The Adventure Cycling blog covers bicycle-travel news, touring tips and gear, bicycle routes, organizational news, membership highlights, guided tours, and more. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter for daily updates.
Photo by Adam Coppola
At least once a week, I receive an email or phone call from someone asking if its okay to ride a mountain bike for their tour, whether it be a weekend trip or a cross-country tour. The quick answer to the question is absolutely, but here are some reasons behind the answer, and ways you can go about making it happen.
If there's one thing I enjoy as much as bike touring, it's taking old things and turning them into something new.
The vast majority of touring bikes are built with cantilever brake bosses, which as the name suggests, are designed to take cantilever style brakes. The reason for this style is that they allow you to run wider tires, and provide a lot of space for fenders.
Despite the boring names, the PR77 and PR107 pedals from Exustar are worth some attention. Taking an initial look at the pedal, it appears to be a standard Look style clipless pedal, but flip it around and check out the underside, and you will find an SPD compatible entry point.
I was happy to see someone comment last week on the newly updated Salsa Casseroll. Salsa has been super busy over the past year updating and adding to their already impressive line of adventure-oriented bikes, so here's a rundown of a few bikes that I was excited to check out last week, starting with the Casseroll.
After a long hiatus, the Brooks Colt saddle is making a comeback, and this time in color. In it's former life, the Colt was a widely popular premium saddle for road and touring bikes. With deep sides that help prevent chaffing, and a very thick hide, this saddle was known for it's durability, and we still spot some older models on touring bikes here and there, so perhaps we shouldn't call it a comeback. The new saddles will have some unique colors (thanks to natural vegetable dyes), which can add some additional flare to your touring bike.
Lastly, Shimano had their new Alfine 11spd internal hub out on display. It looks to be a great improvement over their 8spd internal hub. The new hub not only gives you a larger range of gears, but improves shifting and rolling efficiency, and even manages to shed some weight over the previous model.
The Dirt Demo portion of Interbike's week long schedule wrapped up yesterday afternoon in Boulder City, NV. For the most part, the touring bikes were being reserved for the indoor show, but we were still able to find some cool stuff to share with you.
The 2010 edition of the bicycle industry expo, known as Interbike, is taking place this week in Las Vegas, Nevada. For the cycling industry, it is a chance for bicycle related manufacturers, dealers, advocates, and members of the media to get together and have an up close and personal look at the current and future state of the industry.
It's hard to beat the efficiency, and nostalgic look, of a frame pump mounted under the top tube of a touring bike. Unfortunately, if you have multiple bikes, such as touring and mountain bike, a frame pump may not fit on both frames, making a pocket sized pump a more economical option.
When I read about tips for climbing better on a bike, rest assured there is almost always some mention of power to weight ratios. This is great if you are trying to beat your friends to the top, but when your bike is loaded with 40 pounds of touring gear, thinking about your power to weight ratio is just depressing, so let's not focus on that.
Respect is something everyone has to earn. As traveling cyclists, that can sometimes be harder to remember — but even during moments of frustration, we should always keep in mind that whenever we are out riding, we're ambassadors for current and future riders. One area where we may forget our duties as ambassadors is when we finish the day's ride and check into the comfort of a hotel or motel room.
While you can usually fit all of your touring gear in panniers, or a trailer, we see many people adding a small backpack into the mix. For some riders, this incorporates a hydration bladder that either replaces water bottles, or adds some hydration range between refill stops. For others, it can sometimes replace a set of panniers, if you're in between the need for two and four panniers. I like to haul a small pack along to keep some small items on hand for quick, off-the-bike excursions, such as my camera, wallet, some food, maps, and a book.
Changing handlebar styles can significantly change the character of your bike. Sometimes a change is needed for comfort, while other times you simply want to spice up your ride a bit. Here's a brief look at four of the most common handlebar styles that we see roll through the Adventure Cycling office -- might give you some ideas for any upcoming retrofits to your touring bike.
Contact points on the bicycle (handlebars, saddle, and pedals) are areas that can often lead to discomfort when riding long distances, or stringing multiple days together. To some extent there is a natural break-in period, for both your equipment and your body, and only way to work through this period is to put in the time and miles. I have had good luck with saddles in the past, but for the feet, I have always found myself drifting towards a quicker fix, as hot spots while riding has been an issue for me over the years.
Velocity DYAD rims are hard to beat for touring. They sit a little wider than most rims at 24mm, which helps prevent pinch flats when running wider tires, such as a 700x32 touring tire, and offers a sturdy and comfortable ride. The rims lack spoke eyelets, which on the surface can appear as a weak point, but the V-profile adds more than enough strength near spoke nipples to eliminate the need of eyelets. In fact, if you were to cut a cross-section of the rim, you would see a reassuring amount of material near the spoke holes.
While most often seen on mountain bikes, the Crank Brothers Candy pedals are an excellent option for touring. Building on their popular Egg Beater pedal, the company's Candy series has a small platform, measuring 3" wide by 2.5" long, to give you some additional pedal support while touring. They also make it easier to do short commutes in everyday shoes.
The following items are some of my favorite stuff from the show (please note that some of these products will not be available until 2011):
As the summer warms up, many touring cyclists escape to the high, often shady elevations of our Great Divide Mountain Bike Route to beat the heat. This off-road route offers riders plenty of unique challenges in regards to terrain, weather, and unexpected obstacles like downed trees. Other features include isolated camping sites and plenty of wildlife, including bears, especially along the northern half of the route.
A joy shared is a joy doubled" the saying goes, and it's true that bike touring with a partner can indeed be double the fun of a solo tour. A cycling buddy means there's always someone to celebrate milestones with, lend a hand when you get a flat tire, and chat with around the campsite in the evenings.
Panniers seem to be the most common option chosen by self-contained bicycle tourists for carrying their gear. I don't have a real strong preference for one pannier brand over another — but one rule I do follow is to always keep pannier rain covers on hand. And so should you (unless, of course, you have waterproof panniers, such as the Ortlieb Bike Packer or Axiom Typhoon).
Finding the right footwear for touring is like most things associated with bicycle travel: Your selection will change depending on the style of tour you have ahead of you, and over time you will settle into preferences that work best for you. To get started, here are some options that have worked well for me in the past.
When packing up for a tour, I tend to put a big focus on the essentials (tools, tent, sleeping bag, cookware, clothes, etc). Here are three items that may or may not be necessities, so they can be easy to neglect. But all of them are beneficial to have along.
Building a bike from the frame up can be exciting. It gives you the opportunity to fine tune the bike to your specific needs, and can give your bike some additional character to set it apart from others. The problem I often run into with building bikes from scratch is that the price can quickly get out of hand. To help maintain a reasonable budget for a custom build, it's important to spend money on key components, and hold back on more trivial parts. Here are some examples I have put into my own builds.