Author Topic: Touring bicycle choices  (Read 26332 times)

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Offline Deadly800

Touring bicycle choices
« on: February 27, 2011, 11:06:14 pm »
Hi everyone,

No laughing allowed.  My husband and I (for the past year or more) have ridden a full suspension mountain bike, and a modified (to 21 speed) Schwinn cruiser, with a Wike trailer on one bike, and a trail-a-bike on the other (plus panniers front and rear and a 6 year old).  This year we are buying new gear.  My husband wants a tadpole recumbent trike.  I want a touring bike.  Since I will be the one towing my son, plus carrying extra gear....and I am no "light weight" at 250+ I would like 36 spoke wheels and preferably one of my favs.  What are the choices?


I have been researching for a long time and at the top of my list I have:

Surly Long Haul Trucker
Rocky Mountain Sherpa 30
Kona Sutra
Trek 520
Norco Cabot


The Trek 520 is the only one available at our local bike store.  The others which I really really want (and I know my LBS will be willing to support) are available at a shop that we couldn't bother to step foot in again.  What would be your best choice and why? 

If necessary I already have racks both front and rear.


Please help.  I am losing my mind :)

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Touring bicycle choices
« Reply #1 on: February 27, 2011, 11:29:24 pm »
As I read your post, the bike shop you want to deal with has the Trek 520.  Why not go down and try it out?  Trek makes a good touring bike, and at your weight, I frankly think you're likely to need some tech support for broken spokes on machine-built wheels (which all your listed choices have).  If you can get them to tension and true the wheels correctly for a touring load, those problems go way down.

Unless there's some other reason to pick one of the others, that's the way I'd go.  Now if they're willing to order the others (almost every LBS can get the Surly LHT, for instance), and work on the fit with you (making sure you get the right size, swapping out stems, etc.), and there's some good reason to pick something besides the Trek, then go ahead!

FWIW, I wouldn't buy from the store you don't want to go in and ask the other shop to service it; or if I did, I'd expect to pay full price for any and all service from the "good" shop.

Offline paddleboy17

Re: Touring bicycle choices
« Reply #2 on: February 28, 2011, 01:06:47 pm »
I once weighed in at 230 pounds.  Frame flex could be a problem for you, it was for me.  My original touring bike wiggled from front to rear, when I had packs on it.  I have heard this could be a problem with the 520, and I have heard that it is not a problem.  The only way you will know, is if you test ride the bike under load.  1 gallon milk jugs (with water in them) are good test weights to use.
Danno

Offline waynemyer

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Re: Touring bicycle choices
« Reply #3 on: February 28, 2011, 01:40:22 pm »
I had a Kona Sutra.  I liked it for general use, but it's a little short in the stays for loaded touring, unless you have very small feet or will be riding with very small bags.
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Offline Stevenp

Re: Touring bicycle choices
« Reply #4 on: February 28, 2011, 06:51:24 pm »
I just purchased my black beauty and she's a Surly LHT. I plan on many many miles, zigzagging across the U.S. on her. I love how she handles already, although it's still winter here and I've only been riding a couple times but I love how she feels.

Prior to my LHT I have only ridden other cheap bikes I came across anywhere and the feel of having a nice bike has been awesome! I can't wait to hit the road for the tour, becoming 1 with my bike! :)

I studied bikes for over a month and studies showed me that the overwhelming choice was the LHT for long tours.

So, I vote LHT!

Offline RussSeaton

Re: Touring bicycle choices
« Reply #5 on: March 01, 2011, 12:35:09 pm »
The Trek 520 and Surly Long Haul Trucker are very similar.  Very similar.  Trek is a couple hundred more expensive though.  As already mentioned, any bike shop can get a Surly bike.  Surly is a division of QBP, Quality Bicycle Products.  Every shop in the country has an account with QBP.  I'd figure out what size you need in the Trek 520, see if it is about the same as the Surly, test ride, then have the bike shop order in the Surly LHT.

I had a Trek 520 from 1991.  It worked very well for loaded touring.  Advice is to get the smallest inner chainring you can for whatever crank comes on the bike.  Trek advertises a 26 inner ring.  Too big.  Get the shop to put a smaller inner ring on it.

I'm not claiming the Trek 520 or Surly LHT is the best touring bike.  Both are competent touring bikes.  Just like the others on your list I assume.  Touring bikes are kind of a commodity.  They are all very similar with similar equipment, similar frames, similar geometry.  All handle, ride, carry about the same.  They are all trucks basically.  Designed to carry stuff.

As for taking a bike bought elsewhere into a shop for service, no problem.  A competent bike shop will work on any bike brought in.  They should realize they cannot and will not sell every bike sold in the world.  So to stay in business, they have to work on bikes bought elsewhere.  Does your car mechanic dealer only work on cars bought there?  No, they work on any car brought in.

Offline valygrl

Re: Touring bicycle choices
« Reply #6 on: March 01, 2011, 10:34:43 pm »
...  Advice is to get the smallest inner chainring you can for whatever crank comes on the bike.  Trek advertises a 26 inner ring.  Too big.  Get the shop to put a smaller inner ring on it.
...

My advice would be to replace the original crank with a mountain bike crank and get a 22 tooth low gear on it.  I did that with a Trek 520 I ordered.  There may be a small up-charge, but it's worth it.

Anyway, that's all I got in the way of comments, I like the 520 but I'm not a big person so I can't comment on it's heavy-load handling.  It's been just great for me.

Offline RussSeaton

Re: Touring bicycle choices
« Reply #7 on: March 01, 2011, 11:06:33 pm »
...  Advice is to get the smallest inner chainring you can for whatever crank comes on the bike.  Trek advertises a 26 inner ring.  Too big.  Get the shop to put a smaller inner ring on it.
...

My advice would be to replace the original crank with a mountain bike crank and get a 22 tooth low gear on it.  I did that with a Trek 520 I ordered.  There may be a small up-charge, but it's worth it.

The Trek 520 comes with the Deore FC-M543 crankset.  Shimano makes it in either 44-32-22 or 48-36-26 rings.  Trek specifies the trekking/hybrid model.  Its the same crank as the mountain bike model.  Just different rings.  104/64 mm bcd.  Hard to say whether a bike shop would be more willing to swap an entire crankset or just switch the 26 inner chainring for a 22.  The Trek 520 comes with a 9 speed 11-32 cassette.  So for gearing purposes the 44-32-22 rings may be better.

Offline John Nelson

Re: Touring bicycle choices
« Reply #8 on: March 01, 2011, 11:37:32 pm »
As Russ points out, Trek changed their gearing setup in 2009. Trek 520s from 2008 and earlier are different than Trek 520s from 2009 and later. I find the 26 in front and a 34 in back sufficiently low.

Offline Deadly800

Re: Touring bicycle choices
« Reply #9 on: March 05, 2011, 03:34:32 pm »
Thank you for all of the opinions.  I think I'll have a good chat with my LBS about the Trek 520 and while we are away in April I'll try out some of the other options.  Then at the end of the day, I'll get the one that is best for me.  Thanks again.

Offline Tourista829

Re: Touring bicycle choices
« Reply #10 on: March 05, 2011, 11:27:15 pm »
Surly is the right idea, but I saw something recently, in the ACO 2011 catalogue . They were showing pictures of different people touring and one picture caught my attention. Four riders, on the Pacific Coast and one had a young child on the back of a Surly Big Dummy. It appeared they had a handlebar set up for the child. Another option to consider, when my son was your childs age, I purchased a Santana Tandem and put a child stoker kit on it. We also put an adjustable stem and he loved it. As they get older, you can get a stoker kit that attaches to the crank and adjust the pedal length as they grow. This way they get exercise and stay engaged.

Offline mtnroads

Re: Touring bicycle choices
« Reply #11 on: March 06, 2011, 02:24:58 am »
I would recommend you consider a Cannondale touring bike as they have a proven aluminum frame that handles better than most steel touring bikes with heavier riders and/or heavy loads. The fat aluminum tubes are stiffer than steel but they ride really well with any sort of load. At 180 lbs plus 35lbs gear on my Trek 520 I found it to be rather flexible, especially on rough roads and climbs. My Cannondale T2000 is a dream in comparison - lighter, stiffer and better handling with load. They are a bit harder to locate as production was stopped temporarily for 2011 but some dealersstill  have them and I frequently see clean used ones on Craigslist - in fact there is a barely used 2009 T2 in the Portland area right now for $950. Just a thought.

Offline DaveB

Re: Touring bicycle choices
« Reply #12 on: March 06, 2011, 09:00:31 am »
Another option to consider, when my son was your childs age, I purchased a Santana Tandem and put a child stoker kit on it. We also put an adjustable stem and he loved it. As they get older, you can get a stoker kit that attaches to the crank and adjust the pedal length as they grow. This way they get exercise and stay engaged.
Co-Motion makes a Tandem with a telescoping 3-section stoker seattube that has a huge range of height adjustment.  It can be adjusted to allow anyone from a small child to a full size adult to ride it with no need for a "kid-back" or secondary crank set. They aren't cheap but you will never outgrow it.

Offline Tourista829

Re: Touring bicycle choices
« Reply #13 on: March 06, 2011, 10:03:53 am »
"Co-Motion makes a Tandem with a telescoping 3-section stoker seattube that has a huge range of height adjustment. It can be adjusted to allow anyone from a small child to a full size adult to ride it with no need for a "kid-back" or secondary crank set. They aren't cheap but you will never outgrow it." Thanks DaveB, I did not know about that. This makes alot more sense, because you may not need, to purchase, two different child stoker kits, as they grow. Comotion make great tandems but are very expensive.

Offline Spokey

Re: Touring bicycle choices
« Reply #14 on: March 06, 2011, 08:21:53 pm »
I was on the Cannondale site a couple days ago.  I don't think they have a touring bike anymore.  At least I couldn't find one there.  I was actually looking for what we used to call a 'sport' bike.  Lighter than a touring but drop bars, brazeons for racks etc.  Didn't find that either.