Adventure Cycling Association Forum

Bicycle Travel => Gear Talk => Topic started by: Hancock on May 16, 2012, 12:52:12 pm

Title: Touring Bikes Under Consideration
Post by: Hancock on May 16, 2012, 12:52:12 pm
Hi Everyone,

I aim to take my first extended (i.e., at least a week) bike tour in April 2013. Between now and then, I want to get a first-rate touring bike. Is anyone here familiar with--for better or worse--any of these models:

-Raleigh Sojourn
-Trek 520
-Kona Sutra
-Rivendell Atlantis
-Co-Motion Nor'Wester
-Motobecane Gran Turismo
-Windsor Tourist

From what I've seen around the Web, any one of these bikes ought to be an excellent choice. I'd appreciate any thoughts from anyone who might know these models or some other models to consider.

If it helps in understanding my current reference point, I have a three-speed (internal hub gearing) Trek BelleVille (which I call my short-range heavy bomber or my M1 Abrams...depending on my mood) and a hybrid Raleigh Detour City Sport that has three in front and nine in back.

I'm sure this sort of question gets posted a lot on the forums; if there's a better spot for this, please let me know. Also, I'm aware that A.C.A. has a buyer's guide; I plan to study that in depth.


Title: Re: Touring Bikes Under Consideration
Post by: paddleboy17 on May 16, 2012, 01:16:25 pm
This is a pretty broad spread, price wise.  My only comment, is that if you can afford a Nor'Wester, then why not go for an Americano.  Why?  Your list looks to be all light touring bikes.  There is some disagrement over what can be done on a light touring bike and what requires a heavy touring bike.  Sort of like arguing over how much truck do you really need: a Ford Ranger of a Ford F-350.  The Co-Motion Americano can definitely take whatever you want to throw at it, and it only a little bit more expensive than a Co-Motion Nor'Wester.

In general, you need to decide what features you really want, and how badly you are willing to pay for them.  A bike for a ride across Asia has a different set of requirements than a weekend in Florida.  You said a week long trip, but that still can mean a lot of things.  So think about your feature list and budget, and we can talk again after that.
Title: Re: Touring Bikes Under Consideration
Post by: John Nelson on May 16, 2012, 02:51:27 pm
paddleboy's advice is spot on. The fact is that each of us is different, each of our tours is different, and the right touring bike for you is likely to be different than the right touring bike for me. Consider how much your weigh, how you will carry that load, how much your load will weigh, what kind of surfaces you will be riding on, how frequently you will be able to find the services you need, etc. Then consider whether you have more time than money or more money than time. And then think about your risk tolerance--are you willing to roll with the punches to save money, or would you rather spend more money to reduce risk? And do you want to feel unique?

If you really don't have a clue about any of the above, then pick one of the most widely sold bikes, such as the Surly Long Haul Trucker or the Trek 520. When in doubt, go with the wisdom of the crowd.
Title: Re: Touring Bikes Under Consideration
Post by: DanE on May 16, 2012, 05:01:04 pm
Co-motion has changed the line up a little bit. The Nor'wester in the line up now is a bicycle for something like a century rider or event ride. Someone who wants a racy  bicycle but probably is not going to race. Stable and a little more up right. The old Nor'wester Tour has been renamed the Cascadia and now comes with disk brakes standard. Co-motion says they did this because the difference between the Nor'wester and Nor'wester Tour had diverged quite a bit over the last few model years and they are trying to avoid confusion.

I own a Nor'wester Tour and it is an excellent touring bicycle. Maybe not as tough as the Americano but if your not going to remote places of the planet it is perfectly capable. I would not hesitate to go anywhere on mine, but I tend to only tour in the US.
Title: Re: Touring Bikes Under Consideration
Post by: Pat Lamb on May 16, 2012, 07:56:58 pm
I'll go counter to the prevailing opinion a bit, and say forget about the Co-Motions and Rivendells for a while.  While I'm sure they make good bikes, you won't know what you want, or why, until you've ridden a road / touring bike for a while.

It's getting late in the season, but call around and see if you can find a dealer with a Trek 520, Surly LHT, REI Randonee, Windsor/Fuji Touring or the like, in your size and in stock.  Go ride them.  Pick the one you like the best, and buy that one.

I say late in the season, because touring bikes seem to be made in batches, and once this year's batch is gone, you'll have to wait until next year to buy from that batch.  Buy one now, and the one you like, because you're going to need to put hours in the saddle to get ready for your trip.  You may or may not be able to get one before next spring if you wait, and you won't do the riding if you don't like the bike.

Be aware, too, that if you put a heavy load on the bike, the handling will change.

Of course, you might get by with putting racks on your hybrid, but since that's not what you say you want, get the one you want (and like).
Title: Re: Touring Bikes Under Consideration
Post by: staehpj1 on May 17, 2012, 07:09:20 am
I have to agree with Patrick.  I personally don't find that it is worth spending $4000 for a touring bike, to me at least.  Others do and that is fine.  The thing is that when you have a list that ranges from $599 to $4000 I have to think that either you don't know what you want or aren't into the high end stuff all that much.

If the $4000 bike will really give you $4000 worth of joy and you can afford it that is great, but any of those or even one of your existing bikes will let you tour.  I'd say get you feet wet first with either something you own or something $1200 or less.

BTW, REI has their Novarra bikes on sale 15% off now.  The Randonee or Safari might suit you.

Title: Re: Touring Bikes Under Consideration
Post by: Hancock on May 17, 2012, 07:31:45 am
Many thanks to everyone for the guidance. Everything you've all suggested helps, and I've come to realize that I need to learn a lot more about the makes and models. To be honest, I didn't realize I'd selected a spread ranging from well under $1,000 to possibly more than $4,000.

I will most likely go with the Trek 520 or the Raleigh Sojourn as a starting point. I figure this is likely to become a lifelong passion, so I might as well start there and see where it goes.

Thanks again...I love this forum!

Title: Re: Touring Bikes Under Consideration
Post by: staehpj1 on May 17, 2012, 07:53:53 am
Whatever you get enjoy!
Title: Re: Touring Bikes Under Consideration
Post by: dkoloko on May 17, 2012, 10:35:22 am
Considering your inexperience, I suggest you have the inner chainring changed to smallest possible by the dealer when you buy your Trek 520. You may be glad you did when pedaling up hills fully loaded on tour.
Title: Re: Touring Bikes Under Consideration
Post by: Pat Lamb on May 17, 2012, 11:24:59 am
Considering your inexperience, I suggest you have the inner chainring changed to smallest possible by the dealer when you buy your Trek 520. You may be glad you did when pedaling up hills fully loaded on tour.

This year's spec on the 520 is a 48/36/26 crank.  That's a welcome change from the 50/40/30 crank a few years ago.  I'm not sure it's worth the hassle to get lower.  A 24 chainring is only 6% lower, and shifting may suffer if you try to go down to a 22.  I'd rather have a certain shift to a slightly bigger low chainring than an iffy shift to a slightly smaller ring (but YMMV).
Title: Re: Touring Bikes Under Consideration
Post by: John Nelson on May 17, 2012, 01:24:14 pm
The small chainring on the Trek 520 has been 26 since the 2009 model. I found that adequate for the TransAm.
Title: Re: Touring Bikes Under Consideration
Post by: RussSeaton on May 17, 2012, 02:48:27 pm

The current Trek 520 comes with Shimano M543 Trekking crankset.  It comes from Shimano in two configurations.  Either 44-32-22 rings or 48-36-26 rings.  Personally I would change the whole crank to the 44-32-22 model if your dealer would do it.  You want as low an inner chainring as possible.  So no matter what get them to put on a 22 inner ring to replace the 26 ring.  The bike comes with a 9 speed 11-32 cassette.  So a 44x11 high would be plenty high for any touring bike.  The 48x11 high Trek specs is way too high for anything except coasting down mountains.  Kind of demonstrates Trek does not employ people who ride bikes.  Their bike spec person is clueless.  If buying this bike see if the dealer will put on a 11-34 cassette instead.  On a touring bike you want as small a front chainring as possible and as big a large cog as possible.
Title: Re: Touring Bikes Under Consideration
Post by: Old Guy New Hobby on May 17, 2012, 06:23:11 pm
I bought a Trek 520 two years ago. It's a great bike. I love touring with it. I swapped out the rack and the saddle. I also had the dealer swap the 26 chainring for a 22. The gearing was nice, but I kept on dropping the chain off the inside of the chaingring (about once a month). Lots of times I could re-thread it without stopping, but it was a PITA. I tried adjustments, chain stops, etc. Nothing worked. Finally I decided I wanted a Rohloff hub, which certainly fixed the chain dropping issue.

I guess my point is, you want to take delivery of your bike before you go on tour. Put at least 1000 miles on it before you take off cross-country. Also, no matter what bike you buy and no matter what price point, it is always possible your bike has a defect. Put miles on it to shake things down. Do a good bit of it with your touring load, exactly as you expect to do on the tour.
Title: Re: Touring Bikes Under Consideration
Post by: twalls on May 18, 2012, 12:29:56 pm
Your hybrid with good racks, and low gears would prob be just fine  I rode the Trans Am in 2010 with people who had all kinds of bikes,and  most made it across in fine shape.  Those who didn't had some physical issues, or were so put off by the weather, and bugs that they weren't having enough fun.  But the bikes they used were not the main problem.  One English woman we rode with was on an old junker she had ridden for thousands of miles.

Those things said, however, I prefer a bike that will take fenders and wide tough tires with lots of clearance.  A Kona Sutra, for example, would not fit this criteria.

I just acquired a Surly Troll.  It has upright bars, 26" wheels with lots of room for fenders, low gears and disc brakes.  So far, so gut.  Going on a little noodle up into the San Juan Islands in a few days on it's maiden voyage.  Timo
Title: Another good deal: REI Novara Randonee
Post by: nlsteve on May 19, 2012, 08:04:23 pm
They just reduced the price on the 2012 Randonee at REI, from $1199 to $1019.

And if you're  an REI member ($20 lifetime, I think) you get a 10% dividend back.

I bought one and like it. 

There are a lot of good all-around touring bikes in the $1200-or-so range.  If you find one (like the Randonee or the Trek 520 or Surly Long Haul Trucker) on deep discount, check it out.

In addition to looking for the features you prefer (brake type, shifter type, gearing, wheel size, etc.), test riding and discounts, you should also consider buying in order to establish a relationship with a particular bike shop.

If you're carrying a heavy payload or going strange places, you're more likely to need to get a heavier/tougher bike for more dinero.  But those $1200 bikes are right for most of us, I think.

Title: Re: Touring Bikes Under Consideration
Post by: esassaman on May 20, 2012, 10:48:54 pm
Ditto on the 2012 Randonee. REI is always a safe bet if you have one nearby, they'll take good care of you. It's got the dinkyest granny gear I've ever seen, which I think is awesome and will make those steep parts a breeze if you're not a hard core tourer. Love the color. I installed a matching stainless steel Tubus Nova front rack and some stainless steel water bottle cages and it looks freakin' awesome. Love the comfy flat spots on the bars too. It's a great deal at $1k and with 20% sales going on all the time at REI, you can do like I did and pick it up for $800-ish. Save your money for all the accessories and gear you'll need to buy for the trip :)
Title: Re: Touring Bikes Under Consideration
Post by: TwoWheeledExplorer on May 20, 2012, 10:54:28 pm
I am going to throw in the Bianchi Volpe for consideration, too. Good, sturdy (designed for cyclo-cross), stable bike. Been touring fully loaded on mine for 6 years now, with no problems, although by default, I have done a lot more light touring on it the past couple years. I put a Jandd Expedition rack on the rear and an OMM rack on the front. I have fenders, but have not had to use them.

I decided the other day, I will keep my Volpe until I can afford a Co-Motion Divide, probably when I retire or win the lottery. (Kinda the same thing, I guess. ;) )

Ride safe,