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Thoughts on the new Trek 520

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Thoughts on the new Trek 520

Old 05-03-20, 11:53 PM
  #126  
maximum01
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I have the new Trek 520 and love it. I'm 44 years old and have been bike touring for a long time, taking trips to Europe and frequent short tours in my native Scottish Highlands. Up here the roads are like a rollercoaster ride and the weather very demanding. Therfore you might find my opinions reasonably valid and borne from experience.

This is the first Trek touring bike I've owned having previously ridden all steel Dawes, Ridgeback and Jamis touring bikes.

A couple of initial observations in direct response to some of the opinions in this thread.

1. The alu fork is absolutely fine. With nice spongy 38 tires road vibration is sufficiently damped and I notice zero loss in comfort from my last full steel Jamis which came with 35mm tires.

2. The STIs are actually a joy. Yes, it's true, and I've surprised myself saying it. Why the obsession with bar end shifters? They're actually pretty awkward to use, especially on steep uphills requiring one hand off the steering, and can take the joy out of quick changes on descents. I can now cruise along in the drops and adjust my gearing for optimal comfort and speed. Feels great and a definite step forward.

3. The MTB gearing is a godsend in a market obsessed by component name tags but little consideration for the impact on ride exoerience. Hauling my stuff up huge hills in Scotland has taught me how critical low gearing is, especially under a heavy loads. The gearing on this machine is perfect and I applaud Trek for thinking about the needs of the rider when selecting the drivetrain on this bike. There are so many gravel touring bikes out there with completely unsuitable 105 drives. I had to.eliminate all these candidates when narrowing my list down as I know from experience regret will sink in on your first big climb.

4. Nice attention to detail. Solid front and rear racks with multiple high and low luggage mounting points on the front and loads of space for lights ect. Extra bottle mounts on the main frame and fork. A nod to gravel touring with solid top platforms on the racks and comfy 38mm tires. This is good.

So overall I've really pleased and can see this bike lasting me many years. Oh, and did I mention it has a lovely red paint job? Anyone with experience holding onto bikes over the long haul will know it's best avoiding the dramas over group set names. Components will eventually wear out and need replacing. You'll then appreciate a lower tier drive that's nice and cheap to replace and service, and that's very true of failures and servicing on an extended tour too.

Last edited by maximum01; 05-04-20 at 12:12 AM.
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Old 05-04-20, 01:15 AM
  #127  
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What I like about the specs is that I could potentially carry 10kg of luggage, including the weight of my panniers, since I weigh 95kg. Of course if I want to wear clothes I'll have to cut back a kilo or so to maybe 9kg. How awesome is that for a touring bike! Yep, the spec lists says a total weight for bike, rider and luggage of 125kg....
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Old 05-04-20, 05:02 AM
  #128  
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Originally Posted by Trevtassie View Post
What I like about the specs is that I could potentially carry 10kg of luggage, including the weight of my panniers, since I weigh 95kg. Of course if I want to wear clothes I'll have to cut back a kilo or so to maybe 9kg. How awesome is that for a touring bike! Yep, the spec lists says a total weight for bike, rider and luggage of 125kg....
It seems that weight limit is seen across other lighter duty Trek bikes as well. I suspect it is general legalese and wasn't considered very closely when added to the product description.

The bike feels very sturdy.
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Old 05-04-20, 05:08 AM
  #129  
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Just adding to maximum01's comments above re: components.

The Alivio derailleur and Sora shifters work quite well in my experience so far. Shifting is smooth and accurate. I am also quite happy to have brifters on the bike.

This point stood out when I was riding behind a cyclist with bar end shifters in the city here, watching how many times his hand position changed while I was able to stay on the hoods and not shift my body at all to shift.
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Old 05-04-20, 11:57 PM
  #130  
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For a new bike I'd prefer brifters, but my current bar-end shifters don't bother me enough to spend $150 to swap in Sora levers. Best thing would be if Shimano made 3X9 hydraulic brifters,I would definitely try those.
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Old 05-05-20, 04:17 AM
  #131  
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In my quest to build a 650b touring bike I actually considered that Trek 520 frameset, but I just realized that the aluminum fork is a no go. I have, let's say, plenty of space under the stem, partly because I have a second stem under my primary stem holding my ortlieb bag. At the moment the "spacer stack" is 70mm high.

It works with a Surly steel steerer, as those are rated up to the highest uncut point. Trek however rates their forks for a maximum spacer stack of 40mm. As the new 520 has a slightly taller geometry as opposed to the LHT, I'd need 50mm of spacers under the stem and that is also to accommodate the secondary stem (stems are roughly 40mm in spacer height). But that is still 10mm more that the allowed rating. There may not be many rules I follow in terms of bicycles, but spacer stacking is one of them.

I could get a straggler fork for it, but I don't know if the 15mm increase in fork length is really desirable.
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Old 05-05-20, 05:36 AM
  #132  
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Originally Posted by AlanK View Post
I generally disagree, though that might be true of the 520.

It's seems true that no one bike (or one anything) will do everything exceptionally well. It can't be both exceptionally light and fast, and also stable and durable. It can't be both a great, fast road-bike and a great off-road bike, etc.

But one bike can be reasonably good for many applications even if it isn't great for everything. A good touring bike can be reasonably efficient, durable, reliable, and usable for a variety of roads and terrain even if it doesn't do any of these things exceptionally well. An efficient road-bike can't handle gravel and single-track, while a mountain bike won't be efficient on pavement.

Unless you're someone who wants a bike for every need/occasion (I'm not), many of us just want something suitable for many applications even if it doesn't do any single thing exceptionally well. For many of us simplicity and functionality are paramount, which is why I prefer simple and functional bar-end shifters over brifters. There is very little that can go wrong with bar-ends and they are easy to field-service. If an integrated shifter brakes in the field, you're pretty much SOL.
I know this post was old but wanted to reply to it anyway.

My thoughts after using the bike a while is that I am really pleased with how versatile the bike. I haven't been able to tour on it yet (just got it in winter and COVID is complicating plans) but I have been very happy with it as a commuter and a general city bike.

It performs well on light gravel travels even with the stock tires and I have a set of Schwalbe G-ones on the way as well to try on some slightly rougher trails.

I've had my road bike out once or twice since I have gotten the Trek and for the first few minutes I enjoy how nimble it feels and and how supple and fast the Michelin power endurance tires feel but after a short period that feeling goes away and I am left with a harsher ride that is only marginally faster.

I am considering consolidating down to only the one bike.
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Old 05-07-20, 06:56 AM
  #133  
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Bottom line, it has to be comfortable to ride. What may be comfortable for one person may not be for another.

I dislike reach! To much reach kills my neck. Or to much leaning!

I have my eye on another brand of a modern bike, but best to those who enjoy the 520.
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Old 05-07-20, 04:08 PM
  #134  
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The bike is very comfortable but this is also down to a good fit. I honestly can't understand people's obsession over the aluminium fork. On 38mm tires I challenge anyone to notice a difference between this and a steel equivalent, except perhaps the lower weight which is a good choice given the sturdy front rack that comes with the bike. I suspect tire pressure accounts for most of the ride comfort so just let some pressure out and keep riding.

The max weight is clearly a piece of legal blurb as the frame has a reinforced down tube and is very sturdy. But even as specified, for an average rider of say 11 stone, that's 70kg. Bike is 14kg and rack weight limits are 25kg. I make that 108kg which is << 125kg. Or to put it another way if you stick to rack load limits the frame will accommodate a rider up to 13.5 stone.
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Old 05-07-20, 07:05 PM
  #135  
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Originally Posted by maximum01 View Post
The bike is very comfortable but this is also down to a good fit. I honestly can't understand people's obsession over the aluminium fork. On 38mm tires I challenge anyone to notice a difference between this and a steel equivalent, except perhaps the lower weight which is a good choice given the sturdy front rack that comes with the bike. I suspect tire pressure accounts for most of the ride comfort so just let some pressure out and keep riding.

The max weight is clearly a piece of legal blurb as the frame has a reinforced down tube and is very sturdy. But even as specified, for an average rider of say 11 stone, that's 70kg. Bike is 14kg and rack weight limits are 25kg. I make that 108kg which is << 125kg. Or to put it another way if you stick to rack load limits the frame will accommodate a rider up to 13.5 stone.
Re fork, without riding the bike to feel it, can't say for sure, but definitely tire pressures make a huge defence here. That's my experience also. Bb

oh, maximum, I have family in the UK and I still don't get using stone, still can't figure it out.
but so you know, I doubt there's anyone here (Canadians and Americans) who is used to it.
ill now go and ask Google about stone vs pounds....
cheers
ps, I had hoped to be biking in Scotland this summer before all of this.
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Old 05-07-20, 08:09 PM
  #136  
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Originally Posted by maximum01 View Post
The bike is very comfortable but this is also down to a good fit. I honestly can't understand people's obsession over the aluminium fork. On 38mm tires I challenge anyone to notice a difference between this and a steel equivalent, except perhaps the lower weight which is a good choice given the sturdy front rack that comes with the bike. I suspect tire pressure accounts for most of the ride comfort so just let some pressure out and keep riding.

The max weight is clearly a piece of legal blurb as the frame has a reinforced down tube and is very sturdy. But even as specified, for an average rider of say 11 stone, that's 70kg. Bike is 14kg and rack weight limits are 25kg. I make that 108kg which is << 125kg. Or to put it another way if you stick to rack load limits the frame will accommodate a rider up to 13.5 stone.
Well some folks say that with modern manufacturing techniques & design, the frame material doesn't necessarily matter too much. I'd like to see some all-alu touring bikes with elastomer seat-post & fork/head-tube. IE a light nimble & affordable frame that could be as comfortable (or even more) than the trad steel tourer. Some gravel bikes use front elastomer. Elastomer can be adjusted for rider weight.
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Old 05-07-20, 10:36 PM
  #137  
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Stones, Rolling?

How bout pounds? Not dollars.......
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Old 05-07-20, 11:02 PM
  #138  
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Originally Posted by StarBiker View Post
Stones, Rolling?

How bout pounds? Not dollars.......
When looking at German online bike stores I've been surprised by how often they refer to tires/wheels in archaic inches vs ETRTO. My Surly Trucker is so heavy, using "stones" would be rather appropriate
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Old 05-08-20, 12:56 AM
  #139  
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Just adding to the discussion around alu and ride comfort. This is worth watching. Cycling has its fare share of urban myths. Steel = ride comfort might be one of these.

https://youtu.be/Lb4ktAbmr_4

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Old 05-08-20, 08:55 AM
  #140  
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Steal can be easier to repair. I like the smaller tubing.

Bottom line is frame geometry associated with comfort for the rider.

I can't deal with a lot of leaning, and reaching. Can somebody else? Sure. But then it's not a lot of leaning and reaching for that rider.
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Old 05-10-20, 09:15 PM
  #141  
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I looked at a Trek 520 and they were overpriced by quite a bit from what other bikes offer, and they're on the high side on the weight scale too at 30 pounds.

Compare that Trek 520 to a Masi Giramondo that cost about $200 less than that Trek and this is what you get:

https://masibikes.com/products/giramondo-700c-2020

Note the better dual piston brakes, and note they use a larger diameter 180mm rotor on the front where it counts instead of 160mm.
Note the better components.
Note the far better steel Tubus Tara racks designed for 88 pounds instead of 55 pounds, and aluminum welds on a racks have been known to crack and break on tours, not the steel though.
Note the gear ratio, that's the lowest gear ratio you can find on a touring bike for under $2,500, those gears are for hauling heavy loads up mountains.
Note also the tire size, 32mm that comes on the Trek is not a loaded touring size tire, ideally 38mm is the narrowest tire for loaded touring which that size could fit the Trek but you would have to make sure it would clear everything.
The Masi weighs about a pound and half less, but that pound and half can be reduced more by putting on better tires, the crappy tires (which all new bikes come with crappy tires) weigh 3200 grams total, you can cut that down with a very good set of Schwalbe Marathon Supremes by at least 2,000 grams, that's over 4 pounds coming off just from the tires, you can't take off much weight with different tires on the Trek, maybe a half pound and end up with tires not well suited for touring or commuting.
Masi is made in Taiwan, Trek is made in China...believe it or not there is a difference, Rivendell bikes are made in Taiwan.

I looked at a LOT of touring bikes, and the Masi checked off all my boxed except for the tires and the seat. Since I've bought it 3 weeks ago I've put on about 300 miles on it and it rides very smoothly, now when I do switch tires I will put 40c tires instead of 45's that came on the bike so some of that smoothness might be reduced by a very small amount, but in the meantime I'm going to wear out the stock tires.

Last edited by greatscott; 05-10-20 at 09:32 PM.
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Old 05-11-20, 06:31 AM
  #142  
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The Masi looks very nice. Couple points though:
  1. 520 is stock with 38s, not 32. It seems like a really decent tire too from my time with it. I've got some G-Ones on the way but thats just to expand out its off-road ability. 38 clears easily even with Fenders. It's rated for same 29 x 2" as the Masi.
  2. Components are one step-down but you get brifters. That one's preference for sure but worth noting.
  3. The racks look good and may well be beefier but the Trek racks seem well built and strong. Now time my prove that wrong. The front rack also has a platform so you can carry another bulky item on the front if you like rather than just panniers. I've been just carrying my u-lock around on there with some bungees. Plan to use it to carry around my fancy-pants mini camp chairs once touring.
  4. You get that nice Trek frame warranty.
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Old 05-11-20, 06:39 AM
  #143  
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Re aluminum racks.
While I do own some fancy pants steel ones, I've been using reasonably priced aluminum racks for decades, daily use, one of them all worn to bits, but they work fine with regular reasonable loads.
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Old 05-11-20, 06:40 AM
  #144  
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I am curious to see if the 160mm rotors prove to be a limitation with touring. Anyone have any experience with that?
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Old 05-11-20, 06:46 AM
  #145  
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Originally Posted by Wiggle View Post
I am curious to see if the 160mm rotors prove to be a limitation with touring. Anyone have any experience with that?
I've toured tons in very mountainous terrain with, for me, a heavy load, 50, 60lbs at times, on 160mm rotors on avid bb7 and all was fine
BUT you have to realize that braking technique is the factor here that makes or breaks your question.
And I only weigh 135-140
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Old 05-11-20, 06:50 AM
  #146  
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Originally Posted by djb View Post
I've toured tons in very mountainous terrain with, for me, a heavy load, 50, 60lbs at times, on 160mm rotors on avid bb7 and all was fine
BUT you have to realize that braking technique is the factor here that makes or breaks your question.
And I only weigh 135-140
Thanks for the input. Is the technique to avoid "dragging" the brakes for long periods and allowing heat build-up?
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Old 05-11-20, 07:17 AM
  #147  
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Originally Posted by Wiggle View Post
Thanks for the input. Is the technique to avoid "dragging" the brakes for long periods and allowing heat build-up?
yes, so doing good strong hard applications of brakes to take a bunch of speed off, then releasing and letting bike go a bit until you need to do another good strong hard application again--as you say, this reduces heat buildup----hill steepness and the myriad of other factors will determine what speeds you need to keep to and how often you need to brake, but internet talk can't answer that

and of course, using the front brake HARD, as front does a majority of stopping power on all vehicles, our cars included. In cars we never think about it because the brake bias of braking power to front vs back is set by the car company, so we just stamp on the pedal and it does it for us, 60/40 or 70/30 or whatever it is.

on two wheels, bikes and motorcycles, its us that does it, and most people are wary of using front brake really hard--again, internet talk can't teach you this--but PRACTICE PRACTICE AND PRACTICE emergency stops, gradually increasing front brake, so you start to get a feel, and know how much you can hammer on the front without worrying about flipping, which on a loaded bike with rear panniers is probably just about impossible, and you'll have ample time to react.
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Old 05-12-20, 09:58 PM
  #148  
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Originally Posted by maximum01 View Post
Just adding to the discussion around alu and ride comfort. This is worth watching. Cycling has its fare share of urban myths. Steel = ride comfort might be one of these.

https://youtu.be/Lb4ktAbmr_4
I agree that geometry & tires make much more difference than frame material. Of course if alu is good for the 520 fork why not the whole frame (other than machining costs for a low-selling bike)? Also I think the video confirmed my belief that touring bikes should have some front/rear suspension.
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Old 05-13-20, 02:56 AM
  #149  
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Originally Posted by DropBarFan View Post
I agree that geometry & tires make much more difference than frame material. Of course if alu is good for the 520 fork why not the whole frame (other than machining costs for a low-selling bike)? Also I think the video confirmed my belief that touring bikes should have some front/rear suspension.
Perhaps that's the direction of travel. Look at the Trek 920 - full aluminium. It takes a while for consumers to move on from entrenched ideas on what a touring bike should be. Since the 520 is such long established model Trek will be making cautious changes. What's certain is the current trend towards fatter gravel tires has almost certainly diminished the importance of frame material. Touring has also changed since I started doing it several decades ago. More people on the planet = congested roads. Anyone who spends reasonable amounts of time on a bicycle can attest to how unpleasant touring on busy roads is. People want to get away from the traffic as much as possible. That's why the 520 is morphing into the gravel arena. Some people say that's just a marketing gimmick. I think it's a smart pragmatic move by Trek. They're reacting to what consumers want. Flexibility. Ride some tarmac roads one day, snake off into some gravel paths the next. You shouldn't need separate bikes to achieve these things.
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Old 05-13-20, 04:45 AM
  #150  
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Originally Posted by greatscott View Post
I looked at a Trek 520 and they were overpriced by quite a bit from what other bikes offer, and they're on the high side on the weight scale too at 30 pounds.
Not to mention that they are flush with the ever-so-mediocre Bontrager crap. There are simply so many other choices for comparable prices. The vintage 520's were decent bikes, surely, but I think the cult stewpot is a little thin and watery now.
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