Monday, August 19, 2013

Shopping for a Touring Bike

I'd like to take advantage of the bike sales in the fall so I decided to start getting my list together. Already this bike search seems easier than my road bike hunt mainly because there are fewer choices and among those choices the components are relatively similar. In case you want to donate a bike or sell me a used one, I fit on a 54-56 sized bike. :)

What I'm looking for in a touring bike: 
  • High quality steel
  • 700 wheels
  • Large gear range
  • Complete bike would be ideal, especially one that comes with fenders and racks but I'm not opposed to building it myself. 
  • Price Range: $800 (haha I know) to $1400
  • Getting a good discount from the MSRP either on sale/ebay/or craigslist is a plus
  • Handling/Tracking straight with a load is a obvious top priority
Things I am unsure about: 
  • Cantilever vs. Disc brakes - Cantis are likely fine for what I need. I worry about carrying things to fix disc brakes and worry about bending them. I know how to fix rim brakes.
  • Bar End shifters - I've ridden a 1980s bike with these shifters and hated it. It felt unnatural and I never got the hang of it. But this seems to be the standard, so I might look to swap. 
  • Saving money - will I save money buying a used frame and building it myself? I'd love to put the bike together, but I don't have any spare parts lying around and I think it might be more expensive. 
Here are the bikes I'll be testing out: 

Surly's Long Haul Trucker $1300 (canti brake option)
Pros: Most recommended touring bike, can buy through REI
Cons: No extras, heard it's slow unloaded/not versatile.

Raleigh Sojourn $1350
Pros: Comes with racks, fenders, disc brakes, brooks saddle
Cons: slightly lower components than others, complaints with fenders

REI's Novara $1200
Pros: REI service, Rack included, will go on sale
Cons: Cheap saddle, rack not ideal, complaints about brakes
Trek 520 $1100
Pros: Good bike for the money
Cons: Like all Trek bikes will need to switch out the wheels and saddle

Kona Sutra $1500
Pros: good quality extras (willing to overlook high price), great components, excellent reviews
Cons: bar end shifters, difficult to find in a shop

Bianchi Volpe $1300
Pros: no barcons! Often on sale, classic, versatile
Cons: No extras, not entirely sure if it is suited to long tours, gearing concerns

Soma Saga $500 frame/fork set
Pros: Nice bike, great company, good reviews
Cons: not available as complete bike - hardly a con.

Salsa Vaya 3 $1400
Pros: Good bike, good acceleration, great on gravel/dirt, can find on sale.
Cons: Not as good as LHT with heavy loads (i've heard), no extras

Out of my price range, but just in case I win the lottery ($3000+ Category):

Co-Motion Cascadia or Americano $3900
Pros: Everything. Ultegra components. Sexy. Lots of custom options
Cons: So far out of my league, but I can dream.

Bruce Gordon Rock N Roll Tour $3350 (with racks and shipping, $3000 no racks)
Pros: Specialize in touring bikes, top quality, custom options
Cons: ?
*BLT is the cheaper version made in Taiwan, same geometry for $1725

Rivendell Atlantis $3600-3900 fully built (frame/fork/headset $2300)
Pros: Super customizable, amazing company, bike is a dreamboat, offer advice on how to build.
Cons: So pretty you don't want to get it dirty

Independent Fabrications' Independence $2200 steel frame
Pros: probably has the most custom options from tubing size to frame and decal colors. Stunning bike. Friends have said these are the bikes to end all bike shopping urges.
Cons: The only way you could go wrong is if you pick the wrong components for yourself.

Geekhouse Woodville $1500 frame / $3500 complete starting price
Pros: local, lots of custom options, solid frame with rave reviews, reasonable price point for custom build
Cons: They are less than a mile away, I might impulsively walk down there and place an order.

Would be ecstatic to have a custom touring bike from the likes of local frame builders Honey, SevenIndependent, or Geekhouse. If I ever scrape together enough money these are the frame builders I'd go to first and without hesitation.

Have any thoughts on the bikes listed or other recommendations? Would love to hear them. 


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