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First time Touring Bicycle - Rig suggestions

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First time Touring Bicycle - Rig suggestions

Old 01-03-12, 09:45 AM
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First time Touring Bicycle - Rig suggestions

Hello everybody,

Just registered, looking forward to having a place to get good knowledge on my new favorite hobby =D.

That being said, I'm relatively new to bicycling, but am getting more and more serious. My brother, a friend and I are trying to get things in order to take a cross-country tour of the U.S. (or at least make an attempt).

I'm coming to realize my biggest expense/investment is going to be a new bicycle (my old school, yard-sale racers aren't going to make it) - So:

What bicycle might I want to invest in? I'm on a tight budget (~$500 give or take one or two hundred). I'm 6' tall, 165 lbs., and prefer drop handlebars. I intend to take front and rear panniers for the ride as opposed to a trailer, so racks are a key point as well. I'm not opposed to looking around for used either, but I need some advice on what brands/models will fit my needs.

Any help is appreciated! Thanks!
Ethan
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Old 01-03-12, 01:28 PM
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The Windsor Tourist

https://www.bikesdirect.com/products/windsor/tourist.htm

is about the only thing at that price range worth looking at. Trek 520, Surly Long Haul Trucker etc. if you can find a good one used would be great.

Maybe though a bike you already have isn't such a bad idea. People ride all kinds of bikes. Once you have really pushed the limits of what you have, you'll know enough & maybe can save up a few more bucks to get a bike that will really be worth the investment. Or take your time with the used market, waiting for a really good bike to turn up.
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Old 01-03-12, 03:58 PM
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Welcome to the forums Ees06004.

There's a sticky thread at the top portion of the touring forums that is called "the newbie's guide to touring bikes". It's got tons of info on touring bikes. Check it out.

I concur with the Windsor Tourist recommendation. It's a good bike, well spec'd, and very hard to beat the price.

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Old 01-04-12, 06:21 AM
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I ride the Windsor tourist and have been very happy with it over the last couple years. The only issue I have seen reported about the bike is the quality of the wheel build and I would recommend before setting out on any mail order bike for a cross country trip that you have it gone over by a good bike shop and the wheels trued and tensioned by hand.

The other issue I had with the tourist was the gearing was just a little bit high for my liking. Many people buying them have lowered the 30t granny to a 26 or 24t for a little better loaded climbing ability. That is really pretty dependent on how much you carry and how strong a rider you are and what hills you plan on crossing. But in general the top gearing is higher than most people would want and dropping the overall range gives you more choices.
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Old 01-04-12, 09:28 AM
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Use the bike you have with a BOB trailer. I rode a triple carbon road bike with a BOB on the Southern Tier with absolutely no problems. I got a proper touring bike and panniers after I proved to myself that I would be touring again.
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Old 01-04-12, 10:52 AM
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Originally Posted by Cyclesafe
Use the bike you have with a BOB trailer.
Another alternative would be to buy the Nashbar touring frame (currently on sale for $75!) and fork (on sale for $35), then move the components from your existing bike over to the new frame. You'll likely need to make some equipment changes (brakes, crank, wheels) but with only $110 invested in the frame the majority of your budget is still intact... This is essentially what I did for my first tour. Bought some cheap cantilever brakes and an inexpensive trekking crank then scrounged together a budget wheel build.
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Old 01-04-12, 11:46 AM
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If you are leaning buying used or building something up you might want to start where you wouldn’t think with a used bike. I was very lucky to find my Windsor Tourist used and I had been looking for used bikes for several years. Rather than trying to make a road bike into a touring bike it is much simpler and easier to find a lightly used mountain bike from the 80’s without suspension and convert from that. I built a really nice bike out of a 26” 1987 KHS mtn bike I got for almost nothing. Add road tires and fenders and do something with the bars to your liking. Many use trekking bars that work well with the mtn shifters and brakes giving lots of hand positions. Something you will want. The 26” road tires are wider and hold up and handle really well. Mounting racks will be easier and you will have money left for panniers. And the best part is the gearing will be nice and low with the mtn triple and the wheels will have the high spoke count and sturdy rims and hubs you will need. Tires and tubes will be easy to find anyplace you go and if you drill out the rims for Schrader valve stems (if needed) even easier to find. Try and get into the right frame size though to suit your riding position. A smaller frame can be used than normal (that’s what I did) if you prefer a more upright ride position using a longer seat post and stem. You said you like drop bars and in that case you might not want to be as aggressive in posture as you might have on your road bikes that you ride for shorter times. Think about where you ride the most on drop bars and if it is the hoods something like a trekking bars might work really well.
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Old 01-04-12, 12:33 PM
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Thanks!

Wow, very happy with these responses - thanks everyone! (and sorry I missed the sticky)

As appealing as building one up sounds to me (especially looking at the Nashbar items), I think my best bet would be to go with a whole package buy. I would consider taking or upgrading my current bike, but the best I have is second-hand (from who knows who) and old - I expect I would have to convert so many components it wouldn't be worth my novice-struggle (and only to be on a frame I'm not sure its perfectly solid anyway).

So for peace of mind and ease's sake, the Tourist looks great; just what I was looking for and certainly at the price I was hoping (I was beginning to get dismayed seeing so many similar rigs over $1k). I'll certainly have to mill it over a little more, but I wouldn't be surprised to be hopping on a Tourist of my own by the end of the month =D.

Thanks again,
Ethan
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Old 01-04-12, 01:12 PM
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Trek 520, is still a solid frameset no matter what set of components are hung on it...
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Old 01-04-12, 04:46 PM
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The Novara Safari from REI is supposed to be good, and if you can get it on sale it could be a good match for your price range.
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Old 01-04-12, 05:53 PM
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The Windsor Tourist seems like a perfect match for you. The Tourist is recognized by those in the know to be a 'quality' ride, tho without the advertising hype of Surly, Trek, etc, does not have the name recognition. Be careful with the fit and gearing issues, as you should for any choice.

I always remind new buyers that, should touring turn out not to be your 'thing,' you can always sell a quality ride after the tour is over, recouping maybe half or more of you investment. Be sort of like renting the ride. This might be a little easier with more recognized brands.
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Old 01-04-12, 07:20 PM
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Originally Posted by ees06004
As appealing as building one up sounds to me (especially looking at the Nashbar items), I think my best bet would be to go with a whole package buy. I would consider taking or upgrading my current bike, but the best I have is second-hand (from who knows who) and old - I expect I would have to convert so many components it wouldn't be worth my novice-struggle (and only to be on a frame I'm not sure its perfectly solid anyway).
Buying a complete bike is a recipe for not knowing how anything on the bike works. Building a bike from the ground up means you know how everything works, because you're the one who put it together. On a cross-country trip, you want to know how everything works; at least I would.

If you don't have a suitable bike from which to borrow parts, consider buying a used bike and installing the components on the Nashbar frame. If you live in an area where bicycling is popular, you can probably find a suitable donor bike for $100-200 if you're willing to shop for a couple of months.
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Old 01-04-12, 08:26 PM
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The Novara Safari and Trek 520 are the two I keep going back and forth on.
The Novara Safari from REI is supposed to be good, and if you can get it on sale it could be a good match for your price range.
.

This is what I'm waiting for but I can't wait too long as we need to begin training on the bikes we will be using on our tour. Any idea when the next storewide sale at REI is?
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Old 01-04-12, 09:54 PM
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$500 is a funny price point. If you know what you're doing you can cobble together a really good mtn. bike w. drop bars on a budget type frankenbike if you have the tools. Unfortunately 99% of new bikes in that price range are straight bars. The BikesDirect bikes are almost in that cobble together category in that the tremendous price savings is a large part leaving out the value added from a near mechanical overhaul that a shop does or should do with a new bike that they will warranty. With your BikesDirect bike ideally you're assuming everything is kosher or adding that value with your own mechanical acumen to adjust/check bearings and ensure that parts are tightened/rechecked properly during the break-in period, especially the rear wheel.
This is a roundabout way of saying there's no free lunch, if you're getting something considerably cheaper than you can get retail there's a reason so you should learn how to set-up and maintain the bike from purchase to riding. If you're taking the Bikesdirect bike to a shop to get things checked out at purchase and later you'll be adding $100 or so. If you get the bike from the shop it'll be free at purchase and usually a defined period afterwards.
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Old 01-04-12, 10:38 PM
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The biggest problem with the Windsor Tourist is the component selection... The first thing I'd do if I bought one for cross-country touring is toss the crank and replace it with one that had lower gearing. Either a 26/38/48 trekking crank or a 22/32/44 mountain bike crank. I'd also be tempted to rebuild the wheels with better hubs. And spokes. And rims. And tires. Some have suggested the Oryx brake calipers need better brake pads (ex: KoolStop). The saddle looks like a nightmare. You could easily spend another $200+ making the bike more cross-country worthy.

At that point, you're getting pretty close to the price of the LHT, Novara Safari, Jamis Aurora, etc. all of which seem like better choices than the box-stock Windsor Tourist.
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Old 01-05-12, 05:50 AM
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Originally Posted by sstorkel
The biggest problem with the Windsor Tourist is the component selection... The first thing I'd do if I bought one for cross-country touring is toss the crank and replace it with one that had lower gearing. Either a 26/38/48 trekking crank or a 22/32/44 mountain bike crank. I'd also be tempted to rebuild the wheels with better hubs. And spokes. And rims. And tires. Some have suggested the Oryx brake calipers need better brake pads (ex: KoolStop). The saddle looks like a nightmare. You could easily spend another $200+ making the bike more cross-country worthy.

At that point, you're getting pretty close to the price of the LHT, Novara Safari, Jamis Aurora, etc. all of which seem like better choices than the box-stock Windsor Tourist.
Yeah lots of good choices and no one clear winner.

We took off on the TA with our Windsors completely stock except for the crank and found them adequate. I have done a few ~1000 mile tours since then and am still satisfied. I would factor in the cost of lower gearing when deciding, but I consider the rest of the bike fine.

That said, I would either go over the wheels for spoke tension or have someone do it. I would also keep an eye on it when on tour.
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Old 01-05-12, 05:55 AM
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Originally Posted by BicycleCrazy
This is what I'm waiting for but I can't wait too long as we need to begin training on the bikes we will be using on our tour. Any idea when the next storewide sale at REI is?
Some time on the bikes you will ride is a plus, but doing most of your training on something else is not a problem. You really only need to train on the same bike enough to be sure that it is fitted properly and you are used to the saddle. As an extreme case, one of my companions on the TA got her bike the day before we flew out to do the TA. We did a lot of tweaking of settings for a few days, but she did fine.
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Old 01-05-12, 07:24 AM
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I say, either the Windsor Tourist or monitor your local CL for a nice chromoly-steel-framed bicycle that fits and is free of rust.

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Old 01-05-12, 07:40 AM
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Originally Posted by sstorkel
The biggest problem with the Windsor Tourist is the component selection... The first thing I'd do if I bought one for cross-country touring is toss the crank and replace it with one that had lower gearing. Either a 26/38/48 trekking crank or a 22/32/44 mountain bike crank. I'd also be tempted to rebuild the wheels with better hubs. And spokes. And rims. And tires. Some have suggested the Oryx brake calipers need better brake pads (ex: KoolStop). The saddle looks like a nightmare. You could easily spend another $200+ making the bike more cross-country worthy.

At that point, you're getting pretty close to the price of the LHT, Novara Safari, Jamis Aurora, etc. all of which seem like better choices than the box-stock Windsor Tourist.
Except that you'd end up with effectively same component level for hubs, rim, spokes, brake pads that you detest on the Windsor. Not really a valid price conclusion.

IMO, having actually worked on a few, there's nothing wrong with the component level on the Windsor. And any wheelset should be checked for adequate spoke tension prior to a tour.
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Old 01-05-12, 07:43 AM
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All you need to change on the Windsor Tourist is Change the 30T ring to a 24T ring and you are good to go.
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Old 01-05-12, 07:48 AM
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Originally Posted by ees06004
Wow, very happy with these responses - thanks everyone! (and sorry I missed the sticky)

As appealing as building one up sounds to me (especially looking at the Nashbar items), I think my best bet would be to go with a whole package buy. I would consider taking or upgrading my current bike, but the best I have is second-hand (from who knows who) and old - I expect I would have to convert so many components it wouldn't be worth my novice-struggle (and only to be on a frame I'm not sure its perfectly solid anyway).

So for peace of mind and ease's sake, the Tourist looks great; just what I was looking for and certainly at the price I was hoping (I was beginning to get dismayed seeing so many similar rigs over $1k). I'll certainly have to mill it over a little more, but I wouldn't be surprised to be hopping on a Tourist of my own by the end of the month =D.

Thanks again,
Ethan
I would also recommend buying the Novara Safari from REI when REI runs their 20% off sale in March (I think that's when it is). The brakes and gearing are touring ready. You can test ride the bike and the REI 100% satisfaction guarantee is hard to beat. Also if you include the 10% rebate the price is close to the Tourist price.
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Old 01-05-12, 07:50 AM
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Some time on the bikes you will ride is a plus, but doing most of your training on something else is not a problem. You really only need to train on the same bike enough to be sure that it is fitted properly and you are used to the saddle. As an extreme case, one of my companions on the TA got her bike the day before we flew out to do the TA. We did a lot of tweaking of settings for a few days, but she did fine.
Good to know...I also want to get my son on his new bike because it will be vastly different to the mountain bike he is riding now.
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Old 01-05-12, 09:04 AM
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Originally Posted by 10 Wheels
All you need to change on the Windsor Tourist is Change the 30T ring to a 24T ring and you are good to go.
Probably true, but I found the shifting to the small ring kind of clunky with that setup with the TruVativ Touro Triple Road that they were using when we bought ours. Not sure since I used a Sugino XD 600. Also it is possible that I just didn't get the FD tweaked to the optimum settings. The 24T on the original crank was probably good enough once you got used to it though. They now list the TruVativ Touro Triple Road 30/42/52T or the or FSA Vero 30/39/50T (but say "no choice"). If they are now shipping with the FSA, I bet the shifting is better with a 24T than with the TruVativ and a 24T. I am not sure which one you are likely to get if you order now though.

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Old 01-05-12, 10:22 AM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1
Probably true, but I found the shifting to the small ring kind of clunky with that setup with the TruVativ Touro Triple Road that they were using when we bought ours. Not sure since I used a Sugino XD 600. Also it is possible that I just didn't get the FD tweaked to the optimum settings. The 24T on the original crank was probably good enough once you got used to it though. They now list the TruVativ Touro Triple Road 30/42/52T or the or FSA Vero 30/39/50T (but say "no choice"). If they are now shipping with the FSA, I bet the shifting is better with a 24T than with the TruVativ and a 24T. I am not sure which one you are likely to get if you order now though.
I had the 30/42/52 and was afraid to go all the way to the 24t and did a 26t instead. I don’t have any issues with up or down shifts between 26 and 42. I later changed the cassette to a 12-36 and that was all around perfect. For a short time I tried a mtn crank 44/32/22 with the original cassette and didn’t like it at all. Gearing was way too low and my shifting was split on the 44/32 requiring way to many front shifts for my liking. I never tried the trekking crank suggested 26/38/48 but that might not be too bad even perfect for me with the 12-36 if I was only going to ride the bike fully loaded. I do 80% though as a commuter.

Here is what the two setups looked like on the Windsor. And I did lower the FD with the mtn crank.

The 26t


The mtn crank

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Old 01-05-12, 11:54 AM
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Originally Posted by rogerstg
Except that you'd end up with effectively same component level for hubs, rim, spokes, brake pads that you detest on the Windsor. Not really a valid price conclusion.
Obviously, you haven't bothered to read the specs for all four bikes! The Windsor Tourist is clearly inferior to all of the choices I mentioned where hubs, rims, and tires are concerned. The other bikes use name-brand components, not necessarily top-of-the-line but name-brand all the same, where the Windsor Tourist substitutes cheap junk. And that continues throughout the component list. It's the typical BikesDirect story: the frame, derailleurs, and shifters are name-brand and everything else is whatever super-cheap stuff was available at the bottom of the parts bin...
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