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Kevin Lane
BICYCLE TOURING on 06/12/2005 05:38:02 MDT Print View

I have found a new way to spend my money but do not know what I should be looking for. Is anyone into this activity? Looking over the entries at it seems that they all could benefit from some light weight gear education. But it is I who needs the education now - I cannot figure out what kind of bike I can get. I am presently leaning towards what they call a comfort road bike, and have been directed towards a Lemond Big Sky SLT. I was told that since I claim to be able to tool around with loads under 15 pounds that I will not need a touring bike, which are heavier and not as fun to ride. Any knowledge would be great.

Buffalo, NY

Brian Griffith
re: Bicycle Touring on 06/12/2005 09:49:28 MDT Print View

Just as in backpacking, there are many separate activitiesm that can be classified as bicycle touring, you need to define what your primary activity is...
3-day tours vs. trans-am or trans-world; camping vs. staying in b&b; etc...

I would not get a 'comfort bike' for bicycle touring. I would (and did) get a touring bike or a fast-touring or randonneuring bike.

If you are only going to do local or close-to-a-bike shop touring you are safe with any frame. But, if you plan to do any remote or third-world touring, you'd be much better off with a steel frame (cr-mo) bike. I personally prefer steel or titanium bikes anyway and would never purchase an aluminum bike except for a full-suspension mtb (IMHO).

For a touring bike, do not get the popular few-spoke wheels, get normal traditional 32 or 36 spoke wheels, although if you are looking at mainstream bike stores, they may be as tough to find as UL gear at REI.

You will need to have some way to attach your luggage (as light as it may be) to the bike, so you will need rack attachments unless you use a Carradice-style Transverse saddlebag. I would also look for front rack attachments.

Other things you may want to look at are: front light attachments, fender attachments and room for fenders, room for tires larger than 28-32mm, gearing low enough for climbing big hills with your load (i.e. a triple or compact double).

Finally, most importantly, you will probably not be racing in your local crit series or Le Tour on your new touring bike so make sure it fits. Generally bicycle store employees will be completely unfamiliar with touring bikes and will size you on a bike based on the way Lance Armstrong looks on his bike. You will want the largest bike you can fit on for comfort over the long haul.

Sources for information include: the bicycle touring list @, adventure cycling, Rivendell bicycle works, harris cyclery, vintage bicycle quarterly, randonneuring usa, Peter White Cycles.

For UL touring, I would recommend a randonneuring bike (randonneuring is ultra-distance, timed, self-supported riding). These bikes are light, fast, comfortable, and designed to carry a load. They will be difficult to find. Sources include: Heron Bicycles, Rivendell Bicycles, Wallingford Bicycles (Berthoud). Other good touring bike companies are: Bruce Gordon, Rodriguez, Co-Motion, ANT bicycles, IF has a nice fast-tour/rando bike as well.

THE source for panniers is Arkel OD. They make the best panniers in the world.

I hope that's not an overload. If I were to make it simple I would get a Heron Randonneur.

Good luck and have fun!

Edited by 03bart on 06/12/2005 09:52:42 MDT.

Dane Burke
(Dane) - F

Locale: Western Washington
bicycle touring on 06/12/2005 17:12:26 MDT Print View

I am leaving on a solo self-supported bicycle tour from Seattle to San Francisco this Friday. I am on an extremely tight budget, so I couldn't really get the kind of gear I wanted. I am on a super-cheap ($150 at Costco) mountain bike and I am carrying everything in my backpack except for a few items in a too-small handlebar bag.

If I had a little more money, here are the things I would have looked into getting:
A commuting/touring bike, or possibly a recumbent(you could probably get by with 18 gears, I wouldn't want a bike with less than 21)
Aerobars (might not be compatable with a handlebar bag, if so I think a handlebar bag would be more important)
A Mirror
Rear Rack and Panniers (if you pack light and have a large handlebar bag, you don't need front panniers)
A good handlebar bag (with a plastic map case, make sure it keeps everything you need available to you while you are riding)
A cyclometer (I have a $15 Supergo one that works great, no need to spend lots of money here although you easily can)
GOOD FENDERS! (I rode in the rain yesterday and got completely soaked and covered with road grime)
Maybe a Frogg Toggs rain jacket, I don't think rain pants are necessary though.
A big spacious tent (I need more privacy than a tarp when I'm in non-wilderness campgrounds. My GoLite Hex is big enough to fit my bicycle inside too.)

Courtney Waal
(d0rqums) - F
Re: bicycle touring on 06/12/2005 19:22:53 MDT Print View

Front racks aren't necessary for UL touring, but rear rack eyelets almost certainly are. Currently, I'm using my road bike with a clamp on rack, but it's heavier and no matter how tight I get it, it can shift if I hit a big enough bump in the road and might one day break my wheel. Real racks are safer and lighter. Cannondale's SR series has eyelets but the bikes are chock full of heavy crap that isn't necessary, and beyond that I'm unfamiliar with other non-touring bikes that have them. Trek makes a sub-$1000 tourer, though I'm not familiar with which model it is. You really don't want to tour with anything on your back, this includes camelbaks (I think we're all aware of how heavy water is). The added impact on your butt, hands, and lower back are more than enough reason, but it really increases your profile as well. I'd suggest you stick to a steel frame since it has a far more forgiving ride and you get lots of noisy notice before a steelie cracks. Aluminum frames are made for racing and are a very hard ride for long, day-after-day touring. They also have the distressing tendency to crack without notice (it happened to me, I only noticed it visually before the whole thing cracked through). Whatever bike you choose, the most important issue is the fit- don't skimp on fit issues. I'll second that Randonneuring bikes are a pretty good bet. Tourers are very inclined to love Brooks seats because they mold to your butt and are super after the break-in period.

I wouldn't consider touring on a recumbent (even though they have a cultish following) because they're hogs on hills, poorly balanced while loaded (usually the weight is carried behind the rear axle), and use parts that are hard to find while touring and you'll have to know how to do all the repairs yourself since most bike shops don't do recumbents. I think that they're touted most by people who never had a properly fitting bike. For the same supply issues, I'll suggest touring on standard width tires.

I can fit all my stuff into two Ortlieb front roller panniers and a WXtech dry bag that I secure on the top (they have tie-down points in convenient locations).

I'm continually amazed at what people will lug with them on bike tours. Some can't fit into front and back panniers, a top bag, AND a trailer. Things like coleman stoves, 6 changes of clothing, whole boy-scout-troop sets of cookware, and ginormous tents make plenty of checkboxes on people's packing lists and yet they wonder why they're hitchhiking up hills. 50-60 pounds of junk is a surprisingly common amount, with 70 pounds not being uncommon! I'm currently working on a UL bike touring pack list and I can post my current efforts on it if you ask.

Amy Stone
(Sandpiper) - F - M
Re: Re: bicycle touring on 06/16/2005 11:42:49 MDT Print View

Kit, I'd love to see your gear list when you finish it. My husband and I cycled the C&O canal (MD to DC) a couple of years ago, and while we fit everything in a pair of rear panniers (each), I'd like to cross the lighterweight philosophy over from hiking as well. We're moving in a couple of months and it would be great to tour some of the western US...

Brian Griffith
UL Bike Touring on 06/21/2005 09:09:07 MDT Print View


You should check out the Great Divide Race and the bikes in it. The Great Divide Race is a solo unsupported off-road ride/race along the Great Divide Bicycle Route from Canada to Mexico, roughly paralleling the CDT. About 2400 miles and 250,000 feet of climbing.
From here ( you can follow the racer's progress. From here ( you can read about the race and link to some of the rider's pages and their bikes and packing lists.
These guys/gals are travelling pretty UL.



Locale: Pacific Northwet
Re: UL Bike Touring on 06/21/2005 09:18:42 MDT Print View

One interesting piece of equipment several guys are using is an auto windshield sun screen as a ground pad. These are the ones that are made of like 1/8 foam with a mylar layer.

John Davis
(JNDavis) - F

Locale: Isle of Man
Bike Touring on 07/07/2005 11:57:52 MDT Print View

Kevin, there are so many styles of touring with a bicycle. You need to decide what you want to do before spending a lot of money.

I got back into touring last year with four weeks on French mountains. I had two panniers on my eight year old audax bike. This was a great trip and convinced me to buy a real touring bike, with fittings for front panniers. This is probably a good approach. Find out if you enjoy it enough to spend real money on a good machine.

Using high quality kit, with solid clicks when appropriate and silence the rest of the time, is pleasant but the real advantage lies in the total absence of breakdowns. Nothing, despite seven weeks (four on the audax, three so far on the tourer) of climbing big mountains with a full load of camping gear.

The audax bike was good, but the touring bike (26 inch wheels) was better. The steering doesn't get light on ascents and the descents are very stable. Seriously enjoyable. So far the new bicycle has had two tours - an icy week in February and two weeks in France in June. It has also proved far better than the audax for evening rides on the dreadful road surfaces we have over here on the Isle of Man. I had to go very gently with 700c x 25mm tyres.

The other style of touring which I have tried is with ultralight gear in a rucksack for mountain biking. Stowing the tarp at 5 a.m. and leaving a delightful wild pitch to start the first of several great descents was a real joy. Mild technicalities are possible with an ultralight rucksack. This was just a weekend trip. There will be more like it.

I pack pretty light, but on long tours the weight soon climbs. A good tool kit is great for reassurance. You'll want a solid lock for a good bicycle and they are very heavy. On a long journey, if you care at all about the area you are riding through, you'll pick up reading material. Maps aren't that light if you are covering hundreds of miles of back roads. Big-time cycle touring isn't really an ultralight activity.

By the way, the real reason to avoid a recumbent is the shortage of reliable equipment. A recumbent cyclist left Orange half an hour before me and was much faster, but I caught him up while he repaired a puncture. It turns out he had not been able to get kevlar tyres for his little wheels. And those chain lengths would worry me. The chain is the only thing needing attention on a good touring machine.

Edited by JNDavis on 07/07/2005 12:11:43 MDT.

Kevin Lane
Re: Bike Chosen on 07/11/2005 19:26:34 MDT Print View

Well, last night I swore, promised and really explained it all to the boss, advising that I have chosen the bike and the only bike that I will buy for five years. We went to the shop tonight and I of course bought a different model. I had been leaning towards the Lemond Big Sky SLT, but then I checked out the Specialized Sequoia. The shop called the company (in Salt Lake or so they said) to find out if they had my size and it turns out that they are having a closeout on a 2004 carbon framed and tricked out version of the Sequoia, called the Pro. Now, being a founding Walking Bellie who will now roll, this was a deal to take, especially when I was told it was $1,500, which is less than lesser bikes cost. The company has a number of these left so if anyone is thinking of this sort of thing I would look into it soon. With an ultralight load this bike should rock

Courtney Waal
(d0rqums) - F
Re: Bike Chosen on 07/15/2005 01:30:17 MDT Print View

That's a great bike. I'd suggest giving some careful thought to the carbon choice, though. Carbon bikes start out very stiff (great for racing, not for touring) and then the resin will break down over time and vibration and ride a lot more loosely. This won't take long on an extended bike tour. They also don't handle crashing very well, a minor crash that would just requre component adjustment on a steel, ti, or aluminum bike on a carbon frame will require some very, very careful inspection and listening to make sure the frame isn't cracked or squeaking. Carbon gives you very little warning before it fails- which it does, as the frames are made for a lifetime average of 3 race seasons. You also can't clamp anything over the frame without damaging the top resin (I've seen it a million times) and sacrificing the structural integrity of the bike. My BF got a Specialized Roubaix (very similar to the Sequoia frame) a year ago and even under light riding it's already loosened up and the resin is breaking in places where things were rubbing the frame. They're great amateur racing or weekend warrior bikes, but are not suited for touring when it sounds like you're spending enough money to get a fine tourer.

Note: the Sequoia doesn't have rear rack eyelets. Any weight savings in the frame will be destroyed once you have to clamp a rack onto your seatpost (and they are not made for carbon seatposts).

Brian Griffith
Cheap Touring Bike on 07/15/2005 09:47:32 MDT Print View

I was reminded of another good touring bike that is relatively cheap and available at any bike shop through QBP: the Surly Long Haul Trucker. An excellent buy in a touring bike.


Kevin Lane
Re: Re: Bike Chosen on 07/28/2005 08:12:33 MDT Print View

Not sure what you mean by loosening up. Also, the model I have has the rear rack capability, and it received very nice comments in the artilce on Lightweight biking in Bicyling mag. I fgure as long as the load hauled is kept low all will be good, and I see no reason to go over 15, and more likely will be under 10

(RavenUL) - F
Touring bike on 08/02/2005 12:46:42 MDT Print View

Im a big fan of Kona bikes, and so tend to look there before looking else where. When I was seriously considering buying a touring bike, I looked REALLY hard at the Kona Sutra. Life got in the way and I havent had the time to make a touring bike worthwhile, but the research was fun!

The Sutra looks like a really good choice for touring. Its not a top of the line racer, nor is it the lightest in the bike shop, but its made with durable components hung on a steel frame, and geometry that is designed for long days in the saddle... and a respectable price point to boot.

I realized Im biased, but if I were to buy a tourer, the Sutra would probably be it.

Whit Kincaid
(razor) - F
Recumbents on 08/02/2005 23:37:43 MDT Print View

I agree with some of the previous posts. First decide what you are going to really use the bike for then make an informed choice. That being said, after eight thousand miles riding on two long wheel base recumbents, I can say with total confidence that you cannot find more comfortable bikes for road riding. They also make dramatically more sense when it comes to touring, with their (typically)low center of gravity and superior gear storing potential. Oh, and ....there also FASTER.

Re: Recumbents on 08/04/2005 21:06:19 MDT Print View

What kind (brand and model) of recumbent have you used? I am currently looking and there are so many choices: USS, OSS, long wheelbase, short wheelbase, etc.

John Davis
(JNDavis) - F

Locale: Isle of Man
Bicycle Touring on 08/10/2005 13:42:27 MDT Print View

This forum has a discussion on touring and one of the threads is called How light can you go? The answer seems to be very light indeed. One guy reckons 21 lbs including bicycle, but he isn't camping.

Whit, I've noticed that people who like recumbents really like them. The guy I mentioned in the tortoise and hare story above had four! I tried a three wheeler at a demo day. It was great fun in the corners, but couldn't be justified as I already have two bicycles and two kayaks.

On the Col de Jau I met a guy in a hand-cranked recumbent. He had climbed a 1500 metre (5000 feet?) high hill over a distance of about 46 km using arm power alone. More unbelievable was his speed down hill. Like a bullet!

Whit Kincaid
(razor) - F
Recumbents on 08/10/2005 18:15:03 MDT Print View

Recumbents really are wonderful. If you have ANY interest in long distance road riding, they should definitely be considered.
To anonymous- I started on a Rans tailwind. At $1,000 (and less on ebay used) they are in my opinion a good value. But after 5,000 miles I "gave" it to my wife and bought a larger Rans V2. The tailwind has two 20" wheels while the V2 has a 26" wheel in back and 20' in front. The larger back wheel adds a little cruising speed road comfort.
More to the point, I would personally buy an over seat steering (OSS) compact long wheel base or long wheel base bike. I feel that with all of the experience we all have with bike and automobile riding/driving having your hand in front of you in a panic/sudden swerve/wreck situation above seat steering is superior. I enjoy riding the open road and touring. Long wheel base bikes are in their element here as they tend to require less attention steering them while straight ahead cruising and also there tends to be more room to stow gear. I feel that they are more comfortable. Short wheel base bikes have the advantage in an urban environment as they have a significantly tighter turning radius and thus tend to be handier in close quarters. Most short wheelbase bikes also have heel strike issues (the heel touching the front wheel while turning sharply) and that can be a real problem in a panic turn. On the other hand some wrecks could theoretically be avoided on the short wheel base bikes because of their tighter turning. If you don't hit your foot on the front wheel!
John- the bottom line why recumbent riders are so in love with their bikes is that they are all former conventional frame riders who now ride without pain. Speaking from my experience, there is no neck pain at all, there is no wrist pain at all, there is no rectal pain at all, and your hands are never numb.
Give them a look!

Kevin Lane
Weight on 08/11/2005 19:55:38 MDT Print View

Can I tap the experienced folks here? I am reading the entries on touring and these people are talking of weights of at least 50 pounds. What the heck is going on there? I mean, there are towns for laundry and water sources abound, food can be bought or whatever. How can that segment be so locked in to such mammoth loads? We need a John O on wheels for salvation!

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
touring on 08/11/2005 21:54:46 MDT Print View

no need for the weight. same as backpacking. all the points you put forth make a lot of sense. maybe that is the next "lightening up" revolution.

Whit Kincaid
(razor) - F
A comparison of disiplines on 08/11/2005 23:27:21 MDT Print View

A very interesting subject has been raised now on this thread. How can we adapt the already quite developed light weight backpacking approach to gear selection when considering the limitations and advantages of cycle touring? There is A LOT of cross over. Sleep systems. Cooking systems. Shelter systems. Clothing systems. Hydration. And if you use a recumbent bike with a Rans style seat.....PACKING OPTIONS. The incredible reality of recumbent cycle touring is that if your bike has the wonderfully designed standard pattern Rans style seat, many standard lightweight rucksacks will simply store your gear by simply hanging the pack by its' two pack straps over the back of the two seat posts. Forget about any pannier racks or bags. I know that Rans already sells all of that custom stuff. But you don't need it!. If you have a light weight approach, say app. 14 pounds or less pack weight, then it can work. Check out Click on bikes, and look at the Tailwind, V2,and Stratus lines. Except for the Tailwind you have to add a rear rack (because the bottom of the pack will drag the rear wheel)but otherwise it's all intuitive.