Author Topic: Help Pulling the Trigger  (Read 2406 times)

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Offline ajschlagel

Help Pulling the Trigger
« on: April 03, 2010, 01:57:37 am »
Hello,

I am seeking advice. I have been researching touring bikes for quite a while now and am finally ready to purchase my first one! However, the bike shops in town know nothing about touring and I would like to get some expert opinions. Please help!

I am a graduate student so do not have a lot of extra money to spend on replacement parts. I need the best bang and value for my buck.

I really like the Surly LHT frame but am concerned about their component choices as of late. They recently switched from steel to aluminum crank sets and downgraded their rims which has me worried about the other short cuts they are taking and how much extra money I am going to have to sink into the bike when those wear out. Thoughts?

My criteria for choosing a bike are:
1. Wheel size: I am leaning towards 26” wheels as I plan do to most of my riding in the states but do travel to South America.
2. Components: I would like to be able to repair all components on the road so the simpler and higher quality the better (aka bar ends over STIs, and cantilever over disc)
3. Frame: Needs to be steel.
4. Trip Duration: I plan to do several 10 day trips to prepare for a 1500 mile self supported ride after graduation, so I need a bike sturdy enough to handle that and my daily commute.

I have narrowed down my search to 3 bikes which each fit me (5’9”, size 54) well and are within my price range. The bikes are going on sale next week and the prices are listed in parenthesis.
1. Novara Randonee ($800)
2. Surly Long Haul Trucker ($985)
3. Trek 520 ($925)

I look forward to your imparted wisdom!
Aaron

Offline whittierider

Re: Help Pulling the Trigger
« Reply #1 on: April 03, 2010, 04:44:52 am »
The bikes you mention have good reputations, especially the Surley and the Trek which as far as I can tell from the websites, use the same frame.  I don't know which one makes it.  You'd probably do great to just take one of them as is.  1500 miles is definitely not much for a bike to go without any attention at all except for normal chain maintenance.

Otherwise, do be open to adjusting your criteria though.

Although I don't particularly like STI (they work fine-- it's just a personal thing), of the many bikes in our family stable, the only shifter we have ever had that needed repair was a bar-end shifter.  Fortunately it could still be used in friction mode, and it was under warranty too.  The indexing ring broke and was sticking out from under the plastic cover.  If you're on a tight budget though, bar-end shifters will save a couple hundred dollars or more.  Our STIs never have needed repair, but a couple of them have needed to be shot periodically with a fine lube that leaves a dry film to keep them working right.  It just takes a few seconds, but you probably don't want to carry a can of LPS1 on tour.  STis may interfere more with a handlebar bag too.

Carbon is stronger and more durable than steel (I can document that), but I know it is not used in touring bikes, largely because of misunderstandings in the market.  Unfortunately today's steel is frightfully thin, and not repairable by most welders.  Carbon is easily repaired and made even stronger than new, although not by just anyone.  Even though in a frame-breakage test reported here the steel frames broke first, fortunately for tourists who aren't riding hard like racers, just about any frame will last as long as they want it to if it is not actually abused.

If extreme durability in third-world countries is an issue, I would eventually want to get an external-bearing bottom bracket on the bike, because they last so long.  My GXP type has 21,000 miles with a lot of out-of-the-saddle climbing, and it's like new.  Our son's Shimano has about 3/4 of that much, with the same story, unlike his Isis ones that lasted 3,000 miles each.  You won't find any steel cranks made for it though.  I have never had any other kind of BB last anywhere near as long.  I like Truvativ's GXP design more than Shimano's, as there is no pre-load and the only tool it takes to install or remove the crankset is a single 8mm allen wrench.  If it were any easier, I'd do it every time I clean the bike, just to do a more thorough job.  The least durable of all the BB types is some of the Isis types, and unfortunately they're still rather common on inexpensive bikes.  Apparently Octalink was not as bad as Isis, in spite of the similar design.

I'm not familiar with the rim Surley specifies on their website.  What is it about them you don't like?  I see they're using 36 spokes per wheel, which is generally good.

Offline MTNGator

Re: Help Pulling the Trigger
« Reply #2 on: April 03, 2010, 10:59:35 am »
Surly or Trek - Can't go wrong with either for the money. If you are committed to 26" wheels, the LHT would fit the bill.

The bar end shifters offered on both models are my personal favorite - had Ultegra STIs on one bike -the rear shifter lasted just over a year and the cost to replace at that time (about $300 for a new pair - they don't sell one replacement shifter) was over four times the cost to convert to bar ends. I know a lot of riders NEVER have had any problems with the STI set-up but if they break, you are stuck. Can't convert them to friction mode in an emergency like the bar ends.

Good luck with your search.

Offline John Nelson

Re: Help Pulling the Trigger
« Reply #3 on: April 03, 2010, 11:44:21 am »
Any of the bikes you mentioned will be fine. Test ride all three. Place first priority on the one that feels like the best fit. If that ends in a tie, buy the one you like the color of better. Seriously.

Offline ajschlagel

Re: Help Pulling the Trigger
« Reply #4 on: April 03, 2010, 01:46:01 pm »
Whittierider,

Thank you for your response! I am mostly concerned with the LHT component use. the Alex Adventurer rims are reported to be low quality as are the aluminum cranks. Does anyone have any recent experience with these components or the 2006 and newer LHT that can speak to the quality of the stock bike?

Thanks,
Aaron

Offline Tourista829

Re: Help Pulling the Trigger
« Reply #5 on: April 03, 2010, 06:36:03 pm »
Aaron, unfortunately, everything is a compromise. However you made three very good choices. Here is my take.
The best bang for the buck is the REI Rondonee. It is on sale until 4/18. As you know, normally $1049 now $799. It even comes with a rear rack. (they honor rain checks, if out of stock) I like STI's but there are those who prefer bar end shifters. I know someone who put both on. (not as crazy as you think) You can get bar cons for little money. I would run the STI's on your 10 day tours. If you are going to remote places, switch the cable routing to the bar cons. (or you could have them switch them when you make the purchase an maybe save some money.)

The compromises with the Rondonee based on your criterias:  
1. Wheels, I believe they only come in 700X32 wheels/tires. Your will want fenders. You should carefully look at the tire clearance. If you could go up to 37c you might be able to get by, unless the terrain is really marginal. (unfortunately with fenders you may have to go down from a 700X32 to a 700X28.)
2.  Looking at 2010 specs, I question their choice of the drive train they provide. 30-39-50 crank, with a 11-28 rear cassette is a little high for me. (29.4" low gear & 125" high gear) I believed they had offered a 26-36-48. *I will included, at the end, an excerpt from a person who recently purchased a 2010 Rondonee, in Washington State. His comments may get you the bike a little more custom for very little money. (From an aesthetics standpoint, I like the new color.)

The Surly is a very good choice and in your 54c frame size, as previously mentioned, it will be a 26" tires. It is pretty much outfitted the way you want. (I like the spoke holder, nice touch) However, it is $186 more than the Rondonee. (I believe all three bikes basically have Reynolds 520 tubing)

*Comments about Novara Randonee Touring Bike - 2010:
"What a great bicycle for the price. Love the new color for 2010! I had REI swap out the RD and Cassette to more proper gearing for touring. Total cost of changes was close to $5 total. Had them install a Deore XT Long cage RD and also an 11/34 Cassette. With those changes I have nothing much to complain about. I prefer STI shifters but I suppose if you don't, you could swap them out for bar ends at time of purchase as well. This would only make the purchase less. Rei does retail for retail swaps with free labor at time of purchase. I measured the chainstays myself and they are approx 460mm. That is a sweet length for touring with larger panniers and big feet."

If I may, I have one other suggestion that you did not mention. I know how you feel about steel, steel is real, but there is an aluminum bike, that might fit all your other requirements. The REI Safari. If you can fit a medium frame, it comes with 26X1.75 tires. If you go to a large frame then it is a 29er. 700X48! The gearing is 26-36-48 crank and 11-34 rear cassette which translates into a 20" low gear 113" high gear.(26" wheel) I rode a Cannondale aluminum bike for years and with the cushy tires, on the Safari, if you add a seat post shock, I think the difference, in comfort, would be minimal. I like the geometry better, on the Safari and I think the fit may be better for your torso/arm measurements. It comes with Disk Brakes and a good rear rack. It is also more robust and would fit your South America requirements. Because it is aluminum, you may not suffer a weight penalty. I can not speak about the shifters. The best part about this bike is normally $849.00 and is now on sale for $679.20.** Think of all the accessories you could purchase with the difference. **If you are not a member, $20.00 and print the coupon out online. Sales ends 4/18.

The bottom line is, if you go in with an open mind, you will be able to ride both REI bikes, providing there is one near you. (I am not sure if you will be able to fine a Surly or Trek to ride.) If you purchase a bike from REI, they are a very good outfit, and if you don't like the bike, you could return it, for a full refund. Good luck in your research and let us know what you decide ;)      

Offline bogiesan

Re: Help Pulling the Trigger
« Reply #6 on: April 04, 2010, 04:05:43 pm »
There was a great article in Bicycle Times (maybe, could have been any bike mag) about the economics of ergonomics, the differences between performance and style, and field service issues for touring enthusiasts. As you might imagine, STI-like integrated systems, weird pedals, titanium and aluminum frames, rear shocks and swing arms, and lots of other exotic doodads were marked down not for their functionality or appeal, but for the simple fact that if you busted one of these components, you were at best, terribly inconvenienced and, at worst, completely screwed. 

As others have noted, investing in a touring bike is a big deal mostly because it's going to be your only transportation. Price and components may turn out to be secondary to the feel of the bike. Can you live on it for your 10-day and 1500-mile trips? Find the bike that feels good under your butt and then try to set it up it to fit your budget.

david boise ID
I play go. I use Macintosh. Of course I ride a recumbent

Offline bogiesan

Re: Help Pulling the Trigger
« Reply #7 on: April 04, 2010, 04:07:14 pm »
And please come back and tell us what bike you bought, how things turned out, and what adventures you had.
We hope you will enjoy your bike and your trips.

bogiesan
I play go. I use Macintosh. Of course I ride a recumbent

Offline MTNGator

Re: Help Pulling the Trigger
« Reply #8 on: April 04, 2010, 05:29:59 pm »
And please come back and tell us what bike you bought, how things turned out, and what adventures you had.
We hope you will enjoy your bike and your trips.

bogiesan

Ditto - plus two - on that advice! Good luck.

Offline gregg

Re: Help Pulling the Trigger
« Reply #9 on: April 04, 2010, 10:21:12 pm »
Hello,

Don't know where you heard that Alex Adventurer rims were no good. I've heard nothing but good things about them. I've got a set in 26" and have found them to be bulletproof. I've used them for self-supported touring, commuting, and mountain biking for years, and they have yet to go out of true. Of course, how good a wheel is depends heavily on the builder. A bad build will ruin any set of wheels.

Regarding your bike choices, any one of them will work great.

Offline indyfabz

Re: Help Pulling the Trigger
« Reply #10 on: April 05, 2010, 10:31:41 am »
Whittierider,

Thank you for your response! I am mostly concerned with the LHT component use. the Alex Adventurer rims are reported to be low quality as are the aluminum cranks. Does anyone have any recent experience with these components or the 2006 and newer LHT that can speak to the quality of the stock bike?

Thanks,
Aaron

My LHT is post-2006 (2007 or 2008) and has the Alex Adventure rims (700c).  I am 6'2", about 215 lbs., carry a lot of weight and am less of a spinner than I should be.  I have never had a problem with the rims.  Here's a little story.  One winter I bent my deraileur hanger and put off getting it fixed.  Spring rolled around and I started training for a western trip.  Going up a steep hill I decided to try the granny gear just see what it was like.  That decision was followed by the sound of deraileur shifting into the spokes, being twisted around and they bursting into many pieces.  The wheel suffered only the slightest tweek.  The truing was only its second ever, and I have never broken a spoke.