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Buying a touring bike, need some advice

Old 08-25-14, 02:32 AM
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Buying a touring bike, need some advice

Hello!

So my first bike tour attempt on a Trek 820 mountain bike was cut short due to my freewheel snapping from the hub. As a result I've decided to bite the bullet and invest in a bike that is actually made for heavy bike camping that I can use for a while.

I'm trying to see if I can live car-free, and on a student budget don't plan on owning an automobile any time soon. Therefore, I would prefer to get a bike that can fill multiple roles at once. I already own a vintage carbon road bike that I use for long rides, but lack a commuter/tourer/mountain bike.

Would this bike (gravity zilla) work for touring? I like how it has drops and can run road tires for speed on pavement, but can also handle larger tires for off road and fully loaded touring. The plus to this would be the ability to quickly ride to the nearest trails for some light mountain biking. I've seen one picture of it being used with front and rear racks on a tour before, but my main concern is that the peculiar frame design and top tube would make it too weak for a 200lb load.

The other option would be something like a Surly cross check or Ogre or Salsa fargo, but those are twice as expensive. While I'm not against going that high for quality, if I can get the same effect for half the price that would be good too!
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Old 08-25-14, 03:23 AM
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I think it's possible to tour on this bike. Personally I would not use it, if only because it has brifters and an aluminium frame, both of which I consider more for racing than touring.

Some more objective considerations: the bike has some low-end parts, like shimano Sora. These would probably need more maintenance/replacements than higher quality stuff. I'm not too sure about the hubs in particular. The front fork doesn't look like it has eyelets for lowriders. It looks like the headset is 'fully integrated', which is also not the most durable choice, I think.

Disc brakes are okay I think, but make sure you're familiar with how to align them.

The most important consideration about a bike is how it fits and rides. I would not buy it if I could not do a test ride.

The surly CC offers some better parts on a quality steel frame, so I think that's a bike that can handle more and lasts longer. Assuming they fit you equally well, the choice you might make is between spending more money in one go or less now and relatively more later on maintenance. Also, the zilla is probably more suited for light touring.
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Old 08-25-14, 03:33 AM
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I don't have experience with the Gravity Zilla (and personally it doesn't appeal to me) but I did have a Windsor Tourist and it filled the bill as an all-rounder except as an MTB. Then again, I don't do off-roading.

Remember that handlebars can be changed as well as shifters (grips to barcons), racks (seat posts, frame-mounted, axle-mounted, etc.) and seats (snub nosed, dual cushion, Brooks torture design, etc.).

Numerous trans-continental trips have been documented on BD bikes of various designs. Heck, one guy on CGOAB documented a 1/2 trans-continental trip on a Wally World MTB (trip ended due to family issues I think). The point is, you can tour on almost anything - and if you can tour on a specific bike, you can certainly commute on it. It's a question of picking the appropriate accessories (racks, bags, handlebars, pedals/foot retention system, etc.) and going from there. Some people use "touring panniers" (like Arkel GT-45s) as their daily commuter bags; others use kitty litter buckets for trans-continental trips on the cheap and everyday commuting when not touring.

YMMV
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Old 08-25-14, 04:12 AM
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Originally Posted by Stickmanbob
So my first bike tour attempt on a Trek 820 mountain bike was cut short due to my freewheel snapping from the hub. As a result I've decided to bite the bullet and invest in a bike that is actually made for heavy bike camping that I can use for a while.
Originally Posted by Jonathandavid
I think it's possible to tour on this bike. Personally I would not use it, if only because it has brifters and an aluminium frame, both of which I consider more for racing than touring.
Without knowing the year of the 820, the 820 has always been steel, not Alu, and not brifters, being an MTB, it's not racey.

For the OP, if the bike, less the rear wheel work, why not just replace the rear wheel with one that has a freehub, being an MTB, it will have a 135mm OLD, and you will need a wheel which is rim brake compatible, these are easy to source, and would be considerably cheaper than replacing with a new bike.

For the BD bike, it looks fine, the semi-compact design is an industry standard, although BD have a slightly different take with the curved top tube (although I do remember seeing similar in the late 90's)

For the weight loading, is that including you? as 200lbs would exceeds the load capacity of most racks 2-3 times...
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Old 08-25-14, 04:31 AM
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Stickmanbob, Welcome to the forum.

If your 820 has a freewheel hub, you can replace it with a stronger freehub design fairly inexpensively. The Gravity could make for a light-medium touring rig. Depends a little on your weight. All of my bikes are aluminum with one of the touring bikes having integrated shift levers so I wouldn't worry about those items.

BD bikes are inexpensive in part because the owner completes assembly and in part deals with the machine made wheels. If you have experience working on bicycles, it's not a problem.

Brad
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Old 08-25-14, 04:34 AM
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I would replace the wheel on the 820...

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Old 08-25-14, 05:38 AM
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Originally Posted by jimc101
Without knowing the year of the 820, the 820 has always been steel, not Alu, and not brifters, being an MTB, it's not racey.
The original post was asking about the gravity zilla bike, not the 820...

Originally Posted by Stickmanbob
Would this bike (gravity zilla) work for touring? I like how it has drops and can run road tires for speed on pavement, but can also handle larger tires for off road and fully loaded touring.
...so it stands to reason that my answers were in response to that question. Perhaps you jumped to conclusions a bit too quick?
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Old 08-25-14, 07:01 AM
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Originally Posted by Stickmanbob
Hello!

invest in a bike that is actually made for heavy bike camping that I can use for a while.

a student budget

for a 200lb load.

if I can get the same effect for half the price that would be good too!
Keep what you got.
Frame durability (on this blog) is way over blown. If the frame fits it will be fine. It won't break.
Just get better parts as they break (or if you are just worried they will break)
The biggest concern you have is theft ( depending on where you live).
My cheap ass hybrid looks terrible and rides great. No one wants to steal it.
Changed out to trekking bars, brooks saddle, good tires, dynamo hub and lights, rear view mirror and lot and lots of black electrical tape for aesthetics.
Never had a bad tour with it at all.
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Old 08-25-14, 10:18 AM
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820 is a pretty strong bike, good for touring and commuting. If it were me, I'd pony up for a new back wheel for the 820 and be done with it. Trekking bars add a bunch of new hand positions are are completely compatible with MTB shifters. I like them just as well as drop bars.
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Old 08-25-14, 10:34 AM
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Thanks everyone! I know I can fix the 820 (2012 version), and might end up doing so for the short run, but I still would like to save up and get an actual nice touring bike that is also fast unloaded, unlike the 820.

I'll skip the zilla then and maybe look into a cross check or fargo.
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Old 08-25-14, 11:17 AM
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I toured with a stronger freewheel hub in a wheel I built . the normal ones use a 10mm axle

USA Made Phil uses a much stronger axle .. cartridge bearings ..

It is also possible and cheap to put an extra axle* in your luggage and learn the mechanics of replacing it in the field.. self reliance is a touring skill ..

*solid, nut fixed ones would be stronger than the hollow tube QR ones ..



any bike works for touring .. its the activity you do, not the required thing that you must own ..

Last edited by fietsbob; 08-25-14 at 11:20 AM.
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Old 08-25-14, 11:59 AM
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Originally Posted by wahoonc
I would replace the wheel on the 820...
Yep! A solid touring-type wheelset on that 820 is a better investment than some p.o.s. gravity model bike from BD. I don't see any way that the linked bike would be an "upgrade."

Originally Posted by Stickmanbob
Thanks everyone! I know I can fix the 820 (2012 version), and might end up doing so for the short run, but I still would like to save up and get an actual nice touring bike that is also fast unloaded, unlike the 820.

I'll skip the zilla then and maybe look into a cross check or fargo.
Um... by definition, a touring bike is not going to be "fast." There are reasons to choose a touring bike over the 820 (weight distribution, clearance for panniers/bags, stability while loaded down with gear) but speed is not one of those.
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Old 08-25-14, 12:04 PM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob

It is also possible and cheap to put an extra axle* in your luggage and learn the mechanics of replacing it in the field.. self reliance is a touring skill ..

*solid, nut fixed ones would be stronger than the hollow tube QR ones ..
and carry cone wrenches, a magnet, and grease along on tour? I'm all for self reliance but I think carrying a spare axle might be starting to push it for most wheels/hubs.
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Old 08-25-14, 12:19 PM
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Originally Posted by headloss

Um... by definition, a touring bike is not going to be "fast." There are reasons to choose a touring bike over the 820 (weight distribution, clearance for panniers/bags, stability while loaded down with gear) but speed is not one of those.
My touring bike is fast! A sub-28lb steel cyclocross bike can survive a world tour and still ride like a bike rather than a tractor.
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Old 08-25-14, 12:26 PM
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20 years of occasional long international touring trips , now .. pretty trouble free etc..

Thats why I built my wheels Phil + 48 spoke rear solved the axle breakage issue freewheel was easy to remove with a borrowed 12" adjustable wrench

[cassettes need a chain-whip to hold the cluster + a tool on a second wrench to remove the lockring.. even bulkier.. ]

presumably you limp with 1 spoke broken and wobbling wheel, to the nearest bike shop, then .. its a choice ..

nothing wrong with buying a New Trek 520 .. either.


I happen to like a leisurely pace and stopping a lot to meet the people there..

Pub lunch, evening Music session to sit in with, & a couple pints .. it's all good .

Last edited by fietsbob; 08-25-14 at 12:30 PM.
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Old 08-25-14, 12:30 PM
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Back in the day, far more people toured on 820 style MTBs than on purpose built tourers.
With the right rubber they are really no slower when loaded.
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Old 08-25-14, 01:12 PM
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I think that 820 would be fine for reasons listed above.

Now my plug for my Long Haul Trucker. It rides great loaded and can maintain good speeds with loads. It handles well and the frame feel strong and bomb proof.

I have never done long tours on it, but I have used it as a hard core commuter and in a total of 2 years of hard riding and 2 years lollygagging as a dad taxi it is comfortable and miles go by fast. I carry a commuter load of maybe 70 pounds everyday and it is great (plus I weigh about 190). It is good on tarmac, dirt and gravel. It can fit pretty good size tires (I run 32s, but can easily get up to 37 and 42s I think).

It may be a bit trouble on really rough mtb trails with its low bb, but I have never tried so I can not offer a good assessment on that scenario.

I think brifters are fine. Some people worry about them breaking. In four years I have put over 10,000 km on my Tiagra brifters in all weather, they have been banged, bumped, crashed on, left outside and they are great. Though the hoods are getting a bit sticky this summer. They are strong and durable and in my opinion they work great. Ultimate worst case, they break. They get fixed.
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Old 08-25-14, 01:13 PM
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26" wheels are still fine.. I have a Rohloff hub in mine. its got a whole MTB drivetrain in it, in an oil bath ..
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Old 08-25-14, 01:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Stickmanbob
...I already own a vintage carbon road bike that I use for long rides, but lack a commuter/tourer/mountain bike.
...
You could fix up your wheel and keep that bike for it's intended purpose - AND - get a touring bike once you decide what type of touring you want to do (on gravel or on pavement, heavy or ultra light, etc.). If you see a great deal on something for commuting, pick that up too.

While there are good do-everything bikes out there, none of them are as good at everything as the more specialized bikes.

It does not have to cost a fortune to do this, I use a vintage mountain bike I got at a garage sale ($5 USD) for grocery store runs and other errands around town. It is great for this purpose and the rusty stem and handlebar that used to be painted black but now is rust brown helps make this bike even more theft proof.
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Old 08-25-14, 01:39 PM
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Let me tell you what you want to hear; The extra money I put into a bicycle was the best money I ever spent, and paid for itself hundreds of times over in quality, peace of mind, and a deep love for my equipment.
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Old 08-25-14, 01:46 PM
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Originally Posted by mdilthey
Let me tell you what you want to hear; The extra money I put into a bicycle was the best money I ever spent, and paid for itself hundreds of times over in quality, peace of mind, and a deep love for my equipment.
This +1
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Old 08-25-14, 02:22 PM
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Originally Posted by mdilthey
My touring bike is fast! A sub-28lb steel cyclocross bike can survive a world tour and still ride like a bike rather than a tractor.
Any well-maintained bike is fast, given the appropriate conditions. I'm not arguing that some touring bikes are not better riding unloaded than another, if that is what the OP meant by "fast." Point was that you don't buy a touring bike because you want to ride sprints or carve canyons, it isn't what they are built for.

I ride a Trek 520 as my everyday bike. I do not consider it a tank or touring-only. I think it has a lot of spirit and I even ride it with moderate to fast paced club rides on occasion. At the moment, the fenders are removed, the tires are 28mm wide, and I have a road triple crank with a 52t big ring with an 11t high gear in the back. I still wouldn't call it "fast."

So, just to be clear, I wasn't saying that a touring bike should ride like a tractor... which is more dependent on tire size and gearing than the geometry of the frame imho. OP didn't say that he didn't want to ride a tank/tractor, though, he said he wanted a "fast" bike, whatever that means.

Originally Posted by mdilthey
Let me tell you what you want to hear; The extra money I put into a bicycle was the best money I ever spent, and paid for itself hundreds of times over in quality, peace of mind, and a deep love for my equipment.
LOL... yep.
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Old 08-25-14, 02:51 PM
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Originally Posted by mdilthey
Let me tell you what you want to hear; The extra money I put into a bicycle was the best money I ever spent, and paid for itself hundreds of times over in quality, peace of mind, and a deep love for my equipment.
Almost sounds a bit like a "boutique" bike to me
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Old 08-25-14, 03:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Jonathandavid
I think it's possible to tour on this bike. Personally I would not use it, if only because it has brifters and an aluminium frame, both of which I consider more for racing than touring.
Those are the specific reasons I picked up a Cannondale T2: brifters and aluminum frame. It didn't hurt that it was a 2010, the last year Cannondale made a touring bike, and the last year they made any of their bikes in the U. S. I also have a steel bike if I want to tour in Outer Mongolia.

IMO fit and gearing are more important in a touring bike than frame material or type of shifters.



I've only about 6,000 miles on the bike, with about half of them touring, so I can't give a really extensive review. However, I do have many more thousands of miles with STI shifters, and would not use anything else. After riding my wife's bike, my daughter asked me to put STI shifters in place of her bar-end shifters on her LHT. I did it shortly before a short tour this summer, and she thanked be almost every day!.


I also had a Trek 820 that I was going to rig for touring. I think it would be a great little bike. I picked up this 1993 820, brand new, still in its original box for a great price a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, a relative needed a bike and caught me in a weak moment.


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Old 08-25-14, 07:04 PM
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I like the steel MTB's for touring... especially if I am running fire trails.

Aaron

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