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I just can't determine the advantage of a custom bike at this point (having no experience), so seems foolish to spend the money on a bike I can't even test and hope it will be 250% better!
Definitely consider the ultra light method. Several on this site have talked about that way. I have a loaded touring bike and panniers. So heavy loaded for me. But if I was starting from scratch again, I would seriously consider the ultra light method with a regular road bike. Adventure Cycling sells several bags that attach under the saddle and inside the main triangle for carrying a large amount of gear.
Another person argues against buying a frame and building it yourself because the cost is usually more than buying it direct already built as a complete bike. With the Terry it is very easy to see if this is true or not. Terry says it is a Gunnar frame/fork. Gunnar sells its frames direct to the public and lists its prices. Price both the standard and custom options. Terry also lists all the parts on the bike. Simple to find all those parts on the internet and list their prices. See if the totals work out right or wrong. Biggest benefit for building it yourself is you get to pick every part yourself and get what you want.
Russ, thanks I had not really priced the Gunnar frames/forks, etc. I don't think the 480 frame will work for me (too big) but I should compare the specs with the Terry and LHT and also contact Gunnar, especially if I can save $$. Will have to ask what the frame weighs also.
Thank you all for your replies. I forgot to mention, I am a 5'1", 120 lb. woman, so a 30 lb. bike with another 30-50 lbs. of gear is relatively a bigger concern to me than a bigger rider (I think). So a savings of ~ 8-10 lbs. in bike alone is substantial.
If you read the bike description http://georgenaterry.com/coto-donana-tour/
it says it's designed for loaded touring
So does the lighter weight alone make it less stable under load (shimmy)?
RussSeaton, I'll look into other custom frame makers as you suggested, but I think they are all in this $3500 range , from some cursory investigation I have done. I liked this bike, but think I've convinced myself I prefer 26" wheels for touring.
Do the geometry in your head. Something full length and non-inflatable that is even a mere 1" thick is going to be bulky when folded or rolled. You are not going to find such a pad that packs down to a size comparable to an inflatable.
Back when I owned a Surly LHT I made several mods to it, each of which improved it significantly.
3. Moved the bar end shifters to Paul Thumbies
Consider the above a very personal opinion.
No. Not very personal at all. Almost every single "costly" bicycle sold has combination brake/shifter levers. Mountain and road bikes. Both. If bar end shifters were desired by a majority of people, then the capitalist society we live in would provide them. If friction shifters were better than the indexed click shifters on every single bike sold, we would have friction shifters. In a capitalist society, the businesses provide the buyers what they want to buy and will pay for. That is how capitalism works. But if you are trying to sell what no one wants, then you won't sell anything. That is capitalism too. How many friction or bar end shifters do you see people using? Almost none. Touring bikes are somewhat bizarre because they use mountain bike components and need road shifters. Bar end shifters are an easy way to make this work. Otherwise you have to mix and match various years and models of road and mountain together to get it to work right. Go to all your local bike shops. How many bar end or friction shifting bikes are sold? None. Why? The bike shop is there to make money. If all their customers want to buy bar end shifters, they would sell all they could. They would make money and be happy. But no one wants bar end shifters. So the bike shop does not sell any. Very simple. All the customers want those new fangled (25 years old now) combination shifter/brake do-hickeys.
Shifting: The LHT comes with bar end shifters. Fine choice. Some love them. Until they ride a bike with the new fangled modern supposedly delicate and breakable STI shifters. Then they want to take a hammer to bar end shifters and pound them into junk. You could make your riding, loaded or unloaded, more fun with STI shifters.
A slightly longer route but flatter would be to follow the Erie Canal to Albany and then follow the Hudson River south. The finger lakes area is often very hilly with steep inclines, especially around Ithaca.