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Good bikes for hilly touring?

Old 07-06-19, 12:34 AM
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biker3c086e24
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Good bikes for hilly touring?

I'm looking for recommendations on touring bikes, but with some unusual requirements.

I live in the San Francisco Bay area, and I do a lot of few-day tours with a lot of elevation gain. A typical day on these trips might have 7-9,000 feet of elevation gain over 80-100 miles. From what I can tell, "touring bikes" tend to be built for long but not particularly steep rides, where sturdiness matters more than weight. Because of the kind of riding I do, I'd really like something sturdy enough but also light so that it doesn't kill me on hills. I recently had to cut a trip short because my knee was acting up, and climbing thousands of feet on my clunky 25lb bike was definitely partly to blame.

Is there anything out there that is good for touring - comfortable to ride, sturdy enough to take a beating - but also light enough, sporty enough, and with nice enough parts to make it doable to do lots of hills? If it helps, my budget is in the $1-2,000 range and maybe a bit more if need be. Thanks for any advice!

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Old 07-06-19, 02:56 AM
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25 lbs isn't much for a touring bike. Most touring bikes are 30 lbs. The only bike I know of that might meet your criteria is the Masi Giramondo. It has low gears and relaxed geometry, though I think it's pretty average weight for a touring bike. If you have knee issues it might be worthwhile to consider an e-bike, though they cost more.
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Old 07-06-19, 05:19 AM
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can you provide some more info.....how much weight do you carry, and what gearing does your current bike have? how about your age and physical condition?

also.....what do you consider "touring bikes?" i'm guessing you're looking at the lastest marketing gimmick of "gravel bikes" with higher gearing (and less overall range) than traditional "touring bikes."
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Old 07-06-19, 06:27 AM
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What kind of touring? Camping? Motels? How much do you carry? What gearing?

Most tourists ride 30 pound bikes and use really low gearing. Most of them carry pretty heavy loads (at least by my standards).

There are a lot of approaches to touring. To my way of thinking what you carry logically comes first, then what bags it takes to carry it, then what bike best suits that combination. Gear weight and gearing are both way more important than bike weight IMO. A light bike is nice, but it is a lower priority than packing light and having the right gearing.

BTW, as always, choice of wheels and tires is the most important part of the bike itself when it comes to performance and comfort. Of course there is a balancing act between those two and durability.

For me leaning toward a very light load and a more performance oriented bike equals comfort on the bike. For me that beans 9-15# of UL backpacking gear on a bike that was designed for road racing back in the 90s (fitted with lower gearing) or maybe an endurance road bike today. Gravel bikes look interesting, but I have no experience with them. That is not what a lot of folks prefer.
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Old 07-06-19, 06:36 AM
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The OP's post has one mistaken asssumption and one questionable assumption.

The mistaken one is that touring bikes are somehow built for "long" but not "steep" rides. Touring bikes have low gears, otherwise they are not touring bikes.

The questionable one is that the OP's knees were bugging him on a 25 lb bike and that the problem will go away with a lighter one. Well maybe not. Climbing 7,000 to 9,000 ft on a regular basis is tough. I'd get the knee checked out and I'd think about how to train for that kind of riding.

That said, if you want a lighter bike, maybe you don't want a typical touring bike made of steel. There are lighter bikes out there and by going ultralight with frame bags, you can take most any bike you want "touring."
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Old 07-06-19, 06:38 AM
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Oh, and with knee issues, be really sure you have your cleats set up just right for both angle and position (toe in, toe out, forward, back, left, right). Also consider whether you may possibly need wedges under your cleats. Personally I find that careful tweaking over time can often be better than most of the pro fittings I have seen friends pay for, but a good pro fitting is probably best if you actually get someone who knows what they are doing and takes the necessary time with you. Personally I doubt that many folks actually get a decent fitting especially in one session. I tend to think it is more likely to evolve over a little more time and a few sessions.

Ditto for position on the bike.

I think most fitters give folks what they ask for in posture, reinforcing poor posture and bad habits. Still, if you can get a really good fitting from a good pro fitter that may be the way to go. I just see a lot of folks pay for lousy sittings so choose wisely.
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Old 07-06-19, 07:02 AM
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I doubt if dropping from 25# down to, oh, say 17~18# in bike weight is going to fix your knee. I'd suggest a professional bike fitting including cleat & pedal fine tuning.

If you're down to dropping weight from the bike, I'm assuming your gear is at a minimum. You might consider short touring on an endurance road bike like the Specialized Roubaix or Giant Defy Advanced 2 (both with 1:1 low ratio from the factory), using bikepacking gear.
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Old 07-06-19, 09:08 AM
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Originally Posted by biker3c086e24 View Post
....my clunky 25lb bike......
Like others say, 25# is pretty light for a touring bike. imo, lower gearing is much more important than a few# lighter or heavier.

Curious what gear range youre currently running.
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Old 07-06-19, 10:01 AM
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Wow, thanks for the replies everybody! Some answers to questions:

Originally Posted by saddlesores View Post
can you provide some more info.....how much weight do you carry, and what gearing does your current bike have? how about your age and physical condition?
My current bike is a 2016 Cannondale Quick Speed 2 with no modifications from the factory setup. I would provide a link, but the forum won't let me until I have 10 posts... but go to the REI website with this path: product/892503/cannondale-quick-speed-2-disc-bike-2016. Silly workaround. I'm not knowledgeable enough to know what the right answer to the gearing question is, but hopefully the bike model name is enough to find out.

The bike with lights, saddlebag, pannier rack, etc, is around 25lb. On the trip where I had the knee issues, I was carrying a single pannier weighing about 10lbs (including the bag itself) mounted on the right side of the rear wheel, and 4-5lbs of water at any given time.

I'm 25 and in good but not amazing shape - I run two miles a day, and bike 20-40 (hilly, SF bay area) miles per week plus biking for commuting to work.

Originally Posted by saddlesores View Post
also.....what do you consider "touring bikes?" i'm guessing you're looking at the lastest marketing gimmick of "gravel bikes" with higher gearing (and less overall range) than traditional "touring bikes."
Any bike that's suitable for touring I guess I've seen the Cannondale Topstone and the Trek 520 thrown around as good examples of this category. Maybe the term itself is a bit misleading since what I'm really asking is "what suits my particular use case, which is similar but not identical to the standard touring use case." Though folks on this thread seem to disagree that my needs are different at all, so who knows

Originally Posted by bikemig View Post
The OP's post has one mistaken asssumption and one questionable assumption.

The mistaken one is that touring bikes are somehow built for "long" but not "steep" rides. Touring bikes have low gears, otherwise they are not touring bikes.
Part of my concern is that I was with a friend on this ride who's in similar biking shape, and he was having a much easier time of it than I was. On day two, we swapped bikes for a while, and it made a big difference. Part of it was probably aerodynamics because he had a handlebar-mounted bag rather than a side bag and a bike with dropped handlebars, but I could also tell that the whole setup was noticeably lighter and required less effort to move even when there was no wind.

Originally Posted by bikemig View Post
The questionable one is that the OP's knees were bugging him on a 25 lb bike and that the problem will go away with a lighter one. Well maybe not. Climbing 7,000 to 9,000 ft on a regular basis is tough. I'd get the knee checked out and I'd think about how to train for that kind of riding.
That's definitely fair. I was originally thinking, "OK, this is hard, that's what you signed up for," but my friend (in similar biking shape) was doing a lot better, so it made me wonder what was different for me, and when we swapped bikes, I realized how much of it had to do with my setup. I also grant that it's possible that it wasn't the weight in particular, but something else (aerodynamics, internal friction, etc).

Originally Posted by bikemig View Post
That said, if you want a lighter bike, maybe you don't want a typical touring bike made of steel. There are lighter bikes out there and by going ultralight with frame bags, you can take most any bike you want "touring."
Originally Posted by tcs View Post
If you're down to dropping weight from the bike, I'm assuming your gear is at a minimum. You might consider short touring on an endurance road bike like the Specialized Roubaix or Giant Defy Advanced 2 (both with 1:1 low ratio from the factory), using bikepacking gear.
Yeah that was one of the things I was looking into. I also looked at the Cannondale Synapse Carbon. Are those going to be significantly less comfortable on roads with meh pavement (not giant potholes, but just kinda rough) than the more traditional "touring bikes"?

Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
Oh, and with knee issues, be really sure you have your cleats set up just right for both angle and position (toe in, toe out, forward, back, left, right). Also consider whether you may possibly need wedges under your cleats. Personally I find that careful tweaking over time can often be better than most of the pro fittings I have seen friends pay for, but a good pro fitting is probably best if you actually get someone who knows what they are doing and takes the necessary time with you. Personally I doubt that many folks actually get a decent fitting especially in one session. I tend to think it is more likely to evolve over a little more time and a few sessions.

Ditto for position on the bike.

I think most fitters give folks what they ask for in posture, reinforcing poor posture and bad habits. Still, if you can get a really good fitting from a good pro fitter that may be the way to go. I just see a lot of folks pay for lousy sittings so choose wisely.
No cleats, just normal pedals. I think that in this case, the issue was something more fundamental, as even after a quick seat adjustment on my friend's bike (he's 3 inches taller than me, and it was a very quick adjustment, so I'm sure it was way sub-optimal), it felt much better on his bike than on mine. But agreed, definitely worth a fitting regardless.
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Old 07-06-19, 10:36 AM
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Change the drive train on what you have.. smaller chainring on the front, bigger cog on the back wheel

Stinson beach - mt Tam hill climb event in the 80's 52-36 crank 13-28t freewheel , light road bike & lighter me.

my touring bike 50-40-24 , 13 - 34 t freewheel .. freewheel hub Phil.







...

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Old 07-06-19, 10:45 AM
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Originally Posted by biker3c086e24 View Post
...My current bike is a 2016 Cannondale Quick Speed 2

... On the trip where I had the knee issues, I was carrying a single pannier weighing about 10lbs (including the bag itself) mounted on the right side of the rear wheel, and 4-5lbs of water at any given time....
https://www.rei.com/product/892503/c...disc-bike-2016

not what i'd call a touring bike, not with this gearing: 50/34----11-30, 9-speed.

geared way too high for hills, especially if you plan to carry gear. you want a 3-speed front with something like a 22/32/44 and a cassette with a 32 or 34 or even 36 large cog.

you're in SF, so plenty of bike shops. go ride a 520 or LHT to see the difference.

we got old folks here that load their bikes up with 60 pounds of gear and ride up 14% grades. it's the gearing, man.
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Old 07-06-19, 12:51 PM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
......Stimson beach - mt Tam hill climb event in the 80's....
Hey look what I got!

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Old 07-06-19, 01:27 PM
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Originally Posted by saddlesores View Post
https://www.rei.com/product/892503/c...disc-bike-2016

not what i'd call a touring bike, not with this gearing: 50/34----11-30, 9-speed.

geared way too high for hills, especially if you plan to carry gear. you want a 3-speed front with something like a 22/32/44 and a cassette with a 32 or 34 or even 36 large cog.

you're in SF, so plenty of bike shops. go ride a 520 or LHT to see the difference.

we got old folks here that load their bikes up with 60 pounds of gear and ride up 14% grades. it's the gearing, man.
watch your mouth young whippersnapper or I'll box you around the ears!
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Old 07-06-19, 01:38 PM
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Originally Posted by biker3c086e24 View Post
I'm looking for recommendations on touring bikes, but with some unusual requirements.

I live in the San Francisco Bay area, and I do a lot of few-day tours with a lot of elevation gain. A typical day on these trips might have 7-9,000 feet of elevation gain over 80-100 miles. From what I can tell, "touring bikes" tend to be built for long but not particularly steep rides, where sturdiness matters more than weight. Because of the kind of riding I do, I'd really like something sturdy enough but also light so that it doesn't kill me on hills. I recently had to cut a trip short because my knee was acting up, and climbing thousands of feet on my clunky 25lb bike was definitely partly to blame.

Is there anything out there that is good for touring - comfortable to ride, sturdy enough to take a beating - but also light enough, sporty enough, and with nice enough parts to make it doable to do lots of hills? If it helps, my budget is in the $1-2,000 range and maybe a bit more if need be. Thanks for any advice!
others have piped in with the "touring bike basics 101 tutorial" concerning their weight, gearing etc

but here is the real thing, you are at the age I tried out touring, many moons ago, and saying that your knee bothered you after riding 160km and climbing 2700meters in a day is like saying that for some reason, your forehead hurts after repeatedly hitting yourself there with a 2x4.

--thats a crapload of distance and a crapload of climbing

to make this kinda short, touring is how you want to do it, but making sure your bike fits you properly and setup is good is super important. Gonzo distances and climbing per day is one thing, but as said, any bike fit issue, and or fitness, and or this and that, will show up with long days.

and the main thing is that touring with stuff just plain means that you arent going to be going as fast, or as far, but you'll still be working hard.

and yes, touring bikes have low gearing, and this allows us to go up long hills and not overstress or overtorque our knees.

to be the stereotypical old guy here, we all did what you did, overdid it and had sore knees. Lower gearing and learning to pace it and do reasonable distances only comes from overdoing it at some point, so yes, your bike is not geared for "touring", not with a 50/34 and 11-30t, but there are lots of touring bikes out there with better gearing.

up to you if you want to try them, but setting lower goals for distance and not comparing yourself to someone else is important.

but ride your own ride, there is no clear answer here.
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Old 07-06-19, 03:52 PM
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Originally Posted by saddlesores View Post
not what i'd call a touring bike, not with this gearing: 50/34----11-30, 9-speed.

geared way too high for hills, especially if you plan to carry gear. you want a 3-speed front with something like a 22/32/44 and a cassette with a 32 or 34 or even 36 large cog.
Yeah I originally bought it with the intention of doing a lot of urban riding (coming from the northeast where that's a thing you can do and have a lot of fun), but the urban riding in SF is... lacking. Still a great commuter bike, but it's definitely not ideal for the distances/elevations I've been doing on it.

I've been eyeing the 2019 Jamis Renegade Escapade, which has 38T in the front and 11-42T in the back, but I'm worried that I'll miss the higher gear ratios when I'm going faster.

Originally Posted by djb View Post
others have piped in with the "touring bike basics 101 tutorial" concerning their weight, gearing etc

but here is the real thing, you are at the age I tried out touring, many moons ago, and saying that your knee bothered you after riding 160km and climbing 2700meters in a day is like saying that for some reason, your forehead hurts after repeatedly hitting yourself there with a 2x4.

--thats a crapload of distance and a crapload of climbing

to make this kinda short, touring is how you want to do it, but making sure your bike fits you properly and setup is good is super important. Gonzo distances and climbing per day is one thing, but as said, any bike fit issue, and or fitness, and or this and that, will show up with long days.

and the main thing is that touring with stuff just plain means that you arent going to be going as fast, or as far, but you'll still be working hard.

and yes, touring bikes have low gearing, and this allows us to go up long hills and not overstress or overtorque our knees.

to be the stereotypical old guy here, we all did what you did, overdid it and had sore knees. Lower gearing and learning to pace it and do reasonable distances only comes from overdoing it at some point, so yes, your bike is not geared for "touring", not with a 50/34 and 11-30t, but there are lots of touring bikes out there with better gearing.

up to you if you want to try them, but setting lower goals for distance and not comparing yourself to someone else is important.

but ride your own ride, there is no clear answer here.
Good to know I'm not the only one who's made this mistake And yeah, after reading all of these replies, I'm definitely sold on the gospel of lower gear ratios.
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Old 07-06-19, 09:32 PM
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A common touring bike crankset is 48/36/26, which with a 11-34 or 11-36 makes a great range of gears for loaded touring in all kinds of terrain.
A number of well known touring bikes come with this gearing simply because it works so well.

Have fun trying out different bikes.
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Old 07-07-19, 11:13 AM
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My suggestion would be to find out what your friends bike is and see if you can purchase something similar to theirs. Also, if you are running two miles a day and then climbing hills a couple of days a week as well as commuting you might be over extending yourself and causing your knee pain (or it could be your bike setup). I may be misunderstanding things but I don't think you need a "touring bike" in the classic sense. A road or cross bike sounds closer to what you want your bike to do.
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Old 07-07-19, 12:17 PM
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Originally Posted by exile View Post
My suggestion would be to find out what your friends bike is and see if you can purchase something similar to theirs. Also, if you are running two miles a day and then climbing hills a couple of days a week as well as commuting you might be over extending yourself and causing your knee pain (or it could be your bike setup). I may be misunderstanding things but I don't think you need a "touring bike" in the classic sense. A road or cross bike sounds closer to what you want your bike to do.
Exile, his bike has a 31 gear inch low gear, with 32mm tires.
An acceptable low gear in gear inches comes down to total bike weight, how steep the hills are, how many meters of climbing one does in a day, and the fitness and condition of the rider.
Heck, 30 years ago I would have been knackered and had sore knees doing the same thing with a bike with that gearing and weight-and I did!
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Old 07-07-19, 03:00 PM
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Hey folks, thanks for all of your advice!

Based on everybody's advice here, I managed to find a 2017 Jamis Renegade Exploit in the area. It's got a 1.06 ratio, but most importantly, I verified that it should be possible to swap out the stock 11-32T cassette with an 11-42T, for a ratio of 0.81. I'm gonna take it on some trips first to see if that seems necessary (1.06 is already a lot better than the 1.13 of my current bike), but it's always an option.

Thanks again for all the help!
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Old 07-07-19, 03:11 PM
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Have fun riding

And on a side note, I betcha you have very secure passwords going from your user name!
;-)
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Old 07-07-19, 07:40 PM
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Originally Posted by biker3c086e24 View Post
Hey folks, thanks for all of your advice!

Based on everybody's advice here, I managed to find a 2017 Jamis Renegade Exploit in the area. It's got a 1.06 ratio, but most importantly, I verified that it should be possible to swap out the stock 11-32T cassette with an 11-42T, for a ratio of 0.81. I'm gonna take it on some trips first to see if that seems necessary (1.06 is already a lot better than the 1.13 of my current bike), but it's always an option.

Thanks again for all the help!
Congrats, looks like a fun bike. Actually the Quick Speed 2 doesn't seem seem that clunky/heavy but the Exploit has drop bars & AFAIK hydraulic brakes which should be nice for those long descents.
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Old 07-07-19, 08:01 PM
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Originally Posted by djb View Post
Have fun riding

And on a side note, I betcha you have very secure passwords going from your user name!
;-)
I could tell you whether that's true, but then I'd have to kill you

Originally Posted by DropBarFan View Post
Congrats, looks like a fun bike. Actually the Quick Speed 2 doesn't seem seem that clunky/heavy but the Exploit has drop bars & AFAIK hydraulic brakes which should be nice for those long descents.
Thanks! Yeah the Quick Speed 2 is actually pretty decent (and has hydraulic brakes too), but I love the drop bars (so many different places to put your hands! wow!) and the overall sportier geometry, and after 3 years of riding the Quick Speed 2 without any parts replacements other than chains/tubes, I'd need to put a decent amount of money into it to get it up to new-ish bike shape anyway. It's saved me oodles of money on Bart fares over the years and taken me to the summit of Mt Tam multiple times, so it's definitely paid itself off at this point. I'm also going to continue using it for commuting so that I avoid putting unnecessary miles on the new bike.
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Old 07-10-19, 02:37 AM
  #23  
geoffs
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low gearing is what counts.
We're using 42/28 chainrings and an 11/42 cassette on our tandem for touring with rear panniers and we managed fine in Italy recently. 20% grades were tough but anything up to 12% and we could cruise up all day without getting into the red zone for our heart rate.
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Old 07-11-19, 01:59 PM
  #24  
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I had a 26/46 on my last trip, will go lower for my next VT hilly outing. Lincoln gap the the Waitsfield gap are the real deal.
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Old 07-11-19, 02:55 PM
  #25  
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Take the bike with the strongest legs
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