CycloCamping Forum

The Touring Bicycle => The Bicycle => Topic started by: petervanglabbeek on January 10, 2010, 01:48:32 AM

Title: How to choose a bicycle?
Post by: petervanglabbeek on January 10, 2010, 01:48:32 AM

The discussion of how to choose a bicycle is probably mostly one of taste and style. So I just give my opinion here based on my taste and style and of course a lot of experience.

The first choice to make is 26 or 28 inch wheels. In western countries and in China and bordering countries you will find 28 wheels, rims, spokes and tires if you need to replace something. In the rest of the world, like all of South America and Africa it is very hard to find these parts. So, if you make a world trip or your trip includes this places, take 26 inch. Also, 26 inch wheels are stronger, because the spokes are shorter. Take extra strong rims (double sidewalls), and 36 spokes.

A second choice is a steel or aluminium frame. Steel has been the most popular for touring bikes. Mostly because you can weld it almost everywhere when it breaks. I have never heard of a traveler braking his alu frame, but I guess it is possible. Another reason to buy steel could be that aluminium is one of the dirtiest metals to produce. I have always toured with alu frames, but the next time I would take steel.

I think the luggage racks are the most likely to break. I have met so many people with broken racks! That is why I decided to buy the best ones: Tubus. They are made of steel, so you can weld them, but they almost never brake! My front rack has been going for 70,000km! In the same time I have used 3 aluminium rear racks, before I decide to buy a Tubes rear rack as well.

Tires are important. You will reach your goal with all tires, but it is just so annoying to have all this punctures! If you travel in cactus country you can have dozens of punctures per day with bad tires. The best touring tires are probably from Schwalbe. They are available for 28 and 26 inch. They are expensive, but you will make 15 to 20,000km with them. Sometimes without a single puncture.

For the drive train there are only two possibilities that work. Y can take a classic mountainbike derailleur, with a triple chain ring in front. A Shimano LX is good, higher groups are not much better, just lighter. Or you take the Rohloff hub. Make sure that you have the right spokes, rims and frame to fit the hub. This hub is very expensive, but also extremely reliable. It will pay back when you cycle about 70,000km, because you don't have to change chains and cassette all the time. Remember that you can use the Rohloff hub also on your next bike.

There are many brake systems. Disk brakes brake the best, but I don't like them for traveling. If you damage the disk when you throw your bike on the roof of a bus or in the back of a truck you cannot repair it. Some people travel with a hydraulic brake system, I don't know them well and I have seen people messing with it. I would not like to damage a cable and lose the oil and the pressure. For me, v-brakes are the best. Easy to maintain and repair. Also the brake pads are available almost everywhere in the world.

Cycling with SPD pedals and shoes or normal pedals, choosing a seat and handle bars, mud guards yes or no, are all a matter of taste.

Title: Re: How to choose a bicycle?
Post by: Stephane on January 10, 2010, 09:00:20 PM
Nice tips Peter, thks again!
I am going to add a few things:

Wheel / Spokes: I traveled with a Rigida rim, which broke after 12,000 km. and I thought it was pretty good, considering I traveled with close to 50 kg. (110 lb.) on my bike (not like you, Peter  ;D ... by the way, we need an article on "how to travel extremely lightweight by bicycle" - written by you!).

Anyway, I thought 12,000 km. was pretty good until I met Niegel in Tibet, who told me he biked 55,000 km. with his Sun Rhyno. So I switched to Sun Rhyno and after 15,000 km. I still cannot feel any indentation on the rim wall!

Also, I wanted to add... you often hear bicycle travelers talking about broken spokes and how it is the most common breakdown for cyclocampers. Some people might think I lie or exaggerate, but after 40,000 km. I NEVER changed a single spoke! Never! And yet I do travel with a LOT of gear and have biked a lot of dirt roads. So what is the secret?

OK, you'll need a few ingredients for the most reliable wheel:

Steel vs. aluminum frame:   It is true that I never heard of anyone breaking his aluminum frame while traveling. I heard of people breaking their fork, though, and when you're in the middle of nowhere, you're in big trouble if it is made of aluminum. I met a guy who traveled close to 1,000 km. in Africa with a fork fixed with a few pieces of wood!  I used both aluminum and steel frames and for me, the biggest advantage of steel frames is the comfort. Aluminum is VERY stiff and I MUCH prefer the way steel "absorbs" the stress of a loaded bike and the vibrations of a dirt road. And, as Peter says, aluminum is a dirty metal to produce.

Racks: I agree Tubus steel racks are the best racks on the market.

Tires: Yes, the longest I have biked with a Schwalbe Marathon XR is 18,000 km! I'll never use another brand. Definitely worth the money.

Components: Again, I agree with you. LX is excellent. I am using XT since I updated everything on my bike when I was in Asia.  Parts are cheaper there, and so I figured it was a good time to do it. The XT cassettes are worth the extra bucks since the weight difference is quite important. Otherwise, LX is definitely good enough. XTR is too fragile (and too expensive) for bicycle touring.

Brakes:  I would never bicycle travel with disc brakes.

Position: Another important thing about a touring bike is the position of the rider. Touring bikes are partway between road bikes and mountain bikes. Make sure you don't have too much of your weight on your wrist (it will kill you on a long day's ride) and also make sure all your weight is not on your bottom - like when you sit up straight (you will get sore and it is very bad for your spinal disks).

Mud guard: I don't think it's a matter of taste! I would say if you don't want to be wet and muddy, you better have one.  Aluminum is much better than plastic (plastic breaks too easily).

SPD pedals: It is much more efficient to bike with clips, but I would rather use good regular pedals with a strap so I don't have to carry another pair of shoes. Bicycle shoes are too stiff to walk in, and certainly not good for hiking. I like to hike here and there when I travel, so I use stiff hiking shoes. Note: it is better for the tendons in your feet to use stiff shoes when biking - plus it is more efficient.

Saddle: I strongly recommend Brooks saddles. But it is true that you need time to break them in and not everyone likes them.  I like the leather much better than plastic (I don't like to have a sweaty bottom!).  The bike mechanic in my hometown has had the same Brooks saddle for the last 40 years! He changed his bike many times, but kept the same saddle!

Handlebar: This is definitely a matter of taste, but I like the bull horn type of handlebar (much more common in Europe than in the US) because it allows you to have many different positions on the bike. I like to be able to switch positions in order to relieve my back and also when I climb or face a strong wind.

Any additional comments are highly appreciated.
Title: Re: How to choose a bicycle?
Post by: petervanglabbeek on January 11, 2010, 02:04:04 AM
Good extra comments Stephane.

Pedals: I always travel with SPD and don't take extra shoes. I do my hikes on my SPD shoes, even multiple day hikes.
I thought like this: I am 240 days a year on my bike and do maybe 30 days of hiking per year. So better good biking shoes than good hiking shoes. For walking around my campsite and cities I carry 2 dollar flipflops. When it is cold I put woolen socks on. When it rains or gets really cold during cycling days, I put a cover around my SPD shoes.

Mud-guards: I started with them too, but after the first day in real deep mud had to remove the front one. The second I lost in a train in Pakistan because it got really damaged. Also cycling in snow and ice doesn't work with the mud guards. They are always too close to the wheels. In my opinion they are only good when you cycle on wet pavement when it doesn't rain. If it rains you get wet anyway and I put on rain gear. On dirt roads the mud is the problem. After my first year of touring I realized I had only two days of wet pavement and no rain.

I broke about 10 spokes in the first 3 months of touring, mostly cycling on pavement and with less than 20kg of luggage. I had the wheel rebuild in Ankara with the same spokes, rim and hub and the problem was gone. It was just a matter of bad construction of the wheel. After that I broke only once more a spoke in 4 years.

Title: Re: How to choose a bicycle?
Post by: postiebrian on January 12, 2010, 06:45:12 AM
I agree with most of what has been said in how to choose a touring bike.I had a bike built for myself by Chas Roberts. The model I chose was a ROUGHSTUFF with a rolhoff hub and 26 inc wheels with disc breakes not hydraulic the reason I chose them is that there is no rim wear
am I worried a rotor getting bent no as I carry a spare one with a set of pads I would think you have a better chance of haveing your rear
mech damaged if you were  to put your bike on top of a vehicle.
Title: Re: How to choose a bicycle?
Post by: Ablejack on January 12, 2010, 09:10:26 PM
Everything is a matter of taste, and to each his or her own:
Steel frame-  With lugs. Looks better.
Racks- Steel constructeur randonneuring style with front Tubus chrome front low rider. Looks better.
Wheels- Professionally (P.White, R. Lesner) built 36-hole 650b. Phil cassette (12-30) in back, Schmidt 28 dyno in front.  Looks better.
Tires- Fat (37-40mm)  Schwalbes.  Looks better.
Components- Downtube shifting polished Dura-Ace (F+R).  Looks better.
Cranks- TA Cyclotouriste definitely. Looks better.
Fenders- Used to go with hammered aluminum honjos, but lately french steel.  Looks better.
Brakes- Paul.  (Cantis on the Rivendell, Racers on the Kogswell)  Looks better.
Baggage- Grey canvas and leather french handmade bags everywhere.  Looks better.
Saddle- Brooks but considering Berthoud Leather.  Looks better.
Bars- Nitto Rando wrapped in leather.  Looks better.
Pedals- I have SPD on one bike, Clips on the other.  I am on the fence here but leaning toward the clips because, you guessed it... Looks better.

/then again all bikes are beautiful when being ridden.

Title: Re: How to choose a bicycle?
Post by: Arcticpunk on January 14, 2010, 05:28:17 AM
Excellent post on bikes.  Tremendous good advice for tourists.  I'd just like to give you my 2 cents on a couple key items.

Brakes:  I LOVE my Avid mechanical disc brakes!  I rode from Alaska to Florida in winter of '07, with an average kit load of 80 pounds, and never had any difficulties with my discs.  I bent the front rotor once and the back rotor once and on both occasions just pulled out my Swisstool and straightened them out, no rubbing, no problem.  Bike and rider I was running 240 pounds and never had any problem stopping, no brake fading after long descents, no wheel heating from long descents.  I spent many a day riding in snow and freezing rain and the brakes always performed flawlessly.

Racks:  I use the Jandd Extreme front rack and the Expedition rear racks and they are worth their weight in gold.  Made from heavy gauge, solid, hard anondized, aluminum bar stock, both racks have full cargo decks and are solid as rocks.

Let's roll,
Title: Re: How to choose a bicycle?
Post by: biciclown on January 27, 2010, 11:42:32 AM
Pedals I will start from this part. Why more people are not using Power grip? I cannot understand as they are so simple and reliable
saddle always brooks. Heinz has done 590,000 with just 2 of them
frametoday I met a argentinian cyclist that broken his aluminium frame, so, better steel.
racksI have tubus since 2,001, they are the best but they shoul do a new one. For the front wheel and to carry the luggage up, and no down to avoid hit the rocks on bad roads
rohloff you will not know what is it about until you use it, amazing simple
mudguards Now I do not like them. if it is raining I will use my rain clothes and if not they are always in the middle. When I had really mud roads in Brazil I wanted to eat them
Title: Re: How to choose a bicycle?
Post by: LHT on January 28, 2010, 06:26:46 AM
Everyone here has talked about components and frame material and that in itself is very interesting but what makes for a good touring bike has as much to do with bike geomitry and proper fit. A bike designed for road racing, in steel, with all XT (for example) might not make a good touring bike. So what is it about a Thorn Sherpa, or an LHT or a Rivendell that make it popular for touring? I'd like to know why Biciclown chose the bike he rides. Why that frame? Or anyone on this topic, Why did you choose the frame you ride and what frames did you consider and turn down?
Title: Re: How to choose a bicycle?
Post by: biciclown on January 29, 2010, 09:29:28 PM
Most important about riding a bicycle around the world or around the corner is passion. If you get it the frame or the equipment is not so important. But if you really want to have a good trip and you have time and money to choose a good equipment, let´s talk about frames.
Steel is the solution, of course. And about this you do not need to pay a fortune to Thorn or Koga. There are good brands that make it cheaper and good quality. People forget about something. It is your frame compatible with Rohloff. Maybe today you do not use it but tomorrrow.
And another important thing is the right size. Do not buy a bargain frame withouth check if it is your right size.
I trust in specialist. A friend of mine has a good bike shop and he gave me the best bike I have ever had. A Olov frame, that he only distribute with Rohloff, Phill Woods and the best material. Of course he is sponsoring me, I could not afford to buy it, but It is really a great bike.
I decide to use now 700 wheels,as I think is more stable and you ride faster with the same effort and most of the roads on the world are good enough for this bike.
And I never use suspension in a touring bike. No need with a good steel frame and a brooks saddle
Title: Re: How to choose a bicycle?
Post by: petervanglabbeek on February 19, 2010, 05:11:46 AM
Personally I don't think too much about geometry. I ride my mountain bike around the world because it felt good to me when I tried it.
Of course I took a frame of roughly my size. But just by moving the seat pole and the handle bars a bit, the bike quickly felt good.
I got my bike from a sponsor in Chile. All the poor components that were on it, because nothing better was available, broke in a few weeks (aluminium rear rack, cheap saddle, stand). All the good stuff, like the XT group, still lasts after 20.000km. To me, good components is really the most important. Especially the rear wheel.
Title: Re: How to choose a bicycle?
Post by: seatown7 on June 06, 2010, 08:25:47 PM
Go to your nearest Surly dealer and get fitted on a Long Haul Trucker. Replace the parts you don't like with ones that you favor. Add a Tubus rack or two, some Schwalbe tires. One Brooks saddle. There. You're done.


Title: Re: How to choose a bicycle?
Post by: hartleymartin on September 04, 2010, 07:18:43 PM
I had a 2008 58cm Fuji Touring bicycle which I was building up from a frame-set purchased second hand. I then went and bought a 1982 Raleigh Royal 60cm Touring Bicycle. Much to my surprise I found that the frame geometry was almost identical, and if anything it was a better fit for me than the Fuji Touring.

Here is my 1982 Raleigh Royal part-way through the build. It now has a new set of 27" x 1-1/4" tyres and alloy wheels, bar-tape and will soon have a new crank-set giving me a half-step+granny gearing. One of the last batches of production lugged-steel bicycles made the good old-fashioned way. The frame angles are 73-degrees, and it has a fairly long wheelbase of about 106cm.

- Double-butted Reynolds 531 Forks and main triangle, hi-ten stays.
- Stainless Steel Mudguards (From an 80's girl's bicycle)
- Dia-Compe Silver Shifters (will swap these out for a set of Suntour Barcons)
- Beto Rear Rack (will replace this with a silver Tioga Touring Rack)
- GB Brand Touring Bars (vintage item - almost identical to the modern Nitto Noodle bars)
- Suntour V-GT-Luxe Rear Derailleur (best ever made!)
- Suntour VX Front Derailleur (still works, even though I've damaged it quite badly)
- 27" x 1-1/4" Wheels. Double-wall rims, Shimano 600 hubs, internal cam quick-release skewers.

Soon to be fitted:
- Sugino GT Triple Crankset with 48/44/28 Shimano biopace chainrings (half-step plus granny)
- IRD 14-17-20-24-28-32 6-speed Defiant Freewheel
- Suntour Barcons (these are hard to get for a good price)

You might wonder why I've stuck with a 6-speed freewheel. Well, I like my vintage equipment, and I will have a surprisingly good selection of gears. The half-step chainrings (48/44) gives me a 9.2% space in the gearing. This means that I can have lots of close-spaced gears in my cruising range, and have wider-spaced gears (17% to 20%) in my climbing range.

Climbing Gears: 23.7" - 27.1" - 31.6" - 37.9" - 42.6" - 49.6"
Cruising Gears: 59.6" - 65.0" - 70.1" - 76.5" - 85.1" - 92.8"
Title: Re: How to choose a bicycle?
Post by: aphelioncycles on September 18, 2017, 10:53:45 PM
I concur with the vast majority of what has been said in how to pick a visiting bike.I had a bicycle worked for myself by Chas Roberts. The model I picked was a ROUGHSTUFF with a rolhoff center and 26 inc wheels with circle breakes not water powered the reason I picked them is that there is no edge wear

am I stressed a rotor getting twisted no as I convey an extra one with an arrangement of cushions I would think you have a superior shot of haveing your back

mech harmed if you somehow managed to put your bicycle over a vehicle.