Author Topic: Trans Am Bicycle Choice???  (Read 12131 times)

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Offline Crzyhrsm4

Trans Am Bicycle Choice???
« on: March 05, 2008, 09:57:24 am »
Hello, I am new to this board but not so new to cycling.  I have been
mountain biking for many years and have a fair amount of experience
racing 24 hour races.  I am looking to do the Trans Am West to East next
June in at a fairly quick pace, and need some advise on bike choice.  I
have heard good things about the Co Motion Americano, the Cannondale
Touring 1, and the Trek 520.  I am looking for a bike that has a little
speed to it, as I will be limited in time, and will not break down too often.  
Any help or advise would be much appreciated.

This message was edited by Crzyhrsm4 on 3-5-08 @ 5:58 AM

Offline RussellSeaton

Trans Am Bicycle Choice???
« Reply #1 on: March 05, 2008, 10:16:35 am »
Travel light.  Very light.  Very, very light.  And you will have more speed and likely less concern about breaking down.  My road bikes never seem to break down.  But all they carry is me and a saddlebag.  The bikes you list are full on heavy duty loaded touring bikes.  Fine for full on heavy duty loaded touring.  I had a Trek 520 and rode it unloaded many miles.  Once I got a nice road bike I realized the Trek 520 was not wonderful for unloaded riding.  It was too heavy and clunky to be fun.  It was a heavy duty truck.  The nice road bike was a sports car.  For hauling 50 pounds of stuff all over Europe and the US, the Trek 520 was the choice.  And it worked fine.  But if I was going for speed and going light across the US, I'd pick a road racing type bike.  Ride 150+ miles a day and stay in motels each night.  Carry one extra pair of shorts and that's about it.  If you're planning on riding across the US and camping and cooking then I'm not sure you can go ultra light.

Of course the rider is the real determinant of how fast a bike is.  Train fast and hard and you will be able to ride any bike fast across the US.  If that is your goal.

Offline John Nettles

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Trans Am Bicycle Choice???
« Reply #2 on: March 05, 2008, 06:00:03 pm »
You didn't say what your goal was.

Is it to see the country or to ride across the country?  You can do the latter without doing the first but it would be very difficult to do the former in 30 days (you said June so maybe I am assuming a ultra quick tour).

What is your route?  How are you sleeping (hotel or camping)?  Are you eating in cafes??

I have met people who do it but I personally would not enjoy it as your really not experiencing it.

One guy I met was not going to make it in time since he got sick and wa laid up for 3 days.  He had a similar time frame and said he regretted the choice he made to try to do it all instead of enjoying it more.

No matter what though a day riding is better than a day at work :)

Happy trails and may the wind be at your back!


Offline MrBent

Trans Am Bicycle Choice???
« Reply #3 on: March 08, 2008, 01:06:37 am »
Any of the bikes you mention would be fine.  If your goal is to rack up big miles, the two biggest factors will be your fitness and how much stuff you are hauling.  A few pounds either way regarding the bike itself won't matter much.  Because of the miles and sometimes remote locations you are likely to encounter, I'd certainly avoid things like carbon forks/frames and low spoke-count wheels.  Other than that, any decent bike will do the job, and you've identified some rather nice ones!

I'm a recumbent nut and finished a TransAm last year.  I, however, was determined NOT to rush it.  My typical distance was 60 miles +/- per day with only a few exceeding 80.  This meant I could linger over coffee or have time to update my blog, hang out with people, have layover days when the weather was bad, etc.  Nothing wrong with charging across doing 100+ mile days, but I'll echo what the previous poster said: A friend who helped inspire my ride did the crossing himself in only 42 riding days--and regretted it.

As Russell said, to blast the miles, go light, the lightest being a credit card tour.  Get motels/hotels/B&B every night, eat out, carry just the minimal stuff.  It will be more expensive, for sure, but you'll have more fun doing big miles if you've got no worries about making camp and preparing meals.

In my opinion, people obsess a bit too much over the weight of their bikes.  If one is truly racing, then, yeah, weight starts to be important.  For a trans-continental ride, solo? Go with one of the tested designs.  I encountered places where I was 50 miles or more from the nearest services, and those services did NOT include a top-flight bike shop to deal with finicky, light-weight gear.  There's a lot to be said for feeling really confident with your kit when you're staring at a couple of hundred miles of lonely desert road.

Ride well and have a great adventure.  Although I suffered with the humidity, I would do it again!



Here's my blog with an early entry about my bike selection process:

Offline Crzyhrsm4

Trans Am Bicycle Choice???
« Reply #4 on: March 10, 2008, 06:12:26 pm »
Thanks to all for replying, I am limited on time and have only about 1
month to do this.  My work does not allow a longer absence, or I would
be taking a bit more time.  My goal is to finish, hopefully in about a
month, or I will be looking for a new job.  I have done several trips and 24
hour races that far exceeded the 120 mile +/- days, the trick will be to
string a month of that together.  Any further advise would be appreciated.  

Offline MrBent

Trans Am Bicycle Choice???
« Reply #5 on: March 10, 2008, 06:27:20 pm »
Sounds like you've got the chops for the ride.  Go credit card style and pick a short route!  Planning will be the key.  ACA maps might not be that useful as they tend to be longer/more scenic in routing.  Something to keep in mind.

The alternative, of course, is to do a shorter ride and wait until job/life provides a bigger window for a more leisurely pace.

If you can schedule a ride for early spring, late fall, a crossing of the Southern Tier would be very direct and sub 3,000 miles.  Probably too hot in summer for most folks. :)

Best of luck!


Offline MRVere

Trans Am Bicycle Choice???
« Reply #6 on: April 03, 2008, 10:18:32 pm »
WOW a month of back to back to back centuries.  I agree go light. I would recommend a Road Tripple thou.  You have so pretty good climbs no matter which route you take.  I your goal to loaded touring, I would go with the Co-Motion or a Bruce Gordon.  These will have the REALLY low granny gears needed for loaded touring.  The Trek, C-Dale and others just don't go low enough.  They only have about a 24-26" low where as the the Co-Motion and BG have about a 19" low.
I wish I had the legs/lungs to make a 1 month crossing.  Please keep us posted on your trip and I wish you a thirty day tail wind.

Offline DaveB

Trans Am Bicycle Choice???
« Reply #7 on: April 04, 2008, 10:09:58 am »
If you are doing a Trans-Am you can't travel Russell's version of ultra-light (spare shorts and a toothbrush only) because it is likely, maybe certain, you will hit some cold and/or rainy weather. So you will need at least a jacket, tights, etc. as well as extra shorts, jersey , light shoes and clothes for off the bike.

I've taken several very hilly multi-day credit card tours using a pair of small panniers and a rack top bag for a total load of 19 pounds which included the rack's weight.  I washed my riding clothes every night in the motel's sink or shower and could have traveled that way indeffinitely with the clothing and accessories I had.

My bike is a Co-Motion Co-Pilot, a solo sports bike, not a full-on tourer, but it has rack mounting eyelets that many pure racing bikes don't. It also has a Shimano road triple with the 30T granny changed out for a 26T ring and a 12x27 cassette so it has a 26" low gear which is plenty for the light load I was carrying.  Lower gearing woould be easily possible by substituting a MTB 12x32 cassette and changing to a MTB rear derailleur.

I agree about avoiding low spoke count boutique wheels but a good quality carbon fork will be plenty strong and reliable.  

Offline RussellSeaton

Trans Am Bicycle Choice???
« Reply #8 on: April 04, 2008, 10:25:56 am »
"I your goal to loaded touring, I would go with the Co-Motion or a Bruce Gordon.  These will have the REALLY low granny gears needed for loaded touring.  The Trek, C-Dale and others just don't go low enough.  They only have about a 24-26" low where as the the Co-Motion and BG have about a 19" low."

Huh.  Trek 520 in 2007 came with a Shimano 105 triple with 52-42-30 rings from the factory and 9 speed 11-32 cassette.  Crankset is 130/74 mm bcd.  Tell the bike shop to switch the 30 ring for a 24 ring and your new low gear will be 24x32 = 20".  And tell the shop to switch the 11-32 for an 11-34 cassette and your new low gear will be 24x34 = 19".  These modifications can easily be done by the bike shop for FREE before you buy the bike.  Cannondale 2008 Touring 1 bike comes with a 48-36-26 crankset.  Unsure if you can put a smaller inner chainring on it and if you can it would likely be expensive and the shop would charge you.  Cassette on the Touring 1 is 11-34 9 speed.  26x34 = 20".  The Touring 2 bike comes with a 10 speed Shimano 105 triple crankset with 52-39-30 rings.  Have the bike shop switch the 30 ring for a 24.  Rear cassette is 10 speed IRD 11-32.  24x32 = 20".

Learning about what gearing a bicycle can accept and then telling the shop to make it so before buying the bike seems like a pretty easy problem to solve.  No need to pay $1,000-$2,000-$3,000 more for a different bike just because it comes from the factory with low gearing.  I can change the gearing on a bike faster than you can change tires on a bike.  Yet no one thinks twice about changing tires on a bike.  Would you recommend a bike simply because it comes from the factory with a nicer tire?  And costs $2,000 more?  Or would you simply tell the shop to switch tires as part of the purchase agreement or buy the bike and switch tires later.

Offline whittierider

Trans Am Bicycle Choice???
« Reply #9 on: April 04, 2008, 04:00:47 pm »
I agree about avoiding low spoke count boutique wheels but a good quality carbon fork will be plenty strong and reliable. has some info on carbon forks' durability.  One notable quote there comes from John Harrington of Easton, maker of carbon forks:  "In general terms, a component made from carbon fiber will far out-last a component made from metal."  When asked about the strength and durability of their CF forks, Reynolds responded, "...Our fatigue testing would indicate that well built composite forks are far superior to metal forks with cycle counts running hundreds of thousands of cycles rather than tens of thousands.  These tests are also run at much higher loads than metal forks can withstand further demonstrating the durability of composite materials."  I did a lot of research before buying my new carbon bike which now has more miles on it than it took to crack my really nice steel frame.

Russell, I didn't know there were any 10-speed cassettes available yet with 32 or 34 teeth on the biggest cog.  I and my family are stopping a 9-speed though, because of the higher price and shorter life of the 10-speed chains.  That one extra cog just isn't worth it.  I looked at Cannondale's site for this Touring 1 bike you mention, and they only seem to have the T800 and T2000.  What is the Touring 1?  I looked at the T2000 and T800 to see this crankset, and they say they have the Shimano FC-M470 and FC-M443 cranksets, which turn up nothing in a search at Shimano's website.  Do you have a link for them?  One reason I ask is that from the 26-36-48 mentioned, these cranksets must be like a compact with the smaller BCD but still allow a third ring, presumably with the 74mm BCD, allowing as low as 24T.  A standard 130mm BCD won't go below 38 teeth for the middle ring, yet this one has a 36T.  The smaller middle and outer rings definitely make sense for loaded touring, especially if used with an 11-34 cassette.  On my 52/12 high gear I spin out at 51mph, and I don't touch that gear below 37mph.  There simply is no need for such a high gear in touring-- let alone a 52/11.  The other reason I ask is that I wanted to see what kind of BB they use.  It would be nice if it was the external-bearing kind, since those last many times as long as the Isis or Octalink type which, with their large spindle, simply don't have enough room for an adequate size and number of ball bearings inside the BB.

This message was edited by whittierider on 4-4-08 @ 12:02 PM

Offline RussellSeaton

Trans Am Bicycle Choice???
« Reply #10 on: April 04, 2008, 06:29:16 pm »

T800 and T2000 are older models.  Likely still available in all bike shops.  But it appears Cannondale has renamed and maybe reconfigured their touring bikes for 2008.

Interloc Racing Designs, IRD, has made 10 speed cassettes in 11-32 and 11-34 and 12-32 for Shimano and Campagnolo splined hubs for a couple years now.  12-32 Campagnolo only.  $170 or so.

You can decipher a bit about the cranksets by looking at the pictures.  The Cannondale bike's crankset with 48-36-26 is a four bolt pattern.  Probably 104/68mm or something.  Look at the Peter White Cycles TA chainring webpage to see what options are available for four bolt rings.  Bottom bracket is Octalink according to the Cannondale webpage.  Four bolt cranks are most definitely NOT 74mm bcd 5 bolt circle inner ring.  The 10 speed Cannondale bike uses a 105 triple and it is 130/74 bcd.  The 105 crank uses the external bottom bracket thing.

Highest geared road bike I have is 53x13.  I don't lose much sleep over spinning it out.  Loaded touring bike has 45-42-20 rings with 14-32 or 12-28 7 speed cassette.  I don't lose much sleep over spinning it out.  Half step plus granny is ideal for loaded touring.  All my bottom brackets are cartridge now.  Got rid of the loose ball and cup/cone one a few years ago.  Hated adjusting the notched lock ring.  I did have one Campagnolo AC-H cartridge bottom bracket die on me after a few years and a few thousand miles.  $20 replacement, nothing to lose sleep over.  No experience with these new fangled outboard bearing crankset things.  I like to have the option of shortening my bottom bracket if it suits me.  Such as with my loaded touring bike and brevet bike and triple road bike and both single speed bikes.  Not possible with the outboard bearing crank things.

Offline whittierider

Trans Am Bicycle Choice???
« Reply #11 on: April 04, 2008, 06:56:02 pm »
Interloc Racing Designs, IRD, has made 10-speed cassettes in 11-32 and 11-34 and 12-32 for Shimano and Campagnolo splined hubs for a couple years now.  12-32 Campagnolo only.  $170 or so.

Have they gotten their quality problems taken care of?  The initial reports were terrible.

Thanks for the links.  Looks like an MTB crankset-- not that there's anything wrong with that.

The ball bearings I was referring to are not loose, but inside the sealed Octalink and Isis BBs.  They went to a bigger spindle to try to make it stiffer, which left too little room for the bearings.  To make things worse, the bearings are farther inboard than the old ones that had to be packed and adjusted at the time of installation, and going farther inboard makes for more stress from the side-to-side torque.  Our younger son used this kind of BB when he only weighed 120 pounds and was still wearing out a BB every few months.  What a pain.  Our external-bearing ones have been great though.  I have 13,000 miles on mine, and it feels just like new.

Back when we only had five cogs, I liked the half-step-plus-granny setup too.  The one I found that has the best gear spacing is a 28(or so)-42-47 crankset with a 13-16-20-25-32 freewheel.  Through most of the range, each gear is 12% higher than the last, with the lowest gears spaced out a little more for the steep-hill-climbing range.  Now with 9-speed cassettes, there's really no need to half-step anymore.

Offline DaveB

Trans Am Bicycle Choice???
« Reply #12 on: April 05, 2008, 12:03:41 pm »
I wouldn't put Octalink and ISIS bottom brackets in the same category despite their similar designs.  

My experience is that Shimano Octalink bottom brackets are quite durable.  I have 15,000 miles on an Ultegra-level triple Octalink and it is still smooth and free of play. I've had reports of good service life from other users of these bb's too.  

ISIS bb's are highly variable in quality and durability.  Many of them had poor quality bearings and were built to a price point.  They gave the entire design a deservedly bad name.  Some of the better ones lasted well.  

External bottom brackets have their issues too.  They put a high premium on accurate bottom bracket shell alignment and face parallelism as they rely completely on the bb shell to align the spindle with the bearings.  A poorly faced bb shell can ruin these bearings in short order.    

Offline cny-bikeman

Trans Am Bicycle Choice???
« Reply #13 on: April 05, 2008, 04:08:24 pm »
If you just want something to brag about (if you make it) then go ahead and do the cross country trip in 30 days. You will need some luck, as one serious breakdown, a few days of head or crosswinds, injury or fatigue, or any one of another number of factors can sabotage your goal. Then what you will have left is sore muscles and a vague recollection of the things you saw on the way.

I went on a tour in 1976 that was to be 6 months and 10,000 miles. I made half of that because I was hit by a car. But because the goal was to enjoy myself and the experience I was not terribly disappointed. It is still one of the best memories of my life. I was in great shape and did as much as 110 miles in a day, and had one day of 85 miles and a 5000 foot gain in altitude. But I would have been miserable stringing enough days like that together to get across the country.

When it comes down to it, thousands upon thousands of people have gone coast to coast and on other long distance tours. The ones who enjoyed it the most and the ones I most want to listen to are the ones who can tell me of the richness of their experience, not the ones who can only tell me how many miles per day they did.

Take it or leave it - my advice is to plan for less distance per day, maybe 80 or 90. Multiply that by 30 days and you get 2400 to 2700 miles. THEN look at where you would most like to go that would encompass that distance.

This message was edited by cny-bikeman on 4-5-08 @ 12:35 PM

Offline cny-bikeman

Trans Am Bicycle Choice???
« Reply #14 on: April 05, 2008, 04:21:49 pm »
An additional word on gear and gearing. You are NOT going to gain significant speed by going too high in gearing. Why? Because with any significant amount of baggage on your bike you are only going to be able to use the highest gears going downhill. Why use energy then when you can coast and rest for the next hill? There's no such thing as a head start on a 5 mile climb! What you give up in return is the low gears or the closer gearing that can help your muscles avoid fatigue.

I would suggest something like a 48/38/28 chainwheel or smaller. I did my '76 tour with a high gear of 48/16 and a low of 38/28 (on a budget, no triple, wanted close gearing) and did fine. That high gear at 120 rpm is 30mph - any faster than that and I coasted. A secondary advantage with a more compact drive train is that you save chain and chainwheel weight and have fewer chain problems due to it slapping around less.

As for the very low gearing some have suggested, I'm not sure you will need it, given the shape you're in. A lot depends on your route and how much weight you will be carrying. A southern route is fairly easy. The further north you go the harder and longer it becomes, but it's not because of the grades on the western mountain. Most of the paved roads out there are limited in grade to accomodate trucks. I could do a 5% truck grade all day without any fatigue, carrying 35lbs of racks, bags and gear. The problem is that due to the terrain the roads don't go straight east-west and therefore can add a lot of distance. The bad grades actually occur when you start hitting the eastern mountains, and again you won't be going directly east-west.

This message was edited by cny-bikeman on 4-5-08 @ 2:43 PM