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Cycle Touring - Getting Started.

Hi.

I'm thinking about getting set up for Cycle Touring (South Island of New Zealand next summer).

Can anyone please direct me to some informative websites with information on selecting the correct bike and the gear required?
I have 2 road bikes and have been riding pretty solid for around 10 years. Was just recently in South America and saw loads of people cycle touring all over the place and figured...."I should do that"

Can you convert a traditional road bike for touring, or do you need a specific bike. Have been looking at a new mountain bike maybe for the winter, so if I could kill 2 birds with one stone, that would be great.

Thanks for any help or suggestions offered.

Cheers.
 
Mar 18, 2009
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With the help of my LBS, I was able to setup my cyclocross bike for a short tour of the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia. Because my bike did not have eyelets for a rack, my bike was fitted with a rack that connected to the seat post and through my rear quick releases. I used my commuting panniers on the rear, and bought a handlebar bag for my camera, maps, wallet, and food. After a little adjusting to the weight on the back, I got used to riding the loaded bike pretty quickly (although it was difficult up North Mountain at 5km for an average of 12% grade!). Also upgraded my tires to 25mm Conti Gatorskins.

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Mar 19, 2009
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If you're planning on self supported touring for extended periods, it's best to have a touring "type" frame. By "type" , I mean one that can ride stable with heavier loads, use cantilevers, take larger tires(at least 38mm), and have room for fenders. Converted bikes can have some of these .... but usually not all.

Rivendell frames are designed well for this, the Sam Hillborne and Bombadil. I own a Bombadil frame myself, it's a heavy duty frame with the added bonus of taking 700c tires up to 2.3" wide. I can use it on or off road.

The Surly LHT is another popular frame, it's not as stout as the Rivendells, but for the price it is very popular.

If there is one piece of advice I can give, as advice is sometimes cheap....... don't skimp on your wheelset . Mavic A719 and Velocity Dyad are the two best rims out there, but more importantly, get your wheels built by a professional who builds wheels to "stand", meaning they'll stay round and true indefinitely from the time they leave the builder. I'm a real stickler on this..... I had a set built by Joe Young Wheels in 1999, and I've never had to touch them since.

Can you tell I'm partial to steel frames? I wouldn't own anything but for my "fun" frames.

Some more sites ...
http://www.kenkifer.com/bikepages/
http://www.downtheroad.org/
http://www.bicycletouring101.com/TableOfContents.htm
http://www.faughnan.com/touringbike.html
http://www.bikeforums.net/forumdisplay.php?47-Touring
 
Mar 19, 2009
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Another handy dandy piece of touring equipment that nobody has mentioned yet are BOB trailers. Makes sense if you're planning on a lot of gear. When you load down a bike with all that weight on full panniers it becomes harder to handle, especially at low speeds or on trails. A good friend of mine uses the rigid one for work riding from bar to bar on his bike cleaning beer lines. Loads up the BOB trailer with about 200 lbs of chemicals and equipment and walla! I've tried it out fully loaded and it makes total sense from a handling perspective. He's been doing it this way for about 3-4 years. Only modification needed is a new skewer or lock nuts. Fits pretty much any bike out there.
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Aug 16, 2009
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OK,
You didn't say - are you camping and carrying a lot of weight, or just several days on a minimally loaded bike. I could carry enough for motel touring loaded on my cross bike for example as elapid did, but the wheelbase is too short for heavy weight. I'm not a trailer fan - but I've done weeks with front and rear racks on either a tandem (if a marriage can survive that, it can survive anything) or a nice '70s steel frame.

36 spoke 3x box-section rims are always a good choice. In addition to the listed machines above, Cannondale makes a couple of touring bikes (they started as a touring gear company) - but a bit expensive if you are trying to decide if you like touring. I'd start on an old steel frame. I'd buy a touring bike used before I bought a racing bike used.
 
Jun 10, 2009
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I second the trailer suggestion. Will work with just about any bike, and may well work out cheaper than panniers + racks. You won't need to worry about your wheels, because the extra weight mostly goes through the trailer axle. Braking should be fine so long as your brakes are well set up. The biggest obstacle to touring with your road bike will be the gearing, you _will_ need a triple chainset if you're planning on seeing the best of the South Island.

While you can certainly convert an MTB for touring, I wouldn't plan a new MTB purchase on this basis. I 'converted' my MTB into a tourer 16 years ago with profile aero bars, drop bars off my roadie, slick tires and pannier racks, and I still use this bike as my daily commuter. But I wouldn't ride it as my MTB of choice any more...MTB design has moved on a long way. If you 'compromise' in the direction of an old-fashioned MTB that will work well for touring, it won't handle as well on the trail as a newer style bike.

With most modern mountain bikes you will find an optimal position for long distance touring difficult to achieve. The top tube will be too short, and the bars too high. And you will still need to buy the trailer as pannier racks won't work with your rear suspension (you are going full sus for your MTB, aren't you?);)

If you're the kind of retro-grouch who is _into_ steel hardtails (as opposed to somebody who just hasn't thought of going full-suspension), the conversion could be reasonable. Use a longer stem (off your roadie?), drop bars too if your frame has cable disc brakes and you can get the cable pull on your levers right. The longer & lower stem will help keep your front wheel on the ground, particularly if you end up using pannier racks on the rear instead of a trailer. For a more ideal setup, get some rigid forks and lowrider panniers too and mount a bit of weight over the front.
 
Mar 2, 2010
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I was able to rent a little trailer for a long tour through Jutland in Denmark last Summer. It worked very well hooked to my Batavus. I carried maybe about 25 kilos of gear and it was much easier on the trailer than lashing it to the bike racks.

You do need to start with the right sort of bike - I can't imagine pedaling 100km on a mountain bike!