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Choosing a Mountain Bike for a South America Tour

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Choosing a Mountain Bike for a South America Tour

Old 09-05-12, 02:07 PM
  #51  
LeeG
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Originally Posted by mdilthey View Post
I have not been a huge fan of Surly's, and a lot of other touring-specific rigs like the Silk Road because the frames are such incredible overkill for me. I am 6'1" and 160lbs, and my gear is about 9-15lbs, plus food and water. I never break over 200lbs total and these bikes are designed for 150lbs more than that, so they weigh a ton. The two previously linked bikes were 32 and 34 lbs respectively, and surly's all push 30+. The bike I'm looking at, a Giant XtC 29er, is 27- Aww!
You do know that the weight differences aren't because the Giant frame weighs 6lbs less.
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Old 09-05-12, 02:18 PM
  #52  
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Originally Posted by SparkyGA View Post
Seriously try out a Surly Troll. The rougher the road, the better it rides Not to mention it takes just about anything between the wheels (2.2 " tires with 26",
I think it's advertised as taking up to 2.7" inch tires, actually!

I think one of the reasons everyone likes Surly bikes is the type of steel they're made from. Its advantages are supposed to be that it smooths out bumps, is extremely strong and damage-resistant for its weight, and can be worked on by any welder anywhere in case it gets damaged.

I don't know about aluminum, and I also don't know how likely any given frame is to get damaged.

And yeah, you can get a lot of weight savings out of buying a Surly frame and then using different components than what the stock bike is built with. It'll just cost you a bunch more.

Last edited by Jude; 09-05-12 at 02:22 PM.
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Old 09-05-12, 02:29 PM
  #53  
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Originally Posted by Jude View Post
I think it's advertised as taking up to 2.7" inch tires, actually!

I think one of the reasons everyone likes Surly bikes is the type of steel they're made from. Its advantages are supposed to be that it smooths out bumps, is extremely strong and damage-resistant for its weight, and can be worked on by any welder anywhere in case it gets damaged.

I don't know about aluminum, and I also don't know how likely any given frame is to get damaged.
However, 2.7" tires may have chain/FD rub issues on the rear tire, unless running SS or IGH and possibly 1x. With 26x2.35 Big Apples on a 3x9 drivetrain, it's pretty close.
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Old 09-05-12, 03:12 PM
  #54  
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Originally Posted by mdilthey View Post
How awful is aluminum? Why do I need to avoid it like the plague?
A few touring bikes are made of aluminum and do fine, especially if your bike will be a hardtail. No one has said that you need to avoid aluminum like the plague. The only challenge you might face is finding a shop to weld aluminum if your frame cracks or breaks on you. Most fixes are so temporary that most people don't bother... even down here where people try to fix absolutely everything, they simply dispose/recycle aluminum frames once they break. You might want to have a good warranty on the frame, just in case. I know Specialized, for example, used to give lifetime warranty on frames to original owners. Don't know if that's still the case.

Last edited by Chris Pringle; 09-05-12 at 03:33 PM.
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Old 09-05-12, 03:35 PM
  #55  
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Here's what I'm picturing, though:

It seems to me that the way modern frames are welded, regardless of material, the odds of my 160lb self coming down so hard on it that I split a weld on any part of the frame are slim to none. I just don't think I could do it. If I rode the bike for years and years and left it out in the heat and cold and rain, then maybe, but we're talking about something new.

Here's something that could happen: my bike falls off a bus and gets run over. Or I get hit by a car, god forbid. Or I bail out from an unexpected hill and it tumbles down a rock cliff. In most scenarios, I feel like frame damage will be all-or-nothing. Even the best welder can't fix a steel frame that's been bent in half.

and 90% of the bike damage I've ever sustained has happened to the wheels, not the frame.


Long story short, is my damage expected with such a light load worth the difference in repairability between steel and aluminum? Isn't it more likely that I either won't break either frame material, or I'll total the bike?

Last edited by mdilthey; 09-05-12 at 03:40 PM.
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Old 09-05-12, 03:47 PM
  #56  
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You're probably right about "all or nothing" frame damage. If aluminum is lighter may as well go for it, although I'm not 100% sure it (necessarily) is
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Old 09-05-12, 04:19 PM
  #57  
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I Vote for : Tout Terrain's Silk Road..
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Old 09-05-12, 04:55 PM
  #58  
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Originally Posted by mdilthey View Post
Here's what I'm picturing, though:

It seems to me that the way modern frames are welded, regardless of material, the odds of my 160lb self coming down so hard on it that I split a weld on any part of the frame are slim to none. I just don't think I could do it. If I rode the bike for years and years and left it out in the heat and cold and rain, then maybe, but we're talking about something new.

Here's something that could happen: my bike falls off a bus and gets run over. Or I get hit by a car, god forbid. Or I bail out from an unexpected hill and it tumbles down a rock cliff. In most scenarios, I feel like frame damage will be all-or-nothing. Even the best welder can't fix a steel frame that's been bent in half.


Long story short, is my damage expected with such a light load worth the difference in repairability between steel and aluminum? Isn't it more likely that I either won't break either frame material, or I'll total the bike?
If you were to be sticking mostly paved roads on your tour, then I would not hesitate to recommend going with aluminum. If you want absolute peace of mind, go with a steel frame. I come from a MTB background and breaking/cracking an aluminum frame is not something really unusual. I used to belong to an informal group of about 20 riders in Phoenix. We saw about 5 cracked frames in about year and a half. One of those frames was mine. I weigh 175 lbs. It was a $2,500 dual suspension bike (so less stress on the frame.) I used to ride cross-country (no 3 ft drops or anything crazy) without any additional weight than just a camelbak. My frame cracked after two years and about 2,500 miles. I believe all of our frames were replaced under warranty by the manufacturers. Now, for the kind of expedition you are going to be making, I personally would not want to be dealing with warranty issues on a cracked aluminum frame from the middle of a third world country. Why? To save 2 lb. on a frame?? No way, Josť!

If you're not going for any kind of speed record or backed by sponsors, I really don't understand your insistence of going with the lightest bike/gear possible to blaze through every town. Why?? You're defeating the essence of touring: smelling the flowers, exploring off-the-beaten path places, meeting people, learning a foreign language, taking photos, etc. So my advice, don't worry so much the weight of the bike and put priority on components that are going to be durable. If you want to save weight on the rest of your gear (hammock, clothing, sleeping bag, stove, etc.), that's fine! You want to enjoy your once-in-a-lifetime bike trip through the Americas and not not worry so much about the bike and mechanical issues. At your budget of USD $1,300, the Surly Troll or LHT are excellent bikes for your tour even though they might be heavier or beefier than you'd want. You can bring down the weight a little if you build from the frame up, but you'll need to increase your budget (gotta be realistic.) If you want to go with a super duper light carbon bike w/ 29er wheels & tires and face lots of uncertainties, then follow the advise of your phony LBS and get a bike they'll be happy to just dump on you this time of the year for $1,300. Once you cross the border they'll just say "bye bye!"... They know they can't help you!
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Old 09-05-12, 05:22 PM
  #59  
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I own a Koga Miyata World tour, people have already used those on multiple
long adventure tours in all sorts of places world wide, frame is 7005,
hand finished welds and heat treated..
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Old 09-05-12, 05:29 PM
  #60  
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
I own a Koga Miyata World tour, people have already used those on multiple
long adventure tours in all sorts of places world wide, frame is 7005,
hand finished welds and heat treated..
Yeah... and how much does your bike cost new for that level of detail, fietsbob?
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Old 09-05-12, 08:14 PM
  #61  
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[QUOTE=Chris Pringle;14695772
If you're not going for any kind of speed record or backed by sponsors, I really don't understand your insistence of going with the lightest bike/gear possible to blaze through every town. Why?? You're defeating the essence of touring: smelling the flowers, exploring off-the-beaten path places, meeting people, learning a foreign language, taking photos, etc. [/QUOTE]
For the record, I'd say there's a lot more reason to want light weight than just speed.
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Old 09-05-12, 08:30 PM
  #62  
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and how much does your bike cost new for that level of detail, fietsbob?
IDK, I got my WTR Used, for $2k, R is for R'off

the frames are built to contract specifications
by a Taiwanese company,
there is a lot of capitalization with so many brands
contracting their stuff to be made over there..

[ the usual production tool a 1/2"wide air powered belt sander
with a carborundum grit belt, can do those finishing jobs ,
whole frame in :15~ :30]

the frames are shipped to Rotterdam, where the NL Koga Factory
puts all the bits together. fully kitted out I guess 3, 3,5K euro.
[but they dropped distributing to NA, pretty much] Koga.com..

the sense that aluminum bike frames wont go the distance
was more the point..
Mark Beaumont set one of those Guiness record CircumNavigations
for time on an alloy frame bike..

Op wanted to go fast, so those guys are probably a good role-model.

Last edited by fietsbob; 09-05-12 at 08:46 PM.
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Old 09-05-12, 09:07 PM
  #63  
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Originally Posted by Chris Pringle View Post

If you're not going for any kind of speed record or backed by sponsors, I really don't understand your insistence of going with the lightest bike/gear possible to blaze through every town. Why?? You're defeating the essence of touring: smelling the flowers, exploring off-the-beaten path places, meeting people, learning a foreign language, taking photos, etc. So my advice, don't worry so much the weight of the bike and put priority on components that are going to be durable. If you want to save weight on the rest of your gear (hammock, clothing, sleeping bag, stove, etc.), that's fine! You want to enjoy your once-in-a-lifetime bike trip through the Americas and not not worry so much about the bike and mechanical issues. At your budget of USD $1,300, the Surly Troll or LHT are excellent bikes for your tour even though they might be heavier or beefier than you'd want. You can bring down the weight a little if you build from the frame up, but you'll need to increase your budget (gotta be realistic.) If you want to go with a super duper light carbon bike w/ 29er wheels & tires and face lots of uncertainties, then follow the advise of your phony LBS and get a bike they'll be happy to just dump on you this time of the year for $1,300. Once you cross the border they'll just say "bye bye!"... They know they can't help you!
There's a middle ground here between the two extremes and I'm trying to find it. Somewhere between the carbon 29er and the Surly Troll is a sub-30lb steel or aluminum frame bike with a rear rack mount. I'm still looking.

I appreciate how easy it is to just answer with "Surly Troll" and call any disagreement unwarranted, but I tour my way. I like speed, I like challenging myself. Nobody walks up to Appalachian Trail Thru-hikers and says "You're not sponsored and you're not breaking the record, so slow down and take off your ultralight pack." This tour is about seeing what I'm physically capable of, and for that, I want to count ounces.

Also, it's kind of offensive calling South America a third world country... I'm pretty sure Brazil is about as modern as most U.S. cities, and the bulk of the continent lives in relative security and comfort.
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Old 09-05-12, 10:27 PM
  #64  
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You are the only one who can make the final decision on what will work best for YOU. We're trying to give you the best advise possible.

Besides learning Spanish, I suggest to brush up on your geography before you leave so you don't find yourself writing or saying embarrassing comments. South America is not a "country" and Brazil is not a "city" in South America. My reference to "a third world country" is to drive the point across on how difficult things can be if your bike breaks down severely in the middle of nowhere and you're faced with bad means of transportation, bad means of communication, bad roads, bike shops with basic or used parts, etc. It was not meant as a form of insult. If you haven't noticed, I live down here (in Latin America) by choice and love it.

I sincerely wish you good luck on your endeavor.

Last edited by Chris Pringle; 09-05-12 at 10:31 PM.
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Old 09-05-12, 10:38 PM
  #65  
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I throw around country/city/continent with the recklessness and abandon that can only come from someone who doesn't check themselves on forums, so if you're looking for semantical errors, you have found your paradise.... I am sure I've made many more mistakes in this thread. Geography is not why I'm here.

I corrected you with purpose as a friendly reminder. I did not mean to offend. I just didn't want to see anybody who lives in South America get turned off by this thread, since the bulk of South America has become a very sophisticated place. They're some of my best possible advice-givers! They live there!


Chris, I respect your advice, but I feel like some people are getting a little bit upset that I'm not defaulting to Silkroads and Surly Trolls. I had a similar experience when I talked about doing away with Ortliebs on my 2012 tour, and I had a lot of people come at me very aggressively that I was being ridiculous and that there was no logical reason not to bring them, they're a standard, etc. Lo and behold, I did the entire tour out of a single e-Vent dry sack and loved every minute of comfort and convenience with ounces saved that others might dismiss. So while I am glad to hear the advice on aluminum frames and the wear I can expect, the advice with the surly troll seems to me to be ignoring the question and simply pushing the easy answer.

I am somewhat certain, with the vast diversity of bikes out there, that there exists a steel frame mountain bike with rear rack mounts that reaches under 30lbs from modest geometry and light tubing. I look forward to more comments and suggestions that may lead my research closer to this bike. Cyclocross bikes are looking very appealing! But I need more information.

I also suspect that there's an aluminum framed bike out there that has the backing of a bunch of good reviews on it's strength. Someone must have made a particularly burly frame out of the material that carries the mark of the community, maybe.
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Old 09-05-12, 10:40 PM
  #66  
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I have also heard from people who brought mountain bikes to South America, but I have not heard from someone who brought a road bike. How necessary is the front fork for dirt roads and backroads? Is cyclocross too "road" for my needs?
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Old 09-05-12, 10:53 PM
  #67  
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Originally Posted by mdilthey View Post
I appreciate how easy it is to just answer with "Surly Troll" and call any disagreement unwarranted, but I tour my way. I like speed,
Depending on the roads or trails you are riding, your speed would actually be higher on a heavier steel bike with wide tires. Instead of every bump slowing you down and jarring you constantly, you'll float over the terrain. Instead of your narrow tires being sucked in by mud, the wider tires will stay on top. I have a Surly Troll with 26x2.35 Big Apples, which is optimal for speed, endurance and comfort for offroad/dirt road/gravel road riding. For paved roads in good condition, skinnier tires are faster. Not sure of the conditions you will be riding in, but if it was me, I would plan for bad roads.
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Old 09-05-12, 11:01 PM
  #68  
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this is lame, and maybe it does no service.

in my experience(s), I like a rigid fork.
the obvious is lack of complexity

and as lame as this sounds...
often my tours find me riding alone, so I'm out there by myself, in god only knows where...
so I tend to ride at about 60% of my ability/conditions allow.
so if I'm riding that stupid hard, and fast on a rigid fork, if I'm out of rhythm, and the pace is too fast for my skill to stay smooth, and the ride starts to become painful, its like....
A HUGE WARNING LIGHT going off!
slow down

of course I like to be smooth, so when I start smacking holes in the ground, when my body english can't keep up with the rhythm of an extended section of compression bumps, I just slow down and gather myself up, and get back into the rhythm.

if I were on a suspended bike, of course I'd be going all the faster, simply because its that much easier.

thats not to say I don't lust over a new carbon scalpel, but its over $7k.
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Old 09-05-12, 11:04 PM
  #69  
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I'll say this much about what I experienced on the Tour Divide

pretty sure that a CX bike would either beat up a person until they simply just stop
or
the bike would break.

there is a lot of vibration on the TDR

I tried it on a rigid 29er, and I think its "ok"

in the scope of racing the TDR, of course the likes of a carbon Scalpel would be great!
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Old 09-06-12, 12:49 AM
  #70  
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Aluminium isn't awful.
We bought our new bikes a year ago (wanted Rohloff, hydraulic brakes, hub dynamo, not because our old bikes are kaputt).
We went to a specialist dealer and made our demands clear. Including: we want steel, like our old bikes, because steel can be repaired, has a 'good' flex to it.
He asked if we were willing to try bikes regardless of material.
long story short: after riding several bikes, steel, aluminium (not titanium though) we bought bikes with aluminium frames.
we fell in love with the way ours ride, loaded and unloaded.
We got Idworx Easy Rohlers, a bit out of your stated price-range though (and you are not us)
We still call them our big smile bikes (and leave for Madagasar with them tonight).
regarding steel v aluminium:
steel flexes a bit more in most frames, this is good, it has to be replicated in another way with aluminium frames.
steel is said to be repairable by anybody with a welder while aluminium isn't. This is becoming more and more a myth, truism of the past.
most steel tubing is so thin that most welders you'd find in rural Africa, heck everywhere, burn right through it.
most steel frames aren't welded but brazed, completely different process.

regarding rigid v sprung: we went rigid all the way, mostly because of: no need for suspension.

NB. though: this is an internet post on an internet forum don't take anyONE's statements for gospel, think, test for yourself.
(and enjoy!)
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Old 09-06-12, 02:11 AM
  #71  
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Originally Posted by mdilthey View Post

I am somewhat certain, with the vast diversity of bikes out there, that there exists a steel frame mountain bike with rear rack mounts that reaches under 30lbs from modest geometry and light tubing. I look forward to more comments and suggestions that may lead my research closer to this bike. Cyclocross bikes are looking very appealing! But I need more information.

I also suspect that there's an aluminum framed bike out there that has the backing of a bunch of good reviews on it's strength. Someone must have made a particularly burly frame out of the material that carries the mark of the community, maybe.
Sure there is, but since you're only going to get a pound or two lighter with a lighter frame you'll want to cut weight on wheels, tires, seat post, seat.bars, cassette, rack, tools,spares.....and water,water weighs a lot.


Now that light weight really makes a difference when sprinting and hill climbing at full effort, throwing off weight, extra bottles of water before the finish can give you an extra .01 of a second.

I had a nice light steel mtn bike that weighed about 26 lbs with a front shock.

Curious if someone has done an A/B comparison between disc and cantilevers for weight differences.
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Old 09-06-12, 06:37 AM
  #72  
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Hey mdilthey,

I realize that you're a big fan of the ultralight ethos and that's all good. But, I'd be be careful about carrying it too far when it comes to the bike, especially for the unpaved back-country your looking to explore. Weight doesn't matter much (as it does in backpacking) because the bicycle gears convert it to time. A few extra pounds is not much time when you're talking about a long tour.

real-world perspective:

From your other posts I know that you just completed a successful 1400 mile, 30-day tour, through Maine and Vermont, hanging around 9 days with friends too. I understand that you enjoyed you're ultralight rig too, at 11 pound base weight. I also understand that you experienced numerous bicycle problems that you did not enjoy.


My recent tour, this passed June & July, overlapped some of yours. I toured from NJ to Cape Spear, Newfoundland. 2000 miles, 36-days, 100% camping (90% of which was wild/stealth), my base gear weight was 32 pounds. A good part of my tour was riding back-country dirt & gravel roads along with rail-trail. My Long Haul Trucker is beefy and heavy at 33 pounds but I experienced no mechanical problems and had zero flats. I too had a great time and enjoyed the tour immensely.


I'm still of the opinion that the Surly Troll is the way to go. You're talking about doing 7000+ miles through some pretty rough environs. Personally I'd want the extra beefy-ness and enjoy the piece of mind that a breakdown in the middle of nowhere is less likely. To me that's worth the extra 3 pounds of weight.

Last edited by BigAura; 09-06-12 at 08:14 AM. Reason: clarification
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Old 09-06-12, 07:27 AM
  #73  
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Ok, great advice all around. Thanks!

Here's what I gathered:

Alan S's advice on floating over bad roads as a way to increase speed leans me back slightly on the 29er camp, since rolling over obstacles is the only real draw for the tire size. Am I going to have trouble finding this same floating rhythm on 26's? This advice also leans me back off the cyclocross bike setup, and back onto a Hardtail with a front suspension. So that's good, more clarity for me.

My bicycle problems on this tour were unrelated to this conversation, BigAura, although it is a useful comparison in some right. I had a drivetrain that had already seen 3500 miles when I left and my componentry was absolute baseline Alivio. If I had left with a Deore XT Derailleur and a Deore crankset, i'm sure I would have had zero issues, and upgrading my components is a huge part of purchasing this new bike. I don't care how burly a surly is, if it had baseline componentry and 3,500 miles of wear it would have been a different story.

Where this is useful, however, is convincing me to spend a few pounds to get something durable. I agree with this, but it feels blind to make this decision before checking out my other options. As I said, there could/should be a middle ground bike.

Jurjan has further confirmed to me that getting a good company and a good bike is vastly more important than steel v. aluminum, since there are drawbacks to every frame. I think it's so easy to emotionally invest in a material, and that's more of a reason for so many people falling into camps in regards to materials. I think I'll have to test for myself and read a LOT of reviews.

LeeG, what steel frame w/ fork did you use that came in at 26lbs?
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Old 09-06-12, 07:51 AM
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Originally Posted by mdilthey View Post
My bicycle problems on this tour were unrelated to this conversation, BigAura, although it is a useful comparison in some right.
Sorry I wasn't clear. My point was meant to be mechanical breakdowns are no fun on tour.
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Old 09-06-12, 07:54 AM
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Originally Posted by BigAura View Post
Sorry I wasn't clear. My point was meant to be mechanical breakdowns are no fun on tour.
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