Author Topic: Loaded Tour Bike Handling  (Read 12176 times)

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Offline dancingcyclist

Loaded Tour Bike Handling
« on: June 05, 2015, 04:23:04 pm »
I just completed building up a bike and doing a two day/one night local ride of 120 miles. I'm riding a Raleigh Sojourn with an Arkel Low-rider front rack with Ortlib Classic front and rear panniers. Approximate total weight with food, clothes, camping gear 3 water bottles, and the rest needed for multi-day touring including bike is about 90-95 lbs. Split up roughly as follows: Front panniers 13-14 lbs., Rear 30 lbs., Seat bag 2-3 lbs., Bar bag 5 lbs., This ride was for learning and testing out everything in prep for longer tours later.

Problems I ran into and was surprised to find after spending many months researching, as I never read about this occurring. When standing up to pedal the bike became very hard to maintain a straight line. With the rocking motion from pedaling the bike would veer off left and right making it very dangerous and almost impossible to handle. I also noticed that when standing even only just enough to relieve seat pressure the bike would start to shimmy in the front, the more forward I leaned the worse it got. This made it difficult to continue riding after 50-60 miles having to stay seated continuously. This included taking short off-bike breaks.
I had to mount the front rack at an angle leaning back due to disc-brake caliper clearance, if that's makes a difference.
Are these handling problems normal??

My other problem I ran into was gearing. While building up the bike I had the bar-end shifters changed to STI for better control while shifting on Non-Paved Rail-Trails. My bike shop told me the lowest cog I could use with the STI shifters would be 32 tooth as opposed to the 34 that came with the bike. As I found out the hard way this is not a low enough gear as I ended up walking a number of hills with about a CAT 5 rated, 2.1% grade. I'll admit I'm not in the shape I once was @ 195 lbs., 63 years old but I do ride a road bike 2-4 times a week 30-40 miles per ride.
Is this correct info about the gearing and I just need to get in better shape or??

Thanks for the help.

Offline John Nelson

Re: Loaded Tour Bike Handling
« Reply #1 on: June 05, 2015, 05:29:18 pm »
No, it's not normal. My loaded touring bike is rock-solid stable in all kinds of conditions.

My suggestions:
 - Reduce total weight. You're heavier than most.
 - Move weight from the back to the front. Try putting the heaviest items in the front. Try to make the gear on the front weigh as much as the gear on the back.
 - Reduce the weight in the handlebar bag.
 - Move the rear weight as far forward as you can. Try to get the center of gravity of your gear at or in front of the rear hub. If the center of gravity is much behind the rear hub, you may never achieve stability.
 - Try harder to level that rack.

Some of it, however, may just involve you getting more used to the bike.

We can't comment on your gearing because you didn't give us the whole picture. You only told us about the cogs. What about the rings?

Offline dancingcyclist

Re: Loaded Tour Bike Handling
« Reply #2 on: June 05, 2015, 05:48:41 pm »
Chainring is 30/39/50

Offline staehpj1

Re: Loaded Tour Bike Handling
« Reply #3 on: June 05, 2015, 05:57:45 pm »
I have found some of the bikes I have toured on took quite a bit of adjusting to riding with a load especially for standing climbing.  After a while the handling seemed fine and I couldn't figure how it ever could have been a problem.  The biggest adjustment was to the fully loaded bike I rode on my first tour (TransAmerica).

After riding coast to coast the bike felt really weird empty, but that adjustment only took a few minutes.

I also had issues with the criterium racer that I rode on the ST with a very light load.  At first I wondered if I had made a big mistake taking it.  A few days in I was loving it.

Offline RonK

Loaded Tour Bike Handling
« Reply #4 on: June 05, 2015, 06:26:32 pm »
Chainring is 30/39/50
Those are big chainrings. Many tourists (myself included) use an MTB 44/32/22 chainset.  And a 36t sprocket.
Misinformation too about STI and sprocket size. It's the dérailleur which limits the cassette range - use a long cage dérailleur and you're set.
Assuming you have 9-speed, you can use an MTB rear dérailleur and an MTB chainset, however MTB front dérailleurs are not compatible with STI and you will need to use an IRD Alpina for the smaller chainrings.
In 10-speed compatibility is another story so these mix 'n' match combinations may not work.
I find it quite difficult to pedal my fully-loaded bike in the standing position, but my bike is quite stable so no problem for me to stand to stretch and to relieve saddle pressure.
Correct load distribution will likely fix your stability issues, as posted by John.
« Last Edit: June 05, 2015, 06:36:06 pm by RonK »
Cycle touring blog and tour journals: whispering wheels...

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Loaded Tour Bike Handling
« Reply #5 on: June 05, 2015, 08:08:15 pm »
As Ronk says, you've got some big chainrings.  a smaller granny can help; I've heard of people going to 26 and (sometimes) 24 rings with 105 front drailers and making them work.  A good mechanic really helps.

Your shimmy is worrisome.  Despite what Jobst wrote at, some people have reported shimmy cases being caused by loose headsets and unbalanced panniers (especially in the front).  I've experienced shimmy that disappeared when loose wheel bearings were tightened, and especially by out of true wheels.  I'd suggest you make a list of possible causes, then check each one and correct them if necessary.

Bruce Gordon noted a while back that shimmy more often occurred on thin tubed bikes (racing bikes) with a load.  Since the Sojourn was built (or at least market) for touring, this shouldn't be your problem.
« Last Edit: June 05, 2015, 08:10:45 pm by Pat Lamb »

Offline mbattisti

Re: Loaded Tour Bike Handling
« Reply #6 on: June 05, 2015, 09:45:29 pm »
I've replaced a 30 tooth smallest chainring on several bikes with a 24, a huge help.  HOpefully your Sojourn has that long cage derailleur as mentioned in an earlier reply (to take up all that extra chain slack). A third eye or N stop chain guide is helpful to prevent a dropped chain when shifting off the middle ring.  A little finesse will be required for the upshift.  A very cheap fix - maybe $40 if you can do the work yourself.

Offline dancingcyclist

Re: Loaded Tour Bike Handling
« Reply #7 on: June 05, 2015, 09:52:10 pm »
Chainrings I figured I could change as well as Cogs even though my bike shop said no. I think I need to find a different shop. Unfortunately where I live in the PNW I only have one shop in town which creates a problem. The next closest is 30 miles.

I was concerned about the angel of the front panniers as a shimmy problem and can do some rework with shims to make them more upright but I would have to use a 1 inch shim between the fork and rack which I think is to much. More shimming create a weakness for weight bearing. The shifting of more weight to the front seems counterintuitive as from what I've research most weight should be on the rear, plus what about those that only use rear panniers only? However I'm up for any and all ideas and will do some more testing closer to home for handling conditions

I'm not going to be happy if I have to spend even more for gearing since my shop knew what I was trying to do when I bought the bike and made the changes from them. Which by the way, will lead to crossing Washington into northern Idaho and back this summer. Hopefully cross-country next year. I have to be able to climb the passes.

I don't know how I can drop weight much as I packed the bike with weight considerations as I did back in the climbing/backpacking days. In fact I'm using the same down sleeping bag and single person 3-season tent, both weigh only about 3-3.5 each.

Wish I had someone local that knows bike touring to work with. I've been talking about it for years to my friends with no luck on companions or knowledge. They all think I'm crazy.

Thanks again for all the input, I'm still open for more.

Offline John Nelson

Re: Loaded Tour Bike Handling
« Reply #8 on: June 06, 2015, 12:33:37 am »
I don't know where you did your research, but having most of the weight in the rear is not best. Yes, some people go with rear load only and are okay with that, but it's still not optimal. It is critically important to make sure that rear weight isn't too far back. Also, make sure your racks are solid and not flexing.

Some people can get away with violating these guidelines, but they're not carrying as much weight as you.

And yes, get smaller rings. When your shop said it can't be done, I'm sure they just meant without changing other stuff. It's obviously possible, but you might need to also replace other things. I don't think the guy at your shop really understood touring when he set up your bike. He probably thinks he does, but he doesn't. And he's not going to admit that he screwed up.
« Last Edit: June 06, 2015, 12:38:15 am by John Nelson »

Offline DaveB

Re: Loaded Tour Bike Handling
« Reply #9 on: June 06, 2015, 09:39:52 am »
- Reduce the weight in the handlebar bag.
Absolutely.  You have a 5 pound pendulum mounted high and on the steering mechanism.  Make it a LOT lighter.

As Ronk says, you've got some big chainrings.  a smaller granny can help; I've heard of people going to 26 and (sometimes) 24 rings...
If your crank has a separate 74 mm bolt circle for the granny a 24 or 26T chainring is a great help.  I've done it on numerous bikes and it works well.

Misinformation too about STI and sprocket size. It's the dérailleur which limits the cassette range - use a long cage dérailleur and you're set.
More misinformation here.  The derailleur does limit the maximum cog size but the cage length has nothing to do with it.  A long cage road derailleur won't accept a larger cog than it's short cage counterpart, it will only wrap up more chain and allow a larger total tooth count. 

Offline RussSeaton

Re: Loaded Tour Bike Handling
« Reply #10 on: June 06, 2015, 04:12:31 pm »
Based on specs given for the Raleigh Sojourn bike, it uses a Shimano FC-R453 triple crankset.  It has 130mm bolt circle diameter chainrings in the outer and middle positions.  And 74mm bcd ring in the inner position.  Your crankset can accept a 24 tooth inner chainring.  They are cheap and easy to find.  If you want to spend money you could put 48-38 rings on the outer two positions and 24 inner ring.  That would be a fine combination for touring.

As for your rear derailleur and cassette, it depends.  Your rear derailleur may or may not be able to get underneath a 34 tooth cassette cog.  You may be stuck with your 32 cog.  For some reason people forget there is a derailleur hanger bolted below the rear dropout.  It is what the derailleur attaches to.  If it is not long enough to allow the derailleur to get low enough, then the derailleur will not clear a 34 cog.  Its a combination of how long and low the derailleur hanger is and the derailleur itself.  But put a 24 inner ring on your crankset and the 32 cog will be OK.  Going up to a 34 cog won't get you much lower.

As for your bad handling.  Put as much weight as possible in the front panniers.  People forget they are on top of the bike and the bike is hauling their weight.  If you weigh 200 pounds, about 75% of your weight is supported by the rear wheel.  25% of your weight supported by the front wheel.  So that is 150 pounds on the rear and 50 pounds on the front.  You could put all of your baggage on the front panniers and you would still only be about equal in weight distribution.  I have toured with just front panniers only, no rear panniers at all.  Handling was perfect.  I always put the heavy items in the front panniers.


  • Guest
Re: Loaded Tour Bike Handling
« Reply #11 on: June 08, 2015, 08:00:56 am »
I never stand when riding loaded. You can always lift your butt off the seat while coasting. Think of a jockey holding back a horse on the back stretch during a race.

Offline John Nelson

Re: Loaded Tour Bike Handling
« Reply #12 on: June 08, 2015, 09:40:50 am »
I never stand when riding loaded.
I know this is true for some people. Of course, some people never stand when riding unloaded either. But I stand often when riding, both loaded and unloaded. This is not only to relieve pressure on the butt from time to time, but also to use different leg muscles. Furthermore, there are some hills I can't get up without standing.

Offline dancingcyclist

Re: Loaded Tour Bike Handling
« Reply #13 on: June 08, 2015, 09:26:21 pm »
Update on bike loading and gearing:
Talked with a couple of shops about the gearing and decided to go with a 26 tooth small chainring as mentioned in earlier postings with a large ring of 44. I'm thinking with my 32 cog I should be ok. It sounds like there could be some shifting alignment due to combining road & Mt. bike parts but I guess that's what I get for wanting STI shifters. But with riding both paved and unpaved roads/trails I like having both hands on the bar for control and still quick gear changing. I'll find out the end of the week when I get everything installed.

While I'm on the subject can anyone explain why touring bikes allies bar-end shifters. It seems to me that safety and convenience would have gotten the public and industry to change long ago. When I think back to the days of down-tube shifters and then my first STI shifters it's like night and day. Even with my first two day trip I just did having my shifters right there made it so nice and easy to shift for better peddling consistency.

I repositioned the front rack for better load positioning so I will be loading and road testing the bike this week to see how handing works with more weight up front. Still seems strange to me with wanting more weight up front but rear panniers are larger.

Thanks for all the advice, info and help

Offline Venchka

Re: Loaded Tour Bike Handling
« Reply #14 on: June 08, 2015, 09:39:32 pm »
Hate to say this but...
If you are changing gears get 24 front and 34 rear. Speaking from experience. This combination has been the textbook low gear combination since forever.
I rode & toured for years with down tube shifters. No problems ever. They always shifted and never broke.
I now ride and tour with bar end shifters. Both hands on the drops when shifting. Too early to tell about durability, but all good so far.
Good luck. I hope you get your bike sorted out.


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