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  1. #1
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    bikepacking and on road touring: Ogre vs. Trucker vs. Fargo vs. Vaya vs ?

    Am considering a bikepacking/ touring bike for both on and off road long distance loaded touring.

    Right now, there are about 4 bikes that I consider reasonably priced I am considering:

    Long Haul Trucker - good and stable on road, but prefer 700c/29er wheels which I don't get in my size (54).

    Salsa Vaya 3 - build kit is a little cheap and I wonder if it will truly hold up to on and off road loaded touring. I've read a lot saying it is designed for it. I've even read people have used it for that. But I haven't seen a review of that.

    Salsa Fargo 3 - Better off road, but was uncomfortable for me to sit on, in my size, in the store. I can't imagine what I'd look and feel like after riding it all day.

    Surly Ogre - Great bike for the money. Seems to do it all, but there are some who have voiced concerns about it not being stable (or stated differently, being too agile) enough for a long distance on road tourer - which this bike will be used for perhaps more than anything. And others have raised concerns about whether there is sufficient spacing for panniers, but I am not so worried about that unless someone tells me they've had a "bad experience" with that on the Ogre. Cool green color. Can run Jones H-Bars. Even Rohloff. Not bad.

    Then there are the less cheap alternatives:

    Salsa Vaya Ti - Great build kit, just what I would want on a bike like this. Not a bad price considering it is Ti. But again, has anyone really used it the way I plan to?

    Salsa Fargo Ti - Again, is the geo too mountain bikey for the road, for me personally?

    Bruce Gordon - Everyone says his bikes are awesome and they are priced pretty high, but then again, not much higher than the Salsa Ti. It would be custom. It would fit. It would do the job. But I'd have to wait. Color choices are a little garish. Too road-bike-y?

    Or I could just buy a better car. Just kidding. That is not an option!

    Suggestions? Thoughts?

  2. #2
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    For what it's worth, I just recently finished a 1000 mile fully loaded tour on the Fargo 3 and found it to be wildly comfortable on the road. Granted, it handled much better on the road with 35mm tires than the 2.25" ones it came with. The only real issue I had was that it was a pain in the ass to mount my front Surly Nice Rack.

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    Yeah, I felt the same "upright hunch" when I tried one on at the store. I opted to just go for it but ended up having to size up to the medium frame because despite the ETT length being longer than the touring bike I was used to, the small still felt really cramped in comparison. But with the medium and the fit a little more dialed in, it was a whole different bike. That said, I hope that whatever you choose works for you!

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    IMHO Surly's are great bikes for touring on - especially if you are in the middle of nowhere and something happens. Steel frame, nice geometry - I use a Surly Karate Monkey for more offroad touring than most would go. A tad heavy when flying somewhere but pretty much bulletproof and they're nice guys to deal with

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by daves4mtb View Post
    Long Haul Trucker - good and stable on road, but prefer 700c/29er wheels which I don't get in my size (54).
    Great on-road tourer in my view (biased as I ride one), good on gravel roads, not so good on single track. I guess it comes down to what sort of riding you want to do.


    In action on pea-gravel dirt roads ... did okay despite less than ideal tyres


    Not so much fun on single-track.

    I was actually considering selling my LHT and XTC 2 to get an Orge to cover both bases, but think I will stick to the two bikes ... the right tool for the job sort of thinking.

    Andrew

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by daves4mtb View Post
    Where were those photos taken?
    Darling Range to the east of Perth, Western Australia.

    Andrew

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aushiker View Post
    Darling Range to the east of Perth, Western Australia.

    Andrew
    I miss you, red pea gravel that was a sport bike motorcyclist's nightmare... *sigh* I'll be back in Perth soon, going in September... sadly, leaving the Ogre behind and won't be doing a lot of riding while there. Unlike last time. Poor rental bike.

    I'm just gonna group these slightly differently...

    Less road.
    Ogre - I have one, love it, not sure how it handles with a heavy weight up front or out back yet. I want to set it up ultralight bikepacking style; currently have it fitted with Butterfly bars which makes it less aero, but I can use my hydraulic MTB brakes and whatnot on there (MTB components). Also, takes pretty much every type of rear hub/attachment/setup you can think of - a true "do everything" setup. The downside to the horizontal dropouts with gears is it's a little more tricky patching a flat on the rear tire when you pull the wheel out if you're running gears - most triathletes know what I'm talking about too.
    Fargo - I felt like the hunchback of Notre Dame. The biggest issue I saw with this when riding it on regular pavement was it was putting a lot of my weight on my butt. You'd have to have a damn good seat otherwise you'll probably end up with all kinds of pain and suffering down there. Kinda "wallows" and has the turning radius of the HMAS Stirling. I didn't get a chance to try it, but I did worry about climbing exceptionally steep hills with this geometry (keeping the front wheel planted). Also, the one I rode had a MTB double ring, rather than a triple; I spend a lot of time in the big ring on my Ogre, so I don't think I would have been happy with the gear range on the bike... probably would have been maxxing out the gear range 99% of the time.

    I don't think either of these bikes handle exceptionally well off road, but they both handle better than a road bike would. I think if you're looking for one bike to be a jack of all trades, master of none, this is not a bad way to go. If you're looking for specialized equipment, I see two bikes in your future. One other note on frame bags - if you're planning on using a frame bag, the main triangle of these two frames are smaller than the main triangle of the road bike frames, which is both a blessing and a curse (less storage space, but less bag bulge without a reinforcing strip in the center of the bag).

    More road.
    Trucker & Trek 520 - A good touring bike. Both bikes have comparable geometry, the LHT is a little better than the Trek in terms of components, but the Trek 520 fit me better while I had one. A great bike, but "wallows" rather than turns. A desirable characteristic while touring, less desirable when trying to do tight turns. The 520 has woeful brakes when you first get it, but other than that I rode the stock bike for thousands of miles, including the stock seat (which was the most comfortable seat I ever owned, including some Brooks saddles).
    Vaya - More CX'ish in setup. I liked this, and if I had to choose more on-road touring and less bolt on capacity, this would be a really close contender. I know of a guy that did some ultralight touring on one of these down in Peru with some Freeload racks, and he did just fine although he was running the Spartan Special (fast and nimble, but not very comfortable). A frame bag + one of these and you'd have a pretty decent bikepacking bike.

    I think the Vaya will do ok on more technical stuff, but it is a CX-type bike, not a true MTB. The LHT and the Trek 520 would not do well on anything more technical than fire roads. The tire size limits are quite good, pretty much everything you'd want for a road going tire, but the size limitations are such that you're probably going to hit issues above 700x45. Some of the "more studs" spiked tires would have trouble fitting, for example.

    RE: Titanium & whatnot
    If you can rent the non-ti versions of these bikes first, I would do that. The one advantage of titanium other than weight is most definitely rubbing through the paint with frame bags and other attachments - no need to worry on Ti, but you usually want to protect the frame using duct tape, etc. on steel. If I had to go down this route all over again, knowing what I do now, I would get my current bike (Surly Ogre) custom made using titanium with slightly different layout of the top and seat stay tubes (to increase the size of the main triangle while decreasing the stand over height) - after checking that it handles ok fully loaded.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by hunter006 View Post
    The LHT and the Trek 520 would not do well on anything more technical than fire roads. The tire size limits are quite good, pretty much everything you'd want for a road going tire, but the size limitations are such that you're probably going to hit issues above 700x45.
    I am currently running Schwalbe Marathon Mondial (28 x 1.75 / 47-622 ) with my SKS Chromoplastic P50 mudguards. I am just getting away with on the front and the rear is fine. I get a touch of rubbing at times on the front. They would be a better fit without the mudguards or wider ones.

    Mind you I need to deflate them if I wish to remove the wheel as I have v-brakes installed.

    Andrew

  9. #9
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    The Fargo2 is a capable MTB. If I don't take out the Pugsley, its my only choice. I occasionally miss my Soma Juice, but I think that has more to do with it being SS.

    You can also look at an El Mariachi with Fargo or Enabler fork. Would be a sweet flat bar setup.

    The stock 42cm wide Woodchippers were horrible. I moved to the 46s pretty quick. Felt way too narrow as I'm used to riding wide bars on my rando rig.

    And, it takes time to dial it in for a good position on trail / dirt road / road.

    Bar setup:


    Salsa Fargo, Woodchipper Setup by mbeganyi, on Flickr

    Pretty sure I have them just a bit lower now.

    Gear setup:


    Salsa Fargo by mbeganyi, on Flickr

    I've got a Revelate Tangle now, along with a gas tank and a jerry can. My front bag is always 'puffy' due to a light(ish) sleeping bag that doesn't pack down too well, and a too heavy sleeping pad (but nice for late fall camping into the 20s-30s).

    Single track:

    BTV Woods by mbeganyi, on Flickr


    I've tried it as a flat bar bike, might go there again this winter with some 'H' bars and 1x9. But I've come to like the drop bars. Oddly, they work well for climbing trail - get low and into the hooks on the steeps to keep your front wheel down, slide your butt back to keep traction. Similar on the downhills - your hands are kept captive a bit in the hooks.

    I have mine positioned for use of the hoods too. They take a bit to get dialed.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by hunter006 View Post
    I don't think either of these bikes handle exceptionally well off road,
    This is obviously a personal opinion/experience, but I happen to think the oposite. I'm now riding an Ogre after 4 years with a Singular Swift. Ignoring the obvious less refined tubbing, the Ogre actually handles better than the Swift. It's nimble, easier to toss around and not much less stable. With a little slacker HT it would be perfect, but I'm pretty much surprised how well an expedition bike handles

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ze_Zaskar View Post
    This is obviously a personal opinion/experience, but I happen to think the oposite. I'm now riding an Ogre after 4 years with a Singular Swift. Ignoring the obvious less refined tubbing, the Ogre actually handles better than the Swift. It's nimble, easier to toss around and not much less stable.
    Definitely personal opinion on my side as well. I'm comparing the bike to a couple of dealer day demo bikes / trip to Raleigh/Diamondback HQ on dedicated MTB's poorly suited to bikepacking. It was a "let em loose on the fancy bikes they can't afford" sort of experience. What I was trying to highlight is somewhat similar to someone buying an adjustable crescent wrench vs someone buying a wrench set. The adjustable wrench is just fine, and most people don't care. Me, I'm in the camp of buying the set - dedicated tools for the right job.

    I am yet to meet a Fargo owner that says, "yeah, I'm not happy with my bike." I bet the Ogre will be the same way in a few years (or if you're willing to talk to people with older Trolls, they probably feel the same way). I don't think those dealer bikes would have done well on a 150 mi bikepacking expedition though. My advice would be take my "off road handling" assessment with a grain of salt, and test ride them both for yourself if you can. I love my Ogre; you'd never catch me downhill riding at Whistler in Canada and I'll wave as you take off in to the distance on some singletrack, but you will catch me riding over anything and everything in between there and here with it loaded up with everything I need / want.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ze_Zaskar View Post
    I'm pretty much surprised how well an expedition bike handles
    My tests that I do for handling is how easy is it to trackstand the bike on flat ground (at a gas station, for example), how easy is it to turn the bike in a tight circle (on pavement), how well can it descend a steep hill, and how well does it handle under poor traction conditions on light trails (offroad). These are things that I do frequently, so if I'm going to drop a decent amount of cash on a bike it has to be able to do these things for me to be happy. The Fargo lost out on the tight circle turn; I tried a variety of different techniques I know including some motorcycling techniques, just couldn't get it to turn a tight circle comfortably. The Ogre I can turn inside our freight elevator without putting a foot down or touching the walls, provided it isn't moving at the time, loaded up or unloaded. Obviously it is hard to set the bike up so it's loaded down on a test ride, but I wish I'd been able to do that too.

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    If you want to go off-road, you almost need to go with something a bit burlier and larger clearance than offered by Vaya & LHT. They get close, but not quite there in my opinion.

    FWIW, I have done a fair amount of riding on my fargo. It does naturally put you in an upright position, which may not work well for your riding style. That said, I have not run into major butt issues, including on a 120 mile day that was very flat (read: almost entirely seated). Of course, if you feel hunched (and stem/frame size adjustments don't change things), then it probably isn't a good fit for you. I have a short torso and long legs, so maybe that is the difference.

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    Me, personally, I would go for the El Mariachi.


    Kurt and Jefe. #1 and #2 finishers of the Divide. Jefe's bike was set up as a SS.

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    I really like the Fargo 2 or Fargo Ti but with Cowbell bars instead of the Woodchippers. I prefer the Fargo 2 over the Fargo 3 due to the more compact double gearing used which still gives me all the range needed.

    I think the Woodchippers are fine if you are going to spend more time truly off road and need the leverage to huck it around, otherwise I think the Fargo works great with Cowbells set with no saddle to bar drop for a comfortable upright ride that lets you tuck into the drops when needed. Setup the Fargo more like a road tourer if you want the comfort as it makes a very good gravel and road tourer when setup right.

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    Figuring out which touring bike to get is the best problem in the world to have. Some thoughts:

    A quick thing to remember if you're looking for one bike to do two jobs: bikes that can handle dirt tours can also handle pave tours, but bikes designed for pave tours often can't handle dirt tours. If choosing one bike to do both, I'd err on the side of a dirt-oriented tourer that adopts well to pavement (with perhaps a second wheel set or slicks); Ogre and Fargo fall in this camp while Vaya and Trucker fall in the other. In your case, if you're considering a bike for bikepacking--which to me implies a compact, ultralight pack in framebags to preserve single-track nimbility--then you'll want to look at the dirtiest of the dirt tourers.

    Here are some options in addition to those mentioned by others above:

    Co-motion Divide: The Divide is in my opinion the burliest production dirt touring bike. It has a truly beefy frame capable of carrying heavy loads on dirt, it has real touring geometry, and it has a nice component selection (with options too). It's expensive ($4K), but at or less than it would cost you to build a similarly-equipped and similarly-burly custom frame (or less-burly production Ti frame). See: Co-Motion Divide

    Gunnar Rock Tour: Another burly dirt-specific production (or custom-production?) touring rig available in 26 and 29. See: Rock Tour – Your Off-Road Adventure Calls!

    Soma Saga: The Saga in my mind splits the on/off-road difference between the Vaya and Fargo (it's got a nice high head tube also); in your size it will fit tires up to 26x2.1, so should handle maintained dirt roads just fine, but its not nearly as dirt-oriented as the Divide. See: Saga Frame Set | SOMA Fabrications

    Rodriguez UTB Adventure Another dirt-capable tourer. See: Rodriguez Makeshift Image Gallery

    Siren Sierrita: Siren was a few years ago moving to build what looked to be a very sweet drop-bar specific dirt touring rig--nice high head tube and lots of abundant frame space for carrying stuff. I don't know what ever came of the idea, but given your stated needs they might be worth a phone call. See: Sierrita Sneak Peek « Siren’s Call

    Also, you shouldn't overlook the fatbikes--Pugs, Moonlander, and Mukluk--all of which are equipped with all sorts of expedition braze-ons, all of which can handle the most off-roadish conditions, and all of which can be fit with 29er slicks to tour on pavement. Measured with the yardstick of versatility these bikes win.

    A last word of advice: if you're considering spending money on a Ti frame, I'd strongly suggest you consider spending that money on a custom steel frame instead. For less than you'd spend ($2000) on a Ti Vaya, for example, you could be into a custom steel frame that is sufficiently built to carry heavy loads while perfectly fit to the peculiarities of your body (we all have them, and they affect how bikes fit). By way of example, I had Steve Garro of Coconino Cycles build me a drop-bar dirt-touring rig (the black bike here) and for reasons of fit, comfort, versatility and all-out bad-ass burliness I'm endlessly glad that I did instead going the production route--yeah, I had to save up for a while, but it was far and away the smartest bicycle purchase I've ever made.

    Good luck and enjoy the bike-building process! I hope some of this information helps.
    Last edited by pierre meux; 07-31-2012 at 07:04 PM. Reason: fixed bad hyperlink

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by phsycle View Post
    Me, personally, I would go for the El Mariachi.

    Kurt and Jefe. #1 and #2 finishers of the Divide. Jefe's bike was set up as a SS.
    El Mariachi made my short list too. Kurt's was special as he custom ordered the frame with a top tube with decreased standover clearance to make a bigger main triangle.

  17. #17
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    Does anyone have a comparison regarding the Ogre vs Fargo frame and fork stiffness while loaded down?
    I really like dig the Fargo and my only complaint so far is that I could use more gears for flat tarmac (2x10 build) so might consider switching to a more traditional 3x9 setup for general touring. For mountain riding the gearing is perfect tough.

    Quote Originally Posted by hunter006 View Post
    ... but I did worry about climbing exceptionally steep hills with this geometry (keeping the front wheel planted)...
    I never ever had the front wheel get of the ground and was really astonished at how well it climbed. Climbing with it actually makes fun ... and I like how the Woodchippers allow for different grips, their downside is very limited cockpit space.
    But to be honest, if I'd be looking for a touring bike now the Ogre would be very high on the list - together with the Fargo of course. I wish the Fargo had Ogre's dropouts

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dusza View Post
    I wish the Fargo had Ogre's dropouts
    The Ogre's dropouts are genial. Its always nice to be able to run singlespeed or even fixed in case something goes wrong with your gears or even slap a Rohloff there if you win the lottery. I think this kind of flexibility is very important on a remote riding/expedition bike

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    wish the fargo had alternators...

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    FWIW, I just replaced my SS 29er and 26 LHT with an Ogre, which I intend to use as an all-purpose machine with some tire swaps. I think it's the most versatile bike on your list.

  21. #21
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    Congrats on the purchase, been checking out this thread because i am, er was in the same boat. Ordered an ogre frame yesterday for a custom build. Cant wait to get started.

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    I'm sure you've seen this thread, but if not: http://forums.mtbr.com/surly/surly-ogre-737340.html

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    Ditch Crossing | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
    My Vaya and my friends Fargo Ti.

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    Well, I'm leaving behind my Soma Groove as my main touring bike and have a Civilian Luddite on its way. I'm having Neil @ Cycle Monkey lace up a Rohloff, a Jones Loop H Bar, a Thomson seatpost, Brooks saddle and swapping out for some 203 rotors (I'm a Clyde).
    I'm trying to move away from panniers (although I'll use one set hanging from a Freeload rack) in an effort to lighten the load and be able to do much more off-road than I have in the past.

    The Luddite seems to be a lot of bang for the buck....btw, just learned that Tyson (who hasn't been able to be reached for the last couple of months) is again the sole owner of Civilian.

    Doc

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    Quote Originally Posted by daves4mtb View Post
    That looks like a pretty cool bike, but touring on a single speed?
    No personal experience with SS touring, but it is relatively common in the mountain bike touring/ultra racing world. Less to go wrong and require a day's hike out, but it requires more hiking (hike-abike) in the first place, as you aren't able to clear as much with a load and 1 gear.

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    Did you decide that the Surly Cross Check just won't have enough capacity? I don't have mine built up for bikepacking yet, but with a rear and front rack mount, cables on run on the outside of the tubes for maximum frame bag action I'd think it could fit the bill for most adventures. And it's fast, nimble and comfy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by daves4mtb View Post
    I didn't really look at cross bikes. Maybe I should have , but I didn't. Ivthink the Ohre will do the task just fine
    Ah, the Ogre is a bad ass bike. Enjoy!

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    I stumbled across this thread when I was checking to make sure a Fargo vs. Ogre thread didn't already exist (looks like it kind of does!).

    I know it's too late now as you've made your choice but I thought I'd pop by and say hi anyway. I ride a Vaya (custom build, something like a 2) and am thinking of swapping out the frame to give more tire options and thus more tour options.

    What I like about the Fargo / Ogre is that you can run a road touring setup with front and rear panniers or a proper offroad setup with bags and no racks. Regarding the funny fit on the Fargo, I find personally I need to run a short stem to make the sizes that suit me feel right.

  29. #29
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    Surly just changed their sizing scheme for 2013, so if you can't ride an Ogre but there's a Karate Monkey there, if the M fits you on the Karate Monkey the M Ogre and M Troll should fit you. They said it would, "simplify" things.

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    The Ogre wins in my opinion hands down. The drop outs and braze-ons and just options that the Ogre has are endless. This weekend I went for 40 miles of ATV trails over two days and rode an Ogre. I had to decide between what racks/frame bags/trailers that I wanted to run because I had so many options! Plus when you are feeling like a beast you can run it single speed or fixed no problem. And then throw on gears, drop bars, and skinny tires and becomes a semi-capable on road tourer that can handle even gnarly 4wd roads. The thing rocks and I am in love!

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