Author Topic: Touring bike for 80% pavement, 20% gravel/dirt  (Read 3883 times)

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Offline ssriess

Touring bike for 80% pavement, 20% gravel/dirt
« on: April 29, 2021, 02:44:02 pm »
I am looking to upgrade my touring bike from an entry level road bike to something a bit better suited to touring. I plan on spending most of the time on pavement, but I want to be able to do gravel/dirt roads or well worn double track. I'm looking for suggestions in the $1 - $2k range.

Offline HikeBikeCook

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Re: Touring bike for 80% pavement, 20% gravel/dirt
« Reply #1 on: April 29, 2021, 03:15:08 pm »
The Surly Long Haul Trucker and Disc Trucker are top picks as well as the Trek 520. I am sure there are many other favorites among members here. What is available will dictate what you can actually buy, there is currently a world-wide shortage of bikes.
Surly Disc Trucker, Lightspeed Classic, Scott Scale, Klein Mantra Comp. First touring bike Peugeot U08 - 1966

Offline John Nelson

Re: Touring bike for 80% pavement, 20% gravel/dirt
« Reply #2 on: April 29, 2021, 04:16:53 pm »
HikeBikeCook offered good suggestions for the bike. The bike, however, is less important than the tires. Make sure you get something that will accept wider tires, at least 40 mm.

Offline RonK

Touring bike for 80% pavement, 20% gravel/dirt
« Reply #3 on: April 29, 2021, 05:27:04 pm »
Forget about those conventional touring bikes. Yes, they manage ok over short sections of gravel, but for longer routes they require a high level of concentration, and become quite tiring. And once you start riding the gravel back roads (which will take you to many places sealed roads never will) you'll want to ride them more and more.
A better choice for riding mixed surfaces is the Salsa Fargo.
29x2.1 Vittoria Mezcal tyres will roll very nicely on sealed roads or gravel.
You will have the option of using bikepacking gear or conventional racks and touring luggage.
They are very popular and stocks sell out quickly, so get you order in early.
.
« Last Edit: April 30, 2021, 01:03:40 am by RonK »
Cycle touring blog and tour journals: whispering wheels...

Offline ray b

Re: Touring bike for 80% pavement, 20% gravel/dirt
« Reply #4 on: April 29, 2021, 08:34:49 pm »
Forget about those conventional touring bikes. A better choice for riding mixed surfaces is the Salsa Fargo.
29x2.1 Vittoria Mezcal tyres will roll very nicely on sealed roads or gravel.
You will have the option of using bikepacking gear or conventional racks and touring luggage. They are very popular and stocks sell out quickly, so get you order in early.
.

Right. I'll second the versatility of mountain bike frames. The geometry gets the bars up with relatively short steerers (carbon-friendly). The wider stays and forks make for similarly wide selection in rims and tires.

I've gradually replaced my stable with an old Surly Karate Monkey with 3 forks, two stems, and 3 sets of 622mm wheels, 2 sets of which are Rohloff-based - one with narrow rims and one with wide rims. (The other set is a light-weight single speed pair for commuting.)

Forks include the original with steerer cut relatively short, a new braze-on-laden ECR fork with long steerer to accept a Fred Bar with arm rests above my regular bars, and an old Rock Shox Reba air, currently set up at 80 mm travel. Very happy. Packing lightly, I can keep up with just about anyone I meet touring on road or trail.

Have fun with this. And if it's the difference between riding and not riding, don't wait for perfection. My first really big trip was on a criterium racing frame with no eyelets or water bottle bosses, tubular tires, and an 8-pound kit for clothes and camping. What a blast.
“A good man always knows his limitations.”

Offline John Nelson

Re: Touring bike for 80% pavement, 20% gravel/dirt
« Reply #5 on: April 29, 2021, 09:46:55 pm »
80% road and 20% dirt is still mostly road. I’d get a road bike. I agree that the Surly LHT and Trek 520 are your best bets. Although you can make any bike work, if you’re already committed to buying a new bike, I see no reason not to get a bike specifically designed for the intended use. Both the LHT and 520 will do quite well on dirt, and superbly on pavement. You can pack light if you want, but these bikes also give you the option of packing heavy if you want.

Offline Inge

Re: Touring bike for 80% pavement, 20% gravel/dirt
« Reply #6 on: April 30, 2021, 12:45:34 am »
I would get a bike with as wide tyres as possible - even for just road use. I currently have Schwalbe G one al round 70 mm for tyres and really like it. Gives so much more comfort than 40 or 50 mm tyres (have had both).

Besides that what type of bars do you want: drop, Jones, regular MTB bar? I have salsa cowbell on my gravel (now indoor bike) and Jones H bar on my touring bike. If you really like to look around you I would chose the Jones bars for you sit up a bit straighter but stil have all the handpositions of the dropbar. Bar choice kinda decides what type of frame you want.

I second by the way the Salsa Fargo (my gravel bike) or Surley bikes but also important is do you want a derailleur or Pinion or Rohloff (my favorite).

Offline staehpj1

Re: Touring bike for 80% pavement, 20% gravel/dirt
« Reply #7 on: April 30, 2021, 06:38:40 am »
There are a lot of possible answers depending on your usage.  Two factors that will greatly affect the choice are what kind of dirt/gravel and what kind of and how much baggage are you carrying.

The dirt/gravel question could mean anything from a full MTB to a road bike maybe with fatter than usual tires.  People have ridden a good bit of dirt on road bikes.    Also you can get off and walk if it only gets too bad to ride once in a while.  It wasn't touring, but I remember seeing a young ultra runner triathlon guy winning a 100 mile MTB race that had a ton of single track on a road bike (I think he shouldered the bike and ran a lot of the really gnarly single track).

With lighter and more compact gear you may consider not going the traditional pannier route.  That or possibly two panniers (either front or rear).  There are also rackless systems popularized by bikepacking.

Personally I am not a huge fan of touring bikes.  Mine hasn't been ridden in a LONG time.  That is largely because I quit using panniers though.  That said with your stated mix of pavement and dirt it would seem that considering a gravel bike or even a mountain bike might be a good idea.

I have not ridden any of the current crop of gravel bikes, but I'd love to tour on one.  You could use one with a full on 4 pannier setup, but as you go lighter they probably look more attractive.

I have toured on an older rigid MTB (1990 Cannondale) and enjoyed it for mixed surface touring.  I was packed ultralight, but it would have worked for heavier touring.  The tour included pavement, gravel, double track, and single track.  The bike handled it all very well.  I used cross country race tires with lots of small low knobs (26x2.1 kenda slant six in this case) and they rolled well even enough on the pavement.  I was surprised that I didn't mind them at all on the road.  Maybe it helped that I had low expectations for paved surface performance, but they were fine.

Offline ssriess

Re: Touring bike for 80% pavement, 20% gravel/dirt
« Reply #8 on: April 30, 2021, 10:26:49 am »
Thanks everyone. Although this is all a moot point right now because there are zero bikes available at the moment..... my biggest factors in choosing a bike are 1) how much it weighs (30 lbs... no thanks), and having a granny gear to make it up into the mountains. Oh...and it's actually available!

Offline staehpj1

Re: Touring bike for 80% pavement, 20% gravel/dirt
« Reply #9 on: April 30, 2021, 10:55:23 am »
Are there really zero bikes available?  I know shops floors are picked over, but I looked at REI and a few other sites and they seemed to have stock on hand.  They will ship and if you are near one of their stores shipping to the store is an option.  They seemed to have the Cannondale Topstone 1 in stock if you were interested in an alloy gravel bike.  It looks like it has rear rack mounts and you could use bikepacking techniques to carry some load in the front (bar roll).

It looks like a nice bike for mixed on off pavement use.  I could see myself touring on one.

It also looks like they have a couple touring bike models in stock.

If you were willing to order online there are probably lots of other options.

Offline HikeBikeCook

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Re: Touring bike for 80% pavement, 20% gravel/dirt
« Reply #10 on: April 30, 2021, 12:46:04 pm »
We toured on gravel and twin track on mountain bikes and I was just miserable in the saddle after 40 miles. If you mountain bike anything but gravel roads or twin track you spend very little time actually in the saddle - you are usually perched on the front or hanging off the back. When I built out my Surly I did not want drop bars so I went with the classic European Touring bars (butterfly bars). I have an adjustable stem sitting at the highest position on the steering tube. This gets the weight of my old arthritic shoulders, and gives me all the comfort of flat bars with the versatility in hand position of drop bars, The adjustable stem gives me the ability to get a little more aerodynamic on those days with killer headwinds. I wound up getting a set back seat post to accommodate the change in ridding position and my Brooks saddle.

I was afraid the bike might not handle well, but I found it a dream to ride, responsive, good with a load, and comfortable on the long haul. This is a 2019 LHT, so I kept the end plug shifters and got a set of Paul Racing Thunmbies to move them up to the handle bar with my brake levers, very similar to my mountain bike. 2021 saw a redesign of the Trucker, which I believe makes it even more gravel friendly. Bikes are personal things and need to fit your body and riding style. Brand is not as important as the geometry and fit. - Like a famous wine critic said when asked what wine to drink with beef - he said "drink something you like" :) I have never ridden a bike that I have not tweaked year-over-year as my body changed or new products hit the market.
« Last Edit: April 30, 2021, 12:48:16 pm by HikeBikeCook »
Surly Disc Trucker, Lightspeed Classic, Scott Scale, Klein Mantra Comp. First touring bike Peugeot U08 - 1966

Offline BikeliciousBabe

Re: Touring bike for 80% pavement, 20% gravel/dirt
« Reply #11 on: April 30, 2021, 01:54:19 pm »
Weighs in at 30 lbs. for size M less pedals but including racks and is available now, although M is low stock.

https://www.rei.com/product/122462/co-op-cycles-adv-11-bike

I ride my heavier (but also) larger LHT (discontinued for this year) on and off road, including somewhat rough off road sections of more than a few miles.

Offline ray b

Re: Touring bike for 80% pavement, 20% gravel/dirt
« Reply #12 on: May 01, 2021, 01:17:04 am »
Are there really zero bikes available? 

I agree with the sentiment of this question. Stock available in St. Louis, and online. As I note above, it doesn't have to be perfect to have an adventure. Think of the fun I had riding dirt on tubular tires.
“A good man always knows his limitations.”

Offline staehpj1

Re: Touring bike for 80% pavement, 20% gravel/dirt
« Reply #13 on: May 01, 2021, 08:02:28 am »
Are there really zero bikes available?  I know shops floors are picked over, but I looked at REI and a few other sites and they seemed to have stock on hand.  They will ship and if you are near one of their stores shipping to the store is an option.  They seemed to have the Cannondale Topstone 1 in stock if you were interested in an alloy gravel bike.  It looks like it has rear rack mounts and you could use bikepacking techniques to carry some load in the front (bar roll).
FWIW, it looks like the M now not in stock.  I am pretty sure it was yesterday when I looked, but today just L and XL.  By the way they list the weight at 22 lbs. 9.6 oz. since we are mentioning weights and the OP said, "30 lbs... no thanks".

Offline driftlessregion

Re: Touring bike for 80% pavement, 20% gravel/dirt
« Reply #14 on: May 01, 2021, 09:14:43 pm »
A regular touring bike with 700/32  will be fine in my experience for the conditions you describe. Wider if you can but at least 32.