Adventure Cycling Association Forum

Bicycle Travel => Gear Talk => Topic started by: Spcshiznit on June 07, 2010, 10:40:46 pm

 
Title: Trek 520
Post by: Spcshiznit on June 07, 2010, 10:40:46 pm
So I've gotten hooked reading about touring. I've a pretty avid hiker, and this appeals to me in so many ways. Well, my question is this...

I've been doing tons of research, and it seems that I'm leaning toward buying a Trek 520 for my first touring bike. I want to know why some of you think I "shouldn't" buy this bike. I keep reading great reviews, but I need the opinion of some vets to reassure me that I'm making the right decision.

Thanks in advance!
SPC
Title: Re: Trek 520
Post by: John Nelson on June 07, 2010, 11:04:50 pm
Thousands of miles, zero problems. It's not the only bike that will work, but it is certainly one of them.
Title: Re: Trek 520
Post by: CastAStone on June 07, 2010, 11:15:48 pm
The only similar bike is the Surly LHT; everything else is either cheaper, pricier, or meant for a slightly different purpose.

So why should you buy the LHT instead? The componentry is better. The XT/Tiagra derailer combo shifts better than the LX/LX combo, and quite frankly 48 teeth on a MTB front derailer - although very common - isn't a great idea. The LHT's XT hubs are better than the 520's LX hubs, and the LHT's rims are generally held in higher regard than the 520's. The 520's cassette is of lower quality than the LHT and you can get (marginally) lower gear ratios with the LHT. The 520 uses V-pull brakes while the LHT uses Cantilevers (one isn't necessarily better, but some prefer one or the other).

BUT

The 520 is a great choice and looks about 10,000 times better than the LHT. Why do you want to talked out of purchasing a fantastic bike? If you like the bike, if it looks good, if it feels right, if it does what you want, and if you can afford it, BUY IT!
Title: Re: Trek 520
Post by: biased bohemian on June 08, 2010, 06:57:19 am
I agree with CastAStone that the Trek is a sharp looking bike.  I just recently went through the process of selecting a touring bike and you can read my review here if interested: http://biasedbohemian.com/biker_bohemian/day-44-the-bike/ .  Like you I am new to touring.  I ended up going with the Surly Long Haul Trucker in a Truckaccino color.  In reading reviews online I found that the LHT seemed to have a higher ratio of positive reviews and a large cult following.  The Trek cost about $250 more for a very similar bike.  Though the components may differ, select the bike for the frame and wheels, as the rest can be replaced.  In the end the bike will be loaded with baggage and covered in dirt, so the paint job won't really matter.
Title: Re: Trek 520
Post by: Spcshiznit on June 08, 2010, 08:25:37 am
The only similar bike is the Surly LHT; everything else is either cheaper, pricier, or meant for a slightly different purpose.

So why should you buy the LHT instead? The componentry is better. The XT/Tiagra derailer combo shifts better than the LX/LX combo, and quite frankly 48 teeth on a MTB front derailer - although very common - isn't a great idea. The LHT's XT hubs are better than the 520's LX hubs, and the LHT's rims are generally held in higher regard than the 520's. The 520's cassette is of lower quality than the LHT and you can get (marginally) lower gear ratios with the LHT. The 520 uses V-pull brakes while the LHT uses Cantilevers (one isn't necessarily better, but some prefer one or the other).

BUT

The 520 is a great choice and looks about 10,000 times better than the LHT. Why do you want to talked out of purchasing a fantastic bike? If you like the bike, if it looks good, if it feels right, if it does what you want, and if you can afford it, BUY IT!


It's not that I want to be talked out of buying the bike, it's that I want to make sure I'm getting the right bike.
Title: Re: Trek 520
Post by: indyfabz on June 08, 2010, 11:27:48 am
I feel more comfortable with bar end shifters.  I had them on my '98 Cannondale T700, and I have them on my LHT.  The ability to change to friction shifting can be a lifesaver.
Title: Re: Trek 520
Post by: ericb on June 09, 2010, 12:42:29 am
I think the best thing you can do is test ride them both back-to-back. The geometry of the frames is quite different and the LHT is available in more sizes. Ideally, take them for a long test ride, preferably with a load.

I've owned a Trek 520 since 2004. I got it mostly as a kind of sport touring bike, but frankly I don't like it! I only road an LHT once, and it was a couple sizes too small for me. But I still had a very positive impression of the frame and ride. The LHT has a longer wheelbase and slacker angles. And out of the box it's set up to give a more upright position. Even with a stem and handlebar swap, I've just never been that comfy on my Trek. And it's always felt far too twitchy in the front  -- in fact I've never much liked the handling... it's not a stable bike for long rides. To be honest, I think Trek is riding on the reputation of the bike while having changed out most of the good qualities to have broader appeal.

I actually would have probably bought an LHT to replace the Trek if I hadn't gone with the Salsa Fargo, which scratches the mixed road/trail itch. 
Title: Re: Trek 520
Post by: jimbo on June 09, 2010, 10:18:09 pm
I was new to touring after 15 years of using a Trek 7000 mtb mostly as a road bike. Bought the 520 4 years ago and went coast to coast in 08. For me the bike is perfect. I am 6'2 and 210. I had to replace the rear wheel due to rim cracks at the spoke heads but the other components have been fine. It has been ridden just 8K so far so still a young bike. Ideally you could test drive both popular bikes for a week, but the reality is you will be lucky to get a 2-4 hour test ride.  Buy from an experienced shop where the staff ride to work daily.
They should mount the bike and you on their "fit" station and check you and it out for proper fit.
There is no one "best" bike out there. The 520 is among the "best" group.
Have fun with the decision.....and all the miles.
Title: Re: Trek 520
Post by: valygrl on June 10, 2010, 01:35:18 am
I'm happy with mine.  I swapped the crank out for a MTB crank, right-sized the stem, put my own saddle & pedal choices on it, and upgraded to Tubus racks.

Can you not test ride it?  That would be best.  I knew it was the right one for me after the first couple of miles.  Stable, easy to ride, carries gear well, utilitarian.

Only other tour bike I've ridden is a 26" wheeled Rivendell Atlantis, which fit me perfectly (belonged to my twin sister), but handled weird, and felt low, long & heavy. 
Title: Re: Trek 520
Post by: awuwi on July 16, 2010, 12:18:46 pm
Bought 2 2009 Trek 520 last year (one for and one for my wife) and so far so good.  We have done short fully loaded rides in preparing for RAA in 2011.  In 2009 Trek reduced the gearing so no need to retrofit.  The challenging part is building out the 520 for touring.  What racks, panniers, fenders, seat, etc.  Selecting the bicycle is the easy part! 
Title: Re: Trek 520
Post by: Pat Lamb on July 22, 2010, 09:03:44 pm
Why not a 520?  Only a few reasons:

(3) You'll have to get used to the barcon shifters.  It's a new way of shifting.  You'll adapt, but changing from another bike to barcons will force you to think for 5 minutes each ride.

(2) It's overgeared for loads in the mountains.  Minor annoyance, but you'll probably want to change out the small chain ring for something smaller.

(1) You can't find one to buy.  Most places, the few that carry them, sell out by the middle of June.  If you want one, you may have to wait until next March when they come off the truck.
Title: Re: Trek 520
Post by: cycletwerp on July 26, 2010, 12:54:49 pm


(3) You'll have to get used to the barcon shifters.  It's a new way of shifting.  You'll adapt, but changing from another bike to barcons will force you to think for 5 minutes each ride.


It's really not that big of a deal going from my 520 to any other bike.....more like half a second if that---5 minutes---Yikes. :o

I love my 520. It is the smoothest riding bike I have ever owned :)
Title: Re: Trek 520
Post by: digimarket on July 26, 2010, 09:07:30 pm
So I've gotten hooked reading about touring. I've a pretty avid hiker, and this appeals to me in so many ways. Well, my question is this...

You describe yourself as an avid hiker, and don't mention your experience with cycling.  If cycling is new to you - then some of the comments about "getting used" to certain components won't really apply to you.  You will be getting used to the whole thing - at once. Most bikes these days come with expensive combined brake levers and shifters.  I prefer bar end shifters and have put them on ALL of my bikes except the ones with flat bars.  They have the advantage of being used in friction shifting mode if something in your indexed shifting goes wrong.  I've used them for 40 years and have no interest in "getting used to" brifters.

If hiking is your thing - you might want to get a bicycle that can handle dirt roads and trails where bikes are allowed.  I don't think the 520 would be ideal for that use - it is really a pavement machine.  If you want to ride mostly pavement and do cycle camp full loaded touring the 520 might be your bike, but the LHT, the Jamis Aurora, the Bianchi Volpe, or the Novara Randonnee(REI) are also worth a look.  I have riden samples of all of these (except the LHT) and I own a Jamis Aurora.  I believe that the LHT has the best geometry of these for heavy loaded pavement touring.  I'm very pleased with my Jamis for all kinds of riding and touring short of full camping.  I am currently converting a 1985 Schwinn Cimarron to a full loaded touring bike capable of dirt riding.

Some things to consider - what ever you buy can be changed by the bikestore to what you want before you buy it.  (If they say no - find another store.)  After you have ridden it a while, you can change things (like gearing) to what you find you prefer.  For heavy loaded touring anywhere near mountains you will want the absolute lowest gears you can get (forget about the high ones - you will be happy to coast down hill on tour).  For riding with light loads, commuting or general riding you can switch the rear cassette to one that tops out at 27 or 28 and have closer spaced gears.  Remember: a wide range derailleur can handle a narrower range, but not the other way around.

Many, many people have successfully toured with 520's.  Something to keep in mind is that the frame geometry and specifications of the 520 have changed back and forth from credit card touring to heavy touring over the years.  I believe the current offering is somewhere in the middle.  If someone says how great their 520 is - try to find out how long the chainstay is and how it is equipped.

For heavy touring, chainstay length is the number one criteria - the longer the better.  Then look for a front end geometry that is neither too fast or too slow.  A 72 degree head angle and 45mm fork offset is ideal for road touring of all kinds.  This is where a single centimeter makes a huge difference.  I've seen highly touted sports touring bikes with 73 degrees and a 55mm fork that handled like pigs - supposedly for "stable" steering.  For dirt roads an even slacker angle is better.  Generally for touring - a low bottom bracket is a good thing.

Having found a frameset that actually is made for touring (some are advertised as but don't deliver) then ride it and see if it fits and feels right to you.  A bike that will work well for loaded touring is going to feel a bit stiff with no weight.  The last things to look at are the specific components, because they can always be changed.

Good luck and enjoy your new interest.
Title: Re: Trek 520
Post by: DaveB on July 26, 2010, 09:28:21 pm
  I've seen highly touted sports touring bikes with 73 degrees and a 55mm fork that handled like pigs - supposedly for "stable" steering.  For dirt roads an even slacker angle is better. 
You have the rake figure backwards.  A 73° headtube angle with 55 mm of rake would have very little trail and would be very darty and excessively responsive, the exact opposite of stable and slow responding. 

Remember more rake= less trail and trail is the major parameter in determining steering response.
Title: Re: Trek 520
Post by: digimarket on July 26, 2010, 10:21:19 pm
You are half correct - 73/55 is a very low trail design, but low trail means that the handlebars have to turn a lot to make the bike turn - not good handling.  You can have the bars "twitch" all over the place and nothing happens.

With a high trail design, the bike steers significantly with every "twitch" of the bars.

If you look at a criterium racing bicycle it will have very little fork offset, because the trail is already diminished by the steep angle.  By cutting down on the offset - the designer is actually adding some trail back in to keep the steering quick.  

Take a look at a frame design book if you don't believe me.  I have changed a nasty slow steering "pig" of a sports tourer into a responsive enjoyable ride that carves turns great by replacing the 55mm fork with a 38mm.  (Truth is, I would have prefered a 42, but I still haven't found an affordable one.)

Road touring is great at 72/45.
Title: Re: Trek 520
Post by: digimarket on July 27, 2010, 12:19:19 am
I believe the problem with discussions of front end geometry is that people are using words like stable, quick and twitchy without a specified definition.

It is my feeling that "quick" steering means that when you turn the handlbars - the bike responds quickly without having to turn the bars a lot.  This is the opposite of "light" steering - in fact this steering has a significant "weight" to it - the force required to act through the lever arm of trail against the forward momentum of the bike and rider.  This longer trail lever arm is what makes the bike move out from under the cyclist quickly - so you can establish your lean and turn angle and get on with the business of cornering.

What I experienced with the bikes (several of the bikes I've owned over the years had what I considered excessive fork offset - therefore insufficient trail) i considered "low-trail" was that it was easy to turn the bars - but not very much happened.  I would approach a high-speed downhil curve - and have to turn the bars a lot to get any response, then once the lean was finally acquired - there was an overshoot and more steering was required to get the proper line.  This didn't make for confident cornering and wouldn't be at all safe with heavy loads.  Bikes with the proper amount of trail just jumped to the line I wanted and stayed there very smoothly and felt like they were "on rails".  All of my bikes with trail in the "mid-range" handled fine, but the ones with low trail were unsettling to corner with.    So I have found good handling bikes with head angles from 74 to 70 (my two 75 degree "road" bikes were not satisfactory) and fork offsets from 38 to 55 that have moderate trail as their shared characteristic.  The bikes that handled the worst were both 73 degree head angles with 55mm fork offsets - very low trail.  Interestingly enough - most of the literature indicates that moderate trail geometry is easier to ride hands off.  So why do some touring bike designers like low trail?  I don't know - maybe they don't ride them themselves, but design them for theoretical tourists with heavy loads in floppy handlebar bags and under-developed bike handling skills.

This link is the best discussion on this subject I have been able to find:http://www.johnforester.com/Articles/BicycleEng/Kvale%20Geometry.pdf
Title: Re: Trek 520
Post by: whittierider on July 27, 2010, 01:09:07 am
Quote
most of the literature indicates that moderate trail geometry is easier to ride hands off.

The head tube angle and the fork rake work together to produce trail, and these work together to determine stability.  The Rivendell Reader, issue #31 from Jan '04, had a report on some experiments Rivendell did.  They made a special fork with long horizontal dropouts, so the wheel could be moved forward and back.  They did not have a way to change the head tube angle so easily, but from what they did try, the writer says about trail: "The biggest difference came out in no-hands riding-- the low-trail bikes were easy to ride at low speed, where the tons-o'-trail bikes were hard; and at high speeds it was just the opposite."

Marc Muller, Waterford's designer (although I don't know if he is anymore), speaks of another thing he calls "steering angle," which also brings the wheel size into the equation (which makes sense, since rake and trail have to be relative to the wheel size).  Usually we're only talking about 700c though.

There's also the matter of how far forward from the steering tube you put your hands on the bars (involving the bar reach and the stem length) affecting the handling.  Short stems and bar reach make a bike less stable, without improving the quickness of handling.
Title: Re: Trek 520
Post by: playpiano1980 on July 27, 2010, 09:23:03 pm
You are half correct - 73/55 is a very low trail design, but low trail means that the handlebars have to turn a lot to make the bike turn - not good handling.  You can have the bars "twitch" all over the place and nothing happens.

With a high trail design, the bike steers significantly with every "twitch" of the bars.

If you look at a criterium racing bicycle it will have very little fork offset, because the trail is already diminished by the steep angle.  By cutting down on the offset - the designer is actually adding some trail back in to keep the steering quick.  

Take a look at a frame design book if you don't believe me.  I have changed a nasty slow steering "pig" of a sports tourer into a responsive enjoyable ride that carves turns great by replacing the 55mm fork with a 38mm.  (Truth is, I would have prefered a 42, but I still haven't found an affordable one.)

Road touring is great at 72/45.

Replacing the fork can have tremendous benefits, I have a buddy who recently completed this install and loves his bike more than ever. He use to call it "sluggish", and wanted a new bike, now he is happy, and so is his bank account!!
Title: Re: Trek 520
Post by: digimarket on February 04, 2017, 04:24:31 am
This is amusing.  I recently purchased a late model Trek 520 frame to build up into a loaded road tourer and I was searching for people's experience with 520's.  I found this topic and was reading through it, and thinking, "this guy thinks the way I do".  HA!  It is me!  I had totally forgotten about this thread.  I still have my Aurora, and like it a lot but it currently has 32 spoke wheels and rims too narrow for anything over 28mm on it.  I got a deal on the 520 frameset from a guy who had moved all the stock components to a Bruce Gordon.  Just the kind of bike project I like - a bare frameset that I can build to suit me.  When I'm done it won't look much different than a stock 520, but none of the components will be the same.  So far I've collected:  Shimano Deore 36 hole hubs with Velocity Dyad Rims, Serfas Vida 700x38 tires, Planet Bike Hardcore Hybrid Fenders, Nitto Noodle Bars, Cane Creek V levers, Avid SD-7 V brakes, Salmon Cool Stop pads, an old Specialized stem, Performance Pro SL Saddle, Shimano UN55 square taper sealed bottom bracket, old Specialized "strong arm" mountain compact triple crankarms, Race Face 9-speed rings 44x32x20, SRAM 9 speed chain, an old Easton seatpost, Tubus Ergo Lowrider front rack, Lone Peak Sundance front Panniers, the stock Bontrager rear rack, and Ortleib Back Roller Classic bags.  My trusty Zefal HP full size frame pump (don't leave home without it) fits perfectly along the top tube using the stock pump peg.  I'm still debating on the drivetrain.  It will have bar end shifters - either Shimano 9 speed or Silver Shifters , I haven't decided which derailleurs I will finally use, but will start with an old Deore XT on the back and a M900 XTR on the front and see if they can handle the range.  I need to buy a new wide range 9-speed cassette  I've ordered bottle cages for 1.5 liter disposable bottles.  Once it is built, I can do back to back rides with it and the Aurora (switching wheels) and will report on my impressions.  One thing I'm uncertain about is pedals.  I use Look clipless on all of my road bikes, but I don't want to tour/camp in them.  I need to find some wide pedals (with cages and straps) that work really well with trail runners and boots.  I can't go to SPD after resisting for decades - for me that would be going to the dark side.
Title: Re: Trek 520
Post by: DaveB on February 04, 2017, 09:22:51 am
You are half correct - 73/55 is a very low trail design, but low trail means that the handlebars have to turn a lot to make the bike turn - not good handling.  You can have the bars "twitch" all over the place and nothing happens.

With a high trail design, the bike steers significantly with every "twitch" of the bars.
Again, I think you have this backwards.  "Trail" is the same as "castor" and controls the self-centering tendency of the front wheel.  A large trail figure tends to keep the front wheel pointed straight ahead and makes turning sluggish but makes high speed stability better.  Low trail is more responsive but requires more attention to keeping the bike in a straight line.
Title: Re: Trek 520
Post by: dkoloko on February 04, 2017, 11:57:35 am
I have a 2015 Trek 520. Best touring bike I've owned. Not had a LHT; numerous comments of truck like performance (rides best loaded). LHT seems to have a cheaper frame to me. Bar end shifters have saved me; switched to friction mode when indexing failed on tour.

If you like the 520, why hesitate? buy it. As for suggestions to test ride both, lots of luck my area. Lucky for a shop to have one touring bike in stock, much less a selection of makes and sizes.
Title: Re: Trek 520
Post by: bikemig on February 05, 2017, 01:00:03 pm
The Trek 520 is a classic touring bike for good reason. If looking to save some money, it's tough to beat the Fuji touring (the '016 and '017) model. It's nicely spec'd and very reasonably priced.
Title: Re: Trek 520
Post by: dkoloko on February 05, 2017, 01:23:13 pm
When I went from a new Fuji touring bike to a Trek 520, my local bike shop, who did not sell me either, said the 520 was better "in every way". Why I would not go that far, I would say, based on my experience, spend the few extra hundred dollars,  buy the Trek.
Title: Re: Trek 520
Post by: bikemig on February 05, 2017, 03:45:01 pm
When I went from a new Fuji touring bike to a Trek 520, my local bike shop, who did not sell me either, said the 520 was better "in every way". Why I would not go that far, I would say, based on my experience, spend the few extra hundred dollars,  buy the Trek.

I've wrenched on my share of bikes over the years and I've examined both bikes pretty closely both online and in person.

A 2017 Trek 520 runs $1360; a 2017 Fuji touring runs $719. That's a whole lot of coin. The Trek has disc brakes which is an advantage. Otherwise the two bikes have a chrome moly frame, deore cranks, deore hubs, deore rear derailleurs, and bar end shifters. The fuji comes stock with vittoria randonneur 700 x 32c tires (pretty nice tires). I have a tough time seeing $600 worth of difference.

Don't get me wrong. I understand why you or the OP might prefer the Trek; it's a famous touring bike. I'm just saying that the Fuji is very comparably spec'd (other than primarily the disc brakes) and costs $600 less.

Title: Re: Trek 520
Post by: dkoloko on February 06, 2017, 10:33:31 am
When I went from a new Fuji touring bike to a Trek 520, my local bike shop, who did not sell me either, said the 520 was better "in every way". Why I would not go that far, I would say, based on my experience, spend the few extra hundred dollars,  buy the Trek.

I've wrenched on my share of bikes over the years and I've examined both bikes pretty closely both online and in person.

Don't get me wrong. I understand why you or the OP might prefer the Trek; it's a famous touring bike. I'm just saying that the Fuji is very comparably spec'd (other than primarily the disc brakes) and costs $600 less.

I thought so too, about equal, by looking. After use, not so much; but, if cost is absolutely critical, the Fuji is a good buy.     
Title: Re: Trek 520
Post by: John Grossbohlin on March 04, 2017, 11:27:49 pm
So I've gotten hooked reading about touring. I've a pretty avid hiker, and this appeals to me in so many ways. Well, my question is this...

I've been doing tons of research, and it seems that I'm leaning toward buying a Trek 520 for my first touring bike. I want to know why some of you think I "shouldn't" buy this bike. I keep reading great reviews, but I need the opinion of some vets to reassure me that I'm making the right decision.

Thanks in advance!
SPC
I bought a couple 520s, one for my son and one for myself. We rode them on the Erie Canalway route and through the Rockies from LaJunta, CO to Pasco, WA. In the Rockies we mostly used the TransAmerica and Lewis and Clark routes. The next year we needed another bike for my other son... unfortunately I didn't move fast enough that year and there were no 520s to be had and few LHTs. I ended up getting a slightly larger LHT for myself and put my son on my 520. We rode from FL to NY with them. 

Bottom line... it didn't really matter which bike I was on from a mechanical reliability, riding or comfort perspective... tires excepted. 

I put Brooks Flyer saddles on all of them from day one. Tires... In my opinion throw the stock tires away and put Schwalbe Marathon Plus on just before you start your trip. All of the Trek's Bontrager tires delaminated during the trip in the Rockies. I found a pair of 700x28 Schwalbe tires in Hamilton, MT and put them on my son's bike (at age 15 he was a lot lighter than I). The tires from his bike went on mine but they were completely shot by the time we were done... perhaps 2,000 miles on them. They were replaced by Schwalbe tires also. The Continentals on the LHT were showing cracks by the end of the trip... again about 2,000 miles. Plenty of flats with the OEM tires...

If the cosmetics are a deciding point I think the 520 probably wins. Otherwise... I don't see a practical difference.

My original touring bike back in the '80s was a Trek 850 (Trek's first mountain bike) that I set up for touring with road tires, racks, and extra bottle cages, Cannondale panniers, etc. There weren't too many "touring bike" options in those days (the Trek 520 and 620 being the notable exceptions) and I already had the 850 so that is what I went with. Other than the bars, from looking at photos of loaded bikes, I imagine my 850 touring rig wasn't much different from a LHT with 26" wheels. The photo shows the 850 the day after I finished the 3,142 mile '86 trip... the day I finished I rode from East Stoudsburg, PA north on Rte 209 in a light snow storm for about 80 miles and the last 35 on wet roads... everything was covered in grit including me. I look at it today and think that I was carrying way too much stuff! ::)
Title: Re: Trek 520
Post by: driftlessregion on March 12, 2017, 10:03:57 pm
Read this from Adventure Cycling Magazine to learn about trail etc.
http://www.adventurecycling.org/default/assets/resources/20140601_MechanicalAdvantageTrail_Heine.pdf