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AWOL is the current line of Specialized adventure bicycles.OK, thanks for the update. I really don't follow the various manufacturer's product line and name changes from year to year so that's why the name was new to me.
I don't know your handlebar set-up but simply getting drop bars and riding on the hoods solved all of my hand numbness issues. I like oversized 31.8 diameter bars with flat tops. I use gel pads and Cinelli cork/gel tape to the give the bars a cushy feel. Works great.The advantage to drop bars isn't the ability to ride on the hoods, it's the ability to have several hand placements so the nerves aren't subject to pressure all in one place. You can ride with your hands on the hoods, on the tops or on the drops and give your hands a variety of pressure points.
You are not the main market for Shimano's 9 and 10-speed barends. Yes they work fine and are suitable for your use but if it had to rely on the touring market, Shimano would have dropped them long ago.QuoteAlso, those "Dura Ace" barends are intended more for time trial bikes aero bars than for touring use. Again, Dura Ace isn't bought by tourists.
We have three touring bikes in the house with Shimano SL-BS77 Dura-Ace 7700 Bar End Shifters (9 speed), one of which just got upgraded to 9 speed this year. Bruce Gordon used them on his bikes for years, I don't know what he is using currently. The shifters work very well on our touring bikes (22-32-44, 11-32). I don't have any experience with the 10 speed version.
Unfortunately Shimano no longer makes triples, but they do make Dura Ace bar end (showing Dura Ace is not only race componentry). So to me that suggests the the newer gear with thinner chains was not up to touring (hopefully just yet), and they will some day. Maybe just a pipe dream, but I may wish to buy another touring bike and sure would like Dura Ace.Shimano does indeed make triples, they just don't make them in groups their experiences tells them don't sell to tourists. The 105 FC-5703 is a triple and has a 74 mm BCD for the granny ring so it will take down to a 24T chainring and several of their MTB and Trekking cranks are available as suitable triples. Also, those "Dura Ace" barends are intended more for time trial bikes aero bars than for touring use. Again, Dura Ace isn't bought by tourists.
Then there are many, many designs of standard upright trikes,which have been a part of the cycling world for 125 years now. They sit about the same height as standard upright bicycles.Yes, I've seen them as parts getters in industrial plants and for shopping transportation in retirement communities but i've never seen on on the road. A combination of weight and odd handling and limited cornering ability are major disadvantages.
As mentioned, my first choice is the Surly...and although they have their frames manufactured in Taiwan, I would also like to do business with a NA outfit if possible...Wait a minute. This whole thread started when you asked about a frame made in China and sold directly from Chinese based supplier and then you say the above? Excuses me if I'm puzzled.
I believe Gillian has since had a kind of falling out with the cycling community though and no longer hosts cyclists.You might want to contact Gillian and find out what happened. Perhaps your idea isn't as idyllic as you imagine.