Buying a touring bike - things I didn't know

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LittleGreyCat
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Buying a touring bike - things I didn't know

Postby LittleGreyCat » 5 Jun 2019, 6:46pm

This is based around my Spa Wayfarer which I was guided towards by this forum.
I am very pleased with the bike, but there are things which I didn't know which might have made a difference to my detailed specification.
Also things which I didn't know which turned out to be an unexpected bonus.
https://spacycles.co.uk/m1b0s21p3866/SPA-CYCLES-Wayfarer


    (*) Tubus Cargo rack - good solid rack supplied as standard, however there is a variant, the Logo which has an additional bar to mount the panniers lower, which allows stuff to be put on the top without interfering with the pannier fixing. For an extra £15 I would have opted for this had I known.

    (*) Drop handlebar alignment - having only really ridden bikes with flat bars I wasn't fully clued in about drop bars. The bars as fitted are angled so that you can ride easily on the hoods, but when on the drops you can't reach the "brifters". This seems to be a design choice because I ride with someone with a Surly Long-haul Trucker which is set up exactly the same. I would prefer to be able to brake on the drops when going downhill, and change gear on the drops when flogging uphill. Personal preference but I wan't aware of the issue.

    (*) Handlebar tape - following on from above, I also had no idea that you should only tape the handlebars with temporary tape until you had finalised the riding position. A tricky one for the shop because the purchaser may not be happy to tape the bars themselves. Logically it is straightforward to re-tape the bars but stripping spanky tape off your new bike has emotional overtones.

    (*) Steerer - this is a biggie. The Spa bikes come with an uncut steerer and a load of spacers. This looks weird in the pictures but does allow you to experiment with the riding position and bar height until you are happy. I had no idea that most bikes have their steerer cut down before sale. Why they cut before fitting the bike to the purchaser escapes me.

    (*) Cantilever bosses on a disc brake frame - according to the blurb the frames have cantilever bosses so that you can fit cantilever brakes in an emergency if away from the level of civilisation that understands disc brakes. Cool idea, no? However the rims are for disc brakes and nicely coloured and sloped so I am pretty sure that cantilever brakes would not work well (if at all). Had I realised the difference between the rims for disc brakes and rim brakes I might have discussed a compromise rim which was suitable for both. I do like the idea of secondary brakes, especially for long downhill slopes.

    (*) Ability to fit a prop stand - again, having always had bikes with stands, I had no idea that this might be an issue. However there isn't space where the chain stays meed the bottom bracket to fit a stand, and the cables are in the way anyway. When I asked about this on the forum the response was "Lean it against something!". Had I known that it might be an issue I could at least have discussed this.

    (*) Brifters - I am used to mountain bike style trigger shifters which have indicators to show which gear you are in. I find this very useful when I am not sure which combination of gears I am using. Forum response was "You should know which gear you are in without looking.". Umm....yeah? and "Just look down." but I have difficulty seeing if the chain is on smallest or next smallest cog most of the time. Besides which I like to be looking forward along the road, not back somewhere behind my ankles. I thought I would just have to suck it up but then saw some "brifters" with indicators built in. Again, not aware that this might be an option, not why it isn't there as standard.

    (*) Disc brakes - TRP Spyres are fitted as standard. It was only some time after buying the bike that I became aware of Brucey's very definite opinions on the long term reliability of the TRPs. Having said that, they seem fine so far.

    (*) Lights - I (sensibly, I think) opted to have a hub dynamo because they are expensive to fit afterwards. Very pleased (although I haven't ridden in the dark yet). General comment is that I am very visible during the day. I only learned some time later that a more expensive version comes with a USB socket for charging stuff. That could potentially come in useful. I am now looking at an additional fitting to charge a power bank. For an extra £30 I think I would have gone for the USB equipped one.

To be edited further as I remember stuff!

Addendum - things that I did know:
    Low gears are good - I had the 32 tooth lowest gear swapped for a 34 tooth and I have used this on numerous occasions
    Fatter tyres are good - I swapped the 700 x 32 for 700 x 38 which required wider mudguards. Haven't regretted it so far.
Last edited by LittleGreyCat on 16 Jun 2019, 5:26pm, edited 4 times in total.

brynpoeth
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Re: Buying a touring bike - things I didn't know

Postby brynpoeth » 5 Jun 2019, 6:55pm

Interesting, Plus One
If you have lots of gears, very low and high gears, you should (almost) never need to use the lowest and highest, maybe one can get used to feeling the gears and just glancing down at the chainrings
Several brakes of different types seems a good idea
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LittleGreyCat
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Re: Buying a touring bike - things I didn't know

Postby LittleGreyCat » 5 Jun 2019, 7:40pm

brynpoeth wrote:Interesting, Plus One
If you have lots of gears, very low and high gears, you should (almost) never need to use the lowest and highest, maybe one can get used to feeling the gears and just glancing down at the chainrings
Several brakes of different types seems a good idea


Well, I sometimes use the lowest when climbing short steep hills (especially bridle ways), and tend to go for the highest when cruising down steep hills and on the flat immediately afterwards.

I have found myself in the smallest cog on the back and smallest ring on the front by just changing rear cogs to match my legs and forgetting that I should go up a ring (or just going down when I should be going up). Feel is a tricky thing when gear ratios overlap quite a bit between lowest and highest front ring.

Oh, and there is an inconvenient gap somewhere in the middle of the rear cog - one of those "too high or too low" uncomfortable gaps. It would be good to know which specific cog that is without stopping in mid ride and getting off the bike to double check.

Oh, and changing to the smallest cog/highest gear on the back there seems to be an extra click on the "brifter" which goes nowhere. So sometimes I don't know if I am in highest gear at the back and keep clicking just in case.

PH
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Re: Buying a touring bike - things I didn't know

Postby PH » 6 Jun 2019, 12:32am

A fair bit of it is just personal preference, no supplier is always going to get the bars set perfectly for every rider, it's something you are expected to play with to get "just right" The TRP brakes will no doubt be working fine, for now, by the time they don't (Mine have become an irritation rather than a catastrophic failure) you'll have had plenty of miles from them and who knows what will be available then. The rack - it's a good one, if you feel another is worth upgrading to, do it now while yours will fetch a decent price, to most people a decent rack is a decent rack, those fussier than that (Like me so no criticism) would have been expected to pour over the minutiae of them all. Most bespoke steel touring frames will come with long steerers, Thorn, Hewitt, SOMA and Surly are among those I've cut down. Prop stands are pretty unusual on UK touring bikes, I think you will be unusual among Spa's customers to have assumed one would fit. I disagree about the redundant brake fittings, IMO it's something that a lot of people will think useful and hardly anyone will actually use, I think they're just there for the indecisive and will probably quietly disappear by the MKII.
I felt the same about the lack of gear indicators on my first drop bar bike, I just got used to it, soon getting to know what gear I was in by feel and sound, as long as I'm aware which chain ring I'm on. With a triple I spend 90% of the time in the middle ring and I'll hear the front mech starting to rub when I get near either end of the cassette.
If I'd have reviewed any of my bikes at 100, 1,000 and 10,000 miles the conclusions would have been different. Some have been love at first sight only to fall out later, others have taken a while to get to know and become lifelong friends, I've learnt new stuff each time and they've all been worthwhile.

scottg
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Re: Buying a touring bike - things I didn't know

Postby scottg » 6 Jun 2019, 1:01am

Shifter, down tube and bar-cons, both have visual and tactile feed back
to indicate gear position. With down tube shifters, you can shift front & rear
simultaneously with one hand.
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Tigerbiten
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Re: Buying a touring bike - things I didn't know

Postby Tigerbiten » 6 Jun 2019, 5:55am

A lot of what you mentioned is a bit "Catch 22", only with experience will you know what to get but you need to get it first to get the experience.

With the handlebars you need some temporary bar tape on as you'll probably be removing it a few times as you tweak them as they are probably at a generic setup that may not suit you.
Remove the old tape and then play with drop angles and brake positions until you get something that works for you.
Temp tape them up and ride for a bit.
Keep tweaking them until you're happy and only then do you permanently tape them up.

Gears are more iffy.
At a guess you have a 17.6% step between the 18->21 sprockets.
That's the standard step for around that sprocket size.
You may find a 11-30 cassette works better for you as the step is only 18->20.
BUT double check that right before going that route.
If you do go that route then you may also want to drop the size of the inner chainring by 2 teeth to keep the same first gear.
It took me 5 years and 4 major tweaks to get the gears right on my bent trike.

As for cross chaining that's just experience.
You soon learn what gear will give the speed your at and a quick check of the chainrings will soon confirm if your right or not.

Luck ........ :D

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syklist
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Re: Buying a touring bike - things I didn't know

Postby syklist » 6 Jun 2019, 7:38am

LittleGreyCat wrote:This is based around my Spa Wayfarer which I was guided towards by this forum.
I am very pleased with the bike, but there are things which I didn't know which might have made a difference to my detailed specification.
Also things which I didn't know which turned out to be an unexpected bonus.
https://spacycles.co.uk/m1b0s21p3866/SPA-CYCLES-Wayfarer

    <snip>

    (*) Steerer - this is a biggie.

    <snip>

    (*) Ability to fit a prop stand

    <snip>


To be edited further as I remember stuff!

1) Steerer, you can get adaptors that fit on the steerer and allow you to change the height/angle of the bars.

2) It might be worth looking at rear fork stands. https://www.rosebikes.co.uk/bike-parts/bike-stands-and-bike-racks/frame-mount/rear-mount-kickstands Universal ones can be fitted to most bikes without modification to the frame.

These have two advantages, in my experience 1) more stable especially if you are a rear panniers only cyclist and 2) they don't block the pedal cranks which is handy if you want to clean the chain without removing it. Cheap rear fork stands tend not to come out far enough from the frame and also usually need a strap fitting on the back side between mounting and the leg pivot. Otherwise they will bend just below the horizontal part of the fork. We have had good experiences with Pletscher stands.
So long and thanks for all the fish...

Bmblbzzz
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Re: Buying a touring bike - things I didn't know

Postby Bmblbzzz » 6 Jun 2019, 9:05am

Experience and preference. But when you don't have the experience, you have yet to develop the preference! It's informative to read of things that strike others as unusual or lacking in some way. Thank you.

Gear indicators: some drop bar shifters do have them but they only give a rough indication rather than a precise gear. One of my bikes has them, the other not, I don't miss it.

syklist wrote:2) It might be worth looking at rear fork stands. https://www.rosebikes.co.uk/bike-parts/bike-stands-and-bike-racks/frame-mount/rear-mount-kickstands Universal ones can be fitted to most bikes without modification to the frame.

These have two advantages, in my experience 1) more stable especially if you are a rear panniers only cyclist and 2) they don't block the pedal cranks which is handy if you want to clean the chain without removing it. Cheap rear fork stands tend not to come out far enough from the frame and also usually need a strap fitting on the back side between mounting and the leg pivot. Otherwise they will bend just below the horizontal part of the fork. We have had good experiences with Pletscher stands.

Some manufacturers warn against fitting stands on the grounds that the clamps can damage the chain stays. Discussion in various threads. However, some bikes are made with two bolt holes in the nds rear dropout (or end of chain stay) for a stand to bolt into. That's quite useful. And I agree about central stands blocking the pedals.

Bmblbzzz
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Re: Buying a touring bike - things I didn't know

Postby Bmblbzzz » 6 Jun 2019, 9:12am

Two other things while they're in my mind: racks and cables. The racks with an extra tube for panniers slightly lower than the top are pretty good but some of them end up with the top platform higher than normal. This can mean something bulky (tent, sleeping bag) doesn't fit very well in the space between racktop and saddle. And cables, I've found since having a bike with fully enclosed cables that this design has a few practical advantages: the cables can't get caught on other people's levers and pedals when parking in a crowded urban situation (or a pile of bikes outside a cafe, or on hedges etc), and they make it easier to put a hand round the relevant tube and pick the bike up.

Brucey
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Re: Buying a touring bike - things I didn't know

Postby Brucey » 6 Jun 2019, 9:24am

PH wrote:A fair bit of it is just personal preference, no supplier is always going to get the bars set perfectly for every rider, it's something you are expected to play with to get "just right" The TRP brakes will no doubt be working fine, for now, by the time they don't (Mine have become an irritation rather than a catastrophic failure) you'll have had plenty of miles from them and who knows what will be available then. ...


exactly. There's no such thing as a perfect bicycle, just different sets of compromises, any of which may suit some people more than others. The TRP brakes may suffer horribly if you regularly ride in filthy conditions, on the other hand it may be quite long time before they misbehave if you don't.

cheers
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LittleGreyCat
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Re: Buying a touring bike - things I didn't know

Postby LittleGreyCat » 6 Jun 2019, 9:44am

Tigerbiten wrote:<snip>

With the handlebars you need some temporary bar tape on as you'll probably be removing it a few times as you tweak them as they are probably at a generic setup that may not suit you.
Remove the old tape and then play with drop angles and brake positions until you get something that works for you.
Temp tape them up and ride for a bit.
Keep tweaking them until you're happy and only then do you permanently tape them.

<snip>

Luck ........ :D


Thanks, one that had slipped my mind.

Nobody tells you that you should ride the bike for a while and potentially move the levers about until they are just right.

As far as I know you get the most bikes with the bars already taped up.

I was asked if I wanted extra gel pads under the tape. These seem to work well. I wasn't asked if I wanted the bars left untaped, but then the shop may not have realised this was my first drop bar bike.

geocycle
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Re: Buying a touring bike - things I didn't know

Postby geocycle » 6 Jun 2019, 9:57am

It's amazing how long it takes to get the bike just right even when you've specced what you think to be perfect for you.

Braking from the hoods was also a problem for me. It improved significantly by moving the lever angle to be as close to the bars as possible as suggested by someone on here. This is despite having XL hands! It is also down to learned experience and use. Although adequate, they are still not as good as the v brakes on my flat bar tourer that I can use with one finger.

Gear indication would also have been helpful when I was getting used to the setup. Now I'm more used to it I tend to do it by feel as on my other bikes. I've also reduced the problem by changing the gearing to allow me to sit on the big ring most of the time round the undulating terrain here and only go to the small ring for proper hills.

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Re: Buying a touring bike - things I didn't know

Postby Bmblbzzz » 6 Jun 2019, 10:16am

LittleGreyCat wrote:As far as I know you get the most bikes with the bars already taped up.

I was asked if I wanted extra gel pads under the tape. These seem to work well. I wasn't asked if I wanted the bars left untaped, but then the shop may not have realised this was my first drop bar bike.

Aaaaaaggghhh! No! By all means regard the initial taping as disposable, a trial to move the levers around and find your preferred position (though bar tape isn't disposable, it can usually be reused at least once) but leaving the bars untaped is a sure way to harshness, vibration and sippery bars.

slowster
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Re: Buying a touring bike - things I didn't know

Postby slowster » 6 Jun 2019, 10:47am

We all have different priorities based on our different preferences and experience, much of which in turn is influenced by the differences in the riding we do, by the differences between our bodies (age, flexibilty, health/infirmity etc.), and it can take quite a while to decide what you like (and it can also be an expensive learning curve). Moreover, those priorities and preferences can change with time.

As long as the bike you've got fits you, is in reasonable condition and is suitable for the type of riding you are doing, nothing else matters very much. As time goes by and/or components wear out, you can make various changes to see what you do or don't like and what works for you, but there is no easy short cut to getting everything just right if you are the sort of person who is particular about your bike and its set up.

Here's my slightly different view of some of your preferences:

- Tubus Cargo rack vs. Logo. The top of the Cargo is 120mm wide, whereas the Logo is only 86mm wide at the front (increasing to 100mm at the rear). A wider platform is better in my opinion if using a saddlebag or racktop bag. It might even be better for strapping things to the rack with the top of the panniers either side supporting them and stopping them moving about, compared with the reduced support of the Logo's narrower platform and the lower panniers not helping to keep items on the rack in place.

- Drop handlebar alignment. There is no easy answer to this, as hinted in part by the amount of variation in drop bar shapes/curves. Combined brake/shifter levers are a relatively recent innovation, and I also think it's less to do with the bars than the design/ergonomics of Shimano's levers - that one design is simply not going to suit everyone. It was a lot easier to get the lever set up just how you wanted it before the combined levers: there was a wide choice of lever manufacturers and you could be confident of finding one that was the right shape for your hand, and the levers allowed a lot of choice about where they were mounted on the curve of the bars.

- Steerer "Why they cut before fitting the bike to the purchaser escapes me" - Poor service and a desire to get the customer out of the door after they've paid, and not create an expectation in the customer that they will need to come back and get the steerer cut down (at no extra charge) when they've settled on their chosen handlebar height. Ditto not offering the customer a choice of stem lengths/test stems to experiment with reach.

- Ability to fit a prop stand. You've already seen the damage that chainstay mounted stands can do on at least one of the other threads.

LittleGreyCat wrote:there is an inconvenient gap somewhere in the middle of the rear cog - one of those "too high or too low" uncomfortable gaps. It would be good to know which specific cog that is without stopping in mid ride and getting off the bike to double check.

It's probably where the intervals between sprockets change from a 2 tooth increment, to a 3 tooth increment, which typically occurs somewhere around the 18t-20t sprockets, e.g. 17 to 20, 18 to 21 etc. It's common to all the Shimano wide range MTB 9 speed cassettes. Some people dislike it so much that they have made their own custom cassettes by mixing the sprockets from two Shimano cassettes in order to eliminate the 3 tooth jump at that point, but they are not always satisfied with the result. If you search you will find threads where people have described their experience with such custom cassettes.

LittleGreyCat wrote: I wasn't asked if I wanted the bars left untaped

I would not expect a shop to ask this, rather it's something which I would expect the customer to ask for, as I have done in the past. The customers who ask for it will be experienced cyclists who know exactly how they want the bars and will not be satisfied otherwise. Most other customers will simply be satisfied with how the shop tapes the bars/positions the levers, and it will likely take those that won't some time to decide that they want to change the position, and what to change it to. Those customers are also unlikely to be familiar/comfortable with taping the bars themselves.

There's a scene in The Good The Bad and The Ugly where Eli Wallach, who plays a bandit, goes into a gunshop to get a new gun. Rather than accept either of the revolvers laid before him by the store owner, he proceeds to dismantle them both, and then assemble different parts from the two guns to make a custom gun, showing the store owner in the process why it is better. Rather than pay for the gun, he then proceeds to hold up the store owner and empty the till.

LittleGreyCat
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Re: Buying a touring bike - things I didn't know

Postby LittleGreyCat » 6 Jun 2019, 11:03am

slowster wrote:<snip>

LittleGreyCat wrote: I wasn't asked if I wanted the bars left untaped

I would not expect a shop to ask this, rather it's something which I would expect the customer to ask for, as I have done in the past. The customers who ask for it will be experienced cyclists who know exactly how they want the bars and will not be satisfied otherwise. Most other customers will simply be satisfied with how the shop tapes the bars/positions the levers, and it will likely take those that won't some time to decide that they want to change the position, and what to change it to. Those customers are also unlikely to be familiar/comfortable with taping the bars themselves.

There's a scene in The Good The Bad and The Ugly where Eli Wallach, who plays a bandit, goes into a gunshop to get a new gun. Rather than accept either of the revolvers laid before him by the store owner, he proceeds to dismantle them both, and then assemble different parts from the two guns to make a custom gun, showing the store owner in the process why it is better. Rather than pay for the gun, he then proceeds to hold up the store owner and empty the till.


This is the sort of point of this thread.
I didn't know that I didn't know about handlebars and levers and taping.

If I had been told "Do you want the bars fully taped up? Some people prefer temporary tape whilst they make minor adjustments then do the final taping later." then I would have had some awareness, although I might not have made the right decision at that time.