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  1. #1
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    Is the Surly LHT the ideal adventure bike?

    [Apologies for putting this here, but I didn't want to bury it in the Surly forum or the never-visited vacation and destination forum. Pending a forum for bikepacking, this seems the most often visited by people who are into adventure rides and long races.]


    There's been a lot of excitement over Salsa's new Fargo on the 29er board, and I count myself among the early enthusiasts. It looks like a great bike and I can't wait to ride one. But I'm going to submit that Surly's 26" wheeled LHT is a better adventure and expedition bike.

    (I can hear already the usual howls of forum protest. "Dude, you haven't even ridden a Fargo!" "The Trucker is nice for riding around the Great Lakes or something, but we're talking proper adventure bike here." "Kiddie wheels are so last century." "You're an idiot!")

    Here's how I think about it. For me, an adventure bike needs to be the following things:

    - Versatile. I want to be comfortable pedaling for ten hours on asphalt, gravel or dirt, day after day; I want to be able to mount slicks and go on a training ride with the local road club when I'm far from home; I want to be able to ride pretty demanding singletrack; I want to be able to ride with panniers; at home, I want to a bike that might be decent on grocery runs. In practice, a bike is probably going to be good at a small number these things, but I want to be able to do them all and have the bike be at least reasonably up to it.

    - Easy to ride. The geometry needs to be such that it doesn't take much vigilance from me to pilot. There are going to be times when I am at 17,000 feet, bonked, cold, and in the dark. My bike can't be yet another challenge. The thing is, I also want to be able to go fast on flat paved roads, or twisty road descents. And I want the bike to have good enough manners off-road. And when I'm in really dense urban areas, I want to be able to see traffic and be maneuverable.

    - Durable. Basically I don't want to even think about the fragility of the bike. I'm not totally convinced that an aluminum frame is wrong for adventure touring, but if there is even a slight chance that I'll need someone to weld the thing while on the road, I don't want the option excluded. More realistically, if the derailleur hanger or the fork or whatever get bent, I want to just bend them back (within reason).

    - Not overly precious or prissy. The bike is going to get roped to the roof of buses and the back of pack mules, clipped to a steel basket for a gorge crossing, or tossed in the bucket of an empty dump truck. I want to be able to shrug off the inevitable dents or nicks. Some airlines still allow you to check the bike unboxed. When it's an option, I want to be able to do that without caring that it might get scratched.

    - Not have cost me a lot. The bike could get lost or stolen, and I don't want to be devastated. This is going to be relative, of course, but, for me, certainly under US$2000, while under US$1500 would be even better.

    - Repairable on the road, all over the world. Stuff is going to break, and I want to be able to substitute and improvise with what is available to me locally until I can have specialized gear shipped.


    Given this wish list, I have not found anything better than the LHT. I've ridden it with panniers in Asia, Europe, Mexico, and, of course, at home in the US. I've raced it in mountain bike races (not my first or even second choice, but it happened) and on frozen lakes with Hakkapelitas. It goes along pretty good with slicks when I'm in the drops, I can mount 2.35 Nevegals on it for offroad, and on most tours running Marathon cross 1.5's is good enough for anything resembling a road or dirt path. On singletrack the bb is a little low for log hops, but riding the tops makes a lot of stuff surprisingly doable (I have top bar levers that you sometimes see on 'cross bikes, though I don't run them on my actual 'cross bike). If someone said that I could keep only one of my bikes, this one would be it.

    Are there other bikes that could do these things? Yeah, probably. But some popular choices fall short for me. Thorns are a fair bit more expensive, and I have no interest in Rohloff hubs (heavy, their durability seems overstated, and junky but serviceable derailleurs are readily available to run with shifters in friction mode). I don't have any reliable info on how big a tire can be mounted on the Dawes offerings. The Rivendell Atlantis is a gorgeous bike, but that's also a downside. Some continental bikes look pretty good, but the Koga-Miyata's, for instance, are aluminum. And then anything with an integrated rack won't do for me when I want to take all the heavy stuff off and just go riding where ever I am. There are definitely steel mountain bikes that can be converted to adventure use, but they would have to have long chain stays for pannier heel clearance, couldn't be too flexy, and need a long headtube for drop bars (I've done long tours on flat bars and I don't care that much about not having the much ballyhooed multiple hand positions. But I like drops for going fast.)

    So what about that Fargo? I totally want one for riding here in the US. But as far as winning the adventure bike prize, the Fargo's wheel size is basically a deal breaker for me. My main endurance race bike is a singlespeed 29er, and I'm not looking back to 26ers as far as mountain biking goes. For better or for worse, though, the wheel size that came to be the American standard for mountain bikes in the 80's is now the most widely available around the world. Sure, a well build wheel isn't likely to implode, but in the overall scheme of bicycle components, the wheels are a worrisome blend of fragile/difficult-to-improvise/showstopper-if-you-don't-have-it. Moreover, though tires can be booted and stitched together, there is some wear and damage that just can't be readily managed.

    You sometimes hear people say that in this era of global access to consumer goods, you can just have a wheel or a tire shipped to you where ever you are. There's something to that, but I've seen tires in shops and stalls in towns that don't have phones, let alone internet. For a lot of places that I want to ride, there's a much higher premium placed by locals on the availability of bike tires than on having a post office.

    So, I'm sticking with the trucker for now. I think it's the best that a US based adventure rider who is going to range far and wide can do. Nice job, Surly!

    Other thoughts:

    - If I was too tall to ride a 54 or smaller LHT, then I guess I'd convert an old mountain bike for adventure use.
    - What's my real basis for comparison? I've toured on a converted 1989 Wicked Fat Chance with rear panniers (West Coast of USA), a Santa Cruz Superlight pulling an Extrawheel trailer (Pakistan, India, Nepal, Tibet), a Karate Monkey with rear panniers (East Coast of USA), an 80's Bianchi steel road racing bike with a large Carradice seat post bag (USA, UK, China), a recent vintage Felt aluminum/carbon fiber race bike with seatpost bag (East Coast of USA, France), and a Bike Friday folding bike pulling its suitcase (East Coast of USA, Ireland, France, Spain). None of those were catastrophes. Indeed, the Superlight -- in spite of being absolutely wrong by every bit of conventional wisdom -- was probably the best. Of course, I was fortunate that neither the rear shock nor the suspension fork had any problems. The LHT is better than all of these.

    Here's a photo of my LHT in worst-conditions off-road mode, with 2.35 Nevegals mounted and exhibiting a little bit of faux monstercross:
    Attached Images Attached Images

  2. #2
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    You present some great arguments. I like the idea of a cross bike as the one bike to rule them all theory but for a more adventure oriented bike to work in the places you mentioned I agree the LHT provides the necessary extra heft required. I think you have hit the nail on the head with your thesis.

    That LHT is pretty much the perfect built from what I can see. Things I like: downtube shifters, Brooks saddle (thought I'm partial to Selle AnAtomica), triple crank which looks like Sugino crank with 94 BCD and square taper BB, fork with mounts for lowride rack.

    I'm wondering why not V-Brakes? Can't you get non-linear pull roadie brake levers? If not I know problem solvers makes something for that.

    Your touring experience is humbling. Good on ya. Sounds like you've had a fun life.
    I thought of that while riding my bicycle. ~ Albert Einstein on the theory of relativity

  3. #3
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    Thoughts on disc brakes? Less likely to be easily serviced in third world countries, though I would think that added power and wet weather performance would be nice. I don't really regard rim brakes as suitable for off roading anymore.

  4. #4
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    You Might Want To Look At The New Salsa Fargo 29er . It Looks Like A True On Or Off Road Touring Or Racing Bike .
    just put me back on my bike

  5. #5
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    Big Dummy? The boys "Riding the Spine" seem to be doing well with them on one heck of an adventure!

  6. #6
    a.k.a. MTBMaven
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    Quote Originally Posted by walkre73
    You Might Want To Look At The New Salsa Fargo 29er . It Looks Like A True On Or Off Road Touring Or Racing Bike .
    I'm curious if you read the original post?

    "There's been a lot of excitement over Salsa's new Fargo on the 29er board, and I count myself among the early enthusiasts. It looks like a great bike and I can't wait to ride one." cruzmissle
    I thought of that while riding my bicycle. ~ Albert Einstein on the theory of relativity

  7. #7
    is buachail foighneach me
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    i really like the look of that bike the way you have it built up there.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by THenne
    Big Dummy? The boys "Riding the Spine" seem to be doing well with them on one heck of an adventure!
    I agree that the Big Dummy looks like the way to go for super-unsupported adventure rides. If you need to carry enough food, water, and clothes to get through several days without resupply I see nothing that can touch it. You could literally carry gallons of water on a Big Dummy. On the other hand, you won't be winning any races on one.

    As for the "boys riding the spine", I believe they have run out of money and are back in the States trying to raise more.

  9. #9
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    Definitly a nice purpose built ride. That has very little to go wrong with it and easily repaired or replaced parts. Something people forget when assembling a bike for this purpose. I am looking forward to trying a Fargo one day but now you got me thinking Surly hmmm...

  10. #10
    a.k.a. MTBMaven
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    Peter White has some pretty amazing adventure touring frame on his site. http://www.peterwhitecycles.com/tout-terrain.asp







    I thought of that while riding my bicycle. ~ Albert Einstein on the theory of relativity

  11. #11
    Harmonius Wrench
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    Interesting.

    I think your choice is entirely valid, but I would submit the following to you, some of which is based upon my touring experiences on a converted 1984 Mongoose All Mountain mtb.

    I rode my tours with other fellows that all rode 700c bsed rigs. In a lot of situations, they were more efficient than I was, and on every downhill they outdistanced me in coasting. My gearing certainly wasn't as tall as theirs either by the very nature of the wheel size. (I ran 48/38/24 on all of my tours with this bike) On pavement, or on smoother dirt and gravel, 700c is definitely a better choice in terms of my riding.

    Of course, rider comfort is a huge issue with touring for multiple hours. My 26 inch wheels were jack hammers with anything less than 1.9 inch tires. The fact that 700c rolls over stuff with much less trauma to the rider trumps the 26"er in my mind here as well.

    Wheel strength: There was a time that 26"ers had strength over 700c in spades, but with current materials technologies and the influence of the 29"er movement, that gap has been effectively erradicated. Besides, based upon my experiences, I am not all that hard on wheels. One loaded tour on the Mongoose saw me riding wheels that were built with M-900 XTR hubs laced with Wheelsmith double butted spokes, alloy nips, to Sun Mistral rims. A recipe for destruction, my friends said, but those wheels never gave me a bit of trouble in over 850 miles of touring with a bike so heavy I couldn't lift it off the ground. YMMV

    Wheels availability: Well, I keep seeing the "26"ers are the world wide standard" claim all the time. What are those bikes that I keep seeing in the ads that look like old Raleighs running for wheel size that are going to Africa? And China has how many Flying Pidgeons with 28"ers? Somehow I think the claims are a bit over rated, but then again, I haven't been out of the country, so I defer to those with more experience. I'm just saying, it seems to my eyes that this claim is a bit too much "blanket statement" to be true.

    Disc vs Canti: Okay, which bike keeps going when a spoke breaks? I keep seeing this, "you can't repair a disc brake in remote, third world countries" thing. I would submit to you that it won't be the brake that causes troubles, but rather the spokes, and those can be had anywhere, carried with you, or made from scratch. A mechanical disc brake has very little to go wrong that is outside the norms of typical bike maintenance. Cable actuated? Yes, so are cantis. Pads wear out? Yes, both have issues in this area, but both types are easily transported. The calipers? When was the last time you heard of a canti arm or a mechanical disc caliper failing? Not many times for either. Braking surface? Okay, it is a wash here as well. I would submit that in reality, a rim is far more susceptable to damage than a rotor. Rotors can be trued, and don't easily wear out. I just don't buy this theory that mechanical disc brakes are bad for touring. I think the problem lies in that they are not traditional, rather than that there are documented issues with them.

    Then there is the argument for the Big Dummy. Sorry, but while the Big Dummy is certainly off roadable, (I've seen it done) I wouldn't want it for my off road vehicle of choice. Too long a wheel base. No stoker to help you get it around tight twisties either. And just like a big purse, or a big garage, it invites you to pack waaaay too much stuff that you could probably do without. Just my two cents on that bike. A great bike, but not for this Adventuring category.

    I'm a big fan of what the Fargo has on offer. I don't think there is another bike quite like it........yet! There will be others that come after it that will be on the same order, a bike set up for Adventuring that may have canti brakes as a choice, or an EBB to run a Rohloff, or SS it. I have no doubt that different flavors of these Adventuring rigs will come about. My preference is for 700c wheels and big rubber, but that isn't the only way to go. I look forward to seeing these bikes and reading about the adventures had on them. And especially making my own stories!
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  12. #12
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    Good conversation

    Thanks for the good conversation, folks.

    Every once in awhile I find myself thinking about the enduring myths of adventure bike touring, namely those things that everyone assures you are absolutely true and the rules that, if you don't follow them, you're probably going to die miserably in some remote place. But these myths turn out to be, at best, a mixture of harmless firm opinion without basis and well-meaning reasonable suggestion that you can take or leave (there is also a lot of what I think amounts to just foolish tradition).

    For example, everyone says disc brakes are a disaster waiting to happen on an adventure tour. Before I left to Asia last year, I stressed about this because I wanted to take my old trusty Superlight. In addition to months of touring, I was going to do a bunch of races over there. (Why not the 29er? Because of tire availability, though more on this below. Why not a singlespeed? Because, even though I race singlespeed in the US, that would be too painful on the tour that I envisioned. Why not a hardtail/front suspension 26er, then? Because I don't have one.) My Superlight had seven year old Hope Mini's. And my imagination started in with the rhetorical "what if's?". What if the hose breaks and all the fluid leaks out? Where will I find DOT 4? What if the airline bends a rotor out of recognition? What if the seals on the reservoir cap start to leak at high altitude? Luckily, I snapped out of it. In a few seasons of racing the Superlight, I never touched or even looked at the brakes. What are the chances that one of the "what if's" would happen? I'd say low, and in the end I rode the disc brake equipped bike just fine for months.

    So, mtnfiend and ionsmuse: I do think disc brakes are an advantage, and if the LHT had a disc option, I'd be a little tempted, but probably wouldn't go for it because it doesn't seem enough of improvement to justify the very slight downside. As far as v-brakes, they'd surely be better than the canti's that I'm running (the old joke about cantilevers on 'cross bikes is that, well, you don't really want to slow down anyway because you'll lose too many places). At some point I'll get around to mounting road brakes that can take up the right amount of cable. For a few years I had the problem solvers that you mentioned, but found them a little finicky and they kinked the cable in a way that made me a little worried. They worked fine, though.

    Or the myths about suspension. Everyone will tell you just don't do it, that the suspension is going to fail and that you'll be stranded. That's certainly possible, but probably not that likely. If at home you worried every ride about your suspension, you probably wouldn't bother having it on your bike. True, it's another thing to go wrong that you could get by without, but that's not by itself a decisive reason not to bring your bike with suspension. There are other considerations that might well make you want it, and, in my estimation, conventional wisdom overstates the danger.

    Other claims I regard as myths: That you absolutely need multiple hand positions to be comfortable. That an aluminum frame is hopeless. That if you don't have a square taper bottom bracket, you're going to be stranded. That STI shifters on a drop bar bike is a sure-fire way of going home early. That clipless pedals are a non-starter. And we haven't even started talking about non-bike equipment yet!

    Now, it's true that my Trucker avoids all of these things, I built it precisely that way, and I was celebrating it for its simplicity and versatility. But that's because Surly -- and, from the looks of things, Salsa, in building their Fargo -- have made it easy to minimize the already very small risk associated with some bike choices while not making any dramatic compromise and, in some ways, securing other advantages.

    * * *

    So what about wheel size? Guitar Ted, thanks for jumping in. I definitely respect your view on these topics, and I think that our positions aren't as far away as it might seem from our two posts.

    I, too, have been on both sides of tours where some people had 700c wheel bikes and others were on 26ers. The virtues that you are naming for bigger wheels are serious enough for me so that in most cases I go for them when other considerations don't outweigh it. In addition, if you're touring with a group, there's some advantage to all of you having the same size wheel, as you can distribute the spares among you.

    And I'm with you in thinking that the claim that you must go with a 26" wheel because of world-wide availability can turn into a silly mantra. I stand by what I said earlier, however: in every bike shop in Asia that I visited, they had (usually crappy) 26" mountain bike tires available. Only once -- in Chengdu -- did I see a selection of road bike tires along with their road bike offerings at a Giant dealer. I absolutely never saw a 29er knobby tire. In my estimation, it would be easy to find a replacement wheel for my Trucker, and not so much for a Fargo. But these anecdotes are a weak kind of evidence. For me, when I try to balance the calculation of what of going to enjoy riding versus what can go wrong plus what equipment do I already have plus trying not to be too psycho about worrying about things, what I get is the bike that I now use. I say again, though, that the Fargo looks fantastic.

    I completely agree with you about the Big Dummy. It's a great seeming utility bike, but I have doubts as to its off-roadableness. Add to this that it's going to be extremely heavy and will pack long in a box.

    * * *

    My post was meant to record some of my thoughts about why I like my LHT so much, and to get people talking. But the worst and most insidious myth of adventure biking -- the one that prevents a lot of people from doing it on small scales and large -- is that you need some special cycling equipment. Since this is a mountain biking forum, I can say with a lot of confidence that if you're reading this and you're wondering, "what would be the best bike for me to use to get started doing these kind of rides?", the answer is right now in your basement or your garage.

    Mountain bikes are pretty incredible when it comes to reliability and versatility. You can mount a rack on any bike, whether or not you have special fittings for it. Or you can pull a trailer. Or you can go with what looks like a fantastic lightweight option of having a frame bag made to go along with a large seatpack and bar bag. Or some mix of these. Whatever drivetrain you are running, whatever suspension you have or don't have, whatever wheels or tires or seatpost: It doesn't really matter that much because it is probably going to work just fine.

    When I started to plan longer and more serious trips and decided to invest in a dedicated bike, I did what we all do in buying gear. I tried to balance cost and my best info about durability and appropriateness for my needs, and I didn't go in thinking that I could find the absolutely perfect bike. Thanks for the kind words about the bike.


    By the way, I'm shocked that the moderators haven't moved this thread to the new mtbr bikepacking forum, where it surely belongs. Oh, wait...

    From Tibet last October:
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    Last edited by cruzmissle; 09-15-2008 at 12:24 PM.

  13. #13
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    Are "adventure races/rides" really about single track, or are they gravel/b-roads?

    I don't own a Big Dummy and really have no horse in this race, but I have a hard time agreeing with the idea that it would make a poor adventure bike specifically because of its long wheelbase. Packability would surely suffer due to the length and weight. Speed would suffer because it is a pig. But I don't think the wheelbase itself while actually riding it is an issue.

    I own a road tandem and know first hand what a long wheelbase does to a bike's handling. I know that tandems, and by association the Big Dummy, steer like a bus. Tracking on a twisty trail would likely be a nightmare, and bottoming out on any small, convex hills shorter in length than your wheelbase could be a real issue... on single track. But it seems to me that most adventure rides, at least adventure rides as I have read about and understand them, appear to be looooong events on gravel or B roads. And gravel and B roads are built for vehicles much longer and with worse steering than even a tandem or the Big Dummy.

    For instance, the Great Divide Race, according to its rules webpage, says "The GDR route is ~85% dirt, gravel, two-track, or fire road, with ~14% paved and virtually zero singletrack."

    With this as a yardstick of what an adventure race/ride is about, I don't think a long wheelbase would be a handling problem. There would, of course, be exceptions. This year there were many downed trees near the beginning of the route. Racers had to pick up and carry their bikes over tree after tree after tree. With a big, heavy bike like the Big Dummy, along with its load, this would frankly suck. But the real issue there is with the weight, not its wheelbase.

    I have to think that whether you are riding the GDR, somewhere in Tibet, or the Outback, gravel and B roads would be the norm with singletrack being pretty rare. I could be plenty wrong, as I have never done any of these, but this is my armchair quarterback view.

  14. #14
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    Not all LHTs have 26" wheels

    Quote Originally Posted by cruzmissle
    ...There's been a lot of excitement over Salsa's new Fargo on the 29er board, and I count myself among the early enthusiasts. It looks like a great bike and I can't wait to ride one. But I'm going to submit that Surly's 26" wheeled LHT is a better adventure and expedition bike...
    I share your admiration of the LHT. I had one. Turns out I needed a 56 and not the 58 I got. Couldn't get it to fit, even with a tiny short stem and saddle jacked way forward. But I thought it was a great bike, and still do.

    Has something changed regarding the way they come? On surly's site it says that the 56 and larger sizes use 700c and only the smaller frames go 26". Mine was 700c. I know that surly doesn't update their site every couple minutes, for example the wool jerseys have been available in a cool sage color at least for the ladies for at least 6 months but there is no mention of such on the site. But as far as I know, only the medium-ish and smaller truckers are for 26".

    That said, I think the idea of what I call a flat-bar dirt tourer is killer. The Salsa Fargo sounds like it may be that bike. I think the trucker could be set up that way with a little creativity, but the way they come spec'd from Surly with drops now is pretty compelling. Damned nice touring spec right out of the box. I built mine up ala carte with mostly parts I already had on the shelf, but a pre-spec'd bike that is what you want is always a better deal.

    I rode my LHT on singletrack with drops quite a few times, and lots of rough dirt roads, and I have no doubt it would handle fine with flat bars. It takes really big tires too. I have not looked at the Fargo.

    I actually am on the list of a well-known custom builder for a bike just like this. When I ordered it, I called what I want 'a 29" flat-bar dirt tourer'. Far more expensive than a surly or salsa for sure, but what the hell. You only live once.
    Last edited by TomP; 09-15-2008 at 08:51 AM. Reason: typo
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  15. #15
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    No, you're right, TomP. To my knowledge, at least, the Trucker has 26" wheels only in its 54-and-smaller incarnations.

  16. #16
    Harmonius Wrench
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    Awesome!

    cruzmissle:
    Since this is a mountain biking forum, I can say with a lot of confidence that if you're reading this and you're wondering, "what would be the best bike for me to use to get started doing these kind of rides?", the answer is right now in your basement or your garage
    Wow! That's it right there, really. The most wise statement in the whole thread.

    Thanks for that gem.
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  17. #17
    Harmonius Wrench
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    Quote Originally Posted by Morlahach
    .................

    I have to think that whether you are riding the GDR, somewhere in Tibet, or the Outback, gravel and B roads would be the norm with singletrack being pretty rare. I could be plenty wrong, as I have never done any of these, but this is my armchair quarterback view.
    While I'm sure it could be done, there are better bikes than a Big Dummy for this. Consider your B road example: Now add water............sound like a good idea now?
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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Guitar Ted
    While I'm sure it could be done, there are better bikes than a Big Dummy for this. Consider your B road example: Now add water............sound like a good idea now?
    You are absolutely right. I can't imagine shouldering a Big Dummy. Not unless I put on another 100 lbs of muscle.

  19. #19
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    Great thread. I have been waiting to buy a Surly LHT (need some more money), this thread just reaffirms my dream. I hope to have it in a few weeks complete with panniers and Surly front/rear racks.

  20. #20
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    Damn Straight

    Quote Originally Posted by Guitar Ted
    Quote Originally Posted by cruzmissle
    Since this is a mountain biking forum, I can say with a lot of confidence that if you're reading this and you're wondering, "what would be the best bike for me to use to get started doing these kind of rides?", the answer is right now in your basement or your garage
    Wow! That's it right there, really. The most wise statement in the whole thread.

    Thanks for that gem.
    Yep. You got that right Ted.

    I work at a bike shop in Salida, right on a major crossroads for bike touring. The Great Divide Route comes right into town. Lots of east/west pavement tourers roll into town on US 50, US 285 goes by about 6 miles away.

    This summer was really an interesting one for tourers. I saw LOTS of first-timers. Many of them were doing stuff like hauling BOB trailers with road race bikes. Cheapo 6-year-old mountain bikes that were already more than half way down the GDR. You name it.

    One guy from Jersey was on a probably 15-year-old Giant Cadex road bike (bonded lugged carbon fiber tubes) with struts duct-taped onto the top tube to hold a rear rack. He was also running a handlebar bag stuffed to the gills and a backpack. All the way from the Jersey shore, bound for LA. Then planning to tour all over the interior of California. Young guy, probably 5'1" tall, and tough as nails. He was INTO IT!

    It's coming on, even among people who weren't really cyclists before they hit the road. Thank $4 gas.
    Tom Purvis - Salida, CO - http://teamvelveeta.tom-purvis.com

    "I like my wimmen like I like my beer--cold and bitter!"

  21. #21
    mvi
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    In my experience I rate
    1. Wheel strength.
    2. Low Q-factor.
    3. Low BB height.
    as desirable. The LHT has that more than the Salsa it seems. 29" is nice though.
    On the other hand , I'm always suprised how well a Python tire rolls on the road. If I could do my trips all over, they would have looked different than 25 years ago.

  22. #22
    Caveman
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    Great Thread!
    I'll add my 2cents
    - The 29er wheel availability is real valid concern. I had to stumble around for about 3 weeks in southern Chile & Argentina once before finally finding even a 32 hole 26" rim, and simply put 29er anything cant be found in South America in general. I took the Karate monkey down there (on a different trip) and had all my spares stolen in Quito right at the beginning of the trip, spare tires or tubes are non-existent as far as I could tell, I kept my eyes out for the next 6 months. Thank god for fed-ex international mail (but actually more so that Schwabble makes the Marathon XR in a 700c x 50, because I never needed any spares anyway.)

    Just about every serious international bike tourist out there is aware of this, but with the right wheel build it is tempting (and entirely doable) to do an expedition length tour on the big wheels and have no problem. You just have to know this going into it and be prepared for the worst.

    - Big trips on the big dummy... I don't get it. I don't see the advantage over a strong bike with racks and panniers. And the disadvantages are many - heavier frame - more welds to fail, harder to manage with public transport, buses, planes, donkeys. etc, hard to bring into lodging, hard to lift, the list goes on and add to that you need even more specialty items like long cables and long chains. Save the cargo bikes for trips to Costco and home depot.

    Disk vs. Canti's - I've never tried to stop a 100 lb bike with disks - anyone else? I've always run V brakes on big tours and had no problems. I'd like to hear from someone that has done some big abusive international tours with disks.

    cruzmissle - how do you like that trailer?
    Last edited by Bearbait; 09-16-2008 at 09:45 PM.

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    The Big Dummy has it place as a touring bike, even rough stuff. It does have it's disadvantages which are well outlined above.

    The main advantage is the ability to carry more stuff, which might invite some to pack too much, but it can also help some people pack "enough" to get where they are going without support, which for most adventure tourers is the whole idea.

    It also works much, much better offroad than you would image, even overloaded on one side with a sixth keg of beer.

  24. #24
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    I was not trying to shoot down the cargo bike / dummy at all. This thread was specifically talking about remote international tours and that's what my comments were geared towards.

    Having never used one I think they are much, much better than towing a trailer since you can carry tons of stuff and not have the wacked out handling that a trailer gives.

    I think they are awesome bikes and want one myself. I just would not take one to Dirkadirkastan

    anyway, back to wheels... strong 29er wheels on bad roads in Peru:
    Attached Images Attached Images

  25. #25
    Fahrrad fahren
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    Disc

    Quote Originally Posted by Bearbait
    Great Thread! .....
    Disk vs. Canti's - I've never tried to stop a 100 lb bike with disks - anyone else? I've always run V brakes on big tours and had no problems. I'd like to hear from someone that has done some big abusive international tours with disks.
    Looks like you've has some experience with discs
    http://lostcoastbike.blogspot.com/20...-thoughts.html

    "-No brakes, the grit & sand destroyed the bb7's in less than a week and we eventually took them off. We didn't really need them anyway."

    I have seen some pretty big (400lbs+) Tandem teams running discs through some harsh conditions over multiple days, but nothing like the sustained situations you mention. Most have held up well, but I do remember reading about a team who had the plastic parts on their Avids melt.

    Personally, I'll be using discs from now on on the bikes I get, but it wouldn't consider it a deal breaker if a found the perfect bike otherwise.
    Fixing Frederick Coasting Carroll Wandering Washington

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    For me personally, the fargo makes the most sense (between the LHT and the Fargo). At 6'3", I would be on a 700c LHT anyway. I have actually had disappointed customers who wanted an LHT but were too large for the 26" wheeled ones. But really, the Fargo makes sense for me because all of my gear is 700c. Frames, forks, spare wheels. Most of my touring starts at my front door, and ends there. No flights or car rides to get to where I want to ride. In the SE USA, you can easily find spare parts for a 29er/700c bike.

  27. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hjalti
    Looks like you've has some experience with discs
    ha ha, thanks!
    Yes, but the conditions we were subjecting them too was pretty unique. They died just from the fact that they were on our bikes and not actually using them

    I was thinking more towards dropping down big, big passes with a heavy bike. I would just think that the heat build up would be unreal and you'd have a more stressed out wheel due to the eccentric brake loads, maybe its just fine though with big rotors, its not like rim brakes don't moan and groan under the same conditions.

  28. #28
    In the rear with the beer
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    I absolutely love my LHT!! Got the front and rear "nice rack" on her too. Probably my favorite overall out of my 6 bikes (although my yeti 575 is a darn close 2nd). I bought it to tour, but my touring buddy has cancelled on me twice now so mostly it goes to the store and around town, and some road training rides when I want a change from my regulary road bike (and don't mind slowing down a bit). Next week I'm gonna start communiting to work on it (25 mi each way) twice a week. Think she's perfect for the job.
    Some people may feel others are good for specific long distance tours or adventure races, but as far as all around use (one bike) I think it absolutely rocks!!
    Salvation Outdoor
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  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bearbait
    cruzmissle - how do you like that trailer?
    I'm somewhat ambivalent about the Extrawheel trailer. For those that don't know it, it's an ingenious trailer made in Poland that is little more than a steel frame around a 26" wheel (there is clearance for a 29", too, and it can be ordered with the bigger rim). There's a kind of fabric cowling around the frame and then simple nylon netting attached to the cowling. In these two pockets you carry two dry bags with your gear. The whole thing attaches to a skewer via a strong (but not flawless) pivoting connector.

    Bike handling with the trailer is surprisingly confident and positive. I've ridden mild singletrack and the load tracked predictably and rolled over obstacles easily. In that respect, I think the design is superior to BOB trailers. The overall package, too, is lighter. Add to this that you are only carrying one kind of tube and the trailer wheel is just a front hub design (so you could use it as a front wheel in a pinch), and the there's a lot to recommend it. This assumes, of course, that one is a fan of trailers in the first place. For some applications I find trailers a convenient way to go.

    The downside of this particular trailer is that it's a bit fragile for serious adventure touring. Stuff just started breaking along the way, and I'd have to improvise repairs. One day it might be a tear in the netting, another day the carbon fiber rods that give shape to the cowling came poking through. The climbing webbing used to attach the net to the cowling needed to be sewed since it wore through, and the hitch attachment wore down enough so that it got stuck on the skewer. In all, I'd say that the design is first rate, but the materials and executions are not up to big expeditions. My understanding is that the second generation is well in the works, and I'm pretty optimistic about Extrawheel's ability to improve on their innovations.


    * * *

    Incidentally, I enjoyed your inspiring photos from South America. Don't be shocked when you get a phone call from me hoping for a some saddle, bar, and frame bags for future adventures.

  30. #30
    Needed Less ~ Did More
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    Hi Joe,

    Now I'm back from honeymoon I will give you my $0.02 worth.

    From what little traveling I have done in the developing world 26" stuff can be tricky to find at the best of times despite the "every one uses 26" stuff" that is spouted. Yes you can get 26" tyres and tubes in India...the tubes have woods (Dunlop) valves that will fit Presta drilled rims if you have an 8.5mm drill bit...and a drill and the tyres I have seen didn't last long (Remember the guy on the MTB Himachal shredding a tyre in a couple of days of unloaded riding?)

    The whole "go for 26" or die" is along the same lines as "if you go to India you will spend the first week in the toilet" or "you will be scammed blind as soon as you are off the plane" Neither of which happen too often but are oft repeated.

    On a long tour you need to take two preventative steps before you go:

    1) Build and test your bike with stuff that is reliable and in noramal abnormal use won't give you an issue. Tried and tested, slightly scuffed stuff that you have pretty much forgotten about fitting. Fitting new stuff before leaving is a big no-no. Airline baggage handlers, escaped bulls and angry mobs withstanding you can prevent a lot of issues many others have.

    2) Take enough spares to sort out problems you might reasonably encounter. The key here is "reasonably" Packing spares for everything will triple your load or involve a spare bike

    The third of the two things you can do is to have a practical mind so if something does go wrong you can improvise / bodge / jury-rig your way out of trouble. Failing that you can always practice your hitch-hiking and stow-away technique!

    But you have spent a lot more time than me on the road so I'll stop preaching to the choir.

    As to bike choice I would go for the one you feel best on. Comfort is key for long distance so try both and tune them. You can take spare tubes, tyres and spokes. Rims especially on disc brake equipped bikes are pretty reliable...as are cable disc brakes (pads are smaller and lighter than canti pads too)

    My gut feeling is to go with the Salsa and some Epic / Carousel Design Works frame / seat / bar bags and pack pretty minimal.

    Sometimes you plan, prepare and pack carefully only to have something out side your control cock it all up. At those times you just have to accept what has happened and go to plan B...you do have a plan B don't you?

    Alex
    "Put any one on one of these singlespeed bikes and they could not help but have fun"
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    Otis Guy talking about klunkers c1976

  31. #31
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    Re: Discs vs. Rim Brakes

    We have people here who are riding fire roads and gravel roads... pretty much the same thing as traditional road touring, IMO... and then others who are more into what I call "singletrack touring." Just based on that one major difference, the equipment called for is going to vary wildly.

    IME, on steep singletrack with 20-25 lbs of gear (total wt of rider/bike/gear 240 lbs or so?), I've ridden some descents that just about tore my mechanical disc brakes off the bike. We're talking about 45-60 minutes of descending where you're stopping to let your hands rest. Rim brake pads would have been toast in no time.

  32. #32
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    [QUOTE=bigdudecycling]I bought it to tour, but my touring buddy has cancelled on me twice now so mostly it goes to the store and around town,[ QUOTE]Want to go touring in the Summer '09 with me?

  33. #33
    In the rear with the beer
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    [QUOTE=chadfbrown]
    Quote Originally Posted by bigdudecycling
    I bought it to tour, but my touring buddy has cancelled on me twice now so mostly it goes to the store and around town,[ QUOTE]Want to go touring in the Summer '09 with me?
    Yes, totally. As long as you don't commit and then pull out 3 months prior b/c your lady doesnt' want you away for a full week...like my former touring buddy did.

    Actually, I can't fully commit yet, I'll have to get back to you after the Leadville lottery....after my disappointing performance this year, I have some unfinished business with the climb to columbine mine....then again, with Armstrong saying he's gonna return to leadville this year, right after the TDF, the lottery may be overloaded this year, so my chances probably aren't that good.....
    Salvation Outdoor
    "Take it Outside...Again!!!"

  34. #34
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    Agreed

    Hey Alex,

    I like what you're saying about having the right attitude and flexibility to deal with situations as they come. That's probably, in the end, far more important than any kind of gear selection. In the planning stages of a trip, I think people have a tendency -- myself included -- to focus so much on what is immediately under their control that that ends up seeming like the most crucial part. Since the factors under control early on basically amount to gear selection, picking equipment looms in the imagination far out of proportion to the role that the gear will actually play in the challenges you face while on the trip. Again, I agree with you that attitude and flexibility are going to be the things that make or break a bicycling expedition.

    When I think back over my most recent pedalling, the truth is that most of my stuff -- "inappropriate" or at least non-traditional for expedition touring, as it was -- worked just fine. The stuff that broke was fixed well-enough with local materials, or I simply did without it. And when I think about the people I met and rode with for portions of the journey, basically nothing at all unifies their gear choices beyond what you're saying, namely that they picked stuff that they were comfortable with. Agata and Tarek were on Polish aluminum frame mountain bikes with four panniers each; Marcin was on a Giant Anthem pulling a trailer; Hans and Monika were kitted out on Koga's with bizarre (to me) expedition bars and four panniers, very Swiss style; Bjorn was on a Specialized TriCross with Dura-Ace and four panniers; that Dutch couple had four panniers each and were pulling BOB trailers. Okay, they had too much gear, as far as I'm concerned, but, then again, they probably thought I was madly underprepared.

    The point is that talking about gear and bikes is a pile of fun when we're here at our computers, but when you're out on the trial, it doesn't matter that much.

    I hope we go on a trip some time soon (weren't we talking about Johnny O'Groats to Land's End all on dirt?). But you're going to be mad when you tear your 29er tire sidewall and all you can find is (admittedly crappy, but at least serviceable) 26er tires .
    Last edited by cruzmissle; 09-26-2008 at 07:36 AM.

  35. #35
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    Hey Joe,

    Ripped side wall? Thats why they invented Schwalbe Marathon XR's

    I totally get what you are saying about being a total control freak on the things you can have some say in, especially behind a computer screen. Kit selection is a great way of killing time before Day0 but you still have to navigate, negotiate and enjoy your self out on the road and kit has very little to do with that.

    On my stag (bachelor) ride I started the first day by wiping the route data off the GPS. Stressed me out until I remembered the scribbled on maps in the bag and the two friends who would be just as lost and happy as I would be!

    A tour some time would be great, end to end in the UK would be cool but the weather can be a bit hit and miss. Perhaps a tour through southern France and Spain taking in the bars and cafes between riding along the beaches and up mountain passes. Better weather, scenery and food!

    Miles and smiles not stuff and worry.

    Alex

  36. #36
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    Good job!

    Great thread...I just wanted to throw a few ideas into the mix:



    26" wheels a must for international touring:
    - I'm one of those guys that wouldn't buy a bike to travel outside the Canada/US/Europe that didn't have 26" wheels.
    - I agree with the notion that a strong wheel shouldn't break and that you can most likely get spares FEDEXED in to wherever you are worst case
    - I own a 58cm LHT with 700c wheels and I've taken that into Mexico for example without issue. I carry some spare spokes and a spare 700c tire. I have well built wheels and run XRs for a tough trouble free tire. If I suddenly had an opportunity to go to SA and that was the only touring bike I had I'd use it. As Eric points out if you use strong gear, ride smart and are lucky you won't have any issues.
    - having said all that if I was buying a bike with a long international tour in mind I'd use 26" wheels. There are no practical downsides to them and they are the size that is ubiquitous around the world. Sure you won't find a 26" tire/tube or rim in every spot on the world, but it gives you the best odds. That's also why I'd use 32H rims and hubs since it's hard to find 36H & 40H replacements once you are on the road.




    Not using suspension, disc brakes, etc.. on an international touring bike:

    - in the same vein as the 26" wheel issue you can certainly use a full suspension bike, disc brakes and tour internationally. Clearly these parts don't blow up just because they've crossed an international border.
    - I generally speaking wouldn't use them for a long tour anywhere less developed. The longer the trip the higher the risk something will go wrong and the more easily reparable/replaceable the part the faster you'll be on your way.
    - If you are patient enough you could get a whole replacement bike FEDEXED to you nearly anywhere in the world for enough $$$. So you could replace any part that fails. Realistically you may not experience a failure. All that really matters is that you are aware of your contingency plans if something bad does happen.
    - I'm not a fan of discs specifically because replacement parts are non-existent in a lot of places and they force you to use a suspension fork or a stiff straight fork which is not as comfortable as the curved classic touring forks found on bikes like the LHT or the Thorn touring bikes. I've never had issues touring in the mtns with v-brakes so I don't feel like they are a disadvantage at all.



    Big Dummy for touring:
    - I own a Big Dummy and have done a few tours on it.
    - on the plus side it rides really well with a touring load, the long wheelbase is stable and absorbs bumps well. Obviously it can haul a lot. The frame is rugged enough for rough road/off road tours.
    - on the down side it's longer than single bike which can be a problem if you need to fly with it or take it on a train/bus. The straight stiff fork transmits a lot of vibration to the bars. The Xtracycle bags are not as durable as I'd like and would need some reinforcing on longer trips or be repaired enroute.
    - weight of the BD is not much more than a LHT with front and rear racks + panniers. Definitely not a show stopper.
    - if you really wanted to travel easier with the BD you could install S&S couplers
    - I'll keep using my BD for local tours and tours I can drive to. It's a fun bike and puts a smile on my face. If I was going to fly I'd use something else.
    - my BD has Avid BB7s which I find to be a PITA when touring on muddy roads as the clearances are tight between the rotor/pads and mud does get thrown onto the caliper even though it's near the hub. The result is lots of brake rub and pads wearing out quite fast. If I was going to take the BD on a long tour I'd probably replace the BB7's with some Deore v-brakes just to make my life simpler.



    Ride what you got...
    - it's fun geeking out about touring bikes and discussing the best setups, gear, etc...
    - but, the most important thing is to get out there and ride....
    - if your only bike is a full-suspension MTB with hydraulic discs and you can spend $2K on a new touring bike, but then be broke or spend $2K on a trip to Costa Rica...borrow a BOB trailer and hit the road. I'd rather be in Costa Rica trying to find a replacement disc rotor for my bike than at home in Canada with the coolest adventure touring bike in the world leaning up against the wall of my bedroom while I chat on a bike forum about touring in Costa Rica!
    - these fine folks spent very little on some used bikes and had a great tour.

    Safe riding,

    Vik

    www.thelazyrando.com

  37. #37
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    Great post Vik!

    I had the opposite experience with this though:

    Quote Originally Posted by vikb
    That's also why I'd use 32H rims and hubs since it's hard to find 36H & 40H replacements once you are on the road.
    Where have you found 32 hole to be the norm?
    I stumbled around for 3 weeks in Southern Chile with a wrecked wheel looking for a 32h rim (26" ) and finally found one left by some German cyclist in Puerto Natales. Everyone looked at the cracked 32 hole rim with black expressions.

    Since then I figured that 36h was the way to go since its stronger and apparently more common...

  38. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bearbait
    Great post Vik!

    I had the opposite experience with this though:



    Where have you found 32 hole to be the norm?
    I stumbled around for 3 weeks in Southern Chile with a wrecked wheel looking for a 32h rim (26" ) and finally found one left by some German cyclist in Puerto Natales. Everyone looked at the cracked 32 hole rim with black expressions.

    Since then I figured that 36h was the way to go since its stronger and apparently more common...
    32H is the drilling that ships on most MTBs and by default end up being very common.

    36H definitely gives you more spokes and would make a stronger wheel - the one exception is if we are talking about a Rohloff wheel with no dish when a 32H rim can be built up much stronger than 32H dished wheel - Rohloff suggests it's as strong as a 40H dished wheel.

    That's what I run on my Big Dummy 32H 26" rim front and back, but the rear is built up with a Rohloff. That's what I'd use on a new touring bike as well.

    Were you looking for a 26" rim or a 29"/700c rim for your KM? I'm not sure what would be the most common drilling for a 29/700c rim since that size isn't influenced by all the MTBs that are sold.

  39. #39
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    One thing I forgot to mention above when talking about the Big Dummy. If you are keen on the long wheelbase Xtracycle concept for touring and need to fly/ship your bike making the Big Dummy a PITA - my friend was able to pack his Xtracycle + MTB into a single large bike box and fly with it for a tour.

    The Big Dummy's integrated frame is stronger than an Xtracycle + MTB, but given that touring loads are generally less than a heavy cargo load this difference may not matter given the flexibility of being able to travel easier with the Xtracycle + MTB.

    Just thought I'd throw that out there in case it was helpful to anyone.

  40. #40
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    Excellent thread.

    I have been thinking about different geared bikes for a go at the Tour Divide race in a few years. This thread has gotten me to take a harder look at the LHT. I have parts from a touring bike that is too small for me that would be an almost perfect port. I would just need a new headset, stem, and front derailler, so my total outlay would be pretty low.

    I might be sold. I am going to mull this over for a bit but might pull the trigger on one soon.

    Another bike that I think looks super fun and beautiful in its own way is the Rivendell Bombadil. One problem is that the frame costs 4X as much. While I might be able to deal with that the killer is that it uses 650B wheels. If I ripped a tire or taco'd a wheel I might as well be in Nigeria as far as my odds of finding parts off the shelf at any bike shop along the way. I just don't see the sense in some companies going so far afield of industry standard specs...

  41. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by vikb
    Were you looking for a 26" rim or a 29"/700c rim for your KM? I'm not sure what would be the most common drilling for a 29/700c rim since that size isn't influenced by all the MTBs that are sold.
    It was a 26" wheel that I was looking for, different trip with a different bike.

    Interesting...

  42. #42
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    VIKRAM!!! Welcome. I'm glad to see you all the way over here on MTBR. I've read many of your posts on BikeForums. I'm MTBMaven over there. Thanks again for the killer green curry recipe on your blog. I need to make that again.
    I thought of that while riding my bicycle. ~ Albert Einstein on the theory of relativity

  43. #43
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    Pulled the trigger on a LHT because of this thread

    After reading this thread a few weeks back I decided, what the heck, I would get a LHT. I have an older Litespeed Appalachian that is too small for ultra events (what is good for shouldering and a 45 minute race isn't necessarily good for 30 hours in the saddle) that I am going to switch the parts from. I had seriously considered going the route of a Salsa Fargo, but that would have required new brakes, wheels, and possibly levers. The difference in prices between the two frames isn't that great, but including new parts the price difference would have been significant. For single track the Fargo would have been a far superior bike, but for my intention of gravel use I don't know that it will matter too much.

    I ordered my bike from Speedgoat last week and it showed up yesterday. Their service was great and I couldn't be happier with them. The also had a heck of a deal. The frame was on sale for $360 and had free shipping.

    Right now the frame is in my basement drying after a treatment of frame saver. No ride reports for some time.

  44. #44
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    Morlahach - Possible TI usage for the LHT, or something different?

    Steve

  45. #45
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    Quote Originally Posted by sfuller
    Morlahach - Possible TI usage for the LHT, or something different?

    Steve
    That's the plan. I have a couple of motivators here. First, I have only finished TI once in three tries with either a single speed or fixed gear. After I missed the time cutoff last year by 15 minutes and had to bag it, I decided that TI is tough enough that riding with one hand tied behind my back with a single speed just doesn't make sense. The LHT is my geared solution to the TI question.

    I also have a few other local gravel races I intend to use the LHT with. And if things go as planned, I hope to try the Tour Divide or a similar cross country solo tour in three years in 2011. This would be the bike for that as well. These "short" gravel races will be an equipment shakedown for the grand daddy race/tour. That would of course be loaded while TI is not, but I can at least make sure that the bike is tuned to indefinite hours in the saddle.

  46. #46
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    Assuming that I get in, I'm not sure what I am going to use for my first TI attempt. I was contemplating a SS set up if for no other reason than I can avoid some of the disasters I saw at check point 1 last year with missing spokes, exploded derailleurs, etc. Simpler is safer seems to be a good philosophy for TI. Then reality sets in. I'm not strong enough to turn over a big enough gear to finish TI on a single speed (I'm saying this not having any idea what ratios the SS people were running last year, or the year before). So I'm back to a geared set up. Then it's really down to the Karate Monkey or my LHT.

    My two forays onto gravel with the LHT this year were somewhat successful. I'm still in search of ideal tire for this bike and gravel roads. The stock 700x37 Conti's that came on mine didn't inspire the same amount of confidence that the 2.1" Nano's do on my KM. The Panaracer FireCross that I put on for one ride seemed heavy and slow. If I can find the right tire, I think the LHT is the bike for the job, especially from a long hours in the saddle/comfort standpoint. I'd kill for a 700C nano in a 1.9" width right now.

  47. #47
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    Thanks to everyone for their very thoughtful posts. This thread has been hugely informative for me, and also served as that always-appreciated reminder to "ride what you got" as the one poster put it.

    A nice new LHT sounds amazing, but what I've got is a Karate Monkey rigged with disc brakes. The one thing that concerns me about dragging it to Southeast Asia is wheel size, which you all have made some great points on here.

    Here's my question:
    I'm set on running 700c wheels, but the KM can easily accommodate 26". In a real pinch could I just lace a 26" rim to one of my 32H disc hubs? Are 'disc-specific' rims truly necessary and not just a term invented to sell more rims?

  48. #48
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    Disc specific rims means the rims are indeed disc specific. They won't work with cantilver/V-brake or any other rim brake because there is no brake surface. So you cannot use a disc specific rim with rim brakes.

    But this isn't your question. Your question is the opposite, can you use non-disc specific rims with disc brakes. And the answer is absolutely you can. A non-disc specific rim can be used with rim brakes. But it can also be used with a disc brake. It is universally usable, while a disc specific rim can only be used with disc brakes.

  49. #49
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    That's awesome news - thanks Morlahach.

    The LHT might be an ideal touring rig, but you gotta love the versatility of the Monkey

  50. #50
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    Wow - what a great thread. The issues of parts availability is one that I have pondered for years, and still think about if I were to "disappear on a bike" (no comments from you out there who would like that to happen) how I would outfit it...

    25 years ago I went to New Zealand with a college buddy for a 3-month tour. While this is not by any means what is considered a real adventure tour, when you are 23 and leaving the country for your first time (other than drunken binges in Mexico) it was enough adventure - mainly because of lack of knowledge of what we would find there. There was little information (no internet) about how well shops were stocked, what was available for parts. etc... Letters to an acquaintance there didn't look promising for finding modern parts of the day. I had one of the first production mountain bikes that I had been riding off-road for about a year, and had just ordered a Fisher Mt Tam that I would get when I returned. So - I converted the Univega Alpina Sport into a touring bike. I was concerned about being able to get a tire there, so I packed one along. As well as a spare freewheel, about every nut and bolt and even remotely bicycle-specific part that I could think of for the trip. My buddy was on a Nishiki touring model (don't recall the model name) that had 40-spoke rear wheel, 27 x 1-1/4 tires, triple and the same Dia Compe cantilevers that were on the Univega. While some parts were shareable (freewheel, chainring bolts, etc...) spokes, tires and tubes were different. I had the Specialized Streetstomper 26 x 2.125 on my rig, and Todd had their 27 x 1/14 "rib-down-the-center" model. Pros and cons: He rolled faster than me, no question. He also climbed more easily - though some of that was due to more weight on my bike too. He also had countless flat tires (to my ONE) and we had some spoke breakage issues about halfway through the trip. Fortunately we found a "bike shop" of sorts that same evening, and the gentleman let me use his truing stand to repair the wheel. At that time, the 27 x 1-1/4 tires were available in every shop that we went into (though there were plenty of 700c - 622mm bead) and there was a shop in Auckland and one in Christchurch that had a "Beach Cruiser" 26 x 2.125 tire - that is all we saw. Cantilever brake pads, derailleur chains, toe clips and many other parts were pretty common, but my Suntour Barcon shifters caused a stir a few places and that surprised me!

    On the topic of brakes, I think that disc brakes vs. V-brake would be a tough call. The biggest advantage that I see to V-brakes in a remote area is that if you really were in bad shape, some creative work with a knife could fashion brake pads from an old piece ot tire, some cork or other soft wood, etc... While rims are more susceptible to damage than the rotors, they also (IMO) are usually easier to true and maintain in the middle of nowhere, unless you really bashed one, but then the brake may not be your issue anyway. I also think (erroneously?) that you would be a bit more likely to find a 622mm-bead rim than a 559mm-bead. Even if you can't get a "Fat" tire for the 700-c wheel, you should be able to get a 35 - 38mm tire that would have you rolling. Or am I wrong on this? Iyou are traveling with others, tire size of the "group" may override desired tire size - spares can be shared if everyone is the same diameter. Same goes for spare cables, chain(s) and maybe even spokes if you really plan and coordinate well on the bike builds/prep. When I did the hut-to-hut I was the only one with a 29'er so I carried a spare tire for myself - while the group had one tire between 5 people and the other 4 each carried an extra tube as I recall. Fortunately, nobody thrashed a tire but it was only a week.

    Cable brakes can be more easily repaired in the field, and the mechanical disc or V-brake would be my choice for extended touring, even in this country. What about the Shimano Roller Cam hub brakes for this application? They seem to be well-sealed but the question is, how well do they brake? How hard would it be to pull the braking assembly apart and install new "pads" in the field?

    Gotta say, I love that center-wheel trailer also, cruzmissle. Been thinking of that for off-road travel a while too - glad to see someone has done it. How was it for rougher/technical terrain? Did it affect the handling much? Tire size looks to be a bit smaller than what you are running on the bike, yes? What countries have you been through and for how long of a trip? (And how did you get away/afford it if it was a long - over 2 month - trip?).
    R.I.P. Corky 10/97-4/09
    Disclaimer: I sell and repair bikes for a living
    http://www.endlesscyclesonline.com

  51. #51
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    great thread,enjoyed reading it !!

  52. #52
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    Getting a Bob (Yak or Ibex)

    http://www.bobgear.com/trailers/

    will totally transform your experience. I've used them on and off road, and they change everything. Also allows you to use non-dedicated bike (although rear rim still has to be strong, and brakes of course).

    Also, and this is kind of funny, I use it kind of like a motorhome trailer. You can, at times, leave it and bike around when in a city for example finding lunch or whatever - it just makes it soooo easy to all of a sudden go back to 30 or less lbs total rather than 80 or more. With panniers depending on how they attach it can be 15 min or more taking them on/off, and with impromptu 'lashing' that always seems to happen to me it eventually becomes impractical to do on a daily basis for fear of not getting it all back on well. And once you've been riding with all the weight it is really fun to all of a sudden not weigh anything.

    Me and some friends got Bob's after one of us broke a spoke carrying lots of weight in panniers. I've never had a gear problem since using the Bobs.

    Oh - we did have one. My friend melted the glue holding his latex tubes together after descending 5,000 feet or more in Colorado off one of the passes and both lost all air .
    Last edited by LightMiner; 01-13-2009 at 02:07 PM.

  53. #53
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    Great thread

    This is a topical thread with Fargo just out and others in the pipeline. I've been contemplating this a bunch of the past year, and finally gave up on the current offering and went to a custom builder.

    I'm building up a custom 26" mtb, based around the 26" LHT fork.

    My criteria:
    - 26" for reasons stated in this thread
    - std stuff everywhere: 27.2 post, regular deraileur hanger, canti's (work with more levers), threadless headset. Staying away from old school mtb idea because it had threaded streerer and would mean I have to carry those tools too.
    - easy spec for carrying less tools. Self extracting crankbolts, canti's that can be adjusted with std hex wrenches etc.
    - Std Shimano XT hub, and carrying spare free hub body and bits to turn it into SS.
    - 7/8 sp thumbies
    - flat bars so I can look around easier than in the drops.
    - no Rohloff: did you know that even the cables are specific to those hubs? Break one and it's call FedEx time...

    For the frame, here my spec
    - designed around a threadless rigid fork. BB height and head angle will work for the rigid fork I'm putting on (see Riv's Bombadil).
    - geometry that fits me, include a headtube long enough that I don't need to run a ton of spacers (like the new Rawlands)
    - repairable Columbus steel tubeset.
    - usual touring braze-on's.
    - 135 spacing and burly dropouts
    - non-flashy paint for stealth camping and parkability.

  54. #54
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    What resources do you guys use to research your international expeditions? Do you wing it and figure out the details when you get there?

  55. #55
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    Pretty much the normal places: Google, Lonely Planet, bike forums.

    Other than that wing it! This has been the mantra for quite a few trips I have done and its suprisingly liberating once you get used to it.

    You really need a particular mind-set to travel some places. I will never forget an irate Belgium guy berrrating the organisers of a 9 day stage race in the Himalayas after it started "half and hour late"! Some times you need to relax and enjoy what ever diversion from The Plan you are experiencing.

    Using some local (or at least in the same time zone) trips to get the kit sorted helps loads as until you use something for real its performace is unknown and even then you might find you can do with out it. I thought that a coffee press / mug would be essential on the trans-Wales trip but for the space / hassle it was not as we passed through a town twice a day and could get some coffee no problem.

    At the end of the day don't worry about making this trip perfect as you will never achive that, just enjoy it and learn a few tricks along the way.

    SSP
    "Put any one on one of these singlespeed bikes and they could not help but have fun"
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    Otis Guy talking about klunkers c1976

  56. #56
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    Hey Gang,

    I'm glad to see that the conversation on this thread has continued.

    Islander, I like the sound of your custom rig, and I hope you share it with us when it's done.

    Alex, how many times did we have to say "Relax, Belgium!" to that guy?

    That's a great story and a good dose of perspective from your New Zealand trip, ATBScott. On one of the earlier pages I talked about my experience with the Extrawheel trailer. The short version is, the design is great and, when it was working, the trailer was excellent. Unfortunately, it broke a lot under the rigors of rough riding, and by the end I was having to do minor repairs on it every couple of days. Their new design looks pretty robust, however. The wheel I used was 26", just like those on the mountain bike I was on.

    You asked how I financed and got the time off for the tours abroad. Well, the time off part is just a feature of my job. I'm a tenured university professor, so summers, spring break, and fall reading period are all times when I can escape overseas. Every some years, too, I get a paid research sabbatical, so I'll usually do a big tour during that time while working on papers or a book. I know it sounds spoiled and luxurious, but keep in mind that I'm not payed very much!

    I think the time off is really the hard part of adventure touring, since lost wages add up. The other big expense, of course, is plane fare. By and large, though, once you've arrived in the place, it's pretty cheap to tour there. I've found that US$15-20 per day is easily doable in many places if you're diligent. So, if you put aside $100/month every few years, you can spend $1500 on the flight and have enough left over to cover your costs while traveling on a three month trip. Again, that's not counting the bills that have to payed back home, or lost earnings if it's an unpaid vacation.

    SCTreehugger, you asked what sources to use when gathering intel about a place. These days I usually spend a few weekends well before the trip doing google searches and printing out interesting or informative sites. Crazyguyonabike.com is often good, but bloggers there are usually more asphalt-tour oriented. The Lonely Planet Thorntree forum for bikes drives me mad, since there's so much dogmatic British nonsense . I don't tend to take supported tours, but their websites can often give good hints on reasonable itineraries that include must-see or bike-friendly places. I don't usually bring a guidebook with me, but I'll often buy the very latest Lonely Planet (or whatever) guide and tear out pages that are of some use, often having to do with lodging or eating in urban areas that I pass through. I'll bring a map purchased on Amazon, but that's intended to be just backup since you can almost always find better ones locally when you arrive at a place. Then again, I have no problem being lost and asking locals. And speaking of locals, I definitely try to seek out locals who ride mountain bikes. In Kathmandu, for instance, there's a great community of riders and I joined a bunch of Nepali racers on rides when I was there.

    * * *

    So, I'm recently back from cycling in southeast Asia for six weeks, on the Long Haul Trucker, of course. I had a great time. Reflecting in the taxi on my way to the Hanoi airport, I recalled having heard somewhat mixed reviews of Vietnam, but it may have been my favorite. The people were terrific, and the place has a palpable energy and optimism. It's the 13th most populous country in the world and the size of California. The craziest day might have been near the end of the trip when I was totally lost going up a four hour steep climb on a dirt road alongside vertical rice paddy terraces in the freezing rain into darkness. At the pass, wind and fog ripping, exhaustion and stiffness setting in, there was a bunch of Hmong women roasting eggs and nuts on a fire under a tarp. I was invited to sit with them to thaw out, then we ate these cooked little chicken fetuses out of the shell, and finally, regretful for the parting, I took off into the night to descend two thousand feet on a winding road with my headlamp.

    Laos was mostly remarkable for it's natural, unspoiled beauty. Really splendid mountains and gorges. The people were friendly and super laid back. You could show up in a village and five minutes later there would be a glass of distilled rice beverage in your hand, and they'd be figuring out ways to marry off their daughter to you. There was lots of, um, dancing.

    And then Cambodia was interesting. The history there makes your mind reel. It's within the last decade and a half that the Khymer Rouge's influence has been broken. They killed everyone with an education in '76/'77, moved everyone left out of the city to cultivate rice, and basically tried to bring the country back to an agrarian, subsistence communist economy. People I met talked about growing up in Phnom Penh, going to school and the movies, then having soldiers kill their parents, and move them to live with grandparents in a far away village. Now they're in their late 30's trying to live life back in the world with television and the internet. Angkor Wat, the famous collection of temples with the insane architecture, is in Cambodia. That was mind-blowing.

    Here are some photos from the trip. Bike loaded for shakedown at home:



    - On body: ss wool polo shirt, cycling shorts (baggy), money pouch, Keen sandals, cycling cap, helmet, sunglasses, p&s camera in pocket
    - In Carradice saddle bag: ls wool shirt, cotton t-shirt, convertible pants/shorts, cycing shorts, wool underwear, socks, flip flops, small toolkit, 2 tubes, rag, cable lock, headlamp, toiletries, first-aid kit, novel, rear blinker
    - In stuff sack: wind/rain jacket with zip-off sleeves, medium gloves, knee warmers, insulated vest, wool cap, neoprene socks, silk sleep sack, mini towel
    - In Jandd frame bag: rangefinder camera, phone, iPod, travel documents, steripen water purifier, maps, guidebook pages
    - On bicycle: pump, spare spokes, bottles

    Marathon Cross tires for this trip, probably 50% asphalt, 45% dirt road, 5% dirt path/singletrack.
















    * * *

    Being back home in New England is not so bad, even though it's cold and snowy. At the risk of continuing to wax overly sycophantic about the LHT, here's mine in its current winter play guise:



    I should emphasize what I hope is obvious, namely that it's the same bike that I was touring on in the heat three weeks ago, and the same bike as in the first post of this thread. Not counting the tire change, this transformation takes about ten minutes. I achieve it by having built up the bike two ways in the past, once in the drop bar mode with canti's, and once in the riser bar mode with v-brakes. Switching involves taking off one set of bars with its stem, cables, housing, and brakes, and attaching the other. Those are Hakka 300 studded tires. Have I mentioned that, if something absolutely forced me to have only one bike, this would be it?

    Cruzmissle

  57. #57
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    Hi Joe,

    Glad to hear you are back safe and had a great time. Sounds like the LHT did its job and has now morphed into a great winter hack. If I ever go back to gears that will be one bike high up the list (shame I need the 700c wheeled size!)

    Planned trips this year include a "GDR-alike" race in Wales and touring the West Highland Way in Scotland, all minimal self-supported adventures with friends

    The Solitude is now a dingle-speed fixie with a cane creek ST suspension post (great for fixed off-road) and I have a pair of Powergrips to try out so I don't have to carry a spare pair of size 13's on a tour.

    Later

    Alex
    "Put any one on one of these singlespeed bikes and they could not help but have fun"
    -
    Otis Guy talking about klunkers c1976

  58. #58
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    Am I allowed to bump this back up?? It's such a great thread and deserves a read from others.

  59. #59
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    Quote Originally Posted by phsycle View Post
    Am I allowed to bump this back up?? It's such a great thread and deserves a read from others.
    I'm glad you did. I enjoyed skimming through it.

  60. #60
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    I've been contemplating between the troll and a LHT lately. . .

    Here is a link to the LHT thread in the Surly section for anyone who want's more:
    Long Haul Truckers...

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