Light Touring Bikes - Build It Yourself?

Discussion in 'Touring and recreational cycling' started by Bribroder, Jun 10, 2007.

  1. Bribroder

    Bribroder New Member

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    Hi there,

    I'm a new, youngish at 19, cyclist in Pennsylvania, USA, looking to get into some lighter touring. My current bike is an easy riding, few hundred dollar holdover that is really good only for around town type stuff. So, I've been browsing bikes fit for weekly rides of around 70-80 miles roundtrip, maybe 150ish occasionally, but definitely with the capability of a solid 750 mile tour into upstate New York, which I'm planning, and future trips of similar length.

    Obviously, for the weekend rides, there's really not a lot to be carried except on overnight trips. This is probably light load work, carrying the simpler stuff, like a sleeping bag and tent or bivvy sack, and snagging food along the way, and I'd expect to carry that on with the longer trips.

    I've looked at the Trek 520 and Jamis Aurora for prebuilt, standard issue fare under $1500, but I've heard from just about every shop within a 30 mile radius that if you have the rocks to build your own ride, you'll end up happier for less. I've never built a bicycle, but I'd like to think I have the rocks (or at least the naïveté) to get into enough trouble that it's easier to finish than pull out.

    To that end, I've looked at the Heron Wayfarer and some Rivendells for potential starting grounds. I realize that as far as the $1500 ceiling I set for myself when looking at prebuilts goes, these suckers cost as much as a bike in themselves, and components can run up another $700 easily.

    First questions:
    So, is that approximately true? Will building your own usually lead to greater happiness for less cash?

    Am I looking at the right bikes? What I'm aiming for is closer to credit card touring than self contained, and I'm not sure if 20 or 30 pounds of cargo restricts me to just touring bikes. Should I reconsider the Jamis (which I liked a lot) and the Trek, or other steel frames?

    If I were to go ahead on building my own, how about the Rivendells and the Heron? Any advice as to which would be better for my use, or what other choices there are?

    Any advice out there would be great; I've already spent a substantial amount of time on the forums, gathering little bits of information on things like gearing and assembly, and at this point I'm just looking for some feedback on whether or not I should attempt to build my own, and some potential frames.

    Thanks!
     
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  2. lugger

    lugger New Member

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    1. Rivendell makes a less expensive frame that I rode once and really liked.
    http://www.rivbike.com/bikes/bleriot
    2. Gunnar used to make a frame called Long Haul Trucker, but I don't know if they still make that frame.
    3. Kogswell makes an interesting frame: http://kogswell.com/
    4. Bob Jackson is an old and highly respectable frame builder: http://www.bobjacksoncycles.co.uk/default.php
    http://www.worldclasscycles.com/JACKSON-HOME.htm
    The Rivendell Bleriot and most Gunnar LHT's use 26" wheels. I think a Bob Jackson is available only in England through their own website or through a World Class Cycles on Long Island NY.
    5. A great online bike shop for parts and components is aebike.com. Great prices, selection and shipping. There is also nashbar.com and performancebike.com.

    That said, there is lots and lots of deciding to do about which frame and which components. It usually takes some experience to know the details that go into decisions about which components you like best. And then there is the building of the bike. That should be done by a professional or an expert. If you are going to build up a bike from scratch and you don't have a lot of experience with touring or touring bikes, then it will be a pretty complicated, long and challenging learning experience. And you will need lots of advice, but will find everyone has different opinions and agendas that can be quite confusing. I doubt it would be any less expensive, but it may cost more, to build a bike yourself.

    There are some good pre-builts out there. Trek, Bianchi, Fuji and Jamis make bikes that would be great for beginning touring. Starting with one of them would give you a good baseline to work from. Then you can have that frame of reference for comparison with new and different options you might want to try. That's what I did and then I built up my own bike so I wonder whether the people who suggested you build up your own bike may have been thinking of what is most appropriate for their own experience background. To me that seems like a lot to expect of someone just starting to bike tour. Starting with a good pre-built for a few years of touring and learning as you go will put you in a great position to build up a bike a little later on.
     
  3. WKB

    WKB New Member

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    "So, is that approximately true? Will building your own usually lead to greater happiness for less cash?"

    I'm skeptical of this idea. Building your own generally means having the tools, expertise, time and patience to do it. A few questions: how many bikes have you assembled in the past? How long did they last? What kind of tools do you have? It certainly won't be cheaper if you have to buy your own tools first and then try to assemble yourself. Are you thinking of collecting second-hand parts and assembling from there? Or are you looking at buying new parts? Second-hand parts are a crap-shoot: you may get a lightly-used component for a bargain or you could end up with a rusted-out piece of junk that breaks down on the first night of your tour. New parts are generally safe, but it's probably more expensive to buy all new parts and assemble them yourself. Consult a page like Nashbar or other online cycling shop and tally up the cost of each individual parts. I think a new bike may be cheaper. I looked into all of these questions and decided it wasn't worth it for me. You may be different.


    "Am I looking at the right bikes? What I'm aiming for is closer to credit card touring than self contained, and I'm not sure if 20 or 30 pounds of cargo restricts me to just touring bikes. Should I reconsider the Jamis (which I liked a lot) and the Trek, or other steel frames?"

    The names you mentioned are all reputable. I went with a basic bike by Novara, which I bought from REI. It's a simple bike that works fine for me.
    Good luck with whatever you purchase. WKB.
     
  4. daveornee

    daveornee New Member

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    I think building up is fun, but it likely won't save you money unless your time has little/no value and you have a well equipped shop at your disposal.
    Surly Long Haul Trucker (not light but a good value) and REI's Novara Randonee (lighter, but still not light, but a good value) are worthy of your consideration.
    Bob Jackson, if you want to import from the UK, is also worthy of your consideration.
    Jamis, Specialized, and Trek have the advantage of larger dealer networks.
    Finding a shop and riding the actual bicycle that you are planning to invest in are very important considerations. Look at the "whole package". What racks, fenders, tires, etc. will you use when "fully equipped"? You can always lighten things up be pulling off some package components, but if the bicycle won't handle the "fully equipped" package you desire, it wouldn't be a good solution.
    As a personal example, I have a "touring bicycle" made by a well know US bicycle maker that won't handle anything larger than a 30 mm rear tire with a fender, and didn't come with a true touring fork (proper braze-ons) for a solid front rack.
    Talk to riders in your area who have ridden routes you are planning. See what they say. Everyone has different ideas of what they consider useful/essential equipment wise... and how much time they want to "invest" in selecting/building up thier bicycle. Packages that are already built for the purpose are hard to beat for value, but dealing with a dealer that is willing to swap out things stem, saddle, pedals, and even tires... is worth something.
     
  5. overbyte

    overbyte New Member

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    Have you considered a long wheelbase recumbent for touring? Some of them can take an under-seat pannier rack as well as rear rack, which can carry a lot of cargo. I have a Sun EZ-1 AX with these racks and carrying 20 pounds of groceries under the seat is no problem, not even counting what I could put on the rear rack which has plenty of space for backpack, tent, and sleeping back on seat back and rack top alone. The EZ-1 has smaller wheels, so it doesn't cover a lot of flat road as fast as recumbents with 26" rear wheels, like the Sun EZ Sport AX (http://www.sunbicycles.com/sun/recumbents/ezSport/ezSport.htm) which is about in your price range. With a front fairing, it can cut through the air better than an upright road bike. It comes with 100 psi road tires. For more expensive up-scale models, check out www.easyracers.com .
     
  6. overbyte

    overbyte New Member

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  7. rd5590

    rd5590 New Member

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    You can build a decent touring bike around a mtb frame. If you really want a touring bike built around an old diamond frame, you have to start with good touring grade wheels, look for Rhinolyte rims, decent hubs and I recommend Schwalbe Marathon tires.(google Harris cyclery for pre-built wheels) 26in wheels are available everywhere in the world. Having said all that. I'm also a recumbent fan. You can get a Sun EZ off of Ebay fairly cheap and then put on new wheels. 20 inch wheel are inherently stronger than larger wheels. Gearing is always a touring issue. Typically, a front triple 22-34-44 and a rear cassete 11-34 is what you will eventually want. Read through some of the posts on crazyguyonabike.com.
     
  8. ::nomad::

    ::nomad:: New Member

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    I've built my own touring bike on a Merida mtb frame. Happily toured all the northern europe fully-loaded. And some guys from where I live rode fully-louded expedition through Africa from Namibia to Egypt in 5 months on two rather cheap Meridas (one of the bikes was around some 700dollars) so it's better to build your own, that's how I think. The money I spent for the bike altogether was not more than 550 dollars and I'm happy with it. My bike's been through harsh gravels, and long, long day-after-day riding fully loaded.

    Now I'm thinking of serious expeditions so I'm looking forward to Thorn eXp and such. For light tours build your own. .there's no need to have fancies.......or check out those touring Novaras..they're good enough and won't dissapoint you...

    although... I don't know why but americans manage to get their bikes fallen to bits more than anyone else :D

    seriously... rethink that

    cheers
     
  9. PaulTheSpartan

    PaulTheSpartan New Member

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    Well, at least here in Michigan, a good many of our roads are in great disrepair on a regular basis. Gotta love those Michigan winters...and the wonderful economy...
     
  10. ::nomad::

    ::nomad:: New Member

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    awww, michigan... but you probably never have been to eastern europe !! :rolleyes:
    haha
     
  11. vinyl_theif

    vinyl_theif New Member

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    I think building your own bike can be expensive, i'm just buidling one up, the frame is custom & it's costing an arm & a leg, but you can buy an of-the-shelf frame to suit your size, such as the Surly LHT. It all depends on what grade of componenets you choose.

    The benefit of buiding you own bike is the skill & knowledge you aquire, which on a long tour can be an advantage if you run into problems in the middle of nowhere, providing you have the main tools, such as allen keys, sprocket & Crank removal tools, spoke key, then you can soon solve problems as you 'know' your bike, that's something money can't buy.

    Build your own & you have something to be proud, & it's unique!

    Mark. MK, UK.
     
  12. xxamr_corpxx

    xxamr_corpxx New Member

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    It took a long time but I have finally managed to complete my touring bike project. It's a Giant Elwood purchased 2nd hand. I found some 2nd hand cheap panniers as well so the total cost is about a fifth of what a new touring bike would sell for.

    Bottom line is, if you want to do it on the cheap, look on ebay.
     
  13. jstava

    jstava New Member

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    I agonised over just that for a couple of months now. Decided to just buy the bike, as it comes, and negotiate the deal to include all the accessories that I'd need but don't have already for it. I decided this way because packaging it gets me a better price on things than I would get buying them separately.

    If I don't like what I've got, then I'll justchangecomponents to suit, as need be. Simplest thing.
     
  14. fred911

    fred911 New Member

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    Before my 1st tour, I did the same as you, read, read, read. I also trained. What I learned was, do it your way. That's the right way. Everyone told me I couldn't tour with a carbon fiber bike, I needed this or that..bunch of hooey! I used a Specialized Alize and pulled a BOB from Central Pa to Ocracoke 1400 or so miles. With 700c wheels and continentals I only had 2 flats the whole trip and replaced 1 spoke. My feeling is I would rather have an ultra light bike that may not be able to drive on dirt then to push knobby tires on a heavy frame. Read what you can but don't be afraid to do it your way! Test your setup and go...

    enjoy!
     
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