robwa10 wrote:Chainring setup - triple? number of teeth?
fornt and rear derailluer
drop or straight bars
wheels and tyres
A lot of questions there, first and foremost you need to decide what style of touring you want to do on the bike, what features you want it to have and as such what kind of bike will achieve all that for you. Here are some basic pointers generic to bikes that you could expect to be used for touring that should give food for thought, as these days a "touring bike" bike can be either a full on heavy duty tourer
, or an Audax
bike that can carry lighter loads, plus more road specific hybrid
bikes can take guards plus a pannier rack and are proving to be very popular as 'tourers', which is why I have included them.
All those bikes apply simply because what many call 'touring' these days also differs, to some it is carrying camping equipment over long hilly distances, to some it is shorter weekend B & B rides where a saddle bag will do, others will call their fast day ride bike a tourer, as such the style of bike and equipment choices also differ.
Although the below is quite extensive I have tried to put it all across in a plain and simple manner, they are my opinions based on over 30 years as a club cyclist and over 20 years as a specialist cycle retailer, as such I must add these are my personal opinions; I fully respect that others may have some different opinions to mine.Chainring setup - triple? number of teeth?Cassette ratio:
What you need to do is work out what 'Gear ratios'
you like to use and then try and achieve them, making sure they are correctly positioned, no point if mathematically you can only get your most common used gear in largest ring largest sprocket.
By way of an example that is all I have done on my tour
bike, I use a 13-29 Campagnolo 10 speed set up with 26-36-46
, which gives me all that I am after
In my case for example I like gears of around 60”, you will see that I have got those on both middle and outer ring. I have done this essentially because this is a bike I use for two roles, solo rides of 15-20mph and touring rides of 12-15mph, to save repeated chain ring changes I can essentially use the big ring mainly for solo rides and the middle ring for more sociable rides. Even though it only has a 96" top gear I find that easily high enough for a mid 20-25 mph work out, for 15-20mph cruising I have ratios that I like available mid cassette on the 46 ring, this I find is the perfect set up for me. Of course everyone is different, some prefer a lower low gear and a higher high gear, horses for courses as they say
It does take a bit of thought as to what you need both in terms of ratios and then equipment choices to achieve them, but it can nearly always be done. In my case for example I did invest in a high quality chainset to get the ring combinations I wanted, as for me personally I find many road specific triples to large for me and the ATB chainsets to small for what I want.Front and rear derailleur:
How you go about chosing what front and rear derailleur to use is to a large extent influenced by how you go about achieving the desired gear ratios as I described above. Modern systems will generally use the same brand through out the transmission set, Shimano mechs with Shimano gear levers and sprockets, Campagnolo with Campagnolo etc, although to a degree you can mix and match, often called Shimergo
, with the exception of chainsets mix and match is still quite rare on new bikes being built from scratch.Preferred shifters:
As to preferred shifters you will get many say Shimano are better than Campagnolo and vice versa, some can get quite passionate as to which they prefer. In reality providing you can achieve the ratios you want then even though they differ in certain ways most who have either Campagnolo or Shimano should be satisfied with their choice.
Although some riders still use down tube shifters, or bar end shifters, most will use a brake/gear lever system, the two most popular being Shimano STI and Campagnolo ErgoDrop or straight bars:
If you chose the same bike in any other respect and the only difference is the bars and relevant equipment that requires then again it is very much a personal choice. Some prefer what is normally a slightly shorter more upright position of a straight bar, others can achieve their perfect position with drops and prefer the variety of positions that a drop bar offers.Panniers:
Regarding pannier choice in popularity the two most that spring to mind are Ortlieb and Carradice, followed by Altura.
The modern 'Roll Top'
closure designs are the most popular in the Ortlieb range as in theory they are more waterproof than the more traditional 'lid type'
closure. All the Ortlieb panniers that have that design have the word 'Roller' in the description, where as the normal are called names like Bike Packer.
I am not saying that roll top closures in reality are indeed better, it is simply that in the Ortlieb range they out sell the lid closure with us by 8/1. The traditional styled lid type closure does in practice also make ideal weather resistant panniers, we have found that most who want the more traditional styling will often go for more traditionaly made panniers like Carradice Super C
, if you want to know what I use then it is Carradice Super C, they are 30 years old and still going strong. They are made of the tried and tested material 'Cotton Duck', the material itself is waterproof but the seams are not taped, so technically they can not advertise it as a waterproof pannier, 'Cotton Duck' is also about as durable as I have seen.
In practice however the material expands when wet closing the seams, I recall touring in the Picos De Europa one summer and carrying four litres of water in 2x 2ltr plastic bottles, one of which split emptying the entire 2lts into the pannier, which held the water like a bucket. I am not saying they are better than Ortlieb, both companies make a superb product, they are just different that's all, I doubt we will see many who have anything negative to say about either and rightly so.
Worth noting that front panniers can be used on the rear. Modern travel clothing and indeed cycle kit is such that it packs small and drys quickly, I have done two week tours using front panniers as rears and that was when I needed to carry cold weather kit as was going over the high Alps.
You will be surprised just how you can reduce the packing size, a trial run packing before you go is always a good idea. Modern clothing also helps as will dry overnight, a Travel Towel is very compact. Obvious things like clothing
that packs up small and will dry overnight are also available, take enough tooth paste and soap for tour only etc, it is the little obvious things that really make a difference. I actually use small panniers
front and rear, even for camping, for B & B or hotel tours front panniers on the rear is sufficientWheels and tyres:
Wheel and tyre choice depends on the weight you wish to carry, a bike set up for heavy duty touring may require stronger wheels than say an Audax bike that may only carry lighter loads.
Regarding heavy duty wheels Shimano ATB 9 speed hubs use 135mm hubs, where as road bike specific are 130mm and most are now 10, 11 and 12 speed. Traditional built wheels are becoming slightly less common with the road specific 130mm hubs though, in part due to the severe dishing many will no longer use traditional built spoke and hub, opting for a modern prebuilt
variety. This is beacuse the modern design of these new wheels can help to reduce the impact of severe dishing. In fairness many of the latter are now of a standard and price that for an Audax style fast spec' bike they are becoming the norm‘. Gone are the days when it was necessary to invest a high percentage of the total bike value in hand built traditional wheels.
Tyres again will depend on the style of tourer, expect an Audax bike to run a lighter narrower tyre than a heavy duty tourer. A common Audax tyre range being 700 x 23 through to 28c, where as heavy duty tourers will normally use more robust tyres and larger, often 700 x 32, although down as far as 28c or up as far as 35c are not that uncommon.
Different types of bike used for touring:
robwa10 wrote:....Or anything else you think is important to consider when it comes to the technichal side of a touring bike. This should be a great benefit for all users of this site if everyone joins in.Thanks,Rob
general terms as there are of course variations of each type, frame materials play a part in how a bike feels for example, here are some general guidelines regarding the various styles of bikes, I have included race bikes simply to give a comparison
. Well I say general but I have gradually built this post up to give more and more information so it is now quite detailed, I have used a 56cm frame as a guideline as frame geometry varies with size:Race bike: I repeat less relevant for what you need the bike for but listed here for you to illustate the differences
73 degree seat, 73 degree head tube with tight clearances, will feel stiff, lively and fast, least comfortable and stable when compared to those below; many use a full on race bike for fast day rides, especially when the owner is feeling a little bit frisky in the speed department (as I get older this happens less, normally one week in May and one in August, except of course when I have a tail wind), plus it can be rather pleasing to sit with your mates remembering how good you once was and how super your bike is; no harm in that, it's what cycling is all about
Often not especially robust for touring with narrow section tyres and often using a frame material that although stiffer will be more delicate, if you are prepared to compromise it can be done of course, providing you can weather proof it sufficiently to meet your requirements and get what you need luggage wise on it then if you find it comfortable enough then it is your call. Most prefer a bike with guards, luggage carrying capacity, a more comfortable geometry and lower gearing like the two examples below for touring though.Audax and fast day ride bikes,
I have listed both in same category as they often share similar geometry:
Most Audax bikes have a 73 degree Seat, 72 degree head with slightly
larger clearances for slightly
larger tyres than a race bike with space for mudguards, as you can see the seat tube angles are similar to what you would find on a full-on race bike, whereas the head tube will have a slightly shallower angle to give a bit more comfort, yet still provide a fast ride, I only notice a difference over a race bike when sprinting/climbing out of the saddle, cruising in the saddle it will feel much closer. Some Audax frames will be same 73/73 geometry as a race bike but again with larger clearances, a traditional steel frame builder will still often build like that.
Most modern manufacturers have a bike along the lines of 73/72 to cater for the fast day ride bike sector, it is indeed for many manufacturers this sector that we have seen the largest growth in terms of sales. From the larger manufacturers we have, for example, the fair weather 'Trek Domane''
range, sales for which have indeed grown to the extent that it out sells their similar priced flagship race bike ’Emonda’
range. Most other leading manufacturers also have a similar styled bikes. Many are set up more for fast day rides than Audax though, Roubaix will not take full guards for example, where as Van Nicholas Yukon
tyle bikes are aimed more specifically at the European market so can take guards and pannier rack as well. This style of bike is also very often used as a touring bike, all the tours I have listed at the bottom of this page are on such a bike, most can carry rear panniers/luggage with ease, a pair of panniers being sufficient for most tours.Touring:
72 degree Seat, 72 degree head with even larger clearances, longer fork rake and overall wheel base than Audax, they will often be fitted with even larger tyres and mudguards, most common for load carrying and as such need to be set up to be more robust than the two categories above, not only with larger tyres but more heavy duty wheels and more often than not more robust frames as well, bikes like the Trek 520
range for example, often this kind of bike will have lower gearing when compared to an Audax bike. Tourers are very stable, very comfortable but will feel less lively for out of the saddle effort. Still popular with those who like a traditional mile eating comfortable bike, although to an extent the Audax, fast day ride bikes have taken over for many, as apart from heavy load carrying and rougher terrain they will do the majority of the tasks that a tourer will do, yet quicker and almost as comfortable, such is the impact that modern materials have had, no longer do you need relaxed frame geometry like a full on touring bike to achieve comfort. This shift in demand is reflected in what is available of course, where as the Audax, fast day ride styles are ever increasing so the choice of traditional tourers is diminishing, although it often means you just have to look a bit harder, even Trek for example have a tourer, their 520
with guards fitted although not often stocked by retailers is still imported into the UK.Hybrid:
As the name suggest a hybrid of other styles of bikes, normally most share the design features of a tourer as described aboveAtb:
Hardtail with slick tyres and rigid forks makes for a robust expedition bike, especially if you can fit panniers and guards of course. Although slower than all the above providing you are not riding long distances in a group with fitter riders on faster bikes then in reality many could use such a bike for touring and be perfectly happy with their choice. You can of course do other things than simply fit guards, racks and slick tyres. Most atb bikes have a short upright position, a longer stem positioned flat as apposed to raised along with straight as apposed to riser bars will also make a difference, I have seen this is done quite often.Frame MaterialsFrames made of Aluminium Alloy:
Often simply referred to as ‘Alloy’ Light, cheap, reasonably robust although some do comment that aluminium alloy frames are not as comfortable when compared to the others; in part this is why most will not use aluminium alloy forks, most current roads bikes will use steel or carbon. Aluminium Alloy supposedly has the most performance drop off, which in fairness only really effects a racing cyclist where a few percent reduction in performance can make the difference (especially in their heads) of winning or coming second, in reality that applies more to the older lighter frames when Pro’ riders used extremely light versions (now most pro teams use Carbon), the modern budget frames use a heavier, more robust alloy and are of course aimed at a different style of riding. They are now the most common option in the mid range and upwards frame sets, fairly robust, as they will normally dent as apposed to crack. Normally the price dictates a purchase of a frame built in alloy, that does not mean that you will not be satisfied, you will see quite a few older frames still being ridden by club cyclists who find them perfectly adequate, plus many don’t have any complaints re’ comfort or performance drop off. Although most refer to these frames in general terms as ‘alloy’ if we are being pedantic then strictly speaking this is wrong, as steel is an alloy of carbon and iron, titanium is normally aluminum and vanadium, most Ti manufacturers use 3% Aluminium, 2.5% Vanadium and 94.5 Titanium, which they simply list as 3/2.5Frames made of Carbon:
With sufficient research and development can result in a bike that is comfortable, very light and efficient at transferring energy into propulsion as the material does not flex as much as other materials. Although strong they can be more delicate, where other materials dent, Carbon is more likely to crack, although I don't believe that they are as delicate as many fear them to be, quite a few have been ridden for a few years now and still going strong.
Most common rider is a racing cyclist or someone who still likes to have a ‘best bike’ that can to an extent have a more precious existence than say audax or touring bike, where robustness may be more of a consideration. Most production high end ‘Race’ and ‘Sportive’ bikes will these days use carbon frames, we are also starting to see this technology filter down into the mid price range models.
Note my comment above stating “sufficient research and development ”, I would always recommend buying from a reputable manufacturer/designer. Back when steel was the material of choice, the best were built by craftsmen and the mass produced manufacturers did not offer the same quality of construction. With carbon frames arguably the opposite applies, the larger companies put huge efforts into research and development when designing their frames. Modern construction, if you have the facilities, which the major companies have access to, mean that they can offer a well designed, high quality product; low volume craftsmen struggle to compete on both quality and price. As such care is needed with budget carbon frames, they often are not that light, stiff, good to ride and more significantly in some cases even that safe to ride!
In recent years high end mountain bikes have also started to use Carbon frames, note they are not road bikes with different geometry, they are designed to be far more robust and impact resistant than road bikes for obvious reasons.Frames made of Steel:
Comfortable, very durable (if built correctly) with low performance drop off with age. These days still a popular choice for club riders who like to know that their frame has been built in the traditional way by a craftsmen. Production bikes built with steel are less common, although it remains popular with the companies that still cater for touring bikes.
Many cyclist like the fact that they are having something built often to their own specification, you can personalise your frame with your own braze on items, light bosses, extra bottle bosses etc, you can even chose your own colour. In the past all top quality frames were purchased this way, as it was how you got exactly what you wanted, both in quality and especially frame size. The old diamond shape frame being less adaptable in terms of variations in riding position than the modern sloping top tube frames; even Lance Armstrong used an off the peg frame size. Although I fall into this category, as in uses as steel frame, not Lance Armstrong, I have to admit that modern off the peg frames are now so good both in terms of production quality and the flexibility that the modern geometry gives you to achieve the perfect riding position, that the necessity to have a bike made to measure is less of an issue. In more recent years steel frames are starting to make something of a come back, as many realise that in many ways steel is a better option than aluminium alloy, especialy when it comes to comfort.Frames made of Titanium:
Until recently they were seen as expensive and rather exclusive, although they are starting to become very popular as the pricing now competes with many of the comparable alternatives. Virtually no performance drop as they don’t even rust, comfortable, light, yet robust. So much so that although I personally don't believe that anything does last forever; Titanium probably comes the closest.
Performance wise, a Titanium frame will not be as light or stiff as well designed carbon or now seldom used upmarket very light alloy frame, alloy when new that is, (note that as stated above most alloy frames are mid range only), although really it is that not far off. Until quite recently some pro racers used Titanium, like Magnus Backstedt, a former Paris Roubaix winner (2004), other Pro Teams used Titanium frames painted up to look like normal production bikes of their team sponsors, often used in races where comfort can become an issue, for example over the cobbles of the Paris Roubaix, as riders are bashed about so much it can lead to fatigue. However that in fairness applied more when Steel or alloy were more common place in the peleton, these days for those riders chasing grams and split seconds, most will chose carbon.
The down side is that Titanium is very hard to work/build with; so most manufacturers don't! On the upside because of this the workman ship simply has to be of top quality and it shows, most Titanium frames do look and are very well made. Most common used when someone wants a fast, responsive, light comfortable yet robust, durable bike and of course where price is not so much of an issue. Titanium is therefore and ideal choice for touring, longer day rides, audax and sportive bikes. Even though arguably they are a less valid choice for use as a race bike, they are still quite popular, as many do buy with a view to long term ownership, where not only robustness is a significant consideration but also style, many Titanium frames have very classic designs that should not date in quite the same way that the ‘bang up to date styles of the moment’ may do.Frame material conclusion,
Opinion is often much divided when it comes to frame materials and if it effects how the bike rides or not. Many will state that they can tell a huge difference and by the same token many will state that the frame material makes no difference at all. I would say I fall somewhere between both, I have ridden a huge variety over the years, when riding bikes similar in set up in nearly every respect apart from the frame material I would say that I can't tell a huge difference, but I can feel more than none that's for sure, a slight difference it may be, yet significant enough to play a part in my decision making when choosing a new frame.
A quality designer and manufacturer will be sensitive to the material they have used, so I would expect the bike to perform how it is supposed to and give you good long service, regardless of what it is made of. So although the frame material is indeed a consideration I believe that many are far more concerned about what they should or shouldn't use than perhaps they need be.ConclusionTo an extent the style of bike you want also dictates all the above, if you are only going to do credit card tours where only relatively light loads are taken as apposed to heavy load touring then an Audax bike will be OK, so lighter wheels and slightly higher gears ratios may be preferred when compaired to a heavy duty tourer for example, so in many ways you need to chose which style of bike and intended use before you fine tune the equipment choices.Paul_SmithAs this post is still viewed I will continue to edit it, some of the links may need updating for from time to time including to redirected pages on the CTC Site (Chris Juden's excellent Shimergo page being one example I recently updated), a manufacturer may update a model and the old link I had made will no longer work, I update this as and when I notice it. Even this thread has a more than one page that I have posted on so I have all the information on my own Personal touring tips page