Author Topic: Cross-USA touring bike choices  (Read 11456 times)

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Offline CastAStone

Cross-USA touring bike choices
« on: April 29, 2010, 10:53:01 am »
Hello everyone,

My friend and I are looking to tour unassisted from West to East across the US this summer. We will be taking Louis and Clark to Nebraska, doing an old RAGBRAI route across Iowa, and then use Northern Tier most of the way to Syracuse, cut down to Phily on PA state bike routes, and then finish in Seaside Heights, NJ.

We both are looking to buy real touring bikes for the occasion (my Trek 7.3 can be loaded up front and back for short tours just fine, but it is aluminum, flat barred, and has lots of Altus/Acera components), and we're in a bit of a pickle. We're both hoping to spend as little over $1000 as we can.

Everything we can find on the Surly LHT and Trek 520 is dated. Our LBS told us that the 2007 LHT bears little resemblance to the 2010 one (cheaper handlebars, lower grade Shimano and SRAM components) and the 520 is much the same. We've eliminated other bikes due to component quality (like the Aurora) and price (like the Cannondales), and at this point we're trying to decide between these two.

My questions aren't to compare them, as I doubt too many of you have toured on 2010 versions of both, but rather to compare a few components:

1) 520 has LX derailleurs, LHT has XT rear and Tiagra front. Can anyone tell the difference between these sets? I'm worried about losing momentum while shifting uphill; I know the XT is "better" than the LX, but I'm wondering if anyone can actually tell this difference. Also I'm curious how a road set like the Tiagra compares.

2) The LHT has 11-34 cassette, the 520 11-32. Will the 520 cassette get me through the mountains or should I assume I need to replace it?

3) I know the LHT has longer chainstays, has anyone rode the 520 loaded with size 13 shoes? Is it okay?

Anything else I need to know, please do tell.

THANK YOU!

Offline whittierider

Re: Cross-USA touring bike choices
« Reply #1 on: April 29, 2010, 12:10:36 pm »
Quote
1) 520 has LX derailleurs, LHT has XT rear and Tiagra front.  Can anyone tell the difference between these sets?  I'm worried about losing momentum while shifting uphill; I know the XT is "better" than the LX, but I'm wondering if anyone can actually tell this difference.  Also I'm curious how a road set like the Tiagra compares.

I haven't ridden these particular bikes, but four of the bikes in our family stable have DeOre LX long-cage rear derailleurs (the non-RapidRise type) and they work great.  Always let off the pedal pressure at the instant of the shift though, regardless of derailleur brand, for cleaner shifts and longer equipment life.

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2) The LHT has 11-34 cassette, the 520 11-32.  Will the 520 cassette get me through the mountains or should I assume I need to replace it?

When you need low gears, even the two-tooth difference can only help; but know that in the really steep stuff, you probably won't be able to actually feel the difference between a 32 and a 34.  We have a 13-34 on the tandem since there's no real use for an 11- or 12-tooth cog when you have a 52-tooth big ring on a touring bike.  We've spun it into the low 40's even in the middle ring (a 42T).  The small chainring is 24T, giving us a low gear of 19", since my wife is anything but a climber.

Offline paddleboy17

Re: Cross-USA touring bike choices
« Reply #2 on: April 29, 2010, 01:02:13 pm »
LX and Tiagra are excellent work horse groupings.  They should be fine.  I would not say that XT is better than LX.  XT is normally, same functionallity, just lighter in weight.  Sometimes Shimano lightens things in really stupid ways.  Shimano appears to have gone back to aluminum cranks, but when they were folded sheet steel (and really light), the XT crank had an aluminum small chain ring and a metal/carbon fiber hybrid middle chain ring.  This would not have been durable.  The LX crank had a stainless steel little chain ring and an aluminum middle chain ring.

Shimano has respun its group names.  I am not sure where LX ended up.  There is SLX and DEORE.  Yes you should be confused.
Danno

Offline waynemyer

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Re: Cross-USA touring bike choices
« Reply #3 on: April 29, 2010, 04:27:16 pm »
The short story: either component selection should do you just fine.

I have about 15,000 miles on my LX derailleur, about 6000 of those miles were in Vermont winters.  I have not taken good care of this derailleur, and I have replaced the jockey wheels when I felt like it.  It still shifts smoothly and responsively. 

My front derailleur is a C101.  I don't even know where this ranks in terms of budget derailleurs, but it is seriously low-end.  It has about 18,000 miles on it.  I am currently abusing and neglecting it (more so than in the past) as a personal science experiment to see how much more it can take.  I'm surprised the cage isn't worn-through yet.

I have had the XT and XT Shadow derailleurs.  They are both excellent derailleurs, but I give the nod to the shadow, if only because the narrow profile keeps it out of the way of things.

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Offline miles2go

Re: Cross-USA touring bike choices
« Reply #4 on: April 29, 2010, 08:46:23 pm »
I would make your choice based on the frameset, the frameset's capabilities as they pertain to your wants and needs and the comfort of the fit.  I've had a lot of bikes and never once decided to get rid of one of them because of the components. 

One of the best bargains in touring bikes these days is the Rocky Mountain Sherpa 10 (www.bikes.com).  You'll want to change the chainrings to something smaller.  For $1,100 ($999 if you look around), you get an insanely good frameset and hand-built wheels, the rest of the components are in the good enough category.  For the quality of frame and wheels, at this price point, the components could be made of cardboard and the bike would still be a good deal.

I just updated my review of the Sherpa 30 and for 2009 the Sherpa 10 is basically the same bike except for some component changes.  http://www.adventurecycling.org/forums/index.php?topic=4840.msg22970#msg22970

 

Offline Old Guy New Hobby

Re: Cross-USA touring bike choices
« Reply #5 on: April 29, 2010, 09:40:26 pm »
Quote
Will the 520 cassette get me through the mountains or should I assume I need to replace it?

I have the Trek. Only 500 miles so far, but it feels solid. Instead of changing the cassette, I'm thinking of changing the small chain ring from 26T to 22T.

Offline CastAStone

Re: Cross-USA touring bike choices
« Reply #6 on: April 29, 2010, 10:30:06 pm »
Hey side question,

How bad of an idea is it to just replace the stem, spokes, shifters, cassette and handlebars on my bike now? Again I have a Trek 7.3FX, made of alpha black aluminum, 700x32 Bontrager Race Lite Hard Case tires and 32 spoke Nebula wheels, very similar dimensions to the 520 including chainstay dimensions, and braze-ons for front and back racks.

I know AC Mag recommended the 7.2 and 7.3 in 2008 for touring, but do you think a 4000 mile trip is pushing my luck? I'd love to do it because it would only cost about $400, 500 if I upgrade the derailleurs as well (right now Altus front, Deore rear)


Offline staehpj1

Re: Cross-USA touring bike choices
« Reply #7 on: April 30, 2010, 10:13:15 am »
Hey side question,

How bad of an idea is it to just replace the stem, spokes, shifters, cassette and handlebars on my bike now? Again I have a Trek 7.3FX, made of alpha black aluminum, 700x32 Bontrager Race Lite Hard Case tires and 32 spoke Nebula wheels, very similar dimensions to the 520 including chainstay dimensions, and braze-ons for front and back racks.

I know AC Mag recommended the 7.2 and 7.3 in 2008 for touring, but do you think a 4000 mile trip is pushing my luck? I'd love to do it because it would only cost about $400, 500 if I upgrade the derailleurs as well (right now Altus front, Deore rear)
No reason that couldn't work.  The length of the trip isn't that relevant as long as you are comfortable on the bike IMO.  I carry pretty much the same weight on a one week tour as I will for my upcoming 2500 mile tour and the same as I would if doing the Trans America again.  Also I have not personally found the comfort requirements to be very much different for a 4000+ mile tour as for a organized century.

I may be wrong, but it seems like you should be able to do it for less than the prices you quote.  My whole bike was $599 shipping included and I thought it was fine for the Trans America other than needing lower gearing.

I would think the Trek 7.3FX might be up to the task without many changes unless you carry a lot of weight.  If you are carrying a particularly heavy load the wheels may be marginal.  If you be sure they are properly trued, stress relieved, and tensioned and then pack reasonably light you would probably be fine.

I personally wouldn't use flat bars, but some riders are happy with them especially with bar ends.

If you are on a tight budget you could definitely ride the Trek 7.3FX pretty much as is.  If you have more to spend a new bike is always nice :)  Personally once I got into the $400-500 range you mention for changes I'd start thinking hard about either backing off a bit on the changes or spending a bit more for a new bike.  That is just my opinion though.

Offline rvklassen

Re: Cross-USA touring bike choices
« Reply #8 on: April 30, 2010, 11:33:27 am »
Hey side question,

How bad of an idea is it to just replace the stem, spokes, shifters, cassette and handlebars on my bike now? Again I have a Trek 7.3FX, made of alpha black aluminum, 700x32 Bontrager Race Lite Hard Case tires and 32 spoke Nebula wheels, very similar dimensions to the 520 including chainstay dimensions, and braze-ons for front and back racks.

Looking at the 7.3 FX, I'd ask why you would replace the cassette.  Seems like a reasonable setup for touring.  Also wonder why you would be replacing the spokes.  You might need to change the stem to change the bars, and still have them the right height.  I assume you're thinking drop bars.  Bars do come in multiple thicknesses, so you don't need to change the stem just for the bar diameter.  If you change to drop bars, you do need to change the shifters.  You might consider bar-end shifters.  Very reliable, and inexpensive.  Good chance you'll need new cables.  Some shifter sets come with cables.  Some don't.   

Offline CastAStone

Re: Cross-USA touring bike choices
« Reply #9 on: April 30, 2010, 11:56:43 am »
Looking at the 7.3 FX, I'd ask why you would replace the cassette.  Seems like a reasonable setup for touring.  Also wonder why you would be replacing the spokes.  You might need to change the stem to change the bars, and still have them the right height.  I assume you're thinking drop bars.  Bars do come in multiple thicknesses, so you don't need to change the stem just for the bar diameter.  If you change to drop bars, you do need to change the shifters.  You might consider bar-end shifters.  Very reliable, and inexpensive.  Good chance you'll need new cables.  Some shifter sets come with cables.  Some don't.   

So this is what my thinking was: working backwards, I want drop bars, which necessitates new shifters, and yes I'd like the Dura-Ace bar ends, which only come in 9 and 10 speed, so then I need to get a 9 speed cassette so I don't accidentally dump the chain. Also, I do think I'd prefer a 34 tooth gear, especially with 28t as my lowest chainring.

The spokes I just assumed that the stock spokes will fall short of what I need. But if I can get away with just buying 3-4 spokes and a spoke took, that's great with me too. I'll try to find drops that can work with the stock stem, thanks!

Offline CastAStone

Re: Cross-USA touring bike choices
« Reply #10 on: April 30, 2010, 12:07:25 pm »

I may be wrong, but it seems like you should be able to do it for less than the prices you quote. 


You are very right. I priced it out last night; a SRAM 970 cassette, Forte brand handlebars (with tape), DA shifters (with cable), and a SRAM 971 chain can be had for just over $200. And I realized I can take my x.9 FD off my MTB and put it on my 7.3; it's practically brand new.


I would think the Trek 7.3FX might be up to the task without many changes unless you carry a lot of weight.  If you are carrying a particularly heavy load the wheels may be marginal.  If you be sure they are properly trued, stress relieved, and tensioned and then pack reasonably light you would probably be fine.

How would I know whether the wheels are bearing too much weight? What does a wheel failure look like - is it like it bends and I need to replace it or are we talking catastrophic failures?

Offline rvklassen

Re: Cross-USA touring bike choices
« Reply #11 on: April 30, 2010, 12:47:20 pm »
Looking at the 7.3 FX, I'd ask why you would replace the cassette.  Seems like a reasonable setup for touring.  Also wonder why you would be replacing the spokes.  You might need to change the stem to change the bars, and still have them the right height.  I assume you're thinking drop bars.  Bars do come in multiple thicknesses, so you don't need to change the stem just for the bar diameter.  If you change to drop bars, you do need to change the shifters.  You might consider bar-end shifters.  Very reliable, and inexpensive.  Good chance you'll need new cables.  Some shifter sets come with cables.  Some don't.   

So this is what my thinking was: working backwards, I want drop bars, which necessitates new shifters, and yes I'd like the Dura-Ace bar ends, which only come in 9 and 10 speed, so then I need to get a 9 speed cassette so I don't accidentally dump the chain. Also, I do think I'd prefer a 34 tooth gear, especially with 28t as my lowest chainring.

The spokes I just assumed that the stock spokes will fall short of what I need. But if I can get away with just buying 3-4 spokes and a spoke tool, that's great with me too. I'll try to find drops that can work with the stock stem, thanks!
With bar ends you don't need to have them indexed.  So that would let you use them on an 8 speed.  You won't dump the chain if you have the set screws on the RD set correctly.  The 34 tooth is only a little better than a 32.  If you had a 28 as your biggest cog, I'd be all over changing to a 32 or a 34. 

As far as spokes are concerned, more important than the spokes themselves is that they are tensioned correctly.  A typical failure is if you have a spoke that isn't adequately tight, it moves as the wheel spins, and eventually wears at the flange on the hub.  It doesn't take all that much wear before it is now weakened, and it will pop.  Not because of Murphy, but because of the assymetry that causes the drive side spokes to experience more stress, the spoke that breaks is (nearly) invariably on the drive side of the rear wheel.  If you replace your spokes, to make it worth it requires that it be done by an expert wheel builder, so you can add labor there.

Offline rvklassen

Re: Cross-USA touring bike choices
« Reply #12 on: April 30, 2010, 12:55:22 pm »
How would I know whether the wheels are bearing too much weight? What does a wheel failure look like - is it like it bends and I need to replace it or are we talking catastrophic failures?
Occasionally it looks like a rim cracking.  I've never heard of this failure on a single bike, only on tandems.  It can crack on the side or down the middle where the spokes connect.

More typically it looks like a spoke breaking.  You hear this ping, and then you start to slow down as your brake rubs every revolution because the wheel is now out of true, and can't be pulled back into true without replacing that spoke.  Generally safe to loosen the brakes, adjust the nearby spokes, and ride for a day or so until you get to where you can replace the spoke.  Be extra careful to take bumps gently, as you don't want to damage the rim while you're at it. 

If you are concerned about this possibility, it might be a good idea to carry a fiber spoke.  These are emergency repair spokes that are made of some sort of fiber and you can thread them through the drive side without taking off the cassette.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Cross-USA touring bike choices
« Reply #13 on: April 30, 2010, 01:02:37 pm »
How would I know whether the wheels are bearing too much weight? What does a wheel failure look like - is it like it bends and I need to replace it or are we talking catastrophic failures?
The relevant factors are...  Are you a large heavy person?  Do you carry a lot of gear?

I didn't mean that you would know by looking at the wheels.  What I meant was whether a combination of you and your gear are in the heavier or lighter range.  I am not sure where the line should be drawn, but those wheels would almost certainly be fine for a rider that weighed 180 and was carrying 30 pounds of gear (not counting water and probably not counting food if you buy daily or at least as nearly so as is convenient).  It would probably be fine for a bit heavier combination as well, but at some point it wouldn't be.  I am not sure where the line would fall, but that should give you at least a vague notion.

So if you carry 70 pounds of stuff and weigh 250, I'd get some better wheels or at least a rear wheel.  That would probably mean 36 spokes with a good strong rim.

As far as mode of failure, if a wheel fails it would typically be spokes breaking and would most often not be catastrophic without prior warning.  More likely it would just mean stopping to replace spokes along the way, maybe multiple times on a long tour.  If you don't notice and fix them you would ultimately wind up with a completely ruined wheel.

Offline whittierider

Re: Cross-USA touring bike choices
« Reply #14 on: April 30, 2010, 02:27:13 pm »
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so then I need to get a 9-speed cassette so I don't accidentally dump the chain.  Also, I do think I'd prefer a 34-tooth gear, especially with 28t as my lowest chainring.

The number of speeds affects the spacing too; so you can't for example use a 10-speed shifter on a 9-speed cassette and say "I just won't use the last one."  The center-to-center spacing on 9-speed cogs is 4.34mm, whereas 10-speed is 3.95mm.  8-speed is 4.8mm.  If you don't match the shifter to the cassette, the shifter won't pull in or let out the right amount of cable for each shift, so it will put the chain between cogs.

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The spokes I just assumed that the stock spokes will fall short of what I need.

Wheel strength is determined by several factors, but you probably won't be able to increase it by changing the spokes.  The quality of the build job is a major factor, and if you just replace the spokes yourself, you probably won't get as good a build job as you originally had unless you're an experienced wheel builder.

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How would I know whether the wheels are bearing too much weight?  What does a wheel failure look like - is it like it bends and I need to replace it or are we talking catastrophic failures?

The failures are virtually never catastrophic.  More typical is that you'll break spokes easily or that the wheel won't stay true.  Breaking a spoke of course usually makes the wheel come out of true too.  A few years ago Bontrager was having a lot of wheel problems.  I don't know if they got them fixed, because my son and I got away from them after we had six in a row whose rims cracked with only a few thousand miles on each.  We had a few other problems with them as well, but breaking spokes was not one of them.  This was with no load on the bikes (and not a tandem) and he weighed 120 pounds and I weigh 170.  We've never had any trouble with any other brands.

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With bar ends you don't need to have them indexed.  So that would let you use them on an 8 speed.

That's technically true, but I tried it on 9-speed on one bike in order to avoid buying new shifters, and although I had ridden with 5-speed friction shifters for many years and was very proficient at it, I couldn't do it on 9-speed.  Even after looking down to visually center the derailleur on a cog, I'd get out of the saddle and Bang!  Pop!  --because my settings weren't accurate enough.  I had to go to indexed.