Author Topic: Yet Another Newbie Gear Question, OH YEAH!  (Read 13156 times)

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Offline stevanpierce

Yet Another Newbie Gear Question, OH YEAH!
« on: August 29, 2011, 11:55:45 pm »
So, I am ramping up to start touring.  As many others before me have said and after me will say, I am a convert from road/tri biking to some touring action.

I am looking at several bikes from bikes direct.  The first category I am looking at are the cyclocross bikes, model I am looking at is mainly for the component level of the bike, 105 and ultegra components; however, the other is for its disc brakes.

Another option I am looking at is the actual category for touring at bikes direct.  The two models I am looking at are the Motobecane Gran Turismo and the Windsor Tourist, found here

I understand that there are compromises, i.e. steel v. aluminum.  The touring bikes have mounts for front racks, but can opt to buy something that will adhere to the front fork, i.e.  I like the brakes in both locations on cyclocross bikes.

I would like to start softly with commuting to/from work, school, and other places in the city...when it gets cold enough to ride without risk of heat stroke.  I would eventually like to build up to longer tours/rides, i.e. weekend tours to the Pacific Coast Bike Route.

I am not too fond of handlebar end shifters; however, I have been told they are easier to field service.  Although I have ridden thousands of miles without field servicing STI shifters on road or tri bikes.

In your opinion, would you get a cyclocross or dedicated touring bike?...noting that I am to start slowly with commuting for etc, etc, etc.

(Any advice that you can give me would be appreciated and welcome it by all means.)
« Last Edit: August 30, 2011, 12:01:51 am by jsieber »

Offline whittierider

Re: Yet Another Newbie Gear Question, OH YEAH!
« Reply #1 on: August 30, 2011, 03:24:40 am »
A true cyclocross bike has very little in common with a touring bike.  Don't confuse the two.  See this post from someone who has owned many CX bikes, owns a big shop, has led tours in Europe, and raced for decades.  He's a little bit abrasive but really knows his stuff.  The link should land you on the post starting with the quote, "Where can I get some good information?" and then his longish answer about the differences between true cyclocross bikes and touring bikes.

Secondly, please be aware that the distributor you mentioned is by far the most disreputable of all the distributors I know of.  There have been too many horror stories with them.  It always looks inviting up front, but then it's too often that you get something wrong, right out of the box, and zero customer support.  It not always but often turns out costing more than it would have if you had just done it right, and being a big frustration.  bikesdirect is one of the very worst offenders.  They do have some happy customers, but a disproportionate number of ones who are angry over false advertising, bad paint, bait-and-switch, no customer support, bad assembly, etc..  One person wrote on the above-mentioned forum that he got a bike from them whose frame was cracked right out of the box-- never ridden.  Another one tells of his vacation ruined because they delivered a problem bike and wouldn't follow up.  It has been a hot topic in past years.  Until recently their BBB rating was "Unsatisfactory" because of so many unanswered customer complaints.  I would never send a friend to BD.

I am not too fond of handlebar end shifters; however, I have been told they are easier to field service.  Although I have ridden thousands of miles without field servicing STI shifters on road or tri bikes.
We have both in our family.  The STI ones have frozen up many times and needed a good lube job to get them working.  Although it was a quick job, it would not be practical to have to do out on the road.  The only shifter we have had actually break was a bar-end.  The indexing ring broke and was poking out.  The shifter could still be used in friction mode.  One thing that has been unpopular with STI is that the cables interfered with the handlebar bag.  Who am I to talk though.  I use my aerobars almost all the time, partly because they're comfortable all day, and aerobars definitely interfere with a handlebar bag.  Since my hands are there though, the logical place to have the shifters is on the ends of the aerobars.  That's my favorite now, as is the case with both sons.
« Last Edit: September 26, 2011, 03:45:00 pm by whittierider »

Offline DaveB

Re: Yet Another Newbie Gear Question, OH YEAH!
« Reply #2 on: August 30, 2011, 08:24:04 am »
Whittierrider makes some good points. 

Bikes Direct is a VERY problematic dealer and you better have excellent bike mechanical skills and the specialty tools before even thinking about ordering from them.  Assembly and adjustment aren't nearly as easy as they make it sound, even if there are no serious problems.  As he said, customer support is about non-existant. 

Second, while a true purpose-built cyclocross bike isn't a touring bike, there are some that come close.  The Surly Cross Check has fender and front and rear rack mounting points and  plenty of tire clearance.  That said, a true touring bike is really the way to go if you plan to do real multi-day self-supported touring.   

My experience with STI/Ergo brifters has been nothing but positive.  I've had excellent durability and reliability from them with several sets having over 30,000 miles and still functioning properly.  Ergos and the newest 10-speed STI's run their shift cables under the bar tape so they don't interfer with a handlebar bag if you use one.  Bar-ends do give you the friction option and are inherently simpler and more rugged but you do give up the convenience.  I've used both and far prefer brifters but bar-ends do have their place.

Offline bud16415

Re: Yet Another Newbie Gear Question, OH YEAH!
« Reply #3 on: August 30, 2011, 09:16:28 am »
  I am nowhere near as proficient at touring as most here but I do have a little experience with Bike Direct  bikes and the Windsor Tourist model. I didn’t buy mine from BD but found it on craigslist in nearly new condition from someone that bought it and it was a bad fit for them and I figured at half price I would give it a try, and it was nice having the opportunity to ride it and look it over first. I had thought about buying on line from them but the reviews and lack of bike shop support kept me away.

  Here are my honest assessments after a couple years with the bike. The components listed in the spec sheet by brand name are all of good quality and I saw no issues with. The frame I believe is the same as the Fuji tour, it seems quite strong and well built, no issues. The items not spelled out by brand names are of fair to good quality kind of generic brands hubs, bars etc. There has been a widely reported problem with spokes. Some people have seen them others not. I broke 2 spokes the first season I had it and after 4 in the first two weeks of this year I said enough and had them professionally rebuilt with DT spokes. The wheel builder said the hubs were ok and of good enough quality he didn’t see a issue using them over same with the rims. I actually strain tested the old spokes in a lab and found them to be as strong as the DT's the heads were not as thick. But I really think it was more of a case of poor assembly than the spokes. At very least I would recommend getting the wheels trued and tensioned from the beginning by a qualified person and maybe consider spokes.
  I wasn’t happy with the gearing from the beginning 52-42-30 and 11,32 in the back. I first dropped the granny to a 26 and added a chain minder. I used it all last year in that mode and this spring changed the cassette out to a 12,36. I also experimented with a mtn crank on it 44-32-22 and didn’t like that setup and went back to 52-42-26. I do plan on dropping the 52 to a 48 and that will be my final configuration. I mention this because you said you wanted to tour but also use the bike as a commuter also. That is the same thing I use the bike for and that’s how I found I like 42 as a center gear across the 12,36 range and having the 48 across the 12 thru 24 will work nicely for commuting.
  I replaced the seat and stem but those were personal preferences as I wanted a higher drop position to suit my riding style.
  The rear rack that comes with it is fine although a bit light duty for heavy cargo. I ended up altering that also only because I had some special requirements I needed. I would say the rack would be fine for light touring and if you plan on heavy loads upgrade the rack system.

  All in all I have about $300 in upgrades with the wheels and gearing. I may have been able to avoid some of that had I bought something new and custom. Then again I most likely wouldn’t have known then what I know now about what I wanted without the Windsor to experiment with.
  Here is a photo of my Windsor about half loaded. I am happy with my outcome even though there was a learning curve. Of the models you listed the only one I would consider for touring is this one. Many bike shops don’t have real Touring bikes on hand. If I were to buy new from BD I might try and find a local shop tell them what you want to do and ask them if they might work with you doing some of these things and fitting you to the bike before actually purchasing it. I personally haven't had any issues with getting the two LBS in my town to help me out with the bike.

PS things I forgot:
  I did have a set of fenders on hand salvaged from a old bike that had lots of room to mount. Something you will find harder to do on non touring models.
  This is the only bike I own that I put a kickstand on, somewhat controversial on a tour bike. Using it as a commuter it comes in really handy though. The plate behind the BB is made to take a kickstand but there is a spare spoke storage area there to hold 3 spokes and it makes mounting the kick stand a bit of a problem.

  I may have misspoken above, I hadn't seen the Motobecane Gran Turismo you mentioned before. That actually has gearing more to my liking. I might have opted for the bar end shifters over the STI's at the time, but now I really love the STI's even though I lowered them taking the hood position out of play. That again was just a preference I have for riding in the drops and having great access to the leavers. you also mentioned that you liked the cyclocross type brake on the tops. Those could always be added and I added a single front brake to the top position on mine and use it all the time when I'm up there.
« Last Edit: August 30, 2011, 09:55:12 am by bud16415 »

Offline stevanpierce

Re: Yet Another Newbie Gear Question, OH YEAH!
« Reply #4 on: August 30, 2011, 10:03:22 am »
Thanks everyone for the quick response!  I did not expect a response, let alone this many, for quite a while and all with great information in them.

I am still in the process of research, hence the posting.  I am also looking to continue triathlons at one point, might be a pipe dream though.  I mainly want it for commute and then move towards touring.

Again, I cannot thank you enough for the quick replies and advice.  I had a good experience with BD but will heed everyone's advice on this since total experience with them outweighs my one good experience.

Offline bud16415

Re: Yet Another Newbie Gear Question, OH YEAH!
« Reply #5 on: August 30, 2011, 10:26:55 am »
Thanks everyone for the quick response!  I did not expect a response, let alone this many, for quite a while and all with great information in them.

YW    :)
  If it wasn’t for the spoke thing I wouldn’t have any real issues. The rest is a normal learning curve I think almost everyone goes thru with a first touring bike. Things like gearing I thought who the heck need a sub 20 inch gear granny gear. The bikes even have a different feel heavy solid much more stable. But there is also a learning curve with the heavier bike loaded or not your speed will seem slower at first. Difference between a sports car and a truck when loaded, maybe a minivan unloaded. 

  I have seen reports of several people doing the TA on Windsor Tourists. Reading those reports helps outweigh some of the negative reports.

Offline John Nelson

Re: Yet Another Newbie Gear Question, OH YEAH!
« Reply #6 on: August 30, 2011, 12:08:57 pm »
One cool thing about getting a real touring bike is that it solves problems that you may not even be aware of. Need a third water bottle for long stretches without services? A touring bike will have fittings on the bottom of the down tube. Heels hitting your panniers, or moved your panniers so far back to avoid it that your front wheel is too light for secure steering? A touring bike has long chain stays. Need a strong wheel to carry the weight? A touring bike has 36 spokes. Need wider tires and room for fenders? Touring bike. STI cables interfering with where you want to put the handlebar bag? That's a better reason to use bar-end shifters. Need lots of hand positions for 8 hours a day in the saddle? Need a rock-solid frame for stability in high-speed loaded descents. Need a wide range of gearing for those steep hills at the end of a long day? Need strong braking for a loaded descent?

What else might you need that you won't even discover until you've been out on the road loaded for a week or two? Get a bike where somebody has already thought all that through for you to avoid unpleasant surprises.

And yes, there are many, many satisfied customers of the Windsor Tourist, and there have been a lot of long, successful tours on them.
« Last Edit: August 30, 2011, 12:11:23 pm by John Nelson »

Offline Spokey

Re: Yet Another Newbie Gear Question, OH YEAH!
« Reply #7 on: September 08, 2011, 05:16:45 pm »
Need a strong wheel to carry the weight? A touring bike has 36 spokes.

I think my old cannondale T700 has 36.  I figured that was light touring.  For my americano I ordered up 40 for the front and 48 for the dishless rear.  Almost 10 years and I haven't even tweaked the truing.  Of course the downside is if they were to break on tour, I'm probably screwed trying to get a replacement.

I do prefer the bar ends although to be honest I've never owned a a brifter bike. 

I have a 450 mm chainstay which i think is barely adequate (Jandd Expedition rear rack, Arket GT-54 rear bags, 13 / 48 shoes)

Offline bogiesan

Re: Yet Another Newbie Gear Question, OH YEAH!
« Reply #8 on: September 11, 2011, 11:11:21 am »
Haven't read the rest of the suggestions. For me, there is not better touring platform than a recumbent. For me, there is no valid reason to buy from a mail order supplier unless you just have no local bike shop with the competency to help you make a good decision. Your local shops deserve a chance to earn your patronage. The benefits of have establishing a relationship with a mechanic and a good supplier for your accessories far surpass the possible savings in the initial investment which probably are no more than 10%.

I play go. I use Macintosh. Of course I ride a recumbent