Sunday, May 27, 2012

For The Long Haul

There are some clear limits to what you can do with those super-light, nimble road bikes that weigh less than a gnat’s eyelash. They’re really intended to do one thing best: go fast. The thing is, they require you to consider ounces, not pounds, as far as what you carry along on the ride. As long as it’s just you and the bike, you’ll slice through wind, and power up hills, faster than on any other kind of bicycle. Crazy fast! But start carrying any extra stuff, and you’ll instantly feel the bike’s performance diminish. Touring is out of the question for these kinds of bikes. They’re roadsters, not haulers.
My Groovy Trek 520 Touring Bike
After learning more about touring bikes, I looked for something affordable that had solid reviews from other riders. The search was over when I eventually found a barely-used Trek 520 that fits me perfectly. It’s certainly not a roadster. It rides more like a truck than a sports car. Beefier tubing, heavier rims with more spokes, more “junk in the trunk”...this baby is designed to carry. Slower, sturdier than its carbon cousin. The touring frame is slightly elongated for long-range riding comfort and heel clearance with the bags. Lots of riders, including this guy  (no relation), are on 520’s riding big, big tours right now and seem to be happy. So far I am, too. Eventually I'll do some big, big tours on this bike.
Immediately I’ve installed clipless pedals and fenders. Next, a stronger rear rack and a front rack. I’m learning that with touring bikes, you still care about the weight you’re adding to the bike, but your bigger goal is reliability. A little extra weight is okay if it serves that purpose. The plowhorse gets the job done. Most touring cyclists average 12-13 mph fully loaded, so it’s not like you’re competing in a peloton. However, it’s also true that on a sturdy, fully loaded touring bike, the extra weight on a good long downhill will make you a bullet.  Uphills, well, there’s an extra small chain ring for that.
Going fast and light is really fun. Going far and carrying gear will be fun, too.  


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