Author Topic: Touring Bike Selection  (Read 11228 times)

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Offline tahoexc

Touring Bike Selection
« on: June 19, 2015, 10:03:28 pm »
Hi,
I'm struggling with how people select touring bikes when your local bike shops don't have any dedicated world touring bikes for test rides. I have a Co-Motion dealer nearby, but they don't have inventory for the models I am considering. All other options seem to not have the advantages of at least having a local Co-Motion dealer for sizing, support, etc. However, Co-Motion would stretch my budget beyond anything I imagined and being recently retired this is a difficult decision to invest in having never ridden a fully loaded self-supported touring bike.
My wife and I both enjoy mountain bikes and less frequently our road bikes. We dream of next spring doing a bike tour across America as a test run for more international bike tours. We are backpackers, so we think that our typical trips would involve 3 out of 4 days in tents followed by a day in a hotel, B&B, Hostel with more non-tent days in areas of highest interest. We have backpacked hundreds of miles in the Sierra Nevada mountains with extreme elevation changes, but we've never ridden a bike carrying more than a hydration backpack.

I'm willing to pay for quality and I don't want to buy something to test our interest with the plan to upgrade if all goes well. I'm struggling with whether I go with what seems like my only local offering even though they don't have a selection in stock, or whether I go with a remote builder and then how to decide between them without ever riding the bikes.

I've researched and found so many options and I'm struggling with how people make the final decision. Since we have always favored our mountain bikes and off-road, I feel like we would want off-road or rough road capabilities, but many of our desired routes across America, Europe, etc. will be mostly road and I think everywhere we would choose gravel or dirt over paved.

My initial research has me considering the following makes and I'm torn on whether the S&S couplers should be a major factor in my decision.

Co-Motion - Pangea, Americano, Siskiyou - all Rohloff
Rodriguez - Makeshift High-Roller
Santos - Travelmaster Rohloff or Pinion
Koga - World Traveller Rohloff or Pinion
Tout Terrain - Silkroad Explor Pinion
Thorn - Nomad Rohloff

I'm sure there are many more worth considering like the upcoming Surly World Troller or LHT.

It seams that with the strength of the US dollar that most others are less expensive than the Co-Motion and Rodriguez. I could easily work with a local Co-Motion dealer for fitting or I have to go it myself or fly to any other location.

How do you make your decision and how important do you weigh being able to test drive before you buy?

We think that bicycle touring could become our favorite mode of transportation for the next decade or more, but we are struggling to make such an investment without more advice and experience.

Sorry for such a long winded topic. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Offline DwarvenChef

Re: Touring Bike Selection
« Reply #1 on: June 20, 2015, 12:19:15 am »
I tested the Surly LHT when I lived in Fresno CA, and was immediately hooked on it. I had the same trouble with test riding the others as none of the shops even had contacts for these bikes. I was measured and put an order in for the Disc Trucker and was very pleased that it came in with the correct build for me. I've had it for two years and would buy it again if anything were to happen to it.

Can't say much about off road with my bike as I don't go off road if I can help it. Maintained dirt roads I don't consider off road :p
Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.

Offline Old Guy New Hobby

Re: Touring Bike Selection
« Reply #2 on: June 20, 2015, 07:35:44 am »
You don't have to over think this. Go with the tried and true. I have a Trek 520, but the Surly LHT is also  an excellent and popular touring bike. You shouldn't need a "remote builder". A good bike shop should be able to order and build one of these for you. The important characteristics are a stability, a good steel frame, braze-ons for racks and fenders, space for wider tires, rugged reliable components, and low gearing for long rides in hilly terrain. Both of these bikes are excellent tourers and moderately priced.

The fly in the ointment might be your desire for off-road capabilities. If you are talking about bike trails, a good touring bike will be fine. If the trail is poorly maintained with muddy areas, you will want wider tires, possible with treads. But if you want mountain biking on single-track trails, then a touring bike may not do well.

Offline Venchka

Re: Touring Bike Selection
« Reply #3 on: June 20, 2015, 07:23:21 pm »
The day I made my decision I went to Richardson Bike Mart. I asked to see touring bikes. They showed me an ugly green Trek 520. Low gear was 30 front, 34 rear. Useless. I left.
I drove to Plano Cycling, a Co-Motion dealer. Two hours later I had been measured, selected colors and written a check for a custom Americano.
Somehow, in my year+ search for a new bike, I missed the whole 29er thing. No worries. I have 40 X 700c tires on the Americano now and not afraid of unpaved roads.
Oh, I almost forgot. Stock low gear on the Americano: 24-34.  Don't leave home without it.

Wayne


Sent from somewhere around here.
Wayne
Deep in the darkest heart of the East Texas Rain Forest.
Quote
You've come far pilgrim...Feels like far...Were it worth the trouble?...Huh? What trouble?

Offline RussSeaton

Re: Touring Bike Selection
« Reply #4 on: June 20, 2015, 07:49:35 pm »
The day I made my decision I went to Richardson Bike Mart. I asked to see touring bikes. They showed me an ugly green Trek 520. Low gear was 30 front, 34 rear. Useless. I left.
I drove to Plano Cycling, a Co-Motion dealer. Two hours later I had been measured, selected colors and written a check for a custom Americano. Stock low gear on the Americano: 24-34.

For some reason you forgot to mention the Americano frame is $2000.  Complete bike around $4000.  Trek 520 is around $1500 I think for the whole bike.  Richardson Bike Mart is a high end shop in Dallas.  If you had told them up front you wanted to spend $4000 on a touring bike, I suspect they would have found you one.  Depending on what year you looked at the Trek 520, it may have used a Shimano triple crankset that could take a 24 tooth 74mm bolt circle diameter inner chainring.  If so, the Trek 520 would have the exact same gearing as the Americano, for $2500 less cost.  For the green color, can't help you.  But I think there are companies that paint bikes for a few hundred dollars.  You'd still be a couple thousand less than the Americano.

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Touring Bike Selection
« Reply #5 on: June 20, 2015, 10:48:11 pm »
As OP has found, many bike shops don't carry touring bikes.  If you want to test ride one, you pretty much have to (a) get lucky and live near a shop that does carry them, and (b) test ride them in April before they sell out this year's stock.

If you're within driving distance of an REI, you may be able to test ride a Randonee (road), Safari (mostly off-road), or Mazama (in between) bike.  There are a few wrinkles in the mass-produced touring bikes available, such as the long top tube on the Surly LHT.  However, pretty much all bikes pick from the same selection of groups available, so there's not a whole lot of difference between a Trek 520, LHT, or Randonee.  So after you've picked out your genre from REI, pick a production bike in the color of your choice (slime green, dead leaf brown, or black).  Wheels will need to be touched up, you may want to switch saddles, and you'll wear the original tires out. 

The key is to get one that fits you (or your wife).  REI doesn't do much to fit a bike, honestly, so if it's not a good fit there, pick out a good bike shop with a good repair capability and a great fitter, and buy the bike you choose.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Touring Bike Selection
« Reply #6 on: June 21, 2015, 06:53:22 am »
REI doesn't do much to fit a bike
That depends on the location.  In some REI locations the bike department is as good or better than the dedicated local bike shops.  At least that has been my impression.

Offline Venchka

Re: Touring Bike Selection
« Reply #7 on: June 21, 2015, 09:36:33 am »

The day I made my decision I went to Richardson Bike Mart. I asked to see touring bikes. They showed me an ugly green Trek 520. Low gear was 30 front, 34 rear. Useless. I left.
I drove to Plano Cycling, a Co-Motion dealer. Two hours later I had been measured, selected colors and written a check for a custom Americano. Stock low gear on the Americano: 24-34.

For some reason you forgot to mention the Americano frame is $2000.  Complete bike around $4000.  Trek 520 is around $1500 I think for the whole bike.  Richardson Bike Mart is a high end shop in Dallas.  If you had told them up front you wanted to spend $4000 on a touring bike, I suspect they would have found you one.  Depending on what year you looked at the Trek 520, it may have used a Shimano triple crankset that could take a 24 tooth 74mm bolt circle diameter inner chainring.  If so, the Trek 520 would have the exact same gearing as the Americano, for $2500 less cost.  For the green color, can't help you.  But I think there are companies that paint bikes for a few hundred dollars.  You'd still be a couple thousand less than the Americano.
I asked several times, "Is this (Trek 520) the only touring bike you sell?" "Yes."
The Shimano triple had the same 30 tooth inner chainring that they have been putting on bikes for decades. They are still doing it today. Clueless. I also inquired if the 520 could be set up with 24-34 low gears. It took them over an hour to confirm the combination was possible.  It was not a good experience.

Wayne


Sent from somewhere around here.
Wayne
Deep in the darkest heart of the East Texas Rain Forest.
Quote
You've come far pilgrim...Feels like far...Were it worth the trouble?...Huh? What trouble?

Online DaveB

Re: Touring Bike Selection
« Reply #8 on: June 21, 2015, 07:09:30 pm »
The Shimano triple had the same 30 tooth inner chainring that they have been putting on bikes for decades. They are still doing it today. Clueless. I also inquired if the 520 could be set up with 24-34 low gears. It took them over an hour to confirm the combination was possible.  It was not a good experience.
Shimano isn't "clueless", they are selling most of their triples to road riders, not tourists, so the 30T granny ring is adequate.  However, if you find one of the older FC-5703 or FC-4503  triple cranks, they still have a separate 74 mm bolt circle and will take a replacement granny ring down to 24T.    The newer Shimano triple cranks (FC -4603 and FC-6703) have the granny ring bolted to extended tabs on the middle chainring and with a 92 mm bcd and are indeed limited to a 30T granny chainring. 

As a further possibility, Shimano does make "Trekking" cranks geared 48/36/26 in Hollowtech II format and these have a 64 mm granny ring bolt circle and will take a 22T chainring. 

Offline Venchka

Re: Touring Bike Selection
« Reply #9 on: June 21, 2015, 08:56:50 pm »
Shimano will give you anything you want. As long as you want what Shimano will give you.
That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Wayne


Sent from somewhere around here.
Wayne
Deep in the darkest heart of the East Texas Rain Forest.
Quote
You've come far pilgrim...Feels like far...Were it worth the trouble?...Huh? What trouble?

Offline DanE

Re: Touring Bike Selection
« Reply #10 on: June 22, 2015, 07:05:18 pm »
It seems to me that the common denominator in your list of bicycles is a Rohlloff hub. I don't think you are going to find that type of hub unless you buy a high end bicycle like a Co-motion. I would think that the average Co-motion buyer is not a first time touring bike purchaser, knows what type of touring they like to do and is able to choose between the multiple models they offer and understands the cost rewards of buying a high end bicycle.

I think you need to decide if you really need and want to pay for a Rohloff hub and if you decide that you might not need it then try a Surly or a Trek. The local shop I deal with usually has a small and a large frame Surly LHT in stock. They can put most people in the door across one or the other and give you a test ride. They can then fine tune the size you need by ordering a different one and also select from the other choices they have such as disc brakes and 26" wheels etc. I think that is more than 95% of shops in America are capable of doing. Most shops have absolutely no knowledge of touring bicycles. I purchased a Co-motion from this same shop. They worked with me quite a bit on sizing and I was pleased. It was also not my first high end bike or my first touring bicycle.

Offline Old Guy New Hobby

Re: Touring Bike Selection
« Reply #11 on: June 23, 2015, 07:36:13 am »
You can put a Rohloff hub on just about any bike. Rohloff sells an excellent chain tensioner for standard bikes. It's not cheap. You will need a custom-built wheel. Cables can be run along the top tube with a bracket attached to the rear brake calipers. Or they can be run along the down tube with a bracket on the chain stay. I recommend the latter.

Online DaveB

Re: Touring Bike Selection
« Reply #12 on: June 23, 2015, 09:17:39 pm »
Shimano will give you anything you want. As long as you order in lots of 10,000 or more units
That's the correct statement.

Offline pptouring

Re: Touring Bike Selection
« Reply #13 on: July 10, 2015, 11:21:53 pm »
If I can be of any assistance please let me know. We own 4 Co-Motion bikes, 2 Pangea Rohloff and 2 Nor'Wester Tours (now called Cascadia) all 4 have bikes have S&S couplers.

We just recently completed traveling for 769 days 28 countries, 14 US states on our Pangeas. In the past we have done several fully loaded short tours in Europe riding our Nor'Wester Tours. We can understand your hesitation with buying a bike without being able to "test" ride it. We had the same issue and to add to that there were maybe one or two reviews out there. If we keep our Nor'Westers they will only be for commuting now. Although they are great touring bikes, they can not carry the weight like the Pangea, plus our Pangeas are Rohloff and once you've ridden a Rohloff you will not want to go back. 769 days in all types of conditions and not one single issue or adjustment needed, other than doing the oil change a couple times on the Rohloff.

As for the Surly and Trek, sure they are fine bikes and many have made it around the world too, but they're not made in the USA. This is our personal choice, but we go out of our way to not buy stuff made in China and if you look hard enough you can find a lot of items made elsewhere. Nomads look to be like pretty stout bikes and we came across a few of them during our travels, but they too are made in China/Taiwan, so no thanks. We also came across many Koga brands, they are very popular in Europe and they seem pretty good too and I believe they are made in Holland, but I think they are aluminum frames. 

Buying a Co-Motion is expensive but the quality is top shelf, it's built by craftsman and not machines or some poor sap making a few dollars a day in miserable conditions, and it helps keep a US builder in business.

I personally would not buy a Cascadia or Americano unless you plan to stick to mostly paved roads. The largest tire for either bike with fenders installed is a 35c and that is not big enough for extended gravel or dirt or mud. With the Divide or Pangea you can run much larger tires with fenders and they provide a much smoother ride over the rough stuff. Just remember with the larger tires comes added weight.

If you have any questions shoot me an email at pedalpowertouring(at)gmail(dot)com

Ron

Photo:Vietnam looking back at the mountains we came down the night before in the dark.


Offline Venchka

Touring Bike Selection
« Reply #14 on: July 12, 2015, 08:15:14 pm »
I also own a Co-Motion Americano. I recently installed Clement X'Plor MSO 40 x 700c tires. They are lighter than the 35 x 700c tires I replaced. No fenders yet. They will be next. After that, Old Man Mountain racks. USA made. I ride gravel roads. I hope to ride the GDMBR.
Oh, 24-34 low gear. I won't tour with anything less.
I plan to tour with an all up weight under 235 pounds. If I hit my target, my touring weight will be less than some riders without touring gear.

Wayne


Sent from somewhere around here.
« Last Edit: July 12, 2015, 08:17:07 pm by Venchka »
Wayne
Deep in the darkest heart of the East Texas Rain Forest.
Quote
You've come far pilgrim...Feels like far...Were it worth the trouble?...Huh? What trouble?