Author Topic: Touring on full suspension - am I nuts?  (Read 3662 times)

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Offline skelonas

Touring on full suspension - am I nuts?
« on: May 03, 2007, 04:06:41 pm »
I'm planning a 4-6 month tour of Europe and am trying to sort out a few things.

First of all, I'd like to tour on a full suspension GT idrive mtn bike. I haven't seen too much discussion of touring on FS. Please tell me if I'm crazy, but my reasons are:
1. It's all I have right now and don't feel like buying another bike
2. I did a week long tour in Korea on it and it worked fine. In fact, it was quite nice to have suspension on bumpy roads and dirt.
3. I'm a mountain biker at heart and would like to take as many off road/singletrack routes as possible (even though the majority of miles will be on road). In Korea I did this using performance brand fastrac 1.9 tires (very light tread with knobs on corners only).
4. I'm not on a budget of time, so speed is not too much of an issue.

My possible concerns would be:
1. It may be significantly slower/more painful (don't get me wrong though, I'm a 24 hour mtn. bike racer so I'm willing to face a reasonable amount of pain).
2. Maintance issues. I tend to think that my alum frame, manitou fork, fox rearshock, and double wall wheels are bombproof, and that the amount of abuse I've put them through on rugged trails is so much more than they'll take on roads fully loaded. Everybody is so big on steel, but my thought is that modern alum mtn. bike frames are made to take lots of abuse. Any thoughts?
3. Loading. I got an old man mountain rear rack used (mounts via the axel skewer) and suspension fork racks are around $50, but it still may be an issue.
4. Theft. My bike's only worth about $500 I'd say, but it still worries me (vs. a cheap old steel rigid bike).

One more thing... My current sleeping bag is a 0 deg, 5 pound qualliofil bag. Is that beyond what is considered a reasonable weight for a touring bag? I would like the warmth, and do not want to spend $300 to save 2 pounds. I also like the fact that I can get it wet and it will still be warm. My tent is 4.5 lbs, and I'll pack light otherwise. Thoughts?

Thanks in advance for any insight you can provide!

Offline RussellSeaton

Touring on full suspension - am I nuts?
« Reply #1 on: May 03, 2007, 04:54:45 pm »
"1. It's all I have right now and don't feel like buying another bike"

That pretty much is the end of the discussion and your decision is made.  You mentioned having racks and/or getting some to fit a suspension fork.  Do it.  And get some panniers.  And then get the plane ticket.  And maps.  And plan a route.  Etc.

I toured Europe for only 3.5 months long ago.  Used fairly detailed maps of the countries I as in.  Tried to ride smaller roads.  Ended up on gravel a couple times.  My Trek 520 with 35mm tires did just fine on the non paved roads.  Roads weren't too bumpy.

I always had a destination in mind when starting each morning.  And a route picked out.  You talk about riding on bumpy and dirt roads and singletrack and offroad.  Are you planning on wandering about on whatever gravel or dirt road or deer path you come to in the day?  I doubt you will find many maps showing all of the dirt and gravel and bumpy roads and singletrack in a European country.  If you actually plan to get to point B from point A, you will likely have to ride on paved roads.  As you know, full suspension mountain bikes are not ideal for paved roads.  But work.

As for taking a heavy sleeping bag, you own it so its your cheapest alternative.  Your bike is already heavy since its a full suspension mountain bike.  An extra couple pounds here or there will only add up to an extra 10 or 20 pounds in total.  I suspect your whole rig loaded will still be under 100 pounds total.  Which brings up another issue.  You say your bike is durable and holds up to abuse.  But with racks and bags and food and whatever, it will now be subject to abuse that is 50-60-70 pounds heavier than before.  Might want to see if the shocks on the bike are designed for that.

Offline ptaylor

Touring on full suspension - am I nuts?
« Reply #2 on: May 03, 2007, 05:24:06 pm »
Hi Ske.

Some interesting specific questions&Im guessing you will get a lot of well informed replies.

Here are some of my thoughts, but bear in mind that I have only toured Europe for 2 weeks. I have done some mountain biking, and used to have a mountain bike, but (since it was trashed by an automobile), I am now strictly a city/road/tour biker.

1.   If you can afford to take 4-6 months off from a job, and spend that time on a vacation, I would hope that you could budget $1, 000 - $3,000 for a touring bike and its companion gear.
2.   The roads I encountered in Europe were smoother than those in the USA, thus suspension was not an issue.
3.   I did not encounter any off road dirt, or gravel trails in Europe.
4.   I agree that you want a dependable mount. Any aluminum or steel frame touring or mountain bike should meet that need. I would avoid carbon, and be suspicious of titanium.
5.   You will see that OMM racks are well respected on this forum. Remember that you will need front racks too, or else a trailer.
6.   If you get a new bike, get a guarantee from your vendor that they will give you racks and panniers that will fit.
7.   I hate to give advice on bike theft. Ive had three of my bikes stolen (two were unlocked; one was locked and stolen by a pro).  But I dont think the prevailing issue should be how much my bike is worth, but rather, how much hassle will it be to replace my bike.  I dont see theft being a big issue as long as the bike is locked. If you want, you can click the search button in the upper right corner of this screen, and search on theft. In my Europe trip, we normally only made the bike un-rideable. We never locked the bike to a stationary object (with a chain/cable) until we got to Hungary.
8.   I agree that a synthetic fill sleeping bag (like qualliofil) is best. I think your 5 lb bag is fine. My 15 year old bag weighs 4 lb, and I have no plans to replace it.
9.   My 2-man tent weighs 6 lbs. If I had to replace it, I would try to find one identical to it. It is a North Face 2-man tent with a vestibule. In bad weather, I can keep my yucky stuff in the vestibule, and keep my panniers inside.


Offline skelonas

Touring on full suspension - am I nuts?
« Reply #3 on: May 09, 2007, 06:20:41 pm »
Thanks for your advice!  I just wanted to hear that it wasn't a horrible idea from people with experience.  

I will have a general idea of what route I'll take overall and each day, but do want to "take any dirt road or deer path" that looks interesting, thus the appeal of using my mountain bike.  There are pleanty of dirt roads and singletrack routes in europe, this I'm sure of.  Plus, I have saved some $, but would rather spend that on extra road time vs. buying a new shiney bike unless I really needed to... sounds like I don't.

Thanks also for the reassurance that my bag will do the job, as I didn't feel like getting a touring specific bag when mine works for everything else I use it for- more stuff is the last thing I need in life!

Offline JayH

Touring on full suspension - am I nuts?
« Reply #4 on: May 11, 2007, 01:18:08 pm »
Another option you could consider is instead of a new bike, perhaps a new rear shock. Not being familiar with the GT other than I know the company is now defunct is perhaps look at replacing the rear shock with one with a lock-out, doesn't add any real weight but can allow you to lock out the rear suspension if you have any issues with bobbing or just dont need it.


Offline TCS

Touring on full suspension - am I nuts?
« Reply #5 on: May 11, 2007, 02:29:04 pm »
Rather different from your inquiry, but cyclists have been touring all over the world on full suspension Alex Moulton bikes since 1962.


"My name is Pither.  I am at present on a cycling tour of the North Cornwall area taking in Bude and..."