Monthly Archives: August 2008

Touring bike options; Option 1

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So we’ve discussed the basic options when it comes to bicycles, the differences between racing, mountain, and touring bikes, as well as some of the components to look for when gearing up for a long tour.  We’re going to put that all together with a compiled list of recommended touring bikes.  Look through the list, compare, visit websites, and make a decision.  Here’s the list, starting at the bottom with
NUMBER 10… Novara Safari from REI.  http://www.rei.com/product/730480

Novara Safari Bike from REI.com

Novara Safari Bike from REI.com

Frame- USix aluminum, but forks are cromoly.

Chainstay Length- 16.9 inches

Brakes- Disc

Tires- 26″

Weight- 31.8 pounds

Price- $ 669.99

Ok, so there is really only one reason I put this bike on the list, PRICE.  Wow, reduced recently at REI to under 700 dollars makes this a great option for a first time tourer.  There are a lot of things wrong with this bike, but I no doubt am sure it will ride.  Comes equipped with a rear rack and stock shimano components.  Tires are small, chainstay is short, and I don’t like the aluminum frame.  But, if you are going local, on shorter trips with less weight, this bike could work for you.  From what I’ve heard from an owner, the bike is quite reliable and has had no major problems in 2 years with over 1,000 miles.

Choosing a touring bicycle; some things to consider…Part II

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As mentioned in the previous post, touring bikes differ from other bikes in certain very important ways.  We’re going to delve into those ways a little deeper in this post thanks to my LBS owner June who helped me write this post.  He’s owned his shop for 15 years and is a well-toured rider himself.

From June….”

When you’re gearing up for a tour, something long enough to require carrying a load, you’ve got to consider these important things when choosing your bike.

Frame material- I only ride steel-framed (you’ll see cromoly often on spec sheets) bikes and recommend them to all my customers who are going touring.  There is a lot of talk of the reasons people choose steel-framed bikes for touring.  Most people you talk to recommend a steel frame because it is easy to repair cracks on the road, even in developing countries, and it is strong.  Sounds good to me.  I have repaired many a steel frame but can be honest in saying I do not have the equiptment to repair aluminum or and composite frames.  I’m sure the same goes for some repair shop in the middle of Turkmenistan.

Chainstay length- So, the next thing you can look for in a good touring bike is foot clearance.  You’ll probably be hauling panniers (bags on racks) and don’t want to be kicking and hitting them with your feet everytime you pedal.  In order to gain clearance, you want a long chainstay measurement.  Chainstay length is the distance from the middle of your rear dropout where the axle sits to the middle of the bottom bracket spindle.  You should be looking at something in the 18″ (~460mm) range to ensure good foot clearance from your panniers.  I’ll be back to post the specs from my popular touring bikes in another post.

Rims- If you’re hauling heavy loads (including yourself), you’ve got to have sturdy rims.  When you look at a touring bike, check out it’s rims, spokes, and hubs.  You should be riding with 36 spokes to extra strength.

Road vs. Touring

Brakes- You’ve got 2 pretty obvious options here, cantilever vs. disc.

Cantilever Brake

Cantilever Brake

Disc Brake

Disc Brake

I would say that 95% of my customers ride their touring bikes with cantilever brakes (the ones that were on your bike as a kid with the pads), and only a handful ride with disc, and they are the ones on Raliegh sojourn bikes.  The argument for disc brakes is their power.  When you’re carrying a heavy load in the rain going down a dirt road in the mountains of Bolivia, you want your brakes to work, and disc will do the trick. Disc brakes are made of metal and are not prone to weather lubrication like the rubber in cantilever brakes, thus they are suitable for all weather conditions.  They are connected to the bike hub and apply force to the hubs and spokes instead of the rims like cantilever brakes.  Disc brakes will wear on your hubs/spokes, cantilevers wear on your rims.  The placement and size of disc brakes will effect your load racks though, and that is why you don’t see these types of brakes on most touring bikes.  There are specially designed racks out there for these brakes, but they are not the norm.

But as far as repair and replacement go, cantilevers are the way to go.  These brakes are cheap, light, repairable/replaceable, and powerful in dry situations.  Most of us have used these brakes in the rain and know that dreaded feeling and sound when trying to stop on a dime.  Other than that, they don’t effect your load racks, are easy to carry replacements, and readily available overseas.  They get my vote.

Choosing a touring bicycle; Some things to consider…Part I

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Inspired by solar power

Choosing a touring bicycle can be exciting and stressful, so knowing what you want before you head out to your local bike shop is very important.  There are a number of special features that make touring bikes differ from road and mountain bikes.  Over the next series of posts, we will look over some of these differences, hoping to equip you with the knowledge you need to decide what type of bike to take on your tour.

First things first. What are some of the major differences between road, mountain, and touring bikes?  Typically, touring bikes are more similar to road bikes than they are to mountain bikes for a few key reasons.

Road Racing- fast, lightweight, typically frame made of lightweight composite materials, with wheels spaced closely to each other for optimal handling and control.  The seat and handlebars are put in a position to keep the rider ‘hunched’ over in a more aerodynamic position.

Touring- strong, typically frame made of steel for its strength a repair ability in remote locations, with wheels spaced far apart in order to accommodate front and rear loads that require foot clearance (check for chainstay lengths around 18 inches or about 460mm).  The seat and handlebars are put in a position that allows for greater comfort on extended rides, more upright than road racers.  The key to a touring bike is its ability to haul heavy loads on it’s front/rear racks.

Mountain- strong, typically made to ride off-road, frame made of strong composite materials, with front, and now more frequently, front/rear suspension.  Large, wide tires.  There are four types of mountain bikes;

Fully rigid-  Fixed rear with no suspension

Hardtail-  Front suspension with a fixed rear

Softtail- Small amount of rear suspension with full front suspension

Dual/Full- Front and rear full suspension.

There are many other types of bikes, but since we are focusing on touring, we’ll only look at these three when choosing the right bike. It is possible to equip any of these bikes for touring and often people will turn their old bikes into a touring bike with varying degrees of success.

In our next post we will look at the specifics of touring bikes, including key measurements, components, and manufacturers.

Inspired by solar power

Lee Myung Bak Protest Bus

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Some of you may have seen the summer protests of American beef imports in South Korea. For those of you that weren’t in the country, here is an example of the ludicrous activities that happened for the couple of months of pointless protests. The reason this photo is important is because it has been parked right in front of my English school for nearly two months now. This graffiti is a jibe at Lee Myung Bak (MB in graffiti), and these types of things can still be seen all over the city.

Looking for Charity Organizations

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Red Pinwheels at the DMZ

Red Pinwheels at the DMZ

As the bicycle journey continues making progress, I’m beginning to search around for reputable charity organizations that I can funnel my donations to.  If you have any suggestions or would like to help me search, feel free to comment on this post or head over to a website like I would like to get about three solid organizations so please help out.

Surly Long Haul Trucker

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The as-of-yet unnamed bicycle journey is starting to take shape. I guess you could say it has officially begun. I’ve purchased my bicycle of choice, a Surly Long Haul Trucker (58cm) and am having it shipped here to Korea next week.

Surly is a very reputable bike manufacturer with solid support in the touring community because of its well-equipped, inexpensive, and high-quality touring bikes.

When I was deciding on a bike, I had narrowed it down to a Surly LHT, Trek 520, Jamis Nova Pro, and a Raleigh Sojourn.  I relied heavily on Bicylce Forums to figure out exactly what I needed in a touring bike. Turns out, its not all that simple. There are numerous things you need to pay attention to when selecting a touring bike. Look forward to more posts on individual elements deemed necessary for your next touring session.

Slow motion

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Slow motion
Originally uploaded by Reckless Cognition

My first shot of the day with the 50mm prime. I’ve had the NIkon d200 for exaclty 6 months and am finally getting used to its controls. There were many a time when I would take 50 or 60 shots without even paying attention to the settings, only later to find out I shot them in bracket mode or at a super high ISO rendering them useless later on.