Are more expensive bikes worth it? (page 3) - CycleBlaze

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Are more expensive bikes worth it? (page 3)

Keith KleinTo Steven Shaw

Hi Steven,

Yes, there is value in getting a proper bike fitting. The two parameters that are the most important are the distance from pedal to saddle and the reach to the bars when you are seated on the bike. With a reasonably close fit on frame size, the first is easy to achieve. Seat posts have a lot of built-in adjustment . Reach, on the other hand is a product of bar height and stem length and that can only be ascertained by getting measured and then cutting the steerer tube to the proper length and selecting a stem length to fit. It used to be easier with quill stems, which can be adjusted for height, but with modern Aheadset type forks initial adjustment is about all you get, with some variation allowed by judicious use of spacers. Stems with different lengths are getting harder to find, but any good bike shop can get you set up within reason. Will it be perfect? Only if you fit the exact average size in terms of proportion. Will it be good enough? Yes, for 99% of the population.  

When I built up my Velo Orange Campeur a few years ago, I had the choice between a 59cm frame or a 61cm frame, either could be made to work with my leg length. Reach, however was a different story. I have a short torso and long arms (this has made buying dress shirts difficult the sleeves always seem to be too short) so finding the right combination of stem and steerer was a struggle. I eventually compromised on a quill type stem with adjustable angle to get close. Its still just a trifle too long, but it worked well enough for ~20000 km of touring. I got the 61cm frame. Maybe the 59 would have been better, but the top tube length was 2cm shorter than the 61 so it might have been too short. Now, with the fitted frame on my new bike, I'll never know. :^)



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10 months ago
Jacquie GaudetTo Steven Shaw

You can, if you're a standard-size male or a tall female.  If you are small, like I am, custom is pretty well the only way to go if you want a touring bike with all the touring bike features (as opposed to a road bike) and you want it to fit.  If the frame's a bit small in height or length, you can add a longer stem or seatpost, but if it's too big, you are out of luck.

I bought a custom-sized Co-Motion Pangea 5 years ago and it's the most comfortable bike I've ever ridden.  It fits me light years better than my old 1987 Miyata 615GT.  I love being able to stop, stand over the top tube with both feet on the ground, and dig in my handlebar bag or front pannier without having to get off my bike, something I could never do before.  Trouble is, the bike is a tank at almost 30 pounds or 25% of my body weight.  That would be equivalent to many men riding a 40 or 50 pound bike before adding any gear.  The size was adjusted for me, but not the tubing, for example.  The Pangea is designed for a 200-pound man hauling a lot of expedition gear on rough roads.  I can ride mine in great comfort, loaded with as much as (0r more than) I can carry, but it's really overkill for me.

At the time, I could not find any stock bike small enough.  I didn't want to wait for a full custom bike and settled on the Pangea because it had 26-inch wheels so the possibility was there for a smaller frame that I could actually stand over and Co-Motion offers custom sizing for a relatively small additional price.  Other companies might also do this, but I doubt it would be available on a frame that isn't hand built.  Surly does not.

Last August I ordered a full custom titanium touring bike.  It's worth it to me and I can't wait to get it!  Let's see, the wait was about 16 months....  I should have it for trips in 2020.

So yeah, for some of us, a more expensive bike is definitely better.

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9 months ago
Syd WinerTo Steven Shaw

Are more expensive bikes worth it?

Well my first tour, 30+ years ago was done on a second-hand Peugeot road bike that ate spokes for breakfast and was outfitted exclusively with the most obscure and fragile French components. I complemented it with 'toy' camping gear bought in a Hypermarche. I toured on that bike for the next 14 months and had a ball, breakdowns not withstanding. It taught me a lot about what I did and didn't want in a touring bike but by any measure was still a damn side more enjoyable than backpacking.

I saved up for my next bike - a new top-of-the-range Miyata 1000. In 1985 this was the bee's knees, and today there's even a collectors market for this model. It took me 21 years and 150,000ish km to wear it out but by the end it was costing me A LOT to keep on the road. Bike tech had moved on and spares of that vintage were getting hard to come by and pricey when you found them. I wore out a lot of wheels, hubs, cranksets, clusters, derailleurs and cables on that bike.

About ten years ago I opted for a new Thorn Nomad mit Rohloff. An expensive and heavy tourer for sure but designed from the outset for indestructibility. It is my lowest maintenance bike ever and has never required a trip to the bike shop for work. At 55,000+km it is still on it's original gear and brake cables, the wheels are still true and the original carbide coated Ryde/Rigida CSS rims still look to have another 50,000km in them at least. For maintenance the Rohloff gears get an oil change once a year and the chain tension is adjusted twice a year by rotating the excentric bottom bracket. Both of these are quick little jobs. The steel rear cog gets rotated (it's reversible) at oil change time and replaced every two years. The reversable steel chainring seems to last 4 or 5 years. This year, for the bike's 10th birthday I think I better change those cables at last!

The thing is a bike tour is enjoyable even if the bike quality is based on "all I can afford". Any bike tour is better than no bike tour. Any bike tour is also about far more than the bike alone - it's the places you go, the adventure, the people you meet, the things you see, the food you eat and the satisfaction of a solid day's workout. The bike is just the means to getting you there. It's nice to have a well fitted and reliable bike if you can afford it but I wouldn't change that first tour on the fabulous exploding Peugeot for the world.

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9 months ago
Scott AndersonTo Syd Winer

My first tour was on a Peugeot also - a blue U08.  I loved that bike and the places it took me, and I’m sorry I don’t have a photograph of it to remind me of what I let slip away somewhere over the years.

I’m with you - the best bike is the one that you’ll actually be able to ride and get out the door on.  It’s like the adage about cameras - the best one is the one you have with you.

That said though, I’ve definitely got a favorite bike now - a Rodriguez Adventure,  that I indulged myself with a few years back as sympathy (or a reward) for turning 70.  It’s a bike I had wanted to buy back in college, about the time Rodriguez first started building bikes; but it wasn’t doable on a pizza maker’s modest salary.  

My Rodriguez wasn’t off the scale expensive, but at about $2,500 it is a step up, and  is definitely the best bike I’ve ever owned.  To me, it was well worth it - it rides great, is very solid, and is the most comfortable ride I’ve ever had.  I would always ride it if it weren’t for the convenience that Bike Friday offers for overseas traveling.

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9 months ago
Bruce LellmanTo Scott Anderson

I wouldn't know what an expensive bike is like.  My girlfriend bought me a Bike Friday off Craigslist for $700 which is a fair amount of money but not really when it comes to fancy bikes.  She owns an almost identical Bike Friday and paid about the same price for hers.   

Mine came with a crappy, spongy saddle, which I kept, and it turned out to be fine for two tours and lots of other riding.  The main thing I believe in is spending extra money on tires.  We have had two tours in SE Asia (2100 miles each) on fairly rough roads and have had only one flat.  And that flat was because of a defect in the tube so really we have had zero flats.  The last thing I want to do is deal with is repairing flat tires.  I believe in any type of Schwalbe.

Because the wheels are 20 inch I think they are super strong.  We carried a lot of weight on those small bikes but after each of our tours the wheels were still in perfect true!   I doubt a spoke would ever break unless it was hit by something.  

The only problem I've ever had with this bike, which came with the standard components, was that a cable or two needed to be replaced.

I do believe in spending extra money for the best possible components because on a tour (especially in a third world country) you just don't want the headache of trying to fix a bike.  Because our Bike Fridays have been free of breakdowns we haven't had a reason to upgrade components.  Maybe that's luck or maybe you don't need to spend huge amounts of money on a bike and its components.  I don't actually know and I don't think anyone knows the answer to this question until they actually have experience with one bike or another.

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8 months ago
John SaxbyTo Bruce Lellman

That's a happy story, Bruce, and a good endorsement of Bike Fridays.  It suggests that the key issue is quality, which in my experience is rarely inexpensive.  Bargains do exist, though, and your girlfriend found one  :) 

Unicorns do pop up now and then, it seems.  A contributor to another forum I frequent managed something similar:  he found a used-but-still-sound touring bike with a Rohloff hub--an expensive bike when new--and for several years now he has ridden it troublefree on demanding tours in Africa and Central Asia.

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8 months ago
Andrea BrownTo John Saxby

You're right, John, we were incredibly lucky to find barely-used Bike Fridays in Oregon, where they are manufactured and relatively common used on Craigslist. Mine had been owned by a part-time dealer and virtually unused, Bruce's had been owned by somebody whose ambitions outstripped their actual interest in bike touring, it had maybe 200 miles on it. But of course I still prowl Craigslist in case a bike like the one you mention above pops up.

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8 months ago
Jacquie GaudetTo John Pescatore

Hi John

A late reply-just read through this forum again.  You might be interested to know that mid-80s Miyata touring bikes came with 40-spoke wheels, stock.  My old Miyata never fit, but nothing ever broke.  I bought my husband a Miyata 1000 LT in 1992 and nothing ever broke on that either.  It replaced the "touring" bike he'd bought in France and on which several things broke, including a crack in the frame.  It, in turn, was a replacement for his original touring bike (Nishiki, I think, stolen in Germany) on which things broke too.

I weigh half what you do, but my Miyata is still a great bike.  Too bad it's too big for me.

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7 months ago
John PescatoreTo Jacquie Gaudet

Hi, Jacquie - on the week long Ride Across Maryland (no longer exists) back in the early 1990s, that stock wheel broke a spoke a day over the 5 day ride, all on the drive side of the rear wheel.  I don't ride that bike much anymore, mostly just on what today is called "gravel," like unpaved rail trails and the like. But, that hand built 32 spoke wheel has yet to break a spoke since. The next step was going to be a 40 spoke tandem bike rear wheel!

I replaced that bike with a Trek 520 that has only had one broken spoke in 20 years - and that was really because I hit a pothole and broke the rim on the front and then the spoke broke!

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7 months ago