Author Topic: Bike - Light Duty Touring Aluminum vs. Steel  (Read 4579 times)

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Offline OutSpokyn1

Bike - Light Duty Touring Aluminum vs. Steel
« on: July 13, 2016, 11:39:50 am »
Hi all,

I am planning to ride Transamerica with minimal gear (no or only emergency camping equipment) and am wondering about a light duty tour bike with an aluminum frame.

Any suggestions for a bike that is lighter weight but can handle panniers for shorter bike tours with camping gear? It does not necessarily have to be aluminum frame, but rather lighter in weight, but have comfortable geometry and riding position. Not necessarily a speedster, but rolls nicely, fun to ride.

Maybe I'm asking too much  :o

I am 5'1" and 120 lbs. Looking to bike 50-75 miles per day.

Not real fond of heavy, loaded up bikes.

Thanks!

indyfabz

  • Guest
Re: Bike - Light Duty Touring Aluminum vs. Steel
« Reply #1 on: July 13, 2016, 02:16:30 pm »
Back in 2011 I looked for a touring bike for my then GF who is 5' even. Only thing I could find off the shelf for someone her size was the smallest size (42 cm) Surly Long Haul Trucker with 26" wheels. She likes it a lot. Their Cross-Check, which they bill as a light touring bike, also comes in a 42 cm size but with 700c wheels. Both, of course, are steel.

Offline OutSpokyn1

Re: Bike - Light Duty Touring Aluminum vs. Steel
« Reply #2 on: July 13, 2016, 02:55:55 pm »
Thanks indyfabz, it's great to get feedback. I considered the LHT in 26" wheels but have not been able to ride one yet. I heard mixed reviews.

What was your girlfriends longest tour and was it self-supported?

Thanks again!

Offline RussSeaton

Re: Bike - Light Duty Touring Aluminum vs. Steel
« Reply #3 on: July 13, 2016, 03:16:56 pm »
I am planning to ride Transamerica with minimal gear (no or only emergency camping equipment)

Any suggestions for a bike that is lighter weight but can handle panniers for shorter bike tours with camping gear?

You seem to be a bit confused.  You want to ride across the USA with minimal gear.  Any racing bike with a large saddlebag and maybe handlebar bag will work perfectly for this.  Lighter the better.  Assuming it fits.  A light racing bike is much better for this than a heavy duty touring bike ridden with no bags.  But then you want a light bike that can handle panniers?  Panniers and heavy duty touring bikes kind of go together like peanut butter and jelly.  Light bikes do not have the ability to mount racks to hold panniers.  Light bikes cannot operate with heavy panniers hanging on them.  Pick either a light racing bike or a touring bike.  They are both bikes, but they are very different and do not really do the same things.  You want the same bike to win the Tour de France and ride the Rocky Mountain trail.

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Bike - Light Duty Touring Aluminum vs. Steel
« Reply #4 on: July 13, 2016, 04:16:32 pm »
I'd modify Russ' suggestion to a "light touring" or "sport touring" bike from various manufacturers.  Large saddlebag (perhaps with a seatpost rack to keep it off the tires) and a handlebar bag should be able to hold what you need for so-called "credit card" touring, in which you plan to stay at B&Bs, motels, etc.

The problem I have with full-on racing road bikes is that too many of them are built for racing: skinny tires that transmit road shock from all the back roads you'll be on, ultra-low bars that make it hard to view the scenery around you, and just-barely-doesn't-break-on-a-good-day light weight overall.  Add 3-4 pounds to the racing bike for the sport touring bike: get more spokes that won't stop you when one breaks, put on wider (28 or even 32) tires to soak up road vibrations, and beef up the frame and fork just a little so they don't crack when you find the nastiest pothole in existence 40 miles from anywhere.

You'll still have to find a bike that fits, from a dealer who will work with you to make sure the bike fits before you walk (or ride!) out of the store.

Offline RussSeaton

Re: Bike - Light Duty Touring Aluminum vs. Steel
« Reply #5 on: July 13, 2016, 05:10:42 pm »
I'd modify Russ' suggestion to a "light touring" or "sport touring" bike from various manufacturers.  Large saddlebag (perhaps with a seatpost rack to keep it off the tires) and a handlebar bag should be able to hold what you need for so-called "credit card" touring, in which you plan to stay at B&Bs, motels, etc.

The bike I am thinking of is my Cannondale CAAD7 bike.  Its 10-15-20 years old now.  Not sure how old it is.  Aluminum frame and carbon fork with aluminum steerer tube.  No eyelets for mounting racks.  Uses sidepull racing type brakes.  Fits 28mm tires just fine.  Back when it was new it may have been Cannondale's top racing frame.  I have low gearing on it.  13-28 cassette and 52-42-24 triple crankset.  I have ridden it in Colorado many times.  Up and down mountains.  Many centuries on it.  It probably weighs 20+ pounds or so.  Thirty years ago it may have been a high zoot racing bike.  Now I guess it fits the sport touring category.  It would be my first and only choice to put a large saddlebag on and ride across the US staying in motels every night.  I would never ever put panniers or a rack on it and try to carry heavy weight.  Its a great bicycle for riding on paved roads all day long.

Offline OutSpokyn1

Re: Bike - Light Duty Touring Aluminum vs. Steel
« Reply #6 on: July 13, 2016, 08:25:51 pm »
Maybe I am confused and maybe I'm asking for something that isn't possible, so that's why I asked the experts. So I was thinking of these bikes as possibilities:
- Liv Brava SLR Cyclocross
- Giant Revolt 1
- Specialization Dolce EVO

Or

- Surly Straggler

Could they handle racks and bags or it's not recommended?



Offline RussSeaton

Re: Bike - Light Duty Touring Aluminum vs. Steel
« Reply #7 on: July 14, 2016, 01:20:17 am »
You're asking one bike to do two different tasks.  You want to ride across the country on paved roads carrying minimal baggage and stay in motels.  The best bike for this is a road racing style bike.  It does not have to be a racing bike.  But a bike designed to be ridden only on the road and carry minimal bags.  It should be an easy to ride bike on paved roads.  Lightweight.  Skinny tires for less rolling resistance.  A racing style bike.  With low gears.  It does not have to be a Tour de France race bike.  Just a road only "racing" style bike.

And then you also want a bike that "can handle panniers for shorter bike tours with camping gear".  There are many bikes you can mount a rear rack on and pile stuff on top of the rear rack.  But this usually comes with lots of compromises.  Only loaded touring bikes are really designed for panniers and weight like camping gear.  Other bikes might be able to do this but not well.

All the bikes you listed are sort of cyclocross bikes.  Maybe you could mount racks and panniers to them.  But they really aren't that good for a paved road ride across the country.  They would make it.  Yes.  But a mountain bike would also make it.  Or a BMX bike.  I have a cyclocross bike similar to that Surly you listed.  I enjoy riding it.  But of all my bikes it would be a ways down the list of ones I would pick to ride across the US on paved roads.

Pick one of the things you want to do.  1.  Ride across the US on paved roads with minimal gear staying in motels.  Or 2.  Handle panniers for shorter bike tours with camping gear.  Find a bike that can do one of those things really well and enjoy yourself.  If you later want to do the other, get a second bike designed for that task.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Bike - Light Duty Touring Aluminum vs. Steel
« Reply #8 on: July 14, 2016, 06:35:56 am »
I rode an old aluminum 1990 Cannondale Crit race bike across the US on the ST route packed very light (~14 pounds of bags and gear).  That was camping and cooking with minimalist packing style.  I used a bivy and a tiny half tarp, but could have used my light one man tent with only a small weight increase.

I used a rear rack and a handlebar bag on that trip.  My clothes and gear were in two stuff sacks on top of the rear rack.  It all worked out very well and I greatly enjoyed the bike.

The lighter the load the more easily you can attach the baggage.  With a very light load you could even use one of those racks that clamps on the seat post.  Rackless bags would work as well, but I found them to be more expensive and actually a bit heavier than my rack and stuff sacks were, so I used a regular rack attached p clamps on the top.  It worked out well.

Another option some people use when going heavier is a trailer.  That way you can use the light bike and take the trailer when you go heavier.  I'd usually just take minimal gear even on camping and cooking tours rather than use a trailer.  My gear typically weighs less than a trailer like the popular BoB does empty if you include the weight of the BoB duffle bag, so for me it doesn't make sense.  If you want a light bike and sometimes want to pack pretty heavy it might make sense for you.

You say, "Not real fond of heavy, loaded up bikes."  I'd say that I found the LHT to ride like a tank loaded or not.  Some folks love them, but given your comment, I suspect you may not.

indyfabz

  • Guest
Re: Bike - Light Duty Touring Aluminum vs. Steel
« Reply #9 on: July 14, 2016, 07:36:41 am »


What was your girlfriends longest tour and was it self-supported?

Thanks again!

Two longest were a week+ plus in Montana and Canada and 10 days in Montana. Several other three-day trips. All self contained. She towed a trailer. She never really took to unsupported touring.

Offline OutSpokyn1

Re: Bike - Light Duty Touring Aluminum vs. Steel
« Reply #10 on: July 14, 2016, 09:48:31 am »
Thank you everyone. I am learning a lot and being made aware of things I hadn't considered.

I think what I really need to do, is ride a loaded bike vs. an unloaded one and see how it goes and what I like.

I don't want to invest a lot in the process of figuring it out, so I think I need to borrow or rig some type of loaded setup vs. minimal on a couple of long rides/weekends.
possibly renting one, so I will look into that.

Again, thank you all for taking the time to respond to a newbie!

Offline paddleboy17

Re: Bike - Light Duty Touring Aluminum vs. Steel
« Reply #11 on: July 14, 2016, 12:57:41 pm »
A couple of thoughts to guide you.

If you go the trailer route, i recommend a longer wheel base bike.

A loaded bike will be pigish compared to an unloaded bike.  As other have noted, you want to do a lot of different things and no bike will do them all well.  You will have to make concessions and compromises.  Touring bikes do not always ride well unloaded either (I like mine fine, but I have heard others complain). 
Danno

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Bike - Light Duty Touring Aluminum vs. Steel
« Reply #12 on: July 14, 2016, 01:35:02 pm »
I don't usually get into the this model or that model specifics, but this time I got curious.  The first three are pretty similar, while the Liv looks like the "shrink it and pink it" version of the Revolt.   All four have low gears of about 27 gear inches.  Russ's bike has been modified to about 24 gear inch low, and I'm not sure what Pete's low gear is.  My preference is to go lower, to 22 or even 20 gear inches, and I've used those after 50 miles of hills when there's another 10 miles (and one more mountain!) to get to camp and my gear.  Ergo, I'd recommend you discuss the possibilities for lowering gears with the bike shop before you buy.  Ask about subbing in a mountain double crank, or a triple, for the stock gearing.

- Liv Brava SLR Cyclocross
- Giant Revolt 1
- Specialization Dolce EVO
...
- Surly Straggler

Could they handle racks and bags or it's not recommended?

The Straggler leads the way with eyelets for racks; I didn't see anything that looked like an eyelet on either of the other three, so you'd have to go with clamp-on rack mounts or Old Man Mountain racks.

It looks like all the models you're looking at have reasonably fat tires.  Get the bike now and wear out the tires by next spring, so you can put on some nice, light, flexible slicks before you leave.  (If you get the Surly, swap them out now and save the knobbies for trail rides.)

Above all, go down to your local bike shop and start test riding!  For a light, credit-card touring load, you shouldn't change the ride too much.  Pick the bike you like to ride, from the dealer who will fit the bike to you, and the dealer that everybody likes to go to for after the sale service.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Bike - Light Duty Touring Aluminum vs. Steel
« Reply #13 on: July 14, 2016, 01:52:55 pm »
All four have low gears of about 27 gear inches.  Russ's bike has been modified to about 24 gear inch low, and I'm not sure what Pete's low gear is.  My preference is to go lower, to 22 or even 20 gear inches, and I've used those after 50 miles of hills when there's another 10 miles (and one more mountain!) to get to camp and my gear.  Ergo, I'd recommend you discuss the possibilities for lowering gears with the bike shop before you buy.  Ask about subbing in a mountain double crank, or a triple, for the stock gearing.
On that bike I went with an 88" high and a 25" low.  I found that fine for a lightly loaded (14 pounds of gear) Southern Tier.  I accomplished that setup by using a 39/26 crank with a 12-28 cluster.  The crank was actually a triple converted to an ultra compact double by removing the big ring.  I really liked that setup pretty well.  I'd use that setup on the NT, TA, or ST with a similar load.  For much heavier loads or for something like the Sierra Cascades Route, due to the SC's extremely large amount of really steep climbs, I'd probably go lower to maybe 20" or 22".