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Touring Bike Build(16 posts)

Touring Bike BuildScot_Gore
Oct 6, 2003 9:53 AM
I'm noodling a winter project. I want to build a bike for loaded long distance touring. I'm looking for a ride that can be a bit more of a work horse versus the current AL framed, skinny tire, go fast, crit bike I've got.

Most of my knowledge of bikes is built around go fast, no load, single day outing, 100% on pavement road bikes.

I've been doing my research on the differences you might want in a touring machine and have gained a reasonable understanding of most of the pros and cons of the differences between touring and race builds. I get the catilver brake, steel fork, wide wheel base, riser stem, bar end vs STI differences and feel I have the right data to make good choices in those areas (although, opinions are welcome from the seasoned minds here).

I can't seem to find good information on the pros and cons of the drive train choices. Most touring builds I see offer a choice between a road series (typically Ultegra in my range) and a mountain bike series (typically XT in my range). Can anyone give me a primer on the good, the bad, and the ugly of these two options. Maybe it's just personal preference, but thoughts and opinions are welcome.

I chose mountain stuff for the low gears...Cory
Oct 6, 2003 10:41 AM
When I built my Atlantis, with essentially the same goals, I chose mountain-ish stuff because I wanted lower gearing than the standard 53-39-30 road chainrings (I live in the mountains, and I wasn't a very good climber even 20 years ago).
I wound up with a Sugino crankset from Rivendell, about $100, with 46-36-26 rings, and an 11-28 cassette. Rear derailleur is XT, front's an LX, and I'm using barcon shifters because I had a set and I like them. I've probably put 3000 miles on that setup with no maintenance beyond lubing the chain. Gear range is more than I need, low enough to climb almost anything and without a lot of potential I'll never use on the high end. I like it so much I put smaller rings on my go-fast bike, too.
Rivendell ( has a couple of road cranks with 110/74 bolt circles that let you go smaller than you can with the current (130mm??) road standard. FWIW, a couple of friends who've ridden my bike have changed their own gears to match. But we're all middle-aged guys who aren't ashamed to admit we need some help....
I have the same bike with almost the same set up...lonebikeroftheapocalypse
Oct 7, 2003 7:06 AM
except with 105 triple front and rear derailleurs. I like it so much that it has become my main ride. I think for most non racers this combination makes the most sense.
re: Touring Bike Buildwily in pacifica
Oct 6, 2003 10:48 AM

I am looking to do the same thing you are but my bike will be used mostly for this winters comuting and occasional touring. I ride a Ritchey SwissCross to work 120-160 miles per week. I have a 20 mile one way commute. I really want something I can put fenders on since my Ritchey gets grime on it since it is foggy in my area.

I am looking at either the Surly CrossCheck frame or even the Surly Karate Monkey just to be different. Both of these can take fenders and the CrossCheck has rack braze-ons on the rear as well.

I am going to build up eithr of them with road bars and STI shifters. If I get the CrossCheck I will get the black frame and try to build it up completely black. I can use a bunch of the new Black 105 componants. Since it takes either 130mm or 135mm hubs I will probabaly build a 135mm, 700c, disc wheelset for it. I know the CrossCheck frame is not disc compatible but if I ever switch to the Karate Monkey I will be all set for wheels.

Since I will be using it mostly for commuting I may go with the 105 triple crank set with 53-39-30, but if I was building it up for touring I would be looking for something smaller. I was thinking of using a black RaceFace Next crank set that would give me 44-34-24 or something close to that. On the rear I would use a 11-32 XT cassette and either the 105 triple rear der or a Deore. I have done a few tours pulling a BOB trailer and believe me you do not want to be pushing your bike up any long hills.

Either way if I went for a triple in the front I could easily switch from the 105 to the RaceFace if I went on a tour by moving the Front Der down a bit. Or you can find a crank set that is 110/74 then you can jsut change the rings instead of having to invest in an entirely new crank set.

If I get this put together i am afraid I will not be riding the Ritchey anymore but need something with fenders and this is a good excuse to build up another bike.

Hey i am saving about $75 a month by riding to work.

Took the Merlin out this past weekend for a fun ride and could not believe how light it felt and how much stroger I was up the hills since becoming a regular commuter. I was worried about the weight of the Surlys but it will jsut make me a stronger rider.

Willy in Pacifica
Road Mountain hybridramboorider
Oct 6, 2003 2:06 PM
I'd go with road handlebars and shifters (which you sound like you're already settled on, mtb rear derailure and cassette, and the perfect compromise in front - the 110-74 bcd crank. You could go with full mtb crankset and front der, but there are problems working some of these combinations with STI and the crank is likely to have a wider Q-factor than you need with a touring frame. A 110-74 allows any size big ring you want, middle rings down to 34 teeth, and granny rings down to 24 teeth. Not quite as low as a 20 tooth granny on a mtb crank, but with a 12-34 cassette, you get gears down in the 20" range, which have gotten me up long steep climbs with 40 excess pounds on the bike. A 46 or 48 x 12 is a high enough gear for touring and even for most road riding, unless you like to push really large gears.

Finally, I prefer barcons whenever a triple is involved. I like index shifting in back, but I think its the devils work in front. Particularly with non-standard ring choices, setting up STI to work reliably is a major PIA and not something I want to have to mess with on the road. Barcons give you the best of all possible worlds for a bike that isn't your main go-fast bike.

Good luck,

When are we going to get a touring forum...Frith
Oct 6, 2003 6:52 PM
there's certainly enough information/questions to keep us going for a long time.
I really like ramboorider's idea of the 110 bcd cranks up front to give you that middle ground between the far to generous mtb gearing and the steep road gearing. XT in the back for defo! you need that range.
I still can't get away from the luxury of sti shifters but i imagine it would only take a getting stuck with a broken shifter in some remote region to change my mind :)
In fact if we had a touring board the first question i would post is "bar-con vs. sti?"

So what frame are you thinking of building around?
Still in the exploration stage, but here's where I'm leaning...Scot_Gore
Oct 6, 2003 8:29 PM
That is far too pretty a frame to actually tour with.MB1
Oct 7, 2003 5:30 AM
IMO a touring frame is a tool to carry stuff a long way in all conditions. That means as wide a gear range as you can manage (and if given a choice always opt for low gears over high gears-after all how fast are you going to pedal with a full load?).

To me that means a tough bike that you are not too concerned about the appearance. Also since the sucker is going to have pretty low performance with all the tough wheels, wide gear range, racks and bags-why spend a whole lot of money on it? Money is not going to get you more performance, I vote for spending money on more trips or better food on the trip.

Trek has a nice 520 that fills the bill for real touring. Add a BOB trailer and you are all set to go for $1400. Less than the cost of that Waterford frame.
Thank you, Mr. Practical :-)Scot_Gore
Oct 7, 2003 9:01 AM
I'm still in the exploration stage, I've spent no money or made any commitments, but here's what I've been thinking.

I understand that I won't be getting performance in the form of speed and handling for the extra money. But, what I would get is performance in the form of durability and dependability.

I'm not a small man and never will be. I thought it would be important to invest in a touring bike that could deliver some piece of mind out in though conditions about wheither the machine could take it or not. I've been researching, and these guys (and few others) seem to be building to specific problems presented by touring.

The Waterford is pretty, but to my eye it's pretty in the form of craftmanship, not artistry. I was thinking that out alone on the open road it would be helpful to take comfort in the quality workmanship of the bike.

So far, I'm thinking it's worth some of my money.

More of your thoughts welcome.

Well if you are going to spend the cash get the real deal.MB1
Oct 7, 2003 10:42 AM
Oct 7, 2003 11:51 AM
I looked at the Gordon's some. My impression was that they were another high end, focused on solving the touring problem road bike that's comparable to bikes in the Waterford, IF, Herron, Rivendell line of offerings.

What make's them the REAL DEAL and the Waterford et al pale imitations.

I'm trying to learn this segment of the hobby and honestly don't know, so sorry if this seems a dumb question.

My current leaning toward the Waterford has almost nothing to do with any quanitifiable quality differences between the IF, Rivs, Herron, Gordon bikes and more to do with the emotional satisfaction of buying from my Wisconsin neighbor, a connection to the old Schwinns, and that I've got a well established , well respected, and depenable LBS that's a Waterford dealer in town.

It depends if you are actually going to do loaded touring.MB1
Oct 8, 2003 7:28 AM
Waterford is pretty much a frame building company who uses a parts distributor (Quality Bicycle Products) to offer a few general component packages. Nothing really wrong with this but is is mostly done to offer dealers "Packages" to sell with Waterford and Gunnar frames.

Quality offers the same packages to any dealer to use with any frame including the frames Quality sells (Surley, Salsa, Basso and a few others). This approach is sales driven and perhaps not the ideal setup for most riders (but good enough for most riders).

Bruce Gordon pretty much only offers parts that he has used and found to be the most durable and cost efficient available for loaded touring. Anything that he isn't satisfied with ends up in the trash heap. This approach is user driven and pretty much ignores any hope of ever being trendy or selling well.

So my thoughts are that if you want the best touring bike that money can buy Bruce Gordon may be the way to go. If you want a really nice bike that you may someday tour on Waterford sure is pretty.

For what it is worth I may someday own a Waterford, I am very unlikely to ever do loaded touring again or own a Bruce Gordon bicycle (sure do like them though).
I've never done loaded touring, but I'd like to...Scot_Gore
Oct 8, 2003 11:56 AM
I'm not a racer, I'm a rider. I enjoy the outdoors and I enjoy camping. So, yes I think I'll actually do loaded touring.

Also, I have this idea (dream, fantasy, nagging thought....whatever) of taking a bike to China and doing cross country loaded touring. Why ????, my daughter is Chinese born, she comes from a people, culture, and history that I don't feel I have a strong enough basis in to convey. I seem to develop the closest connection to the world around me by riding my bike through it. So, I like to try and connect with China the same way.

If I want a machine for that kind of specifcation, i.e. bad roads, no support, no parts, no LBS, etc. I thought it might be good to get the most dependable one I can afford.

So, with that in mind, you would say, look at the Gordon's again, Correct ?

By the way, Quality Bike Products is 1/2 mile from my house and the owner is my neighbor.

Thanks for the input

Correct. Plus lots of practice before the real trip. nmMB1
Oct 8, 2003 12:42 PM
Now there's a commuter bike!Fredrico
Oct 7, 2003 11:23 AM
Just add fenders.
Still in the exploration stage, but here's where I'm leaning...tedd
Oct 7, 2003 12:57 PM
I've been exploring around for the perfert touring bike myself. I'm seriously considering Co-motion's 2 tourers, the Americano and the NorWester. One thing I'd like to add on gearing, is that there are times high gears come in handy. Downhills and tailwinds. Landshark will also build you a touring bike to your liking. Both of these frames with the fork are less expensive than the Waterford, however, I'm no expert in the quality differences.