I am looking for a touring bike to do a cross-country (USA) tour next summer, probably "fully loaded." Few bike shops seem to stock touring bikes and, having never purchased a bike without trying it first, I am a bit nervous. I am a roadie and will likely be on asphalt most of the time but I should have something that can let me do gravel paths and the like. What suggestions do people have? I have heard favorable comments about the Surly Long Haul Trucker and the Trek 520 but am looking for ideas and comments. Co-Motion makes a touring bike but is it worth twice the price of these others? Is there any reason to think about one of the British touring bikes (Thorn/Dawes, etc.) or are the US ones just as good? Also: what are some of the factors that I should consider specific to a touring bkie, i.e., would be different if I were just buying a regular road bike ... geometry, mechanics, brake types, etc. Any and all suggestions would be welcome. THANKS !! Doug
Hi Doug, I cycled fully loaded last Summer across the US and into Canada. We cycled 3155 miles in about 6 weeks. Great fun! I bought a Jamis aurora touring bike in 2006 and it's been great. No problems. It cost about $800. My friend just bought a Long Haul Trucker (March 2009) and also loves his. The bike shop had the Jamis aurora in stock. Write back if you want details. Happy cycling! C.
Doug: I've toured self-contained, independent all over the place for many years. Aside from finding a bike in your price range, I recommend the following in touring bike:
Steel frame with all the various "braze-ons" for racks and fenders and three water bottles; I use both front and rear racks and fenders. Equip it with fenders unless you know for sure you're not ever going to see rain. But, you should know, it will rain; Consider a tire width of 32-35 mm. I use 700x35 tires. Make sure the frame, fork and brakes will accomodate this; Triple crank with a 21 gear-inch low gear. (Front small chain-ring teeth divided by large rear cog times 27). This is a very low gear but will get you up the 10% grade to the campground at the end of the day or out of the 10% grade from the campground in the morning; I use a combination clipped and platform pedal. (One side of the pedal accomodates a Shimano cleat and the other side of the same pedal has no clip. I do this so I can ride to the shower (or whatever) in my flip-flops;
The Trek 520 is a consistantly good touring bike. Take a look also at KHS TR101. It's new for this year and has everything for about $1100.
Good luck. Bike touring is a great way to see the country!
I have had a TREK 520 touring bike for several years and it has been very reliable. I would buy another one anytime. I know when I purchased mine that College Park Cyles had it in stock along with other options. Add a Brooks leather saddle and your all set.
I just recently went through what you are experiencing now and am only a little ahead of you in getting ready for a cross country tour. First, I learned that there are as many opinions out there as there are cyclists which tends to complicate the issue so I finally had to make my own best judgement. I finally narrowed my search down to the Surly LHT, the Trek 520, and the Novarra Randonee (sold by REI). I looked at all three bikes and liked all three but saw little substantial difference in geometry or components. My decision finally boiled down to price. I joined REI and got a 20% discount on the Randonee that brought the price down to under $900. I bought the bike about 2 months ago and have ridden it about 300 miles unloaded so far and the bike has performed well. I just finished tricking it out with a front rack, fenders, a Brooks saddle, and panniers front and rear but have not had a chance to load it up and do any test runs yet. If you live near an REI store they give good service and have a no questions return policy so you may want to check them out. They also have a model called the Novarra Safari that may interest you. Good luck!
Thanks, guys. All information very helpful. I will keep you posted on what happens. I was in Austin last weekend and someone there recommended Independent Fabrications but the price is pretty steep. I generally believe that you get what you pay for but the question arises What can I afford? That's the next decision. Thanks again.