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Max's Guide to Building Your Touring Bike
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Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Max's Guide to Building Your Touring Bike on 04/25/2014 15:49:49 MDT Print View

I created a full guide for customizing a touring bike! Enjoy!

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Max's Guide to Building Your Touring Bike on 04/25/2014 17:18:12 MDT Print View

that was prob rude of me ; ) Nice write up.

Edited by jshann on 04/25/2014 19:33:04 MDT.

Dan Dru
(Dandru) - F

Locale: Down Under
Max's Guide to Building Your Touring Bike on 04/25/2014 21:32:13 MDT Print View

Congratulations, you put some work into that guide. I'm struggling to write a journal on Crazyguy but you've inspired me.

After riding through Laos and Thailand over the Christmas period, I realized that I need to go lighter because in Laos, it was either up or down. Can you recommend any carbon MTB frames for 26 inch wheels and disc brakes. The plan is to ride a lighter bike and take less gear which I don't take a lot of anyway.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
Re: Max's Guide to Building Your Touring Bike on 04/26/2014 09:50:08 MDT Print View

Nice work Max.

I've had rotten luck with Shimano freehubs, blown up everyone I've owned, but for pavement they're probably fine.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Re: Max's Guide to Building Your Touring Bike on 04/26/2014 10:03:20 MDT Print View


I don't know anyone making carbon fiber frames for 26" wheels and disc brakes that aren't full-suspension downhill bikes, and those always soar over 30lbs. I think a steel frame would be your only option if you're just getting it to tour.

That being said, Surly is, well, surly. They're big bikes. You could go lighter if you looked into a custom framebuilder like Waterford or Rivendell, but I don't know how much mountain stuff they build.

I would also check out titanium. A Moots frame would be a lifetime investment because it would never corrode or wear out, and it'd be much lighter than steel. The short-travel Moots bikes are dreams of mine; 26" wheels, disc brakes, and about 1=2" of travel in the suspension, just enough to take the sting out of trails without weighing you down.

Dan Dru
(Dandru) - F

Locale: Down Under
Re: Re: Max's Guide to Building Your Touring Bike on 04/26/2014 12:37:47 MDT Print View

Thanks Max,

I'll probably end up with something like the frame in the link below. I was looking at the Surly disc trucker but they're heavier than the LHT, so that's not an option. I've got a Cannondale T2 but I don't want to take it to Asia unless I'm there for an extended time.

Bali - July 2012

Edited by Dandru on 04/26/2014 12:41:25 MDT.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Titanium is King on 04/26/2014 12:54:36 MDT Print View

For touring, I would definitely go Titanium before Carbon.

Dan Dru
(Dandru) - F

Locale: Down Under
Re: Titanium is King on 04/26/2014 15:10:03 MDT Print View

Titanium might be the king but it's a high cost product.

I've got my doubts about carbon because the frame get knocked about in transit. I think my best option is to lighten my load as best I can by taking front panniers and no bar bag, that way I'm restricted by what I take.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Good Points on 04/26/2014 18:05:43 MDT Print View

If price is an issue, then I would opt for classic steel over carbon fiber. Carbon fiber is only marginally cheaper than titanium. In fact, a carbon frame that is very much cheaper than titanium won't be good quality, and ultimately you'll pay twice when it fails.

Get a good steel frame to save $. You'll only add a few pounds. Otherwise, if you can save a bit and get a titanium frame off Ebay and build up a bike (or get something like a Moots bike for ~$3500 complete) you'll have an amazing bike for a few decades. it'll probably outlive you.


Dylan Atkinson
(atkinsondylan) - MLife

Locale: Bay Area
Steel on 04/27/2014 18:19:36 MDT Print View

For extended touring, especially outside the US, wouldn't a steel frame make more sense due to the relative ease in finding someone to fix, say, a bent fork?

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Steel vs Titanium on 04/27/2014 20:06:28 MDT Print View

My understanding/experience is that Titanium is so strong, you don't really need to consider it bending or breaking.

There's a common anecdote/trope that you'll be able to weld a steel frame back together. I would say, no. If you literally snap your steel frame, you're hitchhiking back to civilization because it's going to be difficult to impossible to get a fully functional bike out of a hack weld job, not withstanding the difficulty of finding a welding torch in the middle of South America/Africa/Middle East.

I bent the steering tube on a steel fork in Montreal. Montreal has a bike shop every 300 feet. I visited four, and all four said it was unfixable. The final stop called a framebuilder, and the framebuilder said the fork just couldn't be bent back into place.

That might be some indication that a steel frame, while resilient and reparable (I have bent steel drop-outs back twice), is not a perfect medium for repairs.

So, Titanium is just so burly and so overly strong for cycling that, so long as you're not hit by a car, it won't see damage. if I were to do an "around the world" style bike tour, I would take a titanium frame.

There's really only one reason to choose steel over titanium, and that's cost. If cost ceases to be a factor, go titanium.

Edited by mdilthey on 04/27/2014 20:08:47 MDT.

Nathan Meyerson
(NathanMeyerson) - F

Go with steel! on 04/27/2014 20:20:35 MDT Print View

I would argue that steel is superior to titanium for long distance tours(especially in foreign countries) Steel can be welded/repaired MUCH easier than titanium. A steel frame can be welded/brazed by nearly any random 'machine shop'(or stranger with a torch/welder). Most shops won't touch titanium because it requires expensive equipment. If, for example you're touring with a rack and snap a braze-on(as happened to me with a steel frame on bike tour). You can most likely have someone in the nearest town machine/weld a solution. Not so with titanium. For a somewhat similar reason, I'd argue that 26" wheels may be superior for touring depending on the location. A replacement 26" wheel will be much easier to come by out on the road than a 700c or 29" wheel. (and they're stronger!)

"not withstanding the difficulty of finding a welding torch in the middle of South America/Africa/Middle East"

I disagree that this is actually as difficult as you think.

Edited by NathanMeyerson on 04/27/2014 21:03:43 MDT.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

Maybe Not Steel on 04/27/2014 20:32:24 MDT Print View

26" wheels are only more popular in certain countries, and the gap is closing. Just do your research.

A lot of the "traditional" thoughts about third-world touring have been rethought or rejected by a lot of people actually doing it.

The blogger from "Bike Grease and Coffee" has biked SEVERAL THOUSAND miles across south america on 29" fatbike wheels and tires, and he's done plenty of replacements.

For every touring cyclist who has welded a steel frame in a third world country, there's 50 that didn't need to or couldn't. And there's 500 people that haven't tried it who will tell you it's a guaranteed event on a third world tour.

Nathan Meyerson
(NathanMeyerson) - F

Thanks Max! on 04/27/2014 21:30:14 MDT Print View

I've been riding steel touring bikes for over ten years (first was a lugged 1991 Trek 520 I rode over 3000 miles with no incidents)

I haven't owned a titanium bicycle, but have ridden several, and they're great!

Personally, Steel bikes are something that are in my blood. (My current roadtouring/daily commuter is a Gunnar Crosshairs; my Bikepacking rig is a 1995 Trek 990 with rigid salsa fork)

I appreciate your eagerness to reject traditional notions of long distance touring.

"The blogger from "Bike Grease and Coffee" has biked SEVERAL THOUSAND miles across south america on 29" fatbike wheels and tires, and he's done plenty of replacements."

Little confused here.

What exactly is a 29" fatbike wheel? I know what a 29" wheel is, and I know what a fatbike wheel is. But I haven't seen any 29" wheels that accommodate a 3.8"+ 'fatbike' tire. Educate me please.

I got out of my 8+ years as a bicycle mechanic in 2010, so maybe I've missed a few recent developments.

Also, looking at that blog it appears that he is riding a 26" wheeled fatbike. Am I wrong?

Be safe out there, maybe I'll see you out over the road!

Edited by NathanMeyerson on 04/27/2014 21:40:56 MDT.

Max Dilthey
(mdilthey) - M

My mistake on 04/27/2014 21:49:22 MDT Print View

Oops, my mistake. It is a 26" fatbike. My point kinda still stands, since a fatbike wheel is not a common wheel to find in South America.

I suppose I assumed fatbike wheels were 29" because those huge tires make them appear about the same size as a 29er's wheels. Whoops!

My love for Titanium is lust. I have a steel framed bike, and it's coming up on about 6,000 or 7,000 miles of riding in the last three years. I can't afford a Titanium frame, but I'm saving my pennies.

Edited by mdilthey on 04/27/2014 21:50:14 MDT.

Nathan Meyerson
(NathanMeyerson) - F

Backwards compatible on 04/27/2014 22:09:24 MDT Print View

But your point may be functionally moot,


1. A 26" fatbike frame can still fit a 'normal' 26" rim with regular mountain bike tire, and

2. Wider mountain bike tires may still fit on 'fatbike' rims.

So yes, a 26" fatbike wheel/tire is going to be incredibly uncommon in foreign countries, but you can just slap on the common 26" wheels that are ubiquitous worldwide and keep riding!

I lust after titanium too, but I believe that a steel frame can outlive me just as well.

William F

Locale: PNW
Re: Max's Guide to Building Your Touring Bike on 05/10/2014 15:16:52 MDT Print View

Nice guide Max, thanks for writing it up. I tour on a 1986 Miyata 1000 and it has treated me very well. Steel frame. I prefer steel frames because they ride smoother than the alternative. I haven't ridden a titanium frame though; how would those of you who have tried one out compare them to steel frames in terms of their smoothness on pavement? It seems like the would be very rigid, but again I've never had the opportunity to try one out on a tour. Regarding the drivetrain, your knees will thank you in the long run with a tiny granny gear on there. You can get up dirt/gravel roads easier with a granny gear too. If you want to save some weight on spoke count go for 32 up front and 36 in the back. I myself am a pretty small guy and have found 32 spoke counts to be more than adequate. I also think most peoples' assessments of going with wider tires as exaggerated; also, in the end, touring should never be a race in my personal opinion but I get it that others may come from a different inspirations. In terms of treads I really like my Continental Gatorskins. They are pricey but they are awesome treads in my experience. For hubs I've ran 105 Shimanos in the past, kind of a middle of the road option, but very nice in my experience. I also own Ortlieb front-rollers but use them on the back. In tandem with a small Nitto front rack I have more than enough storage space considering my gear is all UL. I would like to experiment with a frame bag as you mentioned though. The lower you can get your weight the better in my experience. I like more weight on the back wheel but I know others who have different opinions. One thing I didn't see was mention of the leather Brooks saddle. Yes, they are pricey and a little pretentious but they last a lifetime with good care and after owning one I can't imagine buying anything else. Gloves are great advice and how people can tour with flat bars I don't understand… drop bars give you so many more hand positions that on longer days they really help with hand/arm comfort. Does anyone use a kickstand here? I never have but have considered adding one at times.