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Intro help from forum

Touring Have a dream to ride a bike across your state, across the country, or around the world? Self-contained or fully supported? Trade ideas, adventures, and more in our bicycle touring forum.

Intro help from forum

Old 11-23-20, 07:26 AM
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Jno, as you can see from our responses, gearing is a hugely important thing--but also be aware that traditional touring bikes are generally a good whole package--ie they will come with a strong wheelset that is made for touring loads.
Im sure you know about spoke counts and various rim specific advantages vs others, strength and all that. A typical touring bike wheel has 36 spokes, and will have a very good quality rim and spokes. Some "gravel" or other bikes will have smaller spoke counts and or a less tough rim, simply because the bike is either not made or marketed to be carrying 40lbs of stuff, and or its a price point thing.

you will most likely in your research see bikes that look interesting, but many of them will have 32 spokes or whatever that on a cross country trip carrying X lbs, it is entirely likely that you'll start having spoke issues, which is a real pain in the keester , and may not be resolved by getting spokes replaces and or tightened.
You may weigh 120lbs or you may weigh 220lbs also, but just be aware that in general, a dedicated touring bike will come with an appropriate wheelset for the bikes main intended purpose, a lot of other bikes will very likely be lacking, but you wont know that and the salespeople who havent toured won't either.
Just a heads up to look at the whole package of how a bike will work touring.

a bunch of years ago I met some young women friends who were biking across Canada and were passing through Montreal. One of them had one of the first "gravel type" bikes marketed as such, I think it was the trek 920, It came with 32 spoke wheels and sure enough, she went through a period of the trip breaking spoke after spoke, having to find shops to replace them, until finally it stopped happening. It was a pain for her to deal with this, but this bikes wheelset clearly was not sufficient for a loaded trip, and while she did jettison stuff as the trip progessed, so less weight, she certainly didnt weigh 200.....Just a real world example from a few years ago.

Its also really important with any bike used for touring to get a good mechanic to go over the wheelset after its been ridden a bit, and to do a great job of tightening , trueing and evening out the spoke tensions. Spokes always loosen up over time, and very often are shipped with just so so tensions. Ive always done this before a bike trip, going back 25+ years, and Ilm a light guy 140 tops.
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Old 11-23-20, 11:31 AM
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I concur with those that suggest 36 spoke count. I do not know how much stronger a 36 is compared to a 32, but the rear wheel takes a lot of weight and there is no excuse to use less than 36.

I build my own wheels, thus I know the spoke lengths that my wheels take and I carry spare spokes on the bike. That said, I have not busted a spoke for over a decade, that busted spoke was on a wheel that was built in 1961 by someone else. But, I still carry spare spokes. I carry a cassette lockring tool when I tour.

A couple years ago I bought a road bike, complete, someone else built the wheels. Instead of trying to figure out the spoke lengths, I bought a Fiberfix emergency spoke instead, works on any wheel. If you buy one, you probably will never have a spoke break, but it is a cheap insurance policy.

But as I noted above, it would be good if one in your group knows how to true wheels.
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Old 11-23-20, 12:52 PM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
Generally speaking, the gearing on “touring bikes” today is pretty much awful. The manufacturers probably can’t get good triples because there just aren’t that many out there. The Surly Disc Trucker, for example, puts what could be a good(ish) crank on the bike but the Alivio has riveted chain rings which limits the ability to replace chainrings or change gearing. The LHT uses the Sora crank which okay but the gearing is limited. There’s nothing wrong with the Sora line in terms of durability and functionality. The Sora front derailer is one of the best that Shimano makes. But the crank is a road crank so it can’t go below 24 teeth, if that.

I’m not picking just as Surly. Other companies are making touring bikes that have lots of issues as well. Almost all of them can be fixed but it takes money. Surly, in my opinion, has the least number of warts that are easiest to fix. I’d replace the crank on both with a Shimano mountain bike crank like a used Deore or XT 9 speed crank. You can find them on Fleabay regularly. They are pretty straight forward exchange.

The other alternative...much more expensive...is to build on with the components you want to use. My touring bike is a 2010 Cannondale T1 but it has zero components you’d find on a stock Cannondale. It’s a 9 speed drivetrain but has an 11-36 cassette mated to a Shimano XT 46/34/20 crank. I use an XTR rear (with a Wolf Tooth Road Link) and 9 speed Ultegra shifters. It works flawlessly. It has a good high (110”) and a very good low (16”) with over a 700% gear range. This gear system has served me on at least 3 multiweek tours in the eastern part of the US. The hills there are short but they are steep and brutal.
It seems there's no perfect solution. Any option will have advantages and disadvantages, depending on the rider's needs or desires. Given your comments..I'll toss this out for the OP's consideration, fwiw(others here have much more touring experience than I...but I'm out there and collecting tours..). It comes to my mind due to your referencing the Surly LHT road crank and Deore/XT mountain crank.

I assembled this chart when I was figuring out what a new-to-me touring bike might look like. I put together an all-rounder & touring bike for my GF using a '91 Trek 750(she loves it with or without a touring load). I was considering a mtn bike drop-bar conversion. Both were compared to two well-known reference touring bikes, a Trek 520 and the current Surly LHT. While this mixes wheel sizes**, it surprised me just how similar all the bikes(frames) are.

All of the above were(are) the OEM setup. Naturally, that can be changed. The Surly is a 9 speed. The rest were OEM 7 speed.

I eventually went with a '93 Trek 970 and did the drop bar conversion. I haven't touched the 7 speed geartrain nor the wheels (32h, 14ga) as they were very nice and seem to work perfectly. I have about 1000 miles on the bike since the conversion, 600 miles of that was full-loaded 4-pannier touring with 35-40lbs of gear. I weigh 225, the bike with racks is about 30. I run 26 x 2.15 Schwalbe Big Ben tires. Very comfortable, stable bike that rolls super-easy...it's a pleasure to ride.

The top tube length of Trek 900 series mtn bikes increased in length by around 2cm after 1994. 1990ish-1993 had shorter top tubes. You'll note the chainstays of the LHT are 30mm longer than the Trek 970. I wear a size 12 riding shoe and have plenty of room with the rear (60L) panniers..not even close to any heel-strike issues.

Boiled down..one option for the OP is to get a modern bike and rework the drivetrain as needed, or get an older bike that has the core drivetrain and frame geometry that still used today, and update it as needed. An older, premium, rigid mtn bike in very good condition can be had for $200-$300. The drop-bar conversion of a 970 7-speed is a no brainer & very inexpensive..front and rear DRs are fully compatible with sti shifters, if desired, or bar-end shifters. Conversion to a 9 speed would be a little more work...and cost.

**from index above..I'm not as clear as I'd like to be on how the same frame size and geometry designed for 26 in wheels vs 700c compare to each other. Not sure if it's completely apples and oranges..or just two kinds of apples.

Last edited by fishboat; 11-23-20 at 03:01 PM.
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Old 11-23-20, 02:08 PM
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Since we're talking about spokes - if you have the choice you should look for rear rims with asymmetric/offset spoke holes. This really helps increase the problematic non-drive-side spoke tension. This won't cure all wheel problems, and it's not an excuse to use fewer spokes than you should, but it helps.

I've been very happy with a 3x10 setup on my traditional touring bike. I've been through a few variations with the gearing (currently 50-39-24 & 12-30) but it's totally flexible and can easily be adapted to any situation. I have 2x11 on a gravel bike that can do light touring, and it just is not as flexible or adaptable. For a cross-continent trip with real mountains I'd lean towards the 3x10.

You mention 50-60 lbs - like others here I'd set a target of 40lbs MAX and really endeavor to get down to 30. It will be an all-around more enjoyable trip. Traditional bike touring forums like this one are not the best pace to look for lightweighting advice - long distance thru-hiker forums are. (I started down that path due to backpacking knee injury but it makes EVERYTHING more enjoyable). Start by getting a scale, weigh all your gear, and put it in a spreadsheet. Knowing is half the battle. Random nice-to-haves add up unbelievably fast. I try to live by the lightweighter's credo "if you need it and don't have it, you don't really need it" Figure out which nice-to-haves really do bring joy every day, and which are used only occasionally or never. You need to actually pack the gear on the bike and weigh it all to see what fit where and how, and get the real-world weights.

And of course, experience will quickly show what works and doesn't, what you need and what you don't. A weekend test tour well before the big trip, and a warm-up 1-week tour shortly before, will be very educational. Experience gives you the confidence to leave things home, as well as identify and fix your particular friction points. Nevertheless despite doing all this myself, I inevitably ship a package home after week one of a long tour, full of things I thought I'd need but don't.

Dynos: I have three dynohub wheels and two dyno converters, one of which I ordered as a kit from Germany, soldered together myself, and constructed a weatherproof housing just the way I wanted with a big cache battery. I like the peace of mind it brings, and I guess I like having my bike computer and lights and phone and airpod gadgets. But given how small and powerful USB batteries are today, it's hard to recommend anything else when starting out. Get one that has 2-3 USB outputs, can quick-charge from a high-current AC converter, pair it with a newish compact GaN fast-charger. Make sure all your gear can charge from USB. Lastly bring a mini 3-to-1 AC outlet adaptor (random example) for the inevitable conflicts at campground outlets. Put your name prominently on everything that might be left unattended in a laundry room or wherever.
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Old 11-23-20, 02:19 PM
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As far as weight goes.

Sometimes a person will comment that they want to take a lot of stuff along so that they are comfortable while touring. In reality, most of the time is spend pedalling so that is where one should try to create comfort - usually by carrying a reasonable amount of weight.

If it takes me 12 hours per day to cover a route because of heavy load/slow speeds while someone else covers the same distance in 8 hours, that gives them 4 extra hours of recovery each day and they will feel fresher as a result. Over a longer tour that adds up.
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