Author Topic: Touring bikes...  (Read 6845 times)

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Offline Cat

Touring bikes...
« on: February 18, 2013, 04:32:36 am »
Hello!

I have started to plan my very first tour on a bike  :)

I´m looking for a bike to ride the TransAm this sommer. I´ve read some of the previous threads about touring bikes here but decided to bring it up again, since I have some questions that aren´t brought up in those treads.

Are there any touring bikes that are known to be more comfortable for women, with women´s geometry?

I wish to travel fairly light. I figure it will add up to 10-15 kg (20-30 lbs) or so. Bikes like Surley LHT seems nice but they are built to carry much more weight than that - so maybe I can do with a lighter bike?

I also find it hard to decide whether I should buy the bike here in Sweden or in the US. Buying it in Sweden would give me time to get used to it (I normally ride a very light carbon) but it would be much more expensive, the variety of bikes would be limited and then some hassle bringing it over (extra charge and the great risk of delay and disappearing). It might be easier to buy the bike in the US and just bring my own saddle..
And if so - does anyone here know of a good bike store in or close to Portland?

This may be a very very stupid question but the most common answer is that you have to try out different bikes carefully and see if you like them or not. How does that work? Do the stores lend you the bikes or do they put you up on a trainer in the store?

Every little bit of information is very much appreciated!

Greetings!
Cat

Online Pat Lamb

Re: Touring bikes...
« Reply #1 on: February 18, 2013, 07:36:30 am »
Interesting questions, Cat.  I'll tackle some, and I'm sure others will put in their two cents.

Outside of recumbents, there's two things that could affect comfort differently for a woman than a man: frame dimensions and saddle.  Many of us get the saddle we like (Brooks for me!) and put them on all our bikes.  Many women have shorter torsos relative to leg length, so some bicycles for women are made with shorter top tubes for a given seatpost length than the corresponding seatpost-sized bike for men.  Terry makes some in racing and touring geometry, and Trek has some women-specific models, but Trek's WSD line doesn't include their touring bike (520).  If you're not an extreme case, some of the difference can be made up if your dealer will swap the stem for a shorter one, but this may affect the handling in extreme cases.

If you buy a stock touring specific model, everything is tilted towards reliability with a heavier load, and the bike ends up heavier as a result.  The frame and fork on the Surly LHT is perhaps 2 pounds heavier than your carbon frame and fork, but you'll also get attachments for racks; heftier tires that carry more weight at lower pressure, cushion the ride, and wear long (and may resist flats better); wheels with more spokes that can support the load without breaking spokes (you hope!) and won't be unrideable if a spoke does break; and rims to support the tires.  If you buy a full custom bike, you can get the latest lightweight components, but most stock touring bikes back down a level or two, and the cheaper components add a pound or two.  Note that you often need to allow 2-6 months lead time to buy full custom, and you pay an extra $2,000.

Do you need all that?  Maybe not, but be very careful trying to carry 20-30 pounds extra on a lightweight carbon bike.  It's not built to carry a load, and you may well induce shimmy or break the bike if you load it up.  The alternative is to carry the load on your back, and I, for one, would not even consider carrying a 30-pound backpack on a bike.  It would be hot, sweaty, and can injure your back.

How did you buy your current bike?  Buying a touring bike can be like that, if you can find a store that has them in your size in stock.  Leave them with a credit card or ID, take it out for a spin, see if you like it.  Or hop on a trainer and see if it fits you.  There are a couple of extra "gotchas" with a touring bike.  First, not many stores carry them, and they often sell out early in the season.  By the end of May, they're usually gone.  Second, especially if you carry substantial weight in a handlebar bag or front panniers, the handling loaded will be different than unloaded handling, so the test rides where you picked out your favorite won't mean anything for loaded riding.  (I named my bike Iron Pig because it was made of steel and handled like a pig...)

I won't address the buy and train at home vs. buy on site and ride question; I think there's arguments to be made on either side, but it boils down to your choice.

Pat

P.S.  Just thought of Bruce Gordon (bgcycles.com).  You might see if one of the semi-custom BLTs he has left would fit you.  He was featured in the latest Adventure Cycling magazine, and I bet he could sell you a bike now and ship it to your starting point for when you're ready to leave.

Offline paddleboy17

Re: Touring bikes...
« Reply #2 on: February 18, 2013, 10:34:19 am »
I personally cannot imagine showing up, buying a bike, and then doing the TransAmerica.  I know some people just hop on a bike and ride, but I am bit more cautious than that.

So I think there is an argument for buying a bike in Sweden, doing some test tours, and then shipping your gear to the US.  You might not be traveling as light as you think will be traveling.

Lots of people ride LHTs as their only bike, and I am sure that one would suit you just fine if the local bike shop can get the fit right. 

Should you be a challenge to fit, I might make a plug for Gunnar.  Gunnar is the more off the shelf brand for Waterford bikes.  A favorite bike shop of mine has a large client base of petite Hispanic women, that have all been fitted with Gunnar bikes.   I have no idea how a bike shop in the Detroit suburbs of Michigan developed a large client base of petite Hispanic women, but they are all happily riding Gunnar bikes.

Danno

Offline John Nelson

Re: Touring bikes...
« Reply #3 on: February 18, 2013, 11:13:47 am »
Even though you perhaps don't need a touring bike for 30 pounds of gear, you might want one anyway for all the reasons Pat mentioned. And even though 30 pounds of gear might be a bit lighter than average, it's certainly not ultralight. In addition to the sturdier wheels with more spokes, you may also appreciate the longer chainstays and clearance for wider tires that you get with a touring bike. It is true that the touring bike may be a bit heavier than you need, but it's a small compromise to gain the other advantages.

I don't know of any manufacturer that makes a WSD touring bike. There just isn't enough volume in touring bikes to justify it.

I also think it makes sense to buy the bike before you leave. Check on the airline charges for bringing your bike, but on many airlines, international airline charges are much more reasonable than domestic airline charges for a bike. It may even be free. If you do want to buy a bike after you get here, negotiate the deal before you leave home with a U.S. bike shop to make sure that they will have what you want in stock when you arrive. Most bike shops in the U.S. do not keep touring bikes on the floor.

We have multiple Portlands. I assume you mean the one in Oregon. Portland is a very bike-friendly city and has many fine bike shops. Bike shops will allow you to take bikes out on a ride to evaluate them. They don't want you to be gone all day, but you're going to need 20 or 30 minutes on it to do a fair evaluation.

Offline RussSeaton

Re: Touring bikes...
« Reply #4 on: February 18, 2013, 11:48:40 am »
You have a bike now that fits.  Right?  So you know its geometry.  Find the 5 or 6 touring bikes sold in the world on the website and compare their geometry to your bike.  You should be able to find one that fits.  Then find a Portland bike shop that sells that brand.  Buy it and arrange for them to have it when you land.  And ask about racks too.  Assume you will bring your own panniers from Sweden.

All touring bikes are very similar.  Whether you have the first five rides on it in Sweden or the US won't make any difference.  20+ years ago I started a long loaded tour with a bike I had ridden 3-4 times total.  Loaded once.  Worked just fine.  Realized years later it fit awful.  But that did not matter.  I still rode it just fine.  So having a perfectly fitting bike is not necessary.  Or having a bike you are familiar with.  Any bike will work.  Riding with loaded panniers is not some mythical and mysterious technique.  You ride the same.  Bike is heavier and slower, but you ride it the same.  In five minutes you will be familiar with it.

Now I'm not exactly advising you to buy the bike in the US.  By the time you pick up the bike in the US, get it fitted.  Get racks and bags on it.  Test ride it a bit.  You will add 2-3-4 extra days at the start of the trip.  You have to pay for that lodging.  So the extra $2-300 in lodging you pay is the same amount of money you saved by buying the bike in the US instead of Sweden.  You don't come out ahead either way.  Might as well get a bike in Sweden and bring it to the US and start the trip the day after you arrive.  Save hundreds in lodging costs.

20-30 pounds of gear is not exactly lightweight.  So a full on loaded touring bike will probably work just fine for you.  A lighter racier bike will not be much easier or nicer to ride and may have compromises with your gear weight.  I have a touring bike and racing bikes.  The racing bikes are nicer to ride unloaded.  But the touring bike rides OK too.  So you may be wise to just get a loaded touring bike.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Touring bikes...
« Reply #5 on: February 18, 2013, 01:52:45 pm »
20-30 pounds of gear is not exactly lightweight.  So a full on loaded touring bike will probably work just fine for you.  A lighter racier bike will not be much easier or nicer to ride and may have compromises with your gear weight.  I have a touring bike and racing bikes.  The racing bikes are nicer to ride unloaded.  But the touring bike rides OK too.  So you may be wise to just get a loaded touring bike.
Having gone from 45 or 50 pounds to 12 pounds or so base gear weight in several steps over the course of several long tours, I thought that it started to make sense to go from a touring bike to a road bike somewhere around 20 pounds base weight.  Just my opinion, but that seemed about right to me.

Offline dkoloko

Re: Touring bikes...
« Reply #6 on: February 18, 2013, 03:00:53 pm »
There are basically two kinds of touring bikes, one for lightweight touring, credit card touring, moteling and eating in restaurants; other for fully loaded touring, camping, cooking. First typically has brifters, two waterbottle mounts, braze-ons for rear rack; other typically has bar end shifters, three waterbottle mounts, braze-ons for front and rear racks.

I would pick a bike from above, depending on type of touring you plan to do. Be forewarned, beginners typically underestimate how much weight they will carry.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Touring bikes...
« Reply #7 on: February 18, 2013, 03:48:32 pm »
There are basically two kinds of touring bikes, one for lightweight touring, credit card touring, moteling and eating in restaurants; other for fully loaded touring, camping, cooking.
Those categories are increasingly becoming blurred.  There are a number of folks touring with full cooking and camping capabilities with loads that are equivalent to or even less than has in the past been the norm for credit card touring.  It is entirely possible to be quite self sufficient with a very light load.  Cooking and camping with base gear weights between 7 and 20 pounds is becoming somewhat common thanks to ultralight backpacking gear and techniques.

Offline Old Guy New Hobby

Re: Touring bikes...
« Reply #8 on: February 18, 2013, 04:29:15 pm »
When I went to buy mine, I was fortunate to have a shop nearby that had several different touring bikes in stock. When test riding, I found that one was way too twitchy for me. The specs were great. And it might well be a great bike for someone else. But it definitely wasn't the bike for me.  I only knew from the test ride.

If you decide you will buy in the US, you must decide whether you will test ride in Sweden, knowing you have already decided not to buy the bike from that shop.

If you buy in the US, you might want to plan a couple of days test riding near the shop before taking off across country. Any bike can have a manufacturer's defect. Any shop can make a mistake assembling the bike. A problem might not be detected until you load it up and hit the road.

No matter how heavy or light your gear, your bike will end up taking quite a pounding during your tour. I'm partial to steel frames because I think they do the best job of handling bumps in the road.

Offline dkoloko

Re: Touring bikes...
« Reply #9 on: February 18, 2013, 05:07:06 pm »
There are basically two kinds of touring bikes, one for lightweight touring, credit card touring, moteling and eating in restaurants; other for fully loaded touring, camping, cooking.
Those categories are increasingly becoming blurred.  There are a number of folks touring with full cooking and camping capabilities with loads that are equivalent to or even less than has in the past been the norm for credit card touring.  It is entirely possible to be quite self sufficient with a very light load.  Cooking and camping with base gear weights between 7 and 20 pounds is becoming somewhat common thanks to ultralight backpacking gear and techniques.


This is known. This doesn't change basic categories of touring bikes. It simply means one could hypothetically tour fully loaded on a light touring bike. Whether a beginner could manage that is a question. I question such ultralight fully loaded touring is "somewhat common". Based on fellow long distance bicycle tourers I have seen, it is not. For a beginner, my advice remains the same, choose the bike, based on which category I described is thought best. Then choose equipment. Based on my experience, choices in camping gear can change after each long tour,  and not necessarily for lighter equipment.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Touring bikes...
« Reply #10 on: February 19, 2013, 05:07:46 am »
I question such ultralight fully loaded touring is "somewhat common". Based on fellow long distance bicycle tourers I have seen, it is not.

I agree that the term "somewhat common" is open to interpretation.  That said, I have started occasionally running into folks camping and cooking with 20 pounds or less of gear on their bikes.  Also there is a large enough following of the bikepacking movement to support specialty companies like Relevate.

For a beginner, my advice remains the same, choose the bike, based on which category I described is thought best. Then choose equipment.

Sensible advice, but not the only way to go.  They wouldn't go far wrong following that advice, but I'd rather figure out roughly what gear I want and then pick the bike and baggage to accommodate the gear.  I really don't see anything I did on my UL trips that couldn't be managed by a beginner.  That would be even more so for those coming to touring from backpacking.

Offline bogiesan

Re: Touring bikes...
« Reply #11 on: February 19, 2013, 06:47:42 am »
Recumbent. Maybe even a trike.

Touring by bicycle is a broad sports category, it is also entertainment and adventure. It is only about efficiency for some. For me, it's ALL about comfort. Many other excellent things follow in the wake of touring in comfort.

(full disclosure: I do not tour self-contained. My days of hauling my own gear and liking it are long behind me. I only do supported touring events these days. But touring on a recumbent is no different from touring on any other bike. Some of the equipment is a bit more specific and the bike is heavier unless, of course, you're running carbon.)

You won't find defintive answers here, just opinions based on our experiences and prejudices. There are many online resources for your research and you can read dozens of books on the topics of global bike travel and crossing the United States.

Hope you enjoy your trip!
I play go. I use Macintosh. Of course I ride a recumbent

Offline John Nelson

Re: Touring bikes...
« Reply #12 on: February 19, 2013, 07:54:47 am »
I'd rather figure out roughly what gear I want and then pick the bike and baggage to accommodate the gear.
+1

Offline dkoloko

Re: Touring bikes...
« Reply #13 on: February 19, 2013, 10:54:13 am »
I'd rather figure out roughly what gear I want and then pick the bike and baggage to accommodate the gear.
+1

She's said she's estimated how much gear she'll be carrying. What do you want her to do now? Stop thinking about what bike to buy, and decide more specifically what she'll be carrying, and then decide on which bike?
« Last Edit: February 19, 2013, 10:57:44 am by dkoloko »

Offline dkoloko

Re: Touring bikes...
« Reply #14 on: February 19, 2013, 11:17:55 am »
I have started occasionally running into folks camping and cooking with 20 pounds or less of gear on their bikes.  Also there is a large enough following of the bikepacking movement to support specialty companies like Relevate.


Questioner said planned on carrying 20-30 lb, so no arguing with 20 lb, if she can do her trip with that light a load . I again note, in my experience, beginners underestimate load they will be carrying. Your previous post stated that it is viable traveling long distance fully loaded carrying weight as low as 7 lb. I again say such a target is optimistic for a beginner. Three full waterbottles can weigh 7 lb. When I weigh what I carry for traveling fully loaded long distance, I weigh the bike, ready to go, with waterbottles full, food on board, etc. I again maintain that at the moment ultralight fully loaded bicycle touring is a fringe element, not where I would direct a beginner seeking information trying to decide which type bike to buy.