Author Topic: Touring bike recommendations  (Read 11263 times)

ultros1234

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Touring bike recommendations
« on: November 16, 2013, 06:11:35 PM »
Hi mustachians --

I am trying to comb CL for a really high-quality used touring bike. I'm currently commuting on an old Miyata touring model, but it's low-end, quite heavy, and it really tuckers me out on my 15-mile RT commute. I'm willing to spend upwards of $500 on a used Miyata 1000 or something comparable, figuring that it's the last bike purchase I'll ever have to make.

I'm trying to compile a list of good classic touring bikes that I should be looking for, so I can look for good deals on CL. Here's the list I have now. Any models I should add to my list, or anything you think should be deleted?
  • Trek 520
  • Novara Randonee
  • Fuji Touring
  • Cannondale T-Series (T1, T2, T2000, T800, T700)
  • Miyata 1000
  • Rivendell Homer Hilsen
  • Bianchi Volpe
  • Surly Long Haul Trucker
  • Jamis Aurora
  • Motobecane Century
  • Windsor Tourist
  • Raleigh Sojourn
  • Heron
  • Bruce Gordon

amha

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Re: Touring bike recommendations
« Reply #1 on: November 16, 2013, 08:10:17 PM »
Is it just for your commute, or are you planning on actual, serious touring? I ask because if it's the former, you probably don't need a touring bike per se---you can get something light and powerful for cheaper.

For what it's worth, I spent several years commuting 15 miles each way on a Surly Cross-Check, and I've also done a number of short tours (max 600 miles/1 week) with it. The Long Haul Trucker is awesome, but it is a bit heavier than the Cross-Check---if you're looking for a quality used frame that's not too heavy, I'd recommend it!

the fixer

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Re: Touring bike recommendations
« Reply #2 on: November 16, 2013, 11:06:30 PM »
My household has a 2006 Volpe and a 1980s 520 frame that's been rebuilt with new parts. Both are awesome bikes, and definitely belong on your list. The Volpe has a tighter frame geometry with worse toe overlap, but otherwise there's not much difference.

I see LOTS of long haul truckers around Seattle. It's kinda ridiculous actually.

ultros1234

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Re: Touring bike recommendations
« Reply #3 on: November 17, 2013, 01:09:46 AM »
Thanks to both! I'll add the Cross-Check to the list.

Amha, chances are I'll never do any real touring (though I wouldn't mind having the option). My commute is a little hilly, so I want something that has decent gearing, but I want a speedy bike, with maybe just a little bit fatter tire than a straight road bike (like 28mm, say), since some of the roads are a little rough. (Our famous Oakland potholes have blown the skinny road tires on my fancy bike more than once.)  Also, my current commuter has cantilever brakes, which are going to be the death of me. And of course, a longer chainstay, so I can put my rack and panniers on the back.

So those parameters make me think touring bike, but I'm open to suggestions. What other types do you think I should be looking at?

Spudd

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Re: Touring bike recommendations
« Reply #4 on: November 17, 2013, 04:51:25 AM »
Most tourers have cantilever brakes.

I think you might enjoy a cyclocross bike. They normally come with rack mounts and disk brakes, and they're light and sporty.

ScottEric

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Re: Touring bike recommendations
« Reply #5 on: November 17, 2013, 05:58:40 AM »
I have a fuji touring bike, it's great!  I use it to do my 20 mile commute sometimes, and it got me across the US a while back.

I might add the Raleigh Clubman and Port Townsend to the list, I've always kinda wanted to look at those (but then again, I don't need a fourth bike!).

-Scott


Russ

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Re: Touring bike recommendations
« Reply #6 on: November 17, 2013, 07:18:06 AM »
Also, my current commuter has cantilever brakes, which are going to be the death of me.

Why? Get good pads and learn how to set them up right, and they'll be just as good as any other well-adjusted brake with good pads.

I think you might enjoy a cyclocross bike. They normally come with rack mounts and disk brakes.

CX bikes sometimes come with rack mounts or disk brakes, rarely both, most often neither, and only ever a rear rack at that, never front. A Cross-Check is a great all-around bike, but I'd almost hesitate to call it a CX bike (despite its purported intent I've never seen anyone actually race one), and if it is it's certainly the exception. Cyclocross bikes by definition are made for racing cyclocross, in which fenders and racks are a disadvantage and disk brakes have only even been allowed the past couple years.

Spudd

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Re: Touring bike recommendations
« Reply #7 on: November 17, 2013, 07:43:00 AM »
I stand corrected!

Russ

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Re: Touring bike recommendations
« Reply #8 on: November 17, 2013, 07:57:16 AM »
I agree the Cross-Check fits on your list though! The Gunnar CrossHairs is similar (CX, steel, rack mounts) but a little pricier, might be in your price range if you can find one used.

GuitarStv

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Re: Touring bike recommendations
« Reply #9 on: November 17, 2013, 11:06:35 AM »
I've been happy with Nashbar's steel touring bike.  No problems fitting front/rear rack, long chain stays so you're not catching your heel on bags, and relatively inexpensive.  They go on sale a couple times a year for very cheap and make great commuters.

yomimono

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Re: Touring bike recommendations
« Reply #10 on: November 17, 2013, 07:43:14 PM »
My touring buddy rides a Salsa Vaya and she's really happy with it.  It's a disc brake model, which you might like since you're not a canti fan.

the fixer

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Re: Touring bike recommendations
« Reply #11 on: November 17, 2013, 08:44:18 PM »
CX bikes sometimes come with rack mounts or disk brakes, rarely both, most often neither, and only ever a rear rack at that, never front. A Cross-Check is a great all-around bike, but I'd almost hesitate to call it a CX bike (despite its purported intent I've never seen anyone actually race one), and if it is it's certainly the exception. Cyclocross bikes by definition are made for racing cyclocross, in which fenders and racks are a disadvantage and disk brakes have only even been allowed the past couple years.
I'm no expert on cyclocross bikes, but the Volpe is technically considered an entry-level CX bike. The model I have has mounts for both front and rear racks, and accepts fenders just fine. From the perspective of a buyer evaluating bikes not for racing purposes, the marketers' classification of the bike is what's important because it's what someone on Craigslist is likely to call it.

Both of our bikes use cantilever brakes, and I find that if you get a good pair (such as the Shimanos or the Avid Shortys) they are easy to adjust and give awesome stopping power. If you happen to find an 80s touring frame like I did, keep in mind that it was probably built for 27" wheels. In my case, the wheels had been swapped with 700c, so the only brakes that work on it well are crummy Tektro cantilevers. I'd have to replace the wheels (or rims, then rebuild the wheels with new spokes) to upgrade the brakes. I tried upgrading the brakes on it only to discover this.

I agree that 28cm tires are the way to go for rougher roads. I find they work great on any road surface even in Seattle (and our roads are TERRIBLE), but they aren't fat enough to work well on rough unpaved surfaces like coarse gravel. For that you'd need at least 32's.

ultros1234

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Re: Touring bike recommendations
« Reply #12 on: November 17, 2013, 11:18:20 PM »
Thanks all! Some great recommendations. Cross-check and others added to the watch list (updated below). Any other recommendations are still welcome!

I had not been thinking of cyclocross bikes; I will keep my eyes open for them as well. It would be nice to have the option of mounting a front rack, though.

Maybe my experience with cantis has been less than ideal. I should go have a look to see what their specs are. On this old Miyata I'm riding, I can't get adequate braking power unless I'm in my drops. On a couple of occasions, I've cruised through a stop sign when I shouldn't have, simply because I wasn't expecting to have to brake, and I couldn't apply enough pressure from my hoods. So perhaps this is a factor of my crappy components in particular and not cantis in general.

I've been happy with Nashbar's steel touring bike.  No problems fitting front/rear rack, long chain stays so you're not catching your heel on bags, and relatively inexpensive.  They go on sale a couple times a year for very cheap and make great commuters.

I'm curious if others have experience with the Nashbar touring models. Here's the two I found:
http://www.nashbar.com/bikes/Product_10053_10052_553824_-1___202339
http://www.nashbar.com/bikes/Product_10053_10052_522412_-1___202339
Both would be basically in my price range new.

The list:
Trek 520
Novara Randonee
Fuji Touring
Cannondale T-Series (T1, T2, T2000, T800, T700)
Miyata 1000
Rivendell Homer Hilsen
Bianchi Volpe
Surly Long Haul Trucker
Surly Cross-Check
Jamis Aurora
Motobecane Century
Windsor Tourist
Raleigh Sojourn
Raleigh Clubman
Port Townsend
Heron
Gunnar CrossHairs
Bruce Gordon
Nashbar steel touring bike?
Salsa Vaya

GuitarStv

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Re: Touring bike recommendations
« Reply #13 on: November 18, 2013, 12:24:21 PM »
Maybe my experience with cantis has been less than ideal. I should go have a look to see what their specs are. On this old Miyata I'm riding, I can't get adequate braking power unless I'm in my drops. On a couple of occasions, I've cruised through a stop sign when I shouldn't have, simply because I wasn't expecting to have to brake, and I couldn't apply enough pressure from my hoods. So perhaps this is a factor of my crappy components in particular and not cantis in general.

I've been happy with Nashbar's steel touring bike.  No problems fitting front/rear rack, long chain stays so you're not catching your heel on bags, and relatively inexpensive.  They go on sale a couple times a year for very cheap and make great commuters.

I'm curious if others have experience with the Nashbar touring models. Here's the two I found:
http://www.nashbar.com/bikes/Product_10053_10052_522412_-1___

That's the touring bike that I picked up, the black one.  A mini review about it for you after more than a year of usage:

Good:
- The Shimano 105 shifters are awesome.  Ridiculously awesome.  It's so easy to shift that you will always find yourself in the right gear, and you'll have easier rides because of it.  The 105 stuff is geared really well for commuting/running errands (wide range of useful gears).  If I was regularly doing 10 hours a day on the bike with 60lbs of stuff up and down hills at a snail's pace, I'd probably want easier gears.
- The frame is great.  It's not overly heavy, it absorbs the bumps in the road as you ride in a really nice way.  Very easy to attach the rear rack.  I've had 70 lbs on the bike doing grocery runs, and I weigh 200 lbs and it's held up with no issues.
- Black paint . . . keep some black nail polish in the garage, and in seconds you can touch up any scratches that you manage to put on the bike after each ride.
- The quill stem means you have a lot of adjustability with your bike as far as handlebar height/position.  Threadless stems tend to suck for this.

Middling:
- The brakes are cantilever.  They're not terrible, but not the greatest in the world.  After properly adjusting them, they take me to a stop very quickly, but aren't as quick as disk brakes when the rims get all slushy/snowy/super wet from rain.  There is plenty of room for fenders/big tires under the cantilevers.
- I find the saddle comfy, but it's nothing special.
- Wheels didn't need to be trued when I got the bike, and have stayed true after a year of riding.  The rims aren't smooth, they have tiny grooves cut along the curve of the rim braking surface.  It doesn't seem to affect braking, but seemed weird to me.
- Tires have held up well for me (no flats yet *knock on wood*), but I'd have preferred something with flat protection/kevlar lining.

Bad:
- I've had the rear wheel slip a bit in the dropouts twice while cycling.  The bike makes a funny noise, and it becomes really hard to pedal.  You have to stop, release the QR skewer, and then tighten the wheel back into place when this happens.  I eventually sanded down the paint in the area where the quick release skewer makes contact to the frame and it seems to have fixed the problem, but it was a little annoying.  Maybe replacing the rear skewer with a bolt on one would also solve the issue.
- The pedals suck.  Wait.  No, let me say this again . . . they SUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK.  Maybe I just got a bat batch, but they were some of the worst pedals I've ever used on a bike.  No amount of taking them apart and greasing them would make them spin properly.
- The rack that comes with the bike sucks.  Put more than 20 lbs on it and it feels wiggly.  Put more than 40 lbs on it and it starts to feel like it's going to come apart.  (It says there's a 50 lb weight limit . . . good luck with that.)  The cheap Axiom Journey rack that I picked up is miles better for hauling heavy stuff around.
« Last Edit: November 18, 2013, 12:29:31 PM by GuitarStv »

the fixer

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Re: Touring bike recommendations
« Reply #14 on: November 18, 2013, 01:42:31 PM »
Maybe my experience with cantis has been less than ideal. I should go have a look to see what their specs are. On this old Miyata I'm riding, I can't get adequate braking power unless I'm in my drops. On a couple of occasions, I've cruised through a stop sign when I shouldn't have, simply because I wasn't expecting to have to brake, and I couldn't apply enough pressure from my hoods. So perhaps this is a factor of my crappy components in particular and not cantis in general.

One thing you can do is change the length of that little segment of cable that forms the "Y" bridge just above each brake (the straddle wire). Exactly how you do this depends on the type, but most of the older brakes just use a piece of cable that is easy to adjust. For newer models you typically have to replace the wire. Making that wire shorter "will feel softer at the lever, but has more leverage" according to the Avid Shorty's installation manual. That might improve your stopping power.

The other standby to check is that the brake arms are parallel to each other when you squeeze the levers. If they are not, you need to move the pads in or out.

And of course the closer you can get the pads to sit to the rims without them rubbing (mainly the truer the wheel), the better they will perform. This is where the Tektros are a pain because, at the least for the ones I have, there's no spring tension adjuster and you just have pad position and brake cable length to play with.

Russ

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Re: Touring bike recommendations
« Reply #15 on: November 18, 2013, 01:57:22 PM »
This is where the Tektros are a pain because, at the least for the ones I have, there's no spring tension adjuster and you just have pad position and brake cable length to play with.

The spring tension adjuster is the Phillips screw below the pivot. Pretty sure your Tektros have them because they're the only way to center the brakes. This still won't bring both pads closer at once though; the only way to do that on any brake is pad position and cable length. Sounds like what you want is a barrel adjuster to adjust housing length (which effectively changes cable length)

the fixer

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Re: Touring bike recommendations
« Reply #16 on: November 18, 2013, 04:30:41 PM »
Maybe there's something I don't know about these brakes... but there are no Phillips screws anywhere on them. I've adjusted V brakes and my other canti brake models before so I know what a traditional spring tension adjuster screw looks like, and these brakes don't have a screw anywhere near the springs that could possibly adjust the tension. I'd include a picture but I couldn't get good enough lighting.

The brakes look similar to the Tektro 862a's, but use more dated hardware (10mm bolts to hold the shoes on instead of Allen).

Sheldon Brown does mention that some "older or cheaper" bikes use brakes with non-adjustable springs that can only be deformed to adjust them. http://sheldonbrown.com/rim-brakes.html#centering

Russ

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Re: Touring bike recommendations
« Reply #17 on: November 18, 2013, 05:11:23 PM »
huh. Well all I did was look on their website, and it's your bike obviously so I stand corrected.

ultros1234

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Re: Touring bike recommendations
« Reply #18 on: November 19, 2013, 11:25:12 AM »
Thanks everyone!

Maybe the cantilevers on my old Miyata 210 are just of poor quality and/or haven't been properly taken care of. I should probably deconstruct and rebuild them, give the cable housing a good cleaning, etc. The damn things are a pain to adjust, though. If I could get the brakes working well, I'd feel a bit better about staying in my current bike.

Quote
Sounds like what you want is a barrel adjuster to adjust housing length (which effectively changes cable length)

Can you get a barrel adjuster for cantilever brakes?

Russ

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Re: Touring bike recommendations
« Reply #19 on: November 19, 2013, 11:40:54 AM »
something like this will work for any brake. It installs in the middle of a section of housing and by turning the center it gets longer or shorter, adjusting the cable length. New ones are a little pricey, but if you have a local bike shop you're friendly with they might have a take-off to give you for cheap.

the fixer

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Re: Touring bike recommendations
« Reply #20 on: November 19, 2013, 12:13:24 PM »
I also have them on my brakes, I found them in an old parts bin while I was working as a bike mechanic. There's a metal stop on a pivot that holds the end of the housing in place right before the cable gets to the straddle wire. The adjusters are between the housing and the stop in front and rear. If you're not sure, just show your bike to a shop mechanic and if they're good, they should be able to identify locations for a barrel adjuster. One built in to a section of cable works, too, but for some reason I always forget which direction is which on those when I try to turn them.

If your brakes use the old style straddle wire (a separate piece of cable that runs through a triangular piece that connects it to the brake cable), replacing this with the more modern style will make the brakes much easier to adjust. The downside is you can't change straddle wire length without replacing parts. These are something else you can probably get for free at a bike shop, since brakes I've bought come with multiple lengths and you only need one per brake.