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Does a touring bike work well as a commuting/around town bike? Novara Safari

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Does a touring bike work well as a commuting/around town bike? Novara Safari

Old 07-23-14, 01:50 PM
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draco_m
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Does a touring bike work well as a commuting/around town bike? Novara Safari

I am considering the purchase of a touring bike. The model I have my eye on is the Novara Safari. I need to take a test ride of course.

Iíve read some posts that suggest touring bikes only work well when loaded. Is that really the case? Iíll be doing mostly commuting and around-town trips. I do often go for 20+ miles rides on a mixture of pavement and hard-packed dirt. I also want to start using my bike more for shopping trips. Thatís why Iím thinking a touring bike might be good for me. But if touring bikes donít work well when carrying no luggage then I think Iíd want more of a hybrid bike.

Also Ė at the $750 price point, are there any other touring bikes that compare to a Novara Safari? I like that the Safari has a steel (chromoly) frame, a standard rear luggage rack, a $750 sale price, and Deore derailleurs.

About me: 40YO, 5í10Ē, 140 lbs. Currently have a 3YO on the back of my bike but I'm about to graduate to a Weehoo trailer for the kiddo.
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Old 07-23-14, 01:55 PM
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I've ridden a touring bike as my only bike. It was fine loaded or unloaded. They tend to have long wheel bases and relaxed geometry so they won't be quick or feel light. But they can take fenders as well as racks, absorb bumps etc. They can also take wider tires as well.
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Old 07-23-14, 02:08 PM
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Touring bikes work well as commuter or around-town bikes, but you might want to use larger tires (at least 28-32 mm) because they tend to have stiff frames for carrying loads. IMHO, a sport touring bike is a better option if you don't intend to do loading touring. A sport touring bike should have a more compliant ride and should also be quicker than a full touring bike.
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Old 07-23-14, 02:15 PM
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Originally Posted by tarwheel
Touring bikes work well as commuter or around-town bikes, but you might want to use larger tires (at least 28-32 mm) because they tend to have stiff frames for carrying loads. IMHO, a sport touring bike is a better option if you don't intend to do loading touring. A sport touring bike should have a more compliant ride and should also be quicker than a full touring bike.
Thanks. Can you give me some examples of a "sport touring" bike? Is the Novara Safari sport touring? Or full touring?
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Old 07-23-14, 02:19 PM
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Why Wouldn't it? , it's a decent Bike..


I put empty panniers on the racks and haul groceries Back .. light , heavy or whatever.

4 Ortlieb roller bags all pack, 3 in one. pull them out and the checker fills them ..

weirder loads I hook on the bike trailer ..

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Old 07-23-14, 02:23 PM
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My own opinion is a regular touring bike will have maybe a 48/36/26 crankset and ability to install front rack. There are some touring bikes though with 50/39/30 etc. cranksets.
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Old 07-23-14, 02:45 PM
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Some examples of sport touring bikes include the Gunnar Sport, Soma ES, All City Space Horse. You might also consider cross bikes, such as the Gunnar Crosshairs, Soma Doublecross, Surly Crosscheck, All City Nature Boy.
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Old 07-23-14, 03:08 PM
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I love my Safari, though I don't tour as such. Ultra comfortable loaded or unloaded. Already comes with good larger tires. Handles bad pavement and packed dirt well. I don't find any problem riding it unloaded at all, but it's not a super light/quick handling bike. A regular hybrid or a less "expedition" touring bike (REI sells the Randonee, which is more that idea) feels "sportier".

I have a hybrid that's underused right now that is lighter/quicker, but loaded with two large rear panniers full and maybe something more top of the rack the hybrid was a squirrelly handful and the Safari is smooth and stable.

I think the Safari is competitively priced for what it is at it's regular REI price, and a very good deal for this sort of thing at the sale price. My only "problem" is that the stock handlebar tape comes loose after a few miles. Re-wrapped it nice and tight with my own choice of tape.
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Old 07-23-14, 03:17 PM
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Originally Posted by FrankHudson
I love my Safari, though I don't tour as such. Ultra comfortable loaded or unloaded. Already comes with good larger tires. Handles bad pavement and packed dirt well. I don't find any problem riding it unloaded at all, but it's not a super light/quick handling bike. A regular hybrid or a less "expedition" touring bike (REI sells the Randonee, which is more that idea) feels "sportier".

I have a hybrid that's underused right now that is lighter/quicker, but loaded with two large rear panniers full and maybe something more top of the rack the hybrid was a squirrelly handful and the Safari is smooth and stable.

I think the Safari is competitively priced for what it is at it's regular REI price, and a very good deal for this sort of thing at the sale price. My only "problem" is that the stock handlebar tape comes loose after a few miles. Re-wrapped it nice and tight with my own choice of tape.
Thank you. That was super, super helpful. Do you mind me asking your height and what size frame you purchased? Was the 2012 you bought the aluminum frame or steel frame? I know they switched a couple years back.
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Old 07-23-14, 05:13 PM
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Although touring bikes tend to be a little heavy and sluggish, for the uses you've outlined it makes sense. The sale price looks to be a great deal and with REI's backing it's hard to go wrong.
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Old 07-23-14, 06:42 PM
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Agreed the Safari would be just fine for commuting. Keep in mind if you have the time to wait REI does a 20% off Sale...but they just had one a few months ago and maybe it's just once a year....dunno...worth checking out. For commuting you don't need the beefy quality of a full on tourer so you could indeed get something lighter, but the Safari isn't a heavy, huge thing. Get some bomb proof tires (marathon plus) if you can't afford to be late for work...and you're good to go.
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Old 07-24-14, 02:26 AM
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.

I'll offer a different viewpoint. My girlfriend chose a Novarra Safari (2011? model) for her around town + touring bike. She hates it around town, it's slow, heavy, and sluggish. At first, I thought she was just griping because it felt heavy compared to her off-road MTB, but after riding it just a little bit (it's too small for me) and moving it around working on it, I have to agree that it is overly heavy for what it is. Of course it doesn't help that that the year she bought it they were still selling the Safari with a frame that was equipped with the tabs for disc brakes and the wheels have disc brake hubs, even though they had discontinued the disc brakes that year. Definitely contributed to how heavy the bike is, but I'm sure that isn't all of it.

I built her up an MTB converted for around town use, and she loves that bike, so it's not like she's used to particularly light bikes. Now I've still got to track down a better touring frame for her, she kind of hates the Safari, even after we replaced the trekking bar and grip shifters with bars and shifters she likes. I think there are lots of touring bikes that make decent around town bikes, I just don't think that the Safari is it. I like REI, and some of the Novarra line is good I think, but unless they've radically changed the Safari's frame, I don't think it's great. Of course, it doesn't help that it only comes in excrement colors...

Last edited by Medic Zero; 07-24-14 at 02:36 AM.
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Old 07-24-14, 03:53 AM
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From a purely utilitarian perspective it would work great. I kind of enjoy riding something sportier when not loaded down so I prefer a race bike or similar, but I think the tourer is actually more practical for commuting.
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Old 07-24-14, 06:30 AM
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Sure, it'll work around town. It may not work as well or look as good as some other bike built for another purpose, but you may not even notice the difference, depending on your riding style and experience and how picky you are.

I've been riding a single bike, the Novarra Randonee, for nearly 20 years now, for commuting, shopping, touring, day rides, even the occasional dirt trail. It's not the perfect bike for any single thing, in my opinion, but I got it for a great price ($350 in 1996) and it's been good enough all around for 2000 to 10,000 comfortable and reliable miles/year. It still has the original frame, fork, bars, cranks, shifters and derailleurs. I bought it for the shifters (which cost $300 back then) and I will ride it until those break!

I enjoy biking but I don't enjoy putting much money into it and the touring bike has been fine for all my needs. I'm not very picky about it and I don't give a damn what it looks like.
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Old 07-24-14, 07:24 AM
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You might want to ask the question here:
Commuting

Commuters have specific needs such as:
- all weather riding,
- riding in the dark,
- depending on location, possibility of bad roads,
- possibility of loss of income if you have a breakdown equipment failure,
- depending on weather and job requierments, amount of weight to carry,
- depending on job, possibly riding home at end of day while really tired and spent and less than fully alert,
- etc.
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Old 07-24-14, 07:38 AM
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Short to long recreational rides, commuting... That's what I used my DT for (similar to Safari) but I'm big and sluggish. So I guess with me on it, it's preloaded so to speak.

I like the long wheelbase, it does smooth out the ride as well as make it easy to hold a line.

That said if I was under 200, I'd love an endurance bike like a Roubaix / Sectuer or equivalent.
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Old 07-24-14, 09:08 AM
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A touring bike will feel more sluggish than a road bike due to geometry and greater weight. Does it matter? To me, no. I make up for any speed disadvantage by riding harder. I like the handling and stability of a touring bike.
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Old 07-24-14, 09:58 AM
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draco_m, In my experience a touring bike handles the same loaded with ~35 lb. of gear or when unloaded. Typically touring bikes and hybrids have long wheelbases and lax geometry, so they won't be snappy handlers under the best of circumstances. On the other hand they certainly aren't unwieldy. Weight is always a concern for the cyclist and a touring bike is going to be heavier than an average roadie. In my case the difference is 6.5 lb. and a lot of that is in the wheel set and tires, just the worst place possible, but necessary to be robust enough to handle touring weight.

For what you wrote about intended use the Safari should stand you well.

Brad
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Old 07-24-14, 10:05 AM
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I purchased a Novara Randonee for an all around bike and do like it a lot but as time goes on I find myself wishing I had something a little more lively. Hind sight is telling me a Salsa Vaya may have been a better fit, however, you can't beat the price of some of the Novara bikes.
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Old 07-24-14, 12:53 PM
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A touring bike makes a great commuting bike. It might be a bit heavier than some, but locally I don't see many people commuting on full carbon. (You can get a separate light bike if you want to.) A Randonee might be a bit better for commuting than the Safari, but it'll cost half again as much.

Today only, if you're signed up for REI email, you can get an REI item for 25% off. (It's the last day, and no, I haven't checked to see if their bikes are excluded.)
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Old 07-24-14, 01:17 PM
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I ride a touring bike everyday. It is a great commuter.

I do find that it handles differently loaded versus unloaded, but to me that is a 70 pound difference. It only takes me about 3 minutes to readjust to its handling. But any vehicle handles differently with a load. But it works fine and always makes me feel faster and more responsive unloaded.

My fully racked and fendered bike does weigh in at 35-36 pounds (without gear). So a wee heavy. But it is the motor that make the difference; I can keep up on group rides with it. I do slow down up long hills, to be expected between the bike, my not so light self and not great hill training for longer grades.

My bike never feels sluggish as someone mentioned, my legs feel sluggish some days, but my bike always feels good. Even with the long wheel base and low bottom bracket it is responsive and does what it needs. I do have to watch my 175mm cranks and low bottom bracket on fast tight corners; I have occasionally hit pedal to pavement. I can get it to accelerate fast and corner well.

So go for the touring bike I say. I cannot speak for your options, but my Surly Long Haul Trucker has been amazing.

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Old 07-24-14, 01:52 PM
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Originally Posted by bradtx
draco_m, In my experience a touring bike handles the same loaded with ~35 lb. of gear or when unloaded. Typically touring bikes and hybrids have long wheelbases and lax geometry, so they won't be snappy handlers under the best of circumstances. On the other hand they certainly aren't unwieldy. Weight is always a concern for the cyclist and a touring bike is going to be heavier than an average roadie. In my case the difference is 6.5 lb. and a lot of that is in the wheel set and tires, just the worst place possible, but necessary to be robust enough to handle touring weight.

For what you wrote about intended use the Safari should stand you well.

Brad
Wow, I don't agree at all that a touring bike handles the same loaded or unloaded. It definitely feels different with a load. With a dedicated loaded touring bike, the difference won't be negative. In my experience with a true loaded tourer, it mostly just feels a bit more ponderous when loaded.

Under no circumstances will a touring bike feel anywhere near as nimble as a road bike, sport touring bike or even a city bike, but it's not exactly a truck, either. It's a bike, and it rides like a bike. My main objection to using a touring bike for commuting is that the ride is a bit harsh with the bike unloaded. On the other hand, they are suitably equipped for commuting in all weather conditions and for carrying whatever you might need on the bike.
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Old 07-24-14, 02:16 PM
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Originally Posted by draco_m
Thank you. That was super, super helpful. Do you mind me asking your height and what size frame you purchased? Was the 2012 you bought the aluminum frame or steel frame? I know they switched a couple years back.
I'm probably a little shorter than 5" 11" by now. I recall I bought a large. The frame is ChroMoly steel on mine.
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Old 07-24-14, 02:33 PM
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Originally Posted by grolby
Wow, I don't agree at all that a touring bike handles the same loaded or unloaded. It definitely feels different with a load. With a dedicated loaded touring bike, the difference won't be negative. In my experience with a true loaded tourer, it mostly just feels a bit more ponderous when loaded.

Under no circumstances will a touring bike feel anywhere near as nimble as a road bike, sport touring bike or even a city bike, but it's not exactly a truck, either. It's a bike, and it rides like a bike. My main objection to using a touring bike for commuting is that the ride is a bit harsh with the bike unloaded. On the other hand, they are suitably equipped for commuting in all weather conditions and for carrying whatever you might need on the bike.
I agree with everything you say here but one thing. I'm not sure what you mean by "harsh" when unloaded. Slack angles, steel frame, 42 tires. I'd say the ride is cushy unloaded.
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Old 07-24-14, 07:56 PM
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Originally Posted by grolby
Wow, I don't agree at all that a touring bike handles the same loaded or unloaded. It definitely feels different with a load. With a dedicated loaded touring bike, the difference won't be negative. In my experience with a true loaded tourer, it mostly just feels a bit more ponderous when loaded.

Under no circumstances will a touring bike feel anywhere near as nimble as a road bike, sport touring bike or even a city bike, but it's not exactly a truck, either. It's a bike, and it rides like a bike. My main objection to using a touring bike for commuting is that the ride is a bit harsh with the bike unloaded. On the other hand, they are suitably equipped for commuting in all weather conditions and for carrying whatever you might need on the bike.
We'll have to disagree on the harshness also.

Brad
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