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reliability question - what to ride cross country?(37 posts)

reliability question - what to ride cross country?Dog
Feb 5, 2002 8:42 AM
While this is a bit academic, I've thought about this a lot while riding.

If you were going to ride across the country, alone, and had to carry your tools and fix your own bike, what set up would you use, especially components? Reliability, simplicity, and serviceability count for a lot, but you still need to get up mountains (weight is an issue), and you might need to find replacements along the way (if available). Of course, the more confidence you have in reliability, the fewer tools or spares you need to take.

re: reliability question - what to ride cross country?MJ
Feb 5, 2002 8:48 AM
for hard core touring - a Bruce Gordon with mtb. components - mtb. components are easier to come by than roadie stuff
I'd be awful tempted to take my Gunnar Street Dog SSMB1
Feb 5, 2002 9:08 AM
with a flop hub and a few extra freewheels and an extra chainring.

In reality I would ride my Bianchi Cyclocrosser (steel frame & fork) with a mix of Shimano stuff. 30/42/52 rings, 12-32 cassette. 36h wheels, conti touring 2000 tires 700x25 with my best Brooks Saddle. Lots of reflectors and a battery light front & rear. Fenders.

A multi tool, Swiss Army knife, spare chain links, spokes, cables, Zefal HPX pump, chain lube, 2 rags, 3 tubes, patch kit, 1 spare tire, brakepads, some zip ties, a tire boot, cable cutter/pliers and duct tape. (This is pretty much what we normally carry on brevets anyway).

I'd tow a bob trailer and bring a major credit card. Stay in motels/hotels (when Miss M finished her first cross country ride she burned her sleeping bag and swore to never camp out again!).

When do we start?
I was thinking the same thingAlex-in-Evanston
Feb 5, 2002 9:34 AM
Steel frame, phil hubs are serviceable with two allen wrenches, phil bb is a rock, no gears to muk up, rack eyelets. I've got a salsa flared handlebar on it that I just love.

On a totally different subject, and as I know you've spent some years in HI - do you know where I could find some info on riding around the north shore of Kauai? The GF and I will be in Hanalei for ten days in May. My web searches turn up lots of info about downhill rides. Would you suggest renting road or mtb?


Feb 5, 2002 9:42 AM
I don't think you'd want a single speed to ride up and down 10,000 foot mountains in a headwind with 50 pounds of gear. Almost gotta have a wide range triple of some sort.

I think I'd go titanium, as it's probably the least worrisome of all frame materials. Phil stuff is pretty bomb proof.

Well you didn't lay out the route or schedule.MB1
Feb 5, 2002 9:51 AM
I remember getting 200 miles in (we had planned 80) across Wyoming with 40-50 mph tailwinds. Keep the gear off the bike, stay in hotels, sleep in if the weather is bad.

You don't have to go through the hardest passes. South Pass in Wyoming is very easy. And don't forget you are not starting at sea level when you do the passes over the Rockies-the climbs aren't that bad. By far the hardest climbs are in Pennsylvania, Kentucky or West Virginia.
anywhere, any timeDog
Feb 5, 2002 10:07 AM
In my academic construct (since I won't be doing this any time in the foreseeable future), this is a bike that you could ride any road, at any time, on any schedule. Versatility is key.

kentucky? do tell. nmJs Haiku Shop
Feb 5, 2002 10:56 AM
Come on down, son. I'll show you them hills. nmscottfree
Feb 6, 2002 5:52 AM
You are SOL if you crack your Ti frame on the road.MB1
Feb 5, 2002 10:15 AM
Of course it happens. Don't see a whole lot of touring Ti frames (Litespeed makes one I know). Any body shop or welder can cobb together a fix for your steel frame anywhere in the world.

I'd run Phil stuff but it is unusual to have parts problems other than wheels-rims and spokes,not hubs.
Feb 5, 2002 10:33 AM
I would think that frame cracks are extremely rare, so rare to not even be an issue. But, I'm was thinking only of the riding part. I suppose other things could happen, like running off the road and doing endo's, having a car back into it while parked, etc. I see your point.

Can't do it. Can't even hike all the way around.MB1
Feb 5, 2002 9:44 AM
Kauai is not the best place for long rides. Really only one road that circles 2/3 of the island and lots of bad (but polite) drivers. The ride to the top of Waimea canyon is pretty scenic, actually the whole island is pretty scenic.

It can be really wet there. I'd say it the most laid back of the Hawaiian Islands. A good place to relax and go with the flow.
That's not what I wanted to hearAlex-in-Evanston
Feb 5, 2002 9:55 AM
I'm going to be there three weeks before the start of track season. I'll just have to be creative.

I'm familiar with the layout of the island and its off-limits northwestern quadrant, but are there so few side streets that you can't have a good two hour ride?

Thanks again,

Give these folks a call.MB1
Feb 5, 2002 10:06 AM
Your best bet is probably to ride off road for a good workout. Nice thick red clay mud!!! ;-)
Feb 5, 2002 10:33 AM
a million,

An Atlantis, a cell phone, perhaps...Me Dot Org
Feb 5, 2002 9:22 AM
....a PDA with a list of all the bike shops along your route.

Bicycle Fish has a nice list, with, links to other packing lists:
re: reliability question - what to ride cross country?MCCL
Feb 5, 2002 9:56 AM
Find some 36 spoke wheels and rebuild or make sure the spokes are new. This was my weakest link when I went cross country. Twice spokes broke because I took my LBS word that the wheels were good to go. I finally just bought a new wheel and suffered no other break downs. Gauge your distance between towns and buy tires accordingly. I did carry a spare and did change it out after about 1000 miles. A triple is a must when challenging the mountains. I had AAA map out my route so when I needed to go on the Interstates it was legal. Good Luck.
re: reliability question - what to ride cross country?Len J
Feb 5, 2002 10:09 AM
My .02:

Wheels: 36 hole open pros, Shimano hubs 3 cross duble butted w brass nipples. Easy to fix, bombproof, easy to get spares.

Frame: Touring steel or Titanium. Steel w/ framesaver would be fine/Titanium would be one less thing to worry about.

Components: All Shimano probably some mountain & some road.
I'd have a triple with a 26 (or 28) 38 & 48 or something similiar & a 13/32 on the back. I'm assuming that if your riding Cross country w/full gear it's not about time but about comfort. Shimano is easier to find replacements for than Campy.

Other Components: Comfy saddle & either great Paniers or a Bob Trailer. I'd want to try both for a long weekend befor I decided. I'd use 700 x at least a 25 tire & probably wider. Comfort baby!

Tools. I would probably mimic MB1's list except I'd specifically carry a chain tool, a spoke wrench & tire irons.

I'd also probaably put fenders on. You know your gonna end up in the rain at some point.

re: reliability question - what to ride cross country?ColnagoFE
Feb 5, 2002 10:19 AM
Steel touring frame--not too lightweight with places to attach panniers and such. Easily repairable by most metal shops unlike TI, AL or CF frames.

Shimano components--probably 105 level--easy to replace pretty much anywhere unlike Campy and can take a bigger gear range for touring.

you'd probably also need some spare spokes. a spoke wrench, set of allen keys, chain tool, and patch kit with some spare tubes as well. Maybe even a spare tire if you're really paranoid, but not if you can buy another one along the way.
re: reliability question - what to ride cross country?Mel Erickson
Feb 5, 2002 10:22 AM
I'd make the bike as absolutely standard as possible. Consider the items that could go wrong most frequently. I's start with wheels. High quality hubs with replaceable bearings (not bearing cartriges but individual bearings that you can find replacements for at any hardware store or carry along with little weight penalty). Standard spokes and nipples, schraeder valves?. Standard mountain bike parts LX or XT (triples are standard and gearing is wide ranging). MTB pedals of your choice with extra cleats (maybe even consider clips and straps?). A Zefal HPX frame fit pump. Disk brakes?
Weight really isn't a big issue if you are really going to be self supported. You'll have 50+ pounds of gear, whats a few more ounces on the bike? You want something bomb proof and very reliable/repairable. Is time an issue? If so I would consider weight a more important factor. A good list of bike shops was a good idea but not on a PDA. They eat batteries for lunch and if Murphys law is applied will conk out when needed the most. Stick with a paper list. I'll probably think of more later, gotta go pick up my wife.
re: reliability question - what to ride cross country?Len J
Feb 5, 2002 10:25 AM
My .02:

Wheels: 36 hole open pros, Shimano hubs 3 cross duble butted w brass nipples. Easy to fix, bombproof, easy to get spares.

Frame: Touring steel or Titanium. Steel w/ framesaver would be fine/Titanium would be one less thing to worry about.

Components: All Shimano probably some mountain & some road.
I'd have a triple with a 26 (or 28) 38 & 48 or something similiar & a 13/32 on the back. I'm assuming that if your riding Cross country w/full gear it's not about time but about comfort. Shimano is easier to find replacements for than Campy.

Other Components: Comfy saddle & either great Paniers or a Bob Trailer. I'd want to try both for a long weekend befor I decided. I'd use 700 x at least a 25 tire & probably wider. Comfort baby!

Tools. I would probably mimic MB1's list except I'd specifically carry a chain tool, a spoke wrench & tire irons.

I'd also probaably put fenders on. You know your gonna end up in the rain at some point.

and for a total of $0.04...ohio
Feb 5, 2002 11:03 AM
... slime your tubes, including your spares. Well worth it. You'll only have blowouts if you shear a valve stem or overheat on descents. Presta should be fine, just keep an adapter screwed onto the valve at all times so you never lose or forget it.

Full panniers put huge loads on your dropouts and on your hub axles, and all that weight puts huge loads on freewheel mechanisms. I like the suggestion of loose ball hubs but only freewheel style hubs are made that way, so I think just bringing an extra axle and a few sets of cartridge bearings with you will be just fine.

I'd use bar-end shifters with a friction mode too. Nothing to go wrong and will save you if you bend your derailleur or the cable slips or gets gummed up.

Rhyno-lite rims, to handle the Avid V-brakes, and 30mm or larger tires (you'll thank me on michigan roads)

Definitely get full fenders.

Waterproof map sleeve.

Shimano un-72 BB is the most reliable ever made and square taper cranks will be easier to find, should you ruin the first pair. You could go with Phil Wood but I don't think there's any good reason to.

Try every saddle you can get your hands on until you find one so comfy you'd ride down a staircase on it with your feet off the pedals.
Get a quality aheadset. threaded might be more standard in the boonies, but a good one will NEVER cause a problem and it will save you having to lug around ridiculous sized wrenches.

Thomson seatpost of appropriate setback.

I'm tempted to say toe-clips and straps, but you'll probably be fine a a quality recessed cleat system: Time ATACs, Shimano 747s.
Aerospoke Wheels!!jbrown2036
Feb 5, 2002 11:09 AM
A good quality steel frame (easy on the bum side)
A good quality crabon fork (easy on the buzz)
Ultegra triple group (parts available anywhere-moderatlty cheap)
Aerospoke Wheels (indestructible)

I really think the wheels are the key. They aren't as heavy feeling as you might think, and are super great when you hit the flats.

I don't have any connection with Aerospoke other than racing, tarining, and generally abusing their wheels.
And how do you fix 'em in Sawpit CO when you drop yourMB1
Feb 5, 2002 11:26 AM
bike while dodging a deer/drunk driver/fall asleep riding?

Or in Wamsutter Wy, or you are up Jack Creek NV, or lost in Riddle ID, or blown off the road in Wind Ridge PA. You get the idea.

Touring cross-country you want to be able to fix your own stuff, not have to replace an entire assembly.
I see your point, but...jbrown2036
Feb 5, 2002 11:44 AM
and I respect your opinion-however from my experience with these wheels I would have no hesitation using the aeropokes. To give you some background on why I like them so much; I've raced and trained two seasons on the same set of wheels pilling up around 9,000 or so miles. Crashed em' a couple times (don't ask). Commute daily in Washington DC 30 miles r/t (you know the roads) oh, and last but not least 6ft 260 lbs. If I can't break them, they cannot be broke!
Your experience is worth more than my opinion.MB1
Feb 5, 2002 12:08 PM
After all if they hold up on DC roads.....
Aerospoke Wheels!! NOTReality Check
Feb 5, 2002 9:12 PM
Don't Aerospoke wheels use tubular tires? Are you going to use tubbies on this journey? They may be "super great" on the flats, but are we trying to set any speed records here?
Do they use hubs with easily available parts?
reality checkedjbrown2036
Feb 6, 2002 6:42 AM
nope, they also come in clinchers (what I use) and as for the hubs-I've never had to service mine in the whole time I've used them. If it makes you feel better you can always bring a spare hub-they are easy to switch out.
re: reliability question - what to ride cross country?guido
Feb 5, 2002 2:10 PM
A number of years ago I went from DC to Cape Lewes, Delaware, with 80 pounds of full camping regalia: tent, sleeping bag, pad, stove, on a Puch "Lucerne" Reynolds 531 not so well lugged frame that flexed under the load. Gears: 42/52 and 13-28, adequate for the rolling hills of eastern Md. and the flats on the Eastern Shore. Ran on 36 spoke box section rims with 28C tires, broke one spoke on the way out, you guessed it: rear freewheel side, replaced it in the parking lot of a restaurant, and made it through the rest of the trip without breaking another spoke, about 300 miles in a full week.

I did it another time, carrying less weight on the same bike, with no mechanical problems at all. A few things I learned:

Big, fat 38C tires would be welcome as shock absorbers under a heavily loaded bike. Running skinny 28Cs was how I broke that spoke. The bike handled like a semi, but dead weight on a frame doesn't post over bumps. The bike juggernaut just forges ahead, all that inertial mass very comfortably ignoring the bumps, leaving it up to the tires, rims and spokes to even things out, increasing the chances of breaking spokes.

So 36 spokes is minimum. Serious tourers used to even use 40 spokes on the rear wheels. Now that's bulletproof. If one spoke out of 40 breaks, the wheel won't go very out of true. You'll make it to the next rest stop, a new spoke will go in easily, and the wheel will true quickly.

A nicely brazed, lugged, steel frame provides a comfortable platform for all the dead weight hanging on it. It has the right modulus of elasticity, absorbing the shifting baggage and road shocks without losing directional stability or response to pedaling input. Steel won't break for the same reason. If it does, it'll be gradual, and also repairable in the next town, unlike any other frame material, as already pointed out.

Touring on a racing bike was possible for me on that Puch, but longer chainstays, 43-44 cm. would have allowed the weight over the rear wheel to be furthur forward, which would have improved handling. Carrying all the heavy stuff in the panniers and the lightweight tent and sleeping bag atop the rack kept the center of gravity low and made the ride nice and comfortable. A 73 degree neutral steering angle would have cradled the load nicely, but my Puch had 74 degrees and it didn't make much difference against the heavy inerital mass, which wants to go straight ahead, no matter what. And of course, fenders keep road grime off you and your luggage.

Components: Durability over lightweight. Load up the bike, and it becomes a small fraction of the total weight of rider, bike and baggage. It's also surprisingly easy to lift an additional 50 or 60 pounds up a hill on a roadbike. The effect of the weight is like a slight steepening of the grade. You just patiently work at an efficient stroke, conserving as much energy as possible, the same as any long climb, unloaded. The average club rider would have no trouble going over the Rockies in a 39-26 or 28. A slightly heavier, stouter frame will flex less and take less energy out of the rider.

Wheel, crank and headset bearings will go at least 3000 miles if you treat them right. So I wouldn't carry any spare parts or tools for those. Just make sure everything is tight before you go and check it next time you encounter a bikeshop if in doubt.

A couple of spare spokes for the back wheel, spoke wrench, allen wrenches, 8-9-10 mm socket star wrench, another 10 mm crescent wrench to adjust brakes, maybe a set of small pliers, freewheel or cassette remover tool, cone wrenches, okay, but leave the heavy stuff at home. Gas stations have the big tools for headset and crank arms, bike shops for BB, which aren't likely to fail suddenly and leave you stranded on the road. I'd carry a patch kit and two spare tubes for sure, but a spare tire only if going across the desert. On my Eastern Shore trip, I had to put a piece of duct tape inside the rear tire after a dump truck ran me off the road. The sidewall bulged a little, but the tape held and I made it home through two hours of rain. I also noticed how the rear tire wears much faster with the additional load. Tires and chains are available along the way.

Simplicity: No oddball sealed cartridge bearings, unless you have complete confidence in them. Standard spoked wheels. That's it. Maybe downtube shifters, or bar-ends, but STI is pretty much the only way with 8, 9, 10 speed cassettes, isn't it?

I'd go cross country on almost any good bike, around the world on a Rivendell or equivilant. Dream on. I've got a route blocked out from here in Tyler, TX. down to Austin, a portion of it along the Old Spanish Road. You guys are inspiring me to do it, if Spring ever comes!
Bob Gordon...Greg Taylor
Feb 5, 2002 2:10 PM
makes an awesome loaded touring frame. I'd go with Shimano components (parts are available everywhere, and they are easy to fix), 36 hole MA3 rims, Continental Top Touring tires. Mountainbike components are well sealed and tough as nails. Another thought along those lines might be WTB hubs and other components (WTB = Wilderness Trails Bikes) that have a grease port. A quick shot of grease will keep things rolling right along, especially after a wet ride. I have a WTB headset on my dirt rig, and I like being able to purge the old grease after a wet or muddy session.

I did a solo trip in rural Ireland a while back, with the expectation that I wouldn't be able to get replacement parts if something went eerk out in the boonies. Among the stuff that I packed an Alien tool (very handy), a Shimano Hyperglide lockring remover, chain whip, selection of spokes, tubes, cables, lube, extra tire, and a selection of nuts and screws (including a spare shoe cleat and screws). I was glad that I did -- I wound up having a rear derailleur detach itself from the bike in a rainstorm. I used the Alien to turn the bike into a single speed... I also had to change a spoke in the rear wheel after nailing a pot hole. Just call me lucky...
any of my bikesgtx
Feb 5, 2002 6:00 PM
I have three steel road bikes set up with 7sp era/late 80s DA (Campy hubs) and a steel cross bike with 80s Record. Nothing ever goes wrong with them--two of them have been on trips to Italy. All of them have lots of miles, and of course there have been some changes/upgrades over the years as things wore out (nothing ever broke or failed that I can think of). They all weight about 21-22 pounds. I'd feel confident to jump on any of them and head out with no modifications.
There is an easier way!!!!mazobob
Feb 5, 2002 6:30 PM
See and call them on the 800 number. Any bike will do ! Enjoy the scenery without the load. I did the coast to coast in 2000 with Greg and he's a super guy. we passed a lot of solo people ... most were very lonely and exhausted from the load and the cooking. Greg has a great route and the comraderie is super! Email me for more info . tell then you spoke to recumbent bob !
Depends on approach; avoid overkillSteve98501
Feb 5, 2002 10:38 PM
I'd use a standard touring bike if I intended to carry all my own equipment and camp and cook. However, if I wanted to camp, I'd go with a supported tour and let them sag my gear and fix the meals. I have friends who have done this, and an everyday road bike worked just fine.

As a middle-aged guy, if I were to go solo, I'd go the ultra-light, credit card touring style and carry 10 pounds instead of 50. A couple light panniers and a handlebar bag for a few clothes, jersey, and shorts. A spare tire, a few tubes, chain links, and a mini tool would just about do it. Carry as little grub as possible. In the unlikely event of a major breakdown, have spouse or friend fed-ex a spare wheel or whatever from home. Use the couple days of waiting to sight see wherever it finds you. We tried credit card touring up in the islands, and Visa is light and obtains whatever we needed.
Forrest Gump approachDog
Feb 6, 2002 11:03 AM
I've always wanted to take the Forrest Gump approach (long before the movie) - head for the county line and just keep going. Mostly self-sufficient, no definite plan, just be ready for anything.

If we only had time and no responsibilities - the bike is the easy part.

Really wouldn't want to do it solo though.MB1
Feb 6, 2002 11:14 AM
Way back when I rode from Seattle to San Diego solo. I lived in Hawaii at the time, it was quite an adventure. The trip was ok and I learned a lot about myself and touring. One thing I learned is that enough is enough.

Ever since I have toured in groups and had some support. Why carry all that stuff if you can get someone to drive. Now for a 1 week or a weekend tour sure-go solo and self supported (but don't forget the cell phone).

For longer trips it is sure nice to have someone to share the good and bad with. Having someone along makes the good times better and bad times less of an ordeal. Not to mention a being whole lot safer.
Heck if you stopped posting to this forumDoghead
Feb 6, 2002 11:54 AM
You'd have more than enough time.
That 's how I'll do it next time!guido
Feb 6, 2002 1:50 PM
How about one of those kevlar beaded folding tires (when solo)?

The main joy of touring on a bike is seeing the sights up close, having a casual conversation with a local--and sampling the local cuisine. You'll never find that on the Interstates. If I hadn't been on a bike, I would have never happened upon the sweetest old lady running a little bed and breakfast in the middle of nowhere, or had spanokopita in a Greek restaurant outside a small town. Touring by bike is like it used to be when Americans fell in love with cars. Interstates and the sterile sameness of the commercialism along them destroyed that sense of adventure and discovery traveling used to have.