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Topics - biased bohemian

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I am new to touring and I want to purchase a touring bike in the next several weeks for the Nothern Tier trip from NH to WA.  The local bike shop sells 3 touring models - the Fuji Touring and the Rocky Mountain Sherpa 10 or 30.  As the trip is long and I will be flying solo my primary concern is reliability.  I will be camping whenever possible.

I have seen recommendations for bikes that have a low gear setting at most 25 but these bikes all come with 30.  Also, the tire size is 32 and I have read that 35 is the recommended size.

First - does anybody have experience owning or riding these 3 bikes?  If so, please let me know what your thoughts are on quality and reliability.  Would you recommend another bike in its place?  I am willing to spend in the ballpark of $1,500.

Second - is a 30 crank and 32 tire size reasonable, or will I regret not getting the recommended 25 / 35?  I'm fine with a workout, but don't want to skimp if most people have found it worth the cost.

Most reviews are for the Trek and Surely, with some for the Jamis Aurora and Canondale.  I have seen mixed reviews for the Fuji Touring and only one extremely positive review for the Sherpa.  I can try other bikes, but I trust the bike shop and would prefer to do business through them if possible.

Thanks!!! :-\

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