloaded than the LHT, so i have been leaning towards it. But for my question:
If I can get either bike for around $1100-$1200 or either frame for $450-$500 would it be a better deal to just go ahead and buy the complete bike or could I build up a similar build for less $? I have built mountain bikes from parts but I am not experienced in touring bikes and their specific parts. I scanned around for a little while and I felt like it would be pretty close, but I wasn't exactly sure what I was looking at as far as the wheels/brakes go. Any suggestions? Oh and those prices came from JensonUsa.

Oh and I will be using this bike for a 3 month summer tour with one other person, and multiple weekend trips, and maybe the occasional group road ride. I also already have a Bob Yak trailer that either I or the other person will be hauling (probably the other person if I am loaded with panniers).

Thanks for any help/advice and please feel free to help my bike selection as well. Like I said I am new to this and am just looking to find the best way to go about gathering the gear.
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Old 03-27-11, 09:40 PM
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Surly has kinda jacked up the price they will let their frame be sold at, and has it's own version of complete build that is cheap. There really isn't much in there as far as savings are concerned. If you aren't super sure what your future is in touring, and already own an MTB, you can swap parts over like brakes, seat, cranks, derailleurs, pedals. That can save you a lot of money and you can sort out later on what your direction is and whether you want to upgrade, etc...

The other thing is whether you will keep most of the parts on the complete bike or whether you will feel forced to swap out a lot of stuff, if the latter, you may as well start from scratch.
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Old 03-28-11, 04:48 AM
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Unless you have a lot of parts laying around, and even then its tough, you will never build a bike up from a frame cheaper than buying a complete. You build a bike up for several reasons, most prominently, to get exactly what you want. Another reason is the fun, joy, thrill - whatever you want to call it of doing the build and knowing each and every piece that has been installed. You get to know your bike.
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Old 03-28-11, 05:09 AM
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+1 ocho. I've built road bikes from all new parts and while just as I wanted them, were about 50% more expensive than buying a complete bike.

edapp, I just built my first touring bike using a pre-owned bike http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...e-build-please . I had a fairly deep parts bin to help me keep the new parts' cost down along with some parts reused from the bike itself. Info available in this forum before my build and the critique recieved afterward were invaluable in getting the bike mostly right.

Brad
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Old 03-28-11, 06:40 AM
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Thanks for the input. I think the only things I would change with the crosscheck are the rear cogs and most likely saddle. I guess on the LHT just the saddle. Although it would be fun to build the bike and it would be nice to spread the cost out, i agree that there seems to be little room for savings.
So in yall's opinion is there anything that I should change out on those bikes? Like i said, I am not familiar with most touring components. I guess my first concern would be wheels/chain/tires.
Thanks a lot!
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Old 03-28-11, 07:23 AM
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If you are new to this game, buy a complete, wear out the components and THEN upgrade. First thing people usually improve is the saddle, Brooks being popular. From there, the sky is the limit. But once you've been touring a while, your own personal needs and priorities will emerge. It would be a shame to spend 2 grand on a bike setup then go out and find out you don't like it enough. Get some short tours under your belt and read the crazyguyonabike forums and you'll get the hang of it in no time.
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Old 03-28-11, 07:27 AM
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Unless you have specific gearing ratios or very specific things you know you want out of a bike. Build up the frame. If you don't then just buy a complete bike. It is much easier in the long run as well as it not holding you back from say upgrading an individual part in the future. You will most likely save money buying a complete bike (if you are looking for new), if you aren't looking for new, it will be MUCH easier to find a complete bike than a frame with all the right stuff.
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Old 03-28-11, 07:38 AM
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If it's only a couple of parts, you might negotiate a swap-out with the bike shop. Most bike shops can order and sell you a Surly bike. If they want your business, they can afford to swap parts at an at-cost basis (at least).
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Old 03-28-11, 07:39 AM
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Thanks everyone, your advice is deeply appreciated. I guess I will keep looking for a used tourer until summer and if I havent found anything near by I will buy one of those two complete bikes. By then I will be able to test it out for awhile before any serious touring starts and I can see what I like/dislike about the bike (and touring).
Glad to know the small parts (esp tires) of the complete build are decent, that has not been the case on previous road and mountain bikes I have purchased.
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Old 03-28-11, 07:40 AM
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If money is an issue just use your mountain bike. Get slicks if you're primarily going to be on asphalt and get bar ends if you don't already have them. As far as gear carrying is concerned, get a BOB yak if your MTB doesn't have braze-ons. If you already have panniers, get OMM racks if you think you'll not have heel clearance issues. Getting a dedicated touring bike is not an efficient use of money if you already have a MTB.
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Old 03-28-11, 07:40 AM
  #11  
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I agree with the others. There are good reasons to build up a bike from a frame, but saving money is not one of them. You'll probably spend at least 50% more.
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Old 03-28-11, 07:48 AM
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edapp, I like the idea of a trailer for such a long tour, rather than loading the bike to the inth degree. My simple minded reasoning is if my truck can pull more weight on a trailer than it can physically carry then what could be carried on a bicycle can possibly cause fewer bicycle related problems if toted in a trailer, again, I'm a newbie at this.

Comments regarding gearing in my critique thread taught me that it's a more important issue than I originally thought. Lower (numerically higher ratios) than in road riding are the norm.

Brad

PS Some posts came in before I replied. I've used my mountain bike for touring, really more like a good meander and it was just fine, I simply bought the T700 because I've long wanted a drop bar touring capable bike. I just weighed my T700 and at 27 lbs. it's exactly one pound heavier than my mountain bike. If the T700 were built to the same level as the mountain bike the difference would no doubt be much less, but probably not reversed... just in case weight is an issue.

Last edited by bradtx; 03-28-11 at 08:19 AM. Reason: PS
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Old 03-28-11, 08:05 AM
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http://www.biketrailershop.com/bob-y...er-p-1359.html
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Old 03-28-11, 08:13 AM
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I bought the LHT built up because I didn't think I could build it myself that cheaply. I might have chosen a couple different components, but overall I am really pleased at decision. That being said,I was contemplating a Rivendell frame also and figured that if I could afford the more expensive frame,I would use the LHT as a doner. It all worked out, my net cost for the build was $650 after I sold the LHT frame. I couldn't have geared up the Rivendell for that price,and I would have been tempted to buy Paul this and Phil that until I had another 3K in the project. Long story short,I think the LHT build is a great value for a great bike.I would have been happy with it even if I couldn't afford the other frame.

Marc
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Old 03-28-11, 08:58 AM
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To be honest I hadn't really thought about using the mtb/BOB combo. Both of these things I already have, and the mtb I have is fairly high quality as compared to the touring bikes I am considering.

For reference I have a specialized stumpjumper 29er hardtail, which other than its single chainring up front (and 100mm susp fork) wouldnt be all that bad on a long ride. If i didnt need (or want really) to have it as a dedicated mountain bike I would probably take that route and change the crank/add bar ends/change tires etc. The only downside to that plan is that I ride it as much as I can (usually twice a week) and it would probably be a pain in the butt to convert it back and forth between weekend trips this summer and trail rides. It is definitely something to think about though.

And, although money is an issue, I do not feel nearly as badly about where my money is going if it is going towards something that will last. I would rather spend $1000 on a whole bike that will last a lifetime than $500 on modifications to one that I already have that are just temporary. I dont think anyone has a problem with the idea of adding another bike to their collection . So yes, money is an issue, which is why the build process seemed tempting, but if the money is going to be well spent i have no problem with it.

As far as money goes, if the bike is $1100, how much should I expect to spend on racks/panniers/lights? are the cheaper racks worth looking over? Same Q for the panniers, and are front racks nice to have to help spread out the load? I am having a hard time imagining what weight on the front wheel would feel like.

Once again, thanks for the advice!
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Old 03-28-11, 09:20 AM
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Inexpensive racks are fine, particularly if you're mainly going to do weeklong trips or less. The Topeak Supertourist DX should handle any load you might want to carry.

Front racks will help spread out the load, but the bike will feel sluggish if you have weight on your front, and you definitely won't want to overdo it. Consider paring down what you take so that you can haul everything in rear panniers or strapped to the top of your rear rack. If you plan a wash day halfway through the week, you cut the number of clothes that you have to carry in half. If you wear bike shorts or similar quick-drying stuff, you can wash one set of clothes every evening and strap it to the outside of your load to dry while you wear the other set.

You might want to get "front" and "rear" panniers anyway, and use the "front" panniers on your rear for credit card touring and the "rear" panniers for long hauls.
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Old 03-28-11, 09:47 AM
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For touring, get the LHT. These have a geometry designed to carry a load evenly distributed front and rear and they have the eyelets for almost any rack configuration. The chainstays are long enough to avoid hitting panniers with your heels. The cross check would work but not as many options for carrying a load. Complete bike will definitely be less $ than building a frame. If you have extra money after getting the LHT, change the bottom bracket to Phil or IRD or Tange and change the Tektro Oryx brake calipers to almost anything else.
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Old 03-28-11, 09:51 AM
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Just reread the part where you talk about the three-month summer tour. If you do this, you probably will want to add more creature comforts to keep you going, which means more stuff, which means front rack. The Supertourist DX is still a good choice for rear rack, particularly for price/performance.
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Old 03-28-11, 09:52 AM
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Just to clarify, the cross check has everything needed for front/rear racks, correct? If not that might make the decision for me, but right now I am heavily leaning towards the cross check mainly because of the appeal of a "do everything" type bike. I know the LHT would be better if i were just touring, but it seems like as a tourer/commuter/occasional road rider/ and just all around fun bike to ride the cross check seems like it would win. Although, the touring part is the main reason for getting the bike.
Does anyone else seem to think the LHT is definitely the way to go? Is the cross check as versatile as I have been lead to believe?
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Old 03-28-11, 09:56 AM
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Originally Posted by ploeg View Post
.....Front racks will help spread out the load, but the bike will feel sluggish if you have weight on your front, and you definitely won't want to overdo it. Consider paring down what you take so that you can haul everything in rear panniers or strapped to the top of your rear rack. .........
Please don't do as suggested in this quote. Without an additional load besides the rider, most of the weight on a bike is already on the rear wheel. Placing the load over the rear wheel will make the bike the opposite of sluggish and will put more stress on the rear wheel. A bike designed to carry a load, with the proper fork rake and trail will not be more sluggish with a front load, in fact some opinions suggest they handle better that way.
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Old 03-28-11, 10:44 AM
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My husband has a Cross-Check (for commuting). The gearing isn't low enough for loaded touring -- as it comes stock, the low gear is about 39". And the rear derailleur is only medium-capacity. So we asked our LBS about making some changes to his Cross-Check to lower the gears.

To get a low gear below 30", we would have to replace the rear cluster AND rear derailleur. Or we could add a third chainring, replace the bottom bracket (need a longer axle for that third chainring!), and replace the front (and maybe also rear) derailleur. Unless we change both the chainrings and rear cluster (and the other parts mentioned), we still wouldn't get him as wide a gear range as the stock Trucker has.

If you are buying a complete bike for loaded touring, you may as well start with the LHT and save yourself the trouble and money.

Last edited by Boston Commuter; 03-28-11 at 11:23 AM. Reason: corrected typo
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Old 03-28-11, 10:45 AM
  #22  
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Talk to your bike shop. You might be able to get the best of both worlds. That is, they might be willing to swap out certain components that you would like to upgrade for reasonable costs.

I had a Bob Jackson World Tour built up two years ago for a very reasonable cost, but I had a lot of parts on hand already. I just had a Salsa Casseroll built up for much less than a complete bike would have cost, but I swapped most of the parts from another bike.
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Old 03-28-11, 11:20 AM
  #23  
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edapp, I think the Cross Check became available with front fork eylets just this year, however it has a double crankset, that from what I gather so far wouldn't be recommended by many tourers. The LHT is a do-it-all bike.

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Old 03-28-11, 12:00 PM
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I'm not knocking the LHT, its a well built, well received bike but its far form the only course. I've nothing at all against Surly but find the LHT to just not be all that and a slice. I've ridden them and left the bike wondering what people see in them. I found the ride boring, the handling so-so and the overall package pretty blah. I was ready this year to buy the new Traveler's Check then found they decided to phase it out and put the S&S couplers on the LHT instead. No bike for me now.

This forum embraces it though -like crazy. Other forums on touring, particularly those tilted towards less paved riding, not singletrack bikepacking but just dirt, gravel and some double track don't gush about the LHT. Matter of fact it never comes up. Never mentioned. I can't see that as a "do-it-all-bike".

If the LHT does it for you, knock yourself out. Like I said, its well made. Surly is a great company. But just know that there are lots of other options. Practically everyone is making a touring bike these days.
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Old 03-28-11, 12:08 PM
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Originally Posted by edapp View Post
Just to clarify, the cross check has everything needed for front/rear racks, correct? If not that might make the decision for me, but right now I am heavily leaning towards the cross check mainly because of the appeal of a "do everything" type bike. I know the LHT would be better if i were just touring, but it seems like as a tourer/commuter/occasional road rider/ and just all around fun bike to ride the cross check seems like it would win. Although, the touring part is the main reason for getting the bike.
Does anyone else seem to think the LHT is definitely the way to go? Is the cross check as versatile as I have been lead to believe?
$.02, I've got a 56cm Cross-Check and 56cm LHT w. 26" wheels (used to have one w. 700c wheels). Middled aged fat guy with drop bars 1" below saddle Haven't toured much recently but did a LOT of light touring 30yrs ago and owned a small bike shop on Hwy1 for six years dealing with cycle tourists of all sorts. I use both the LHT and CC daily for around town riding with panniers and grocery loads that approximate touring loads and have ridden the LHT with loads beyond what I'd carry for touring.

The Cross-Check is a worthwhile do-everything bike where 80% of your riding is unloaded-lightly loaded with the capability of a medium load touring. For big loads you'd want low riders in front. That said the LHT is in a whole other class with a design suited well where 80% of your riding is loaded.

A lot of limits one might characterize a bike having is dependent on the posture and weight of the person riding it. A light or heavy person skews the range to one end or the other. Where one bike is on the edge for a heavy person it might be fine for a light one. Someone who is heavy and rides upright might experience front wheel wobble sooner than a lighter person who rides with the bars lower and a greater percentage of body weight on the front wheel. In my case I will experience a front wheel wobble on the cross-check with a medium pannier load and none with a light front load, I mean wobble with one hand lightly holding the bars, it's not there with two hands. On the other hand the LHT has NO front wheel wobble with moderate size rear loads.

I rode the LHT with a shop-vac on the rear rack with no problem, the day before I had front panniers with with the equivalent of a case of beer in the front panniers and full grocery loads in the rear panniers. Another time I rode the LHT with books in panniers and in crates on racks, about 75lbs. Both times on 26"x 1.75" street tires. The difference between the CC and LHT with heavy loads is like night and day. With my 220lbs the CC feels like a nice solid steel bike, loaded with stuff it's springy and comfy but it requires some attention for steering when maneuvering around on 35mm tires. On the LHT with 1.75" tires pumped up it's great for maneuvering around bumps and ruts where the weight limits ability to pick and chose a line through rough pavement.

Not sure what frame size you're thinking of but the 56cm700c LHT handles like a Trailways Bus, sloow turns and straight line comfort. The 26" version handles more like the Cross-Check, responsive with good low speed handling like what you'd do maneuvering up/down curb ramps or single track. What blows me away about the 26" version of the LHT is to be able to maneuver all that weight in a fully loaded bike where you want, sure if you're going fast there isn't any room for error but if you're going slow it's nice to be able to pick and chose a path.

You could use either bike, one is better for heavy loads, the other is better for no loads. If you're 200lbs and want to tour for 3months with 50lbs the LHT with 26" wheels is the one I'd suggest. You aren't going fast with that much weight but the ability to plow through bad stuff in fatter tires is comforting.
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